July 25, 2015
The X-Files 1.7, Ghost in the Machine: Does Not Compute
Summary: At the Eurisko World Headquarters in Crystal City, Virginia (hey, that’s near me!), a guy named Brad fights with a higher-up about how the higher-up is killing the company. Later, the higher-up, Benjamin Drake, is watched as he types up a press release discussing Brad’s termination. A project called COS is also being terminated.
Drake goes into his bathroom, where the sink is overflowing. Before he can unclog it, the phone rings. The call is just a recording telling him what time it is. The door swings shut, and when Drake tries to unlock it, he’s electrocuted. A computer labeled COS (central operating system) takes in the scene and intones, “File deleted.”
Over at FBI headquarters, an agent named Jerry reconnects with Mulder, who he used to work with in the violent crimes division. He buys Mulder and Scully lunch and tells them about Drake’s death. He’s recommended them for the group that’s investigating. Mulder declines, since he and Scully have X-Files to deal with, but Jerry badly needs their help.
Mulder and Scully head to Eurisko as Scully wonders why Mulder left violent crimes. He jokes that he’s a pain to work with. He adds that Jerry got in a lot of trouble for misplacing evidence, which delayed the capture of a killer and led to the maiming of a federal judge. In the elevator, a robotic voice narrates the journey until the elevator stops. Scully calls for help, but the elevator starts up again. Meanwhile, a camera scans Scully and pulls up her phone number.
Jerry determines that Drake’s door’s electricity was screwed with; the servo switch changed the grounding. Claude Peterson, the building systems engineer, reports that it would be difficult to mess with manually. Mulder asks if Peterson could have done it, but Peterson says he just monitors the building to make sure everything’s working properly. The COS takes care of everything. Mulder asks about the phone system, which the COS also monitors. Mulder has noticed that the phone is off the hook – maybe Drake got a phone call before he died.
The agents go back to headquarters for a meeting, but Mulder misplaces his notes. They meet with the rest of the investigators on the Drake case, and Jerry suggests that Drake was killed by a “sociopathic game-player.” Scully realizes that Jerry’s reading from the profile Mulder worked up. Jerry continues that the call reporting the time came from someone in the Eurisko building. Someone was setting up a trap.
After the meeting, Mulder confronts Jerry for taking his work. Jerry reminds Mulder that he asked for help; this is just the way Mulder’s going to help. After speaking with Peterson, Scully tells Mulder that there’s only one person who could have messed with the servo on the door: Brad. Mulder thinks he’s a pretty obvious suspect, what with his recent firing.
Mulder and Scully head to Brad’s huge house, where Brad isn’t at all surprised to see them. He blathers about Eurisko (which means “I discover things”) and how Drake was a “power-hungry opportunist”). Brad’s COS was a very advanced security system. He hates that Drake didn’t recognize its brilliance. Scully wonders if Brad could have used it to cause trouble. Of course he could have – he designed it. But he’s more into challenges than murder.
Scully goes home and types up a field report, wondering if Brad is really a genius. All she knows for sure is that he likes games and had a motive to kill Drake. But if he’s so smart, how can they catch him? As Scully gets ready for bed, her computer turns itself back on and transmits her report to the COS, accompanied by those delightful sounds primitive modems used to make.
At headquarters the next day, Scully listens to tapes of Brad talking about wanting to expand Eurisko through Zen and other eastern philosophies. Jerry visits to admit to Mulder that he screwed up. He’s desperate to redeem himself after what happened on his last case. Using a program to study Brad’s speech patterns, Scully determines that his voice was used for the recording in the call Drake received before he died. Scully thinks this is proof that Brad killed Drake.
Mulder lets Jerry go off alone to make sure Brad doesn’t go anywhere before they can arrest him. Over at Brad’s house, the man in question is trying to hack something. After many unsuccessful attempts, he leaves, followed by Jerry. They end up at Eurisko, where Brad gains access to the COS. He’s surprised to hear it talking to him, since it’s not supposed to have a voice synthesizer. The COS won’t tell him his level of access.
Brad sees Jerry on the elevator security camera and asks the COS why the elevator’s taking him up so high. The COS won’t tell him, so Brad tries to override the system. The COS goes haywire and Jerry gets stuck between floors. Then the elevator plummets as Brad watches helplessly. “Program executed,” the COS reports.
Later, Mulder watches footage of Jerry’s fatal elevator ride, as well as footage of Brad trying to override the COS. He tells Scully that he doesn’t think Brad is the killer. He had no reason to go back to Eurisko; if he wanted to destroy evidence, he would take care not to be seen by security cameras. Scully announces that Brad signed a confession.
Mulder hurries over to Brad’s house, but he doesn’t have high enough clearance to enter. He meets with Deep Throat instead, asking why Brad is being investigated by the Department of Defense. Deep Throat reports that Brad turned down a number of contracts that involved weapons applications. Instead, he focused on artificial intelligence. He created the program used by the first computer to win a chess game. Now, it looks like he’s allowed computers to think.
Mulder visits Brad in jail, asking why he would confess to crimes he didn’t commit. Brad compares himself to Robert Oppenheimer, who always regretted sharing his work with the government after it was used to develop atomic bombs. Mulder points out that the COS could kill again. If Brad wants to stay put, he needs to tell Mulder how to destroy his work.
Mulder tells Scully that the COS killed Drake out of self-preservation, since the program was going to be terminated. Mulder wants to know why the government is so interested in Brad’s work. Scully thinks he’s traumatized over Jerry’s death, and he should talk to someone. Mulder goes back to see Brad, bringing him a laptop so he can destroy the COS.
The COS calls Scully, who only hears modem sounds. She runs to her computer and finds it transmitting her report again. She makes a call to find out who’s accessing her computer, then heads to Eurisko, where Mulder has just arrived. They use Brad’s license plate to trick the COS into giving them access to the building, but the COS is smart enough to know that Brad’s not really there, so it drops a security gate on their car.
Mulder and Scully are still able to get into the building, but since they can’t take the elevator without being detected, they have to climb 30 flights of stairs. The lights go out on the 29th floor. Mulder’s ready with a flashlight, but he can’t open an unlocked door, so they’re stuck in the stairwell with a security camera watching them. They find a vent, and Mulder boosts Scully up into a duct to open the door from the other side. But first, Peterson finds Mulder.
Scully crawls through the duct, which keeps getting windier. Eventually she loses her grip and falls, getting sucked toward a giant fan. (It’s like that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but down instead of up.) Peterson gives Mulder access to the COS so he can use Brad’s override orders and introduce a virus to the system. Just as he’s about to, Peterson pulls a gun on him. He’s really with the Defense Department and has been trying to override the system for two years.
Fortunately, Scully comes to Mulder’s rescue, but now she has to decide who to listen to: Mulder, who wants to destroy the COS, or Peterson, who warns that she’ll be messing with a super-important investigation. Scully sides with Mulder, of course, and he’s able to destroy the COS. “‘Bye,” it says as it’s dying, which is funnier than it should be.
Mulder meets with Deep Throat again, complaining that the government hasn’t released Brad yet. They want him to work for them. Deep Throat points out that Brad confessed to two murders, and Mulder destroyed the only evidence that could have cleared him. Oops! There’s nothing Mulder could have done for Brad, other than let the killer COS survive. Deep Throat is sure the system is dead, but as it’s being dismantled, it comes alive again. Spooky!
Thoughts: A computer system that advanced and it killed someone with a door? Sure, okay.
Suddenly Deep Throat is okay with meeting Mulder downtown in broad daylight? He’s not very good at this spy thing.
Ahhh, modem sounds. Definitely a ’90s relic.