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Recap / The X-Files S05 E15 "Travelers"

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Season 5, Episode 15:

Travelers

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/thexfilestravelers_4.png
"It's called xenotransplantation. It's, uh, the grafting of another species into the human body."
Written by John Shiban & Frank Spotnitz
Directed by William Graham

"It is those Americans sympathetic to the communist cause— the so-called "fellow travelers"—who pose the greatest threat to our national security."
TV announcer
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A dying man's final word — "Mulder" — leads Fox Mulder to Arthur Dales (Darren McGavin), the father of the X-Files, who tells him about a case he worked with Mulder's father in the 1950s. Dales investigates Edward Skur (Garret Dillahunt), a State Department employee accused of Communism during the Red Scare, and discovers that Skur is in fact the victim of illegal medical experiments, involving an alien being that compels Skur to kill - and that officials in the US government conspire to cover them up.

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Tropes:

  • Before My Time: In "Travelers", Mulder goes to interview a retired FBI agent who investigated X-Files in The '50s. The agent asks Mulder whether he's heard of the House Un-American Activities Committee, but immediately assumes that he hasn't. Even if he knew nothing about Mulder personally, the topic is covered in high school history classes.
  • Historical Domain Character: Roy Cohn is the episode's major antagonist, and J. Edgar Hoover (in his second appearance on the series) gives a monologue outlining the Communist threat to Dales.
  • Orifice Evacuation: The spider-like thing that The Conspiracy implanted in Skur's esophagus.
  • Prequel: This episode did not involve Scully because it was set (at least the present timeframe) before she met Mulder. David Duchovny even wanted to play with the idea by having Mulder wear his wedding ring as an Easter egg that hints that he was previously married in the past.
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  • Red Scare: The episode's backdrop: Edward Skur is arrested for alleged Communist ties, and Roy Cohn and J. Edgar Hoover even appear as characters.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: It's pretty clear that Cohn enjoys abusing power for its own sake through the threat of the blacklist.
    Dales: What are you talking about? I'm no Communist.
    Cohn: You are if I say you are.
  • Shout-Out: Arthur Dales was the pseudonym of Howard Dimsdale, a screenwriter targeted for his political beliefs during The Hollywood Blacklist, and under whom episode writers Frank Spotnitz and John Shiban studied screenwriting in college.
  • Smug Snake: Roy Cohn.
  • Something Completely Different: Mulder visits retired FBI Agent Arthur Dales, who recounts a case from the 1950s.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: In a Call-Back to "Paper Clip," Skur's first victim is an ex-Nazi scientist who's been performing genetic experiments for the US government.
  • Title Drop: Unsolved cases were filed under "U", until space in the filing cabinets ran out, so they were then put under "X" which had extra room. Thus, the unsolved cases are "X" files.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Mulder wears a wedding ring in this episode, which is set just a year before the start of the main plot. Of course no reference to him ever being married occurs anywhere else. And when there is his profile on screen, his marital status reads "single" or "unmarried".
  • Whole Plot Reference: The episode resembles an episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, the series that inspired The X-Files, featuring the elements of a typical Kolchak episode and Darren McGavin, who played Kolchak, plays the older Arthur Dales.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Most of the episode is a flashback to Arthur Dales' experience in the 1950s. Even the frame story is a flashback, featuring a younger Mulder before he met Scully.
  • Written-In Absence: Scully; they were filming scenes from The Movie at this time.

"In the hope that by letting him live, the truth of the crimes that were committed against him and the others might someday... be exposed."
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