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The X-Files – Vienen (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

It feels strange to see the black oil after such a long time.

Technically, the last time that the black oil was brought up was in Two Fathers and One Son, where it was retroactively confirmed to be the “Purity” alluded to in The Erlenmeyer Flask. However, the last time it was an active plot element was really The X-Files: Fight the Future. After that, it lost amid plot developments involving gestating aliens and faceless rebels. So, in a way, putting the black oil at the centre of Vienen feels just a little surreal against the backdrop of “super soldiers” and other more immediate concerns.

Explosive action!

Explosive action!

Vienen feels very old-fashioned. Even the structure of the episode harks back to the first season mythology episodes, when the show was allowed to use aliens and conspiracies without the burden of tying them to a larger narrative. It features the black oil, but Vienen feels closer to Fallen Angel or E.B.E. than Tunguska or Terma. Trying to tie it into the larger plot of the mythology is an exercise in futility, but that is not the point here. Vienen is no more or less a mythology episode than Empedocles, despite its inclusion in the “mythology” DVD collections.

It is an excuse to bring back an iconic baddie for one last run-around with Mulder, continuing the orderly transition of power from the what the show was to what it might be in the future.

You should really use a dipstick for that...

You should really use a dipstick for that…

Vienen is very much about putting Mulder in a position where he feels comfortable handing over his life’s work to John Doggett. As such, it represents a culmination of the threads that ran through Three Words and Empedocles, with Mulder coming to understand and appreciate the agent who stood in for him. As Frank Spotnitz conceded:

The show has been Mulder’s quest for the truth. It was that for seven years and part of the eighth year. But I really think that with the introduction of John Doggett last year, the TV series started to take on a new dimension. A baton was passed, almost literally. There was a scene in Vienen where Mulder literally handed over the X-Files office to Doggett. It’s always a question mark whether or not the audience will accept huge changes like this, because the characters are so important and so much of why you watch a TV series. But, having said that, I think The X-Files is a very strong idea for a series with an almost inexhaustible supply of stories. If you can find other characters that are strong and other actors who people like and want to watch. I think there’s potential for the show to go on indefinitely.

Indeed, the ratings had stabilised after sharp declines during the sixth and seventh seasons. While the show had approached the end of the seventh season unsure about what the future might hold, the future looked surprisingly bright as The X-Files moved towards the end of its eighth year. There are not too many shows that can boast of finding that sort of revitalisation in their eighth season.

Oil be there...

Oil be there…

A large part of that is down to the fact that David Duchovny’s absence forced the show to change. As with most successful television shows, The X-Files was conservative by nature; the show did not like to change a set-up that clearly worked. The biggest changes to the status quo – Scully’s diminished role in the second season, the move to Los Angeles in the sixth season – were all dictated by external factors. After all, if something is not demonstrably broken, why risk changing the parts on a moving vehicle?

Had Duchovny signed on for twenty-one episodes of the eighth season early in 2000, it seems likely the show would likely have remained largely unchanged as it moved from the seventh to eighth seasons. However, Duchovny’s decision to limit his availability forced the production team to make very real changes to the way that the show operated. Mulder’s absence shaped the season, with the production team drafting in Doggett as a replacement. Despite David Duchovny’s protestations, the genie could not go back in the bottle.

Radio nowhere...

Radio nowhere…

Robert Patrick did tremendous work in realising John Doggett. The character brought a lot to the table. Although there was no chance that Robert Patrick and Gillian Anderson could recreate the chemistry that Anderson shared with Duchovny, Doggett brought a fresh perspective and energy to the show. Patrick seemed to game for just about everything the show asked for him, with Patrick and Doggett never usurping or hijacking the spotlight. More than that, Doggett’s interactions with Mulder and Scully offered some new dynamics.

Doggett is perhaps more respectful and deferential to Scully than Mulder is, generally allowing Scully to be more proactive and dynamic than she is when paired with Mulder. (Indeed, episodes like Patience and Badlaa got considerable mileage out of how awkward Scully feels in this role.) Similarly, Doggett is decidedly more aggressive with Mulder than Scully would be; while Scully tends to show Mulder a lot of patience and respect, Doggett is more antagonistic. Doggett seems more likely to call Mulder on his jerkishness.

Mister Friendly...

Mister Friendly…

A lot of the pleasure of Vienen comes from teaming Mulder and Doggett up for an investigation of one of the show’s most iconic creations in a wonderfully atmospheric (and isolated) location. Although they crossed paths in Three Words and Empedocles, Vienen is their first extended one-on-one interaction. More than that, it was the first episode that Duchovny filmed with Patrick. While Three Words and Empedocles were broadcast earlier, Vienen was produced directly after DeadAlive.

Duchovny and Patrick play very well off one another, with Duchovny perhaps more energised than anywhere else in this final stretch. The two characters have a combative (yet respectful) relationship, and it seems the set-up inspired Duchovny and Patrick to bring their a-game. The episode’s formula is pretty predictable; Mulder and Doggett  team up on a case and come to understand one other, culminating in perhaps the most “buddy action movie” sequence in the show’s history as Mulder and Doggett jump off an exploding oil rig in slow motion.

"Oh, hell no!"

“Oh, hell no!”

While stressing his respect and admiration for Patrick, Duchovny has been quite candid about his belief that The X-Files should always by Mulder and Scully’s show. This creates a nice sense of tension simmering beneath the surface, as director Rod Hardy acknowledges on the commentary:

A tricky one for Robert, I might say, because you know David had set the series up and had certainly been there as the leading player. And then when he left Robert took over that role and suddenly there was the leading player back into it again, but – ever the pro, old Robert, he’s a terrific actor – he really carried it off extremely well.

While it was quite clear by this point that this was a period of transition for the show, it is fun to imagine a version of the ninth season where both Doggett and Mulder remained main characters, replacing the central duo with a leading trio.

Stab in the dark...

Stab in the dark…

Indeed, one of the disappointments of this stretch is that Scully’s pregnancy prevents a monster of the week featuring all three working together. Much like Empedocles capitalised on the Mulder-Doggett-Reyes dynamic, it is fun to imagine what an episode centring around the Mulder-Scully-Doggett dynamic might look like. Would Scully find herself cast in the role of mediator? Would Doggett feel squeezed out? Would Mulder be resentful? These ideas bubble away in the background of the season, but it would be fun to bring them to the fore.

Doggett and Mulder are the main attraction, so it makes sense that the actual story of Vienen is so thinly sketched. In many ways, the structure of the episode harks back to the first season, when aliens could show up and get involved in weird events without tying back to some larger structure. Vienen features the “black oil”, but it makes no real mention to colonisation or the super soldiers or anything that has really happened that should have involved the black oil since Piper Maru and Apocrypha.

Although this is a nice allusion to the wire meshes from Tunguska and Terma...

Although this is a nice allusion to the wire meshes from Tunguska and Terma

Indeed, the black oil is largely paired back to basics. Vienen makes no reference to any of the developments that took place from Tunguska and Terma through to Fight the Future, placing the black oil in the context of an alien life-cycle. Here, the black oil is sentient black liquid that seeps under a person’s skin and controls their action. In fact, Vienen even turns the power to generate short bursts of radiation into a plot point – an ability of the black oil that had been largely ignored since that first appearance during the third season.

Watching Vienen, viewers don’t need to keep track of the complex flow chart of alien biology or the byzantine maps of colonisation plots. In some respects, that knowledge is a burden; watching Vienen, it seems strange that the black oil on the oil rig can’t count on high-placed colonist operatives like Knowle Rohrer to help it escape. The suggestion seems to be that this particular strain of the black oil had been trapped beneath the Gulf of Mexico, existing as a prehistorical fossil akin to the pool of black oil unearthed at the very start of Fight the Future.

Oil will flow...

Oil will flow…

This makes sense, given that Vienen is fascinated with fossils. It would be easy enough to re-write Vienen as a stand alone “monster of the week” of the “trapped in an isolated location” variety, like Medusa or Darkness Falls. The plot would lose very little if the black oil were replaced with a strange sea organism or a mind-controlling seaweed. It could even be changed to another vaguely defined organism that could possibly (or ambiguously) be of extraterrestrial descent, like the slug from Roadrunners or the worms from Ice.

Making it the black oil serves several purposes. Most obviously, it suggests how elastic the boundary between “monster of the week” and “mythology” has become during this extended stretch of the eighth season; The X-Files has become so serialised that there really is no clearly-defined boundary any more. The show can build what is functionally a standalone monster of the week using toys that were previously ring-fenced for the big blockbuster mythology episodes. However, it also provides a clear link to the show’s past. Which is important right now.

His heart is black...

His heart is black…

Vienen is about Mulder handing a baton over to Doggett, so the story needs the two to encounter an adversary with whom Mulder is familiar and with whom Doggett is not. The more iconic that adversary is, the more weight that the story has. There really are not too many iconic adversaries left to bring back at this point. The only other “monster” with the same level of cultural cache as the black oil is probably Fluke Man. In fact, writer Joe Harris would later use Fluke Man to create some continuity with the X-Files: Season 10 comics.

In many respects, Vienen feels like a nod towards the Vancouver era of the show. This is something a recurring theme in the eighth season, with the production team repeatedly nodding towards the first five years. The eighth season is the darkest season of the show since the production team moved to Los Angeles, in both a literal and a figurative sense. The return of the black oil and the use of a standard “characters trapped in an isolated space” story template both feel like conscious throwbacks, much like the inclusion of Jeremiah Smith in This is Not Happening.

Receiving loud and clear...

Receiving loud and clear…

Vienen goes just a little bit further. Taylor’s discussion of life in a remote location like the oil rig feels like it could just as easily refer to a production team who were working gruelling hours away from their families for extended periods of time. “Men can go off the deep end out here, it’s like a cabin fever of sorts,” Taylor confesses to Mulder. “They’re hundreds of miles away from their family and friends, six weeks at a stretch. Some of them might just well be doing hard time.” Given Duchovny’s own issues with filming in Vancouver, it is a pointed scene.

Of course part of the simple genius of Vienen is the idea of setting the conspiracy thriller featuring the black oil on an oil rig. The climax of Terma had taken place at an oil well near an oil refinery, but setting an entire episode on a refinery is a great idea. The refinery is isolated and remote, cutting Mulder and Doggett off from back-up and support in the tradition of so many classic X-Files episodes. There is something delightfully atmospheric about an oil rig, one of the most industrial and mechanical settings.

Sea of calm...

Sea of calm…

It also emphasises that the black oil is… well, oil. Of course, Piper Maru and Apocrypha suggested that the oil was just a mechanism through which the alien moved, but it seems to have a fondness for oil if later episodes are any indication. The X-Files is very much a show rooted in the context of America after the Second World War. The fact that oil is one of the most memorable and dangerous adversaries serves as a commentary on the increasing industrialisation of America and of the increasing dependency on oil.

In keeping with the body horror themes of the eighth season, the return of the black oil suggests that the human body is really just a mechanical engine. The colonists enter the human body through the oil, controlling the movement. The black oil flows through the veins of its victims much like the oil pumps through the refinery itself. At one point, Garza seems surprised that Doggett does not bleed oil, a rather potent metaphor. The black oil reduces the body to what we fear it might be in our darkest nightmares, a machine made of meat.

Spotlight on Doggett?

Spotlight on Doggett?

April 2001 seems like the ideal time for The X-Files to return to the black oil, and to directly engage with it as a metaphor for… well, oil. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, oil came to symbolised dependency and weakness for the United States. As Stanley Aronowitz notes in From the Ashes of the Old:

In the early 1970s, the United States, which had largely been a self-sufficient energy producer, started its journey down the long road to dependence. Oil imports rose from 5 percent of America’s consumption in the 1960s to more than 50 percent by the mid-1980s. And, after more than fifteen years of importing American goods, foreign countries began to flood the U.S. market with clothing and shoes, basic and fabricated steel products, autos, and machine tools, which eventually cost American workers more than a million jobs. Of course, many of these imports flowed from plants owned by United States-based transnational corporations, but were widely seen as unfair competition perpetrated by “foreign” capital. With the growth of imports of some basic industrial commodities, such as cars and steel, consumers began to feel the inflationary pinch as the dollar took a series of plunges against foreign currencies.

Over the course of Vienen, it becomes increasingly clear that the black is capitalising on the greed and hunger of the Galpex executives. They aim to control and exploit the field, which may technically belong to Mexico. Martin Ortega notes that the oil field would offer “a huge advantage, financially and politically, to whoever gets to drill it.”

"If our disagreements over the Orpheus problem continue, Agent Scully, you may have a Gulf (of Mexico) war on your hands."

“If our disagreements over the Orpheus problem continue, Agent Scully, you may have a Gulf (of Mexico) war on your hands.”

Vienen presciently ties oil to foreign policy, as Mulder wades into a complicated diplomatic quagmire between the United States and Mexico. Upon his election, President George W. Bush made relations with Mexico a top priority. In February 2001, he travelled on a diplomatic mission to Mexico to meet his counterpart President Vincente Fox. Bush was hoping to facilitate the movement of labour from Mexico into the United States, but there was also considerable discussion about obtaining energy from Mexico to help break American dependency on oil.

Oil would become an even more politicised issue in the months following the broadcast of Vienen. As part of the War on Terror, the United States would launch invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Historian Michael Ignatieff would argue that these military operations had to be understood in “the wider sense of America’s consolidating its hegemonic role as the guarantor of stable oil supplies for the Western economy.” While there are undoubtedly other political motivations, oil became an even more pronounced part of discussions of American foreign policy.

A beacon of light...

A beacon of light…

In May 2001, a month after the broadcast of Vienen, the National Energy Policy Development Group noted:

America in the year 2001 faces the most serious energy shortage since the oil embargoes of the 1970’s. The effects are already being felt nationwide. Many families face energy bills two or three times higher than they were a year ago. Millions of Americans find themselves dealing with rolling blackouts or brownouts; some employers must lay off workers or curtail production to absorb the rising cost of energy. Drivers across America are paying higher and higher gasoline prices.

The idea of the black oil spreading by posing as… well, oil seemed entirely appropriate.

A heated relationship...

A heated relationship…

It has been estimated that dependency on oil has cost the United States seven trillion dollars in the thirty years to 1998. That does not include the non-financial costs. Many pundits had speculated that the turn of the millennium might represent “peak oil”, the moment at which oil production would reach its peak and from which it would only trend downwards due to dwindling supplies. Most predictions from the fifties through the seventies suggested that 2000 would represent the point at which the world began to run out of oil.

This particular reservoir of black oil has decided to eschew the whole “killer bees”, “government stooges” and “super soldiers” part of the conspiracy apparatus; instead, it adopts a more direct approach. The plan seems to be to smuggle the oil out of this particular rig and back towards civilisation. Mulder suggests that the black oil is hoping to spread through the “billions and billions of barrels lying right underneath [them], waiting to be produced, waiting to infect that ninety percent of the planet [Doggett] talked about.”

Greasing the wheels...

Greasing the wheels…

Vienen seems to predict that the world’s greed for oil will have dire consequences. While this was hardly a subversive or controversial position in April 2001, it feels somewhat prescient in the context of American foreign policy over the next decade or so. As with the meditations on culture of fear and surveillance in This is Not Happening, it does seem like the eighth season of The X-Files was perfectly primed to transform into a post-9/11 paranoid thriller. Ultimately, the ninth season that materialised would prove to be quite different from the one that was suggested.

The eighth season moves away from the idea of active human collaboration with the colonists. The whole “super soldiers” plot thread seems to suggest that the aliens have had enough of the convoluted plotting of powerful old men in dimly-lit rooms. This allows Vienen to touch on some other interesting ideas about complicity in such apocalyptic schemes. As with the original plans for colonisation, the black oil in Vienen is dependent on human weakness and corruption. However, it is a more basic and simple form of weakness and corruption.

There will be (black) oil!

There will be (black) oil!

Galpex Oil has not been infiltrated and infected by the black oil. There is no suggestion that Martin Ortega is carrying any black oil inside himself. Instead, the black oil is simply exploiting the greed of Galpex Oil for their own ends. The black oil was only able to get loose because Galpex Oil had preemptively begun drilling on the field without proper research and investigation. “That new oil field is already in production,” Mulder deduces. “It’s already being pumped by this rig. That’s how this crew got infected.”

Even without talk of hybrids or hostages, it seems like the baser impulses of the human race make them complicit in their own destruction. Certainly, environmentalists would argue something similar about the wide-spread damage caused by attempts to exploit natural resources – whether it is deforestation or strip-mining or drilling for oil. Vienen seems to imply that humans are ultimately self-sabotaging and that simple greed is enough to turn men into pawns for some sinister purpose.

"You'd be surprised how frequently the air shuttle runs out here."

“You’d be surprised how frequently the air shuttle runs out here.”

Vienen takes the mythology back to basics in many ways. The episode uses the black oil as it appeared in Piper Maru and Apocrypha, understanding that creepy black liquid spilling out of one person and into another will never be anything but creepy. Mulder and Doggett find themselves confronting a corrupt and enabling system rather than any familiar individual antagonist. The episode even ties back to the show’s early fascination with the connections that lie between the colonists and certain indigenous populations, a theme that Carter really developed in Anasazi.

The suggestion that Vienen would feature two Mexican labourers on an oil rig generated some small amount of controversy. At the start of 2001, Latino actors drew attention to the generic and stereotypical roles they were often afforded in Hollywood. The roles of Diego Garza and Simon de la Cruz are hardly the most nuanced and developed guest characters to appear on The X-Files. They feel like stock indigenous characters, supporting players who seem mysterious and spur the plot to action, but with no real agency. (Vienen kills Diego off-screen towards the climax.)

Well, this ability does make microwaving dinner a lot quicker.

Well, this ability does make microwaving dinner a lot quicker.

More than that, there is a sense that the show is returning to its unfortunate habit of treating indigenous populations as magic and mystical. Although never suggested in earlier episodes, it turns out that certain indigenous populations are immune to infection and corruption by the black oil. Scully identifies Simon as a “Waicha Indian”, and it is suggested that his heritage protects him from the colonists. However, both Diego and Simon feel more like plot devices than characters in their own right; they are objects of fascination to the predominantly white cast.

Although Vienen never delves into the same level of patronising New Age mysticism that defined the treatment of indigenous Native American cultures in The Blessing Way, the treatment of indigenous Mexican culture feels a little clumsy and awkward. Vienen exoticises its two Mexican cast members, playing into The X-Files‘ larger fascination with native populations as objects of curiosity and reverence. The details of who Diego and Simon actually are feels less important than their ethnic origin.

It really gets under your skin...

It really gets under your skin…

(That said, Vienen arguably sets up some convenient revelations in The Truth. The suggestion that the colonists are unable to suppress or control indigenous populations explains why the Cigarette-Smoking Man would choose to hide himself away with a group of Native Americans in New Mexico. The Truth develops this idea that native populations have developed defenses against the colonists; as much as certain indigenous people might be immune to the corrupting influences of the black oil, some tribes are set up in pueblos constructed of magnetite to keep them safe.)

The eighth season returns time and again to the divide that exists between the “self” and the “other.” Appropriately, given the titles of the premiere and finalé, the eighth season is fascinated with gulf between Within and Without or between Essence and Existence. Whereas episodes like The End and Biogenesis had suggested that humans are all part alien, the eighth season stresses that “human” and “alien” are diametrically-opposed concepts. The removal of the conspiracy simply takes out the middle-men mediating between the two concepts.

"He was just telling me that he wouldn't want to get Lost at sea..."

“He was just telling me that he wouldn’t want to get Lost at sea…”

There is some rather uncomfortable subtext to that firm delineation between the two concepts. After all, the first seven seasons of The X-Files has used the label “Purity” to underscore the rather fascist nature of the colonists; Herrenvolk (with a title translating as “master race”) had suggested that the real threat of colonisation was the imposition of a new global hegemony populated with wave after wave of identical clones. The first seven seasons suggested that the only way to move forward was through integration and hybridisation rather than imposition.

Science-fiction stories that stress the gulf between “self” and “other” through metaphors involving aliens and purity can occasionally seem a little xenophobic. Vienen wades into some uncomfortable waters in its exploration of Diego and Simon’s immunity to the black oil. It turns out that those indigenous populations are immune to the corrupting influence of the black oil because they have kept their bloodline pure and undiluted; by refusing to integrate and mingle, these native people have found a way to resist colonisation.

Leaping into action...

Leaping into action…

“Well his employment records list Mr. Simon de la Cruz as of mixed Mexican ancestry, when in fact he is Waicha Indian,” Scully explains. “The Waicha are an indigenous Mexican culture that has a rare undiluted gene pool. Now these genes may have an innate immunity to infection.” In short, it is Simon’s own racial “purity” that protects him from the colonists’ “purity.” There is something just a little uncomfortable about this; imagine if Vienen had suggested that “undiluted” Caucasian genes had a similar immunity.

The eighth season rejects Mulder’s suggestion in The End that alien DNA might be “more human than human”, even having Krycek return to those exact four words in Essence so he can be proven wrong. The eighth season suggests that there is nothing more human than human, and that this sort of purity is something towards which mankind should spire. It is a very awkward metaphor, one that brushes against some very uncomfortable ideas that the first seven seasons had worked so hard to subvert and undermine.

Havin' a swingin' time!

Havin’ a swingin’ time!

Even at the climax of Vienen, Mulder stresses the importance of isolating the rig from the rest of the world. It seems that anything alien and different should be properly quarantined, with any possible interaction refused. As Mulder smashes the transmitter, Doggett wonders what the hell he is doing. “Destroying their ability to transmit just like Diego and Simon de la Cruz,” Mulder explains. When Doggett asks what he is talking about, Mulder replies, “I’m talking about contact.”

Mulder spent so much of his life seeking to make contact with alien life, to discover something new and exciting in the wider universe. Stories like E.B.E. and Little Green Men were stories about how far Mulder would go in pursuit of proof of life in outer space. The opening (and closing) scene of Gethsemane explored how essential that belief in “contact” must be to Mulder, confronted with the possibility that the universe really is empty and uncaring. So having Mulder unilaterally destroy any ability to “transmit” or “contact” in Vienen feels like a brutal twist.

"Boy, I'd really like one of them torches right about now..."

“Boy, I’d really like one of them torches right about now…”

Then again, the last third of the eighth season is largely about Mulder learning to accept that perhaps the biggest answers are not found without, but rather within. Mulder’s character arc from DeadAlive through to Existence is really about the character coming to accept that perhaps his biggest adventure is not chasing aliens or conspiracies, but accepting the love that Scully offers and the family that they might build together. In Vienen, Mulder does not try to expose the black oil so much as quarantine it; to cut it off from the world.

In fact, Vienen features perhaps the first implicit acknowledgement from Mulder that he knows (or heavily suspects) that Scully is pregnant with his child. As the situation grows increasingly desperate, Mulder quips to Scully over the radio, “When he’s old enough, tell the kid I went down swinging.” It is a flippant remark, but it seems to suggest that Mulder is acknowledging his role in the pregnancy; at the very least, it seems much more candid than the awkward and deflecting jokes about the pizza man in Empedocles.

It's destiny calling, John Doggett. Will you accept the charges?

It’s destiny calling, John Doggett. Will you accept the charges?

Vienen is a fascinating and essential late eighth season instalment, an episode that represents a passing of the baton between Mulder and Doggett; another vital step on the transition from the show that The X-Files was to the show that it might yet be. It feels nice to have Mulder on one last run-around, before he disappears into the show’s history.

4 Responses

  1. Eatthecorn has an interesting theory on the natural immunity presented here and its ties back to The End and The Beginning, basically tracing it back to the Tunguska rock and migration trails that would have included Gibson Praise’s origins in the Philippines. Regardless of the source, I suppose it does present a “naturally occurring” immunity, contrasted to those artificially engineered by the syndicate, as a more benevolent force. But you’re right, it does bring up some unfortunate questions. If, as Scully concludes in The Beginning, “all of us” have this in our genes, then why do only Simon and Diego have the immunity and why is only Gibson able to read minds? I’m hoping the involvement of Anne Simon and Margaret Fearon in the upcoming revival finale might be a good sign that they intend to clear some of this up. I have read that Simon in particular was heavily involved in The Beginning.

    • Interesting. I do wonder about those threads, why they come up when they do, rather than being consciously structured like the large threads of the colonisation arc. After all, Vienen feels rather disconnected from the surrounding mythology of the eighth season.

      • You’re right, the timing is interesting. While Vienen relates more to the mythology as a whole and as more casual fans know it, it doesn’t fit with the serialized storyline beginning in Requiem. Maybe it’s something Carter felt he never got a chance to expand on properly and so he delegated it (last minute) to Maeda. I would be surprised if Maeda, still a very new writer on the show, pitched a mythology episode to Carter.

      • Yep. It’s also very much outside Maeda’s thematic wheelhouse. (There is a very clear link between his Harsh Realm episodes and the scripts he wrote for S9.)

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