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The X-Files – Chinga (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.

Chinga is the episode of The X-Files that was written by Stephen King.

That is a pretty big deal. Stephen King is one of the most influential American writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He is a writer who has enjoyed tremendous commercial success, but who has also balanced that popularity with considerable respect of critics and academics. His work has permeated popular cultured, and sparked all sorts of analysis and exploration. While no creator of that calibre works without at least some small level of backlash, King is one of the most successful American writers by any measure.

Play time!

Play time!

Writing about King in A Century of Great Suspense Stories, Jeffery Deaver argued that the author “helped free the popular name from the shackles of simple genre writing. He is a master of masters.” As such, he should be quite a comfortable fit for The X-Files. Even aside from any stylistic sensibilities that he might share with the series, King is a creator who manages to consistently producer work that might be dismissed as “genre”, but manages to compete with more prestigious and high-profiler literature.

The X-Files did something similar in the nineties. It was a show that frequently dabbled in cult genres – it was a show that dealt with horror and science-fiction themes on a regular basis. However, thanks to the craftsmanship of those involved, The X-Files was frequently able to compete with more “serious” fare at the major awards ceremonies. Chris Carter worked very hard to prevent the show from being relegated to the horror or science-fiction “ghetto.” It was a show that could slide to high-brow to low-brow over a single act; that was part of what made it so fun.

A bloody disaster...

A bloody disaster…

So landing King was very much a coup for The X-Files. He was one of the best-selling and most prolific American writers of the nineties, with his name all over a wealth of media. All that Chinga really needs to do is exist. It would be next to impossible for Chinga to be anything but “that episode of The X-Files written by Stephen King.” Indeed, it seems almost unreasonable to expect anything more from it. The hype on Chinga was unbelievable – as one might expect from a television show that had bagged one of the most popular fiction writers around.

Chinga is a very flawed piece of television, an episode that feels too much like an early draft than a fully-developed concept. The styles of Chris Carter and Stephen King blend reasonably well, but there is a sense that neither is pushing the other out of their comfort zone. Chinga is a pretty average piece of television, a pretty average Stephen King story, and a pretty average episode of The X-Files. While not necessarily a catastrophic failure, it is hardly a fantastic success.

"Yeah, I'm sure this vacation will be completely uneventful!"

“Yeah, I’m sure this vacation will be completely uneventful!”

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