The X-Files, Season Six, Episode Six, “The Ghost Who Stole Christmas”
Original airdate December 13, 1998
Last year I chose an episode of The Love Boat for the calendar. There were three plot lines in it and frivolity throughout. This year, I picked The X-Files. This “Monster Of The Week” episode (an episode apart from the continuing storyline of the series), stars David Duchovny (Fox Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully) as the regulars, with guest hosts Ed Asner (as Maurice) and Lily Tomlin (as Lyda).
Mulder calls Scully in to help in a stake out on Christmas Eve. She arrives and finds Mulder staring at an abandoned house and a cool ghost story to tell. In 1917, a young couple made a lover’s pact to kill one another so that they would never suffer a Christmas Eve alone.
The most amusing part about this episode is the chemistry between the characters. Scully and Mulder have a long history of conflicting animosities and a great love between them. While Mulder sulks in his existential angst, Scully flourishes in her pursuit for logical truths. Their yin and yang dynamic mimics the analogies between many tragic love stories and many great duo legends.
In this episode, Mulder and Scully explore a haunted house where lovers who are now ghosts find a way to make couples commit murder suicide once year. Mulder asks Scully to join him on his investigation into the phenomena. A frustrated Scully makes him aware that it is Christmas Eve and that his call has interrupted her time to wrap presents. He tells her the story of two lovers, Maurice and Lyda, who in the rushes of deep love promise to love one another forever. Ever since their suicide pact, lovers have pilgrimaged to their hollowed out home and recreated their deaths.
Scully, of course, is skeptical of the situation. She says, “The halls are decked and I gotta go,” but seeing as she has misplaced her keys, she follows Mulder into the house for a closer look.
The viewers’ predictions follow horror movie schlock: weird staccato harpsichord to unhitch the main characters reactions, a freak lightning storm appears out of nowhere as they head up the house stairs, and weird lighting exposes the horror in the peripheral. It’s all fun and games for Mulder until things start hitting too close to home. The ghosts of Maurice and Lyda target him and Scully for their yearly murderous prank.
The interesting tension between the pairs is the alignment with the ghost characters of the episode. Maurice and Lydia have long toyed with each other and the various occupants of the house. Their lifelong imprisonment and the entertainment within their home depends on their yearly hobby of influencing their “guests” to murder each other on Christmas Eve. They toy with the tension between Scully and Mulder.
While Scully and Mulder are fully aware of their own weirdly dependent bond, they play into Maurice and Lydia’s assessments of their characters. They are lonely and desperate for each other. However, it is their disconnect to one another that saves them in the end.
While their isn’t much to illuminate about Mulder and Scully in this episode, the horror movie clichés play out to expose the often humorous playful side between our two main characters.
Mulder says, “365 shopping days until even more loneliness!” and while true for mostly Mulder, it is true for a lot of people during Christmas. Maurice and Lyda think of life together sitting by the bonfire as the true feeling of family while Scully and Mulder end up rejecting family to be together, alone, on Christmas eve. Their loneliness and disenfranchisement connects them to one another like no other beings they know. This is the acknowledged life extending truth about this Christmas episode of The X-Files: If you find meaning in the incredulous and the adventurous, who needs logic when you’ve got meaning and connection?
This Christmas episode is light and fluff with little gore, but at the very least it digs into the true nature of connection and existence: no one ever wants to die alone.