Thursday, July 2, 2015

An Analytical Observation on The X-Files

This is something that's been stewing in my head for a few days. I might have more to say about it after I rewatch a particular episode in the second season, or when I eventually get to the part late in the series where David Duchovny leaves the show. But these are my thoughts at this moment in time.

When I started this project (re-opening The X-Files), I was checking how many episodes there are in the series, when I happened to notice on the IMDb page that Gillian Anderson appears in 201 out of 202 episodes (I distinctly remember the early episode she was absent in, due to a pregnancy) [edit: actually, there are a few more throughout the series]. And I've realized that from the start of the series, the character of Dana Scully serves the role of the 'audience surrogate'. She's the skeptic who questions Mulder's crazy theories, and thus probably represents the average viewer. How many people, after all, really believe in UFOs, let alone a government conspiracy to cover them up?

To be more precise, I think that most people who watch The X-Files, who are fans of the show, those who are drawn to, and respond to, the show - the X-Philes, if you will - are of a certain type. They're probably skeptical to a point, since that's the default position of a rational mind (although I may be giving humanity too much credit here), but they're probably also the sort who, like Mulder, want to believe. And the series rewards that desire, because it presents the paranormal as incontrovertible, even in the face of (very competent!) scientific doubt.

So I was thinking about which of the two leads is more important to the show. By attendance records, and the importance for the audience to have a surrogate, it would seem that Scully is the core of The X-Files. (Remember that we are introduced to her first in the pilot, and it is through her that we meet Mulder). But it was when Mulder left the series that I stopped watching (and I know I'm not the only one). Now, not to belittle the importance of Scully's character - which received considerable development over the course of the series - but at least on a superficial level, you could put any skeptic in her place as the audience surrogate.

It is Mulder's righteous irreverence, on the other hand, and his [nearly] unwavering confidence in his own out-there theories, that makes the show so much fun to watch. I would go so far as to say that Mulder provides the personality to the series. And while the show puts Scully through a lot (listing her ordeals here would be unnecessarily spoileriffic), I never felt so invested in her struggles as I did in Mulder's roller coaster ride of a quest to find the truth.

To give voice to the obvious, I think it's probably the case that you can't truly have The X-Files without either Mulder or Scully - and one of the best aspects of the series is definitely the interplay between them. But I would say that while the character of Dana Scully adds depth to the series, it is Fox Mulder who makes the series The X-Files, and not any other, run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter, sci-fi procedural.

But what do you think? If you had to choose between the two, which character would you say you like more? Mulder, or Scully?


  1. I agree.

    Mulder IS the X-Files in a real sense as he is the one who pursued them to find his sister and he is the believer who finds them to investigate.

    Scully is the ying to his yang but is more integral as they have a great on screen chemistry that many viewers gravitated to. I have just rewatched the entire series and admit that relationship and acting mesh made quite a few mediocre episodes watchable because of it.

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