Weekly Review: The X-Files (1993-2002)

Within the FBI, there is a department that covers unsolvable, often unexplainable, cases known as the X-Files. The agents in this department are Fox Mulder, a believer of the paranormal and the extraterrestrial, and Dana Scully, a medical doctor and skeptic of what can’t be proven by science.

In order to prepare for the upcoming revival of The X-Files in January 2015, I spent the last few months watching the entire series. The X-Files is a both a procedural crime drama and a source of paranormal fiction at the same time.

While watching the series, I noticed a lot of similarities with shows that are currently airing. The X-Files was a cultural phenomenon while it was airing, and it continues to be an inspiring force to this day.

One of the best things about The X-Files is Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Considering that the series began airing in 1993, it was a pretty progressive thing to feature a lead female character working in the sciences, having a platonic relationship with the lead male character, and competing with other men in her field for respect. She quickly became my personal favorite character in the series.

Scully often has to grapple with opposition, not just with other people, but more so with herself. As a woman of science, she has difficulty accepting many of the more unexplainable phenomena that she witnesses. As a Catholic woman, she often finds herself rethinking her faith as well. These inner conflicts, added to the obstacles her character faces throughout the series, make her a very compelling character.

At the same time, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is a pretty great character as well. He’s very emotionally driven. He starts his career in the X-Files because of a past history with alien activity. The childhood abduction of his sister is a huge part of his motives that persists through the entire series. While he doesn’t have as many inner conflicts as Scully, Mulder is a consistent moving force that drives the series. The juxtaposition of Mulder and Scully, as well as their chemistry is one of the best things about The X-Files as a whole.

The episodes tend to switch between ‘Monster of the Week’ (MotW) plots and stories that fit into the overarching conspiracy or mission of the particular season. While some of the MotW episodes are dull, there are a lot of really creative ideas thrown in, many with cultural significance or interesting mythos.

One of the largest driving forces within the series is “the alien conspiracy” with the syndicate which carries through seasons 1-6. It brings about a lot of interesting and scary science fiction elements, including abductions, and it also introduces one of the series’ most notable villains: The Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis).

Another notable villain that pops in and out throughout the series is Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea). The character is first introduced in season 2 as Mulder’s temporary partner in the FBI, and he appears frequently throughout the rest of the seasons. Krycek is interesting because you can never tell who’s side he’s on. I grew to love to hate him, and would exclaim “ugh, Krycek” with a hint of glee every time he’d show up on screen.

I personally felt that once the conspiracy with the syndicate was resolved, the seasons dropped in quality. Season 7 is a bit underwhelming, and this carries over into season 8. During this time period, it appears that there were problems arising with David Duchovny, so his appearances are sporadic in season 8 and almost non-existent in the final season.

Introduced in season 8 is an agent named John Doggett (Robert Patrick). He eventually joins the X-Files and becomes Scully’s new partner. They have a very interesting dynamic, in that they’re both skeptics. Of course, by this point in the series, Scully can believe a lot more because of everything she’s seen. Scully takes on more of a lead role in the X-Files, while Doggett brings an interesting freshness that contrasts Mulder nicely.

The series wraps up during its 9th season, which I felt was its worst. By this point, they’ve introduced another agent, Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), to the team. I never fully understood her, and this was very frustrating to me. I could never understand what she could believe and what she couldn’t. There never seemed to be a decisive line in regard to that. She does bring an interesting energy, but I never really became a fan.

Overall, the final season seems like a hodgepodge of MotW episodes with Scully randomly showing up when she’s called upon. The main characters are definitely Doggett and Reyes, up until the series finale which sees a return of David Duchovny for the first time since season 8.

*It is important to note that in addition to the 9 seasons of The X-Files, there are also two films. The first, The X-Files: Fight the Future, fits chronologically between seasons 5 and 6. The second, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, takes place after the series ended.

While the series did seem to decline in quality as it reached its end, it did leave a lasting impression on me. I’m extremely excited for the 6-episode revival to start up in 2016. After watching the original series, I can definitely see what all of the buzz was about, and why the show has such a following. It’s pretty great.

If you’re a fan of crime procedurals with supernatural elements, or if you’re a fan of the show Supernatural, then you may end up being a fan of The X-Files.


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