September 2013 sees the 20th anniversary of the first airing of The X-Files . To celebrate this on The Hex Dimension, I’m providing you with retrospectives on episodes and I’ll also be covering the films at the points that they fit into the series’ chronology. So, without further ado… welcome to “Ice”.
Opening at a research station in the dark, icy wilderness of Alaska, it’s probably the most dramatic opening for the series so far, as a shirtless, bloodied man tries desperately to contact the outside world and warn them of the station’s fate. “We’re not who we are,” he repeats and then gets into a fight.
Catching up with Scully and Mulder as they prepare to take on the case, sometime after the events of the opening, it almost feels like they’re a crew being sent out to see what happened to the team based at a certain Antarctic research station. There’s certainly many similarities between this episode and the themes that take place in the 1982 version of The Thing . The appearance of a dog not long in, well, certainly makes it all seem rather familiar.
As Mulder and Scully all gather in an airfield with the team of scientists that are going to join them on their trip to Icy Cape, it’s interesting how antagonism within the group is set from the get go, with people being asked for ID when it wasn’t needed. The co-operation seen in “The Jersey Devil” is not really here in “Ice”.
Stuck up at this Alaskan scientific station, due to bad weather, the discovery of a parasitic worm at the scene of the mass murder-suicide that’s led Mulder, Scully and the others there, helps to push the walls that surround the team closer around them. The weather comes in bad during the episode, so one can escape the station.
It’s really good how Glen Morgan, James Wong (writers) and David Nutter (director) play with the space that’s available to the characters in the episode. Despite the fact that the facility is keeping them all alive (it’s minus fudge knows what outside and there’s a snow storm), everyone quickly grows to resent the safety and shelter that the station provides.
Like the regulations that Mulder attempts to get everyone to abide to, the station confines them all. At the same time, the presence of Mulder and Scully, as federal agents, amps the paranoia of the surrounding characters. Where normally Scully and Mulder are chasing conspiracies, this is reversed in “Ice” as the pair becomes the conspiracy.
The repeated testing of the investigative party and the subsequent accusations and gun pulling does, alongside the ice and the dog, makes the whole episode seem really similar to The Thing . At the same time, the worm that’s at the root of everything taking place is a far more subtle antagonist than the shapes shifting alien of Carpenter’s film.
Obviously budget is one of the reasons why the episode couldn’t have had the kind of in-your-face effects of the Carpenter film, however I think I prefer the subtlety of this X-Files episode. Mainly because the distrust it fosters is far greater. You can’t quickly identify if someone’s infected, you have to wait and slowly run through a series of tests, because the symptoms of the condition are such that you can’t base it on behaviour alone.
The end of the episode shows how Mulder doesn’t like seeing things left unresolved. The X-File here can’t be completely closed, because they’re denied the chance to go back and find out what it really was that they’re dealing with. Despite being the federal agents on scene, they have no idea who or which agency gave the order for the station to be destroyed. Like so many episode of the series, the pair are never fully in control of their investigations.
What did you think of this episode? Let us know in the comments below.