Earthly Creatures and Divine Came From Outer Space
"Biogenesis" Plot Summary:
Scully speaks as Earth gleams in space on the screen. "From a distance, one might never suspect it is alive," her voice intones, narrating the history of the development of life and subsequent mass extinctions over the millennia. "Who ignited that original spark? Is there a plan?" she wonders, reflecting on the possibility that humanity will pass into the sixth great extinction. As she ponders signs, symbols, and possible revelations, a group of men in Africa's Ivory Coast find an artifact sticking up beneath the waves.
At the Universite de Cote D'Ivoire, scholar Solomon MacMullen examines the artifact, which spins on his desk, then launches itself across the room to lodge in his Bible. It slices a hole right beneath Genesis I, verse 28: "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." The scholar quickly places a phone call to the United States.
At American University in Washington, D.C., MacMullen looks for Dr. Sandoz, who meets him in a laboratory full of howling monkeys. He shows Sandoz how two pieces of the artifact fused themselves together and asks whether Sandoz has a third. Sandoz asks whether he has translated the inscription as the monkeys scream. MacMullen is suddenly suspicious: "You're not Dr. Sandoz, are you?" Later, MacMullen is found dead by the real Sandoz. The next morning, Mulder and Scully are briefed by Skinner, learning that the body is missing, as is Dr. Sandoz...and so is the artifact.
Mulder has heard of the doctor: he theorized that life originated elsewhere in the universe and came to Earth via a meteor or some such phenomenon. Scully admits that this is a viable scientific theory, but says that a rubbing of the artifact doesn't prove the meaning of human existence or the presence of life on Mars. Sandoz had reported having a similar artifact to MacMullen, but that is missing too. Scully asks sarcastically why two men who believe they're Martians would meet with foul play, but as she lectures Mulder in the elevator, he zones out, hearing a strange hollow noise. When he can hear her again, she asks him after all he's done, the conspiracy he's uncovered, now that he's won, what could he possibly hope to find? "My sister," Mulder replies.
At the lab at American University, police remove a likely murder weapon with Sandoz' prints on it. Dr. Barnes, the man who pretended to be Sandoz the night before, is there as well. The head of the department, he discredits his colleague's unconventional work. When Scully shows him the rubbing, Mulder hears the noises and puts a hand to his head again. "Sandoz believed aliens wrote this," scoffs Barnes. Mulder walks out with a concerned Scully, still rubbing his head. He tells her he believes the artifact is responsible for his condition.
In the morning, Mulder comes in late to find Scully and a colleague looking at the rubbing of the artifact. Scully declares it a fake: the letters are phonetic Navajo, but it was found in West Africa. Moreover, it's a magic square, a pattern in which God supposedly instructed the early Hebrews to gain power from names or their numeric equivalents. Mulder observes that Barnes ridiculed Sandoz - his job is to debunk religious fraud - but he'd also have a reason to hide anything he couldn't debunk. Scully shows Mulder the slide of the "fabrication" again, but Mulder's head hurts so badly he can't work. Scully asks him to have an imaging scan. Her partner says he got a sense from the artifact of what Barnes was hiding - the location of MacMullen's body - and takes Scully to Sandoz' apartment, where they find the body in the trash compactor. They also find a photo of Sandoz with Albert Hosteen, the Native American who decoded Navajo encryptions during World War II and who worked with Mulder years earlier.
Mulder insists to Skinner that Sandoz is innocent of murder - the head was placed in his trash to incriminate him, and Scully discovered that parts of the body were missing, those most likely to have absorbed radiation. She reports that she did a scan for CGR (cosmic galactic radiation), which exists only in extraterrestrial objects, and found that MacMullen had been in contact with something containing the radiation. Mulder hears noises again and suddenly glares at Skinner, accusing him of having someone else on the case. Scully warns Mulder that he's losing it, but her partner insists that they are being spied upon. After she sends him home, promising to go after the artifact, Skinner shuts the door and pulls a tape from a secret recorder. Krycek comes in to take it.
Scully visits a New Mexico hospital, where she learns that Hosteen is dying of cancer. She also finds a copy of the rubbing with a translation on the back: it's Genesis I, verse 28. After talking to a friend of Hosteen's, she sees Sandoz and pursues him, finally trapping him in the stairwell, where he tells her the text on the artifact came from THEM - the aliens who created both the artifact and the Bible - and he can prove it by showing her another section Hosteen was working on when he became too ill to go on. That section contains letters, but they appear to be random. Meanwhile, Mulder searches Barnes' office for the artifact, pursuing the doctor into the laboratory, where the agent is overwhelmed by the noise from the artifact. He collapses on the stairwell, where he is found by Krycek.
Scully calls Mulder and is surprised when Diana Fowley answers the phone. She informs him that the artifact contains a passage from the Bible, which proves that it's a fraud, but Mulder says quite the opposite: "It means our progenitors are alien. Prove me wrong." Once Scully hangs up, Fowley makes another phone call reporting on Mulder's distress, then she begins to undress. At an undisclosed location, C.G.B. Spender listens to a meeting about managing the crisis as he smokes a cigarette.
Scully again reflects on the cosmos as she walks to a healing ritual for Hosteen. "It began with violence" - the Big Bang - "who had the audacity for it?" She wonders whether the beginning means there must be an end, whether life will no longer pass to new life, whether the hand that lit the flame will allow it to go out and become extinct. As she talks to Sandoz about the healing ritual, her phone rings. It's Skinner, telling her that Mulder is seriously ill in a Georgetown hospital. Scully rushes away, promising not to tell anyone where Sandoz is.
At the hospital Scully is shocked to find that her partner is in the psychiatric ward, where he paces and screams in his room. In an observation office with Fowley and a hospital doctor, she demands to see Mulder, but is told that he has abnormal brain function and is dangerously violent - they could not even sedate him enough to do scans, since he should be in a coma given his current level of medication.
Fowley wants to talk to Scully, asking when Mulder's symptoms began. "When Skinner gave us this case," Scully replies, glancing at the A.D. Then Skinner tells Fowley that this isn't even an x-file - it's a fraud - prompting Scully to disbelief: "I never gave you that report." Fowley says that she became involved when Mulder called her from a university stairwell, telling her that she was the only one who would believe him, but this time Scully's having none of her games. "You're a liar. You're both liars," she proclaims as she walks out. Fowley and Skinner exchange glances.
At the Native American ceremony, Sandoz lifts his head and walks out. Scully is in the office of the X-Files looking for surveillance equipment, but stops short of finding the bug in her fire alarm when the phone rings. It's Sandoz, who ignores Scully's warning that the line is not secure to tell her what he has realized: the seemingly random letters Hosteen translated represent genes. The artifact is a segment of the massive sequence of the human genome. As he speaks, a horse rears in the background. Scully asks what's going on, but Sandoz's phone is on the ground, picked up by Krycek.
36 hours later, Scully is on the beach in the Ivory Coast with some of the men who first saw the artifact. Most are afraid, but one shows her the spot. The overdressed agent digs in the sand, finding a flat smooth segment with writing on it - a much larger artifact. As the camera pans back, we see that the artifact is the size of a small spaceship just under the surface of the ocean.
The season ends, and YOW! We learn that not only human DNA sequences but also the Bible got written by aliens! I did not see that coming even when the artifact first launched itself into the Book, and it's certainly a gutsy twist - setting up a wonderful conflict for next season between Scully's Catholic upbringing and whatever she might learn about the origins of the religion. It's such a nice switch when she's the one who wants to believe in something. I can just hear Mulder using his version of science to talk her out of following whatever religious orthodoxy she might retain...not very successfully, I would imagine, no more than he's been able to convince her to give his own theories the benefit of the doubt.
Proving that life evolved from extraterrestrial origins isn't as exciting as the possibility that there's a real God somewhere out there with a personal interest in this planet. If we take this idea seriously, the major religious bodies on this planet faced with evidence that our lives and our beliefs came from elsewhere, the latter would likely cause more furor than the former; many religions teach that the spark of human life was divine rather than terrestrial in origin. Is there such an enormous difference between believing in God and believing in powerful aliens who can hear prayers and affect the course of human events? Deep Space Nine has been playing with this idea for years through Bajor and the Prophets, and the conclusion seems to be that when you're dealing with something that powerful, worship is a perfectly logical response.
The idea that the major organized religions on this planet were set up by aliens intent on long-term conquest is also pretty amusing in a twisted way, though I'm not sure that's really where The X-Files going with this. On the other hand, the files have got to contain more religious miracles than all the other sorts of scientific oddities Mulder likes to research. There's no escaping from the fact that many of the strangest occurrences in human history - parting the sea, raising the dead, turning water to wine - were attributed to great spiritual leaders. I'm surprised there aren't more books alleging that Noah, Moses, Jesus et al were aliens or were affected by aliens; it makes about as much sense scientifically as any miraculous explanation of their experiences.
We knew Skinner would cross over to the dark side when we learned that Krycek could terminate his life whenever he felt like it, and we've known Fowley is apprentice to Cancer Man, the Dark Lord of the Sith, but seeing them work together is just icky enough to be great fun. What Krycek is still doing hanging around is anyone's guess - he was the first to realize that the conspiracy had been blown open, fleeing before CSM and Diana. It can't be an accident that the very few survivors of the inferno are working together on this latest problem, which could still be a hoax perpetrated to drive Mulder insane...though one would think there would be easier ways to do that. Taking Scully away was an important first step. But those artifact effects don't look fake, even if their source isn't what it appears to be.
I loved the cinematographic indications that Scully and Mulder had reason for paranoia. The cheesy videotape shots of Scully in the hospital were amazing, both in hinting at the conspiracy and in reminding us how well this show is usually filmed. The final image was a cheap shot - we all knew what was coming when the camera started to move upwards, even if we didn't know exactly how big it would be or what it would look like - and the idea that no one realized it was there before makes West Africans look much sillier than necessary.
I also blinked at the too-literal translation of the King James Bible by the Native American decoder: if aliens did write the Bible, did they also provide the translations most commonly used today? The difference when reading Genesis and interpreting a word as "subdue" rather than "overcome" can be enormous, theologically. Given the recent hysteria over Xena's fictionalization of Hindu texts, I am extremely curious how the Bible will be handled on this series, and how much of a furor it will cause.
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