Nov 11, 2020 I Nick Redfern

Alex Trebek: A Memorable-But-Brief Role as a Man in Black

You may have seen the news that Canadian game show host Alex Trebek has died from pancreatic cancer. You may also be wondering why I'm mentioning this here at Mysterious Universe. Well, I'll tell you. Mr. Trebek was one of the few people to have portrayed a Man in Black on-screen. In Trebek's case, it was in The X-Files. And, his portrayal was in the fashion of the genuine Men in Black. That's right: not the type of MIB seen in the movies (Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, of course), but the Men in Black as they really are. As most people here at Mysterious Universe will know, the MIB of the real world are clearly not "secret agents" of any kind of government at all. Indeed, there is something decidedly mysterious about them; something that suggests they are not even human. And, when they confront their victims, there's a distinct atmosphere of the unreal. It's almost as if the encounters with the MIB occur in dream-like situations. Or, maybe, "in nightmarish situations" would be far better words to use. With that all said, let's now take a look at Alex Trebek's brief role as a Man in Black.

The episode in which Trebek appeared was particularly popular with fans of The X-Files. Its title: "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'" and it was first broadcast on April 12, 1996. It's important to note that Trebek was not the only MIB in that particular episode. The other one was portrayed by none other than politician and actor Jesse Ventura. The people at Screenrant provide a great summary of how Trebek came to portray a Man in Black. It goes as follows: "During the casting process for 'Jose Chung’s From Outer Space' various celebrities were interviewed for the role Trebek eventually filled. The iconic writer Darin Morgan, who was once a featured in season 2, episode 2, 'The Host', wrote the script and set out to find the perfect actors to be the notorious men in black. Jesse Ventura was always the top choice to play one of the pair, but Morgan faced various difficulties finding someone else to work beside him. At first, he asked Salman Rushdie, but his elusive nature made the entire crew of The X-Files opposed to the casting choice. Next on the list was Johnny Cash, considering his consistent color choice of all black attire, but he was also unavailable. Following Cash, Morgan asked Steven Spielberg, but he declined as well. David Duchovny coincidentally had appeared on an episode of Celebrity Jeopardy!, so they asked Trebek. To their surprise, he accepted the role and went on to play himself in 'Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.'"

As for the plot, well, I won't spoil things if you haven't seen "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space.'" I will say, however, that it has a cool, hilarious and entertaining plot that has lots of twists and turns that suggest - wait for it - aliens may not be what they seem to be. It also plays up the angle of the Rashomon Effect " instance when the same event is described in significantly different (often contradictory) ways by different people who were involved." I could say much more, but if you haven't seen this particular episode, you are in for a treat. As for me, well, I haven't watched it for years. Maybe since the early 2000s. So, I think that tonight would be a good, appropriate time to reacquaint myself with what is without doubt one of the best episodes of The X-Files. And to remember Mr. Trebek, whose brief-but-memorable portrayal of a real Man in Black will not be forgotten.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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