Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 21, 2008)
With the big-screen The X-Files: I Want to Believe flick on the horizon, Fox decided it was time to give folks an X-Files refresher course. And I can’t blame them. It’s been 10 years since the prior theatrical effort, and the series itself went off the air in 2002, so X-Files has resided outside the public consciousness for quite some time.
To bring folks up to speed, we find an eight-episode compilation called The X-Files: Revelations. It gives us shows from seasons one through six. I’ll look at the in broadcast order, which is how they’re presented here.
Pilot (Season One): “A young FBI agent is assigned watchdog duty over a fellow agent, but finds herself drawn into his investigations of paranormal and unexplained phenomena.”
Though I never watched the series, I came into this package with some knowledge of its characters and situations. Because of that, “Pilot” doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It sets up the series pretty well, and it offers a good story in its own right. I expected it might simply be expository, but the tale in play proves quite interesting, and it sure leads it toward the future well. All that and Gillian Anderson in her underwear, too!
Beyond the Sea (Season One): “Scully believes that the psychic predictions of a death row inmate are the only hope in apprehending a vicious murderer.”
Like I mentioned, I come to this DVD set without more than basic knowledge of The X-Files. However, I am aware that Mulder is the “true believer” and Scully is the skeptic, so that makes the narrative of “Sea” more engaging. Here Scully buys into the paranormal side of things while Mulder becomes the doubter. That side of things creates an involving subtext, and the use of Scully’s dad adds drama to the proceedings. This turns into a solid show.
The Host (Season Two): “Mulder and Scully pursue the Flukeman – a murderous genetic mutation lurking in the New Jersey sewer system.”
One problem with the nature of this compilation: we jump around so much that some confusion ensues. Here we sense that Mulder ran into problems within the FBI since “Sea”, but we don’t know what happened. Those discrepancies don’t actively harm “Host”, but they can lead to a little head-scratching as we attempt to connect the dots.
As for “Host” itself, it normally sticks with a pretty standard monster story, though it creates some unusual trends at times. I like the concept of what to do with the Flukeman when they catch him; he’s not human, so do you put him on trial anyway? The show veers away from that side of things and goes back to the standard monster tale, but it remains a pretty tight program.
(By the way, if you wonder why Anderson looks so rotund here, it’s not because she’d been hitting craft services. She was pregnant at the time.)
Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (Season Three): “On the trail of a serial killer, the agents seek the help of a clairvoyant who predicts Mulder’s death.”
Guest Peter Boyle provides a nice turn as the lunch bucket psychic. The show exhibits more of a sense of humor than usual, and almost becomes campy with the celebrity psychic who briefly appears. Despite a few jokey misfires, “Repose” gives us a clever and engaging episode.
Memento Mori (Season Four): “Scully attempts to come to terms with her inoperable cancer, while Mulder and the Lone Gunmen break into a high-security research lab to find the cure that could save her life.”
After the moderately comedic tone of “Repose”, matters get much darker for “Mori”. Indeed, the episode occasionally borders on melodrama, and it’s a definite break from the more straightforward crime investigations in prior programs. That makes it interesting, though it loses some points because it doesn’t stand alone well; I think the show would play better as part of the full fourth season, while out of context, it becomes more confusing.
Post-Modern Prometheus (Season Five): “While investigating the appearance of a freakish creature in a rural town, the agents uncover a dangerous genetic experiment that has spun wildly out of control.”
Plenty of X-Files shows embrace comic book style material, but not as wholeheartedly as “Prometheus”. It takes a literal view of that source and also nods heavily in the direction of horror flicks like Freaks. This adds up to a mighty odd show – and one I’m not sure we’re supposed to view as “reality” within the series’ internal world – but it entertains quite well.
Bad Blood (Season Five): “While exploring the deaths of cattle killed by a series of blood extractions, the agents uncover a cult of vampires residing in a small Texas town.”
The well-worn Rashomon structure comes to The X-Files here. While we’ve seen eight jillion movies and TV episodes that use the same method, it still works, especially given the comedic bent of “Blood”. It’s a hoot to see how Scully and Mulder view each other, and we get a fun guest spot from Luke Wilson as well. It’s an engrossing and exciting episode, though who knew Mulder was such a terrible tipper; he gives the pizza guy $13 for a $12.98 order?
Milagro (Season Six): “A writer who lives next door to Mulder becomes the prime suspect in a series of killings.”
The set ends on a more somber and creepier note via “Milagro”. The creepiness doesn’t come via the usual eerie supernatural stuff, though; instead, the unnerving side comes from the dark nature of the neighbor; this is the guy women don’t want to meet on Match.com. The story unfolds in a slow but compelling manner that makes it consistently interesting.