Sunday, October 5, 2008

Agency Procedurals and Outside Help: Civilian Consultants Make the World Go 'Round

Last week on Fringe, Olivia coined a new phrase for an old institution: civilian consultant.

Upon receiving increased access to the Federal Building (and Olivia herself), Peter got himself that new title.

And I started thinking about how, when you think about it, the FBI, the CIA, and apparently the Department of Homeland Security are totally helpless without the aid of outsiders.

On literally every show I've watched about government agents, civilians have to be brought in to save the day. While I'm sure it's not altogether unrealistic, it's making the agencies look kind of weak.

Because, seriously, what would Bones's FBI do without, well, Bones?

As a civilian consultant to Booth, Dr. Brennan (and the rest of the squints) provides extraordinarily valuable forensic evidence for the Bureau's most grody crimes.

And where would The X-Files (in the late seasons and in that terrible movie) be without Mulder and, later, Scully?

Because when she was all pregnant and helpless, that dude was the only one who knew anything. And in I Want to Believe, neither of them worked for the government in any capacity. One of the federal agents was practically incompetent, and the other one got killed on the job. It took two civilian consultants to "save the day."

And apparently the CIA under Director Dixon was quite dependent upon its civilian consultants, Agents Bristow and Vaughn. After retiring to the Lost island with Jack, Kate, Scully, and Mulder (no, seriously, what is it with these people and freakin' deserted island beaches?), Sydney and Vaughn continue to moonlight as superspies every once in a while. And from the sounds of it, they're pretty much the CIA's only hope.

Isn't this the premise of Chuck, too?

Which brings us back to Peter and Olivia--the newest agent/civilian team. They've begun to charm me, little by little, and while I'm still not sold on them as a relationship, I'm definitely enjoying them as a partnership and as individuals. It's not your typical man of science/man of faith dynamic. Because neither quite understands the science, and neither has unbreakable faith in anything, really. Their dichotomy is much more complicated, rooted in dark pasts (neither of which we've even brushed the surface of yet) and strange neuroses. I'm decidedly intrigued.

So thank you, Olivia Dunham, for giving a name to something I've long been trying to find a word for. And thank you, civilian consultants, for making the United States government function properly. Sort of.

One response to “Agency Procedurals and Outside Help: Civilian Consultants Make the World Go 'Round”

mysticxf said...

LOL, it's not that the agencies are incompetent. I would say it's that a lot of civilians SHOULD be working in some capacity for these institutions, but don't -- for one reason or another.

I could go Hodgins on you with some liberal-Hollywood-hating, but I suspect I'd insult someone. ;)