Thursday, July 10, 2008

Scott on the X-Files

[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?]

24 comments:

Stephen said...

Thanks for posting that youtube! That speech, a brilliant parody of a treckly movie, was one of my all-time favorite moments in the show too.

SF

Anonymous said...

so why don't you want to see The X-Files movie since it's precisely a 'monster of the week'film ?

Christian said...

I liked the monster of the week stuff so much more than the completely meaningless and utterly pointless mythos stuff.

Give me the creepy Bug in the Office guy over little gray men and clones.

Rebecca said...

This is a monster of the week film, you know, right? That's only been said about a million times.

Madd_Hadder said...

Every summer I pick a show to watch on DVD and this summer has been The X-Files. I am currently in season 8 (The first season without Mulder) and for a while I absolutely loved the mythology episodes, but after a while they do start to feel exactly the same. The idea of a shape shifting bounty hunter was cool for a bit, but then it just seemed to easy. It was as if Carter went back to those episodes when he could not think of any creepy monster of the week.

A personal favorite episode of mine is the one with Luke Wilson as the vampire sheriff.

However, the movie is essentially just a supernatural thriller with a monster of the week feel, so you might actually enjoy it. At least that is how it seems from the trailers.

Geoff Klock said...

Anon, Rebecca, MH -- the post has been changed to reflect that fact. Sorry.

scott91777 said...

My Bad! From what I'd seen it looked like another Alien Conspiracy movie.

jennifer said...

i've recently re-watched up to 5. ditto the one-off monster episodes vs. mythology episodes.
but when i used to watch the shows religiously friday/sunday nite i liked the mythology ones way more than the one-off monsters. i guess i really enjoyed how the cliff-hangers made me run around for a week or a summer anticipating.
very excited about the movie...
opening weekend for this one :)
coming?

scott91777 said...

Oh, and MH, you're totally right about the Luke Wilson vampire episode. I loved the opening segment where Mulder chases down a teenage boy, stakes him through the heart only to discover his fangs are fake then says "Oh, Sh..." *cue opening theme and credits*

That's probably the best opening of any episode in the series.

Also, I was thinking what the tagline "The phenomena that started it all meant..."

At first I thought it was referencing some non-existant thriving X-files franchise (since Lone Gunmen really didn't do all that well... even though I liked it) and this is only the second movie they've done in over 8 years.

Then, when I thought it was an alien conspiracy movie, I thought that's what they meant as in "the original phenomenon that got Mulder into the X-files" (part of the reason I remained under that impression when I first wrote this post)

But, maybe, what it really means is that the creators/producers are saying "Hey, remember our show? Well Guess what? Without it there wouldn't have been a Buffy or an Alias and there wouldn't be a Lost or Heroes... You're Welcome!"

Maybe it's about the first X-file? But wasn't that referenced in the series already? I seem to remember it being about Werewolves?

Madd_Hadder said...

Scott,

Very early in season 1 there was an episode dealing with a Native American tribe that may have had members who turned into werewolves. In the episode Mulder even said "I want to believe" which is the title of this movie. It has led to thinking that it may have something to do with that.

scott91777 said...

MH,

In that episode didn't Mulder specifically make a reference to a similar case that was 'the first X-file' though? I seem to remember that.

Björninn said...

I couldn't agree more, I recently watched the series hoping to get the Big Story I'd missed out on when I didn't really watch the show on TV, but wound up liking the stand-alones alot more.. and kind of losing interest in the mythology when they blew the Conspiracy away midway through season 6.

Also, I don't really have an opinion on the movie since I've been avoiding the trailers and so on, but I do think that listing episodes is awesome.

Jose Chung's From Outer Space, Bad Blood and Folie á Deux - definitely my favourites (and, no surprise, all mentioned already).

But also: Terms of Endearment (demon babies), Monday (Groundhog Day episode), Field Trip (evil mushroom - an episode which I like to think never actually ended), and Milagro, where Chris Carter pretty much just writes about seducing Scully/Anderson by writing about a writer who writes about said seduction and then has it come true. Through writing.

On the other hand I don't remember a truly awful and hopeless mythology episode, but there were a few in the stand-alone department. Chinga (Stephen King's murderous doll), First Person Shooter, Fight Club (Kathy Griffin??) and of course The Unnatural, Duchovny's embarrassing and moronic story about an alien who becomes human by playing baseball.

His Shandling/Lioni episode was far, far better. Surprising, that.

scott91777 said...

I loved the Alien Baseball episode!

Geoff Klock said...

yeah! Me too. It has Jessie L Martin in it!

Patrick said...

There's a lot of great standalones, but also a multitude of really shitty ones mixed in there. And, that's why I generally preferred the mythology episodes. Contrary to popular opinion, I feel like the mythology actually resolves itself fairly nicely. There's a big action climax in season six, then seven serves as the denouement, closing out all the loose threads, and bringing it full circle in the season finale.

Unfortunately, the show went on for two more awful years, so what should have ended just kind of drags on. But, I still love those crazy, over the top mythology two parters.

That said, there are a whole bunch of great standalones along the way. In addition to the ones mentioned above, I've got to give props to Gillian Anderson's brilliant all things, which is one of the most visually striking episodes in the show's entire run.

Anonymous said...

Geoff!1

The X-Files: I Want to Believe IS a monster-of-the-week film and it's supposed to be among the scariest ~ like Season 4's "Home."

Duchovny wrote and directed both "The Unnatural," a brilliant episode, and the satire "Hollywood AD." He was married to Tea Leoni when he wrote the line for Scully mentioning that Tea Leoni was attracted to him.

Madd_Hadder said...

Scott,

Yes, I do believe he did say something about the werewolf thing being the first X-File.

My biggest issue with the trailer is Scully's long hair. It just weirds me out to see Scully with long hair.

Björninn said...

I'm weirded out by the fact that you guys like The Unnatural. I'm not trying to be hostile, I honestly don't get it.

There's the Grumpy Old Man who tells the Enthusiastic Young Guy about how things Used To Be, how he was the One Decent Cop who ,,didn't care if a murder victim was black or white: a crime is a crime" (I think he even says it out loud). Being such a straight-up guy, he also doesn't care if black people play major league baseball. He then finds out that the black guy is actually an alien by seeing his Reflection in The Mirror. It's one big cliche after another. The show even kicks off with a joke about silly women and their non-fat ice cream.

I guess that line at the end about the blood not being alien but human is supposed to allude to the shared humanity of black and white people, and that we can all be friends if we just spend enough time throwing balls at each other and running in circles. But doesn't the episode imply that in order for talented black ballplayers to be allowed into the big leagues, an extra-terrestial had to Come Down From Heaven and sacrifice itself, becoming human trough its Love Of The Game?

I really can't be bothered to watch the show again and this is all I can remember. But those of you who love the episode and think it's brilliant, what am I missing? Again, not trying to start a fight, I just want to hear your opinion.

Paul said...

New X-Files movie! Yes! Bring on the hotness!

I love a lot of the episodes mentioned, too. I was a big fan of the show when it was on the air, but I've recently been going through the first three seasons of the of series. The cockroach one is one of my favorites, especially the part when Mulder and the scientist look at the camera and a cockroach races across the tv screen. Freaked me out the first time I saw it.

Put me in the group that was into the mythology eps when it was on the air, but now liking the strong MOTW shows more.

Going back through the DVDs, it's funny to see so many younger versions of big actors. Jack Black and Giovanni Rabisi are so young in the Lightning Boy ep.

scott91777 said...

Bjornn,

Well, I just said I loved it... not that it was a 'brilliant'... I think you're maybe overthinking it a bit. The brilliance of so many of the stand alone episodes was their simplicity. For me, I kind of liked the way it reflected a lot of the more sunny twilight zone episodes or the aspect of 'sci-fi as morality play' that we got in a lot of Sci-fi stories of the 1950s (where the story is set) and the EC Sci-fi comics (this is the along the lines of a comic I once saw where an astronaut in a space suit visits a robot planet where there are gold and silver robots and the silver are discriminated against and... the big reveal at the end is the astronaut removes his helmet to reveal he's black). So I think it works on a simplistic level like that.

Also, it helps to be a baseball fan... the baseball fans I know have a tendency to well up when they see that episode (as they do when they see that last season DS9 episodes where the crew play against the Vulcan crew).

David Golding said...

Two words for me: Darin Morgan. His four episodes (the freak show, the psychic who only sees death, cockroaches from space, Lord Kinbote) should be in a box set.

Also I like the one where Scully is in hospital after her abduction. Is this a mythology episode? I see it as standalone. I like the examination of faith.

(Scott: X-Files gave us Heroes? Well, Twin Peaks more surely gave us X-Files. Surely it's the phenomena that started it all.)

scott91777 said...

David,

Yeah... we shouldn't be thanking it for THAT one... but I stand by the others.

Streebo said...

Some great episodes mentioned here. I was always a fan of the mythology episodes. The mythology worked best - the less the audience knew about it. The more the blanks were filled in, the more convoluted the mythology became.

The black and white Cher/Monster episode was The Post-Modern Prometheus. That's another favorite of mine as it plays with many horror conventions and turns them on their ear to have fun with it all. My personal all time favorite episode is Darin morgan's masterpiece with Lortd Kinbote as mentioned by David - known as Jose Chung's From Outer Space. It featured aliens, UFO's, hypnosis, and Alex Trebeck and Jesse Ventura as Men In Black. How's that for a slice of pure fried gold?

In order to keep my love for the X-Files mythology intact, I never watched the last episode of the series.

scott91777 said...

Streebo,

you're right, the mythology was a lot better the less we knew about it. I'm sure Jason would agree that, like Wolverine's origins, some stuff works better when its left ambiguous.