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The X-Files – The Post-Modern Prometheus (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

The Post-Modern Prometheus is a decidedly strange little episode.

As the title suggests, it is a stunningly indulgent piece of television. Written and directed by Chris Carter, The Post-Modern Prometheus is an off-beat adventure shot in black-and-white, stylistically referencing everything from James Whale’s Frankenstein to the work of Cher to the iconic dance sequence from Risky Business. The script is chocked full of literary and cinematic references, stitching them together in a way that suggests the monster alluded to in the title of the episode.

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time…

There are more than a few moments of awkwardness in the script. As with Small Potatoes, there seems something a little awkward about a comedy episode that treats a serial rapist as the jumping-off point for a wacky comedy adventure. (“This is a very serious crime,” Mulder asserts at one point, but the script never seems too bothered by it.) There is something quite knee-jerk and reactionary about how The Post-Modern Prometheus plays into the stereotype of scientific development and research as morally questionable by default.

And, yet, despite these fairly sizable problems, there is a lot to love here. It has been suggested that Carter considers The Post-Modern Prometheus as a deeply personal work – it is not hard to see why. The Post-Modern Prometheus is a story obsessed with the act of creating – whether through biological reproduction or scientific experimentation or even by way of storytelling. It is an episode engaging with a story that has long since slipped out of the control of its creator, and which is free to evolve and develop in infinite directions.

Drivin' to Memphis...

Drivin’ to Memphis…

There is a joy and energy to The Post-Modern Prometheus that almost compensates for the more unpleasant aspects of the script. There is a lot of fun to be had here, whether listening to the creature singing along with Cher or simply watching Mulder and Scully dance as they provide a monster with a (literal) storybook ending. There is a sense that The Post-Modern Prometheus was written almost entirely without cynicism, an incredible celebration of Chris Carter’s own thoughts on storytelling and mythmaking.

The Post-Modern Prometheus is perhaps too deeply flawed to be the classic that it desperately wants to be, but it is a fascinating and bold piece of nineties television that demonstrates just how much enthusiasm and verve The X-Files could bring to proceedings when it wanted to.

It is never a happy mob...

Basement dwellers…

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