{TB Talks TV} #TBT – The X-Files

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In a previous , we took a trip to the strange little town of Twin Peaks. This week, we’re following up with that show’s immediate predecessor: THE X-FILES.  The sci-fi series from Chris Carter ran on Fox for 202 episodes over 9 seasons (but let’s be honest, no one’s really counting those last two). It broke boundaries by blending the paranormal with the procedural, paving the way for shows like “Grimm,” “Warehouse 13,” and most directly, “Fringe.”

(Source: knowyourmeme.com)

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson led the show as FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Mulder (don’t call him Fox) was the believer, while Scully acted as his skeptical counterbalance. Together they investigated the so-called “X-Files”–the cases with paranormal leanings that the FBI couldn’t explain through traditional means and thus relegated to the basement. Mulder and Scully’s circle of acquaintances was not expansive. They were aided, and sometimes hindered, by Director Walter Skinner ( Mitch Pileggi). The Lone Gunmen (named after the JFK conspiracy theory) were a trio of self-proclaimed counterculture patriots who assisted Mulder and Scully in their investigations, and occasionally got their own spotlight. They also got their spin-off show, but it was canceled after 13 episodes. The Smoking Man (William B. Davis) and Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea) served as the main faces of the often confusing enemy.

There were basically two kinds of episodes on “The X-Files”: those that focused on the mythology arc (mytharc) of the series and those that dealt with the monsters-of-the-week (MotW). Over the course of the series the mytharc got pretty convoluted. Black oil! Government conspiracies! Shapeshifters! The Syndicate! Alien colonization! That thing they found in Africa! If you had a hard time keeping track of what was going on week to week (never mind season to season), don’t worry, you weren’t the only one. As it became harder and harder to follow the logic of the mytharc, the stand-alone episodes found their groove as some of the most engaging and downright fun episodes to watch. A number of those episodes broke away from the standard, more procedural storytelling format the show employed, perhaps most notably the critically acclaimed “Triangle.” This sixth season episode completely broke form by utilizing long-takes (some with a little editing magic) and having the actors pull double-duty as themselves and also versions of themselves in 1939.

And here’s the thing about those “stand-alone” episodes. Even if they didn’t adhere to the apparent over-arching theme of the show, they told the best stories. The mutant who could stretch his body to improbable lengths and needed to eat livers to survive. The man who could regenerate his entire body, but needed to consume cancerous growths to do so. The alien baseball player who just wanted to love the game. These were the X-Files. This was the heart of the show.

The show spawned two feature films, the decently successful “The X-Files” and the critically panned “The X-Files: I Want to Believe.” There are rumors about a third movie being in the works, especially now that David Duchnovy is free of his show, “Californication,” but, as always, it’s a case of not holding your breath.

“The X-Files” also had the honor and the privilege of being the show that emotionally scarred the children who would grow up to be today’s young adults. Ask a 25-year-old whether they were afraid of the dark as a kid and why, and chances are better than even that you’ll get the story of an “X-Files” episode.

True stories from TB Talks contributors: When Sammy was a small child, she walked in on her father watching the “X-Files” episode “The Host,” and somehow, instead of becoming scared of the episode’s sewer monster, she developed a life-long fear of David Duchovny. (She would be the only person to develop said fear.) Meanwhile, Donna saw the early first-season episode “Squeeze,” and for years afterward was unable to sleep with her back to an air vent. On the other hand, Maggie first saw “The X-Files” when she was about 8-years-old during a Christmas marathon (yes, they used to marathon episodes of the show) and ended up spending the entire day (and the next several years) watching it with her mother.

Beyond the direct influence that “The X-Files” had on shows like “Fringe,” it was responsible in a broader sense for the rise of genre television as a whole. “The X-Files” was one of the first shows to take sci-fi seriously, and to do so with relatively modern effects. The supernatural threats on “The X-Files” were not campy, and they were not jokes. It brought sci-fi and fantasy into the mainstream. Without it, we would have no “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” no “The Vampire Diaries,” no “Lost”–or at the very least, the versions of those shows we’d have would be very different, and probably much delayed.

And if nothing else, the “X-Files” gave us this monument to the 90s.

“The X-Files” can be streamed on Netflix. Have fun, and remember–the truth is out there.

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