Revisiting The X-Files: season 1 episode 1

News Matt Haigh
25 Sep 2008 - 08:10

Matt starts his latest project - to head back into the early days of Mulder and Scully, one episode at a time...

Perception is a funny thing. Rarely is it a good idea to re-visit things from our past. What scared us as children will make us laugh scornfully as adults, what had the power to wow us back then will only disappoint us now, and ultimately the magic is broken.

When the X-Files held a weekly slot in the BBC schedules, I avoided it like the plague. I was young, had caught a few episodes by accident and was subsequently terrified by them. Plus, for a kid, adult themes such as paranoia and government conspiracies hold little awe. So, I reasoned there was no better series to "re-visit" than one of which I have no real pre-conceived ideas or blinkered views.

The pilot episode  begins with a girl pelting through a darkened forest, only to be absorbed and killed by a brilliant light. The girl is later found by police with two mysterious markings on her back. Agent Dana Scully is called in to assist resident (supposed) crackpot Fox Mulder on the case, and the legacy begins.

It's here that we learn of Mulder's sister, and how she vanished without trace when they were children, which ultimately proved the catalyst for Mulder's obsession with UFOs. The story twists and turns but, most importantly, never drags.

Eventually we learn that a comatosed high school graduate was abducted one night while celebrating in the woods with his friends. He tells police he was fitted with an implant, and then ordered (by aliens, we assume) to kill the other people who were with him on the night of the abduction, because the experiments had "failed."

Not so long ago I purchased the Outer Limits DVD box-set, the series from the 90s which, from my childhood memories, was like the infinitely more horrifying younger brother of the X-Files. However, the clarity of adulthood proved that the series was in fact more like the dumber, stupider brother, as each and every episode was simply not scary and really quite boring.

It's in this comparison that the quality of the X-files really becomes apparent to me. I would skip all of the Outer Limits episodes that were based around alien encounters, just because I find that sort of thing boring. However, in the case of the X-files, I was able to enjoy a story on the same subject matter for the simple reason that this series boasts far superior script writing and characters. On-screen chemistry is a difficult thing to achieve, but Duchovny and Anderson have it in spades. From the moment they first meet, it's as though they have always been a duo.

You could not have asked for two more miss-matched characters: "Spooky" Mulder's fascination with and willingness to believe in the paranormal, versus Scully's unwavering belief that anything and everything, no matter how bizarre, can be scientifically explained. It is this very conflict of personalities that generates sparks on screen and gives the whole set-up a ring of truth.

A great first episode and hopefully the start of better things to come...


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