[Guest Blogger Scott on the X Files; I make a short comment at the end. I edited this slightly because it really has nothing to do with the new movie.]
I've been refamiliarizing myself with reruns on the Sci-fi channel and I was reminded that I never cared for the 'mythology episodes'; the ones that formed the major arc of the series. My favorites were the 'monster of the week' episodes; granted there wasn't always an actual 'monster' but they were a more simple formula: Mulder and Scully investigate some strange phenomena; they're in, they're out, it's over. The strength of these episodes is, in part, their simplicity; I don't need to watch half-a-dozen episodes to understand them but, also, they tended to be some of the smartest, creepiest, witty and just all around fun episodes of the series. Not to mention the fact that they did some pretty clever stuff with these episodes. A few of my favorites include:
The black and white episode that manages to pay homage to 1930s horror movies, 1950s horror comics and the 1980s Cher vehicle Mask (which a young me was very disapointed did not involve transforming vehicles).
A ''Cops-Styled' episode where Mulder and Scully team up with local law enforcement to track down a 'fear monster' (I'm not sure, but I think I remember something about the Blair Witch Project people being involved with this one)
The Genie episode that culminates with Mulder wishing for world peace only to have the genie grant his wish by making everyone else on the planet disapear.
The episode where Peter Boyle gives an Emmy-winning performance as a Psychic who is burdened by his own gift.
It's not that I have no love for the 'mythology episodes', in fact, my all-time favorite episode is very much tied to the show's mythology. In it, we learn the origin of the mysterious 'Cigarette Smoking Man' and discover that he pulled the trigger on both Kennedy and King as well as participating in various other acts of sabotage and under the radar government maipulation over the years including drugging the Russian hockey goalie at the 1980 winter olympics. Not only that, they also manage to do a good job of humanizing the character by giving him a very simple aspiration that he invest a naive, almost childlike, hope in; sure, during the day he may do the government's black-ops dirty work and be a thorn in Mulder's side but what he really wants to do is be is a pulp-spy novelist. His heartbreak in the show's final moments when he discovers that he finally has a story published only to have the editors completely change his ending is palpable. Throughout this episode, with his involvement in all the darker deeds of the last half of the twentieth century, I remember thinking to myself that this guy was kind of like the 'evil Forrest Gump' and then the writers were kind enough to reward me with this at that episode's finale.
So, for me, the show was never about aliens and conspiracies... it was about a genre show that defied expectations by cleverly and consistently breaking down the walls generally set for such shows by taking a fresh approach to so much of the material and, at the end of the day, just being a damn well written show. So, Chris Carter, you can have your flying saucers; I want my Leech-man!
[I would agree that I preferred the stand alone episodes, I think, and I would cite the Plan 9 From Outer Space one and my personal favorite: the one where Garry Shandling and Tea Lioni play actors who shadow Mulder and Scully to play them in a movie that turns out to be a really hilarious parody of the X-Files. (Not only is Blake quoted in the episode, but there is a good gag where Mulder says something about Tea Leoni being into him, and Scully tells him in would never happen, in spite of the fact that she was dating David Duchovny at the time. I remember the one with the Saturday Night Live actress who plays a girl who can control the weather and who falls in love with Mulder, and a Christmas one with two old ghosts played by Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin.]
[I very much wonder, if when Lost is all over, I won't cite the one where they fix the VW bus, or the unfairly maligned Nikki and Paolo episode, as favorites. The mythology is the ostensible hook, but it is often just an excuse to keep you watching while the writers experiment. And, of course, X-Files fumbled the mythology ball in the most dramatic appalling way in the final episode, surely one of the worst sci-fi endings outside of the final four and a half hours of the Matrix Trilogy. I mean, after that, you kind of HAVE to love the little things about the X-Files. Cause at the end of the day, what else was there?]