SHUTTLE: Roger, Houston. We’ve got some spooky stuff up here.
The flight of the “Apollo 11″ saw man land on the moon for the first time on July 20, 1969. Even though I was not yet born, this moment has formed in its own way a “memory” as my mother was in the hospital, heavily pregnant with me. Apparently it caused some furor between my parents when my dad left her side to go watch the footage. Many years later, on April 12, 1981, I remember getting to skip school and stay at home, glued to the television for the first flight of the space shuttle “Columbia”.
Even given this history, Space is not one of my favorite episodes. In part I believe this is because, in the character of Marcus Belt, the episode doesn’t go far enough in its many similarities to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and the claims that they had some sort of an experience with a UFO during their flight to the moon. In this, Carter can be forgiven in that these characters are national heroes and their many missions are held closely in the hearts of so many that not wishing to delve too deeply and getting a look at the human beings beneath is better left undone. It’s certainly shown to be a hard thing for Mulder to have his eyes opened regarding his boyhood hero. For Mulder this is twofold in that on the one hand, here is an astronaut, a man who has seen and should be coming out with what he’s seen and on the other hand, a man that is willing to put a payload above the well being of the people who trust him with their lives.
SCULLY: So much for your boyhood hero.
MULDER: Col. Belt? Col. Belt? Can I talk to you for a moment?
BELT: You want to know why I lied to them. You’re asking yourself if this means I’d lie to you. (Mulder nods) You know what it means to be an astronaut, sir? You risk your life every time you get into your spacecraft for nothing more than the good progress of mankind.
MULDER: You’ve got no argument from me, sir. You’re true American heroes.
BELT: Heroes? We used to make headlines when we did our job right. Now they bury them in the back of the paper. Name me two astronauts on the last shuttle mission. (Mulder can’t) You make the front page today only if you screw up. They only know your name if you’re the unlucky SOB sitting on 500 tons of dynamite. That’s what they’re really waiting for.
In this, Belt and Mulder aren’t all that dissimilar. Like Belt, Mulder also puts his life on the line for what they believe, with little reward.
As with so many episodes, there is a balance between the approaches of the two agents. It is a hard thing to address his childhood hero but Scully has little fear in this area. Where the fields of medicine or the military are concerned, she is tenacious, fearless, and has no problem at all with pressing those above her for answers. Not without some cost incurred, however, and this is seen at the end, during the funeral for Marcus Belt. Being raised in a military family, the setting, its meaning, makes a strong impact and no matter the personal failings of Belt, it’s hard not to respect what he’s done and where he’s been.
Original Air Date: 12 November 1993
Director: William A. Graham
Writers: Chris Carter
A Missions Control Comm. Commander from NASA contacts Mulder and Scully. She believes that the spaceships sent out recently have been tampered with, and suspects sabotage. Mulder’s childhood hero, Colonel Belt, is in charge of the ships – but could he be the saboteur?