The truth is out there.
Trust no one.
Last week Fox announced the replacement for David Duchovny (Agent Fox Mulder) on The X-Files. That lucky fellow will be a relative unknown, Robert Patrick, who played the "evil Terminator" in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and who also portrayed an alien-possessed football coach in The Faculty. On the heels of this casting news comes a new, expanded DVD version of T2 hitting the stores soon, so Mr. Patrick's going to have a big summer!
Well, Bob, rest up and enjoy yourself before shooting for the new season begins next week, because you're gonna have some awfully big shoes to fill as Special Agent Doggett, Dana Scully's new partner, this Fall. You may want to pick up the excellently entertaining and informative X-Files Season One Box Set and catch up on the history of this TV series that became a '90s cultural phenomenon. And then give Roger Moore a call. Because you're facing almost as daunting a task as he did in the early '70s when he was picked to succeed Sean Connery as Bond…James Bond.
As David Duchovny departs The X-Files after appearing in only half the episodes next season, he leaves behind a richly crafted television show, an impressive character portrayal dating back to 1993, and the knowledge that he helped bring to life one of the high points in television sci-fi. Bravo, Dave, you will be missed. We understand your court battles with Fox to get the proper compensation due to you have soured you on the series and even strained your relationship with series creator/producer Chris Carter. But you'll be back in a year or two for the next installment of the "X-Files" feature film series, we hope.
Not to diminish the even more difficult task that faced Gillian Anderson (Agent/Dr. Dana Scully) over the course of this series. Whereas Mulder was always a true believer in UFOs and the paranormal, Scully had to be abducted and almost killed by cancer in order to accept the possibility. The key to this wonderfully written, acted, and produced television show always has been in the strength of the two main characters, and in detailing the personal journey each has undergone over the course of over 150 hour-long episodes, and one critically-praised and financially successful feature film. Add to that mix a talented and versatile supporting cast, feature film-worthy special effects, and the ability to make you laugh or shiver equally as often, and you can understand why the show went on to become one of the most popular of the '90s worldwide. The X-Files also has the distinction of being the first true television show of the 21st century high-tech crowd, in that its popularity soon grew exponentially, thanks to constant discussion, dissection, and speculation about it on the Internet by a core of intelligent, articulate, and dedicated fans (ahem…myself included).
As befits a show of this quality, popularity, and longevity, Fox has turned out a very impressive DVD package for the first in this series of releases. As we are about to enter season #8 for The X-Files, there will be a lot for the hardcore "X-Philes" to look forward to, while also providing the perfect opportunity for casual or new fans of the show to catch up on it chronologically and in the best possible way: on DVD! The show has never looked better, its dark and shadowy look translating well to DVD, with minimal graininess to the picture. Even in the standard TV pan and scan format, this does not "look" like a TV show, thanks to the high production quality and effects, evident even in the show's initial season.
The sound is top notch as well for a "TV program," the characteristically eerie strains of the show's musical theme coming across especially loud and clear. Composer Mark Snow is an integral part of The X-Files with his ability to artfully score scenes ranging from quiet conversation, to mounting suspense, to flat out action. Much like its early-'90s predecessor in the weird, "Twin Peaks," the music of the show sets the tone and develops the mood for each individual episode, and the Dolby Digital Stereo here on DVD brings Snow's atmospheric compositions to the forefront.
While I'm not going to discuss each and every individual episode on each of the six discs in this set, I do want to point out several episodes that were highlights of the first season, and also touch on the overall structure of the television series. For a show that deals with the investigation of paranormal phenomena, the subject matter is somewhat to be expected: UFOs, ghosts, and psychic manifestations. But where the show excelled beyond anything previously seen on television was not only in its unpredictable "creature of the week" sensibilities, but also in the fact that the entire show was built upon a recurring conspiracy theme. The so-called "mythology episodes" that portrayed Mulder and Scully's struggle against the very forces which they served in the federal government are what set the show apart and made it work in the long term. Adopting the paranoia-laden mottoes of "The truth is out there" and "Trust no one," The X-Files is at its most compelling when seeking to pierce the veiled layers of conspiracy and disinformation that swirl about the FBI and its various shadow-figures, most notably the Cigarette Smoking Man (CSM) and, later in the series, the renegade agent/hired assassin Alex Krycek.
On disc one, the Pilot episode concerns a group of high school kids experiencing possible periodic alien abductions, and several mysterious deaths that coincide with UFO sightings. We see the initial meeting of Scully and Mulder, the initial appearance of CSM, and in the DVD, two deleted scenes where Scully has an actual boyfriend! Since one of the initial tenets of the series has revolved around Mulder and Scully not jumping in the sack together, it is strange to see these scenes from the pilot episode where Scully actually has a love interest. Chris Carter later comments on the extras disc about how the "boyfriend scenes" took away from the focus on the tension between Mulder and Scully; hence, they were later edited out. The pilot successfully establishes the ominous tone of the series, and it's easy to forget that Scully was initially brought in to spy on Agent Mulder and debunk his pet project, the X-Files (unsolved cases that have no apparent logical explanation through standard FBI investigation techniques).
Another highlight episode on disc one is titled "Deep Throat." This episode establishes Mulder's inside connection to the shadow government, as a mysterious individual reveals himself and promises to guide Mulder on his search for "the truth," that is to say, evidence of extraterrestrial contact and abductions. We now have also learned that the reason the adult Mulder is so driven to prove this alien agenda is that his younger sister, Samantha, was abducted from his home while he watched as a child. Mulder comes face to face with a UFO at a secret air base, only to have his memory of the event mysteriously removed. This episode also features some of the aforementioned high-quality special effects, as the multicolored UFO silently hovers over the bewildered FBI agent before he is captured by airbase security troops.
Disc one also contains a chilling episode about a serial killer who hibernates for 30-year periods, only to awaken and feed off the livers of people he has just murdered. Did I also mention that he was born with a genetic mutation that allows him to squeeze and contort himself through air ducts, chimneys, and the like? Or that he hibernates in a nest constructed of ripped up newspaper, saliva, and bile? It's all in the gory details, I guess, as this episode was aptly titled "Squeeze," and this creepy character, Eugene Tooms, was so popular he was brought back later that season to appear in another episode on disc six of this set.
My personal favorite on disc two is "Ice," an episode wherein Mulder and Scully investigate strange and violent behavior among the members of an isolated Arctic research station. No matter that the explanation has to do with parasitic, extraterrestrial worms that infiltrate a host organism and cause it to kill. While this premise borrows liberally from John Carpenter's 1982 sci-fi/horror classic The Thing, once this episode kicks in, you'll be jumping at shadows yourself! Series creator Chris Carter has said that his main goal with The X-Files was to scare the bejeezus out of people, and with this episode, he succeeds admirably.
Disc three contains the highly suspenseful episode "Fallen Angel," a term used by the military to describe a downed UFO occupant. As the military tries to corner the trapped alien, it manages to escape capture by utilizing a stealth technology field to render itself invisible. The DVD features a short special effects segment, where you can actually see how this effect was created by filming an actor in a costume, then putting in the invisibility effect in postproduction. This scene is unintentionally hilarious, though, because the actor is wearing a lumpy orange bodysuit that makes him look like a giant orange candy circus peanut! I was laughing out loud as he gyrated through the woods and tried to move in a menacing manner. For the true X-Phile, this extra segment is worth the price of the DVD set alone.
"Beyond The Sea" is the standout of the four episodes on disc four. It features a great performance by guest star Brad Dourif as the maniacal Luther Lee Boggs, a serial killer who may be in spiritual contact with Scully's recently deceased father, or who may simply be playing with her mind. This harrowing experience began to really open Scully up to the possible existence of paranormal phenomena and life after death. One of the trademarks of the series has been the wonderful contribution by guest stars like Dourif, who is able to aptly portray evil incarnate here. In later seasons, notable guest stars would come to include Peter Boyle, Mimi Rogers, and Darren McGavin (the star of "The Night Stalker," a '70s era TV show which highly influenced Chris Carter and The X-Files). David Duchovny's wife, Tea Leoni, even made a recent appearance on an episode, starring alongside Garry Shandling, respectively portraying Agents Scully and Mulder in a spoof on a big-screen adaptation of their investigations.
Disc five contains "E.B.E.," the definitive "mythology" episode from the first season of the show. It begins with the downing of a UFO over the skies of Iraq, leads to a suggested link between Gulf War Syndrome and UFOs, and ends with Agent Mulder's attempt to track down the remains of an actual E.B.E. (an Extraterrestrial Biological Entity for you X-File greenhorns out there). We are also introduced to the Lone Gunmen, a trio of computer hackers/conspiracy geeks who make the characters from Revenge of The Nerds look like babe magnets. These guys are Agent Mulder's allies in trying to reveal the government conspiracy involving extraterrestrial life, but they also have knowledge on anything from high-tech surveillance methods to the Kennedy assassination. Again, the series has been blessed by good casting, as these guys look and sound like the adult version of many of the dweebs, misfits, and goofballs who used to hang out in my junior high cafeteria playing Dungeons and Dragons during lunch period (I plead the 5th!). Word is that the Gunmen will have their own Fox spin-off series in the near future, and I, for one, can't wait to see these guys really cut loose on their own show.
Disc six completes the season one episodes. In "Tooms," liver-lovin' serial weirdo Eugene Tooms returns to serve up a heapin' helpin' of human paté, but this time Agent Mulder sends him to hell on an empty stomach, courtesy of a department store escalator! This one is not to be missed, folks! The first season finishes off with a great "conspiracy" episode titled "The Erlenmeyer Flask," as Mulder's contact, Deep Throat, is seemingly murdered in front of Agent Scully, and Agent Mulder discovers evidence of a government plot to create alien-human hybrids using extraterrestrial DNA. All in all, quite a first season, and I haven't even mentioned the other episodes which include: The Jersey Devil, poltergeists, a killer Hal-like computer, the face on Mars, evil twins, an assassin that uses controlled fires to kill, a killer that switches genders, a reincarnated bank robber, a miraculous faith healer, a Native American werewolf, and a swarm of carnivorous lightning bugs! Perhaps the only evil and insidious threat to humanity to escape the notice of Agents Scully and Mulder is…Kathie Lee Gifford! And "South Park" already has her number…
The extras disc is simply a gold mine for X-File aficionados, containing the aforementioned deleted scenes from the pilot episode, the hilarious special effect clip, a bevy of TV promos from individual episodes, a special set of promos from the FX Channel, a short documentary about season one, intros to 12 episodes from Chris Carter, and even a DVD-ROM game called "Roots of Conspiracy." If it's X-Files, if it's season one, it's all in here!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My only complaint, actually more of a request, would be to see some outtakes from the early episodes, a "goofs and gaffes" reel of botched lines, on set crack-ups, and some of the wicked dry wit that David Duchovny is famous for on the TV talk show circuit. It would have also been nice to see some more interactive menu designs, as well a more accessible packaging case, as you now have to unfold several unwieldy package segments to get to an individual DVD, but this is really nitpicking. I didn't get much out of the international clips from featured episodes that are sprinkled on each DVD, as I already knew the show was an international hit. Hearing the actors dubbed in German, Italian, or Japanese doesn't really add to the viewing experience in my opinion.
Fox has really outdone itself in order to comprehensively document the first season of this landmark show and bring it to DVD. From the first-rate transfer of picture and sound, to the attractive and appropriately spooky packaging, to the extras disc that's chock-full of extras, if you're already an X-Phile, this is a must own! It's a heck of a value, too, considering you're getting almost 20 hours of solid, sci-fi/horror thrills and chills here, folks. If you're a casual fan, or have never even seen an episode (Mr. Van Wynkle, HELLO!), then do yourself a favor and pick up this paranormal banquet on DVD-you'll be glad you did! Season Two is slated for DVD release this Fall, so you can still watch all the episodes and get prepped just in time for the next batch of goodies.
Yes, I'm an X-Phile, I readily admit it! Critics and TV viewers seem to concur, as it is a multiple-Emmy award winner and still a worldwide TV favorite. Simply put, the show is the most intelligent, well-rounded sci-fi series ever put on the small screen, and to miss it in the DVD format would be a total shame. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present and pick this up ASAP. Mulder, Scully, the Cigarette Smoking Man, and all the weird creatures and aliens in the "X-Files" universe are now just a chapter stop away…
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Scales of Justice
• Collectible DVD Packaging and Booklet, including complete season one episode listing, run times, air dates, direction and writing credits, chapter stops with titles, and entire listing of seasons 1-6 episodes and air dates
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