Welcome to a new monthly feature that I’ll be doing: Shows Worth Watching. Once a month I’ll write about a t.v. show that I think is worth the time it takes for viewing. Shows will be a mix of old ones (i.e., no longer broadcasting), and current ones. Hope you enjoy it (and if you can think of a better feature name than Shows Worth Watching, I’m open to suggestions 🙂 )
The first t.v. show I’d like to discuss is The X-Files. A ground breaking show that aired on Fox from 1993 to 2002 and came from the mind of Chris Carter. Why am I starting with a show that is over 20 years old? Well, if you have to ask, you clearly have never seen The X-Files. All jesting aside, The X-Files is the first because, 1) I love it, 2) it was an excellent show that achieved cult status fairly quickly and then became really popular, and 3) it combined a lot of topics that were interesting, compelling, controversial, and thought-provoking.
FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are teamed up to investigate unsolved cases that appear to be paranormal in nature – know as The X-Files. Mulder is a skilled profiler and has an unyielding belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life. Part of this belief is steeped in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of his sister, Samantha, whom he believes was abducted by aliens when he was 12-years-old. Scully is a doctor and a skeptic to events of the paranormal and alien life. The FBI teams these two up as a balance to one another, and as a way to possibly debunk any of Mulder’s proof of paranormal or alien existence. This teaming works well – the chemistry between the two actors was evident and the characters respect each other as well as their ideas, enabling both to see the others viewpoint.
Their boss, Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), FBI assistant director, works well in his role too. At first he seems not have too much interest in any of Mulder and Scully’s cases. As episodes progress, Skinner starts to side with the agents and becomes more than a boss, often helping them when he can and sometimes even covering for them. The Smoking Man (William B. Davis) is the main nemesis of Mulder and Scully throughout the series. He seems to be one who is hiding a lot of information and gets in Mulder and Sully’s way whenever they seem to be on the verge of discovering something. It is eventually revealed that The Smoking Man is part of the Syndicate, a group of men who appear to orchestrate many lies and cover-ups, providing the basis of a government conspiracy to cover-up the existence of alien life that will be featured frequently throughout the life of series. Another group of characters that needs to be mentioned, who showed up periodically, and became fan favorites is The Lone Gunmen. Known mainly by their last names: Langly, Frohike, and Byers. They were conspiracy theorists and often assisted and provided information to and for Mulder and Scully. The Lone Gunmen became allies and friends of the agents and were always delight to see when they appeared in an episode. The Lone Gunmen had a brief stint in a series of their own, but it didn’t last long (and truthfully, I don’t even remember it).
A major plot line that ran throughout The X-Files was Mulder’s search for his sister. Mulder’s sister was seemingly taken by aliens when he was 12. This incident stayed with Mulder and is part of the reason why he is so adamant about the existence of alien life. Several episodes focus on clues about her disappearance and a growing suspicion that the FBI and the government know a lot more than they are willing to admit. This really becomes the overall mythology of The X-Files and carries from season to season, culminating in the series finale.
When not focusing on the mythology of aliens, The X-Files featured episodes about the paranormal, unbelievable, and unexplained. A few of my favorite non-mythology episodes were: Miracle Man, Duane Barry, Dod Kalm, and Home. These episodes ranged from the spiritual, to the grotesque, to the legend and lore, and everything in between. The tag line of The X-Files was “I Want to Believe”. Something that Mulder was desperate to stay true to and something that fans of the show took to heart. As a viewer, the show made you want to believe. The conviction of Mulder’s beliefs combined with Scully’s level head-opinions and the government conspiracy threaded throughout the series made believing seem realistic.
The last two seasons of the series were a little less likable. David Duchovny has mostly departed the show and Robert Patrick stepped in to play Agent John Doggett. Patrick is a fine actor but the departure of Duchovny and the lack of focus on the mythology of the series was disappointing. Duchovny did come back for a few episodes and the series ended in the 9th season to a somewhat satisfying conclusion. The show also spawned two Movies: The X-Files (Fight the Future) and The X-Files: I Want to Believe. The first film was the much better of the two with the focus being on the mythology, but any fan of The X-Files was content with even a mediocre second film.
So, if you are looking for a series to watch that is in the sci-fi realm, The X-Files is for you. Like most series, the first few episodes are a little rough in terms of look and production value with improvements evident as the series progresses. The acting is good throughtout the run and some excellent appearances by well known and loved actors (Bryan Cranston, Tony Shalhou, Lucy Lawless, and CCH Pounder to name a few) are well worth the viewing. I’m obviously a fan and of the show and hope that you will become one too (if you aren’t one already!).