With The X-Files making a surprise return next year, it seems fitting to take a look back at the original series.
In the early 90s, sci-fi was mainly confined to crews commanding starships alongside alien species, exploring the uncharted outer cosmos. But The X-Files would change all that, bringing it back down to earth. Literally.
Created by Chris Carter, the show was like nothing else on television with it’s unique blend of science fiction, horror and the supernatural. Taking cues from classic shows such as The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Tales from the Darkside, it formed a melting pot of mystery throughout its nine seasons.
The first series focuses on FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), as they investigate “X-Files”, unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena. Mulder, a believer in the existence of aliens, follows these mysteries with anticipation and wonder. Scully, however, is the skeptic, assigned to analyse and debunk her partner’s theories. As the series progresses, they uncover a major government conspiracy and are forced to trust only each other.
While the overall story arc follows the possible existence of an alien race, various standalone episodes were nicknamed “Monster of the Week”, as they featured cryptids, mutants and more. Even though I enjoyed the extra-terrestrial element, it was these “creatures” that I found the most engaging. A couple come to mind: Eugene Victor Tooms (Doug Hutchison), a mutant with the ability to stretch and contort into small spaces, allowing him to enter victims’ homes through vents and chimneys in order to murder them and obtain their livers for sustenance; and Leonard Betts (Paul McCrane), who was able to regenerate any lost body part, including his head, by bathing in povidone-iodine as well as consuming other people’s cancer. These episodes were always the most interesting, with the writers able to push their creativity and really send shivers down the spine.
Another aspect of the show that kept viewers hooked was the relationship between Mulder and Scully. Duchovny and Anderson had such strong chemistry that it was a joy to watch them interact. What starts as a strictly platonic relationship eventually becomes a close friendship, constantly teasing at deeper emotions, developing a ‘Will they, won’t they?’ scenario for the audience to ponder. For those who haven’t seen the show, I won’t spoil the outcome.
The series was also littered with fantastic supporting characters, such as the mysterious “Smoking Man” (William B. Davis), FBI assistant director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), and the informant Mr. X (Steven Williams).
What started as a cult show soon became a pop culture phenomenon, spawning books, video games, films and even a hilarious guest spot on The Simpsons. The show has been parodied numerous times and referenced in many songs. It even influenced newer shows such as Fringe, Lost and Supernatural. In fact, one of its writers, Vince Gilligan, went on to create Breaking Bad – now there’s a fun fact for you. It’s amazing how much of an impact The X-Files had on television and culture as a whole. It’s proof that audiences are always ready for something new and will embrace it in every way they can.
So, with the six-episode miniseries premiering in January next year, those who are yet to see the show still have plenty of time to smash through its nine seasons – and two films – ready to join the rest of us as we reunite with our old friends, Mulder and Scully.