Saturday Cinema ~ The X-Files

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 History

The X-Files premiered in the fall of 1993. I was a brand-spanking-new college freshman that year and had, luckily, fell in with a group of fellow speculative fiction fans. To show my utter geekiness, I have fond memories of a Friday night ritual that included a Target/Super Saver run, take-out food, and watching The X-Files and whatever unfortunate show was in the death slot before it. When I moved out of the dorms (with their free basic cable) in 1997, I lost track of most TV shows. Seriously, Lincoln, NE has many great things, but its over-the-air TV reception was utter crap. When I could afford cable again, a couple seasons later, I was totally lost. The over-arching “mythology” of X-Files had gotten the best of me.

In mid-November 2015, I had the chance to binge the series via a free month of Amazon Prime. With the mini-series coming in January, I thought I’d try to get a little caught up.

Thexfiles.jpg
Thexfiles” Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Observations

  • I didn’t watch every episode. After two seasons, I started watching mythology episodes and what are considered the best of the series. I didn’t make it very far into season 9.
  • I think that X-Files was important to TV by bringing in the concept of over-arching plots to series television. Unfortunately, I don’t think the mythology episodes are very good. By season 9, things have gone in very odd directions.
  • I don’t watch a lot of television, but I don’t know of many shows that are brave enough to regularly do out-of-the-ordinary episodes. A lot of the crime dramas I watch get very repetitive. X-Files kept things fresh. There are mythology episodes and monster of the week episodes, but also great comedy scripts, artistic episodes shot in black and white, and other experiments from its writers, directors, and actors. Some worked, some didn’t.
  • While not a fan of seasons 8 and 9, I like John Doggett. I have a soft spot for the solid, loyal characters who are good at their job, but not extraordinary, and get tossed into screwy situations.
  • I’ve been cynical about a number of nostalgia projects/reboots, but I’m looking forward to the X-Files mini-series. I like that it isn’t a reboot with a new, young cast. I want to see older Mulder and Scully.
XFilesCreditsS1-7.jpg
XFilesCreditsS1-7” Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

My Top Ten X-Files Episodes

In series order:

  1. “Beyond the Sea” s1, e13 – Amid so many great images from the first season (a season that included Eugene Tooms in “Squeeze”), the ghost of Scully’s father sitting in her Christmas decorated home was one that caught me by surprise. It was a scene that I forgot I remembered. Plus, this is a great performance by Brad Dourif as serial killer, and maybe psychic, Luther Lee Boggs.
  2. “Humbug” s2, e20 – The first of four episodes written by Darin Morgan (five with the upcoming mini-series). All of his episodes mix in comedy, which makes them lighter, but not necessarily less serious. “Humbug” is set in a Florida freak show retirement park. Guest cast: Michael J. Anderson, Vincent Schiavelli, Jim Rose, The Enigma.
  3. “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” s3, e3 – Peter Boyle is a life insurance saleman who can see how people die. Darin Morgan brings a light touch to a character that could simply be tragic.
  4. “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” s3, e20 – The last Darin Morgan on my list, and the most overtly funny. It’s a homage to pulp literature and UFO culture. Guest cast: Jesse Ventura & Alex Trebek as Men in Black.
  5. “Home” s4, e2 – “Home” is a nasty piece of business, obviously inspired by 70’s horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s also really beautifully shot by cinematographers Jon Joffin and Ron Stannett.
  6. “The Post-Modern Prometheus” s5, e5 – Talk about an out-of-the-ordinary, kind of bizarre episode. Shot beautifully in black and white, this is from the other end of the horror inspiration spectrum, borrowing from James Whale’s 1931 Frankenstein. With a soundtrack by Cher.
  7. “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” s6, e6 – Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin as Christmas ghosts. And that’s how Chris Carter does a bottle episode with four actors and one set.
  8. “Milagro” s6, e18 – Not the most well-regarded episode, but I found John Hawkes performance as a writer obsessed with Scully to be really claustrophobic and discomfiting. If Joyce Carol Oates wrote an episode, this would be it.
  9. “The Amazing Maleeni” s7, e8 – Why is this one of my favorites? Magicians. Ricky Jay as Maleeni and Jonathan Levit as his rival. Plus, it’s more of mystery than an X-File, and a pretty well done one.
  10. “Je Souhaite” s7, e21 – It took The X-Files seven seasons to get to djinn. While not as funny as a Darin Morgan episode, Vince Gilligan does a good job with a cynical genie who is fed up with the stupid wishes that humans make. Humans including Agent Mulder.
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One thought on “Saturday Cinema ~ The X-Files

  1. Tim Prasil

    As I write this, there’s a winter storm in Oklahoma–which means ice forming on power lines–and my light is flickering. It seems appropriate…

    I, too, watched The X-Files with friends long ago, though I was working on a graduate degree up in Wisconsin at the time. We also enjoyed the creative flexibility of the show and appreciated the cinematic approach the production team was taking. Like yours, my interest started to fade as the arc story became more and more confusing. Maybe they should’ve stopped at around five seasons, which seems to have become the new rule of thumb.

    Nonetheless, I more recently re-watched the entire series (including The Lone Gunmen spin-off), and I can now say that I really appreciate how the writers at least tried to re-invent the show once Mulder–uhm, David Duchovny–left. It wasn’t what it had been . . . but they sure did try to keep it inventive.

    Great job at boiling nine seasons down to a handful of episodes. That’s a brave act!

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