This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.
Tucked away in the Winter 1996 issue of The X-Files Magazine and republished with The Silent Sword in September 1996, The Pit is an atmospheric short story from Petrucha and Adlard, demonstrating the two work quite well together across a variety of formats. The Pit is only nine pages long, including two splash pages – and another half-page splash. There isn’t a lot of room for plot or detail. Instead, Petrucha and Adlard opt for mood and atmosphere, crafting a weird and spooky little diversion.
Mulder and Scully find themselves drawn into a hostage crisis in the mysterious (and reportedly haunted) “Oak Island Money Pit.” While Mulder attempts to negotiate, Scully works on managing the crisis from behind the scenes. With a minimum amount of page space, the script handwaves the duo’s involvement in the case. “I’m glad the FBI was invited to assist in this hostage situation, even though this is a little out of your jurisdiction, Agent Scully,” one character observes. But, then, The Pit is not too concerned with its story.
Instead, The Pit hits on quite a few recurring themes of The X-Files, both in Petrucha and Adlard’s work and also in the series as a whole. The “Oak Island Money Pit” is apparently cursed, a location where men have long come digging in search of wealth – only to find death awaiting them. In many respects, this is a story that treats America as a land with a long and secret history just buried from view, with its own secrets that lie beyond the comprehension of the European settlers.
As with quite a few of the surrounding third season episodes, The Pit emphasises the idea that the European settlers are really just aliens in America. Discussing the origins of the Pit, Mulder explains, “Incas, Norsemen — no one knows who built it. The popular theory is pirates.” However, the Pit itself is just a resource to be exploited. With all the construction equipment, drilling and hard hats, the excavation of the Pit feels like mining. Mining is, of course, a key part of American history, with the settlers literally pulling wealth and prosperity from the soil of their new home.
It is no wonder that Mulder suggests that pirates are a likely suspect in the construction and development of the Money Pit. When the man financing the current expedition appears, he looks almost like a pirate himself. He is dressed in a fancy suit with purple trim, complete with ponytail and gold jewellery. When the generator goes down, the light reflecting off his ostentatious gold jewellery is enough to unsettle the workers. However, he hungers for what is buried in the Pit. “It called to me. It wants me as much as I want it.” He may be right.
Indeed, the “Oak Island Money Pit” feels like a cautionary tale about all-consuming capitalism – a black void that seems to swallow men whole, consuming all that seek to claim and control it. “Chip chip whirr whirr crunch crunch,” we hear at the beginning and end of the story, like a mechanical grinding; like chewing. The Pit implies that this gigantic hole is hungry, that it seeks to feed on those men who claim dominion over it. As the ground falls out from under Briggs, he yells, “My leg! Something’s pulling at me!”
The Pit is the story of those lost to the all-consuming enterprise. When the spirits rise, they are miners and workers rather than entrepreneurs or businessmen; cogs in the machine. Cogs the keep moving and ticking, in service of the apparatus. “It wasn’t bad enough we were working seven days a week,” Briggs tells Mulder, “soon he had us working nights, too.” When one of the workmen is ready to lose his temper at the venture capitalist funding the expedition, Briggs tries to calm him. “Easy, Tom. Think of the money he’s paying us.” It’s all about the money.
The Oak Island Money Pit is a real thing. It actually exists. Spurred on by rumours of buried treasure, six men have lost their lives in attempted excavations since 1861. Allegedly, ruins found at the site promise “forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.” However, some speculate that the phenomenon is entirely natural – possibly a sinkhole – and six lives have been lost in pursuit of some fantasy of wealth. Whatever the reality of the situation, the Oak Island Money Pit makes for a fascinating central concept, and Petrucha and Adlard use it well.
The Pit is a very clever, very well-constructed short story. Even if there’s not too much room for plot or detail, it manages to hit on some of the show’s core themes while playing with an interesting idea.
You might be interested in our other reviews of the third season of The X-Files:
- The Blessing Way
- Paper Clip
- Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose
- The List
- The Walk
- X-tra: (Topps) The Pit
- War of the Coprophages