About this feature:
In this feature I’ll be recounting, with minimal research, my experience watching the final episode of a television series I’ve otherwise never seen before. Today’s series is Mutant X, produced from 2001 to 2004.
What I already know about Mutant X:
From the name alone I can glean it features mutants, probably solving mysteries, defeating baddies and fighting for a world that doesn’t understand them. I also provide the following assumption: that the ringleader of aforementioned baddie syndicate is a giant mutated talking letter X. I know that to the untrained masses my detective work may seem implausibly naïve or ignorant – but keep in mind that no creative team would waste title space on a letter of no significance. Now, some cynical few may argue that the X is really just an attempt to associate with Marvel’s popular X-Men franchise. My rebuttal is simple: it couldn’t be, because X-Men never featured a giant mutated talking letter X.
Judging from the few commercials I caught in the past, I can’t say the show is visually great – it suffers from a clear case of C.G.itis. That is, it suffers from an abundance of cheap, early-2000s computer effects. Being harshly honest, the show looks like it couldn’t even afford the two additional “X”s in its name to qualify as a porno.
Season 3, episode 22: The Assault. Aired May 17, 2004.
Our story begins with what I’m going to assume are two of our heroes being chased by generic stormtroopers around a generic industrial facility while generic Exciting Danger Techno plays. I must admit, for a programme with such a promisingly original and creative premise, this opening teaser must be quite the fall from grace.
After the brief prologue, we shift 12 hours earlier to meet a character whose special mutant power can, in my view, only be Super Exposition Puppet, and who is, and I’m being totally serious here, played by an actress named Karen Cliche. Karen Cliche (does her character’s name matter?) then checks her emails on a computer with an operating system so advanced it doesn’t even need mouse input.
And soon, she fields a Skype call on her lazy set dressing from her secret contact in a shady group, who inexplicably appears to be Orson Welles.
Mr. Welles tells Ms. Cliche (and therefore us) about Adam Kane, who while researching mutants’ short lifespans has faked his own death and who, evidently, really wants me to make a Citizen Kane joke. A conflicted Cliche is then asked by Orson to deliver her friend Jesse Kilmartin, a mutant who has exceeded his predicted expiry date yet is still alive, for scientific study, thus ensuring a more certain future for all mutants so long as they aren’t Jesse Kilmartin.
With our climactic plot established and tempered with a sombre mood, we get a dramatic transition to what momentarily appears to be actual footage of the Big Bang. No, it turns out it’s not the inception of the universe, but is in actual fact the inception of something far more cruel and far less capable of irony: the Mutant X intro.
According to the credits, there are two actresses in the show named Karen Cliche and Victoria Pratt, respectively. I guess Fake Shemp wasn’t available.
Through the narration, we also hear the impetus for the show’s storyline: Adam Kane’s righteous attempt to use mutations to cure illness inevitably went awry, as science often does in these kinds of stories. I guess the writers couldn’t go with their first choice of origin story where all of the characters are bitten by a radioactive Stan Lee.
In a brief interlude, a nefarious individual who we only see from behind, and who appears to be a geriatric Willy Wonka, is sitting inside the Holodeck from Star Trek editing D.N.A. sequences with the touch interface from Total Recall. I didn’t realise the producers of Mutant X could afford to license so many crossovers. Maybe the X in the show’s name is actually a sponsor, like in an episode of Sesame Street.
Getting some reprieve from all of those clichés, we rejoin Karen Cliche hurriedly leaving the mutant compound much to the confusion of her mutant friends Jesse Kilmartin, Some Lady and A. Dude. Naturally her close friends are constantly monitoring her movements with a supercomputer, so they find her, and together indulge in a light showdown (a showdownette, if you will) with Orson Welles and his cronies, resulting in a captive and battered Cliche, and an even more battered special effects budget.
Despite being ostensibly captured, Karen manages to briefly escape her cell and upload a virus into her captors’ computer system. It’s easy when crucial computer networks have less security than the prison cells that are right next to them. Inevitably captured for a second time and now refusing to divulge information about Jesse, Karen is interrogated, and our position in time begins to catch up with the displaced prologue by way of boilerplate intrigue and action. So Cliche is tortured while we’re tortured by clichés.
Somewhere in all that action, during the raid on the mutants’ base of operations that we saw during the prologue, Jesse Kilmartin attempts to ward off encroaching soldiers with his incredible, and more importantly inexpensive, power of Photoshopkinesis. They are not warded.
So the remainder of the Mutant X team flies to confront The Dominion to rescue Jesse and the Cliche among clichés, Karen. And yeah, it’s called “The Dominion”. In an ideal world there’d be some kind of punchline here, but at this point I don’t think any of us can earnestly say this is an ideal world.
Just as the captive Jesse is about to be taken for dissection, Karen’s computer virus begins spontaneously wreaking havoc on The Dominion’s systems, making lights flash, screens display random images, consoles beep and the holding cells deactivate; actions so disparate and unrelated, one can only assume it also changed a single microwave on floor B7 to the neglected “defrost” setting. Anyway, just for a quick catch-up for anyone at home keeping what may be the saddest tally theoretically possible, the literal Cliche just escaped at the last second with a literal deus ex machina.
After being aided by a suddenly reformed Orson Welles (I’m glad this will be my prevailing memory of the genius auteur), the now liberated pair reconvenes with the rest of their team. They go and confront the leader of The Dominion, the decrepit Willy Wonka they’re calling “The Creator”, whereupon a critical twist and a bad split screen effect are revealed in a single flourish. Adam Kane is The Creator’s clone!
It was Willy Creator’s plan all along to lure Adam Kane to his hideaway; his work is Kane’s birthright, and together they’ll complete his grand Machiavellian plan to, uh, develop fizzy lifting drink, I guess. I dunno, my theory of a giant mutated talking letter X is actually looking pretty attractive right now.
Kane refuses to comply because, well, he’s the good guy, and is whisked away by guards to a fate unknown and unresolved, but not before remote-detonating their jet and allowing his friends to escape. A nice gesture I suppose, but aside from blowing an escape crater in the wall of the compound, all this will afford the team is the benefit of some fresh air before being promptly recaptured, because now all they have to fly home on is a broken landing gear and a some charred peanut packets violently strewn about a field.
In the final few seconds of the episode, nay, the expansive Mutant X mythos, our stalwart heroes resolve that with teammate Adam Kane captured and the mystery of their precarious lifespans irresolute, their fight is “not over yet”. But that isn’t Mutant X’s first inaccuracy.
Mysteries were solved, baddies were fought, and the world was saved, but not even the veteran skills of Orson Welles can save Mutant X. And I hear he’s the Citizen Kane of actors.
Overall, I give it III out of X.