I was a HUGE X-Files junkie back in the ’90’s, but then I wasn’t the only one. I was sitting around a diner table with some other friends from the comic shoppe in early ‘94 when Rob (the only one of us with satellite dish) started telling us about this great series on the upstart Fox network (which had yet to become part of the cable package in Thunder Bay) called the X-Files, about FBI agents, one of which is a conspiracy nut, the other a straight-laced, attractive science-geek, together investigating paranormal phenomenon. He told us about a bunch of things that happened on a few episodes involving monsters and UFOs and we were all rather entranced. Rob said the show was great, but that he had his doubts it’d last beyond the first season. Well, it did.
I managed to start watching the X-Files during the summer between its first and second seasons (either local cable picked up the Fox network or CTV picked up Canadian distribution rights to the show, I can’t remember which), catching up on a handful of episodes. The second season hooked me right in… deep. I loved the one-off, monster-of-the-week episodes (flukeman!) and I loved the big over-arching conspiracy stuff, and rat-boy Krycek (is he good or bad or what). The third and forth seasons started exploring some of the more comedic sides of the characters and the situations with some brilliant episodes by Glen Morgan and James Wong (later would go on to create Space: Above and Beyond, and then mediocre movies like Final Destination and The One).
I bought episode guides every year, trading cards, dozens of comic books, novels, magazines, action figures and more. I did love me some X-Files something fierce.
By season five, though, the show began to wear a little thin, particularly in it’s grand conspiracy arc which established the annoying precedent of asking three questions for every one it answered. It was clear in the 5th season that there really wasn’t a masterplan for the big storyline. Also, Scully’s constant dismissal of everything she’d seen up to that point was excessively annoying (I know the conceit was that he’s the believer and she’s the debunker, but after 100+ adventures she wasn’t any closer to admitting there’s strange phenomenon in their little world…sigh). Between the 5th and 6th season, Fight The Future, the X-Files film hit the theatre, and while it looked good all it did was raise a whole slew of questions without giving any answers or a sense of completion.
The film seemed to actually have a negative impact on the show, its character and the fanbase, and the 6th season (having shifted from Vancouver to LA so that star David Duchovney could be closer to actress wife Tea Leoni) started out weak, and only got worse (one good episode, “Drive” was overshadowed by the stank of a hillock of exceptionally bad ones, including one particularly horrendous episode guest starring Lily Tomlin). The show and its situations seemed to be repeating themselves, over and over again, and the Mulder and Scully dynamic (not to mention Skinner and the Cigarette Smoking Man) became unintentionally funny since it was so golddang repetitive. I stopped watching the show at the beginning of the 7th season, picking it up briefly in the 8th season to see Mulder leave and Dogget come in (a momentary breath of life added). The few moments throughout its remaining seasons that I would catch made me shudder in horror (that not being the show’s intent I should clarify), and the confirmed X-Files fan was no more.
Yet I still had affection for the early seasons, and I purchased on DVD the first season (for about $120), later acquiring seasons 3 and 4 used (for about $65 each). I tried to watch them, and found I couldn’t. I actively detested the show for it’s lack of vision, for missing out on such a solid opportunity to be something great, instead piddling out over three (maybe four) unnecessary seasons. I’d like to think a lot of TV shows that have larger story arcs learned a lot from this failure (Lost certainly seems to have a destination, a light at the end of its tunnel, while shows like Battlestar Galactica and Heroes seemed to have focus but then completely collapsed under the weight of their own success recently).
Time has passed, though. It’s been about four years (if not more) since I last watched an episode of the show, and you know, I think my nostalgia receptors are kicking in… I want to believe that there’s something good about the X-Files still, and I think this new movie might prove it. The rumour is it has nothing to do with the show’s convoluted mythology, instead taking more the monster-of-the-week approach, which is positive, plus I think it’ll be nice to see Mulder and Scully again, like reconnecting with old friends and seeing what they’ve been up to. As long as it’s not a film depending on the nuanced fanaticism of the ol’ “X-Philes” collective, then it should prove a lot of fun. Fingers crossed.