“…the answers are there, you just have to know where to look.”
“That’s why they put the “I” in F.B.I.”
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When you consider the vast number of television shows that come down the pilot pipeline each and every year, it’s a virtual miracle that anything gets ordered to series. Then, when you consider that the number of shows that do make it to the airwaves only to get canceled almost immediately, it becomes a rarer event for a series to get a second season order, let alone a third, fourth, or in the case of Chris Carter’s seminal 1993 series ‘X-Files’ a grand total of nine seasons. How or why a show clicks with an audience and draws in millions of viewers willing to give up an hour of their time each and every week is a mystery – but something about ‘The X-Files’ connected with people.
As a fan of the show from the very beginning, I loved the its blend of science fiction, government conspiracy theories, and horror. It was around this time that I had discovered movies like ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘All The President’s Men,’ and ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’, so this wild blend of genres fit right into my bandwagon. As the ever true believer, Agent Mulder (David Duchovny) and the always skeptical Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson) would handle a case involving the big government conspiracy to hide the existence of extraterrestrial life, there would be a wonderful dip into a “Monster of the Week” to keep things fun, exciting, and at times more than a bit creepy – or in the case of one particularly notorious episode from season four, downright disturbing! But I loved ‘The X-Files’ and I kept tuning in week after week… for awhile. with any good show, the demand for more episodes from the broadcasting network started to put a strain on the creative team. Season five concluded with a hell of a cliffhanger ending in May of 1998 and served as the perfect segue to the series leap to the big screen that June with ‘The X-Files: Fight The Future.’ As great as the movie was and how perfectly it tied the events of Season 5 and Season 6 together, it also marked the beginning of the show’s downfall. The original intention of Chris Carter was to end the show at season five and then continue the exploits of Agents Mulder and Scully on the big screen. The network thought otherwise and required more episodes of the show as a condition for getting the film financed.
Fans of ‘The X-Files’ are well aware of the show’s precipitous drop off as the series was stretched thinner and thinner. As the mythology episodes moved from Black Oil to Alien Colonization to Super Soldiers, to Lizard People and back again, the credibility of the show wained – as did the patience of the audience. For a show about two people on the quest for the truth and answers to big mysteries and riddles, the show started offering up fewer and fewer solutions to stories and left entirely too many threads dangling. That isn’t to say that by the time Agent Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Agent Reyes (Annabeth Gish) appeared on the scene the show had become “bad,” it’s just that a number of the show’s tropes had become routine and tedious. Even as Anderson’s Scully moved from being a skeptic to a believer – there are just so many times that Scully could “not see” the big awe-inspiring moment.
Through all of the highs and lows of the series, there was a constant that made the show worth tuning into – the relationship between Mulder and Scully and their real life counterparts David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. While the pair absolutely had on-screen chemistry, it wasn’t ever forced into the realm of unnecessary romanticism or sexualized. The two viewed each other as equals and never once trivialized their respective genders. Both were strong-willed unique individuals with their own beliefs and biases, but they were also human and capable of irrational emotional outbursts – just like the rest of us.
When taking a look at ‘The X-Files: The Collector’s Set’ it’s easy to understand why this set wouldn’t be for everyone – namely because of the show’s slide in quality over the final three seasons. However, if you are a massive fan of the series, this set is an attractive and sturdy way to display one of the best shows to come to television. That said, if you’re not game for every season, 20th Century Fox was wise enough to release each season individually:
Season One (4/5)
This first season has a couple of clunky episodes in there, but that’s to be expected with any series. It’s a show that is still finding its legs, but through it all the show delivered hours of great entertainment.
Ep 3 ‘Squeeze’ and Ep 21 ‘Tooms’ – I have fond memories of watching these two episodes on separate weekends with my best friend at the time. I remember us being totally freaked out by ‘Squeeze’ and then totally losing it when ‘Tooms’ started up and we realized it was a sequel episode! These two still stand among my all time favorite episodes.
Season Two (4.5/5)
This second season is much stronger, the mythology of government involvement in suppressing the evidence of extraterrestrials was coming together, the relationships of certain players were coming together, and the “monsters-of-the-week” were getting pretty intense.
Ep 2 ‘The Host’ and Ep 5 ‘Duane Barry’ and Ep 6 ‘Ascension’ – ‘The Host’ stands as my second favorite “monster-of-the-week” episode while ‘Duane Barry and Ascension prove just how big and important the mythology episodes can get with the abduction of Scully!
Season Three (4.5/5)
While the “monster-of-the-week” episodes were still the highlights of the show, this is the season where it felt like the mythology episodes started to carry a lot more weight and importance.
Ep 3 ‘D.P.O.’ and Ep 15 Piper Maru & Ep 16 ‘Apocrypha’ – ‘D.P.O’.’ was a real kick of an episode featuring guest appearances by Jack Black and Giovanni Ribisi. ‘Piper Maru’ and ‘Apocrypha’ gives us a glimpse of the mysterious “black oil” and this pair of episodes was just darn creepy.
Season Four (5/5)
This is a season where just about every single episode clicked and was just a great piece of entertainment. Even the “bad” episodes were only bad because they didn’t quite live up to the other great episodes this season had to offer.
Ep 2 ‘Home’ and Ep 7 ‘Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man – ‘Home’ is perhaps the most notorious episode ever produced for the show and given its disturbing content, it’s easy to see why. It stands as my favorite “monster” episode of the entire series. ‘Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man’ stands as a pseudo-mythology episode as were given an abundance of information about “Cancer Man” and his involvement in any number of conspiracies dating all the way back to JFK’s assassination.
Season Five (5/5)
Momentum was working for the show at this point. The series was building towards the June 1998 release of the movie and all of the episodes were working in such a way as to allow people who hadn’t yet seen the show to get caught up while featuring some good and creepy monsters.
Ep 3 ‘Unusual Suspects’ and Ep 14 ‘The Red and the Black,’ Ep 15 ‘Travelers,’ and Ep 20 ‘The End’ – ‘Unusual Suspects’ is just pure fun – the meeting of The Lone Gunmen. ‘The Red and the Black,’ ‘Travelers,’ and ‘The End’ offers up some of the best mythology episodes regarding the conspirators, black oil, and the alien colonization plot.
Season Six (4.5/5)
Fresh off the movie, the series picks up strong but isn’t able to hold the momentum very long. part of the issue is it doesn’t “look” or “feel” the same, as production had moved from Vancouver to L.A. – but it was still pretty good and was providing some solid entertainment value.
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Ep 2 ‘Drive’ and Ep 20 ‘Three of a Kind’ – ‘Drive’ features guest Bryon Cranston in a hell of an intense episode while ‘Three of a Kind’ offers up some more Lone Gunmen fun with a follow-up to S05Ep3 ‘Unusual Suspects.’
Season Seven (3.5/5)
The show was still pretty good, but the stretching and altering mythology episodes started to wear thin. Thankfully the “monsters” episodes were pretty great and made this season worth watching.
Ep 3 ‘Hungry’ and Ep 4 ‘Millennium’ – Something about a guy being addicted to eating human brains made ‘Hungry’ a fun episode while ‘Millennium’ was a great crossover episode featuring Lance Henriksen as Frank Black. ‘Millennium’ also shows where Chris Carter’s attentions truly were at this point.
Season Eight (3/5)
While still a decent show, you can feel the creative team being stretched thin by the lack of Mulder and the need to introduce Robert Patrick as Agent Doggett. I always felt like this season was similar to the final season of ‘Northern Exposure’ where they were doing anything they could to find a reason to keep going.
Ep 6′ Redrum’ and Ep 12 ‘Medusa’ – These two episodes, in my opinion, show that the show still had a lot of creative juice in the tank at this point, but didn’t know how to focus it. As the mythology episodes became more and more redundant, the “monsters” became the real highlight and reason to keep tuning in.
Season Nine (3.5/5)
It’s difficult to know where to go with this season. The series at this point had clearly run out of juice, but still needed to come to a close. Thankfully there were a couple of good one-off episodes and a big conclusion brought the show home in grand order.
Ep 15 ‘Jump the Shark’ and Ep 16 ‘William’, Ep 19/20 ‘The Truth: Parts 1 & 2’ – Any Lone Gunmen episode is a good one and ‘Jump the Shark’ saw them team up with Michael McKean’s Morris Fletcher from Season 6. ‘William’ and ‘The Truth: Parts 1&2’ bring the series to a fitting and exciting conclusion. It may have been a very bumpy road to get to this point, but it was a satisfying end.
After a second less-than-amazing follow-up film, ‘The X-Files’ appeared closed – that is until late last year when it was announced that the series and lead stars would be returning for a limited 6-episode run. It’s nice knowing that interest in the series has stayed strong and the fan demand for more Mulder and Scully wasn’t simply regulated to a series of comic book spin-off adventures. It’s even more impressive when you stack it up against the other great shows that will be making their return in 2016 and 2017 with the likes of ‘Twin Peaks’ coming back and now after an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign, ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000.’ I for one can’t wait to be sucked back in by that familiar ‘X-Files’ theme song by composer Mark Snow. Hopefully, the wait for these new six episodes will be worth it!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox has brought ‘The X-Files: Collector’s Set’ together in fine form. Collectively, the set features each individual season housed in their respective hard Blu-ray cases held in a rectangular box with slipcover that is roughly 3.5 inches wide by 7 inches high by 13 inches long. For a comparison, this box is roughly the same size and dimensions as the 1966 ‘Batman The Complete Television Series’ box set. I really love the packaging of this set by keeping the respective seasons in their own hard cases so you don’t have to worry about the discs getting scratched or crushed if they were housed in a big sleeve book. This box also includes a slot for the eventual Blu-ray release of the upcoming revival series. The totality of the series is pressed onto 55 Region A Locked BD50 discs. Each disc opens directly to their respective main menus with traditional navigation options. Thankfully they saw fit to include a “play all” option for each disc making binge viewing a lot easier.