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X-Files (1st 3 episodes)

by Rob Friesel

I would estimate that about 10 years has elapsed since the last time I saw an X-Files episode.  While I would not say that I watched it religiously during high school, it was certainly a favorite.  Who but Chris Carter was doing anything interesting on TV during the 1990s?  It was somewhat amazing to me that Fox — the same network that had killed Profit and would later kill Firefly — could have such a winner on its hands and not screw it up.   A. & I recently grabbed the first disc of the first season to watch some X-Files — partly out of nostalgia and partly out of a sense of “we seem to have run out of TV series DVDs to watch”.  Some thoughts on the first three episodes:

  • The Pilot.  Season one, episode one.  Where the fun begins, eh?  It is interesting to watch this first, pilot episode after such a long break from the series.  Carter & co. do such an excellent job with the set up in this first hour.  We are immediately given the central premise and in such an easily digestible way that we expect a great deal of story back-fill to follow — should enough people “get” the show.  We get a David Duchovny trying on Fox Mulder’s skin, making him a little geekier and a little less melancholy than the character we accept as the series develops.  We get a proto-Dana Scully out of Gillian Anderson: a bit more bristle but just about the right amount of confrontational empathy.  We also get the conspiracy theory hints dropped; the Cancer Man is in our introductory scene and also files away our evil little metal device…  A strong start to the series.
  • Deep Throat.  Season one, episode two.  The “in case you missed the pilot” episode…  Replace Cancer Man with Deep Throat, re-inject the government conspiracy and alien abduction-slash-alien technology themes, and we’re off and running.  We still have Duchovny playing a little more on the geeky elements of Mulder’s character but you can see the melancholy emerging a bit more; it is a bit of a satire unto itself but the levity seems to be necessary to keep us from taking things too seriously.  At the same time, we also get a little more emotionally involved.  The stakes seem higher.  Perhaps it’s the well-played repetition of the alien and conspiracy themes.  Perhaps it’s the weird cross-section of side characters Carter gives us as part of the back-drop.  Perhaps it’s the more plausible way that Dana Scully handles her pistol.
  • Squeeze.  Season one, episode three.  Our first “off-topic” episode.  We back off from the central plots and themes, we back off from the aliens and instead toy around with bizarre murdering monster-ific mutants in (where else?) Baltimore.  Duchovy and Anderson are starting to really hit their respective strides as Mulder and Scully (respectively), to really nail down their characters.  A part of you wishes that the stretchy mutant villain has a tie-in with the central alien plot themes but there is another part of you that recognizes how important it is to deviate from that.  We need some breadth of subject matter in addition to the depth of that central mythos; it will give the show some stamina.  Plus it lets us see our Special Agents in some “more curious” scenarios.  Things become a bit more unpredictable.

Good stuff, this show.  And I’m impressed with how well it holds together after so many years.  These first three episodes are a good 15 years old now.  Sure, the background music and pantsuits are a little dated but whatever; I’m looking forward to working my way through the rest of these.

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

3 Responses to X-Files (1st 3 episodes)

Eleanore says:

Wonderful commentary! I’m loving seeing people who haven’t watched in some time (or better yet, newly recruited fans!) rewatching and rediscovering the excellence of the show. it really does have great staying power, doesn’t it? All these years later, it holds up so well.

Just had to pop in and give kudos for a great post. I hope, if you continue to watch, you’ll keep posting thoughts on the episodes! 🙂

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