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!
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!
Back to the Future
Twenty seconds from shuttle launch! And it’s that Col. Belt guy! He’s certainly been baldinating for the last 16 years.
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:
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.
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…
And then Mulder geeks out:
Mulder acts somewhat star-struck and kind of gushes at Col. Belt here.
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!
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:
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…
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.
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.
After all that, Belt heads back to his room and starts, uh, swigging vodka and taking his clothes off.
Belt chills out on the bed and then has another spacewalk flashback and then HOLY CRAP MARS FACE COLONEL!
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.
Mission control, again.
Shuttle crew: “Uh, Houston, we just heard something weird up here.”
Houston: “OTC Houston. Can you describe it?”
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.
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.
NASA Lady flips and storms out of mission control. Mulder calms her down, and they go rifling through some records:
In the mean time, the shuttle crew successfully “delivers” their “payload”, but then OMG THERE’S SOMETHING OUTSIDE THE SHIP!
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!
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.
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.
Scully points out that he was apparently totally demented. Mulder waxes a bit philosophically, and concludes that Belt killed himself for a good reason.
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.