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"The Springfield Files" is the tenth episode of The Simpsons' eighth season, which originally aired January 12, 1997. It was written by Reid Harrison and directed by Steven Dean Moore. Leonard Nimoy guest stars as himself and David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson guest star as Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, their characters on The X-Files.

Plot

The "alien" appears for the second time.
Leonard Nimoy begins the episode hosting a show about alien encounters. He talks about an encounter in a town called Springfield.At Moe's on a Friday night, Homer drinks over ten bottles of "Red Tick Beer" and after taking a breathalyzer test, Moe declares that he is drunk. Homer decides to walk home, but takes a wrong path and ends up in the woods. In a clearing, he sees a glowing thin-boned alien. Although the alien says "Don't be afraid", Homer panics and runs away screaming.

The rest of the family do not believe Homer's story, and his attempts to report the alien sighting to the local police are dismissed. Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully of the FBImarker hear of the sighting and go to investigate. After receiving no results from their psychological tests of him, Homer fails to provide any proof that he actually did see an alien. Homer is ridiculed by most of the neighborhood, but Bart admits that he does believe what Homer is saying. The next Friday night, the pair camp out in the forest. The alien arrives and promises peace, but Homer scares it away when he accidentally steps on their camp fire. Fortunately, Bart captured the entire incident on tape, and Homer and Bart cheer for the evidence of the alien in their hands.

Leonard Nimoy wishes a goodnight to the viewers. He is then reminded that the show still has ten minutes left by an off-screen Squeaky Voiced Teen, at which point he runs to his car and leaves. The Squeaky Voiced Teen takes over the narrating duties.

Although Bart's tape is only three seconds long and is mostly static, everyone in town begins to believe Homer except Lisa who maintains that there is a more logical explanation. Friday comes again and everyone, including Leonard Nimoy, goes to the forest. Sure enough, the alien appears, promising love. The townspeople begin to riot, and charge at the alien. Lisa and Waylon Smithers stop them just in time, showing that the "alien" is actually Mr. Burns. Smithers explains that Burns receives longevity treatment once a week in order to cheat death for a further seven days; this leaves him twisted and disoriented. Back to his normal self, Burns reveals that his green glow is due to many years of working in a nuclear plant, and then renounces his promises of peace and love and instead says that he now intends to bring fear, famine, and pestilence, shortly before receiving another booster injection from Dr. Nick. He instantly reverts to his "alien" self; he begins to sing "Good Morning Starshine," with the entire crowd joining in. Squeaky Voiced Teen closes the episode.

Production

This episode had one of the longest episode gaps between its conception to the time it was finished. The idea was first conceived at a story retreat. Al Jean found a copy of TV Guide while in the bathroom, with The X-Files on the cover. Feeling a crossover would be a good idea he came back in to the room, told Mike Reiss his idea, and the pair pitched it. None of the other staff wanted to do it, so Reiss and Jean decided to do it themselves. Before the episode was produced the script was sent to Chris Carter, the creator of The X-Files, who said that it was an "honor" to be satirized by The Simpsons. Al Jean was worried that the episode was not funny, as at the table reading there were only a few of the writers present and as such, the script got no laughs at all. The scene after Homer's first encounter with the alien, in which he runs through a field writing "Yah!" in the grass was written by David Stern, and added in after the original read through. Mulder and Scully's office was designed to be exactly the same as the one used in The X-Files. After it had been finished, Fox sent the episode out for a critical review, which was "really great". The scene with the "Homer is a dope" t-shirts originally had an extra line: "I told you, we're sold out!", thus filling in the plot error in the actual episode in which Homer asks for some t-shirts, despite just being told that they were sold out. It took a long time to come up with an ending, and an explanation for the alien. Originally it was just going to be left as a mystery.

Cultural references

The FBI line-up, described by Mike Reiss as the "most illegal shot" in the history of the show.
Marvin the Martian, Chewbacca, ALF, Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, and one of the Kang and Kodos siblings make up the FBI line-up. The music played by the Springfield Philharmonic comes from the film Psycho. Mulder's FBI badge has a picture of himself only wearing a speedo on it; this is a reference to a scene in The X-Files in which David Duchovny wore just a speedo. In the scene where Scully gives Homer a lie detector test, the Cigarette Smoking Man is in the background. The narration sequences are based on Plan 9 from Outer Space. In the arcade scene, Milhouse plays a video game version of Kevin Costner's Waterworld; he puts 40 quarters in to the machine and is then able to work the character on a step. This is a reference to how Waterworld was a flop, despite its big budget. In one chapter title, the phrase "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" being printed out ad infinitum is a reference to The Shining. Mr. Largo, conducts five of his students in playing the famous five-note tones from Close Encounters of the Third Kind with marching band instruments. The Budweiser Frogs appear in the swamp, chanting their names, "Bud... Weis... Er." They are then eaten by an alligator who growls "Coors!"

Reception

The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, said that it was "a very clever episode, with the line-up one of the best visual gags in ages." IGN.com ranked Leonard Nimoy's performance in this episode, and "Marge vs. the Monorail", as the eleventh best guest appearance in the show's history. Total Film's Nathan Ditum ranked Duchovny and Anderson's performances as the fourth best guest appearances in the show's history. Skeptical Inquirer reviewed the episode positively, stating that "It's rare that a popular, prime-time network television show turns out to be a "slam dunk" for skeptics." Critic Chris Knight speculated that if The X-Files is one day forgotten, those who see this episode will probably still appreciate the scene with ALF, Chewbacca, and Marvin the Martian. Al Jean and Mike Reiss won an Annie Award for producing this episode.

References

  1. Chris Knight, "Keeping the spring in Springfield: The Simpsons still going strong in Season Eight," National Post, August 19, 2006, pg. TO.26.


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