My X-Files Conspiracy Theory: The Mushroom Cave.


I recently rewatched the entire series of The X-Files. I had intended to watch it all in advance of the start of the new season that launched at the end of January, but I fell behind and only finished just in time to watch the entire new series over the span of a week.  I also watched the last several seasons in a bit of a rush – I was up to 5 episodes a night at one point. A lot of fans, myself included, look back with not so much adoration on the last few season of the series.  But in rewatching, I actually quite enjoyed parts of the last few seasons, even though some were rather odd.

But season 7 in particular was… odd. The first half was especially bad.  And through the last few seasons, many of the Monsters of the Week were inexplicable – in most cases, literally. Where earlier seasons came up with some sort of report for the FBI, in the last few seasons many of the episodes ended in a great big ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

And while The X-Files always required viewers to suspend disbelief a little bit, the implausibility of things increased consistently over the last three seasons.  It occasionally made for fantastic television, but piecing it all together (especially when the whole super soldier thing kicked in) was… difficult.  The season 9 finale did its best to pull it all together, which it did remarkably well (save the one big plot hole of Jeffrey Spender claiming to have grown up with CGB Spender (The Smoking Man) despite him clearly being a total stranger the first time they meet on the show).

All that said, why expect seasons 7-9 to make any sense if you realise what was truly going on: that it was all a great hallucination on the parts of Mulder and Scully.

In season 6 episode 21, coyly titled “Field Trip,” Mulder and Scully investigate the bizarre deaths of a young couple. At the beginning of the episode, we are blatantly tipped off that this week’s Monster of the Week is… mushrooms. Over the course of the episode, both Mulder and Scully find themselves trapped inside a cave, hallucinating heavily thanks to the mushrooms they stepped on and released the spores of, while a fungal goo (presumably of the same organism that created the mushrooms) begins to digest them alive. The hallucinations are personal to both of them in that they both get to act out their own fantasies, but they are also shared in that they join and leave each other’s hallucination with ease.

At some point, each of them recognises that they have, indeed, been hallucinating, and they are tricked into thinking that the mere realisation that you are hallucinating is enough to free you from the predatory mushrooms.  They eventually figure out again that, no, in fact they are still inside the mushroom cave and they only thought they had finished hallucinating. Mulder shoots Skinner, who then oozes yellow goo, and in their collective hallucinations they discover they’re still underground.

It all gets kind of meta, but eventually Mulder inexplicably pokes his hand up through the ground and Skinner and the FBI search crew who happen to have been at the exact site wearing masks they somehow figured out they needed to wear pull him and Scully out of the ground.  The episode ends with Mulder and Scully in the back of an ambulance holding hands, having been rescued miraculously and almost inexplicably. We are to believe that this scene is the real-life scene, not the hallucinations of Mulder and Scully in which we have lived for most of the episode.


But what if it’s not?

What if Mulder and Scully actually stayed down there for awhile? What if one of the effects of the hallucinogen released by the mushroom spores is a slower experience of time, so that the victims of the mushrooms experience several years’ worth of time in the matter of hours or days? And indeed Mulder and Scully were not fished out by Skinner and the search crew – or at least not at this point?

Stay with me for a second, because the rest of the series makes a lot more sense if you make the assumption that they are, indeed, just trapped in that mushroom cave hallucinating everything.

In the very next episode, the season 6 finale in which the “artifact” is discovered in Africa, everyone continues to be a little out of character. Mulder, who never previously displayed signs of being part-alien or in any way reacting to any other alien artifacts, all of a sudden hears sharp noises when exposed to the image of the rubbing of the artifact.  He sort of reverts to caricature of himself, in the same way he did in the mushroom episode.  The noises he hears eventually lead to Mulder being hospitalized and diagnosed with a mysterious brain disease that seems to have come on unprompted. Mulder basically goes completely crazy. Later seasons retcon this into a “Mulder was sick for a long time and never told us about it” story, but even that is inconsistent with anything that came before.

Season 6 ends with Scully in the Côte d’Ivoire, looking at a millions-of-years-old spacecraft that somehow went undetected until right now, because of course it did.  Season 7 opens with her in Côte d’Ivoire still, investigating things I’m certain the FBI would never pay for her to do, especially given the unlikelihood that this indeed just washed up after spending millions of years unnoticed.  She eventually makes it back to America to try to help Mulder.

Meanwhile, Mulder is hallucinating some more, living a completely parallel life in another world, one which involves CGB Spender and Diana Fowley.  Living out a fantasy, exactly as happened in the mushroom cave.

Scully, back in the supposed “real” world, speaks to Albert Hosteen (the Navajo elder who only a day earlier was dying in New Mexico) in her apartment. The episode ends with an acknowledgement that he died, yet no one can explain how he got to Scully’s apartment in DC right before doing so. Even in a hallucination, both Mulder and Scully are hallucinating (which is exactly what happened in Field Trip).

The first half of season 7 continued to get even more bizarre and inconsistent, and each case ended in the agents throwing up their hands and going “meh” when confronted with trying to actually figure things out. No more Scully trying to give a plausible scientific explanation. No more Monsters of the Week that could, actually, be explained in any particularly plausible way. Just a vague acceptance that weird shit happens, which is exactly what Mulder would fantasize about of course.

Watch the rest of seasons 7, 8, and 9 as if they were actually just products of fungus-induced hallucinations, and they all of a sudden make way more sense. Even those two episodes where they recruited an accountant to join The X-Files team (maybe she was investigating an expense claim and joined them in the mushroom cave?).  There is even a COPS crossover episode. There’s also a somewhat musical episode featuring Burt Reynolds, which made for an incredibly entertaining but also rather unbelievable episode.  Even in the season 9 finale, Mulder seems to see actual ghosts.

If you follow this theory through, there are several other Mulder-and-Scully fantasies that are acted out in the last three season.  Doggett and Reyes are introduced as inadequate replacements for the two of them, and Reyes is clearly a huge admirer of both of them (where was she all these years, given she was also investigating paranormal activity?).  Scully becomes pregnant, her greatest fantasy, despite having previously been unable to do so.  The two end up in a romantic relationship that, while hinted at liberally, never actually happened on screen before.

Halfway through season 9, in episode 14 “Scary Monsters,” the accountant-turned-agent makes her second appearance on the show and helps the agents figure out that the monsters in the episode are actually just in the head of a child.  The accountant-agent (Leyla Harrison) likes to cite earlier episodes of The X-Files – she’s a walking nostalgia-bot, recounting things from the past that would be typical of what would run through the mind of someone who had been trapped in a cave hallucinating so hadn’t been subject to new stimuli in a while.  A moment happens which highlights the possibility of them still being in the hallucination:

DOGGETT: I’ve been thinking. You know, I hate to sound like Agent Harrison but Mulder and Scully had a case like this that I remember where they were trapped underground with these mushroom spores that caused hallucinations. Never mind.

REYES: I don’t know what to say, either. Maybe Mulder and Scully would see something that we don’t.

In his hallucination, Mulder manages to remain egotistical – and the series’ writers throw a wink to those of us who have figured out what’s really going on.


Now, this theory requires that they were somehow released after hallucinating three years’ worth of episodes, and that the physical damage to their body kept them out of their work for several years.  The film and series that came after seem to support this.

In the second film (from 2008), it’s been six years since the series finale in which we learned that aliens will take over the world at the end of 2012, and Mulder and Scully have committed to “hope” for the future.  And, yet, neither seems any more phased by the world around them than they were before they learned about this evil plot.  In fact, they don’t even investigate an alien issue – they go after what turns out to be an organ-harvester who is psychically connected to his childhood rapist.  It’s as if we’re not just over four years away from complete alien colonisation – in fact, as if the last three years of the show never even happened!  Also of note is that early on in the film Mulder and Scully notice a portrait of George W. Bush on the wall and it’s presented as if it’s a weird thing they’ve never seen before – as if neither of them spent any time in the FBI office in 2001 or 2002!

And then there’s the new series, or season 10, or whatever we’d like to call it. It makes several references to what the FBI is like in a “post 9/11” world, as if somehow The X-Files didn’t exist in such a world, and as if Scully herself hadn’t been working for the FBI for almost a whole year in such a world.

But then there’s the whole issue of the alien colonisation conspiracy that was completely revealed over the last few seasons, in particular the whole super soldier phenomenon. Season 10 makes no reference to it – in fact, it retcons right over the whole thing. Besides the fact that it’s now more than 3 years after the colonisation was supposed to be complete, there are no super soldiers anymore (only deformed prototype people). That whole plot seems to have evaporated and no one talks about it, almost as if the entire thing never happened. Not to mention the unexpected return to life of CGB Spender, and a world in which Doggett and Reyes seem not to have ever existed. Reyes returns rather mysteriously, but could just as well be an old friend of Scully’s rather than a former X-Files agent.  As for Mulder and Scully, they return to the FBI as if their jobs had always been waiting for them – no military trials or elaborate escapes ever happened, they just had to take a break from the FBI for their own health, or something. Perhaps because they were so badly injured in the cave.

And the icing on the cake, of course, is Mulder’s episode 5 obsession with getting his hands on some shrooms – perhaps he was in the cave long enough to have become addicted to the substance he inhaled.

Or, who knows, maybe they never got out of the cave, and even season 10 is a hallucination. I’ll leave that up to readers to decide.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John J. on 2017/09/15 at 7:21 pm

    You can’t become addicted to mushrooms.


  2. Posted by John J. on 2017/09/15 at 8:27 pm

    Although in the hallucination they had they said that the mushrooms had a compound related to lsd and some sort of alkaloid that had narcotic properties that also had some sort of sedating and paralytic property but the lsd like compound wouldn’t be addictive as psychedelics are not addictive substances however the narcotic like compound though would be.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: