Thursday, March 20, 2014

Star Wars Visits X-Files

"Small Potatoes" and "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" are two of X-Files' funniest episodes.

Darin Morgan stars in "Small Potatoes" (written by Vince Gilligan) and wrote "Jose Chung's" (starring, well, everybody). Morgan's stories inject an everyman quality into X-Files, even into the edgy Mulder.

"Small Potatoes" begins with multiple Star Wars references (we even get to hear the theme: da dum dadada DA dum). After all, Eddie "wooed" his high school girlfriend by transforming into Luke Skywalker. However, in all honesty, Star Wars is only slightly referenced (directly; more on indirect references later). In fact, "Small Potatoes" is one of X-Files' human interest episodes; although the concept (a man can transform physically into others) is fanciful, the explanation/pay-off is not rooted in either futuristic science or government conspiracies.

Joseph Campbell's Monomyth
It is rooted, rather, in the human dream of transcendence.

Eddie IS Luke Skywalker, albeit an unsuccessful one who never gets off Tatooine. He wants to be called to greatness/adventure, only it doesn't seem to ever quite happen. The twist: when he does cross the threshold (becomes Mulder), he discovers that Mulder has disappeared into Tatooine's basement.

Applying Joseph Campbell's monomyth here is apropos. Star Wars IV's success can be traced to its homage to Campbell, specifically Campbell's interpretation of the ancient hero's classic journey. Humans love the hero's arc and tell it over and over again, much as Eddie (and his high school girlfriend) went to see Star Wars over and over again.

At the end of "Small Potatoes," Eddie advises Mulder to "live alittle." After all, Eddie made more progress with Scully, simply by talking to her, than Mulder had in four years. Even Mulder confesses, "I'm no Eddie Van Blundht" (the "h" is silent).

The episode truly is more about the emotional aspects of the hero's journey than that same journey's fantastical accompaniments.

In comparison, "Jose Chung's" is chuck-full of sci-fi references, starting with Star Wars, specifically the opening shot of the Star Destroyer! Another ship, the Millennium Falcon, appears in Blaine's bedroom. In keeping with the Star Wars references, this episode focuses on the fantasy or space opera side of sci-fi rather than the hardcore side of sci-fi.  

X-Files, surprisingly enough, usually relies on the hardcore side. In this case, the fantasy side shows through. Roky is obsessed with the mystical side of his imagined aliens, who speak using "thees" and "thous." Lieutenant Shaefer creates a Close Encounters of the Third Kind mountain out of his mash potatoes (and there's a film completely rooted in  non-reality). And Jose Chung ends by contemplating why we humans love to look to the skies: What hopes and dreams do we hope to satisfy? We may love sci-fi for its fast travel and medical advances, but what's the other, deeper, reason?

In many ways, both episodes tackle the same questions raised in Fanboys, although from a very different angle.

And, of course, both are just gosh darn funny. From "Jose Chung's":

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