by Michelle Erica Green

Jellyfish in the MTA

"Medusa" Plot Summary:

At Clay Street Station in Boston, a plainclothes officer radios in a possible suspect, then gets on a train. When it arrives at the next station, Officer Philbrick has been horribly killed -- half his face eaten away to the bone. Scully and Doggett arrive to investigate, but are informed by the director of transportation that he is turning the trains on for the evening rush hour no matter what they find in the tunnel. The Center for Disease Control found no biological or chemical agents, so they're assuming it's a single murderer. Scully remains aboveground in the office to oversee the investigation while Doggett goes into the train tunnels with Dr. Lyle from the CDC, engineer Melnick, and Lieutenant Bianco, who just wants to get done and leave.

After the group passes a puddle glowing green, Melnick's neck starts to burn. Lyle gets a sample and sends it to Scully, but it's apparently seawater. Doggett sees someone or something vanish in a tunnel ahead and is attacked by an unknown assailant fitting the description of the suspect from the station. Meanwhile, Melnick sees bodies ahead, wrapped in plastic, suffering from the same condition as the murdered transit cop. Bianco thinks the assailant's presence proves that a man, not a contagion, killed the other officer, but Scully insists that they track the man down in case he's contagious. When they find the suspect, he is dead of the same condition.

The director of transportation insists that he's still starting the trains for rush hour, and Bianco resents Scully giving the orders when she's not down in the tunnels with them. Melnick suddenly screams; he has begun to glow green, with electricity sparking from his body. It begins to eat the skin off his arm. Scully hypothesizes that it might be a biological weapon. She sends Doggett ahead to another tunnel where the unknown person they're tracking may be hiding, leaving Lyle to take care of Melnick. Bianco glows green too, but shows no signs of burning.

Scully accuses that the director of transportation probably knew the bodies were down there and didn't want them to be found. While she is arguing with him, Doggett notices that Bianco is glowing and demands that he lower his weapon. Bianco knocks the FBI agent out and tries to get above ground. Dr. Bowe, a marine biologist from Boston University, comes to tell Scully that the seawater is filled with medusas, tiny jellyfish made mostly of calcium. When Scully reaches Doggett, his skin is glowing too. By this time Bianco has collapsed from the organisms, and begs Doggett not to leave him.

The two law enforcement officers see a shadow ahead. It's a boy, who shows them a large leak in an area with glowing walls. Since the boy is unaffected, Scully guesses that sweat triggers the burning electrical reaction; children's sweat glands aren't fully developed yet. Doggett guesses the water leaked in from the bay. He prepares to meet up with a hazmat team, but there's a leak under the tracks, too, and the director of transportation has started the trains. Using his gun as a conductor between the puddle and the rail, Doggett fries the organisms just before a train rolls over the spot. When it passes, his hands and Bianco's are no longer infected.

At the hospital, Scully says there's no longer any trace of the medusas, so there's no longer any evidence that the director of transportation endangered people. She says everyone has Doggett to thank for saving their butts; he says he was just her eyes and ears.


Yep, that's our Dana, concluding that she probably can't get criminal charges to stick against a man who nearly infected the entire commuter population of Boston with a deadly organism, so she walks away. I liked this episode from an X-Files, standpoint, but who in heck is this simpering, passive-aggressive tantrum thrower who can't even make a simple call to a superior to protect the health of everyone connected with the MTA? Mulder would die of embarrassment if he could see her.

Thank goodness Wonder Dog managed to kill all the little teeny jellyfish that we never learned anything about (like, can they survive on human skin above ground, could they be leaking elsewhere in the subway, can most medusas conduct electricity or are these a strange mutant variety, etc.) And thank goodness Wonder Dog has become a good little lapdog who's willing to obey Scully's orders without echoing Big Bully Bianco's complaints about her refusal to get down in the sewers with them. In fact, Bianco's entire character seems to exist as a foil for Doggett, so that the federal agent looks good. Lyle seems smart and competent even if she didn't have the seawater examined for microscopic organisms, so she has to be dispatched with early in the episode lest Scully look bad by comparison.

I'm still confused about a lot of little details in this episode -- like why Bianco took Doggett's flashlight if it was light enough to see in the tunnels, or if it wasn't, how Doggett could see without said flashlight before he found Bianco again. Or how come no one realized that the shadow they were chasing belonged to someone half their size. We never learned where the kid came from, nor how he knew the tunnel system, and if he lived underground, what he knew about the hidden bodies. We also never found out exactly who put the bodies there; Scully suggested strongly that the director of transportation had something to do with it, but if that's so, why didn't she go after him for that in the end when she said she couldn't charge him with creating a public health menace? It's nice that she's now working with government agencies that used to be in on Cancer Man's alien conspiracies, but why didn't she try harder to use her federal position to keep the trains from running?

As usual, the cinematography is excellent, with lots of superb lighting effects and a few choice tracking shots, plus really effective visualizations of the damage done by medusas to human flesh. The tension strings out nicely as well, with nail-biting horror-movie pace until the rushed denoument. For what it's worth, it's a lot better than the Freakylinks episode about an unknown man-eating menace in subway tunnels. But it's still just a mediocre show about a creepy phenomenon with no consequence once Wonder Dog saves Boston.

Next week we find out whether the father of Scully's baby is Mulder or an alien. She's about five months pregnant and not showing; how could it not be an alien?

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