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The X-Files

X-Files intro from first 8 seasons
X-Files intro from first 8 seasons

The X-Files was a popular 1990s American science fiction television series created by Chris Carter. The show aired first-run episodes on the FOX network. Premiering in 1993, its ground-breaking success was due mostly to its stars, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Duchovny played Fox Mulder and Anderson played Dana Scully, two FBI agents tasked with investigating paranormal phenomena. With plots spanning alien conspiracy theories and high-level governmental cover-ups, the show mimicked episodic elements found in earlier shows such as The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, and the cult show Twin Peaks (in which Duchovny appeared as a cross-dressing DEA agent). The series became a surprise run-away success, with a devoted following. Fans of show became known as "X-Philes" or "eXcers".

The X-Files struck a unique balance between rationalism and mysticism, horror and wonder; its stories were told like police procedurals investigating the paranormal.

The series popularized the catch-phrases "Trust No One" and "The Truth Is Out There," and fosters a huge fan-based following to this day.

Fans commonly divide X-Files stories into "Mytharc" ("mythology") episodes, which concern an impending alien invasion, and stand-alone "Monster-of-the-Week" episodes, which deal with strange, other-wordly creatures and situations relating to the paranormal. Several episodes also explore the relationship between Mulder and Scully. A separate fan base evolved, referred to as "Shippers" (relationshippers), which chronicled and relished the sexual tension between Mulder and Scully (This is also the origin of the current widespread term for such fan behaviour, "Shipping"). One pivotal shipper episode is "Triangle" (6x03), in which Mulder and Scully share their first on-camera kiss (on a ship, incidentally), but the episode does not actually take place in reality.

The X-Files was named by TV Guide as one of the greatest shows of all time.


The X-Files: Fight the Future

In 1998 the series produced a motion picture, The X-Files: Fight the Future, which was intended as a continuation of the season five finale, "The End" (5x20), but was also meant to stand on its own. The film was quite profitable, and was responsible in a lot of ways for bringing new fans to the show. However, many major critics gave it lukewarm reviews and, while the worldwide popularity of the show helped the movie's intake, the domestic box office was substantially less than what the studio spent on producing and promoting the film. The movie, like much of what followed it on the series, remains a point of contention among fans - some of whom appreciate its place in the narrative, others blaming it in part for being the beginning of an unwieldy narrative structure that continued throughout the series.

The movie, which began with a bomb attack on a Federal office building in Dallas, drew some criticism for implying that the U.S. government was actually responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing.

Ratings decline

In the season subsequent to the film's release, the ratings for the show declined significantly after rising steadily for the four previous years. This was perhaps due in part to the relocation of production from Vancouver to L.A., and to the loss of many important creative personnel, who had to be replaced. The look and feel of the series changed significantly and, many felt, for the worse.

Given that there were no major casting changes and that the timeslot remained the same, the influence of the movie in what became a five year ratings decline for the show cannot be discounted. Many longtime fans felt the movie robbed the show of much of its mystery, and revealed that the "mythology" was poorly planned and increasingly derivative—the theatrical movie, for example, seemed to owe a huge number of plot points to the 1950s British sci-fi film Quatermass 2. It is important to note, however, that the theatrical movie gained many new fans by succintly serving up the mythology to a new audience, therefore helping to ease the show's transition from Vancouver to L.A..

It is widely (though not universally) felt that the quality of the show's scripts deteriorated progressively from season five through season nine, though at all times the writing for The X-Files was inconsistent, ranging from inspired to workmanlike to barely watchable often within the span of a single month. One of the show's charms was that the viewer never knew what to expect from week to week—a timeless classic, or a laughable dud worthy of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Some believe the show's creative decline is due to the absence, from the fifth season on, of Glen Morgan and James Wong , whose contribution to the first two seasons was as great as (some would say greater than) Chris Carter's, and who returned for the first half of the fourth season. After the pilot had been shot, Morgan and Wong were hired by Peter Roth , Chris Carter's boss at 20th Television. Their considerably greater production experience (Carter had never produced a drama before, having helmed a series of unsuccessful light comedies for Disney in the 1980s) made them an invaluable addition to the show. In particular, their experience with the Vancouver production scene was of seminal importance. Most of the show's major directors, including Kim Manners , Rob Bowman, and David Nutter , had previously worked with them at Stephen J. Cannell's production company, on such shows as 21 Jump Street. All of these were hired on Morgan and Wong's recommendation. It is also due to their influence that cinematographer John Bartley , who gave the show its early dark and atmospheric look, was hired. His work was honored with an Emmy in 1996, the only Emmy for cinematography the show ever won. Morgan and Wong also had considerable influence on creating and casting most of the best-liked secondary characters, such as The Lone Gunmen, the Scully family, and FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner. Their work in season one, particularly the episode "Beyond the Sea" (1x13), drew most of the early critical plaudits, as well as the enduring affection of fans. Their episode "Little Green Men" (2x01) was the kick-off for the crucial second season, and their influence on both the "standalone" and "mythology" episodes was immense.


In the second and third seasons, Glen Morgan's younger brother Darin, hired thanks to his sibling's influence, wrote four legendary episodes, which gave the show greater critical respect than ever before, culminating in the only writing Emmy the show ever received, for "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" (3x04) in 1996, as well as a guest actor Emmy for Peter Boyle in the titular role of that episode. These were the only non-technical Emmys the show ever received, excluding Gillian Anderson's win for best actress in 1998.


Over the course of the next few years, the show would undergo several changes by way of both character growth and plot direction. One of the central mythologies of the show, Mulder's search for his sister, would finally be resolved, as well as a few turns of events involving the ever-deepening bond between Mulder and Scully and the dynamic between the two characters. Whether they "should" or "shouldn't" consummate their relationship was the subject of great debate among the fan community for many years, and is still subject to scrutiny, since even after numerous hints, Carter refuses to confirm whether the two characters ever had sex. Even now (though vastly reduced from its peak period in the mid-1990s), there remains a thriving online community devoted to debating The X-Files, its myths and monsters. It can be said, however, that The X-Files had two audiences--one composed of early fans, some of whom lost interest halfway through the series, and a new, enthusiastic fanbase who were enamoured of the show's mainstream popularity. Because of the disparity between these two groups, they tend to see the show quite differently, to say the least.

The Lone Gunmen, a trio of nerdish government watchdogs who occasionally assisted Mulder and Scully, had their own short-lived TV series. Its cancellation left its storyline unresolved, but all the characters from the series returned in the X-Files episode "Jump the Shark" (9x15) (definition of term "jump the shark"), which could be seen (and screened) as a de facto final Lone Gunmen episode. The trio also made a short appearance, as ghosts or memories appearing to Mulder, in The X-Files' final episode, "The Truth" (9x19 & 9x20).


The X-Files inspired numerous other TV series, including Strange World, Burning Zone, Special Unit 2, Mysterious Ways , Carnivle, and Dark Skies, many of which did not enjoy the same popularity or following as The X-Files has achieved. Fox also produced a companion series based upon The X-Files entitled Millennium, also produced by Chris Carter. The storylines of Millennium and The X-Files occasionally crossed over, with Scully and Mulder making cameo appearances in at least one episode of Millennium (Frank Black hears somebody watching an episode of The X-Files as he walks through the hallway of an apartment building), and the protagonist of Millennium appearing in The X-Files to tie up loose ends after Millennium was abruptly cancelled. Since Mulder and Scully were clearly only supposed to be fictional characters in the Millennium universe, Frank Black's appearance on The X-Files as a real person was yet another example of Chris Carter's ongoing disregard for continuity. Carter changed positions several times on whether or not Millennium took place in the same world as The X-Files.

Duchovny leaves

Increasingly bored with his role as Mulder and displeased with the quality of the scripts, David Duchovny ceased to be a regular on The X-Files after the seventh season. His leaving seemed inoppurtune at best, and made for some interesting plot twists. The season seven finale found Mulder abducted by aliens and Scully pregnant, although she was completely confounded as to how this might've happened. Having supposedly been rendered barren during her abduction in season two (her compromised reproductive status was only revealed in season five), this was indeed a shock to both Scully and the fan base. Although it heavily depends on one's point of view (and application of Coleridge's "willful suspension of disbelief"), this apparent discrepancy, along with others throughout the long-running series, may be considered a retcon.

As far as the paternity of the child, though there were scattered hints that Mulder could be the father, no explanation of how this could have happened was ever offered, and the expedient of a modern DNA test on the child was apparently never considered. The baby, named William, was written out of the show a few episodes before the series' end.

Season 8 and beyond

Duchovny returned for brief stints in seasons eight and nine. In season eight, after Carter and his writers mainly ignored Mulder's disappearance for most of the year, Mulder reappeared as a corpse, was buried for several months (of the story's time frame), and then later revived. This did have a certain symbolic resonance in terms of the show. Carter tried desperately to promote the two new X-Files agents, John Doggett and Monica Reyes (played by Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish), as worthy replacements for Mulder and Scully, with both Duchovny and Anderson's involvement essentially at an end. It was Carter's belief that the series could continue for another ten years with new leads. While many fans enjoyed the new additions, others resented the presence of anyone in the X-Files' basement office other than Mulder and Scully.

It should be noted, however, that many fans did appreciate the last few seasons, and believed that the writers did attempt to do their best while having to deal with an absent male lead. Many of the shows were well-written, and lived up to Chris Carter's season eight objective of "getting back to telling scary stories." While whether seasons eight and nine were a success is an ongoing debate within the fan community, most fans will agree that Gillian Anderson's stellar acting efforts made the gaping hole left by Duchovny's departure a little less noticeable.

The show completed its ninth and final season with the episode "The Truth", which first aired on May 19, 2002. The show ceased production at the end of the ninth season—on a cliffhanger, though Carter knew well in advance that this would be the final episode. Plans for another movie are announced periodically, but have yet to come to fruition, and the earliest possible release date would be September 2006. It is widely believed that a second X-Files movie would be a standalone adventure, leaving some question as to how (or if) the mythology-based series finale cliffhanger will be resolved.


  • The number 42 occurs frequently (Mulder lives in Apartment 42, Mulder has seen Plan 9 From Outer Space 42 times, etc.). This is The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything in Douglas Adams' novels The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • The season eight episode "Alone" has artifacts from previous episodes; in Scully's desk drawer are Queequeg's dog tag ("Quagmire"), the keychain Mulder gave her ("Tempus Fugit") and the fused coins ("Dreamland"). Also appearing in this episode is the character of Agent Leyla Harrison, named for an actual person. Leyla Harrison was an "X-Files" fan and a writer of fanfic who died in February 2001. Well-known and well-loved among The X-Files internet community, writers on the show created the character (a self-professed admirer of Mulder and Scully) to honor her memory.
  • When "Requiem" (the season seven finale) completed shooting, the producers were unsure if they would come back for an eighth season.
  • Many episodes feature a "mirror shot" usually involving a medicine cabinet. Such a shot shows a character opening a medicine cabinet with a mirror on the front, taking something out, closing the cabinet, and revealing something in the mirror. "Deep Throat," "Underneath," and "Paper Clip" are episodes featuring such a shot.
  • The Maya calendar predicts that the world will end on December 22, 2012 ("The Truth")
  • You can identify episodes directed by Kim Manners; he frames the camera so as to show the face, but not the top of the head.
  • On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, George Huang's FBI badge number is 2317616, as shown in the SVU episode "Charisma." Scully's badge number is identical, as told in the X-Files episode "Christmas Carol." Both were revealed while asking that a phone call be traced. In addition, B.D. Wong, who plays George Huang on SVU, had a guest appearance on The X-Files in the episode "Hell Money."


  • Trust No One - "The Erlenmeyer Flask"
  • Deny Everything - "Ascension"
  • ' 'aang 'hoot'' - "Anasazi" ("The truth is far from here" in Navajo)
  • Apology is Policy - "731"
  • Everything Dies - "Herrenvolk"
  • Deceive Inveigle Obfuscate - "Teliko"
  • E pur si muove - "Terma" ("And still it moves" in Italian)
  • Believe the Lie - "Gethsemane"
  • All Lies Lead to the Truth - "Redux"
  • Resist or Serve - "The Red and the Black"
  • The End - "The End"
  • Die Wahrheit ist irgendwo da drauen - "Triangle" ("The truth is out there somewhere" in German)
  • In the Big Inning - "The Unnatural"
  • Amor Fati - "Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati" ("Love of fate" in Latin)
  • Believe to Understand - "Closure"
  • Nothing Important Happened Today - "Nothing Important Happened Today II"
  • erehT tuO si hturT ehT - "4D"
  • They're Watching - "Trust No One"
  • Dio t'ama - "Improbable" ("God loves you" in Italian)
  • The truth is out there - all others.
  • I want to believe

Main cast

Format: Actor's real name - Character name (Years on show)

Regular guest cast

  • Charles Cioffi - Section Chief Scott Blevins (1993, 1997)
  • Jerry Hardin - Deep Throat (1993 - 1996, 1999)
  • Tom Braidwood - Melvin Frohike (1994 - 2002)
  • Dean Haglund - Richard "Ringo" Langly (1994 - 2002)
  • Bruce Harwood - John Byers (1994 - 2002)
  • Don S. Davis - Bill Scully (1994)
  • Steven Williams - X (1994 - 1997, 2002)
  • Melinda McGraw - Melissa Scully (1994 - 1995, 1997)
  • Sheila Larken - Margaret Scully (1994 - 1997, 2001 - 2002)
  • Brian Thompson - Alien Bounty Hunter (1995 - 1996, 1998 - 2000)
  • Brendan Beiser - Agent Pendrell (1995 - 1997)
  • Rebecca Toolan - Teena Mulder (1995 - 1997, 1999 - 2000)
  • Peter Donat - William Mulder (1995 - 1996, 1999)
  • Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman - Albert Hosteen (1995, 1999)
  • Don S. Williams - The 1st Elder (1995-1999)
  • John Neville - The Well-Manicured Man (1995 - 1998)
  • Laurie Holden - Marita Covarrubias (1996 - 2000, 2002)
  • Pat Skipper - Bill Scully, Jr. (1997)
  • John Finn - Michael Kritschgau (1997, 1999)
  • Jeff Gulka - Gibson Praise (1998, 2000, 2002)
  • Veronica Cartwright - Cassandra Spender (1998 - 1999)
  • Mimi Rogers - Diana Fowley (1998 - 1999) - Rogers was credited as 'Special Guest Star'
  • James Pickens, Jr. - Assistant/Deputy Director Alvin Kersh (1998 - 2002)
  • Adam Baldwin - Knowle Rohrer (2001 - 2002)
  • Cary Elwes - Assistant Director Brad Follmer (2001 - 2002)

Episode information

See also: List of episodes of The X-Files

External links

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