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
The video quality of the series on Fox’s new Complete Seasons 1-9 Blu-ray release is actually better than I was expecting given the mixed bag that is HTV Illuminate’s past remastering work. All of the available camera negative has been scanned in HD, and the increase in color saturation, clarity, and detail – especially shadow detail, which is critical for this series for obvious reasons – is impressive. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as the job CBS Digital did on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it’s not bad (with a couple of notable exceptions, which I’ll get back to in a moment). The image looks a little bit filtered occasionally, though there’s no real egregious digital manipulation visible. There are some shots that have simply been upconverted from SD, particularly in the first four seasons – those include the opening credits, the occasional visual effects shot (some were recomposited for HD, but the original film elements couldn’t be found for all of them), the odd piece of stock footage for which no HD version exists, and a small number of other shots for which the camera negative couldn’t be located. Though I could wish the all the effects had been re-rendered for higher resolution, this show seldom reveals its secrets in genuine clarity, so the fact that some of those VFX reveals remain of lower quality doesn’t really damage the viewing experience. Meanwhile, the overall resolution, color, and clarity improvements are welcome indeed, in spite of the odd distraction. Frankly, the most irritating aspect of this remastering effort is that the original fonts used in the series (for the title credits and location cards) have been changed. They’re very close to the original font, but clearly not the same, and there’s no good reason for it. Here’s what the changed font looks like (in a comparision image posted here online by Brandon Klassen and circulated online)...
[Editor’s Note: According to this interview with Jim Hardy of Illuminate, there was in fact no good reason for it. HTV Illuminate simply couldn’t find the right font, and didn’t bother digging deep enough at Fox to get it. We’ve also learned that two of the series’ episodes, 4D and Redux are missing their correct opening credit taglines, and that Chris Carter’s credit is missing from Triangle.]
Much has been made of the fact that the first four seasons have been reformatted to 1.78:1 widescreen from their original full frame broadcast presentation. While Chris Carter was not directly involved in this reformatting, he has publically stated that he has no problem with the decision. The pilot aside, all episodes from the first four seasons were at least protected for widescreen, as confirmed cinematographer John Bartley. Having watched very many (though to be fair not yet all) of these episodes now on Blu-ray, I actually think the series (mostly) benefits from the widescreen reformatting, though there are a few exceptions. There are a couple cases where opening the frame unintentionally reveals things not intended to be seen. An example of this is the Season 2 episode Die Hand Die Verletzt. At about 24:05, there’s a side shot of Mrs. Paddock and her student in the classroom where you can see a bit of a light stand and a crewmember on the far left side of the frame. Another example is the Season 3 episode Piper Maru: 43 seconds into the episode, there’s a shot of divers jumping off the back of a ship into the ocean – the ship is supposed to be way out at sea, but you can briefly see a part of the harbor they shot the scene in just to the left of the frame. Such moments are generally very quick – often so much so that many will not notice them during casual viewing – but they do happen occasionally. These issues could have been fixed digitally, but weren’t, which is a puzzle. In any case, these aren’t the kind of issues likely to warrant a Blu-ray recall and fix, so don’t expect one. Moreover, as the original broadcast presentation of the first four seasons was in 1.33:1 SD, if you prefer to watch those episodes that way, the simple solution (and my recommendation) is that you keep your existing DVD sets on hand.
What probably should be fixed by Fox is a video quality issue that appears to impact all of the Season 8 episodes – an issue that seems to stem from a mistake in the Blu-ray production process itself. The issue is that all the black levels in these episodes appear to be crushed, probably due to the black levels being improperly set. There’s very little detail visible in shadows and darker areas of the frame, which isn’t true of the entire rest of the series. [Editor’s Note: I’ve contacted 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and it does appear that this is a mistake they intend to correct – see the end of this review for exchange program details.]
As far as audio quality, the Blu-rays present their sound in a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that offers excellent clarity and dynamic range, nice bass reinforcement, and good and nicely evocative surround sound immersion – particularly involving paranormal activity within the episode. There’s no complaints on the audio score whatsoever. These episodes certainly sound better on Blu-ray than they ever have previously. Note that also included are 1.0 French DTS-HD MA on Season 2 (9 episodes only – due to the way the show was syndicated), French 2.0 DTS Surround on Seasons 1-9 (16 episodes of Season 2 only), Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround on Seasons 1-9 (all episodes), and English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles (on all episodes).
Moving on to the extras, let’s talk first about what this set does and doesn’t include. Fans of this series, especially those who already own the previous DVDs, will be pleased to know that nearly all of those extras have carried over to the new Blu-ray editions – not just the individual season set extras, but those on the later Threads of Mythology DVD sets, and even most of The X-Files: Revelations promo DVD content too (the latter was released in 2008 to promote the second theatrical film).
The Blu-rays obviously do not include the DVD-ROM extras from the full season DVD sets, which included 9 PC-based interactive games (they are: Roots of Conspiracy, Unholy Alliance, Mere Words, Urbs Tertia, Earthbound, Dreamland, Maitreya 2.0, Existence, and The Truth). And while they do include all the deleted scenes from each episode (in upconverted SD), it’s worth noting that they do not include the ability to watch those deleted scenes within the context of each episode, as some of the early the DVD sets did. Also missing from the previous DVDs are an X-Files PS2 game preview (from the Season 7 DVD set), and the “WonderCon” trailer for The X-Files: I Want to Believe feature film and X-Files “series” trailer from the X-Files: Revelations promo DVD. There were also promos for 24: Season 5 (on the Threads of Mythology DVD sets), but those don’t really count.
While there’s no content here that’s truly new, created just for this set, the extras that do carry over from the Threads of Mythology and Revelations discs will be new to many of you, especially if all you own are the individual season sets. I do wish the Gag Reels for each season had been included, but it’s not surprising that they weren’t. (These have never been available officially, but you can easily find them all on YouTube if you want to see them.) In any case, there is a great deal of bonus content available here – more than 23 hours worth in all. So let’s break the BD extras down season by season…
The Complete Season 1 is a 6-disc set that includes all 24 episodes, plus audio commentary on Deep Throat by Chris Carter, audio commentary on The Erlenmeyer Flask by R.W. Goodwin, a Series Introduction clip with Frank Spotnitz, introductions by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz (for the Pilot and Beyond the Sea), 12 Chris Carter Talks About Season 1 clips (including Pilot, Deep Throat, Squeeze, Conduit, Ice, Fallen Angel, Eve, Beyond the Sea, E.B.E., Darkness Falls, Tooms, and The Erlenmeyer Flask), deleted scenes (2 from Pilot), international clips (4 from Pilot, 3 from The Jersey Devil, 3 from Ice, 2 from Space, 3 from Fire, 4 from Beyond the Sea, 4 from E.B.E., 4 from Tooms, and 2 from The Erlenmeyer Flask), special effects clips (1 from Fallen Angel), the featurette The Truth About Season 1 (11:05), 12 FX: Behind the Truth clips (Fox Mulder, Deep Throat, Squeeze and Tooms, Theme, Toby Lindala, Lone Gunmen, Ice, Beyond the Sea, Prop Truck, Dana Scully, Mulder’s Office, and The Erlenmeyer Flask), and 47 TV spots (a :60 for Pilot, plus :10 & :20 for the rest of the episodes).
The Complete Season 2 is a 7-disc set that includes all 25 episodes, plus audio commentary on Duane Barry by Chris Carter, audio commentary on End Game by Frank Spotnitz, audio commentary on Anasazi by R.W. Goodwin, introduction by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz (for The Host), 12 Chris Carter Talks About Season 2 clips (including Little Green Men, The Host, Sleepless, Duane Barry, Ascension, One Breath, Irresistible, Die Hand die Verletzt, Colony, End Game, Humbug, and Anasazi), deleted scenes (1 from Sleepless with commentary by Paul Rabwin, 1 from 3, 1 from Humbug, 1 from Anasazi), international clips (4 from Duane Barry, 4 from One Breath, 4 from Irresistible, 4 from Humbug, and 3 from Anasazi), behind-the-scenes clips (End Game: Building the Conning Tower with commentary by Chris Carter, Humbug: Gillian Eats a Cricket, and Anasazi), the featurette The Truth About Season 2 (14:32), 9 FX: Behind the Truth clips (Bounty Hunter, Tom Braidwood, Duane Barry, Flukeman, Cigarette-Smoking Man, Die Hand die Verletzt, X, Humbug, and Our Town), and 49 TV spots (a :20 for Anasazi, plus :10 & :20 for the rest of the episodes).