Season 5, Episode 15: “Travelers”
Let’s get one thing cleared up before we start: even though this show is focused on Mulder and Scully, the absence of one of the agents in an episode does not automatically make the episode useless or unwatchable. In other words, “There’s no Scully in it” is not a good enough reason to skip. In the words of Gandalf, you shall not pass.
Disgusting, horrible spider thing emerging from a guy’s mouth to devour people? That’s a good reason.
Everyone has things they find gross. For some, it’s the exploding pustules from “F. Emasculata,” for others, it’s the giant flukeworm in “The Host.” Everyone has that one episode that makes their stomach churn and their skin crawl. This is mine.
Oh, boy, is it mine.
And I know what you’re going to say. I’ve heard all the things. Yes, I’m aware that the spider thing looks like a gooey leather bag with legs. I don’t care. I still can’t watch any of those spider scenes without cringing and feeling a little bit sick. I can’t stomach this episode any more than a lactose intolerant person can stomach milk. I’m allergic to it, you might say.
It might also be the idea of the spider thing that scares me so much. If I could somehow take the fear away and just look at the effects, I probably wouldn’t be frightened at all. But the effects plant the idea of a giant parasitic spider that emerges from a person’s mouth to devour people in my brain, and my brain responds with a resounding “Oh hell no.” If I didn’t have to write this review, there’s a good chance I never would have watched this episode again.
To be honest, before rewatching it I didn’t remember much beyond the spider thing. Oh, I remembered Mulder’s bad haircut and mysterious ring, and Arthur Dales, but other than that, nothing. And I wish I could tell you that I’ve now permanently stored the rest of the episode into my memory banks, but I’m really not sure it made it all in there. By the time the next review comes, I will likely have forgotten most of “Travelers” again, and not the parts I’d like to forget the most. So, before we say goodbye to this episode forever, let’s give it a proper look.
The entire existence of this episode is a bit awkward. It’s placed after “The Red and the Black” as if to give the audience a break from the big emotional journey, which is nice, but perhaps a tad bit unnecessary. It is slightly interesting, I suppose, to see the origins of the X-Files, but so little time is spent on them that I have to wonder if this episode just wasn’t an excuse to do a period piece about the Red Scare. Which, I’d like to say, I’m not opposed to in principle, not at all. I like a good historical piece as much as anyone, and who doesn’t like seeing FBI agents in suspenders and fedoras? However, apart from the fact that the country was openly paranoid about communists, I don’t feel like this episode takes advantage of the time period enough. What do the characters discover at the end? The government is lyiiiing. Gee, what a revelation.
It’s set in the 195os, which we know because the characters use words like “commies” and men in fedoras brood in bars and smoke a lot. If I’d wanted to watch a Humphrey Bogart movie The Maltese Falcon would be playing right now (and yes I know that film is set in the 1940s, shut up).
Arthur Dales isn’t a bad character, but he’s not really given enough to work with. He doesn’t have a lot of agency in this story, and they really could have plopped anybody with a reasonably secure moral compass in his place. A young Bill Mulder makes an appearance, which unfortunately doesn’t reveal much we didn’t already know: he worked for the State Department, and although he’s involved in shady activities Bill’s not all bad.
I think maybe the episode could have benefitted had it been a little more humorous or tongue-in-cheek, sort of like an X-Files version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I’m not saying I needed Toon Town or anything, but maybe some of that film-noir humor, a jazzy soundtrack, more interesting characters.
And none of those horrible spider things. Yeesh.
Final score for “Travelers” is 6/10. While not awful or anything, I struggle to see what it really offers. Besides nightmares for days.
- If I’m to be honest – and I have no intention of ever being otherwise – there is probably no fandom dispute I care less about than the supposed wedding ring. And that’s all I have to say about that.
- The guy they got to play Hoover actually really looks like him.
- The women in the office knew about the X-Files first – nice little touch.
- Why does this show always make cats a sign of bad news? 😦