Easily one of the dullest episodes in the series — supposedly even Chris Carter’s least favorite — “Space” unfortunately doesn’t deliver a whole lot despite being given what I think is one of the most terrifying subjects of all.
It’s actually been funny to re-watch this episode as an adult, because as a kid the scenes of the entity transforming Colonel Belt’s face scared the crap out of me. It’s easy to see now how downright crappy the effects are in those scenes, but when I was younger the mystery of the episode was just plain spooky. I think it retains some nostalgic quality for that sake — ultimately we don’t know what that entity is, or why it is — but now I’m able to see just how shaky the plot is.
It just feels like a filler episode in many ways. Mulder and Scully are barely even the central characters — rather Mulder spends a good chunk of his time in awe over meeting Colonel Belt in person (“I stayed up all night when I was 14 to watch your space walk”, he gushes), and Scully learns a bunch about shuttle launches. They’re background characters in what is an episode barely about sabotage and more weighed down by complicated technical jargon.
I’ll admit, the scene where the men on the shuttle report that there’s “some kind of ghost outside the ship” still freaks me out. Again, it’s the mystery that gets me, as well as the isolation of space in general. If there’s something out there — whether that something is malicious or simply curious — there’s no escaping it.
Hey, Scully, we send those men up into space to unlock the doors of the universe, and we don’t even know what’s behind them.
But ultimately the episode fails in the way of a comprehensive or, frankly, interesting plot. It’s like it almost goes in a direction… but kind of wanders off on the way there.