The X-Files: Ice   Rewatch 
August 4, 2015 11:22 PM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

In an Arctic research station, Mulder and Scully are threatened by primordial ice worms that cause their hosts to become dangerously paranoid.
posted by town of cats (16 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've seen this one so many times I'm actually posting it before I rewatch it. Ugh, when the worm crawls in the dog's ear! When I learned the term "bottle episode" I thought immediately of the sweaty, crazy claustrophobia of Ice. I didn't actually start watching X-Files from the beginning when it aired (too young, I picked it up right at the end of season 4 just when everyone cool was starting to think it had jumped the shark) but I've started chronological rewatches a few times and every time I sit through the first few episodes of season 1 yawning and thinking "Jeez, why did I start doing this?" and then I watch Ice and rub my hands together gleefully. Now we're cookin'!

So random to see young Felicity Huffman and Bania from Seinfeld in this, too. It's a great cast for the 8th episode of a little-known sci-fi show airing on Friday nights.

OK now I guess I'll go watch it :) I'll come back and post any new thoughts I have once I finish it.
posted by town of cats at 11:27 PM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, it's a ripoff of great SF horror, but it gets it so right and treats its progenitors and leads with such respect that it transcends ripoff and homage and goes straight to my SF horror canon.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:34 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was a HUGE Mulder/Scully shipper at the time the X-Files was first aired (don't judge, I was also like, 12 or something)... I LOVED this episode for the "neck check" and the emphasis on Mulder and Scully's mutual trust. Great shipper ep.

But seriously, this episode, with its intense claustrophobia and sense of paranoia, gave me the heebie-jeebies. There are so many famous movies and TV show episodes that use this trope (I also have to mention Danny Boyle's excellent Sunshine in addition to the shows mentioned in the AVClub article) but I will always remember Ice as the one which started it all for me.
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:58 AM on August 5, 2015

Having just watched it... if this episode were made today, the climate change angle would have given the whole question of whether to preserve the worms and study them WAY more urgency. "Scully, for all we know these little guys will be taking over the ocean in a decade's time. Ever read Moby Dick?"

I don't actually remember if global warming had gone beyond a crackpot theory in 1992. But it certainly didn't have the feeling of inevitability it does today. Yikes, what IS lurking under all that ice?
posted by town of cats at 8:07 AM on August 5, 2015

This lifted so much from The Thing that is goes right into homage bordering on remake -- but it does it well!And I think The Thing would've been way more cult then Established Horror Classic that it is now.
posted by The Whelk at 11:18 AM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

"Before anyone passes judgement, may I remind you - we are in the Arctic."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:56 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I always thought the later Darkness Falls was creepier, but most people seem to prefer Ice.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:08 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I moved house the day when Ice aired here in the UK and had to make do with a atrocious, grainy but much appreciated VHS recording by an FOAF with a duff ariel. it still works. Possibly more so.

Didn't know an X-Flies rewatch was afoot. Will try very hard to restrict myself to only commenting on episodes I actually do rewatch rather than fondly remember (roll on seasons 2 and 3!)
posted by comealongpole at 7:19 PM on August 5, 2015

Hey, comealongpole, go ahead and comment on the ones you fondly remember too! I think I set a precedent for exactly how high my "rewatch" standards are when I posted the very first comment based on my memories.

Ray Walston, I actually also think Darkness Falls is creepier. But I think Ice is more fun, and I'm also not a huge fan of the near-parodic ecoterrorist caricatures in that episode, so I can see why people like Ice more. Everyone feels real here (although as the MotW comic points out, Bania's "how could anyone kill this cute, harmless geologist?" persona is a little over the top). Also, it's kind of the first really, clearly good X-Files episode of the series? Squeeze is pretty good too, but I think it's better when you know Tooms is coming, and I feel like Ice is just tighter and you can see Mulder and Scully really figuring out the parameters of their relationship and starting to care about one another. It's also nice in that Scully is never stuck defending an indefensible "SCIENCE OR BUST DESPITE THIS ALIEN CORPSE/ACTUAL GHOST/FLUKEMAN IN FRONT OF ME" position, which she kind of ends up pigeonholed into doing a lot. The worms are there, everyone can see them ad what they do, and ultimately in the heat of the moment even Mulder doesn't care enough about their origins to refrain from using their last specimen to save a life.

One other thing I wanted to call out is that Gillian Anderson's blink-and-you-miss it eyeroll when she walked into the room and saw the "Bosom" poster was perfect. She could have really hammed it up but it was so Scully to be not-at-all-surprised and just gently annoyed.

Oh, oh! And also the jacket she's wearing in the outdoor scenes is SO great. So clearly a "my parents got me this jacket for a ski trip" kind of jacket that's the only good cold-weather clothing a recent Stanford student might have. It makes her seem like such an out-of-her-depth, naive city kid. Fantastic wardrobe choice.

OK, guys, I'm clearly beyond excited to be able to geek out about X-Files. It's been a long time :D Thanks for joining in!
posted by town of cats at 7:51 PM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I actually prefer darkness falls cause it's a lot tighter (I love that kind of downbeat Ending that the series really liked, cause they had to have things happen but never really upset the status, so they kind of win but not really? It goes out of their hands and that's ...way creepier.), but Ice has some great early character beats and shines a little brighter compared to the rest of the season one stuff
posted by The Whelk at 8:40 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

This lifted so much from The Thing that is goes right into homage bordering on remake -- but it does it well!And I think The Thing would've been way more cult then Established Horror Classic that it is now.

It's been a while, but as I recall there are establishing shots that are actually shots from The Thing.
posted by brundlefly at 7:05 PM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

As far as body horror goes this wasn't too bad.
posted by Monochrome at 4:58 PM on August 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

This episode always stands out in my mind as a great self-contained episode. It touches on the very human issue of isolation and what that can do to a small group (especially before it was determined that the scientists didn't go crazy and kill one another) and how fast relationships devolve in high-stress situations. I recall global warming was almost a side comment in a Mulder voice over moment near the end but agree that it would have been more of a focal point if made today.

I've never felt as haunted by this episode as I was by Darkness Falls because of the highly specific nature of the encounter with the alien ice parasite. Unless someone is an ice specialist or ferreting around in Arctic ice caps, there's less of a lingering feeling that this MotW could be in the shadows waiting to attack.
posted by toomanycurls at 10:17 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

If two parasites murdering each other was a cure, I don't understand why the removal of the parasite would have killed Bear.

Also, how did Dr. Da Silva's infected character act so perfectly functional for what seems to have been a protracted length of time given that she'd slashed Dr. Murphy's throat and hidden him in a freezer?

Very solid episode though: suspenseful, claustrophobic, good development of Mulder and Scully's relationship, and that lovely dog survived.
posted by orange swan at 7:51 PM on March 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's a Thing rip-off, but it's a really GOOD Thing ripoff.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:53 AM on March 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Some more of what Neronomius mentioned about X-Files trying something early, then doing it again with more panache later; glacier-dormant extraterrestrial parasites, in this instance.

Although this is probably better than the kids and the sinkhole thing. And the whole eye-parasite thing in later seasons.


why the removal of the parasite would have killed Bear.

Yeah, that was very inconsistent; they managed to snap of a chunk of parasite and got it wiggling around in a jar and observed their mouthpieces. Unless they had mouthpieces on both ends, why would the back-end have a mouthpiece?

To apologize for the writing, perhaps trauma to the parasite causes it to give up on the host and tries its luck as a fragment quasi-larvae? But yeah, it made little sense, much less the transient buboes (the black nodules).

As for the asshole doctor, maybe he's already an acetylcholine addict and he has tolerance against elevated ass-hole hormone.

Oh, nvmd, it was the lady doctor. Ok, no clue.

What I couldn't figure is how they were certain that there was 1 infect person left (and 1 isolated worm; aren't there tons of larvae in the core samples that they could incubate)?
posted by porpoise at 9:35 PM on March 21, 2020

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