Gillian AndersonDavid DuchovnyGlen MorganKristen Cloke
The X-Files Season 11 ep.7: Rm9sbG93ZXJz
Medium: TV
Year: 2018
Director: Glen Morgan
Writer: Shannon Hamblin, Kristen Cloke
Keywords: The X-Files, SF, favourite
Actor: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Candus Churchill, Ashley Lambert, Matt Corboy, Sitara Attaie, Scott Higgs, Kristen Cloke, Nikita Wyllie
Format: 43 minutes
Website category: SF
Review date: 27 June 2020
It's probably one of the best episodes of anything in 2018. I laughed my head off. It's a dialogue-light episode with Mulder, Scully and almost no one else. They're encountering the world of modern technology and coming off worse. At an automated sushi restaurant, Mulder gets served a blobfish and then can't find anyone to take his complaint and serve his actual order.
Would you like to leave a tip? No.
Would you like to leave a tip? Still no.
Would you like to leave a tip? Good grief, computers are annoying.
It's cool because it's so identifiable. Evil AI would be a cliche. Irritating AI that won't shut up is so, so true. You'll recognise everything. The telephone complaints system that won't let you talk to a human. ("To place a new purchase, press 1.") The intrusive help program that won't go away. The creepy cyberstalker programs that have other recommended purchases for you. Scully's house alarm goes off deafeningly when she walks through her own front door, then charges her a $250 false alarm fee.
Incorrect passwords are usually human error, though. You'll have pressed CAPS LOCK, mistyped the original password or spelled it with a "Z". They happens to everyone, though.
There's even a message. It's easy to blame the AI, but it's our fault really. It's us. We built them, then we programmed them. They're just following orders. (The episode title is the word "followers" in Base 64 encoding.) The episode has an introduction talking about Microsoft's machine learning Twitter program, Tay, which got shut down because it copied humans too faithfully and became a sexist, racist troll.
Incidentally, that sushi restaurant's called FOROWAA, i.e. the English word "follower" transliterated into Japanese script. Note that I said "transliterated". The internet is wrong. Google this episode and you'll read the false claim that that's the Japanese word for "follower". (For that, try juusha, juuto, shinkousha, etc.) Oh, and the logo on the door has a horizontal line to indicate a long "A", when it should be vertical in a word written vertically.
I was impressed by Mulder and Scully's restraint. They're being grown-ups. They don't go nuts. Mulder doesn't even shoot those sinister spy drones, since attempting that tends to hit something else. (Instead, he uses a baseball bat.)
Apparently this might be David Duchovny's favorite Season 11 episode. The man has taste. I loved both its dialogue-light gimmick and the dissection of where AI goes wrong. This episode is cool, it's funny and it spoke to me.