It’s funny, as the 20th anniversary of the debut season of “The X-Files” rolls along, to see how sharp and canny many of the episodes are even when watched anew and not viewed through the filter of a couple decades of nostalgia.
“Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” was the 20th episode of the third season of the series, originally airing in April 1996, and written by Darin Morgan (who played the shape-shifting grifter from “Small Potatoes”) and directed by Rob Bowman.
The episode is told in flashback form, from more than one viewpoint, as Mulder and Scully unravel a reported alien abduction of two teenagers.
Framing the story is Scully’s interview with author Jose Chung, played in a relaxed and funny performance by Charles Nelson Reilly, who had been best known to a generation of TV watchers for game show appearances, including “Match Game.”
While Scully is a fan of writer Chung, she plays her typical role of skeptic here, arguing that some kind of sexual trauma occurred, while Mulder believes the story of alien abduction.
Reilly returned as Chung in an episode of “Millennium,” the “X-Files” spin-off.
The “Men in Black” who show up to discourage one witness are played by Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek.
The story as retold by a young D&D fan is maybe the best version, with Mulder giving out a little scream when they find an “alien” body and Scully – a man posing as a woman but not quite pulling it off, according to the witness – threatening to kill somebody.
“I didn’t spend all those years playing Dungeons and Dragons and not learn a little something about courage,” the young witness says.
Vintage commercials during the episode I have on videotape: New at the movies: “Scream 2” and “The Postman.”