Before my obsession… undying love for… passing and professional interest in House, MD, I had a similar… er… fondness for the FOX television series The X-Files. Perhaps it’s a once a decade phenomenon for me. I’m not a big fan of series television and am not the sort to get hooked on one unless something about it grabs onto me viscerally — and then I’m in serious trouble.
Such was the case with X-Files. A blend of edgy political conspiracy, science fiction, and the paranormal, it featured an alienated, brilliant, and tormented hero (Fox Mulder) and his skeptical, intelligent (though not quite as brilliant) female partner Dana Scully. The series criss-crossed and blended genres, moving gracefully from “noir” to comedy to drama, seldom losing its focus (at least in its first six seasons) on excellent writing, compelling stories, and complex characterization.
I was a true “X-Phile,” complete with my very own review and fanfiction website, participating in Usenet groups (remember those?) with names like “atxfa” (alt.tv.x-files.analysis) and “atxc” (alt.tv.x-files.creative, the fanfiction list). Ten years ago, on the heels of the series’ fifth season, series creator Chris Carter waved his magic wand and created the feature length X-Files: Fight the Future, which carried Mulder and Scully from the halls of the FBI to caverns beneath Antarctica; from a Texas terrorist attack to a near kiss in Mulder’s hallway. I recall watching that film, sitting embarrassingly alone (after making my husband see it with me twice) in matinees all through the summer of 1998. I must have seen it ten times. And although my interest in the X-Files has waned considerably over the years, I still find myself removing my smudged and worn out DVD of the 1998 movie from its battered box and being transported by it, even now. I guess I’m still an “X-Phile” at heart.
And now here we are, six years after the series’ final episode, awaiting the sequel, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, hitting theaters later this month. In anticipation of the upcoming movie series creator/producer/writer Chris Carter and producer/writer Frank Spotnitz have culled together X-Files Revelations: The Essential Guide to the X-Files Movie. Intended to reacquaint old fans and entice new ones, the two-disc DVD collection includes eight “critical episodes,” essential to fully appreciating the movie.
The collection includes brand new introductions to each of the eight episodes by Carter and Spotnitz, a theatrical trailer of the forthcoming movie, and a panel discussion held at WonderCon, featuring Carter, Spotnitz, and series stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. The box is packaged with coupons for purchasing the larger season-based DVD collections and a coupon for up to $8.50 off the price of a ticket to the highly anticipated movie (redeemable at the box office).
The two-DVD set includes the series pilot episode and “Beyond the Sea,” from the first season, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” and “The Host” from season two, “Memento Mori” from season four, “Post-Modern Prometheus” and “Bad Blood” from the fifth season, and “Milagro” from the sixth.
I have not heard a great deal about the movie, other than the fact that it’s supposed to be more akin to a “stand-alone” X-Files adventure than a “mythology” story (episodes dealing with the overarching series narrative arc of Fox Mulder’s missing sister and the alien conspiracy — called the “mytharc” within the fandom). So it would make sense that what is essentially being promoted as a “companion” to the film would veer away from the mytharc, and present a more varied tapestry of paranormal cases and crimes. Of the eight included episodes, only the series pilot and “Memento Mori” could be considered mytharc episodes.
As to whether these episodes are indeed essential to understanding and enjoying the movie, I’m not sure (since I have not yet seen the movie). What I am certain of is that these episodes do nicely represent X-Files at its best (if not necessarily the eight best episodes of the series' run). Interestingly, no episodes are included from the series’ final three seasons. Perhaps, like many fans, Spotnitz and Carter agree that X-Files began to lose its way by then within the increasingly convoluted conspiracy, and as the series star Duchovny distanced himself from the role and the show.
The DVD set is available July 8. With the street price at around $17.00, and a free movie ticket, the price is certainly right, especially if you don’t already have the entire series in your DVD collection. Even if you already have the first six seasons on DVD, it can be nice to have a pre-selected assortment of some the series’ best episodes in one small set. However, the very brief, albeit new, episode introductions, panel discussion, and included theatrical trailer do not render this collection exactly “essential” to veteran X-Philes. The film The X-Files: I Want to Believe opens July 25.
So, my fellow “philes,” in anticipation of the upcoming film, dust off your old DVDs (or pop in this new one) and think about which episodes would you include in your own “essential guide to the X-Files.”
Here are mine; and if not necessarily “essential,” they are certainly among my favorites:
- Season One: “Pilot,” “Deep Throat,” “Ice,” “The Erlenmeyer Flask”
- Season Two: “Little Green Men,” “One Breath,” “Irresistible,” “Humbug”
- Season Three: “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” “Grotesque,” “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space”
- Season Four: “Field Where I Died,” “Paper Hearts,” “Memento Mori,” ”Demons,” “Gethsemane”
- Season Five: “Redux” (2-parter),”Post Modern Prometheus,” “Mind’s Eye,” “Folie a Deux,” “The End”
- Season Six: “Triangle,” “Dreamland (two-parter),” "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas,” “The Unnatural”