#9 “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’" – The X-Files (1996)
The X-Files hit so many high points during its run that it deserves to have an episode represented among my top ten, but choosing a single episode is a challenge. I thought about the episode “Bad Blood”, a serio-comic take on vampire mythology that distinguishes itself in the opening scene when Fox Mulder, certain he is on the hunt after a vampire, tackles a kid in the woods and stabs him through the heart with a stake – only to then notice the fake vampire teeth in his mouth. Or, I considered “War of the Coprophages,” which deserves mention if for no other reason than the appearance of beautiful entomologist Dr. Bambi Berenbaum. I repeat, Dr. Bambi Berenbaum.
But ultimately I had to settle on “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’”. Episodes of The X-Files fall into two categories: one shot episodes that deal with a very specific story and mythology episodes that continue the ongoing, overarching narrative concerning Fox Mulder’s obsession with aliens. Several of the one-shot episodes take a comic approach, such as the ones described above. The mythology episodes are often very serious by contrast. With “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’”, however, The X-Files pokes fun at itself by offering a comedic and almost absurdist take on its own mythology. The episode includes faked alien invasions, seemingly real alien invasions, an alien autopsy (in another self-referential moment poking fun at the alien autopsy special that aired on Fox – the network airing The X-Files), and enough twists and turns to keep Agatha Christie happy.
When two teenagers claim to have been abducted by aliens, Mulder and Scully investigate only to learn that nothing is as it seems. The X-Files is known for raising the question of whether the truth is out there, suggesting that we cannot trust our government and may not even be able to trust each other. This episode takes that a step further by questioning whether we can trust ourselves and our own interpretations of the truth.