Saturday, June 27, 2015

Reopening The X-Files

This is an event that's been a long time coming, but my experience with Chris Carter's sci-fi/horror alien conspiracy TV series The X-Files has always been driven by opportunity. When it first premiered circa 1993 (incidentally, the same year that Jurassic Park came out), I didn't start watching it - but I was aware of it. I saw commercials for it, and I initially thought it was a movie, due to its subject nature. Fire In The Sky came out that year, too (a harrowing film I would describe as torture porn for the alien abduction generation), which I saw in theaters and subsequently paid for in the form of nightmares. I was probably just getting into my alien abduction phase at that time, spurred on by another TV series from the '90s - the supernatural and documentary-ish Sightings. But I had no idea in 1993 that The X-Files would become such a groundbreaking television show.

It was actually four years later that FX announced a unique event - an episode-a-day airing of the entire first four seasons of The X-Files, in order - that I finally caught the wave of the show. By that time, I had been thinking that The X-Files was a show I'd like to watch, but I didn't want to jump in right in the middle. So this event was the perfect opportunity for me to get up to speed with the show, and I dedicated myself (even going so far as using the little TV in the basement when I was grounded and lost bedroom TV privileges) to gluing myself to the TV screen to watch episode after episode, until I was caught up. It took longer than that summer to get up to speed, so I actually started taping the new episodes in the fifth season in anticipation of the time I would be ready to watch them, but eventually I reached that point when I could make the weekly appointment to watch the new episodes as they aired each Sunday night. And The X-Files became one of my favorite TV shows of all time.

After that season, the first movie was released, which I got to see in the theaters, and was a really exciting experience for me. It was the perfect distillation of The X-Files in movie form. Then the show continued, but it began to get a little long in the tooth. The mythology which had been so exciting to follow (even in the absence of any concrete answers after five or six years) started to grow too convoluted, and even the excitement of finally introducing actual aliens into the show seemed to take away from the suspense of not knowing that made the show so intriguing in the past. When David Duchovny left the show as a regular character, that was the final straw - and I tuned out. No offense to Robert Patrick who took his place (as a different character), who I think is a fine actor, but you just can't do The X-Files without Fox Mulder.

Even so, in the ensuing years, I've felt a little guilty that I never got to see how the show ended. I watched the second movie when it came out, I Want To Believe, which seemed a little like an apology from the creators and a return to form, and though response to it wasn't very strong, I felt that it acted like a suitable coda to the series. Still, I had it in the back of my mind that I would eventually have to go back and rewatch the series someday, and finally catch the last couple of seasons that I had missed. I remember seeing the full series DVD box set in the store, and not quite being ready to shell out a hefty price for it. Then, just this past year, I noticed the series was available on Netflix. But a nine season show is still a significant time commitment. I know people who could binge it without a second thought, but I'm not like that. It took me a few years to finish Buffy The Vampire Slayer (just this past October), and that show was only seven seasons long.

But then, it was announced that the original creators and stars of The X-Files were coming back to put together a short run of brand new episodes. I may be a little skeptical of how well this quintessential '90s show can capture the modern zeitgeist in a world that seems to have moved beyond the scare of UFOs and alien abductions, but the creators are confident that the government conspiracy aspect of the show, at least, is as timely as ever. And you can bet I'll be tuning in to watch it, just to see Mulder and Scully back together doing what they do best. And that's when it hit me - if ever there was a perfect time for me to rewatch The X-Files, this is it. I don't like the pressure of having to watch so much TV in a limited time frame, with a real deadline (the new episodes are scheduled to begin airing at the end of next January, after the Superbowl), but there'll never be a better reason for it than this. And, considering that my first introduction to the show was under eerily similar circumstances - I take that as a sign that this is meant to be.

So, over the next seven months (that's less than a month per season!), I'm going to do my best (with no absolute guarantee that I'll finish in time), to watch nine seasons - that's 202 episodes, or approximately 150 hours of television - of The X-Files. And I'll try to keep you up to date with a running commentary of my thoughts on the episodes as I go through them. I realized only too late that I should have reviewed the seasons of Buffy as I watched them, instead of waiting until I was finished with the whole show, but I won't make that mistake again. So, I don't know if I'm going to do it episodically, or season by season (the latter probably allows for more wiggle room, lower requirements for commentary, and thus less time spent writing when I could be watching), but stay tuned for the first installment of my journey through The X-Files, coming to you anywhere from tomorrow to within a month's time!

Season 1 (24 episodes)
Season 2 (25 episodes)
Season 3 (24 episodes)
Season 4 (24 episodes)
Season 5 (20 episodes)
The X-Files: Fight The Future (1998)
Season 6 (22 episodes)
Season 7 (22 episodes)
Season 8 (21 episodes)
Season 9 (20 episodes)
The X-Files: I Want To Believe (2008)


  1. Interesting that you caught it through FX. In the dark days before streaming and binge-watching that's basically how I discovered all my shows. I rarely watched TV during primetime and never saw a show right from the first episode so most shows I'd get into when they'd end up in syndication on the Family Channel.

    I also echo your feelings about long shows being quite a commitment. There are some shows which started out as all-time favorites of mine, amazing shows like The West Wing and The Good Wife, which after binging and binging on 70, 80 episodes, I just can't keep up anymore. I need variety, I need to stretch my mental muscles. To this day I've never continued with either of those shows despite them being available for free (on Netflix and Amazon respectively). Personally I no longer approve of the 22-episode network season. 10 to 15 episodes like the artisan shows do, that's how to properly do a TV season. Awesome that the new X-Files will be a limited run, which ensures us a stronger crop and still leaves the door open for more installments if it goes well.

    I've had a similar relationship with putting off watching The X-Files. I was a little young to really appreciate it in its time but of course episodes like Jose Chung definitely go down in history as all-time greats,

    Looking forward to seeing your journey unfold and I think I'll finally start my mythology-watch this Halloween season (which for me starts in like August).

  2. I'll be looking forward to picking out and indicating some of my all-time favorite episodes (and also seeing how they hold up to the passage of time). I read somebody else's rewatch a couple years ago, and my overall impression was that they didn't have a proper respect for the mythology episodes. Everybody loves monster-of-the-week episodes, but that's not what kept me tuned in episode after episode, and it's not what made The X-Files such a groundbreaking show.

    Incidentally, one show I remember watching brand new from episode one was Sliders. I still remember the night the series premiere aired for the first time...

  3. I liked Sliders but that was even more before my time if I recall. I barely remember it, other than the episode where they killed the real professor and replaced him with a double (presumably?)

    I definitely want to watch the mythology episodes, as a kid that's the part that kept me interested as well. Episodic shows really aren't my cup of tea anymore so while the monster-of-the-week eps are awesome, I definitely think I'll respond more to the mythology.