TV - The X-Files Season 5, Unusual Suspects

The X-Files

Steve Taylor-Bryant takes a look into the origins of The Lone Gunmen with his Season 5 examination of Unusual Suspects...

I love The Lone Gunmen. I have always loved The Lone Gunmen. If social networking had been prevalent in the era of The X-Files, The Lone Gunmen would have been Twitter, nonsense spouted with a glimmer of truth and absolutely no accountability. It took us until Season 5 though to see how this unlikely trio were formed and how they became involved with Special Agent Fox Mulder.

The whole idea of conspiracy relies on someone believing that a conspiracy is occurring. If no one cares then there is no conspiracy. Governments have always misled the public and always will and it is healthy to sometimes question their motives. Where it becomes silly is when you have a group that see conspiracy in everything. These folks have their hearts in the right place but maybe aren’t the most normal of people but, my word, they are entertaining and none more so than Melvin Frohike, John Fitzgerald Byers and Richard 'Ringo' Langly.

Unusual Suspects flashes back to 1989 and a warehouse being raided by the S.W.A.T. Team. A strange naked man is lying in a box shouting "They're here" and three nerdy looking men are arrested. The first nerdy man is called into the police interview room to explain what had gone on, and it is through this narration that we learn how The Lone Gunmen came to be. John Fitzgerald Byers (Bruce Harwood) works in communications for the FCC (pretty much Ofcom for UK readers) at a convention, and becomes entranced with the beautiful Modeski (Signy Coleman) who spins him a story of a psychotic ex-boyfriend that has kidnapped her daughter. On her behalf, Byers hacks into the Department of Defence and prints off some encrypted code. Modeski tries to flee when she sees Mulder (David Duchovny) and tells Byers that he is the ex of which she'd spoken.

The X-Files

He joins forces with two competing salesman Frohike (Tom Braidwood) and Langly (Dean Hagland) to protect the woman but it soon becomes apparent she is not who she says she is. She is in fact Susanne Modeski, a rogue scientist wanted for murder. She explains that she just wanted to leave her government position but learned of an experiment where a gas that makes you paranoid will be released on an unsuspecting public. Frohike, Byers, and Langly follow Modeski to a warehouse where they see the gas has been put into asthma inhalers. A strange government man, Mr X (Steven Williams) and his hoodlums arrive on the scene. A gun fight leads to Mulder inhaling the gas and becoming a paranoid ball of nakedness. The scene is contained before the police turn up. During a shouting session with Mr X, the Dallas conspiracy is brought up by Byers and this is where the name The Lone Gunmen originated. Mulder, now recovered, drops charges against the trio and the show ends with them explaining to Mulder what had happened.

Of all the X-Files episodes this is by far the most dated. Hacking the DoD on a computer that looked like a BBC Micro or a Vic 20, huge mobile telephones and anologue cabling but there is something quaint and lovely about that. Nowadays, and probably why the spin-off didn’t work, we all have technology far more advanced than The Lone Gunmen had but that shouldn’t stop the enjoyment of the episode. The almost hatred for each other the men share is superb. Byers is the nark due to his government position, and Frohike and Langly are rivals but they are forced together rather than choosing to work as a team. It was the first episode for a long time that had no Scully, and very little Mulder, due to the filming schedule of the first movie that was to come out at the end of the season, but the idea behind an origin story for Mulder's geeky friends was a welcome addition the show. The episode had everything I like in a story, a femme fatale, a shadowy government cover-up, a wet behind the ears agent, and not just unusual suspects as the title calls them, but bizarre heroes.

This was what The X-Files did well, drama, a great story and some humour both sight gag and dialogue related, that drove the script to levels above what was written on paper. Whilst some would say The Lone Gunmen origin was essential to the arc of the series, I don’t agree. One of the things I liked about them was their mystery, however this episode was forty odd minutes of great fun.

Image - XFiles Wiki.