When I was in middle school many years ago I discovered a little show called The X-Files. It was the show that made me want to be a forensic pathologist for the FBI. Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) was everything I wanted to be: smart, tough, and her job required her to carry a gun. And I don’t know any girl that didn’t think Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) was a babe. Alas, my dream of becoming a forensic pathologist has since faded, but I still can’t get enough of this show… and I still think David Duchovny is a babe.
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Agents Scully and Mulder are, to me at least, the quintessential example of what partners in a TV series should be. Alien abduction, angry spirits, and government conspiracy – and the arguments they caused between the partners – were all in a day’s work for these two. They each had the other’s back, but they also disagreed with each other, sometimes vehemently. It was apparent that they cared for and had a great deal of respect for each other. My love for this show is, I’m quite certain, what inspired my love of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, a show that has a very similar vibe as far as the interaction between the leads goes (and which I will also review at a later date.)
Given that The X-Files did start over 10 years ago, the technology seems dated, at best. For many shows this could, quite literally, make it unwatchable. Not so with The X-Files. At most the technology plays a peripheral role. The real draw behind the show was always the plot line, which involved a healthy mix of stand-alone and so-called “Mytharc” episodes.
The “Mytharc” episodes followed Agent Mulder’s search for the truth behind his younger sister’s disappearance when they were both children. Many episodes that seemed to have nothing to do with the “Mytharc” at the beginning would, by the end, fit somewhere in the puzzle. In my opinion, the “Mytharc” episodes also gave more insight into the characters themselves, which made it very easy to feel like they were real, complex people that did take time to get to know.
The stand-alone episodes fell along a “monster-of-the-week” format, exposing us to the supernatural, the occult, and the downright weird. These are great episodes to watch if all you want to do is get a feel for the series without feeling like you’ll have to commit. The first season is particularly good in this respect since almost every episode can stand-alone without inducing mass confusion.
Between seasons five and six the movie The X-Files: Fight the Future was released. It was written so as to play into the series while still being accessible to those who had never seen an episode. The fact that they’ve included this in the set with the actual series has given me warm tinglies all over. This movie was probably the height of my summer vacation in 1998, and deservedly so. While fans of other shows were anxiously awaiting the season premieres of their favorites, I was fully enjoying approximately two episodes worth of new The X-Files material in the middle of summer. And it wasn’t a lame cop-out, either. It fit in perfectly with the series and never felt like a cheap ploy to make more money. You can’t beat that with a stick.
Past season seven you will find heated debate as to whether it should have ended or not. In my experience, most hardcore fans of the series thought it really went downhill when Duchovny sort of left the show at the end of the seventh season and was replaced by Robert Patrick of Terminator 2 fame.
For my own part I can’t bring myself to hate the last two seasons. I’m not sure if it’s because I like Robert Patrick as an actor – and it helps that his brother is the lead singer of the bands Filter and Army of Anyone – or if I’m just so adaptable to change in what I view. There were times that I thought the character of Agent John Doggett was a real jerk, but then he’d do something to completely change that opinion. I really don’t think he got a fair shake from the viewers, but I have to admit it is understandable given how much the fans adored the Mulder/Scully dynamic.
Monica Reyes is a little harder for me to place. I don’t dislike her by any means, but I’m not sure if I really related to her as much as I would have liked to. She only really spent one full season on the show, which didn’t give me enough time to see what made her tick. Mulder was always my favorite character (helloooo, David Duchovny) but over the course of the series Scully really gave him a run for his money precisely because her character was interesting and I could see a definite change between seasons one and nine. There wasn’t time to see that with Agent Reyes.
Now, I have to mention the Mulder/Scully relationship because I know there has been a lot of debate as to whether their increased closeness started interfering with the show. In my own mind: No, but if it had been handled any other way it very well could have.
What I liked about this particular relationship is that even when it became apparent that there was more going on than meets the eye, they still treated each other with the same respect they had always shown. There were glances and flirting (both subtle and not-so-subtle) between the two, but it never descended into the realm of gooey schmoopiness that so often happens when a series finally breaks the sexual tension. Whatever they were outside of work, when they were on the case they were all business.
Which leads us to the end of the series. I honestly don’t know how I feel about the series finale. On the one hand it was left wide open, which generally doesn’t sit well with me. I like the hint of the possibility it might continue, not a full-blown second conspiracy that needs to be stopped. That said, I like the idea that the series could be continued on the big screen with a big explosive storyline. My only hope is that if they decide to revisit the conspiracy plotline they don’t throw in some random deus ex machina to help solve the problem in two hours. If a movie can’t contain the story I’d much rather they spend their resources on a miniseries, the path that should have been taken with Battlefield Earth.
Verdict: A. Being one of the most influential shows of the 1990’s, a cult classic that became an international sensation, and spawning another movie six years after the series ended and 10 years after the last movie is a pretty good indicator that this show was more than just a cult hit on a fledgling network. Where many thought it dropped off during the last two seasons, I have to disagree. It changed, and whenever that happens there will always be angry people, particularly when one is dealing with a show that is as beloved as The X-Files. It was – and still very much is – a pop culture phenomenon.
The X-Files: Fight the Future was a first in that no other TV show spawned a movie during its original TV run. Another unique move it managed to pull off was the fact that it was able to play to those who were ignorant of the show while simultaneously pushing forward the “Mytharc” of the series from where it left off in season five into season six.
I saw this movie when it premiered in my hometown and owned it on VHS when it was finally released to that medium. I’ve watched it a few times since, but until this collection came out I haven’t been able to truly see the genius behind it. If there is one piece of advice I would give you now, it would be that I highly recommend watching seasons one through five before watching the movie. Especially if you’ve never seen it before. Like Firefly and its accompanying movie Serenity, The X-Files: Fight the Future has depths that only truly make sense if you know the full story within the series. It is a very good movie by itself, but watched within the context of the series makes it, in my opinion, extraordinary viewing.
Verdict: B+. There is one slight problem I have with this movie and that is the video transfer. It is not what I have come to expect from the DVD medium and it unfortunately shows when you are watching it on an HDTV. But that is my only complaint. Having watched the film within the context of the series just recently I was very much taken back to that mind-blowing summer night 10 years ago when I saw this movie premiere. I can honestly say that there are extremely few movies that do that to me.
The box is a very attractive black with some blue, white, and silver graphics on each side. The graphics are all from important episodes of the show and are very minimalist in nature, which keeps the box from feeling too busy.
When you open the lid you are confronted with the sight of all nine seasons plus the movie in their own cases. I’m not fond of the fact that the cases are all cardboard books with cardboard sleeves and have absolutely no protection for the back of the disc, but in my case that is a small complaint; I never leave my discs in their original cases as I have a filing system involving CD books (a method I highly recommend for anybody who collects DVDs for ease of transport and the space it saves on cramped shelves.)
On the front of the box you will notice a small drawer that includes an episode guide that covers every single episode in the series plus the movie, an X-Files comic book, a The X-Files: Fight the Future poster, collector’s cards for each episode in the first season, and a coupon for $5 off one of The X-Files graphic novels.
As far as the drawer goes I’ve read complaints online about the discs being so heavy it causes the bottom to sag into the drawer. Because I don’t keep my discs in the box I haven’t run across this issue, but you may want to be aware of it on the off chance you keep your discs in the box and this is a show you will be watching multiple times.
The discs themselves are all single-sided and feature a picture from one of the episodes contained on that disc. The names and numbers of the individual episodes are also printed on the discs, making it much easier to track down a particular episode without having to pull out the episode guide.
Verdict: A-. While it would have been better to make the disc sleeves from the usual protective material used in CD books, none of my discs came scratched. The heaviness of the discs and the tendency of cardboard to lose strength over time may make you want to consider moving to the kind of filing system I’ve developed for my own collection, though there’s no reason you can’t display the box and proudly declare yourself an X-Phile. It is extremely aesthetically pleasing, which makes me very happy that I held off on buying the individual sets. And you can’t complain too much when the movie is also included, giving you the chance to watch it between seasons five and six without spending more money to purchase it alone.
The special features included in this set are, from what I gather, the same special features that came with the original stand-alone season sets (the original ones, not the slimpaks). There are eight DVD-ROM games to enjoy and plenty of commentary tracks and deleted scenes. Each season also has its own “The Truth about Season [insert season number]” documentary. Other special features include promotional spots from the F/X network and character profiles. The movie’s case also contains a special disc dedicated to the “Mytharc”. On it there are four documentaries that lay out the nine season long story arc.
Verdict: A. I couldn’t spend the hours (quite possibly days) to get through all the special features, but all in all I’d have to say it’s a lot of bang for your buck. I usually don’t watch commentary tracks, but when I do it’s fun to hear what those involved had to say about certain things that happened in the episode. I’m confident enough to say that you will enjoy running through these special features, though I wouldn’t advise trying to do so after a marathon viewing of the entire series.
The video is often grainy, though I can’t help but feel it is a part of the show. It also tends to be dark, which at times makes it hard to see exactly what is happening. While this can be annoying at times, it is hardly a deal-breaker.
Since the first four seasons of this show were shot before anybody even thought of shooting TV shows for widescreen TVs, it is in standard 4:3 format, which means you’ll have black bars on the sides of your screen if you own an LCD or plasma flat-panel TV. This should be nothing new to those people who own any older (and even some newer) shows on DVD. The remaining seasons, as well as the movie, are all shot in widescreen, which means that those of you who haven’t hopped aboard the flat-panel wagon will be seeing the black bars on the top and bottom of your screen.
Verdict: B. For me the darkness is the really the worst part of the video, though as I said it is by no means a deal-breaker. A little bit of tweaking of the various settings on your TV may help alleviate this particular problem.
This particular area is one that I unfortunately can’t really do justice to. Since the audio set-up I would like to get is over $500 and it seems rather silly to spend any amount of money on a cheaper system that won’t give me decent audio to judge anyway, I am sadly resigned to listening to my TV speakers. Not the most desirable, I know, but they get the job done.
What I can tell you is that the first two seasons are in stereo, while seasons three through nine are in Dolby Surround. The movie is, I believe, in Dolby Digital 5.1.
Verdict: N/A. Like I said, I don’t have the proper set-up to really give this an honest review. The audio works, is understandable, syncs with the video, and has a good overall balance between loud and soft. Unless you are very much an audio snob that absolutely must know the sound is pristine, I can’t see anybody complaining much given the fact that this is The X-Files.
Overall: A-. Given the amount of special features, the lovely box, and the fact that we’re talking about The X-Files here, there is no reason at all that you should feel badly about plunking down your hard earned change to pick this puppy up. Even if you absolutely hated the eighth and ninth seasons I would say it’s still worth it because of the extra goodies that come with it, as well as the movie. Family Guy has it’s “Freakin’ Party Pack”, The X-Files has the “Complete Collector’s Edition”. I fully admit I’m absolutely in love with this set.