X-Files: A Retrospective


“The X-Files.” Most everyone is at least familiar with the long-running, sci-fi classic TV series. Whether you’re a devoted fan who trudged through all nine seasons, or a casual viewer who caught a few 1 am reruns on the Syfy channel you’ve probably seen a few episodes.

My obsession with the franchise began in the days of VCRs and predated our purchase of cable or satellite. Luckily a few tweaks of the bunny ears sent Mark Snow’s warbling theme song blasting over out tinny Zenith speakers.

With a whopping nine seasons and two feature films, I’m often asked about the audience appeal which established the series as longest running sci-fi television franchise until that title was ursurped by “Stargate Sg-1.” The x-factor, shall we call it, was multifaceted. For starters, the 1993 debut of “The X-Files,” captured the paranoia and dark, brooding elements of the early 90’s perfectly. Season one overflows with conspiracies of all sorts. Sure the show had plenty of extraterrestrial episodes, but a better descriptor for content is “supernatural.” The protagonists, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) covered an array of cases dealing with topics including aliens, religion, mythical creatures, and overall government mistrust.

Viewing flexibility afforded by the structure of the show also helped the show gain popularity. While there were continuous story arcs which required audiences to follow the series closely, each season contained mostly standalone “monster-of-the-week” shows. These were basically unrelated cases Mulder and Scully investigated, and allowed viewers to casually drop in and out without missing much. You could, for the most part, follow the main storyline by just watching story arc episodes. That being said, some of the best entries in the series were monster-of-the-week episodes, so you’ll probably want to check those out as well.

What really brought “The X-Files” together, on top of the varying subject matter and episodic content was the chemistry between Mulder and Scully. From season one, their opposing personalities and fields of expertise foster a love-hate relationship. Scully’s work is grounded in scientific fact, while “Spooky” Mulder as he is called behind his back operates in the supernatural realm. It isn’t until the later seasons (eight and nine) that the pair really express and acknowledge their mutual romantic feelings.

As with most TV series’, early seasons of the show were superior to later ones. Particularly, seasons eight and nine bothered me mainly because of Mulder’s replacement by John Doggett, portrayed by Robert Patrick (famous for his role as the shape-shifting Terminator in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”). I admit Doggett grew on me after a while, but he wasn’t nearly as well-rounded a character as Mulder. David Duchovny, couldn’t you have waited until the conclusion of ‘The X-Files” to enter into sex addiction therapy?

“The X-Files” is available on dvd in individual season sets, mythology (story arc) packs, and a complete series set which includes the first film and a bundle of other goodies. For those who prefer digital distribution, you can purchase the show on iTunes, Amazon, and a handful of other sites. And Netflix was kind enough to add the entire set to its streaming catalog, which is a fantastic deal for anyone looking to delve into the series. You can look up the mythology episodes and just watch those, but if you’re considering starting “The X-Files,” I really recommend watching the whole thing. I’ve listed my top 10 episodes below:

1. Little Green Men

2. The Host

3. Duane Barry/Ascension

4. Colony/End Game

5. Blood

6. Die Hand Die Verletzt

7. Paper Clip

8. 731

9. Home

10. Arcadia

A word of advice on the films: The first feature film, set between seasons five and six, is great. It plays out like an extended TV episode. Avoid the second X-Files movie. I admit I couldn’t suffer through more than 20 minutes of the painfully slow, clichéd box office bomb. Stick to the show and the first film.

Happy watching!