DirectorChris Carter, Rob Bowman, Kim Manners, various
Release Date(s)1993-2002 (December 8, 2015)
Studio(s)Ten Thirteen/20th Century Fox Television (Fox Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A-
- Overall Grade: B
[Editor’s Note: This is a multi-page review. Be sure to continue through to Page 3 to read the entire text.]
Created and developed by writer/producer Chris Carter as an homage to older suspense series like The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker, FOX’s The X-Files follows a pair of FBI agents as they attempt to investigate the agency’s unsolved cases, which typically involve unexplained or paranormal phenomena. The lead agent, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), is a brilliant criminal profiler who’s developed an obsession with these cases because of his personal history: His little sister, Samantha, disappeared when they were children –
Mulder remembers the traumatic incident as an alien abduction. His new partner, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), is a medical doctor and scientist assigned to him in part to debunk his investigations. But though she retains her skepticism, Mulder soon convinces Scully that there is indeed something worth investigating in these X-Files. And as the evidence mounts, Scully begins to suspect that their government superiors are using her to assist in their cover up of something far more sinister.
The X-Files became the fledgling FOX Network’s first true breakout series hit, and its first to break the Nielsen Top 20. It’s worth noting however, that the series really took two or three seasons to catch on with audiences. One wonders if today’s FOX Network would have had the patience to stick by it, given their history of abandoning promising sci-fi and genre series (think Almost Human, Space: Above and Beyond, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Firefly, Dark Angel, Dollhouse, Fringe, the X-Files spin-offs Millennium and The Lone Gunmen, Harsh Realm, and many others). In fact, it wasn’t until a Season 2 story line involving Scully’s mysterious disappearance that the series really took hold with audiences, becoming that rarest of all TV animals – a Friday night “cult” hit that crossed over into mainstream, must-see TV viewing. The series featured a mix of standalone “monster of the week” stories interlaced with so-called “mythology” episodes that advanced the larger government/extraterrestrial conspiracy plotline. The monster stories were a bit of a mixed bag, though there are some genuinely creepy entries. And while the mythology suffered from the fact that Chris Carter and his team really hadn’t planned its overarching story arc well from the start (which meant essentially that they were usually winging it, and sometimes contradicting themselves in the process), these were the stories that really grabbed the audience’s attention.
The X-Files would ultimately be nominated for 62 Emmy Awards (winning 16) and 12 Golden Globes (with 5 wins). It also took home a Peabody Award, and went on to influence many other series (think Dark Skies, Fringe, Torchwood, Bones, Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sleepy Hollow, and others). Many of the series’ writers and producers went on to other well-received series too. For example, Vince Gilligan would eventually create Breaking Bad. Glen Morgan and James Wong produced and wrote Final Destination, and created Space: Above and Beyond. And Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa went on to write and produce many episodes of 24 and Homeland. The series also featured a host of terrific regulars and guest stars, including Mitch Pileggi, Robert Patrick, Annabeth Gish, Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, William B. Davis, Cary Elwes, Adam Baldwin, Bryan Cranston, Ed Asner, Peter Boyle, Bruce Campbell, Veronica Cartwright, William Devane, Garret Dillahunt, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, Jodie Foster, Seth Green, Kathy Griffin, Lance Henricksen, James Hong, Felicity Huffman, Shia LeBeof, Lucy Lawless, Jane Lynch, Darren McGavin, Charles Nelson Reilly, Burt Reynolds, Ryan Reynolds, Giovanni Ribisi, Mimi Rogers, Tony Shalhoub, Lili Taylor, Lily Tomlin, Alex Trebek, Danny Trejo, Jesse Ventura, M. Emmet Walsh, and Bradley Whitford among others.
There are far too many great episodes of this series, in my opinion, for me to highlight each of them, so what I’ll do instead is offer you the teaser blurbs for each season that Fox included in the booklet for The Complete Series DVD box set (minor spoiler warnings apply for each)…
Season 1 – So begins The X-Files’ first season and a partnership that will test, and ultimately stretch, the boundaries of trust, faith and belief. Two agents from vastly different backgrounds join forces to solve cases the FBI has labeled X-Files. Both are determined to uncover hidden truths – one searching for otherworldly answers, the other for more earthbound scientific explanations. Together they will make discoveries neither could have ever imagined.
Season 2 – As the second season begins, The X-Files have been shut down and Mulder and Scully are separated. Scully finds herself teaching classes at the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia, while Mulder is assigned to surveillance duty. With agent Alex Krycek as his new partner, and the mysterious X as his new source of information, Mulder struggles to keep his search for the truth alive. But ironically, it is Scully who experiences the close encounter Mulder has longed for, taking a journey that will ultimately bring the two agents back together, forging a bond that will make them closer than ever before.
Season 3 – As the third season begins, Mulder is missing and assumed dead… although Scully experiences a vision in which he is still alive. Yet even as they are reunited, each must deal with an additional personal loss, tragedies that ultimately serve to strengthen their connection to each other. And they soon find themselves depending on that strength as familiar foes resurface and preconceived notions are shattered.
Season 4 – “Everything Dies.” The prophetic words of the alien Bounty Hunter resonate throughout the fourth season, beginning with the near death of Mulder’s mother and the murder of the mysterious X. The return of Alex Krycek and the alien black oil are overshadowed by Scully’s cancer. Then the tragic reappearance of Max Fening leads to the death of a fellow FBI agent. Yet even as these events strengthen Mulder’s belief in a growing conspiracy, a startling truth revealed to Scully plunges him into a crisis of faith which could prove his ultimate undoing.
Season 5 – Even as Scully’s genetically altered DNA brings her closer to the brink of death, government agent Michael Kritschgau helps Mulder in the search for a cure, partly to atone for his own involvement with perpetrating the alien hoax. Scully’s DNA comes into play once again when she discovers she is the mother of a little girl named Emily, an incident that could only be related to her abduction years earlier. But in the end it is a young boy named Gibson Praise whose body may contain genetic proof of man’s relationship to an alien race and who may hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the X-Files.
Season 6 – Agents Mulder and Scully return from Antarctica to find their story of the deadly virus, alien spaceship, and subsequent escape disbelieved and their positions in the X-Files taken over by Jeffrey Spender and Diana Fowley. Although forced to work apart, the agents continue to secretly investigate information that passes through the X-Files office or comes to them clandestinely. Only after Cassandra Spender returns saying that the aliens are about to colonize Earth are Mulder and Scully reinstated to the X-Files. Then, an extraterrestrial artifact is found off the coast of Africa, an artifact which may hold the key to the very origins of life on Earth – and which has a devastating effect on Mulder.
Season 7 – As Mulder lies in a neurological unit, his brain under attack by a deadly onslaught of electrical impulses, Scully struggles to decipher strange symbols covering a spacecraft found submerged off West Africa’s Ivory Coast. But the connection between these two phenomena is just the first of many challenges the agents are destined to confront. For they are about to enter a time of closure and a time of new beginnings. For Mulder there is the death of his mother and Diana Fowley, and the end of his search for his abducted sister, Samantha. For Scully it is a time to face her own personal demons, among them the return of death fetishist Donnie Pfaster. Yet just as Scully faces the ultimate new beginning, her worst nightmare occurs – the abduction of Mulder.
Season 8 – After Mulder’s disappearance, Scully returns to FBI headquarters to find Special Agent John Doggett heading up an FBI manhunt for her partner. Knowing that type of search will prove futile, Scully and Skinner turn to the Lone Gunmen in hopes of uncovering information about additional UFO activity around the time of Mulder’s disappearance. Although such information leads them to Gibson Praise, the man with Gibson, a man who appears to be Mulder, is in fact an alien bounty hunter. Finally realizing that Mulder will not be found so easily, Agent Doggett is officially assigned to the X-Files. Now, after all she has been through with Mulder, it is Scully who is “the believer” and who must find a way to work with “the skeptic,” John Doggett.
Season 9 – Aware his presence only puts Scully and William in jeopardy, Mulder once again disappears – but at least this time it is his own choice. A frustrated Agent Doggett tries to find Mulder so he can proceed with his investigation against Deputy Director Kersh, but Scully and Skinner finally convince him to drop his case. Yet even as Scully helps Agent Doggett and Agent Reyes on some of their cases, she realizes William is still in danger. When she learns a religious cult wants her son dead, she turns to the Lone Gunmen. But even they cannot prevent William from being kidnapped, a fact which forces Scully to make a painful decision. Yet even in her darkest hour, she receives word that Mulder has been found – and is being held in a military brig for the murder of a man who cannot die.
It’s worth noting here that there are two X-Files feature films, available on Blu-ray separately – The X-Files: Fight the Future and The X-Files: I Want to Believe. We’ve reviewed them previously on The Bits here and here. To maintain the proper chronology, the first feature film – The X-Files: Fight the Future – should be viewed after watching Season 5 and before starting Season 6. The second feature film – The X-Files: I Want to Believe – should be viewed after watching Season 9 and before the upcoming Season 10. You can purchase them here…