Doing battle with daily dragons

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Truth That's Stranger Than Fiction

I've never really intended for this blog to be a sounding block for any kind of issue. Just so that you know that.

A couple of weeks ago The Rock Star picked up the first season of The X-Files as an impulse purchase from Tesco. We do this a lot. It's easier than going to Blockbuster for a couple of reasons. One is that the Blockbuster nearest to us has roughly 100 DVDs and half of them have titles like "The Erotic Witch Project" and the other is that both The Rock Star and I suffer from a disorder that keeps us from returning rentals on time, incurring late fees more substantial than some small country's GNPs.

I was a big fan of the series for the first 4 or 5 seasons. The writing was fantastic, the chemistry between the two leads fizzed, (and aside from a nose that you could have evacuated half of London to during the Blitz, David Duchoveny was not entirely unpleasant to look at) and it never failed to give me a dose of the willies. I'm a pretty jumpy customer under normal circumstances and I think I've said before that when alone in the dark, I've always considered the danger from vampires much more pressing than rapists or muggers, so The X-Files managed, at least 3 or 4 times a season, to give me some other reason to want to wet the bed. Upon the most recent viewing I was delighted to renew my fear of going to the toilet after watching the two 1st season episodes following the exploits of the amazing stretchy guy, Eugene Tooms, who's modus operandi included coming up drains and down chimneys. For at least two weeks after I first saw the episodes, I remember fervently wishing that I was a man every time I went into the bathroom so that I could avoid turning my cheeks to the enemy who was undoubtedly waiting for me around the U-bend.

While re-acquainting myself with this weekly dose of sci-fi drama, I came across an episode which just about stunned me rigid. Titled "Beyond the Sea" it followed Scully and Mulder in their quest to save two kidnapped college students and the story of the condemned man who has the wherewithal to help them...If he can be convinced to do so.

Luther Lee Boggs (played with startling distinction by under-appreciated character actor, Brad Dourif) is an inmate in a North Carolina penitentiary, a week away from a death sentence from which he has already been once reprieved, only seconds before being carried out. The experience, Boggs claims, allowed him to become a conduit for the souls of the dead to speak though him and show him visions of the past and the future. Mulder, who sent Boggs to prison in the first place doesn't believe his divinatory claims, but Scully, who's just lost her father, believes that his soul is trying to speak though Boggs and becomes rather more emotionally involves with him than she's knows is good for her.

The further plot of the episode is insubstantial, really, but Dourif's spectacular performance carries the piece along, instilling Bogg's creeping dread of his impending, unnatural death in the viewer. The veins in his forehead bulge, his face contorts in terror and the blood rushes to his face when he shouts at Scully,

"Don't underestimate my fear of dying and don't downplay my terror of going back to that chair. I know my hell's going to be to go on back to that chair over and over again but in this life, my one and only life, I don't ever want to go back again! Ever!"

But Boggs does go back to that room.

This morning, the State of California executed a blind, wheelchair bound 76 year old man who could not walk to the gurney to which he was strapped down in order to be given a lethal injection. No one could argue that he was innocent, nor that his crimes against his fellow man were not heinous or pre-meditated.

Dr. Martin Luther King, who's birthday was celebrated in most schools and workplaces in America on Monday would most likely have said this for Clarence Ray Allen. And Tookie Williams. And probably Luther Boggs.

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.... Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. "