You don’t need us to tell you how important The X-Files was.
It had a huge impact on the shape of the genre landscape, a supernatural procedural that inspired Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Fringe, Sleepy Hollow and a million other shows that no one remembers. It gave us two of sci-fi’s biggest icons in the form of wry believer Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and sceptical badass Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), and provided its viewers with endless nightmares and conspiracy theory fuel.
Now, it’s available in beautiful high definition in Fox’s Blu-ray box set, which comes with a little space for the new revival series.
But do you really need to shell out for a new box set? The short answer is yes. First of all, because the restoration looks stunning (although we kind of agree with the quibble that looking too crisp does occasionally hurt the show’s murky atmosphere), but mostly because during its best seasons the show was absolutely essential. Even the worst seasons have something to offer.
One of the pleasures of rewatching is being reminded of the incredible writing talent involved. Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan is arguably MVP, but Howard Gordon, John Shiban, James Wong, Glen Morgan and Darin Morgan all created superb hours of television, while Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz steered the ship through its increasingly complicated and inevitably daft overall mythology.
Although fans will tell you that the mythology had gone to pot long before the finale rolled around, it’s great to go back and be reminded of just how good it is at the start. From the smoke-filled FBI offices to Mulder’s meetings with shady government operatives, it’s incredibly gripping stuff, helped by superb performances from Duchovny and the supporting cast, including Jerry Hardin’s charming Deep Throat and Steven William’s glowering Mr X. It’s absolutely compelling, and holds up even though that zeitgeist has long since passed.
Then there are the monsters. With the possible exception of Buffy, no TV show has offered monster-of-the-week episodes this brilliant. How many series can boast creatures as terrifying as Eugene Victor Tooms by its third episode?
By the time the show really hits its stride with the second and third season, the writers had found a near-perfect balance between its arc plot and its monsters of the week. Indeed, sometimes the mythology could be every bit as terrifying as the serial killers, fluke men and body-fat devourers. Just look at the ‘Duane Barry’ arc, in which Mulder races to save Scully from an alien abductee.
Speaking of Scully, there’s a good reason why her and Mulder became such a big part of popular culture, and it’s largely due to the fact that Duchovny and Anderson work so well together. Their chemistry is immediately evident, and watching their relationship develop over the course of the show and seeing them becoming increasingly comfortable bouncing off each other is an absolute joy. Anderson deserves even more praise because the quality of her work never dips, even when Duchovny visibly wanted out of the show during the rickety seventh season.
The introduction of Robert Patrick’s John Doggett also works better than you might remember, finally allowing Scully to be the believer, and the actor gives the show a real shot in the arm. Annabeth Gish’s Monica Reyes remains a serious misstep, but to be honest there’s so much wrong with Season Nine that it’s hard to pin the blame on her. Carter’s attempt to keep the show going after Duchovny’s departure could have worked, but it’s sadly fumbled.
But why focus on Season 9 when there’s so much goodness here? This is one of the best TV shows ever, finally available in HD.