Written by Jeffrey Bell
Directed by Peter Markle
Okay, what the hell was that?
Jeffrey Bell didn’t exactly fill viewers with confidence with The Rain King, and now in script number two, he demonstrates that his only apparent skill is to rip off other X-Files episodes, and not particularly good ones either. The Season 1 episode Shapes was one of the poorer scripts the series put together, but at least one could make the argument that it was an early attempt by a series that was still trying things out. Alpha doesn’t even bother to try anything particularly original, and what it does try to do just doesn’t make any real sense, even by the convoluted standards of this series.
Mulder and Scully are put on the hunt of what appears to be a killer dog based on something out of Chinese mythology. It employs a crypto-zoologist who claims to have tracked this dog throughout China and captured, and the doctor– Detweiler goes to incredible lengths to explain that this is a peaceful dog, even as the body count gets higher. Mulder then calls in an expert named Karin Berquist – a canine behaviorists with who he has corresponded on line – read internet sex chats – who is equally sure that the dog is peaceful, and whom Scully can tell in under two minutes clearly has designs on Mulder, who doesn’t return the affection. Both the zoologist and the canine behaviorist want to keep the dog alive, though for completely different reasons.
So, let’s start with the obvious flaws. The dogs special effects don’t work. And even if you thought they did, there’s the fact that they get very repetitive very quickly. The first time we see glowing red eyes is a little scary, but the law of diminishing returns would dictate they get less frightening the more often we see them, and I counted half a dozen times by the time the episode was over. Then there’s the fact that the dog seems to have the mighty morphing powers that the Alien Bounty Hunter has (now there’s an aspect of the conspiracy that I would’ve loved to see) to change into a human and other dogs. Seriously.
None of this, of course, gets away from the fact that this is little more than a werewolf story. But at least the werewolf story of Shapes was without pretension. This one, oh boy. The episode goes to great length to map out that the werewolf is Detweiler – it’s pretty obvious by the end of the second act. But we never get a clear idea as to HOW Detweiler became the animal was pursuing. Assuming that Mulder’s theory was correct, and the dog did bite Detweiler, it doesn’t explain why this dog would go rabid so quickly. It would seem to be killing people that threatened it, but if that’s the case, why did it attack the stewards that just teased in the opening? They were too stupid to be any kind of threat. And the rest is dressed over so rapidly that one wonders if Bell put any thought into it at all.
Then there’s the fact that Karin Berquist is not a particularly appealing woman, either in appearance, which is forgivable or in motivation, which is not. It is clear that Berquist drew Mulder to this case in order to see him, but aside from the ‘I WANT TO BELIEVE’ poster in her office, its very hard to guess what about would appeal to Mulder. Duchovny does his level best to try and seem like he admires Karin, but the script, as it does with just about everybody else, gives him next to nothing to work with. It isn’t clear why Bell even went so far as to give her lupus, other than to try give her a reason to sacrifice herself at the end of the episode. But there’s nothing particularly noble about it, it’s just Bell, trying to cut the Gordian Knot of a character he had nothing to work with.. The final sequence where Scully tries to convince Mulder that Karin p
aid him “the ultimate compliment” is even lamer than anything else, because it makes even less since.
Alpha is such a lifeless story that one wonders why the writers even bothered to put on the calendar. Everything about it comes across shabbily (most of Mulder’s one-liners are even lamer than usual), it gives Scully next to nothing to do for most of the episode, and it has more holes in than a Dunkin’ Donut franchise. The only reason this story has any significance at all is because it seems to have a reason to have Mulder to get a copy of his poster back. Seriously, couldn’t he have just ordered it online? It would have been a lot more painless.
My score: 1.25 stars.