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The X-Files – Closure (Review)

This November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

Sein und Zeit and Closure don’t fit together at all.

There is a nice symmetry to the stories, with Sein und Zeit closing with Mulder standing amid a mass grave and Closure opening with the excavation of the same mass grave. The contrast between the two shots of the same space says a lot about the differences between Sein und Zeit and Closure. Sein und Zeit is an episode that isolates Mulder, demonstrating how alone he truly is in the world and how all his beliefs might be empty; Closure responds by cluttering up the narrative and revealing an absurdly convoluted explanation of what happened to Samantha.

A grave subject...

A grave subject…

Even the themes of the two episodes are almost unique. Both Sein und Zeit and Closure are driven by Mulder’s desire to make sense of what happened to his sister, but both adopt diametrically different approaches towards the question. Sein und Zeit proposes that the world is a random and cruel place where bad things happen to children for no reason beyond the sadistic whims of strangers, while Closure embraces the idea that there is a larger scheme in which these horrible events occur.

There is a yin-and-yang structure to Sein und Zeit and Closure, a sense that the two episodes are almost at odds with one another when it comes to the fate of Samantha Mulder. Closure offers something approaching hope. It is too much to describe Closure as a happy-ending to the character arc that ran through the first seven seasons of the series, but it does offer Samantha an ending that is not soul-destroyingly bleak. It offers Mulder resolution and understanding. In his own words, it offers him freedom.

"Conscience... it's just the voices of the dead... trying to save us from our own damnation."

“Conscience… it’s just the voices of the dead… trying to save us from our own damnation.”

It is a very hopeful suggestion. It is a particularly hopeful suggestion coming at the middle of the show’s seventh season, as the resolution to Mulder’s character arc. The audience has spent seven years watching Mulder deal with the trauma of the loss of his sister, wrestling with the fear that he might never find an answer; or that he might find an answer that fails to make sense of it all. What if he found an answer that made sense of everything? What if Samantha’s disappearance wasn’t just part of a government conspiracy? What if it was part of something bigger?

What if the disappearance of Samantha Mulder meant everything?

A man alone.

A man alone.

Of the two episodes, Closure is probably the most optimistic. The world is a large place, populated by over six billion people; lives intersect and interact in unpredictable and unforeseeable ways. It makes sense that people want to believe that there is an ordered and structured reason underpinning all of this; that a pattern might be discerned from the chaos if the observer just focuses hard enough. Ripples of effect reverberate across time and space, distorting the lives of those caught in their wake; the cause is always more alluring.

Given the basic structure of a two-part episode, it makes sense that Closure is the episode that provides a clear explanation for the disappearance of Samantha Mulder. After all, the presence of a resolution is the entire point of the second episode in a two-part story; the idea is to build off the cliffhanger of the first part and provide the audience with satisfying answers that will leave them feeling like their questions have been answered. Closure offers the ultimate resolution. What if Samantha isn’t just part of the show’s mythology, but of something greater?

Keep watching...

Keep watching…

One of the recurring themes of The X-Files is the way that conspiracy theory exists as an ordering principle in a confused time. Believing that the world is driven by sinister forces gives meaning and purpose to the chaos of the nineties. However, the problem with conspiracy theories is that they offer no resolution. As Kathleen Stewart argues in Conspiracy Theory’s Worlds:

Conspiracy theory is a skeptical, paranoid, obsessive practice of scanning for signs and sifting through bits of evidence for the missing link. Enter the world of conspiracy theory (as we all do and must) and you enter the world of global systems with missing details. This is a world of hopelessly arcane, obscurantist systems that are expert at leaving a paper trail that cannot track them. The moment of seduction is the moment when the puzzle is almost solved but there is always something more you need, the missing piece. Conspiracy theory dreams of an end point, an ur-text, a pure and stable past, but it never gets there because it is always pushing the REAL to the outer edge of the horizon – a carrot to struggle toward.

Closure suggests that meaningful resolution is ultimately necessary; that a person needs to find their own reason for the traumas that haunt them. Mulder is able to move past the loss of Samantha by charting her convoluted personal history to its grim conclusion; Harold Piller cannot do the same for his own son, and so he ends up trapped forever searching for an answer that was always there, but which he refuses to accept.

Where there's smoke...

Where there’s smoke…

It is suggested that Mulder has always known the answer on some level. Searching through the home of Teena Mulder, Scully discovers a slip of paper that confirms the Cigarette-Smoking Man’s involvement in the disappearance of Samantha Mulder. On the phone, Mulder is dismissive. “Well, that’s not exactly a revelation, Scully,” he informs his partner. “He was a friend of my father’s.” The answer has always been there; Mulder has just never quite pushed it.

The finer details of what happened to Samantha are largely immaterial. It is not surprising that the government ran tests on her; they ran tests on other abductees, including Scully. It is not a surprise that the Samantha’s disappearance is closely tied to the Cigarette-Smoking Man; the Cigarette-Smoking Man lurks in both the shadows of the Mulder home and at the heart of the conspiracy. The biggest revelation in Closure is that Samantha Mulder is actually dead; that she has been dead since 1979.

Talk about dating the episode...

Talk about dating the episode…

The central mythology of The X-Files is ultimately messy in places. It has been described – not unfairly – as “labyrinthine” in structure. This is arguably more true of the finer details than the bigger picture; the colonists’ plot makes a reasonable amount of sense in the abstract, but elements like the bees and the black oil feel inconsistent from one episode to the next. Closure offers a resolution to the disappearance of Samantha Mulder that is perhaps the perfect example of this; an explanation too detailed and too contradictory.

The mythology is shrouded in lies. The Alien Bounty Hunter promised Mulder that his sister lived on in End Game; Bill Mulder assured his son of her continued survival in The Blessing Way; the Cigarette-Smoking Man vowed to reunite Mulder with her in Redux II. Of course, it is possible that all these characters were lying or misinformed, but it does suggest that the ultimate fate of Samantha Mulder was uncertain until Closure was actually written; Samantha Mulder was Schrodinger’s Missing Sister, both dead and alive until the box was opened.



The mythology is not so neat. It has not been neat for quite some time. At this point in the show’s run, the mythology seems to exist in a state akin to limbo. In theory, the mythology ended with the destruction of the conspirators in Two Fathers and One Son. However, it seems to shuffle along like a zombie. The Cigarette-Smoking Man was planning colonisation in a brief scene in Biogenesis, and the project was still working towards the creation of alien-human hybrids in The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati. If the conspiracy was dead, it did not know it yet.

Still, Closure seems to acknowledge that the conspiracy is dead. The Cigarette-Smoking Man shows up in Scully’s living room, contemplating his own irrelevence. “I should’ve grabbed it for you,” he apologises as Scully just misses a call. “I like to make myself useful.” When she asks why the Cigarette-Smoking Man would finally decide to tell Mulder the truth, he explains, “There was so much to protect before. It’s all gone now.” Even the Cigarette-Smoking Man’s ill health serves as a commentary on the undead state of the mythology; perhaps the undead state of the show.

"Although we may not be alone in the universe, in our own separate ways - on this planet - we are all alone."

“Although we may not be alone in the universe, in our own separate ways – on this planet – we are all alone.”

With the possibility that the seventh season might be the last season of The X-Files; and with the near-certainty that it would be David Duchovny’s last season, there was a clear desire to tidy away the show’s biggest remaining loose end. While the mythology remained undead, Samantha would remain dead. As Carter told The Official Guide:

“The expectation was that if this were going to be the final season, that the finale would be about Mulder’s sister,” says Carter.  “We wanted to deal with that sooner rather than later. We wanted to wrap up Mulder’s emotional story with his sister and do it in such a way that would emphasize David’s dramatic abilities.”

There was a lot of hype about how this episode would reveal the ultimate fate of Samantha Mulder. Producer Frank Spotnitz promised fans, “This Sunday is the conclusion of the two-part episode in which we really, truly, honest-to-God find out what happened to Samantha.”

I guess we know who's behind this...

I guess we know who’s behind this…

Indeed, Carter was so conscious of the fact that this needed to be a concrete resolution that he explicitly spelt out Samanatha’s fate in an interview following the broadcast of the episode:

It was supposed to be just a little big vague, but Mulder believes that through the course of those two episodes this year, that when bad things are about to happen to children that there is some force, some presence that comes down and, perhaps, saves children from those terrible fates. And he thinks that because of the testing that was being done on Samantha that, in fact, that’s what happened and that she has been removed and will perhaps be returned. She has become starlight, if you will. So that’s what he believes.

Given Carter’s preference to leave such matters ambiguous and open to interpretation, the fact that he felt the need to clearly articulate the details is somewhat telling.

Follow the signs...

Sign of the times…

As the end of The X-Files looms, the mythology seems unimportant. The mythology episodes of the seventh season ultimately have very little to do with colonisation or invasion; instead, they play as character studies, providing a backdrop for more introspective character pieces than the first six seasons allowed. Samantha’s disappearance ties more deeply into the spiritual themes of the seventh season than the larger colonisation plot. What if that is ultimately the truth awaiting Mulder? That his years spent chasing conspiracies will not provide the truth he seeks?

In Signs and Wonders, Mulder meditated on the idea that people respond to certainty and romanticise unquestioning faith. The seventh season of The X-Files has a much more overt religious throughline than any early stretch of the show. Religious faith bubbles through The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati, Orison and Signs and Wonders; it simmers in the background of The Sixth Extinction and The Goldberg Variation. It makes sense that Closure would return to these themes.

"I heard the news today, oh boy..."

“I heard the news today, oh boy…”

One of the central questions of Sein und Zeit and Closure seems to be that old theological chestnut: if God exists, why do bad things happen to good people? Harold Piller even voices the question in Closure. “Why must some suffer and not others?” he asks. The opening teaser of Closure frames Mulder’s faith in religious terms. “These fates seemed too cruel, even for God to allow. Or are the tragic young born again when the world’s not looking? I want to believe so badly; in a truth beyond our own hidden and obscured from all but the most sensitive eyes.”

Despite his skepticism about organised religion, Mulder seems to find religious faith as he comes to terms with his loss. “I want to believe we are unaware of God’s eternal recompense and sadness,” he informs the audience, opening the statement with four words that signpost how important this statement is in thematic terms. “That we cannot see His truth. That that which is born still lives and cannot be buried in the cold earth. But only waits to be born again at God’s behest… where in ancient starlight we lay in repose.”

An open case...

An open case…

Closure suggests that Samantha has effectively become starlight. “You know, I never stop to think,” Mulder confesses to Scully, “that the light is billions of years old by the time we see it. From the beginning of time right past us into the future. Nothing is ancient in the universe. But, maybe they are souls, Scully. Traveling through time as starlight, looking for homes.” The starlight is just the glimmer of long-dead worlds, reaching our eyes years (or decades, or centuries) after it first shone through.

In Piper Maru and Apocrypha, Chris Carter suggested that ghosts were simply physical representations of the past – conscience calling out to those who might listen. Closure suggests something quite similar. These lost souls are not really lost, as long as we are willing to look for them. The transformation of Samantha into literal starlight might be just a little cheesy and clumsy, but it is also quite poetic. It turns out that, every time that Mulder looked to the sky in awe or wonder, he was really looking at his sister.

The write stuff.

The write stuff.

This is, of course, very goofy. Closure is an episode that does not hold up to cynicism or scrutiny; it is very much Chris Carter writing at his most romantic. It opens with a purple prose monologue about the ghosts of dead children, and builds to a climax where Mulder is happy because his sister has quite literally gone to a better place. Closure is an episode that does not just strain suspension of disbelief, it stretches it almost beyond recognition. These are very serious problems with the episode. However, there is also something quite beautiful about it.

Closure suggests that Mulder’s pursuit of life on other worlds brought him closer to Samantha in its own way; even if it failed to reunite him with her. Even the act of just seeing Samantha offers Mulder a hint of resolution and satisfaction. In the world of The X-Files, seeing is an important thematic element; eye imagery recurs throughout the show’s run. In another connection to Piper Maru and Apocrypha, the teaser to Closure features a shot framed to evoke a giant eye staring at the sky. In Apocrypha, it was a missile silo; in Closure, it is a ring of ghost!children.

Trying to put it all behind him...

Trying to put it all behind him…

The two-parter contains a number of nods to earlier (and mostly forgotten) mythology episodes, like Red Museum. It was Red Museum that proved surprisingly relevant to the future of the show; it predicted the date of colonisation long before Patient X and The Truth, it proposed the colonists as gods, it introduced the concept of walk-ins. In fact, Mark Rolston appears in Sein und Zeit, having guest starred in Red Museum. It is interesting how important Red Museum would become to the evolution of the show, particularly after Two Fathers and One Son.

As with a lot of the seventh season, Closure has a rather odd relationship with the history of The X-Files. Running for seven years, it occasionally feels like the show has lost sight of its own past; that the show’s history has blurred and distorted through time and distance. Closure is part of a broader sweep in the seventh season to characterise the mythology in predominantly religious terms; the plotting of Closure suggests that God was just as active a participant in the final fate of Samantha Mulder as the Cigarette-Smoking Man.

His fingerprints are all over this...

His fingerprints are all over this…

Religion has always played a part in the show’s central mythology. Crashed alien ships are called “fallen angels”, after all. Those links were particularly pronounced in the second season, in episodes like Red Museum, ColonyFearful Symmetry and Anasazi. Mulder’s opening monologue in Patient X cemented the connection between the colonists and human worship. The three-parter bridging the sixth and seventh seasons of the show put even more emphasis on the idea.

With Closure, Carter suggests that the real narrative arc of The X-Files is about Mulder coming to accept religious faith. Over the course of the two-parter, Mulder is confronted with the reality that Samantha is not coming back, but he finds peace when he accepts that she has moved to “a better place.” Samantha isn’t on some alien space ship somewhere, she has died and gone to heaven. Divine mercy reached down to spare her from suffering. Mulder’s journey is complete when he is able to find comfort in that idea.

It's gonna be a long night.

It’s gonna be a long night.

There is something just a little uncomfortable about this, just as there was something about the romantic approach to fanaticism in Signs and Wonders. The infernal calculations involved in Closure are quite terrifying. By intervening in the case of Amber Lynn LaPierre, the “walk-ins” spared the young girl a lot of torture and pain at the hands of Ed Truelove. By intervening in the case of Samantha Mulder, they also allowed her to escape the clutches of the Cigarette-Smoking Man; however, this assumes that Samantha would not have survived the ordeal in the end.

Why did the “walk-ins” choose to intervene in the case of Samantha Mulder at that point? Why not earlier, before she suffered all those experiments and torture? More to the point, did the “walk-ins” know for sure that the tests would ultimately kill her? What if Samantha Mulder might have grown to adulthood? If she could have lived to adulthood, and if Mulder could have found her, who is to determine that her suffering was (or was not) worthwhile? Would a possible reunion with Mulder have made the intervening pain worth it? Who can decide?

Happy families.

Happy families.

Carter’s later writing has a strong religious component to it. Carter was always fascinated with matters of faith and spirituality, but the seventh season of The X-Files sees religion become a dominant theme. This transition is arguably set up in Seven and One, the last script that Carter wrote for Millennium. In that episode, Frank Black had to learn to embrace religion to effectively fight evil. The eight episodes for the first season of Harsh Realm are incredibly religious, with Leviathan explicitly suggesting that the world would fall to pieces without religion.

Like Frank Black and the entire world of Harsh Realm, Closure suggests that Fox Mulder needs to embrace religion in order to find peace. Closure suggests that “the truth” has as much to do with God as it does with aliens; that the true secrets about the disappearance of Samantha will only be uncovered through religious faith. There is a very clear line between the resolution of Samantha’s disappearance in Closure and the decision to define “the truth” in candidly religious terms in the final scene of The Truth.

"I'm here to help."

“I’m here to help.”

There is an interesting symmetry between Sein und Zeit and Closure, one that emphasises the difference in tone between the two episodes. The closing shot of Sein und Zeit finds Mulder amid a mass grave, an isolated figure surrounded by negative space. The opening shot of Closure features the same location that has become a hub of activity, what was once empty space is now cluttered with shots of agents marching back and forth exhuming the bodies of victims buried by Ed Truelove.

This contrast says a lot about Closure. Whereas Sein und Zeit is structured to emphasise the tragic isolation of Fox Mulder, Closure is much more interested in actually resolving the plot thread that has been dangling from The Pilot. As a result, the episode becomes quickly cluttered as the show runs through a checklist of moments that are necessary before the series can finally tidy away the ghost of Samantha Mulder once and for all: the abduction; the return; the Cigarette-Smoking Man; the tests; the memories of Mulder; the reunion.

The truth is unearthed.

The truth is unearthed.

Of course, the revelation that Samantha Mulder is dead puts a bit of a dampener on things. It raises all sorts of internal logic issues; after all, simply telling Mulder that Samantha was dead would probably have made him less of a thorn in the conspirators’ sides. More than that, it does make the inevitable reunion feel just a trifle mean-spirited. Closure certainly offers a happier ending than Sein und Zeit, but it would be quite a stretch to describe it as a “happy ending” to a seven-year saga.

Still, it is quite clear that Samantha could not return alive before the series finalé. The return of Samantha Mulder would irrevocably upset the balance of the show. If Mulder were suddenly reunited with a sister who vanished almost three decades ago, the show could not segue comfortably from Closure into X-Cops. As much as The X-Files gets credit for ambition and experimentation, the show did not like to make massive changes unless it absolutely had to. Revealing that Samantha Mulder is dead allows for closure, but closure without breaking the format of the show.

Not every story has a happy ending...

Not every story has a happy ending…

In a way, it could be argued that Sein und Zeit and Closure are structured so as to allow the writing staff to have their cake and eat it on the matter of Samantha Mulder’s disappearance. Closure is the most optimistic resolution; one that comes closest to offering fans what they think that they want from the show. (Then again, the television playing The Planet of the Apes might be right. “You may not like what you find.”) In hindsight, this may not necessarily have made for the most satisfying resolution.

You might be interested in our reviews of the seventh season of The X-Files:

11 Responses

  1. I am in the midst of my own rewatch and I am behind your reviews. With the multi-parters I have tended to leave my comments on the first part as you post and the latter part after I catch up. So, in revisiting my comments from Sein Und Zeit after watching both, I can say that it is much bleaker than I remembered – much more so than Gethsemane or Paper Hearts. It’s fairly relentless in dispensing with dread throughout. I agree with you that Closure goes in a completely different direction but, in doing so, it really leaves behind a lot of the fall out of the first part.

    Closure is trying very hard to keep everything hanging together but I’m not sure it manages. Harold then questions “Why must some suffer and not others?” Nothing that comes after attempts to answer this question, which is the fundamental problem with this explanation, as Scully points out. She summarizes Harold’s involvement aptly, that he “gives a comforting explanation everyone can live with.”
    I’m not saying that there is an answer or one should be given. It’s really pretty ambitious to tackle this material at all. Other than Paper Hearts, this is really the only time the show dealt with it directly since Colony/End Game or even Conduit. I want to like Closure more than I do but it just can’t fully recover from the brutality that was Sein Und Zeit.

    • I agree entirely. Sein und Zeit is a four or sour-and-a-half star episode, because it commits so whole-heartedly to its premise. While Closure works well enough, it backpedals furiously to do so. It’s more of a three-star, and most of that is for the performances and imagery more than the plotting.

  2. I have not commented on your X-Files reviews before now. However, I watched the series avidly for the first seven seasons… and in the end it left me very disappointed.

    The X-Files is the perfect example of the dangers of making up a show as you go along while continually assuring the viewers “No, really, we have this huge overarching master plan, and eventually EVEYTHING will make sense if you just keep watching.” Sooner or later the viewers will figure out that you are bull$#!+ing them and desert the show like a sinking ship.

    “Closure” in the perfect example of this. Perhaps if this episode had aired three or four years earlier I might have been able to accept it for what it is, maybe even appreciated it and enjoyed it. But, after so many dead ends and red herrings and hybrid clones of Mulder’s sister popping up, seeing this subplot picked up and dropped over and over again for seven years, when we finally got this, my reaction was “That’s it? That’s what I’ve waited all this time to find out? Friendly spirits took Mulder’s sister into the afterlife to rescue her from the Cigarette Smoking Man and the aliens? Really?!?”

    There is a variation of the tag line to The X-Files that I used to say, and it was this: I want to believe… that I’m not wasting my time waiting for Chris Carter to finally connect all the dots and at long last reveal the big picture. As I recall, when “Closure” aired I *finally* had enough of that. This was the point when I stopped following the series. I tuned in to the show occasionally after this if I had nothing better to do, and I did watch the series finale out of mild curiosity. But, really, this episode is the point at which I stopped being an X-Files fan.

    • Thanks, Ben!

      That would seem fair. The sixth and seventh season hemorrhaged viewers and represent the point (barring the jolts of Duchovny’s departure and the show’s cancellation) at which the media really stopped paying attention to the show. I always thought that a straightforward resolution to Samantha would have been best and Closure over-complicates it somewhat.

      But I do like the eighth season. It’s stronger than the seventh and the ninth, and probably on par with (if not slightly stronger than) the sixth – albeit a lot darker in tone and visual style.

    • Well said, Ben. It reminds me of the ending of Lost. Lost is my all time favorite show, but the ending showed that there was no masterful connection of all the dots. It was just a hokie, flake-out of an ending. Big letdown. I love the Xfiles, but Closure is where Carter and his writers reveal the ending could not answer the brilliance of the beginning. The over-arching mythology was too big for the writers to finish in the same vein they started.

  3. Great review as usual, at this point I was no longer watching the rest of this series when it originally aired because I didn’t cared anymore, so many of these 7th season episodes are like “new” for me even 15 years after; it’s stronger than the 6th season IMO, at least the production team attempted a “back to the roots” approach that was a bit more in the tone of early seasons. Despite the flaws in “Closure”, it offers an ending for this whole Samantha story, maybe it’s not the best, but it’s an ending at least. Bad news are that a proper ending for the perpetual mythology was never in Carter’s plans, The End wasn’t THE END, 13 years after cancellation it’s ready for relaunch next year…

  4. Closure struck me as “peak” Chris Carter. I think Carters tends to really showcase what he’s thinking about and feeling in his episodes, for better or worse. He tends to care a lot more about the emotion and tone of a scene than how it fits into continuity or even if the scene is justified or comprehensible by the standard of the plot. Closure really takes this to its logical end, so I see why people have a hard time liking it–it really is a lot to swallow. Thinking about the actual plot of the episode or the implications of the metaphysics on the mythology of the show even in a cursory way shows how poorly put together the ep is from that perspective.

    I have to admit, though, I still liked Closure. I agree that Sein and Zeit is a considerably stronger episode, but Closure feels, in its own way, like classic X-Files at its best and worst. The upside of Carter’s writing is the emotions are always raw and really heartfelt. Mulder meeting Samantha was actually able to make me forget about all the inconsistencies of the episode I was watching, the way the last scene in Post Modern Prometheus makes a great argument for that ep as a classic, despite its problems. Closure isn’t a good episode of the X-Files, but I got choked up watching it, which is more than I can say of a lot of traditionally “better” episodes of television. I think Closure is a really useful ep for discussing the X-Files generally–a lot it’s best and worst features are all kind of mixed up here.

  5. I’m currently binge-watching the whole enchilada for the first time, and just finished Closure. I have to say, I totally agree with Ben Herman, above. Carter’s kick-the-can approach to planning the X-files’ ‘bigger picture’ has yielded flaccid conclusion after flaccid conclusion, and this episode represents, for me, the pinnacle of the failure of that approach.
    I disagree with another commenter about the quality of season seven — I thought season six was actually quite good, with a number of ‘classic’ episodes. Seven has seemingly been one disappointment after another, most notably in the whimpering ‘Millennium’ finale, and in ‘Closure.’
    So after all this time, after all the clones and curveballs and conspiracies, it turns out Samantha was spirited away by Casper the Friendly Ghost and his pals, who are apparently given to intervening on behalf of children in need, but only randomly so. Did they miss all those old Sally Struthers commercials??
    And never mind all of the dangling plot threads this leaves behind (not that this has ever stopped the show’s writers from driving down a dead-end alley before…), nor all of the internal inconsistencies (which you referred to in your review) which now exist in the wake of this super-sized serving of deus ex machine.
    You made a good point in comparing this to the ‘signs and wonders’ episode. At various points throughout the series — and in heaping measures throughout the ‘Millennium’ series — Carter seems to have embraced a very noxious brand of spirituality, as if to say “Maybe we should listen to the kooks and bigots and narrow-minded did acts after all.” Won’t be surprised if, at some point, Carter reemerges as a burned-again evangelical.

    • I don’t think Carter will ever go that far, but he has acknowledged that he moved close to faith over the course of the show’s run. It is even there in the revival, to an extent, in the episode Babylon.

      I’d also rank the seventh season as the show’s second- or third-weakest show by some considerable margin. I think there’s a big gap between the seventh season and the season directly above it on that ranking, as well.

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