01/12/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: University Press Of Kentucky. 293 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $19.95 (US). ISBN: 978-0-8131-9227-7.
check out website: www.kentuckypress.com
Considering the number of books around relating Science Fiction subjects, especially TV series, to philosophy at the moment, the opportunity to read them wasn't something I was going to turn down. In many respects, I'm going into this open-minded although I will have reservations if there is confusion between fiction and reality by the writers or at least without some justifiable explanation.
I don't think I have to explain to anyone here just what 'The X-Files' is or its longevity and popularity over nine years on television. It caught and fed on the mood of many nations that conspiracies were afoot. That makes it easier to focus on what the book is about, oddly less about any validity of conspiracy practice for real but on characters and relationships and scientific practice between the two FBI agents.
In the opening introduction, actor William B. Davis (the Cigarette Smoking Man) from the TV series gives an impressive discussion point that although he is nothing like his character, quite the reverse in fact, but disagrees with scientist Richard Dawkins, whom he admires, that the series always favoured the paranormal option. Watching the series, it's pretty obvious that there have been times Scully was right and Mulder wasn't not to mention them taking different sides on occasion. If anything, Mulder's principle argument was always not to dismiss the least likely out-of-hand. If he hadn't had a success rate, the series would have quickly come to an end but even he had doubts occasionally. Ultimately, Mulder relied on Scully for keeping him honest and she opened up to extreme possibilities when she had Doggitt and Reyes under her guidance in the last two seasons.
There are the odd issues I have with them. Although it's raised that Scully is a Catholic, it tends to ignore that Mulder is a non-practicing Jew or even from that background. Whether that means he saw beyond his religion is never explored but I'm not sure it was ever acknowledged he was an agnostic or atheist.
The section looking at the key characters gives some interesting observations, although none of the philosophers tend to look at them in story terms where for television there has to be a balance of stereotypes even if they aren't always the conventional ones. Rarely do the characters in any series strays from them or have a radical change. Mulder is the believer. Scully the sceptic. Skinner is the stolid boss. Cigarette Smoking Man is thought of, including by creator Chris Carter, as the devil. I'm not altogether sure about that assessment. Spender was chosen because he could do particular things and remained in office unchallenged to keep doing them and keep other hands clean. Although he isn't exactly corrupt, mostly because he hasn't changed over the years, what he does is a way of life which would sour anyone who can always get their way. If anything, it's a shame that little was done to compare him to, say, Deep Throat or Bill Mulder, where one was willing to disclose information and the other walked away as it would have given some comparison. The same could also be said for 'X' and the Well Manicured Man, both had doubts about the Syndicate's aims and got killed for their trouble. That would make anyone belonging to the organisation behave themselves. It's a big subject and should have been covered.
When it comes to Mulder and Scully's relationship, one area that wasn't really considered was the good doctor actually got attached to his crusade in wanting the truth even if she wanted to ensure it was the right truth.
There is also a rundown of the overall conspiracy even if it doesn't explain about the alien faction who were against their brethren's aims nor why the nations had a consensus to kill any captured aliens.
The nature of these types of books is to get people reacting to the arguments presented and as you can see from my comments above, I think they've succeeded there. It's also possible that they can milk more depth from other areas that 'The X-Files' covered. You do learn a lot about how philosophers understand the world and those involved in this book understand the subject and where they don't take on-board knowledge of the series from others. An interesting choice for some heavy thinking.
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