Observations on the X-Files: Redrum, Season Eight, Episode 6

Relaxing by the front yard firepit on a chilly New Mexico evening circa 2013.

Relaxing by the front yard firepit on a chilly New Mexico evening circa 2013.

I recently purchased seasons  8 and 9 of the X-Files to complete my collection of the entire series.  As you can note above, I am up to episode 6 of season 8: Redrum.  No, it’s not based on The Shining or the famous line that sprang from there.   This is a completely original script and I think one of the best X-Files.   Why am I mentioning a Sci-Fi series in an article that should be about horror?  This article is about good writing, whatever the genre.

I will endeavor to avoid spoiling the story for you.

As we all know, “redrum” is murder spelled backwards.  This story is about a murder, but the alleged murderer finds himself traveling back in time to the day of the murder with the knowledge of how to prevent it.

I find the plot’s basic concept fascinating.  A prosecutor (and friend of Agent Doggett) wakes up one morning to find himself in prison for the murder of his wife, about which he remembers nothing.  As he is transferred to another facility for his safekeeping, he is assassinated.  However, at that point time starts to flow backwards for him.  Each morning he wakes up another day in the past (first he wakes up on Saturday, then on Friday, then on Thursday, etc.).  With each day he learns a bit more about his predicament until finally he wakes up on the day of the murder and he has an opportunity to prevent it.

Unexpectedly traveling back in time is not a common theme, but it’s not rare either.   I have to ask myself how Maeda and Arkin came up with the idea for this episode.  Maybe it was based on amnesia;  someone can’t recall his crime or immediate past and has to learn about it bit by bit, day by day, as the prosecutor does here.  Maybe it arose out of a philosophical question such as “if we could travel back in time, we could change our future but would the ultimate destination be the same and all we change is the route we take to get there?”   Maybe it was a thought that most stories show a protagonist going back in time to a certain point in time and then returning to the present; what if going back in time was not one big step, but several little steps.  How could we change our lives in that case?   What if as we traveled back in time, we knew as little about the past as we do about the future?  We wouldn’t be able to convince those around us that we are traveling back in time, because we wouldn’t know any history to prove our story.   They would believe us to be insane.

The whole scenario intrigues me.  One man goes back in time for unknown reasons while the rest of the world around him proceeds as normal.

I have to ask myself what their creative process was.

This scenario opens up so many questions and possibilities.   I love its originality.    If you haven’t seen it, I recommend renting it as soon as possible.

We never find out what causes the protagonist to travel back in time.  Like in a Stephen King novel, paranormal events happen out of the blue and at random.   But according to Lovecraft’s theories of weird fiction, not knowing the cause/origin of a horrible event, makes the event more horrifying, because the event could happen to any one of us at any time.

A common principle of writing is “to suspend belief” (some say “to suspend disbelief”).   In stories like this though, it is the natural laws of the universe that are suspended.    Everything else, all the world/universe surrounding the event. is quite believable, which emphasizes just how weird the event is.

The story was written by Steven Maeda and Daniel Arkin. A quick search in Imdb shows that Steven Maeda has an extensive list of credits as either a writer or producer for such television series as X-Files, Lost, CSI:Miami, Helix, Lie to Me, and many others.   Likewise Daniel Arkin has an extensive list of credits as a writer or producer for such shows as X-Files, Suits, Las Vegas, Alias, Medical Investigation, and others.  I will have to watch for more shows with which either one is involved.

Thoughts?  Comments?

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