Re-Opening The X-Files: Ice, Space


Scully: What happened up there?
Mulder: So far nobody’s been able to reach the compound because of bad weather. Obviously they think we’re either brilliant or expendable, because we pulled the assignment.


“Ice” and “Space” are examples of how to do the similar episodes in completely different ways.   Both episodes are bottle episodes, taking place in a limited space with a lot of work filming done on a sound stage.  But one of them is an all-time great and the other is….well, not really that great.

“Ice” is, simply put, a terrific episode.  Glen Morgan and James Wong borrow heavily from The Thing with a crew isolated in a remote, Arctic region and facing an alien that can hide in human beings.   The story quickly sets up that any number of the six people who have gone up to the remote Arctic base could be the infected one — and that our heroes can’t go back to civilization until they’re certain they won’t spread the infection to the rest of the world.

Featuring some easy recognizable guest stars, “Ice” is the first truly out and out great installment of the series and one of the more memorable.   It’s a story that takes place in a couple of rooms, but it’s still so full of tension and so perfectly directed by David Nutter (the first of several installments he’ll direct) that you don’t really notice or care.   A lot of it is the use of lighting and shadows. But much of it can be chalked up to the performances by the entire cast.  Duchovny and Anderson have really settled into their roles and the episode comes along at a point where our leads are starting to trust each other but can easily have that trust shaken.  Mulder’s sense of quiet betrayal when Scully sides with the majority to lock him away from the rest for fear he’s infected is well done.

And, of course, we have the classic Mulder quip about the men not making any judgment because they’re in the Arctic.

“Ice” is in the running for one of the top ten episode of the show.  Not bad so early in the run.


And there’s “Space” which like “Ice” takes place mostly in one room, but it’s so uninteresting that I kept checking my watch to see if we were done yet.

Written by Chris Carter as a way to save some budget, “Ice” ended up being the most expensive installment of season one.  It’s just too bad that all that money isn’t well spent.  For a story about hi-jinks on the space shuttle, we get very little in the way of footage from outer space — except for stock shuttle footage from NASA.   What we get instead is people sitting in the NASA control room and reacting to crisis after crisis as they come up.

There’s a story about some kind of potential alien possession in there, but it never really comes to much.

And yet there are some things that almost work.  Mulder’s hero worship of Col. Belt and his enthusiasm at meeting him is nicely done.  But otherwise, there is little to recommend about this one.

It’s an episode you can easily skip and not miss anything.

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Filed under The X-Files, TV review

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