Saturday, November 26, 2005



Early in its life-cycle, The X-Files was broadcast on Friday nights. B and I would hang out at the apartment of our friends P and D, who were X-Files junkies, and order in chinese food. They would insist on watching the show, but, invariably, I'd get bored within ten minutes and leave the room to go play Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis on P and D's desktop Mac. The X-Files seemed to consist entirely of a lot of obscure conversations between people with flat affects dressed in suits.

It wasn't until the show's 5th season or so that, for some reason, I got hooked. By then it was being broadcast on one of the Fox cable networks with an epidsode every night, plus a four-hour Friday night marathon. For me, the X-Files is best watched obsessively. Overcome by a fit of nostalgia, B and I just completed a 3-volume X-Files marathon.

It turns out that the show consists of so much more than obscure conversations between people with flat affects dressed in suits. Every episode has a different anxious-looking short bald guy walking quickly and wordlessly away down a corridor, only to disappear into a stairwell, where Mulder or Scully chase them, impotently shouting, "Stop! Federal Agent!" Or sometimes, "Federal Agent! Stop!"

Then there are the great filming locations. By my informal estimate, X-Files scenes are shot in the following settings:
For all this consistency, there is actually a lot of inconsistency from year to year in story details. For instance, for several seasons it appears that the only way aliens can be killed is with a certain high-tech looking stiletto-style retractable shoemaker's awl stuck in the back of the neck -- only that will do the job, and whole episodes are built around the importance of that particular weapon. But then in season eight, Scully can do the job with a well-placed gunshot to the same location.

But more than minor narrative continuity problems, the whole show has a very "make it up as we go along" feel. The screenwriters, cleverly, resorted much more often to the artful enigma than to the lame explanation. An example of the latter was the oft-spoken reason why the bad guys didn't simply have Mulder killed: "Better to let his investigation bedevil us than to turn one man's crusade into a martyr's cause." Whuh? Smoking Man meets Yoda, I guess.

But you get sucked in, and once you do, you get to like those flat affects week after week. So that when Gillian Anderson flashes out that biennial smile, you can go to sleep thinking about it every night for a week.

Sigh. Well, if you can get hooked on the X-files, I fail to see the reason why you can't get hooked on an extremely well-written, well plotted and well acted "novel for television" that was Babylon 5. The writing is comparable to Sorkin. Even in the first season, but you won't appreciate it until the second time through the series, because you'll miss all the subtle set ups for things that don't have a "payoff" for 3 or 4 years.

I managed to avoid getting hooked on the X-Files, and watching the movie validated that decision of mine.

Fox is still on my sh**-list for canceling Futurama, in any case.
X-Files was one of my obsessions. And, though I stopped watching in Season 7, I still to this day am embarrassingly crushing on David Duchovny.
My completely unflappable mother also had a crush on DD. She liked to call him Fox Mul-DAMN!
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