Written by Kim Newton
Directed by Kim Manners
The process of doing a rewrite of an episode involves so much inside baseball that I have chosen to basically ignore it for The X-Files (and indeed for most of the series I have reviewed anywhere) I generally think that such things add little or no enjoyment to a show. However, when it comes to Quagmire, I will make an exception, mainly because there are rumors, hinted in two books on the series, that Darin Morgan did an uncredited rewrite for it. And rewatching that episode with this thought in mind, there seems to be overwhelming evidence that this is the case.
First, there is the presence of QueeQueg, the Pomeranian that Scully inherited after Clyde Bruckman and was seen caring for in War of the Coprophages Since both episodes were Morgan’s creation, it seems only natural that he would bring it in to kill it off.
Second, there is the presence of Stoner and Chick, the two young druggies we saw getting high off methane fumes in Coprophages, and are seen here trying to get high licking toads. Once again, they manage to avoid the fatal passing of their friend. (The writers wanted to bring them back as recurring characters, but never got around to it. I don’t blame them— they’re entertaining but not that fun.
Third, there is the camerawork and shooting for many of the death scenes, which are done much in the way that the victims in Humbug met their end. (Admittedly, this may be more of the work of the director, but Kim Manners did work on both episodes.)
Finally, of course, there is ‘the scene’. Mulder and Scully go out into the lake in the middle of the night, and their boat is sunk. The two of them end up dripping and nervous on a rock an unknown distance from shore. So the two have a seven minute conversation, in which they talk about some of the things that are important to them. Scully compares Mulder’s search for ‘the truth’ to being as fanatical as Ahab’s search for the white whale, Mulder’s talks about his need for a definite need to find something, they discuss Moby Dick, and Mulder relays his childhood wish for a peg leg. It’s a microcosm for everything the X-Files stands for, and even though it may have started out as nothing more than filler, it plays and sings as beautifully in a way that we have come to expect from our old friend Darin.
Now, you may expect I am wasting an awful lot of this review on speculation as to who really wrote this episode than whether or not its any good. Well, its not practically perfect in the way all of Morgan’s writing was, but its really, really good. This is the series as how it seems to the outside viewer, Mulder and Scully as a couple with a dog, trying to explore the myth of a prehistoric monsters dwelling in a Georgia lake, known tranquilly enough as ‘Big Blue’. It’s absent the darker overtones that we can sense in Morgan’s work (and indeed, in much of Season 3 in general), but after going to some of the really dark places this season, it comes as something of a relief. This is just the series trying to be delightfully fun and serious at the same time, the way so many later attempts at comedy will try and mostly fail at later on.
The characters aren’t drawn as well as so many of the other characters we’ve met this year, but for once, that’s part of the point; they’re basically meant to be monster food. The sheriff right out of Jaws, the biologist who is concerned about the wrong major ecological disaster, the photographer who’s spent his life trying to find Big Blue, and then dies at its hands— it plays more like frothy comedy. (This is one of those things that I don’t think Morgan had much to do with; there seemed to be a darker side to their ends, even as we laugh.) There’s also a gentleness to this episode that makes us actually mourn for a dog that’s barely had any existence in this series, and something rather sensitive that Scully, given all the horrible things that have happened to here the past couple of seasons, is still capable of being shaken up after losing her pet. Perhaps, like so much else, it goes back to her father.
Quagmire isn’t perfect the way Morgan’s other creations have been, but there are moments of it that glimpse those peaks. It doesn’t have the best reputation, but like the case of so many other episodes, you wonder why. Whole seasons of the series will essentially written dealing with some of the issues and the center of ‘the scene’, but they will do it as succinctly and concisely as they do here. And the idea that even after we find the threat, the truth that Mulder is seeking is still out there after all, has a pleasing tone that doesn’t exasperate when the agents just miss getting the inevitable. One wishes that Kim Newton had decided to stay with the series a bit longer, as she seemed to have a slightly better handle on the heroes than other Season 3 writers have. Even if Darin wasn’t around to lend a hand, she still seemed to understand what The X-Files was all about.
My score: 4.25 stars.