X-Files: The Lost Years
Pop quiz! When did the original TV run of The X-Files end? If you’re in your 20’s like me, and professed undying love for the show when it premiered, the progression goes like this:
The show started in 1993, provided awesome entertainment for a few years, then slid toward oblivion after the marginal X-Files movie was released in 1998. Following the movie, adolescent male X-philes (hateful term) decided, perhaps wrongly, that girls are more interesting than government conspiracies, alien abduction, or David Duchovny.
The X-Files was lost to us. Recall that in 1998 there was no Netflix streaming, no Hulu Plus, and no hope for watching a primetime TV show until it entered syndication. At this point, the Fox syndication graveyard that is FX was still showing live programs about pet maintenance, not 24 hour a day reruns of The Shield, Rescue Me, or Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer. If you wanted to enjoy an entire season of X-Files in sequential order you were going to spend serious money on VHS tapes or (if you were wealthy) a pile of episode DVDs. Needless to say, if the audience was not invested enough to watch the show on TV, it is unlikely that our dollars would be spent to seek out the rapidly self-destructing X-Files on home video.
Our next collective memory is of X-Files: I Want to Believe, a lousy reheat of a movie that was released in 2008. This leaves an entire decade during which there could have been episodes of the X-Files that remain unknown to us. In an effort to figure out exactly what happened to the show after X-Files: Fight The Future had exited theaters, I have watched every episode of the show’s run. To answer the quiz question, the show went off the air on May 19th, 2002, after its cancellation. The first X-Files movie is set in between seasons five and six of the show. Seasons one through six, aside from an occasional bad apple, are wonderful television and should be considered by any fan of the sci-fi, suspense, or Who’s The Boss sexual tension genres.
By season seven, David Duchovny was clearly fed up with his role as FBI agent Fox Mulder. The prevalence of Duchovny-penned episodes matches the insane turn toward comedy that the show made in season seven. Take Hollywood A.D. as an example. In this episode Mulder and Scully go to Hollywood and take bubble baths, all the while being studied by Tea Leoni and Gary Shandling for their roles in a fictional meta-X-Files movie. The biggest middle finger to the audience came with the dancing ghosts at the end of this episode, who wander across a blue screen backdrop and waltz for over five minutes. The show barely had a fourth wall left after the farce that was S7:E12 (X-Cops, where the agents are filmed during an episode of Fox’s COPS). William Gibson did little to help, as his season seven episode First Person Shooter was a travesty in most every way. As Pete might say, that episode was made entirely of gratuitous nonsense, such as the Lone Gunmen.
Season eight saw the rebirth of the show, as heralded by the near-total absence of Duchovny, and the addition of FBI Agent John Doggett as Scully’s new partner. Doggett was played by Robert Patrick, who is best known for his role as the T-1000 in James Cameron’s epic 1991 blockbuster classic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Simply put, Robert Patrick renewed the serious tone of The X-Files, all the while reminding us of what a scary but jovial presence he can bring to the screen; we laugh while he kills! The self-referential Terminator in-jokes are well done, and never stretch to the idiotic extremes of some season seven episodes (see: the genie plotline in S7:E21, Je Souhaite). Standout episodes from season eight include Redrum (where Joe Morton, who was also in T2, travels backward through time to solve the murder of his wife, and to exonerate himself of the crime), and Salvage (an episode where a scrapyard worker seeks vengeance for an industrial accident that transforms him into living metal). Speaking of metal men, check out Robert Patrick’s range as an actor, especially when compared to David Duchovny:
Clearly, the T-1000 is one of the most badass characters ever. Does Californication involve time travel, shape shifting, or mass murder? Didn’t think so. Jersey shorts cannot compare to being blown in half while perched above a smelting vat.
Before long, the show was cancelled and the actors went on to other projects. Perhaps the quality of seasons eight and nine never reached the high points set by earlier seasons; War of The Corpophages (S3:E12), Tunguska (S4:E8), and Folie a Deux (S5:E19) all come to mind as high points without real counterparts in the final seasons. The truth is out there, and the truth is that David Duchovny ruined Fox Mulder, paving the way for John Doggett to bring the show back to its senses. John Doggett Rules.