We Should Totally Have an X-Files Thread

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    So I decided to make one. It’s long and rambly and goes off on side-tangents, but I’m a fangirl and I’m sure you guys can appreciate what that’s like. Just imagine you love Red Dwarf as much as you do but you’ve never had a proper chance to talk about it outside of maybe one person.

    Now let’s crank my spigot and get to spewing.

    God that came out worse than I meant it to.

    I need to take a good shot at the [EXPLETIVE DELETED] that was Season 11’s bookending mythology episodes. I’m baffled by review claiming Season 11’s premiere “wasn’t as bad the mythology episodes in Season 10.” If anything, I found 10’s mythology to be pushing the show into the current world of conspiracy theories in an interesting way, even if it was kinda retconning/ignoring what came before. It wasn’t great, but I was actually interested and engaged with what it was doing. Season 11’s mythology feels like it’s not taking the next step, but rather falling back into the patterns of Season 9. I’m way more interested in seeing The X-Files tackle the modern conspiracy culture than just go back to dealing with the same indecipherable story arc they invented when FOX forced them to keep going after the _second_ time it supposed to end.

    (The original plan for the first film was to end the show on Season 5 and then the movie would be the big bombastic finale. You might notice that the mythology up through Season 5 actually seems to be forming a coherent picture of what’s going on. The best finale for the show came at the halfway two-parter in Season 6, after which point the mythology clearly transitions from following a plan to just making shit up as they go along LOST-style. Compare any mythology episodes in Season 1-5 to the three-parter across the end of 6 and beginning of 7.

    But instead of the planned ending with the movie paying off everything the show built up to, FOX wanted Season 6 and the movie was forced to act as a bridge between them which means that the epic finale it was building up to had to be subverted and instead end on the prototypical X-Files non-resolution: everything is gone, and so is the evidence it ever happened. That said, you can easily reconfigure the last quarter of the movie in your head to a real ending for the series with only minor changes. I believe it may have been planned out or even had a first draft in finale-form and was rewritten after the fact to undo the finality.)

    Season 11’s premiere played like a 45 minute trailer. It was frantic and all over the place, yet it felt like nothing was happening. Mulder and Scully are once again, inexplicably separated (just like the 10 finale and again in the 11 finale) despite their duo being the core of the show. Everyone speaks in cryptic soliloquy, and everything about it makes me question if Chris Carter has any idea how to write a mythology episode without somebody like Frank Spotnitz to reel him in. I was bored, and I didn’t care what was happening to some of my favorite TV characters ever.

    And yet the reviews called it an improvement on Season 10. I’d without hyperbole call Season 11’s premiere the worst episode of the series, maybe narrowly beat out by Stephen King’s episode “Chinga” which was so stupid it almost came across as a parody of Stephen King (but not funny, just infuriatingly tedious), but definitely the worst mythology episode by a long, long way.

    I enjoyed Season 11 overall. Its experimental episodes were a lovely dive back into the days of Season 6, and even though some of the monster-of-the-week eps felt like X-Files going through the motions but not really into it, I had an overall positive experience with it. “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat,” though a bit on the nose with its political commentary, was a highlight just like Darin Morgan’s Season 10 episode “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.” The one about AI, with its title written in HEX that I’m too lazy to look up, was a delightful comic romp that almost felt like a silent slapstick comedy. It’s the kind of episode you could see turning up in Season 6 when the mythology had run its course but the monster of the week episodes were especially creative – less creepy and more wacky, but _good_ wacky.

    I have plenty more to spew words about. I just don’t know anyone who’s even _seen_ the show outside my dad, who kept up with it in the ’90s. I discovered it through Netflix when he started putting episodes on again back around 2011. First episode I saw in full was “Roland.” I’d tried to watch “Shapes” earlier but got pulled away to school or the doctor or jail or whatever the hell I was doing in 2011. At that point I still had a lingering fear of the theme music from seeing “The Springfield Files” as a little kid, and I have to admit that Simpsons episode has far creepier music than the real X-Files. I adored that episode but at the same time the music freaked me out so much I hated it. It’s called being into horror while having an anxiety disorder. How fun.

    I vaguely remember hearing the actual X-Files theme on TV just flipping channels (almost positive it was the credits), and I wasn’t creeped out by it. It was the freakin’ parody of the show on The Simpsons that terrified my young mind.

    …you know, I always see “Chinga” ranked really highly among X-Files episodes. I’m forced to conclude this is a joke, because taking that episode seriously is more than enough of a symptom to diagnose whatever is wrong with your brain. Just take these pills. And those. And these. Lay down, we’ll strap you in, and just remember: the more you scream, the more of your mind we will take.

    Nighty night.



    The opening to Season 11 was wretched. Just like the mythology episodes of Season 10. That said the season as a whole was an incredible return to form. One of the best seasons of The X Files. Even the finale managed to be an entertaining mythology episode and possibly ended the show better than any previous finale. The Mandella Effect episode is the funniest episode of The X Files.

    You might not want to take my opinion though. I really liked Season 9 and was disappointed they couldn’t continue with Reyes and Doggett. And not just because I fancied Annabeth Gish and think Robert Patrick is great even when he isn’t made of a mimetic poly-alloy.

    I have recently come to the conclusion that the best season of The X Files is The Lone Gunmen Season 1.



    We Should Totally Have an X-Files Thread

    I want to believe.



    I agree with ALL of that with the exception of Chinga. I don’t remember it too well, but me and my brother used to quote the broken doll voice chanting “I want to play” or whatever, so I enjoy it for that. So many childhood X-Files memories.

    I watched it since it debuted on UK TV when I was about nine, luckily on the night my mum had an evening class so my less responsible dad let me stay up. My first fan fic was shoving Mulder & Scully into a story written for school in year 4, where they busted a fool’s gold racket. I loved it until season 7’s opening two-parter, which felt so directionless I quit the show for a few years, eventually coming back and catching up.

    Season 10 I was excited for but worried about. Enjoyed it until the last 2 episodes, which I despised. Season 11’s mythology episodes somehow even worse (couldn’t manage more for my review of the last one than “Fuck off”), thought the standalones were mediocre to okay.

    Season 1-5 are the golden age. 6 has a lot of fun episodes, 7 less so, 8 surprisingly strong and unappreciated, 9 to 11 only watch the very few well-regarded ones.

    Have you watched Millennium, Katydid? Well worth it, even if it’s not such a rewatchable classic and similarly does downhill in its last third. I didn’t think much of The Lone Gunmen. Chris Carter’s Matrix-like Harsh Realm was pretty bad and deservedly flopped. Morgan & Wong’s Space: Above and Beyond is quite decent, but not that interesting.



    Cheating top “10” episodes (based on 1.5 rewatches in the last decade): 1. The Post-Modern Prometheus!!!, 2. Anasazi/The Blessing Way/Paper Clip, 3. Bad Blood, 4. Patient X/The Red and the Black (role reversal, stalling mythology suddenly goes somewhere), 5. [most Darin Morgan ones, I dunno], 6. Small Potatoes (despite awkward 90s rapelols), 7. Leonard Betts, 8. Triangle, 9. Pusher, 10. The Unnatural.

    I like Darin Morgan’s ones a lot, but I don’t think they’re the absolute pinnacle of X-Files like many do, nor even the best Comedy X-Files. Vince Gilligan’s probably the best across the board, he’s just less consistent because he had to write a lot more. That guy should really get his own TV series one day.



    I think “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” might have gone a bit too silly at times, as much as I like it.



    I’ve watched some episodes of Millenium, but I kinda got the feel of it’s the X-Files without Mulder and
    Scully and nothing’s very paranormal. I didn’t get into it. Then again it is supposed to get a lot better in season two. I dunno. I was always more invested in Mulder and Scully than the conspiracy surrounding them.



    I really liked Millennium season 2, but the way that show completely changed its premise, tone and characters every year under different showrunners reacting against the previous ones, and its anticlimactic final year ending in cancellation right before the actual Millennium (way to miss an easy marketing opportunity, Fox) make it hard to bother with. Pretty depressing too.

    Darin’s ‘Somehow Satan Got Behind Me’ can be enjoyed without context at least. Maybe.



    I remember watching the first season of the X-Files as it went out on the BBC and loving it – and then when the second season started on Sky, we could only watch it via the one guy in our class who had Sky taping the episodes and sharing them around on a single VHS cassette. The more friendly you were with him, the earlier in line you were to get the VHS, so he suddenly became *very* popular.

    Anyway, after loving the first season and being hugely excited for the second, my interest in the show peaked with the second season finale, which I thought was very exciting. Then the third season opener was a bit of a disappointment and the show started to go rapidly downhill as all of the alien conspiracy stuff got increasingly convoluted and it was clear they were making it all up as they went along, and it started to increasingly dominate the show and push out the more interesting standalone stories, so I started to tune out a bit and only followed the show casually by around season five. I went to see the movie though.

    Having revisited it as an adult I still think the first season is pretty great and the second season has some great moments, but again on my rewatch I fell off early in season three and haven’t rewatched past that.


    Pete Part Three

    I think I tapped out in about Season 6, when it was painfully obvious that the Chris Carter had no masterplan for the mythology whatsoever, and the great one-offs were few and far between. I watched the original series finale out of interest, but it didn’t persuade me to seek out what I missed,

    I didn’t think much of Season 10 but loved the Were-Man episode. The opener of Season 11 was utterly incomprehensible, and I found the rest pretty ropey, aside from the smart-home episode.



    Season three’s where the divide between mythology and monster of the week becomes so firm that it almost feels like two different shows, where life-changing events in the “important” episodes are ignored for months until it’s sweeps time again, so you could get a list of what’s what and watch some random episodes if you felt like it.

    I like both strands and think the mythology’s good and consistent through season three. After that, they wrote the film script so the next two years of storyline are largely stalling, setting up bee and oil memes or random tangents resolved promptly so they don’t overshoot.



    I hadn’t even realised there had been a series 11. I enjoyed series 10 a bit here and there (still not quite sure why Tim Armstrong from Rancid was in it but that was fun I guess) but wasn’t enamoured by it.

    I watched through the entire series about 13 or so years ago. Bought the boxset on DVD and binged the lot, probably the first time I’d binge watched anything really.

    I enjoyed it largely, but definitely got a bit tired it it not really going anywhere, then with David Duchovny leaving I was really only watching to complete it.

    I tried to rewatched it again last year as they’re all on Amazon Prime and got as far as series 2 and was just getting so bored all the time … as much as I can appreciate how good it was in the 90s, and when i watched I circa 2006/07 , TV has changed a lot and I just couldn’t sit through it all again


    Kris Carter

    Fun fact – I didn’t create “The X Files”.



    Fun fact – I didn’t create “The X Files”.

    That was, of course, Chris Karter.


    Taiwan Tony

    I had RUINS by Kevin Anderson and never read it… Should I have?

    Rhys Darby is always fun to watch.

    I like the episode with Jack Black and Sneaky Pete in it.



    >Fun fact – I didn’t create “The X Files”.

    You would say that, wouldn’t you? All a bit too convenient.



    They never should have killed Deep Throat at the end of season one. They never managed to get anyone as good to replace him.



    Yeah, he was good. Although killing him made for a pretty shocking moment that added to the sense of things falling apart at the end of that first season.



    >I had RUINS by Kevin Anderson and never read it… Should I have?

    I read a few of the novels, not expecting much. That was the most enjoyable one, but that’s not saying much.

    It was strange to see X-Files go from this weird cult thing on BBC2 Thursday(?) nights, that I felt naughty staying up to watch with my dad, to mainstream BBC1 Saturday fare that my mum and grandparents watched by season four. Then presumably back to obscurity by season 7/8-ish after most of us stopped watching first time around. All the cultural references, it was massive.



    Yeah, it was weird when it was suddenly everywhere.

    The Simpsons episode is brilliant, though.



    one of my best online friends is an American woman who loved X Files in her teens and saw Mulder as her role model. And she used to wear a suit to school and call herself Agent. I think it would have been so funny to know her then.



    The X-Files is one of my favourite TV shows of all time, at least the first 8 seasons.

    Season 9 is painful. The happy ending of season 8 gets undone within the first 10 minutes, the mythology is painful and boring and the stand-alone episodes are almost all crap (since they insist on Scully being in them, regardless of how little sense it makes for her to be there). The ‘closure’ the season provided was nonessential and somewhat pointless and ended on a [insert swear word here] clip show! With a cliffhanger!

    I Want to Believe is a boring slog that mostly ignores the cliffhanger of season 9, has major out-of-character moments and continuity errors and just left everyone scratching their heads thinking: WHY?

    Season 10 was awful. The Chris Carter episodes were the worst, with awful dialogue, stupid plotting and lazily ripping off the previous seasons. The stand-alone episodes were slightly better and the Darin Morgan episode was brilliant.

    Season 11 was slightly better, but the Chris Carter episodes are even worse now, complete with horrific and nonsensical retcons! The first half of the season was alright, but the second half felt like they gave up. The stand-alones started becoming wasted potential (the Skinner episode), became very confusing (the one with the nonsensical episode) and the finale was atrocious (at least it didn’t end on a cliffhanger).

    If you want a good X-Files experience, just stop watching after season 8 (it ends with Mulder and Scully having a happy ending).



    A bit niche this one, but did anyone else listen to the ‘X-Fools’ radio spoof at the time? I think it was syndicated on local radio in the UK.


    It was a bit naff but I enjoyed it, particularly the ludicrous lengths it would go to in making stupid puns that only X-Files fans would appreciate (the one that stands out is someone deep-frying a rectangular slice of potato and inserting it into Sulky to give her “a chip in her neck”). Smolder’s voice was always pretty funny too.



    I was just thinking about this the other day! Assistant Director Skinhead!



    That was fun.


    Taiwan Tony

    Jack and Jeremy’s Real Lives had an X Files episode… So that’s a pisser.



    Jonathan Creek had a desperate cashing-in-on-X-Files-popularity episode in 1999 (The Omega Man). The first bad episode.


    Pete Part Three

    I don’t mind that one, and would say The Curious Tale of Mr Spearfish is a bit X-Files as well (and just as daft as The Omega Man). I don’t think there’s a dodgy one until The Three Gamblers, and not a truly shit one until Gorgon’s Wood. And then it’s all over the place.


    Ben Saunders

    Should I add The X-Files to the absolutely enormous list of shit on my “to watch” list that I’ll never get around to actually watching ever?



    Like people have said, it can be a bit of a slog watching back-to-back even when it’s technically good and you’ve got childhood nostalgia supporting it, which you don’t. I watched through the whole thing in 2012-13, but I was zoning out and playing games even during solid episodes of the early years, had to force myself. When it’s good, it’s one of my favourite TV shows ever.

    I think watching the mythology/storyline and assorted ‘good’ episodes from a list is better than watching all 200+, because the mythology is where all the character development is, but that goes to shit after the half-way point so you’d either be choosing an arbitrary cut-off point or sticking it through really bad seasons. Or just watch some popular one-off ones that mainly don’t need context and not worry about the big picture.

    Battlestar Galactica is a completely unrelated show that’s more worthwhile if you haven’t watched it already.


    Ben Saunders

    I’ve turned into a completionist in recent years so the idea of skipping around doesn’t sit right with me, I followed “top ten classic who” lists and the like before though so maybe I could do that with X-Files. 200+ episodes is quite the commitment.

    I saw bits and pieces of Battlestar Galactica (I hear there’s an original and a remake? so probably the remake) as a child, as well as Stargate SG-1. SG-1 always seemed like an incredibly dry, poor man’s Trek, and the only memory I have of Galactica is it was on Sky One.



    I got into SG-1 after I dropped out of Voyager. Found it very entertaining as a teenager until I got bored around season six, and doesn’t feel like the sort of show that would stand up today or as an adult that much.

    BSG (remake) is co-created/written by Ron Moore, frequent TNG & DS9 writer. It’s a better version of Voyager, and the middle of the series is maybe the most gripped I’ve ever been by anything. Has some TNG guest cast and a door labelled ‘1701D’ in an episode, so you’d be in safe hands.

    Farscape’s loads of fun, but a rough start and maybe a bit dated today. More Star Wars meets Buffy in tone than Star Trek. Oh yeah, Buffy’s great.



    BSG also has the legendary Dean Stockwell.



    Ron Moore’s BSG is one of the best sci-fi series out there IMO. Great cast, great story that, whilst a little iffy in places, it’s nice and contained and wraps up in 4 series. They could have quite easily dragged it on for years but didn’t. A healthy mix of character drama, politics, religion, science fiction, space battles, robots. It’s got everything.



    More telly:

    The original Twilight Zone is great when you ignore all the ones that aren’t. Some of the best atmospheric TV, even if you’ve already seen half of them on the Simpsons.

    Tales from the Crypt is like its immature “adult” counterpart, a very fun live-action gory children’s comic full of famous people you’d expect to be above it.

    The Prisoner is a short and sweet series that’s even shorter if you only watch the ones Patrick McGoohan wanted to make and not the filler.

    Lost was a great experience despite the flaws, I think it improved greatly in the second half when they secured an end date and were disciplined rather than dawdling and repetitive, but a lot of the interest was in the speculation and misdirection between the episodes that would be lost when you can just binge it and don’t have to bother thinking.

    Breaking Bad ace obviously, though I’ve never watched other “obvious” things like Sopranos, Wire or Game of Thrones yet/ever. Not even going to start on sitcoms. Fingers crossed they discover that cure for ageing so we have all the time in the world.



    Twin Peaks: a great 20-odd episodes up to that point when it suddenly becomes awful overnight. Series 3 was ruined by stretching a decent 8 episodes out to 18 when they were given more to work with that they seemingly couldn’t be bothered to fill with plot, Pete style.



    Twilight Zone reminds me that there needs to be a word for classic TV shows that are unarguably brilliant despite most of their episodes being unwatchably shit. Original Star Trek is the king of that, obviously.



    That’s why I prefer TNG to TOS.


    Ben Saunders

    Not convinced that much of TOS is “inarguably shit”, a few episodes maybe, but not that many in my mind. Doctor Who, on the other hand, must be about 60% shite, despite also being one of the greatest shows of all time


    Ben Saunders

    Apologies for the misquote



    After I watched and rated every classic Doctor Who serial, the series ended up with a 2.94 out of 5 average overall, or ‘just about worth having bothered.’ Once you’ve done the groundwork, at least you know which ones you like.

    The only Treks I’ve bothered to do that for are Deep Space Nine (3.34/5) and The Animated Series (2.31/5 – seems absurdly generous, but I was having fun laughing at it too).



    On topic, I gave the entirety of The X-Files 3.10 out of 5 on average, including the bad stuff, so it’s not too ruined. Season 1-5 + film classic bubble got 3.46.



    Is the right way to judge a series by attributing scores to episodes and finding an average?

    Firstly, later episodes will be judged against previous episodes, and may even be necessary for them to make sense. A good episode may only be good because of a previously shit one.

    Secondly, series could be greater the sum of its parts. The experience of the show and the enjoy you get from watching it could exceed the total score of the good and bad episodes that comprise it.

    Just because Classic Who scored 2.94 for example, doesn’t mean it was only just about worth bothering to watch them. You got enjoyment from the episodes even if they scored low, thus increasing your overall enjoyment compared to not watching them at all (unless any episodes were given negative numbers). Also, you wouldn’t know what was good and bad without having watched it so there is an element of worthwhile there, not least of all to satisfy your seemingly perpetual desire to watch and numerical rate tv episodes for your own enjoyment.



    Definitely, it was mainly to show that even if I consider something a favourite series, it can average to average when you break the sum down to its parts. I can have a stand-out favourite season of a show that’s technically as good as most of the other years because it’s about the big picture of how much I enjoy watching that specific run and the less good bits don’t bother me.


    Ben Saunders

    Given that some episodes of Classic Who are 11/10, I’d say it is certainly worth watching. But it’s a sort of accepted truth amongst Who fandom that each season has one or two episodes each that are just absolutely dreadful, and you have to sit through quite a bit of shite to get to the gold. it is worth it, though



    If you say so. Even my favourites from classic Who, like season 13s and the Douglas Adams ones, wouldn’t get a 10/10 if compared to the best of TV old and new in general, and it’s not about the adorable bad effects. I couldn’t recommend them to someone without context like I could the best of original Trek, Twilight Zone, B-movies or (more fairly) other old BBC shows like Quatermass/Nigel Kneale stuff, sitcoms/sketch shows and kids’ shows. It’s not something I ever really feel like rewatching either.

    Just about worth having bothered, but I could have spent that time on something more rewarding, especially when most of 80s Who feels like reliving a national embarrassment. But I would have always been curious, so good to get it out of the way!

    Burn the heretic.


    Ben Saunders

    Requiring context in order for something to be 10/10 doesn’t preclude it from being 10/10, though. Caves of Androzani requires you to have an understanding of how much of a wet blanket Five generally is, some of the incredible stuff towards the end of Chuck’s third season is only good if you’ve seen the mostly mediocre first half of that season, etc. I think Star Wars Episode V benefits from the context of Episode IV a great deal. Heaven Sent/Hell Bent absolutely requires an understanding of The Doctor and Clara’s relationship, etc etc, but I still think these are all 9s regardless. Spock’s death at the end of Wrath of Khan is not as effective if you haven’t already seen a decent chunk of the original series (although ironically enough I don’t really think Space Seed is required viewing for TWoK).

    There are other things I would recommend first for somebody just looking for a done-and-dusted, one-off fantastic experience, but for anyone with the patience, I would recommend Doctor Who seasons 8-14 or Chuck seasons 1-3. There may be a couple of stinkers in there, but they’re held together by the strong characters/actors. Even most of the best Trek’s (Measure of a Man, Yesterday’s Enterprise) require previous knowledge to be as effective as they can be.

    80s Who has a much higher ratio of shite to gold, I would only recommend making your way through that if you are already a Doctor Who fan and already in at the deep end.

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