And, no, it's not so named because of David Duchovny's acting style.
No, no, folks, this one takes place just a few miles from the Arctic Circle and deals with a group of paranoid skeptics convinced that a chilling paranormal conspiracy is surrounding them at an all-but-destroyed research station. Yep, kids, an arctic research station where scientists have uncovered something alive, hidden deep down inside the ice... something ALIEN that has been there for at least the last couple of hundred thousand years... just waiting for hosts to assimilate.
Man... that's really something isn't it?
No, wait... it's not something... that's THE Thing, man! Yes, folks, do you think that Chris Carter's most famous show somehow coincidentally come up with the plot of Carpenter's acclaimed 1982 thriller The Thing, The Thing from Another World (it's 1951 predecessor) and John W. Campbell's original novella "Who Goes There?"?
Yeah, right. Coincidental like the time I showed up to apply for that job at that one summer camp and "Just By Chance" they were holding a Cheerleader Tryout Clinic for the next three months right there, man. That was one great summer.
In short, the well-written script by Glen Morgan and James Wong goes a bit beyond "Inspired By" and even a tad over the proverbial borderline of "Homage"... a borderline of mirror-chopped coke, no doubt, because, you know, "Things go better with Coke!" It's safe to say that the X-Gang takes the speed train right into "Unofficial Remake" City! Luckily, however, they never cross that same old powdery (or, at least, carbonated) line into that dark, murky realm of "Rip Off"... for a couple of reasons. First, the similarities are so clearly there that this could scarcely be anything but an inspired (if blatant) tribute and second... the original elements contributed by Wong, Morgan and nutty director David Nutter are so unique and interesting in their own right that the forty-five minute proceedings manage to be one hell of a great... THING.
Any way you assimilate it, you've got the claustrophobic, taught and frightening cryogenic creepiness of EVERYONE, no matter how well you know them, proving themselves to be suspects while the Alien presence is felt, more than seen. And soon, suspicions are bouncing around the camp like Congressional Checks circa 1992. Everyone is a suspect for infection and nobody but nobody can be trusted as far as they can be thrown by dwarf log cabin conservatives in bondage wear! That's... not very far... I've heard... I've heard.
Yes, yes, folks, that's The X-Files all right, that's Ten Thirteen productions, all right... and this was back when the Fox Network was mostly oversexed sitcoms, lame TV Movies and... more oversexed sitcoms. Had the same thing been made today, it might have much more closely resembled something like "Mr. THE THING's very own Reality Show"!
Of course, an incredibly ambitious amalgam of borrowed and original scripts would surely fall through without a very fine supporting cast. And, folks, we might as well call this cast "The Bra", they're so supportive, man! Check this out, dudes, chicks... Special Agents Fox Mulder (Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are joined by the Ice-Camp-Chilling likes of Hodge (Xander Berkeley), Bear (Jeff Kober), Richter (erstwhile Jason Voorhees, Ken Kirzinger) Murphy (Steve Hytner) and just to add that extra air of "Desperation" in this House... we get Dr. Nancy Da Silva, as played by Felicity Huffman! Hello Nurse!
See here's the thing... Mouldy, Skull-y and the grapple icing gang are summoned to somewhere in the neighborhood of Santa's village when it appears that a bunch of diligent and fun-loving scientists unearth some creepy killer worms from outer space that can infect and take over their bodies... and, to make a long story short... And Then There Were None!
Short commentary... The The FBI suddenly doesn't seem like nearly such a glamorous job after this episode. It's like "Hey, Mulder, Scully... I've got great news, you guys... a bunch of scientist camped out on freakin' HOTH went all worm-shit and killed the hell out of each other so guess what... you get to go investigate. Oh, and be careful of the... hack, cough, hrrrrm, huh..." Those last coughs and mumbles sounded suspiciously like "Alien Infection"!
Look, I love this country and all, but I've seen The Thing like about 78 times (this year) and so I'd be all like "SHIT NO!"
Regardless, the chief elements, not only of The X-Files but of a great suspense story are all there. Then again, many of these elements came from a Suspense Story themselves, known as Campbell's "Who Goes There?" But with some interesting (if far from seamless) CGI and well-chosen real-life stand-ins (in the form of Beetle Larvae... because who doesn't love The Beatles?) Wong, Morgan and Nutter manage to craft a great looking, yet still constrained and restrained production that managed to be one of the best of the first season (and, you bet your bottom sunflower seed, one of the more favored and most acclaimed of the entire series).
Of course, the main complaint found in this episode is, of course, the fact that it's been done before... three times before this episode and then again in 2011's The Thing prequel. The "X-Men" clearly knew where their influences were and worked to bring this episode to life as a valid tribute, homage and remake. That said, they do an amazing job of combining these elements with their own interesting story that manages to leave the audience wanting more. In hindsight, however, these forty-five minutes don't quite seem like enough when the unique finale and dÚnouement finally hit the tundra just before the final credits (and the creepy Theme Music by the now-appropriatley named Mark Snow plays)! The strong need for this "Monster-of-the-Week" episode to end well wrapped up and just exactly where our heroes started leads to a convenience and contrivance or two... and, yeah, the whole story had to fit into that forty-five minute limit. Well, okay, forty-five minutes and fifty seconds.
The truth is, however, the experiment succeeds and Nutter does a fantastic job of recreating the influences, as well as the superb original ideas of Morgan and Wong. The acting is smart and exciting and the homages are a thrill (the isolated good guy, the infected dog, the mistaken accusations and more... it's all here). Berkeley and Huffman give Scully and Mulder a run for their money while "Ice" works beautifully as a companion piece to The Thing in any version!
So... "Who Goes There?" I don't know... "We're not who we are!" This is The X-Files at some of its best, exemplifying some of the most classic of the non-story-arc stand-alone shows and managing to grant "Ice" Three and One Half Stars out of Five! Don't bother watching the skies... watch the Snow... This episode lives up to its name with its deeply chilling premise, ice-cold precision and super cool finish. It's Alien Terror... on the Rocks.
And now, if you'll excuse me... it's time to go watch The Thing... I'll see you in the next reel... but I may not be who I say I am.
Click HERE for more reviews... and THINGS!
And remember... THINGS go better... ON ICE!!
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"THE THING's 'Doomsday Defense'"