Written by Howard Gordon
Directed by James Charleston
It almost pains me to write this, because as anybody that reads my reviews will know, I simply adore the works of Howard Gordon, even though his work is understandably not considered as highly as those of Chris Carter himself, Morgan and Wong, Darin Morgan or Vince Gilligan, something about Gordon's ability to write good narratives, interesting guest characters and plausible dialogue has really endeared his work to me and they've aged very well. So I hope it doesn't come as too nasty a shock or surprise when I become just that little bit more critical of one of his works.
There's nothing particularly wrong with Teliko as such, but you can't deny just how unoriginal this is. A retread of Tooms, but one with a more racial twist added to it, this is The X Files by numbers , literally ticking of this and that as the episode continues. A mysterious death to open the episode? Check. A mutant who must kill for genetic survival? Check. A final set piece set in a claustrophobic and dark environment? Check again. Gordon himself has wrote episodes of The X Files that have referred to previous episodes before, think how Firewalker owed a debt to Ice, but whereas he overcame the similarities there and added his own brand of intelligence and great characterisation, here he is simply going through the motions, ticking of the story trappings and doing nothing original or new with it.
Initially, it does seem we might get something new and different. Scully is brought into the investigation because of a possible disease inflicting African-Americans. If Gordon had built up a bit more mystery here, or indeed, made the episode one more reliant on science rather than horror, it might have been a success, but even here he falls down a notch because by the end of the teaser the audience knows that what's killing these men isn't a disease but a monster from the Eugene Tooms School of Genetic Mutant Serial Killers. If the disease angle had been the meat and bones of this tale, it might have given it an edge and feel more original (F Emasculata being the only X File to deal with a runaway contagion) and given that such a thing is only infecting African-Americans, Teliko might have had a dangerous edge to it also.
A dangerous edge, though, is something it lacks. Worst of all though, is that for something so run of the mill, it pretty much tries to present itself as something that is more than it is. The tag line has been changed to "Deceive, Inveigle and Obfuscate". Changing the tagline? Isn't that usually the domain of the mythology or stand alones prone to breaking away from the series' usual style. Then Marita Covarubius reappears, a little annoyed at Mulder for contacting her, although truthfully I think it's probably more to do with him asking her about bugs, and not about...oh I don't know...the alien mythology?
This is not the worst episode of The X Files, far from it, but it is truly far from the best, this is essentially The X Files by numbers, unoriginal and, dare I say it, maybe a little boring. It probably doesn't help that it's nested right in between two masterpieces (we've got a Gilligan coming up, and we had a Morgan and Wong last week) and it can't help but suffer a little. I suppose there is some fun to be had in places, but anything good about it can be only be that way because of the influences. Thankfully, this is a minor blip, and for what was to be Howard Gordon's final year on the show, he has a few aces up his sleeve, so I think it's probably best to forget this one, although it wouldn't be very hard to do so.