“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

The X-Files

June 19, 1998

(or is it THE X FILES?)

(note: Some people call it X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE, but I think “fight the future” is just the tag line, like “DIE HARDER.”)

Oh shit, man. The ’90s. The X-Files sure was a bigger deal in the ’90s, wasn’t it? And in some ways this movie spin-off of the show is the most era-representative of the ones I’ve watched in this series so far. Not in style, or in any kind of fun, nostalgic way – it doesn’t feel very dated – but just in its view of the world. It spoke to a type of pre-millennium paranoia that has uncool associations today, but at the time was fresh and edgy and hip.

See, the internet was pretty new, so it wasn’t common to know about every strange belief or kooky fringe group. If you wanted to find out about some weird creature somebody claimed to spot you had to read outdated cryptozoology books at the library. If you wanted to know about UFO cults you had to know their address and send them a self addressed stamped envelope and read their newsletter. I don’t know why, but that’s what I did at a certain age. One time I even went to a UFO cult’s presentation on a college campus. All I really remember was a woman with a shaved head who seemed very sincere about all this. A few years later when the mass suicide happened I dug out a handout I’d saved, and though it didn’t say “Heaven’s Gate” on it anywhere it described the same theology, following the teachings of someone called “The Two” or “Ti and Do.” And I always wondered if that lady got out in time.

Maybe it was just my natural youthful rebelliousness, but at that time debates in the U.S. seemed less binary and partisan than they are now, less left vs. right, more The People vs. The Man. X-Files creator Chris Carter had come of age in the era of the Kennedy and King assassinations, and lost faith in all institutions. Suspicion about JFK and Waco wasn’t strictly for right wingers. I remember Freedom School founder Billy Jack mentioned Vince Foster conspiracy theories on one of his DVD commentaries as if they were real and universally accepted. With The X-Files, Carter tapped into those instincts to suspect the authorities are always up to and/or hiding something big, that life is weirder than they want you to know, that the world you live in is just a sugar-coated topping, carefully maintained by mysterious men in black licorice helicopters (or something, this candy metaphor may need work).

You didn’t have to believe any of these ideas to kind of admire the people who did as interesting, extreme personalities, non-conformists, mavericks, Richard Belzers. Back then they were niche groups and mostly seemed harmless. We didn’t know there would be decades of official science denial, dumb people believing dumb shit on Facebook, me worrying that 9-11 was some kind of set up to start wars that, in retrospect, I think they would’ve found some way to start anyway. We couldn’t guess that Art Bell talking about big-eyed aliens on the radio would evolve into Alex Jones telling grieving parents that their murdered children never existed, or Reddit convincing a guy to storm a pizza restaurant with a shotgun believing Hillary Clinton was selling child sex slaves in the non-existent basement. We didn’t know a real life Mulder would likely be hanging out with people whose passions include protecting Confederate monuments and preaching about the dangers of recognizing women as human beings.

It was a really cool show though. I liked it. I’m somewhere in the middle between a devoted fan and a total ignoramus. I watched it weekly for much of the run, but not all of it. I liked the mythology about the black oil and the aliens and all that, but all of my favorite episodes were the funny standalone ones like obviously “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” (I’m not gonna resist a Jesse “The Body” Ventura appearance) or “Bad Blood.” Before Breaking Bad came out I thought it would be good because it was created by the guy that wrote “Bad Blood.” I never watched it though so there’s no way to know if I was right.

I liked THE X FILES MOVIE FIGHT THE FUTURE at the time, but I was curious how it would play now that I haven’t watched or put much thought into the show for many years. Unlike the STAR TREK series of movies, this was made while its show was still on the air, so it had to both make sense to newbies unfamiliar with the 116 episodes leading up to it and be satisfying as a big-screen-worthy episode for those who did. At one point they planned to end the series after the fifth season and then only do movies, instead they just moved from Vancouver to L.A. and kept going. The season 6 premiere “The Beginning” has Mulder on an FBI panel talking about what happened to him in the movie.

It works outside of that context better than I thought it would. The roles of FBI agents Mulder (David Duchovny, BEETHOVEN) as UFO-believer and Scully (Gillian Anderson, JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN) as skeptical scientist are very evident – if anything, it goes too far in trying to underline it in dialogue as Mulder begs Scully not to quit the FBI because of her keeping-em-honest effect on his alien search. I didn’t remember shit about Mulder’s father, but when the conspiracy author played by Martin Landau (BLACK GUNN) talks about him it just plays like any standalone cop movie where that sort of “I knew your father” shit comes up. Same goes for The Well-Manicured Man (John Neville, BABY’S DAY OUT, DANGEROUS MINDS) and The Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis, LOOK WHO’S TALKING, THE TALL MAN). We get from their scenes that they’re some kind of upper class Illuminati motherfuckers who have bargained with alien invaders. I didn’t remember much more than that and didn’t need to.

The only thing that seemed like it would be confusing without knowledge of the show was the appearance by the Lone Gunmen – Bruce Harwood (THE FLY II), Tom Braidwood (first assistant director on one episode of Wes Craven’s Nightmare Cafe) and Dean Haglund (RoboCop: Alpha Commando) – but the worst it would cause is a feeling of “Am I supposed to know who these guys are?” for one short scene. And I guess there are a couple things that were big developments on the show – Mulder and Scully almost kissing, or actually being on a space ship fighting aliens – that don’t seem momentous if you’re just watching the one movie.

I like the earlier scenes better than the later ones. I still love that the first shot is two indistinct figures in the distance, running through snow, because I assumed it was Mulder and Scully until it said 35,000 BC on the screen (they turn out to be cave men). Then it adds “North Texas.” The story will end 35,1998 years later in Antarctica, where I assumed we were in the first place.

In the present day, Lucas Black (THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT) is some poor schmuck Texas boy who falls into a pit and gets infected by ancient alien goop. Despite the dated digital effects, the image of worm-like blobs moving under his skin and turning his eyes black are nice and gross. It’s cool that Black got to be in this little role a couple years after starring in SLING BLADE and the short-lived horror show American Gothic.

Then they continue playing with me, I keep thinking our FBI heroes are gonna make a grand entrance. Trucks keep pulling up and helicopters keep setting down and other people keep stepping onto the scene. It does turn out Mulder and Scully are in the state, but they have no idea about finding alien shit – they’re at a federal building in Dallas, just grunts helping search after a bomb threat, not taking it very seriously until Mulder’s not-by-the-book hunch to check the building across the street does find the bomb and it goes off and they get blamed and their rogue investigation into the matter turns up that it’s a cover-up and leads them to alien bodies and shit.

It’s not on the top five list of best types of popcorn entertainment, but the mix of sci-fi, FBI procedural and conspiracy thriller is at least unique. I don’t know what else to compare it to. It’s a pretty big budget ($66 million) and it’s trying to be larger in scope than the show, but it’s much more about the characters and the twisty plot than any kind of spectacle or set pieces.

There are some good sequences, though, for example when they find a giant complex out in the middle of nowhere, go inside and walk around and then all the vents on the ceiling open and it takes them a second to realize that it’s unleashing a giant cloud of bees on them. Not the bees!

And I like Mulder’s THE ARRIVAL style “holy fucking shit am I really seeing this” exploration of an enormous spaceship he finds underground. This one is not gonna give him lessons from Superman’s dad, though. Also unfortunate: I don’t really like the alien designs, vicious sharp-toothed versions of the traditional big-eyed “grey” aliens of UFO lore. I see what they’re going for but it makes for kind of a boring monster.

But the important thing is that these are good characters, and I think that comes through even out of context from the show. Scully is especially cool, a smart, professional, serious agent who is exhausted by her buddy’s obsessions but honest with him and herself when he seems to be on to something (which turns out to be most of the time). I like when they’re on a roll together, like when they go looking for the hole in the ground in Texas, find a brand new playground, see kids on new bikes, and immediately ascertain that they were given the bikes as a bribe not to talk about what went on here. It’s not all flying saucers, there’s also detective work.

Carter is an interesting figure, a guy who came seemingly out of nowhere and created this one show that had been such a phenomenon that he was given a sort of hands-off treatment rare for TV, especially back then. The guarantee of a theatrical film version was included in his contract after the initial three-season one expired

He’d been the editor of Surfing magazine before coming to TV in the ’80s, writing such TV movies as THE B.R.A.T. PATROL. An earlier attempt at a sci-fi series was called Copter Cop. I’d love to find out what that one was about. I mean, I do have one theory.

When the time came, Carter wrote the screenplay for the X-Files movie, with help on the story outline from Frank Spotnitz, one of the regular writers from the show. Spotnitz was early in his career when the show started, and he continued with related works including Millennium and The Lone Gunmen before going on to create the shows Night Stalker, Hunted, Medici: Masters of Florence, The Indian Detective, Ransom, and The Man in the High Castle. More importantly he wrote some episodes of the The Transporter TV show. I haven’t seen it, but it’s gotta be cool, right? He transports stuff. And he has different rules that he likes to cite.

For director they chose another TV vet, Rob Bowman, who’d usually do an episode or two for each show he worked on (MacGyver, 21 Jump Street, Alien Nation, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., M.A.N.T.I.S.), but he did 13 of Star Trek: The Next Generation and 33 of The X-Files. THE X-FILES was his first theatrical feature that was not about rollerblading (see AIRBORNE [1993]), and he was able to follow it with the quite good post-apocalyptic dragon movie REIGN OF FIRE and the at-least-not-as-bad-as-its-reputation ELEKTRA before saying “okay you’re right, I’m a TV guy, I’ll be over here doing 28 episodes of Castle.

They had action figures, by the way. Made by McFarlane Toys, the influential company founded by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane in 1994, they were the extremely detailed type intended for adult object collectors more than whatever weirdo kids were into the show. Mulders and Scullys in different outfits (suit, parka) were paired with other characters or props: alien, cryopod, corpse (wrapped in a sheet, with a gurney). Also there’s “Attack Alien” with a caveman and, my favorite, “Fireman,” which is a rubber see-through post-accident fireman with the containment unit they lock him in.

You know, for kids who like to play fireman.

The movie did pretty well, about triple its budget, but I don’t think it made much of a mark on the culture, did it? We remember that yeah, there was a movie of The X-Files, and Lucas Black and bees and something. We don’t remember it as its own reference like, say, WRATH OF KHAN.

It took them ten years to get to another movie (THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE), by which point the show was off the air and the fervor had died down and that movie was not well received. Maybe you had to be there.

More ’90s shit:

Though the movie itself sticks with the feel of the TV show, the end credits have a sort of trip hoppy instrumental called “Teotihuacan” by Noel Gallagher, followed by a Foo Fighters song called “Walking After You.” They were included on X-Files: The Album which was produced by Don Was and included songs by Filter, Tonic, Ween, The Cardigans, Bjork, Noel Gallagher, etc., but the only song actually heard in the movie was X’s “Crystal Ship,” played on a jukebox. Paul’s Boutique producers The Dust Brothers also provided a cover of the theme song.

Specifically Summer of ’98 shit:

Mulder needs to piss and the bar’s restroom is closed so he goes out to an alley and pees on a wall plastered with INDEPENDENCE DAY posters. I’m sure they chose it as a dig at a very different style of UFO movie, but it’s probly also related to the box office competition with Emmerich’s GODZILLA.

Also I’d like to remind you that the way to identify nerds in CAN’T HARDLY WAIT was to give them t-shirts with X-Files related slogans and credit them as “X-Philes.”

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 9th, 2018 at 7:42 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

28 Responses to “The X-Files”

  1. When the movie came out, I hadn’t seen one single episode of the show, caused by a lack of cable TV. I started watching it 2 years ago, but I’m still stuck in season 2. (Not because it’s bad, but because there is so much other shit running right now.)

    Anyway, they said that this movie was easy to understand if you are an X-Files noob. Boy, was that a lie! I had no fucking idea who any of these people are, if we were supposed to know them and all in all what was going on! Can’t wait to revisit it, once I watched all the episodes that I needed.

    Fun fact: In an interview Roland Emmerich talked about how he actually liked many of the digs against his movies, that happened at the time, like the (spoiler for future SUMMER OF ’98 review?) dog that chewed on the Godzilla toy in ARMAGEDDON, but he thought that Mulder pissing on an ID4 movie crossed a line.

  2. I also started watching THE X-FILES properly(ish, I watched some key famous ones first before going into the mythology stuff) a couple of years ago. It was actually pretty big with the kids at my school, I don’t think they were all weirdos, but I wasn’t allowed to watch it while it was still a big deal. In retrospect I don’t resent that because not only is the show frequently very gruesome, it also would have gone pretty far over my head at that age for the most part. It’s also been kind of fun finding out which episodes where boys’ tales and which ones are real like for example, why yes, there actually is an episode about a woman who sex’s men to death.

    Haven’t got to the movie yet, but did see it once around 2001 or so and quite liked it.

  3. I feel like you would enjoy Breaking Bad quite a bit. Lots of those weird flourishes you like, and tons of “badass juxtapositions”

  4. Been re-watching X-FILES lately but just the monster-of-the-week episodes as I never cared for the mythology episodes. Got to a point for the over-plot to make sense every single person in the world had to be in on the conspiracy except Mulder and Scully for it to work. I’m rarely a fan of over-plots to this day and I often cite X-FILES as my waking moment to that fact. Funnily what taught me that I really was not into the over-plot was this movie when I saw it back in theaters. It bored the shit out of me and while I continued to watch the show I always hopes it didn’t deal with the ‘mythology.’

    So I was regretting re-watching it. Even though I was only doing monster-of-the-week stuff I figured I’d re-watch this one as well and surprise, surprise I liked it much better. I guess with all the time passing and, like Vern said, it’s still a really unique movie at least as far as big Hollywood Summer movies go. I found myself actually in where it was going and thought it’s few ‘spectacle/horror’ sequences were effective. Didn’t convince me to go back and do the mythology episodes (currently on season 8) but I enjoyed it for what it was this time.

  5. As a kid I was hugely into the X-Files. My Dad, godbless him, ever ready to indulge my crazy passions (anything to keep me away from them pesky drugs etc), found loads of aliens/UFO books, even subscribed me to a UFC/Weirdo monthly magazine which had some kinky shit in it. Obviously he didn’t check it thoroughly. Me and a few buddies were Die Hard X-Files nerds and we totally were the only people in the theater when the movie hit out sleepy little town.

    I loved it. It was like a big budget episode just with some extra flash. I especially enjoyed the irony of a giant flying saucer flying in front of Scully, but she has alien goo in her eyes so she can’t see it. It also broke the mold of having Mulder draw his gun and immediately have it taken away from him. If memory serves, that was like a meme before memes existed.

    Any way, when Mulder left the series, I really fell out of love. It totally over-played the mythos episodes, got way too confusing and convoluted, and aside from the finale, I only came back for that movie with Billy Connolly (pile of turd). I’ve not even tried those well received new episodes.

    But thanks for the fond memories Vern. That era of X-Files and it’s associated X-Philes really takes me back to some good times.

  6. The Winchester

    July 9th, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    I hate being that guy, but as an HBO brat of the 90s (the kid who saw everything ad infinitum due to lack of interest in everything not movies) I have to point out that Rob Bowman is responsible for directing the hit rollerblading/Jack Black vehicle Airborne.

  7. Boy, I remember this one as a real disappointment. It’s functionally an extended episode of the series focusing on the alien conspiracy, but unfortunately that stuff is always the least interesting part of the X-Files, I find. It wasn’t at all thought out and after just a little bit of time spent on the storyline, it became clear there was a lot of wheel-spinning going on as a result. When I’m in the mood to rewatch it now, I’ll go for a random monster of the week episode every time. That said, I gotta give it up for how the X-Files laid the groundwork for so many other shows to come, with its mix of standalone eps and overarching story eps.

  8. Thank you, The Winchester. That was a topnotch correction. I have updated it to “first theatrical feature not about rollerblading.”

  9. I was a very very casual fan of the show, and saw this with a group of friends who were very into it and I found it fairly easy to follow at the time. The most resonant moment though was a guy who sat in front of us in his home made X-Files t-shirt, which was covered in quotes he had written on pieces of masking tape and he had big masking tape X’s on both sides of the shirt. He seemed really proud of his outfit and spent most of the pre-film time looking around to see who was looking at him.

  10. It’s common these days to say the mythology stuff was never very good and that the “Monster of the week” episodes were the real gold, and I don’t disagree but I also think to a large extent the mythology is more of what made it catch on at first. If you say X-FILES to most people they would tell you it was about an alien conspiracy. I think the mythology stuff is maybe tainted by later developments which came after most people tuned out, and there’s certainly some correlation there, but natural attrition and the lifespan of most/any cultural phenomenon also played a part.

    Chris Carter also seems to be one of those creators, like George Lucas (at least until recently), who was found guilty of some transgression by a section of the fanbase and audience, who then decided he deserved no credit for any of it, it was a mix of more talented people’s work and flukey luck. Not completely untrue of course, but he must deserve some credit for the overall vision, as well as the environment he fostered as showrunner.

  11. I recently did a whole-series rewatch, and was surprised to find that the mythology stuff is actually pretty damn good and solid for the first half of the shows run, and is even wrapped up pretty well in season six. Unfortunately, they tried to keep it going, and it went downhill sharply, and now the mythology stuff has sort of a bad reputation.

    Has anyone watched the newer seasons? They’re uneven for sure, but there’s some absolutely great stuff in there, particularly the Darin Morgan episodes.

  12. I saw William Gibson talk at the British Film Institute about his movie influences and someone asked him about the episodes of the The X-Files he’d written. He was pretty clear that working for Chris Carter had been one of his happiest adventures in screenwriting. But it seemed that Gibson’s bar had been set pretty low by his Alien III experience: he was happy to deal with just one guy, and the scripts got made.

  13. “You didn’t have to believe any of these ideas to kind of admire the people who did as interesting, extreme personalities, non-conformists, mavericks, Richard Belzers. Back then they were niche groups and mostly seemed harmless. We didn’t know there would be decades of official science denial, dumb people believing dumb shit on Facebook, me worrying that 9-11 was some kind of set up to start wars that, in retrospect, I think they would’ve found some way to start anyway. We couldn’t guess that Art Bell talking about big-eyed aliens on the radio would evolve into Alex Jones telling grieving parents that their murdered children never existed, or Reddit convincing a guy to storm a pizza restaurant with a shotgun believing Hillary Clinton was selling child sex slaves in the non-existent basement. We didn’t know a real life Mulder would likely be hanging out with people whose passions include protecting Confederate monuments and preaching about the dangers of recognizing women as human beings.”

    One interesting thing about the 2016 “10th” season was that it begins with Mulder partnering with a crazy right-wing pundit, which is definitely where the modern paranoia has shifted. Carter and the X-Files writers always seemed seemed to have their fingers right on the pulse of this stuff, so it makes sense that they acknowledge the current lay of the land, but it makes for some uncomfortable subtext and a weird blurring of who Mulder and Scully are that they would pal around with some right-wing conspiracy wingnut and take him seriously as an ally (I think Scully ends up dating him? eww). He doesn’t do anything too objectionable on-screen, but we have enough context to know that this guy would absolutely have some really unappealing opinions on militias, black people, birtherism, etc.

    It’s been bizarre and alarming to watch the things about the counterculture which appealed to be as a kid get captured, twisted, and perverted into something much darker by the right, while still retaining enough of their original shape to be immediately identifiable. I sometimes think this is a sign that we’re doomed, and other times I hope that it’s just a sign that we won.

  14. Holy cow Vern, you haven’t watched Breaking Bad? Like, any of it? I doubt I’m the first person who’s been astonished by that, so I apologize if you’ve explained yourself before, but I’m sincerely curious if you’ve purposely avoided it, or watched some of it and it didn’t agree with you, etc. I only make a point of it because it’s one of the few shows that I felt was high-quality from top to bottom, with the depth and attention to detail of a well-made film across its entirety, and can be appreciated on many, many levels. I could go on, but, of course, this is an X-Files review, so I’ll just add that the episode “Drive” starring Bryan Cranston and written by Vince Gilligan is a pretty good one (and was a major reason why Gilligan casted Cranston in Breaking Bad). The fluke man episode also stands out in my mind, since I saw it when I was a kid and it always made me think twice before using a porta potty (as if they weren’t terrifying enough to begin with :P).

  15. As a big fan of the show, I thought this delivered, but I always wondered whether it worked for casual or non-fans, so thanks for that perspective. Looking back on it, this was my favorite blockbuster of 98. And it was fun to see the show finally have a movie budget after years of trying to be cinematic. Sometimes I don’t think The X-Files gets enough credit for really pushing the look of television.

    And I would go to bat for the conspiracy episodes through season six. They actually wrapped up a lot of the story and clearly had no idea how to keep it going after that.

  16. The only thing I remember about this one is watchimg it with some friends at night and another friend came home, peeked in the living room, and sang ” watching X Files with no ligjts on”

  17. Oh jeez I forgot about the X-Files episodes about black stuff in the eyes. How could I not make this association with PROMETHEUS? This now seems like a blatant ripoff.

    I was always in the monster of the week camp in X-Files fandom, and of course any X-Files movie is going to be all about the overarching story and not a monster of the year extended episode. I never cared about Mulder’s sister (except as a driving force behind his obsession) or aliens hidden in cargo containers in the desert or men in Black who had black goo in their eyes sometimes, and this always seemed to be the lazy weekly TV show scriptwriting hackery where they don’t really know where they are going, have no real plans, and keep adding more ridiculous crap on top of their rickety house of cards. It’s a Ponzi scheme style of writing, where they just hope they can fool enough people long enough before it all falls apart. See LOST, PROMETHEUS, and not BREAKING BAD.

  18. ktulu – I’m sure I would like it, I just have a hard time keeping up with TV. Shows that I have seen all of are generally things like Justified and Fargo that I was watching from the beginning. Maybe if I wasn’t working the night of the pilot (or whatever stopped me from watching it) I would’ve watched it every week like the rest of the world.

    I also never saw The Sopranos, Mad Men or Lost. Some day I hope to watch Deadwood. I *will* watch The Wire.

  19. rainman: THANK YOU! Your comment on how these over-plots is Ponzi scheme writing, is how I feel about almost every over-plot (planned out or no). I sometimes feel like an outsider when many shows when I say I don’t care fore the over-plot and really miss the days of episodic television sometimes. Then some fans get on my case about how I only like time-wasting filler and if they had their way, there would ONLY be plot-building episodes. I hope you don’t mind me using your Ponzi scheme analogy for myself in real life conversation.

    Also, thanks for backup on the alien conspiracy theory episodes also being the weak link and Fluke Man and Evil Termites or Whatever is where it was always at. Though I will say enjoying this one more on rewatch a few months back has made me think of going back and watching some mythology episodes. I remember liking the ones with the Alien Bountyhunter guy played by the bad guy from DR. MORDRID and MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION.

    Vern: I’m the same with TV. I only bothered with FARGO because of how much your praised it on Twitter and I wasn’t disappointed. I finally started watching some comedies after raves from here about a few of them. Since I’m not a TV guy I get daunted by shows that I’m told I like because either I end up not liking them and disappointing those around me or I’m daunted by the amount of episodes. Funnily some shows I did decide to start watching from the get-go, ended up getting canceled and never resolved their stories/character-arcs or had to do so REALLY quickly.

    Need to check out JUSTIFIED and THE WIRE still. Told Broddie (on these here comment sections) I’d check out TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNER CHRONICLES. If he’s lurking he told me to say what I thought about the RUSH HOUR TV show and I didn’t even finish the first episode so uh.. I wasn’t a fan I guess but I could have just not been in the mood though. Still haven’t watched the LETHAL WEAPON TV show that no matter how some here back it I just don’t think I’ll give it a fair shake regardless.

    Mr. S: Despite being a big fan back in day, I have not watched either of the revival season (mainly cause I figured they’d be plot-mythology-centric) and it’s our current climate of right-wing conspiracy theory nutters have me both curious and concerned about getting to them.

  20. Also check out Hap and Leonard. The seasons are short, more like mini-series, because each is an adaptation of one of the books. I love that approach: a single story in 6 episodes. And it’s just flat out good.

  21. geoffreyjar — Of the 10th season, only two of the six episodes are really mythology heavy, and it’s just the first and final one. The rest are monster-of-the-week which vary in quality from fine to great.

    The X-Files greatest liability at this point, unfortunately, is Carter himself, who wrote a few good episodes back in the day (“Triangle” is a pretty ambitious and successful bit of TV writing) but nowadays has dissolved entirely into incoherent telling-not-showing and seems to have almost no idea what to do with the characters, especially Scully (his writing for her was always atrocious, but it seems to have actually gotten worse with age, often really embarrassingly reducing her to mothering tropes in the clunkiest way possible. Sometimes Anderson can salvage it with her performance, but sometimes it just can’t be done).

    Even aside from Carter, though, there’s no denying that even the good episodes of the new X-Files don’t feel as special as they did back in the day; at the time, X-Files was the best-looking, most ambitious show anywhere on TV, light-years ahead of the competition in terms of looking and feeling cinematic (in fact, one reason the movie doesn’t leave a huge impact is that the show itself was already so much like a movie). Nowadays, of course, TV has surged forward as an artistic medium, largely thanks to the X-Files. The world has changed, the X-Files has mostly stayed the same, which means that even when its at its best, it actually seems a little behind the times. At its zenith, the show boasted the highest productions and the best action anywhere in sight. With something like WESTWORLD now boasting a world-class cast and budget the size of a small country, how can poor X-Files stand out anymore?

  22. I actually did recently get to the first season of Hap and Leonard, and really enjoyed it. That’s the only Hap and Leonard book I’ve read though, I’d like to read the next book before watching season 2. (I have heard 3 is terrible, but hope to watch it anyway.)

    Sarah Connor Chronicles is a good one to bring up because there’s a show that I was watching weekly and enjoying, then I missed a couple episodes due to whatever circumstances and for some reason I just stopped watching it. I’m just not a binge watcher I guess. But to be fair if it was something I loved as deeply as Fargo I surely would’ve found a way.

    Also, part of this TV problem is that I’m always trying to watch movies to review here, so spending many hours watching all the great TV that exists now feels more anti-productive than it does for a normal person. Maybe someday I’ll find more of a balance.

  23. I watched some episodes of the show with my parents during the original run. As a Norwegian, the most memorable episode was the hilariously titled “Død Kalm”, with John Savage and Vladimir Kulich speaking Norwegian. Poorly. Kulich would go on to play a Viking in The 13th Warrior, and on the making of-doc on the French blu-ray, he proudly admits to skipping the Norwegian language class set up by McTiernan and company to go drinking instead – because he already knew the language from his work on X-files!

    About 10 years ago I started working my way through the show chronologically, but for some reason only made to the third season. I’ve been meaning to go back…and this review actually made me impulse-buy the season 1-9 on blu-ray, and I found the Event Series (season 10) used in a shop in the neighbourhood. I’ve enjoyed season 10 so far, with two really terrific episodes. I guess I’ll have to pick up “Millennium” too.

    I saw the movie when it came out, and I’ve seen it since. I like it a lot. It addition to the soundtrack album mentioned in the review, it had a second soundtrack album that included a (fantastic) Nick Cave-song as a hidden bonus track. Most bonus tracks are after the final track, but this one was before the first one. My CD-player wouldn’t let me skip backwards from the opening track, so I had to use my parents player to listen to it. Ah, the memories :-)

  24. Forrest —

    Oh man! That “second soundtrack album” (called “Songs in the Key of X”) was fucking great, and I still listen to it from time to time even today. It was my first exposure in what turned out to be a life-long love affair with Nick Cave. That secret song and the enigmatic clues in the liner notes about it were surely the greatest ever “secret song” in CD history. Shame that today’s streaming services don’t really allow for that kind of chicanery.

  25. @Mr. S: I suspect it’s just more a sign that the republican dominance of the political landscape of the 90s and the Clintonian pivot to the “center” wasn’t a bug, but was a feature–in terms of how conspiracy theories translate into politics. After all, a core tenant of conservatism especially back then was that government was bad and needed to be downsized.

    I’m only slightly familiar with the X-Files and recall watching this movie not in one sitting but did see the whole thing maybe over the course of a month or two as it re-aired on network and cable stations, so probably a couple years after the fact. Consequently, I can’t fairly comment that much on it as movie besides it not ever knocking me on my ass in segments, but I think I can say that it’s vibe didn’t strike me as that alien (no pun intended) to what we see now. It’s definitely mutated in terms of messaging, but the packaging doesn’t seem far off.

  26. During the X-Files’s original run, the writers were at least somewhat aware of how these paranoid government conspiracy theories play out politically. There was the the episode where Mulder goes undercover with a right-wing militia, “The Pine Bluff Variant,” which at least seemed to say, “Hey, we’re not with these nutcases.” It’s too bad Chris Carter seemed to have fully embraced the Alex Joneses of the world in the new seasons

    I also loved the fact that they occasionally nod to the fact that Mulder is kind of unhinged. And I really wish they had sprinkled a few episodes in where Scully was actually right and nothing paranormal was happening. I know that people tune into the X-Files to see Tombs or Leonard Betts, not just some kidnapper, but I wouldn’t mind if in a few episodes the culprit turned out to be just a run of the mill non-paranormal creep.

    And, sure, the new seasons are uneven (and the mythology episodes are downright awful), but I do think they’re worth it for the two Darin Morgan episodes we’ve gotten.

  27. Rbatty — IIRC the second season episode “Irresistible” is just about a regular serial killer. In fact, Mulder gets called because the local cops think it’s aliens, and Mulder actually identifies it as being a purely human phenomenon. (Of course, in the sequel episode in season 7 or whatever, it turns out the guy is actually a demon or something, but hey, his record as the only non-paranormal killer on the X-files stood for a whole five years!) That episode is also worth pointing out for its fantastic creepy use of Screamin’ Jay Hawkin’s “Frenzy,” which also appears on “Songs In The Key of X.”

    I always figured that Mulder doesn’t get assigned very many “normal” cases because, let’s face it, there’s no way Mulder could successfully testify against anyone he arrested without being eaten alive by any defense attorney who knew his body of work. This is a minor point which doesn’t get a lot of attention on the show, although it does turn up in one of my favorite episodes, when they actually successfully catch themselves a Flukeman and the prosecutor is just fucking baffled about what he’s supposed to do in this situation. Do they, like… have a trial? Or put it in a zoo? Who has legal responsibility for this thing?

  28. Oh, yeah, the episode where Scully’s experiencing PTSD from her abduction. I remember reading that they wanted to make the serial killer a necrophile until Fox nixed the idea.

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