The riveting pilot episode quickly sets the framework for the entire series. FBI Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) works outside of the bureau's mainstream on discarded, unsolved cases regarding paranormal activity called the X-Files. His immediate supervisors think his work is without merit, so they assign a young female agent, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) to work with Mulder and disprove his wild theories. Mulder believes we are not alone in the universe; Scully believes science holds the key to the unexplained. Their first case together -- teenagers being abducted and killed in Oregon -- raises more questions than answers and leaves Scully with little exculpatory evidence to report back to her superiors.
In addition to introducing the main characters, the pilot also establishes The X-Files mythology : a series-long subplot regarding a government conspiracy to conceal the existence of aliens. Uncovering this deep-rooted mystery is what drives Mulder. He knows the government is hiding significant details regarding alien life on earth and he's convinced that his superiors within the FBI are purposefully holding him back from finding the truth. The mythology episodes appear sporadically during the series including each season's premiere and finale episodes. Each mythology episode builds upon the prior and reveals startling new revelations of the bigger picture of a conspiracy. These episodes are clearly the most exhilarating of the series.
The remaining X-Files episodes deal in the strange world of the extraordinary where Mulder and Scully must try to explain the unexplainable. These episodes have little bearing on the wider mythology, but they introduce us to some odd characters with some unusual abilities. Some of the most memorable include insurance salesman Clyde Bruckman who can predict people's deaths (Season 3, Episode 4); retired freaks and side-show performers with abnormal bodily functions (2.20); Robert Modell, aka "The Pusher," who can change people's thoughts (3.17); and the inbred Peacock family who are less than human as a result (4.2). These episodes also give us further insight into Mulder and Scully and what makes them tick.
In addition to its fantastic conspiracy theories and fascinating characters, each X-Files episode is a visual feast for the eyes. There are no cornball special effects with this science fiction show. While the earliest episodes show a rustiness with the visual effects, overall The X-Files is technically resounding, even from the pilot episode. Fans of film noir will dig the show's dimly lit palette, one that fully compliments its bizarre storylines. The high end production values show in every episode. It's not a surprise that The X-Files took home most technical category Emmy awards during the nine-year-series-run.
The X-Files "jumped the shark" at the end of the seventh season (and after a decent movie outing) when David Duchovny jumped ship, downgrading his involvement to part-time status. New agents John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) were brought on to fill the void left by Duchovny, but the show labored. The changes clearly proved that seven years of chemistry between Mulder and Scully could never be replaced. While the final two seasons feature a handful of must-see episodes that bring closure to several key storylines, the bulk of seasons eight and nine can be skipped.
The X-Files is even better on DVD and it's not because each season's box set comes with a plethora of DVD extras including interviews, documentaries, and behind the scenes information. What makes the show so much better on DVD is that we have the ability to pick and choose our own adventure, like watching just the mythology episodes in order. We don't need to wait all summer to find out what happens to Mulder in the boxcar at the end of season two. We can just pop in the next DVD. It brings an entirely new level of enjoyment to a series that is already immensely fulfilling.
Certainly a fictionalized show that ponders the existence of extra-terrestrials couldn't last beyond one season, right? Well, The X-Files lasted almost 10 years and it will continue to shock and amaze new X-Philes for a lifetime to come.
A little higher with the probe, bub!
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Producer: Chris Carter