"The Post-Modern Prometheus", the fifth episode of season five from The X-files, appears as an adaptation to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley's text Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. "The Post-Modern Prometheus", written and directed by X-files creator Chris Carter, originally aired on Fox Network on November 30th, 1997.
"The Post-Modern Prometheus" takes place in an Indiana farmland community. The beginning of the episode details a strange home invasion where "The Great Mutato" implicitly rapes episode character Shaineh Berkowitz. Berkowitz later writes special agent Mulder asking him to investigate her unique situation. Upon questioning Berkowitz, Scully finds a comic book called "The Great Mutato", a comic that Berkowitz's son Izzy apparently created. The agents question Izzy about his creation and he claims that The Great Mutato actually lives around the community and that many other people have actually seen him roaming around as well.
Major Themes Edit
The carnival trope appears as a relevant theme in the episode. The world of the carnival usually implies that the rules of reality change. For instance, in the episode, The Great Mutato rolls a tent like material that could arguably be used for fumigation over his victims houses. The material ascetically appears as a carnival tent. He uses a gaseous chemical as a sedative to knock out Mrs. Berkowitz and Mrs. Pollidori in order to impregnate them. The music in these scenes also carries a carnivalesque sound to it. Another scene in the episode relevant to the carnival theme occurs when agents Mulder and Scully go to the town diner. Carnival themed music plays in this scene as well. The waitress vocalizes the menu much like a carnival vendor would attract patrons and the newspaper reporter physically appears as a bird. Another scene of the film, the burning barn scene, utilizes carnival music and after that scene when the towns people confront The Great Mutato, animal attributes are apparent within the townspeople. One may infer that most of the townspeople who do have animal like attributes were created through artificial insemination. This, in a sense, means that the whole town has been a huge science experiment. The episode is also filmed in black and white which helps attribute to the other-worldly atmosphere of the carnival, though this aspect of the episode could be associated with the overarching adaptation or a reference to the Frankenstein (1931), which was shot in black and white. The carnival theme brings a certain consideration into the episode, and suggest that things are not at all what they seem in this other-worldly atmosphere.
Science Experiment Gone Awry Edit
The Great Mutato, a science experiment created by Dr. Pollidori, goes awry. Dr. Pollidori claims that his father created The Great Mutato, however, the creature claims that he was created by Dr. Pollidori. The Doctor's experiment with the Hox gene goes awry and the end-product, The Great Mutato, appears distorted with two heads. Dr. Pollodri's father takes The Great Mutato in and cares for him, considering him a better son than the evil doctor. Throughout the episode, the doctor and his father know about the occurrence, but this doesn't become revealed until the confrontation between the agents, Mutato, and the evil doctor Pollidori at the end of the episode in the cellar. When Dr. Pollidori becomes introduced in the episode, the agents are investigating him due to a tip from the Dr. Pollidori's father. The scene foreshadows that Dr. Pollidori created The Great Mutato. Mulder gets a hunch when the doctor brags about the probability of using his work on the hox gene to complete genetic work on humans. The doctor, in this scene, appears as an evil scientist. A thunder storm rages outside his lab while the two agents question his research.
Tabloid Culture Edit
Tabloid culture serves as a pertinent theme in the episode. Scully often speaks of the townspeople falling susceptible to the trend, and Mulder opens the episode asking, "Scully, do you think its too soon to get my own 900 number?" The episode tries to comment on tabloid culture and the people who are obsessed with it. The episode does well to say that chasing this particular lifestyle is crazy and absurd. Jerry Springer's show acts as a reference to describe this ridiculousness as well. Tabloid culture leads to gossip. For instance, Izzy Berkowitz records Scully's comments while monster hunting and he sells them to the town reporter, and the talk of the town includes every aspect of the agents investigation into The Great Mutato. While in the diner, the server mentions that she thinks Jerry Springer will now be coming to town.
This episode of The X-Files earned an eleven and a half for the Nielsen rating which meant that 18.68 million viewers tuned in upon its initial broadcast. This rating is determined by how many households have televisions in their homes. Critics received this episode well, many claiming that Chris Carter did well including a good mix of horror and comedy into the episode. Critics also enjoyed that the episode referenced Frankenstein and pop-culture icons such as Jerry Springer and Cher. The episode was nominated for seven Emmys and won one. Chris Carter was nominated for outstanding directing by the Directors Guild of America.
Significance of the Adaptation Edit
A unique aspect of "The Post Modern Prometheus" is the cinematography. This episode of The X-Files was shot in black and white. The backdrops from the outside portions of the episode seem comparable in style to the 1931 Frankenstein film created by Universal. The black and white color scheme appears as a reference to this film as well. Another viable reference within the episode is the character Dr. Pollidori. John William Polidori, the physician of Lord Byron and also an English writer, appears as the reference. Polidori is credited, by some, as the creator of the vampire genre in fantasy literature. In the episode, Elizabeth plays the roll of Dr. Pollidori's wife, which is a reference to many other adaptations of Frankenstein, as well as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley's novel. Another reference to the Universal rendition of Frankenstein is the classic line, "It's alive!" To add to this, Mulder also speaks of the Modern Prometheus and talks of the Frankenstein narrative. Another reference to James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) is the burning barn and mob that hunts for the Great Mutato. In the 1931 film, the village mob razes a wind mill with the monster in it.
"The Post-Modern Prometheus." Wikia. Wikia.com. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://x-files.wikia.com/wiki/The_Post-Modern_Prometheus?redirect=no>
"The Post-Modern Prometheus." Wikipedia. Wikipedia.com. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Post-Modern_Prometheus>
"The X-Files." Imdb. Imdb.com. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106179/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt>