Though not nearly as supernatural as its namesake, Bones Season 5, Episode 11 (“The X in the File“) concludes with a deliciously philosophical exchange.
But first, a brief plot summary:
An out-of-this-world case brings Brennan and Booth to New Mexico where they investigate human remains with extraterrestrial attributes. The victim is identified as a local UFO fanatic, known around town for her relentless search for alien life forms and whose latest “evidence” leads even Brennan and Booth to re-think outside existence. Meanwhile, a local sheriff refuses to release the bones, forcing the team at the Jeffersonian to work via satellite, and Angela and Jeffersonian intern Wendell come clean about their relationship.
After the case is wrapped up, Brennan and Booth celebrate with a little star gazing. In the middle of the desert, lounging on the hood of Booth’s car, the two wonder about the possibility that life exists on other planets:
(Brennan and Booth, alternating)
It’s ridiculous to think there’s anything on this planet which merits crossing what are literally astronomical distances.
Do you think aliens are anthropologists? Maybe they just want to study our religion, sex, love, our fine languages and line dancing.
That’s an interesting possibility I hadn’t considered.
They’re living creatures, they like to reach out, Bones.
Living creatures like to reach out and eat each other.
Oh. So what are you saying, that the aliens are going to come down here, and drink our spinal fluid?
Well, if the aliens are advanced enough to fly faster than light, then they can probably make spinal fluid.
You just said that aliens are nice.
You just basically said that aliens are nice anthropologists.
I do not think so.
You think that aliens are you!
You got me. I was sent down as an advance scout.
At first, I thought the conversation might veer towards the ethical, with Brennan arguing that the aliens – being of superior intelligence and all – would have earned the right to drink our spinal fluid. After all, this is one of the most common justifications given for our individual and institutionalized exploitation of nonhuman animals (e.g., humans are more evolved, intelligent, refined, civilized, etc. – the “top of the food chain,” “because we can” school of “thought”). Taken to its logical conclusion, this line of reasoning grants a similar license to exploit us “lesser” humans to hypothetical intelligent alien visitors.
Alas, the episode ends on a lighter note. Even so, when Brennan suggests that the aliens could – and would – develop and consume synthetic spinal fluid, and Booth implies that this would indeed be the “nice” thing to do, I can’t help but read this as a subtle plea for veganism: why harm sentient beings for sustenance when you’ve no need? Exploiting just to exploit is “not nice” at best.