Commentary on "Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man"

Essay by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

Chris Carter has done it again... given us an episode with lots of innuendo and information without really telling us anything. 'Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man', aired yesterday, was a unique narrative (Forrest Gump meets the X-files-- no hang on, that's 'Dark Skies') that didn't have Duchovny or Anderson (except that re-used footage from the pilot) and gives us the 'warm and fuzzy' CSM who wants to desperately be a writer. It had its moments, particularly the 'Box of Chocolates' speech at the end.

But what did it say? Basically, my interpretation was that all the flashbacks, from the Sixties to the opening of the X-files were from CSM's novel, which means that what was depicted could be considered apocryphal. So once again, Chris Carter has given us an hour of entertainment without committing himself. Maybe he assassinated JFK, maybe he didn't. Maybe Deep Throat killed the alien, maybe CSM did.

Another problem with this episode is that it was hard to feel sympathy for the CSM character by the end of the episode. Though the narrative did shed some light on a different side of his personality, he was still essentially the same person at the end of the episode as he was at the beginning. There was no maturation, despite the events that shaped his life. In order to 'canonize' a villain, it is important to show some sort of redemptive process without weakening the character. This is why it worked with the Terminator character in "Terminator 2", and failed with the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

This season of The X-Files is different from previous ones due to Chris Carter's abdication of the supervisory role, allowing him to devote his energies to his new series, Millennium. One of the symptoms of this change is the insidious appearance of inconsistencies in the X-Files universe. "Piper Maru" showed a young Agent Bill Mulder and CSM questioning one of the sailors on the submarine that found the UFO in the Pacific, which occurred in the early 1950s. If they were in their twenties at that time, then the opening scene of MOACSM in 1962 doesn't make any sense. In addition, the name of the Lone Gunmen's magazine seems to have changed: in previous episodes, it has been referred to as "The Lone Gunmen", and in this episode, it was called "The Magic Bullet". Furthermore, another inconsistency is found in "In the Field Where I Died". Mulder, in his hypnotic regression, recalls a past life where he is a German Jew during the Holocaust, and the CSM is a Nazi officer. Assuming that this would happen in the 1940s, even if he died not long after, he could not possibly be reborn in time to be in his twenties by the 1950s.

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