Season 4, Episode 19: “Synchrony”
“Synchrony” might be the most nonchalant take on a time travel story that exists. Maybe “nonchalant” isn’t quite the right word, but for whatever reason, this episode is very, very underwhelming. Remembering it even exists is a task for me sometimes. It doesn’t help that it comes in the last half of Season 4, where emotions are already running high.
That’s not to say the episode is bad, but it might be a good example of a topic that maybe The X-Files isn’t quite equipped to handle. Don’t get me wrong, The X-Files is an extremely versatile show that can be about almost anything, but it still has to exist within the context of the world the show is set in. This isn’t Star Trek, and we aren’t on the Enterprise. Time travel is an enormous topic, and even if you want to approach it scientifically, as this episode does, it’s still, well, enormous.
The biggest problem with “Synchrony” is that it’s so self-contained the huge implications of the events that take place feel underwhelmingly small. The episode is actually quite enjoyable (which surprised the hell out of me when I rewatched it), but it’s so…well, little that, try as I might, I’ll probably forget about it once the end of the season rolls around. For an episode so self-contained, we’re facing big problems here like people freezing to death, burning to death, time travel, and oh yeah, the impending doom of the planet. There’s just an awkward mismatch there. It’s like if the state of Delaware started screaming that the world was going to end in the next five days. Big message, little voice.
Time travel stories are always extra susceptible to flaws in logic, and this episode is no exception. For example: if the creation of this rapid freezing agent is what enabled people to be able to travel back in time, then why on earth would Old Jason use that very agent to kill? Why not use arsenic or bleach or even a gun? We are also given about .5% details concerning the world Old Jason has come from, except that it’s chaotic, without history, etc. Wouldn’t Jason be the very worst person to send back in time, since he has personal feelings for Lisa and all that? Also, how does Old Jason know it wasn’t his intervention that actually caused the future?
I could actually go on with questions like these for another paragraph, but to do so would be unnecessary and, I admit, unfair. I don’t want to give the impression that I dislike this episode – because I don’t, not at all. It’s nothing special, but I’d watch it over “Teliko” or “The Field Where I Died” any day. Mulder and Scully play pretty typical roles here – Mulder is way ahead of everyone else, as usual, and Doctor Scully does doctor stuff. They’re not really the focus of the story at all in this episode (you’ll notice that Scully’s cancer is nowhere to be seen).
There’s no reason to dismiss this episode as bad or even mediocre. But it is almost aggressively underwhelming, which I realize is oxymoronic. But so, too, is the episode itself. Such a wee little episode about such an enormous topic.
Final score for “Synchrony” is 6/10. Probably deserves a 6.5, but 6 is an underwhelming score for an underwhelming episode. Plus, I’m too lazy to make 6.5 stars.
- Mulder quotes Scully’s thesis from memory not once, but twice. He just needs to propose already.
- Mark Snow’s score for this episode is hauntingly beautiful. Too much so.
- Apparently, Scully thinks that phrases like “frozen fudgecicle” (from “Roland”) and “icicle” are appropriate medical terms.