Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sundays with the X Files - Introduction

The X-files is one of my favorite TV shows of all time and I’ve recently embarked on a re-watch.  I first watched the show in re-runs on the cable channel FX in the mid-nineties.  They would daily show marathons of at least 2-3 episodes all jumbled together from the first 3-4 seasons and I would sit transfixed.  Even though I was completely missing huge junks of the mythology, I was completely fascinated by Mulder and Scully, sucked into their complicated working and fiercely suppressed personal lives. I remember spending entire dog walks analyzing them and their motivations.  I pretty much idolized Scully.

Around season 5, I started watching the show as it aired on Sunday nights.  My best friend would come over to my apartment and we would watch it together.  When I moved to IA a year and a half later we tried to continue the tradition over the phone but it kind of fizzled out.  Then David Duchovny left and I was in Grad school so my schedule was much more erratic and basically my obsessive watching ended.  However, whenever I watch the show it brings back strong memories and impressions from that part of my life.

I didn’t revisit the show until about a decade ago when I set out to watch the entire 9 seasons of the series.  Nine seasons is a lot but I had no problem getting through.  Even the dreaded 8th and 9th seasons without Mulder were not as bad as I expected though it definitely was not the same show.  I’ve recently gotten the hankering to go through the series again and thankfully Netflix streaming is there to support my psychosis.  I thought this time around I’d record some thoughts etc… for posterity. Basically posterity translates to me, myself and I, but if there are any other fans of the show out there I’d love to hear your thoughts, memories, analysis  - basically whatever you’d like to jump in and share. I’ll post on Sundays in honor of my old watching engagement with my friend, starting with this, the general introductory post.  Next Sunday I’ll do season one, the following Sunday Season 2 and so forth.  Hopefully I can keep up:0)

So.  General introductory thoughts about the show.  It was developed by Chris Carter and was first aired in 1993 on the Fox Channel.  The original idea was for a show about supernatural phenomena with two main characters; one a believer, the other a skeptic.  This was eventually enhanced to have the two characters as FBI agents which gave them the means and opportunities to know about and explore various cases.  There was a long developing Alien Mythology that was doled out in periodic episodes with the ones in between representing a “monster of the week” type formula.  Pretty much anything and everything paranormal or even just mildly creepy was fair game.  The show had a very distinctive look and I’d like to make all these claims, like it was the first show of that era to really do the overarching and complicated story ark and that it established Vancouver Canada as the place to shoot TV shows but I’m actually not sure any of that is true.  It certainly seems to have influenced many shows that have come since.  There is a quote on Wikipedia (so take it for what it’s worth) from Joss Whedon (who I also hardcore fan girl) that states that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a cross between X-files and My So Called Life.  If this is true, it is no wonder that I count BTVS as one of my favorite shows of all time as well.


One thing is certain; it had a very distinctive look and feel.  The lighting is decidedly dark which not only increases the foreboding and sense of threat but it also likely saved the producers from spending too much money on special effects.  There is a lot of flashlight foo and brief glimpses of unexplainable things.  The music is also very distinctive - I’m betting most folks of my generation could immediately start humming or at least call to mind the title music.  The role it has played in pop culture is also still pretty huge.  The catch phrases - The Truth is Out There, Trust No One – are commonly used and the iconic nature of each of the characters is often used to illustrate a dichotomy between belief and skepticism.  


One of the things I loved about the show, that eventually caused me to curse it, was the over-arching mystery storyline about the existence of extraterrestrials and what said aliens might be up to if they are on Earth. I love shows that have this kind of through line and development and for most of its run the Alien mythology was pretty fascinating.  Unfortunately, it became clear that Chris Carter had to be winging it or that at least the long run of the show caused him to have to create artificial complexity that made no sense.  The truth may be out there but we never do find it.  The other thing to mention here is how incredibly subversive the show was.   Accusations of government corruption and conspiracy are lobbed in almost every episode.  The government is definitely the enemy.  It makes me wonder whether there are countries where this show could not have been made?


And here it is.  The thing that I think made the X-files super duper extra special awesome.  It was the single most important thing for me in the show.  Mulder and Scully.  The show almost completely focused on its two leads.  They were eventually joined by a cast of enjoyable supporters like Skinner, the Smoking Man, the Lone Gunmen and Krycek, but Duchovny and Anderson carried 99.9% of the weight of the show.  Carter was apparently stuck on hiring Anderson though the network wanted a sexier and leggier sort of actress for the role.  Duchovny was apparently a little bit more difficult choice for Carter as he thought he came across seeming kind of dumb. 

If there is anything that I can say Chris Carter is brilliant at, it is this bit of casting.  Despite the fact that Gillian Anderson was an unknown actress and 6 years junior to her character, she was without a doubt the best thing to happen to the show.  She is one of the better actresses out there in my opinion and she brought the characters of Dana Scully immediately to life and gave her a complexity and depth that I’m not sure was even written for the character.  And despite the network’s misgivings that she was not more of a bombshell, I think Anderson is a stunning woman and one with a distinctive look which worked better for the show.  Looking at initial episodes, David Duchovny did not impress me with his acting prowess but he did settle in to the role and become Mulder - I can't imagine anyone else pulling it off.  Most importantly there was some pretty insane chemistry between the actors.  There were rumors that they really didn’t get along that well off screen (though who knows how valid this is), but they were both good enough on screen for it not to matter.

No matter how much I love Scully,  it must be said that Mulder is the heart of the show.  There will be time to comment on this more in the later seasons when he's no longer around, because even though there were some good episodes in seasons 8 and 9, Scully alone did not work.  Mulder's intensity and passion and unique perspective is what drives the show.

As I already mentioned, I did and still do idolize Scully and I crazy ship she and Mulder.  Beyond that, I will likely go on ad nauseum about each of the characters within the context of each season so I’ll leave off any more comments for now.

For now I’ll wrap this very long post up.  I need to go watch some more X-files.:)  See you next Sunday with Season 1.

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