When we look back on our youth it is usually through rose-tinted glasses. Our favourite cartoon (He-Man for me), most treasured toy (my ZX Spectrum 48k), first ever holiday (Menorca) … these are just three things that brought me great joy at the time but if I were able to go back to them now (which I have with the first two) it wouldn’t be the same.
And so it was with much trepidation that I recently revisited The X-Files. Having grown up through my teens watching this show during the 90s I remember falling in love with the unfolding government conspiracies as Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder searched for the truth about extra-terrestrial life.
This was a genre-defining TV show of its time. Nothing had really been attempted on this scale before and in such a serious manner. The wonderful make-up effects, the dark and moody settings, the expensive visual effects, the gripping story arcs and most wonderful of all – the chemistry between our two lead characters.
Ofcourse, with a series that lasted approximately 10 years I eventually lost touch with the show, whether it be because I had moved from high school to college or the decision by the BBC to constantly change the weekly airing date . In fact, I believe it was from season 5 onwards that I stopped religiously watching it on a weekly basis – although I did dip in from time to time.
So, having recently completed The Sopranos box set, I decided to turn my attentions to something more sci-fi related. Nine seasons (and around 22 episodes each) seemed a lot at the time but I have to say, things turned out better than I thought they would.
First of all, I recall being terribly confused by the ongoing efforts of Mulder and Scully to uncover the truth about ETs. Constantly thwarted by the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B Davis) and Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea), things became very convoluted as you waited weeks between conspiracy episodes and by then you had pretty much forgotten some of the more intricate details revealed in the previous mythology episode.
However, watching the episodes back to back in 2013, I have to say that creator Chris Carter pulled it off wonderfully. Yes, it still has a few plot holes and inconsistencies, but on the whole the conspiracy episodes (including the first feature film Fight the Future – which takes place between seasons 5 and 6) are brilliant. While not every avenue is tied up in a little bow the way I like it, the majority of the many questions asked are eventually revealed (especially in the final episode The Truth).
The X-Files was famous for some of its stand alone episodes and quite rightly too. I particularly love Squeeze from season 1 (a businessman is found dead in his office and the only way in or out of the crime scene is through tiny spaces no normal man could fit through), X-Cops from season 7 (the investigation of a neighborhood monster isn’t too weird for the crew of Cops who follow around Mulder and Scully) and Sunshine Days from season 9 (Reyes and Doggett investigate two murders revolving around a house that is, at some points in time, identical to the Brady Bunch house).
As mentioned beforehand, one of the strengths of the show was the two leads. Anderson and Duchnovy are easily the heart and soul of The X-Files. One of the smart things that Chris Carter did was ensure that the character of Scully was smart as well as sexy but not in a bimbo way. On top of this, he ramped up the tension by ensuring that neither character get sexually involved with each other – well, not in a predictable way.
Another major decision that gave the show real strength was the two opposing sides that each lead character takes. Mulder is the ‘believer’ while Scully, who is brought onto the X-Files to debunk his work, is the ‘sceptic’. While this would eventually turn about face when Duchnovy left, some of the best dialogue was when these two are at loggerheads over a case – perhaps through the world of science in Scully’s case.
Anderson herself was a mere novice when she started on the show and it can be seen in some of the earliest episodes but as things go on she easily matches the more experienced Duchnovy. As for Agent Mulder, here is a man that all us nerds would love to be. Chasing UFOs across the planet, with a gorgeous side-kick sometimes questioning, but usually supporting, his every move. Duchovny is the central vocal point of the series and when he eventually left to pursue other acting avenues (I’ll not tell you when he goes in case you haven’t watched it) it certainly left a large gap.
But his eventually replacement, Robert Patrick, has to be praised for taking on the lead role for a series already established but as a character the total opposite of Mulder.
John Doggett arrives as a standard everyday cop. He’ll only believe what he sees and refuses, intially, to even contemplate anything to do with the word ‘paranormal’. Add to this a wonderfully emotional undercurrent involving his dead son and you have a real depth to the new man who proves his worth despite the inevitable backlash from hardcore fans.
Alongside Doggett is Monica Reyes, played by Annabeth Gish. She’s a character who is much like Mulder – open to possibilites. As an agent specialising in ritual/cult murders, she has links to her eventual new X-Files partner having been assigned to the murder case of Doggett’s son. Perhaps the weakest of the main characters, Gish still brings a lot to the table but would have benefitted from a further series or two to flesh out her back story.
So there you have it. The X-Files is still loved throughout the world (we’re awaiting a third and possibly final feature film as I type this) and is a sci-fi/paranormal TV series that has been copied but never bettered in my opinion. I have to say that I’m really sad to have finished the nine seasons – I definitely feel it could have gone on for a further few with Reyes and Doggett in charge – and for the first time since starting my recent television marathons I really want to go back to season one and start again.
For anyone out there who hasn’t seen it, please do. This is a series that ticks every nerd box. I’m now planning on watching the second feature film, I Want To Believe. Having enjoyed it the first time around I’m hoping I’ll appreciate it even more having completed all nine seasons.
Remember, the truth is out there.
4.5 nerds out of 5