Hey Dragons, as I mentioned a few months ago, I was going to be adding contributing writers to the blog. Here is the first post from our new writer Rachel! Check out more about her in the about us. Also, she wrote a book! Enjoy. — Kenny
In September 1993, The X-Files premiered on Fox, and television was never the same. This isn’t hyperbole – The X-Files changed the way that television shows looked, functioned, and connected to their audiences. It solidified the concept of a television show having an overarching mythology, a long-term story arc to connect ideas in the show. It produced some of the best television writers of our time (without X-Files, we may never have had Breaking Bad. Think about that). And, of course, it showed us what real chemistry is between two leads – an ideal situation that countless shows have been trying to reproducing ever since.
After nearly 14 years away, The X-Files is returning to television with a six-part miniseries, starting on Sunday, January 24th, after the NFC Championship game on Fox (air time is approximately 10pm). The series will continue on Monday the 25th, when it will move to 8pm, its regularly scheduled time for the rest of the revival. To say that I’m excited is the understatement of the year. The X-Files was a huge part of my life as a teenager and continues to be a part of my life to this day. It was the first thing that I ever really became obsessed with – I remember impatiently waiting for my mother’s dial-up internet to connect after every episode, trying to connect with other fans in chat rooms, read theories about what was coming next, etc. I can still name every episode (yes, even seasons 8 and 9), and I’ve gone back and rewatched the whole series at least 4 times since it ended.
But maybe you’re not as crazy – or, the term I prefer, devoted – as I am. Maybe you haven’t even seen a single episode of the show. Or maybe you used to watch this show all the time, but you can’t remember anything that was going on, other than, obviously, aliens. Don’t worry – I’m going to catch you up on this show so you’re properly prepared for next Sunday. Obviously, this catch-up includes a LOT of spoilers.
The background: Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) is a brilliant FBI agent with a background in psychology who throws away his reputation to pursue a set of cases known as X-Files – unsolved cases that deal with unexplained phenomena. His interest in the X-Files stems from childhood trauma – when he was 12, his sister disappeared, and he believes that she was abducted by aliens. His peers call him “Spooky” Mulder, because he’s a weirdo, and the higher ups at the FBI are frustrated with his interest in the X-Files. In an effort to shut them down for good, they assign Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), a rookie agent with a medical degree, to be Mulder’s partner. Her job is to debunk the X-Files – to prove, once and for all, that there is no value in investigating these unexplained cases. Of course, it doesn’t quite work that way.
The set-up: Each episode, in general, involves Mulder and Scully investigating a case of something unexplained. The episodes are divided into two categories: mythology episodes, which address the long-term storyline of the existence of alien life and the government’s involvement in a conspiracy to cover that up, and “monster of the week” episodes, where our heroes investigate random paranormal activity, such as, ghosts, Bigfoot, reincarnation, other monsters, etc.
The mythology, in brief: Aliens exist, and they have known about our planet for thousands of years. Their goal is to colonize our planet through an alien virus. A shadowy group of government officials, known as the Syndicate, made contact with these aliens and came to an agreement with them. The Syndicate would help the aliens with colonization, in exchange for their own survival. To this end, the members of the Syndicate had to give up family members as collateral to the aliens, and in return, the aliens provided them with an alien fetus. The Syndicate used this genetic material to manufacture a vaccine against the alien virus, in hopes of fighting colonization. Mulder was exposed to this virus and vaccine in Season 4, and Scully was exposed to both in the 1998 movie.
There’s a lot more to it than that, including a rebel group of aliens and things called supersoldiers, but you don’t need to know about that right now. You actually might not need to know about any of the mythology, because the creator and showrunner, Chris Carter, has stated that the mythology is taking an entirely different route in the revival.
Scully’s abduction: While working on this project to develop a vaccine, the government did a lot of shady things, such as experimentation on people, which included our own Dana Scully. In Season 2, when Anderson went on maternity leave, Scully is abducted. She’s returned three months later (only resulting in Anderson missing one episode), and as a result of what was done to her, she can’t have children (because they harvested all of her ova). In Season 4, she develops a rare type of brain cancer, which we eventually learn was the result of her removing a computer chip that had been placed in her neck during her abduction. In Season 5, her cancer goes into remission after a similar chip is reinserted in her neck (and is never an issue again).
The relationship, in brief: Mulder and Scully are the pinnacle of a successful on-screen pair. The chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson is palpable from the beginning. Carter was adamant that they not have a romantic relationship, and as a result, we go seven seasons – SEVEN LONG, LONG SEASONS – without so much as a kiss between the pair, despite the increasing sexual tension as the years went on. Eventually, they begin a romantic relationship (off-screen) and have a child together (see below). The series ends with Mulder and Scully on the run, together, and the 2008 stand-alone movie, I Want To Believe, also featured them as a couple.
The mess of Seasons 8, 9, and the second movie: At the end of Season 7, Mulder is abducted. This was the show’s way of dealing with the fact that Duchovny wanted a more limited role. At the end of the episode, we also find out that Scully is pregnant. Whaaaaat? you say. Didn’t you just tell us that she couldn’t have kids because of her own abduction? Why, yes, I did – Carter and company dragged out this storyline for basically the next, and last, two seasons of The X-Files. All you need to know is that at some point in Season 7, Mulder and Scully finally consummated their relationship, resulting in baby William, but baby William has special powers – likely the result of Scully’s abduction and Mulder’s exposure to the alien virus. During Season 9, a bunch of shady characters try to kill/abduct baby William, so toward the end of the series, Scully gives him up for adoption. This is an important point because William is going to be featured, in some way, during the revival.
While Duchovny/Mulder was gone, Robert Patrick joined the cast as Agent John Doggett, who became Scully’s partner after he was tasked with finding Mulder. Later in season 8, Annabeth Gish joins the cast as Agent Monica Reyes, and in season 9, with Anderson taking a more limited role, Doggett and Reyes run the X-Files. At the very conclusion of Season 9, The X-Files are officially closed.
The second movie has nothing to do with the mythology and contributes very little to the series. That sounds harsh, but it’s just not great.
Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi): Our duo’s gruff but lovable boss. In the beginning, he served as a foil to Mulder and Scully, but as time went on, Skinner became an integral ally.
The Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis): A/k/a CSM, a/k/a Cancerman – CSM is Mulder’s foil for the first couple of seasons, until we learn that he is just another cog in this system. CSM is a founding member of the Syndicate and is deep into the conspiracy. In the series finale, he’s killed by a missile, so no one is entirely sure how this character is coming back in the revival. Oh, Carter, you trickster.
The Lone Gunmen – Byers (Bruce Harwood), Langly (Dean Haglund), & Frohike (Tom Braidwood): Mulder’s friends and a critical resources. The Gunmen run a conspiracy theorist newspaper and are basically the most paranoid people you’ve ever met. They also met an untimely end toward the end of Season 9, so, again, not sure how Carter is going to pull this off.
So, maybe this has piqued your interest, and you’re curious about seeing the show for yourself. Here are my picks for top 10 episodes, in no particular order: Pilot, Squeeze, Ice, Pusher, One Breath, Jose Chung’s From Outer Space, Memento Mori, Home, Small Potatoes, and Bad Blood.
If you just want to catch up on the mythology, check out: Pilot, The Erlenmeyer Flask, Anasazi/The Blessing Way/Paper Clip, Tunguska/Terma, Memento Mori, Redux/Redux II, The End, the X-Files movie, and Two Fathers/One Son.
Still confused? Fellow Philes, did I leave something out? Leave questions and comments below! #WorkOutNerdOut