The X-Files: “Shapes”


by Sarah Stegall

Copyright 1994 Sarah Stegall

Writer: Marilyn Osborne
Director: David Nutter

We needed this. After the intensity of “Duane Barry” and “Ascension“, kicking back with a rerun is not such a bad idea, even if it was prompted by Gillian Anderson’s maternity leave rather than any aesthetic considerations. As “X-Files” go, this one is not too bad. Once we get past the absurb premise of lycanthropy it is an enjoyable, weird trip with the Spooky Patrol.

It was particularly nice to see a fully functioning Dana Scully again. Recently her role has been severely limited, and to return to her more active days was refreshing. Gillian Anderson has a wonderful way of conveying what I can only call detached compassion. During the interview with young Miller in the hospital room, where she tells him of his father’s death, Scully’s empathy and professional concern are equally well brought forth. Anderson strikes just the right balance between a warm and caring woman, and a hard-edged professional interrogator. I can’t wait for Anderson to return full-time to “The X-Files”.

Mulder didn’t have much to do beyond being politically correct in the first half of this episode. Although he found most of the clues (the discarded skin, the odd incisors, the tracks), he was strangely passionless about the whole matter. Scully showed more emotion than Mulder when Sheriff Tskany (Michael Horse) refused permission for an autopsy.

I was glad to see Michael Horse again. He managed to convey stoicism, pride, and stubbornness all within a few minutes in the first scene in his office rather well. I was also glad to see that the writers managed to work in the FBI incident at Wounded Knee: frankly, I was surprised that Mulder and Scully didn’t meet with more open hostility than they did on the reservation, given the lingering anger in the First Nations over that situation. Gwen Goodensnake was well presented as a possible candidate for lycanthropy: I applaud the skilful handling of this red herring.

The locale added a great deal to the episode. I am gratified Ten Thirteen Productions got a chance to make the most out of the spectacular scenery of British Columbia. The fog, the overcast, the dark forest, the loneliness of the rural highways added a creepy sense of isolation and otherworldliness to the story. The lighting in the scene during Scully and Mulder’s confrontation with the werewolf were excellent–light and shadow combined to send chills up and down my spine.

The negatives in this story are largely conceptual: the idea that a human can turn into an animal with so different a physical structure as a wolf is absurd. While the ground has been somewhat prepared for us with “An American Werewolf in London” and “Wolf”, it is still a very difficult concept to get around.

I give this one three sunflower seeds out of five.