X?

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For some reason we’ve started looking back at The X-Files. Partly this was a result of the revival of the series, which yielded two interesting episodes and a lot of really awful waffle from creator Chris Carter, whose indigestible exposition-dumps of mythos/backstory/conspiracy were the reason we stopped watching in the first place.

CC’s best show was probably the pilot, in which Fox Mulder (that name! that impossible name!) is much more eccentric and interesting, something they stamped on later. Then you had a season of the show being a bit too cheap and a bit too repetitive, before they learned that Dan Scully couldn’t always be skeptical and wrong without learning something (Mulder is always right) and then things started to get better, particularly when Darin Morgan was writing and the show could spoof itself while still being itself.

While Morgan’s latest episode drew fire for being TOO silly (and was cannibalized from an abortive effort to revive Kolchak: The Night Stalker), we rather enjoyed it, and got a lot of pleasure out of revisiting Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (Emmy-winning per by the great Peter Boyle), War of the Coprophages (a plague of killer roaches — but each incident comes with its own debunking, with a real alien invasion lost in the shuffle) and Jose Chung’s From Outer Space (a RASHOMON of nested unreliable narrations).

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Then we moved onto Vince Gilligan’s episodes, all of which happened after we’d moved on, so they were all new to us. Gilligan didn’t bother deconstructing the show on a weekly basis, which probably allowed him to be more prolific. You do get more of a sense of the stories falling into a format which gets predictable, but on the other hand his specific twists usually still surprise even if you know when they’re coming. And here’s Bryan Cranston, showing what he can do as a racist conspiracy nut with an inner ear condition that will make his head explode if he stops driving, in Drive (basically SPEED, but with an actor’s head instead of a bus). And here’s Diana Scarwid being good and scary as a psychic who can make people do whatever she wants, and SEE whatever she wants.

Nice to see Gilligan addressing the kind of characters conspiracy theories actually appeal to — I mean, apart from everybody. The casual anti-Semitism of Cranston’s character is really surprising, and too complex to resolve in a 45-minute essay (or in a few thousand years of human civilisation, apparently).

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7 Responses to “X?”

  1. Tony Shalhoub’s dark matter episode was a high point in the series, I thought. It was appointment TV for me in the 90s.

  2. That’s a good one, yes, even without a particularly effective way of showing the central special effect. The ending is one of the worst things ever, so it stays in the mind, and Shalhoub was perfectly cast.

  3. Are you familiar with Kolchak; The Night Stalker/I> with Darren McGavin? It predates The X-Files, much less ‘tude-driven and much more imaginative.

    Off-Topic: George W.S. Trow Day with a special nod to Savages

  4. I didn’t watch it in the 90’s and I’m slowly catching up, but I really zone out during the ‘main arc’ episodes, and if Scully doesn’t lose those fucking shoulder pads by the end of this season (4), I’m outta here.

  5. I need to revisit Kolchak. I missed it when they showed the first episode at Edinburgh a couple years ago and it went down really well. I wasn’t too taken with it when I saw it years ago, but am up for another go.

    The shoulder pads stuck around awhile, didn’t they? But the actors are good together. And the UFO stuff gets progressively more boring until it’s quite unbelievable. But that makes dipping into the non-Carter episodes quite easy because you don’t need to worry about the story continuity.

  6. Music for The X-Flies was composed by my old “Communist Martyrs High” classmate Marty Fulterman aka. “Mark Snow.” He went on to become Alain Resnais’ favorite composer and wrote all the music for his late period films.

  7. Always felt Mark Snow should work with Mark Frost.

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