March 19, 2006
X-Files: Kill Switch (Episode 11, Season 5)
Movie Review By: Metatron
Directed by: Rob Bowman
Written by: William Gibson & Tom Maddox
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High
Key Cast Members:
Overview: Now, surely there must have been some kind of mistake. This is Cyberpunk Review, right? OK. Since when stories of little green men do qualify as such? Surely the mere fact that agent Scully had an implant in her neck does not count for an awful lot.
All true. This particular episode, however, is different. Look at the credits. William Gibson. Ring any bells?
More Than Meets the Eye: It all starts with a rather innocuous shootout at a diner in a drab neighbourhood. Piece of cake, eh? Well, not exactly, as it turns out that one of the victims is in fact a top IT expert and programmer whose death might have been anything less than a coincidence. Soon afterwards Mulder and Scully happen upon a rather charming lady going by the nick-name of Invisigoth, who turns out to be much more than just a leather-clad Trinity wannabe…
The threat, it is revealed, comes from a fugitive AI she and her companions helped to spawn. This synthetic entity seems to have little regard for human life, plus it possesses some rather eccentric habits, such as playing with leftover Star Wars military orbital lasers and residing in abandoned… camping trailers. Needless to say it has to be stopped, although it may yet turn out Invisigoth pursues a different agenda altogether…
Out There: Even if the credits said “Jay Leno” or “Kermit the Frog” rather than Gibson, there still would be a good case to make for the overall cyberpunk feel of this standalone episode. In terms of themes, it is all there- the pursuit of the AI takes place both in our very own “desert of the real” and through the net; agent Mulder even gets to become a multiple amputee courtesy of the malicious program’s VR simulation. More interestingly, the episode deals with the transfer of consciousness- translating a human psyche into digital data in pursuit of a peculiar kind of disembodied immortality. It is at that point one may begin to realise that one of the foremost attractions of the concept of sentient cyberspace entities is that cyberspace begins, to the mind of many, resemble a manufactured heaven of sort, a synthetic paradise for the unbelievers, allowing those of little religious zeal to dream of achieving transcendence. This move to another plane of existence, an ersatz afterlife- may not be explored at lengths here, yet gives a good cause for reflection. Apart from the sentient computer theme there is of course our sweet little Trinity impersonator (prettier than the real deal? I might be getting controversial here…) who also happens to drive a car (1960s Imperial, to be exact) very similar to the black Lincoln in the first Matrix.
Convinced? And then you realise that this episode actually comes from 1998, which is a year BEFORE tha Matrix… So, who’s the copycat, eh Trinity? Guess I should be expecting a lawsuit for these allegations any time now…
The Visuals: While not trying to rival Blade Runner, the visuals are decent for the budget. Being that this is an X-files episode, we shouldn’t expect anything too fancy - the series rarely relies on fancy visuals to generate their mood, or to depict story elements. One of the distinct traits of the X-Files is that they can often make ordinary places or events appear menacing and sinister when placed in the given context - this applies to Kill Switch.
I assure you that, having seen this episode, the next time you’ll see a decaying camping trailer you’re gonna think twice before approaching it. In a way this depiction of cyberpunk is more realistic - inconspicuous locations concealing the drama of furtive technological experiments and computer crime is very much what one’s bound to encounter today. The most important bit - the flow of data - is hidden from the eye. The episode does treat us to some juicy cyberpunk visual elements, including gloomy improvised computer labs, and chaotic nests of cables and wires lit by the dim glow of terminal screens - but nothing too extravagant (aside for a few explosions).
Confirm File Delete: Overall the episode represents a truly interesting foray of the famous franchise into the realms of cyberpunk, courtesy of Mr. Gibson himself. As with many other episodes, the strength of Kill Switch lies in its inherently believable narration, a mixture of the ordinary and the imaginary that made the series famous. The acting is decent- Invisigoth oozes character- and the action tightly coiled into a mere 45 minutes of film. Yet because of the unspectacular nature of the whole thing few will probably have seen and noticed it, even if this is as close as we can get into having a Gibson story made into a feature film, after his Alien3 script got binned long ago. It may not be cyberpunk canon in any way, but do watch it- I swear that after those 45 minutes you’re likely to be craving for more. Which you just might get, as there is another Gibson-written X-File which I will investigate soon…
Tags: TV episode review