Title: The Post-Modern Prometheus
Season: Five (1997)
Written by: Chris Carter
Directed by: Chris Carter
It's fair to argue that although season five was the peak of The X-Files' commercial success in the US, it's also where the series began to lose its way. Despite some dull patches towards the end, The X-Files never became 'bad', just so-so TV. After five years on air then the alien mythology episodes – the backbone of the series – had begun to get tied up in knots, and an effort was made to effectively 'put to bed' most of these plotlines at the end of the sixth season. With the first movie being made around this time then we get a shorter, 20-episode season, and many of the episodes seem to lack the flair of prior years. After work was completed, the production in Canada was disbanded and moved to California for season six. As a result lots of the natural atmosphere of a rainy, dark locale was gone, and from season six onwards The X-Files does have a blander look and feel to lots of the episodes.
The standout of this period then is The Post-Modern Prometheus, a superb and loving homage to old Universal movies from Chris Carter. One highly commendable aspect of The X-Files was its desire to attempt movie-quality scale in a television series, usually in the mythology episodes. From its small-scale beginnings of season one the series gradually began to get more and more 'big' in scope, with Anasazi probably the first attempt to really begin on this path. The Post-Modern Prometheus is the black-and-white episode, all shot on wide angled lenses and based around a Frankenstein's creation who wants nothing more than to shake his hips at a Cher concert.
I have to confess to disliking the episode on first viewing before accepting that, even if only on a technical level, it's something highly deserving of praise. While Mark Snow's incidental music can be somewhat cloying and repetitive in this one, the use of Cher songs as ironic juxtaposition to the action is something special. The episode won an Emmy for Art Direction, but not for the writing and direction that Carter was nominated for. As Carter recalled on the DVD commentary, two of the Emmy judges were reputed to have asked of him 'what was that guy smoking?'