Ground Control to Major Fox

1×08 Space

Episode summary:
A NASA staffer contacts Mulder and Scully with concerns about sabotage on a current shuttle mission. They look into it, with Mulder taking plenty of time on the side to regress to being a twelve-year-old astronautics nerd. In the end, the shuttle is safe, but the troubled Colonel Marc Belt dies in what might be an act of extra-terrestrial foul play — or courageous sacrifice. Either way, he jumps out a window and Mulder loses some innocence.

Space, back in the day

WXDL News 11 is on the scene where all the hip kids are– at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in 1977! They’ve got photos of Mars! Proof of water! Martian face! Film at 11!

I think you’ve got a little bit of Mars on your face there

And then the implausibly named Lt. Col. Marcus Aurelius Belt has a bad dream (or memory?) about being in space. And he wakes up and stares up at the ceiling and suddenly he gets bumrushed by THAT MARS FACE!

This is basically like that email where it’s all “watch this video, something creepy happens” and then a zombie jumps out at you and he’s all like “AAAAAUUGHHH!” and you’re all like “AAAAAUUUUGHHH!” and that’s just like this.
It’s like, thanks for the neat email, MOM.

Back to the Future

Behold: stock NASA footage of shuttle launches.
Yeah, that’s funny. You’d think that Chris Carter would have plenty of his own shuttle launch footage from recruiting all those alien actors that they need for later seasons. Maybe nobody thought to film them?

Twenty seconds from shuttle launch! And it’s that Col. Belt guy! He’s certainly been baldinating for the last 16 years.

Hair today…

…gone tomorrow.

The shuttle launch gets aborted three seconds from liftoff! And…that’s basically the whole scene.


Two weeks later

Mulder and Scully, sitting on some steps. Mulder is chewin’ on sunflower seeds, and man is his hair kind of complicated this episode. Check it out:

Like a mobius strip
Notably complex. Long and fluffy. Sculpted, in a way that suggests one spent time in grooming one’s self.
It’s got like a wave in front AND a part on the side.
Do you think he sleeps with a hairnet on?
Maybe he’s a superhero. He’s like, Hairguy! Bitten by a radioactive toupee, he has the coiffure of ten ordinary men.

Anyway, they’re chilling on the steps waiting for a secret hookup with an unidentified person — who turns out to be a lady from the Houston Space Center. The, like, flight communications chief for the shuttle mission. She thinks there was…SABOTAGE.

Errm… What?

Also, NASA lady is engaged to the shuttle commander, and there’s another launch window tomorrow, and she doesn’t want him to blow up. Drama!

Jump to: Mulder and Scully riding a little NASA cart while Mulder philosophizes on the political socioeconomics of the space program. As well as conspiracies regarding the hiding of evidence of…

Oh, do it, Mulder. Say it.
Alien civilizations.
FUCK yes.

Mulder and Josh are high-fiving so hard right now.

Fashion moment:

But does it… suit her?
What’s black and white and red all over?
Goth Scully wearing that suit.

And then Mulder geeks out:

Oh wow, look at that. Gemini VIII.
The man we’re gonna see, Col. Marcus Aurelius Belt, nearly died on that mission! Had to make an emergency landing, right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
You remember all that stuff?
You never wanted to be an astronaut when you were a kid, Scully?
Guess I missed that phase.
She also missed the ninja phase, but her pirate phase was unusually long.
So, in reality, the actual Gemini VIII was an alarming and eventful mission. They accomplished the world’s first orbital docking, using an Agena Target Vehicle. Due to a thruster malfunction, the spacecraft started to roll continuously, reaching a rate of one revolution per second. The crew would black out if they didn’t stop the spin- so they had to activate the re-entry control system and return to earth.
If they hadn’t been forced to return to earth after the docking, Pilot David Scott would have gone on a lengthy space-walk. Perhaps this would have been when he would have had a close encounter with Mars Face.

Belt Time

Mulder acts somewhat star-struck and kind of gushes at Col. Belt here.

He’s twitchy and excited. Aw.

APU valve.
Thank you, name-check again!

The agents ask about SABOTAGE, and the Col. kind of grumps about the whole thing, and Mulder asks if they can watch the launch from Mission Control. And then Scully makes fun of him.

They check with some NASA geeks, who agree that the Apu Unit is all scored and shit and really this part is pretty boring as intrigue goes. Command summary: NOTHING COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG.

T minus, take II

A minute and a half from launch. A whole bunch of NASA launch talk proceeds, and then…stock footage of a successful shuttle launch! Clapping! Mulder giving all kinds of thumbs up action!

Scully: “Whatever. Space is dumb.”
I have to admit, that fulfilled ONE of my boyhood fantasies.
The other one is Ever Seeing His Sister Again OMG.
I mean, actually, it’s kind of sad. Do you think that poor girl is ok?
Yeah, it ranks right up there with getting a pony and learning to braid my own hair.
Jeez, Scully, have a little empathy.

Then NASA lady chases down the agents in their hotel and tells them something went wrong and they have to go back to the Houston Space Center.

Unmysterious interference makes the radio not interesting on the drive back to Houston.

And it’s hella rainy. Like crazy rainy. Look at this:

nutso rain
If this is what you see in front of your car, DON’T DRIVE.

And then, out of the impossible-to-see rain, comes the Ghost of Unhappy Mars to eat NASA lady’s face and she crashes her car and flips it. But she lives! Mulder drags her out of the wreck, she tells him that “something came at” her, it “had a face, it was grotesque”–


Once more unto the Houston, my friends, once more

Something is preventing ground control from telemetryizing the telemetry of the shuttle! Our agents and the NASA lady head for “the databanks” to check it out. Somebody runs by, but we don’t see who! The lights go out! It’s…

OMG a nerd with a clipboard!
You would think with that based on their prior experiences, Mulder and Scully would consider the possibility that this is the fault of a rogue AI!
Or maybe Tooms. Maybe he thinks IBM mainframes have livers.
Big Blue? More like Big Bile, amirite?

More space drama. Abort the mission, or cut telemetry and go to fly-by-wire? Will the future Mr. NASA Lady die up in space?

No, he won’t!

With the day saved, Col. Belt goes to the bathroom to stare creepily at himself in the mirror.

You talkin’ to me?

And then he gives a press conference wherein he doesn’t tell the press that shit got fucked up. And that BREAKS Mulder’s goddam HEART. He chases the Col. down a hallway to get some answers.

You wanna know why I lied to them. You’re asking yourself if this means I’d lie to you.
[boyish nod]
You know what it means to be an astronaut, sir?
You get to fly in space!
You get to eat weird ice cream!
You risk your life every time you get into your spacecraft. For nothing more than the good progress of mankind.
You’ve got no argument from me sir. You’re true American heroes.
Heroes! We used to make headlines when we did our job right. Now they bury them at the back of the paper. Name me two astronauts in the last shuttle mission. You make the front page today only when you screw up. They only know your name if you’re the unlucky SOB sitting on five hundred tons of dynamite.
I like that Mulder distrusts like every branch of the government except for NASA.

After all that, Belt heads back to his room and starts, uh, swigging vodka and taking his clothes off.

mutter mutter cold war vodka NASA ruskie conspiracy

Belt chills out on the bed and then has another spacewalk flashback and then HOLY CRAP MARS FACE COLONEL!

fucking shit

And then like this Mars Face aura ghost thing comes out of his body and flies out the window into the Houston night and flies up and away. Which is pretty weird.

This man isn’t right. Maybe he has too many thetans. He should see his chiropractor.
I’d like to point out that he had a pretty hard day and also just drank half a bottle of vodka in like one minute. Grain of salt.

Mission control, again.

Shuttle crew: “Uh, Houston, we just heard something weird up here.”
Houston: “OTC Houston. Can you describe it?”

“It was sort of a farting noise.”
“Holy god, Charlie, was that you?”
“Never mind, Ground Control.”
“Too many space burritos.”

Actually, it was a dull thump, like something hitting the ship. And then it happened again. Shucks, there’s an oxygen leak on the orbiter! The exact same thing happened to Belt on an Apollo mission! And where the hell is Col. Belt? Our heroes go to find him.

He is in his hotel room.

That was the least exciting possible resolution to that situation.

Anyway, Belt shows up and tells the shuttle team to get in their space suits and do some clever stuff with their oxygen and then FINISH THE MISSION AND DIE IN THE COLD BLACKNESS OF SPACE.

You’d think he’d need to discuss that kind of decision with someone.

That magic Mulder touchin’

NASA Lady flips and storms out of mission control. Mulder calms her down, and they go rifling through some records:

I like the “MONKEYS.DOC”
Also the Quebecoise project, “VOYAGEUR.DOC”

In the mean time, the shuttle crew successfully “delivers” their “payload”, but then OMG THERE’S SOMETHING OUTSIDE THE SHIP!

There’s…something…on the wing!

It’s that freakin’ ghost thing that was inside of the Col. Belt hears this and starts just totally screaming. And I quote:


Back in the library again, like we did last summer

Scully finds some dirt: the same Apu analysis thingy that started this whole thing off — and it was ordered by Col. Belt! Belt also knew about the Challenger! Holy cupcakes!

under teh desk

They find Belt totally freaking out underneath his desk. So Mulder, like, hypnotizes him, and Belt points out (a) that the shuttle won’t survive re-entry and (b) that it’s Their fault, for some unspecified but Mars-Face-Aliens-seeming value of They.

Hugs from Mulder

The Face comes back and takes over Belt’s face for a minute and apparently everybody can see it because NASA Lady IDs it from the car crash. And then Belt pretty much dies but then doesn’t quite after all. Mulder gets a how-to-not-destroy-the-shuttle pointer from hospital-bound Col. Belt (“Change the re-entry trajectory to 35 degrees!”) and they all start yelling about the weather in Albequerque.

Such drama. Will they land? Did they get the frantic message? Are they going to Albequerque?

Yes! Yes! And yes! Time for more hugging and clapping. You get the feeling that these NASA people are very huggy.

You know, there are many moments of casual physical intimacy between Mulder and NASA Lady in this episode.
But not between NASA Lady and Scully. But maybe Mulder is just in the right place at the right time.
I think he’s doing it on purpose. I think he’s calculating.
Mulder’s a player.
Maybe they share the Bond of Space.
Scully didn’t want to be an astronaut, so she gets no space-hugs?


NASA Lady gives a press conference where SHE lies about the mission. Col. Belt watches form his hospital bed, and then has another MARS GHOST FACE attack and freaks out and then throws his damn self out a window.


And he has a flashback to his space walk while he falls to his death on the street below. Mulder is understandably bummed.

Something had possessed him. Something he must have seen out there in space.

Scully points out that he was apparently totally demented. Mulder waxes a bit philosophically, and concludes that Belt killed himself for a good reason.

But it’s a ghost that can leave his body and go other places. Won’t it just infect another astronaut?
That does seem like a problem.
Oh hey, would you say it’s a… Space Ghost?

And then they bury him at a nice military funeral. We close on…a closeup of the white-against-blue stars of the American flag on the coffin.



  1. Ashley Said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

    Yay!! This was my favorite:

    Scully: “Whatever. Space is dumb.”

    It made me spit chocolate milk all over my computer at work. You’d think I’d learn not to eat or drink while reading these, but no.

  2. That's what she Said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 9:10 am

    this episode was horrible…great commentary

  3. Calraigh Said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 9:34 am

    I may love you most of all Space episode…

    Seriously, this just keeps getting better. I never noticed the quantum of weirdness that was Mulder’s hairdo in this episode. ” Like a mobius strip ” HQHAHAHAHAHA. WHAT the hell was going on with that do?!

    Also, fancy a threesome? Because I’m fairly sure I’m in love you both at the moment. Keep it up, only DO IT QUICKER.

    2 weeks ’til the movie. 2 FREAKIN’ WEEKS!!!

  4. Chel Said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 9:54 am

    And then Scully makes fun of him. When does she *not* make fun of him? ‘Course, in her defense, he is pretty easy to make fun of.


  5. Calraigh Said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 10:29 am

    Why does my previous comment make me look completely illiterate? Because the power of my love for you both made my brain temporarily cease functioning. Just thought I’d share that scintillating piece of information with you. (See? I can’t be retarded, I used the word, ” scintillating.” )

    Also, that ” under teh desk ” screengrab is the stuff of utter genius. Right, I’ll lback away now.

    / scary,blog-stalkery commenting.

  6. Leigh Ann Said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 11:31 am

    I always loved watching this episode, just so that I can repeatedly yell “THE FACE IS ANGRY”.

    Incidentally, this also works when watching anything with Edward James Olmos in it.

  7. Joel Said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

    I was waiting for you to make the connection with the terrible secret of space.

    Do you have stairs in your episode?

  8. dbl Said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

    “thetans”, “chiropractor” …. hehehehe

  9. danascullyfbi Said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 8:20 pm

    You forgot to mention that Scully screams for someone to call a doctor when Belt wigs out. IMHO one of the funniest things from this ep!

  10. Izzie Said,

    July 14, 2008 @ 10:43 am

    I have to admit, that fulfilled ONE of my boyhood fantasies.-Mulder
    The other one is Ever Seeing His Sister Again OMG. – Angela

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. So wrong (and yet so right).

    This site is like Mystery Science Theater for my favoritest show ever.

  11. It's Raining Florence Henderson Said,

    July 14, 2008 @ 12:43 pm

    Ernest Goes to Space Camp.

  12. Heather Said,

    July 18, 2008 @ 11:08 pm

    I loved the slight references to The Simpsons and The Twilight Zone. I’ve also realized that reading these aloud is even funnier than reading them silently. Especially the picture captions. I LOVED “Oopsie-daisy,” “Are you talkin’ to me,” and “Mulder and Josh are high-fiving so hard right now”.

    You guys continuously make me exceedingly happy.

  13. Esmeralda Said,

    July 22, 2008 @ 11:18 am

    I am so glad you guys sent me this link to this.
    My life would be an empty black void without these works of genius.

    I hate finishing one, because then I have nothing left.

  14. Elsa Said,

    July 23, 2008 @ 8:38 am

    [This comment is a tangent from the episode discussed here, so just pretend I'm whispering this, okay?]

    The Fella and I have been watching the whole series in order, too. We’re a bit ahead of you, and I have good news to report from the road ahead. In the middle of the third season, we turned to each other and said with dawning awe, “Hey. Every episode on this disc was really good. We got through a whole disc with no suck. Wow.”

    The no-suck is out there.

  15. The Proprietors Said,

    July 27, 2008 @ 8:15 pm

    [Angela] I have confidence I can find the suck in any episode! Also, I hope this doesn’t change anybody’s opinion of what we do, but in January through March-Aprilish we watched the entire series- so we’re pretty fresh on what’s out there. (Spoiler Alert: It’s The Truth that is out there.) There certainly are episodes with minimal suck- but sometimes watching them can make me nostalgic for the higher suck-ratio.

  16. Chel Said,

    August 1, 2008 @ 3:05 pm

    Heather–I caught the Twilight Zone reference. I expected them to pan to the wing and show someone on it XD It was a well-received reference though, on my end.

  17. sunburnfreezerburn Said,

    October 30, 2008 @ 10:24 am

    LMFAO!!! Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.

    I am loving your blog. Just found out about it yesterday and was kind of worried you may have gotten tired or something. I noticed there are no recent updates.

  18. Dawn Said,

    June 4, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

    I must agree with Ashley and say that the “Whatever. Space is dumb.” caption was, well, HILARIOUS. Y’all rock.

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