X-Files baddies come it two flavours: first are the mytharc baddies, part of the larger story running across the show’s nine series and movie. And then come the Monsters Of The Week – the workaday X-Files that keep Mulder, Scully, Doggett and Reyes busy throughout 20-odd episodes a season. There have been classics in both camps, and here are our favourites – graded in Xs for sheer coolness, their impact on the series as a whole and/or how much they creeped us out, basically. Enjoy.
1) Cancer Man/Cigarette Smoking Man (Mytharc baddie, eps 1.1 – 9.20)
The X-Files‘ very own Darth Vader, the vanguard of the American dark side – or at least of the self-serving relativism that the show so despised. CSM, as he was universally known to fans (or was it really C.G.B. Spender?), was the embodiment of 90s paranoia: a shadowy figure manipulating events from behind the scenes. He was leant against the back wall of every important meeting sucking on a Morley, seemingly answerable to no-one, self-aggrandising, effortlessly smug, virtually silent and totally deadly. The arch nemesis, there from the very start attempting to halt Mulder’s investigation, he was the very definition of a Big Bad – that is, until the demands of network television meant that the Bads needed to get bigger every season.
So latterly CSM got a ‘boss’ of sorts – the super-smooth, super-creep Brit ‘Well Manicured Man’ (don’t you just love that name? I love geeks). He got ill, he got better, he got ill again, gained an ex-wife and finally got tracked down by the CSA (not really) for being Mulder’s dad – all before being blown up, twice. None of this served to diminish his powers, nor could it ever diminish his impact in the first three series, or his right to claim the position as the iconic bad guy of The X-Files that everyone remembers.
COOLNESS: XXXIMPACT: XXXXXCREEPINESS: XXXX
2) The Black Oil/Purity (Mytharc baddie, ep 3.15 onwards)Eurghh, not nice at all, the thought of sentient alien ooze working its way to a little part of your brain and taking control of you in the process. Gah, get it off of me! You’ll never look at Bovril the same way again, promise.
It was first alluded to in the final episode of season one, when Mulder picks up a flask bearing the Legend ‘Purity Control’, though we don’t see it in action for the best part of the next to series (though we come to know that Purity is an alternative name for the primordial alien goo). And it turns out that the Black Oil – which later turns up in classics episodes like Tunguska – is a central part of the larger Colonisation Plan that underpins the big story arc of the series. It is also intrinsically linked to the next baddie…
COOLNESS: XXXXIMPACT: XXXCREEPINESS: XXXX
3) Killer Bees (Mytharc baddie, 4.10 – Fight The Future)
You gotta love Killer Bees. In the pantheon of ‘cool shit to do in movies’, they’re right up there alongside ‘Sharks with frikkin’ LASER BEAMS’, and the ‘Alan Parson’s Project’. That, my friends, is pretty high. They killed that bloke on top of the telephone pole in Herrenvolk (4.01) were responsible for my fave section of the first movie, and certainly a much cooler way to spread Black Oil than, y’know, making it look like oil and selling it in Halfords…
Hang on, Chris! I’ve got an idea for the next movie: we’re gonna call it X-Files: The Truth Is In There, Turn Left At The SatNavs, Next To The Smelly Pine Trees… No? Your loss mate.
COOLNESS: XXXXXIMPACT: XXCREEPINESS: XX
4) Eugene Victor Tooms (Monster of the Week, ep 1.3 and 1.21)The X-Files‘ very first ‘Monster Of The Week’, the stretchy lizard man was the star of Season 1’s Stretch and Tooms episodes but, more importantly, it was his impact and the success of the episodes in which he featured that was largely responsible for shifting the emphasis of the show away from concentrating on alien-related conspiracies and onto the ‘myths and monsters’ format we came to love. Aliens are good too, though, and not every Monster of the Week could hope to equal Eugene’s sheer creepiness.COOLNESS: XXIMPACT: XXXCREEPINESS: XXXX
5) Alien Bounty Hunter (Mytharc baddie, eps 2.16 to 8.02)
The nasty minions of the colonists, seemingly with the sole purpose of killing off anybody who comes close to exposing the conspiracy at the centre of Mulder & Scully’s quest had acidic blood and the Sontaran weakness (they can only be killed by being stabbed in the back of the neck). The ABHs were a pretty scary concept, but the reality was made all the more scary by the regular appearance of Brian Thompson’s distinctive mug filling the role.
The question as to why, with their shape-shifting abilities the ABHs would all choose, by default it seems, to look like a caricature of an 80s action movie star standing 6ft 3” tall and hardly inconspicuous, is a matter best left to the producers to explain. However, this was good for us, because the man most associated with the role has undeniably impeccable Geek credentials (and is a caricature of an 80s action movie star). Thompson’s square-jawed made-to-be-a-baddy mush has graced shows like Hardcastle & McCormick, Streethawk, Alien Nation, all the modern Star Treks, Buffy, Charmed and Birds Of Prey as well as appearing on the big screen in Star Trek: Generations, Cobra, The Terminator and, er… Three Amigos.
They were written out of the series at the start of the show’s eighth season, superseded by the less conspicuous colonist super soldiers; a shame, but as one once told Mulder – in the ABHs most famous line – “everything dies”. Indeed.
COOLNESS: XXXXIMPACT: XXCREEPINESS: XX
6) Flukeman (Monster of the Week, 2.02)
This one’s personal – I have no other excuse for adding another MoTW from season one other than the fact that I find parasites just about the most sick-making concept on God’s green earth. So the idea of a man size biter running around drains in a city near me – looking like a giant, fanged maggot – was always likely to induce a goodly amount of cheek-shifting on the sofa.
Flukeman turned out to be an irradiated Tapeworm or Flatworm, and a product of waste from Chernobyl, disposed in the US. What’s more, he escaped the best attempts of Mulder to kill him (by chopping him in half), to return as a tabloid headline for fans to spot later in the series.
One of the most interesting things about Flukeman is that he was portrayed by Darin Morgan – the younger brother of one of the show’s most prolific, and successful writer (usually alongside James Wong) and director, Glen Morgan. However, Darin Morgan would later go on to staff write and script edit for the show, producing some of the series’ finest standalone episodes; most notably, the eternally creepy Humbug (2.20) and a personal favourite of mine, Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (3.04) – the latter of which guest-starred the eternally wonderful Peter Boyle. All of these were marked with a dark, knowing humour and great poignancy and add up to a non-mytharc greatest hits of The X-Files – think Steven Moffat, and you’re getting warm.
COOLNESS: Not cool at all dude, yeuuurghIMPACT: XXCREEPINESS: XXXXX
7) Michael Kristchgau (Mytharc, ep 4.24 – 5.02 and 7.01 – 7.02)
The Files‘ fourth season ended by completely pulling the carpet out from under the fans. Micheal Kristchgau was not alien, mutant, psychopathic, telepathic or anything else that you’d usually expect from the mind of Chris Carter, but his effect would shake what we knew about the show to its core. He simply planted a seed, or more to the point he provided nourishment to a seed of doubt that had been playing on Mulder’s mind for the entire season: would he ever find the truth? Or, even more fundamentally, was there actually a truth to find?
Kristchgau’s line is that everything that Mulder’s investigating is in fact a Government plot to make people believe aliens are real, in order to cover up their own crimes and various misdemeanours following WWII. His line of disinformation and the whole way that series four built up the doubt leads Mulder, and the audience, to a tipping point and a big cliffhanger. One of the finest season-enders, Kristchgau provides the fuel for Gethsemene (the episode in question) in a wonderfully understated way.
COOLNESS: XIMPACT: XXXXCREEPINESS: XXX
8) Leonard and Lanny (Monster of the Week 2.20)
Circus freaks are creepy, The X-Files could be creepy. Put the two together, and you get, er… creepy squared. That, and the chance for the creators of this uber-portentious series to let their hair down a little.
This episode, in the hands of a writer less talented that Darin Morgan, could’ve been rubbish. A black comedic cul-de-sac set in Gibsonton, a town full of circus freaks (a real place, apparently) that roped in Jim Rose and members of this then-de riguer Circus Sideshow, could sound a little… I dunno, crap and gimmicky… It wasn’t. Even the Total Recall-esque carnage-creator – Leonard, the fetus in fetu, brother of alcoholic Lanny – is presented with rounded buyable motivations, not always something you can say about many fantasy series, and the whole episode stays true to itself in fine style. We’re told he’s looking for a new body to live in, as Lanny is dying from a failed liver: both his demise, and eventually that of the Ghoulie-like ‘parasite’ (presumably into the stomach of The Conundrum – a man who can eat anything) is bitter-sweet in its own, totally disgusting, way.
COOLNESS: XXXXIMPACT: XCREEPINESS: XXXXX
9) Leonard Betts (Monster of the Week 4.12)Season four saw The X-Files move from Friday to Sunday in the US, and at the time it was the biggest show on Fox. Fox had the Superbowl, the Superbowl happens on a Sunday, Fox decides to run the show in the prime slot after the big game… Leonard Betts is thus the highest rated MoTW in X-Files history, because his is the highest rated episode ever. So, did, they soft-pedal things in order to grab a wider audience?
Er… no. Instead they decided to feature a cancer-eating living tumour that could re-grow his own limbs at will. That’s why I love the X-Files; families everywhere wincing as a headless corpse wanders away from the morgue at the start of the show. What’s more, there’s no happy ending to this episode either, as Leonard’s taste for cancerous cells reveals something terrible about the state of Scully’s health.COOLNESS: XXIMPACT: XXXXCREEPINESS: XXX
10) Super Soldiers (Mytharc eps 8.1 onwards)Eventually The Syndicate – who, up until then were the Big Bad, working in collaboration with the Colonisers – would be revealed and this would lead to them being all but wiped out by their former master. In their place, the aliens – looking to take back the earth they’d apparently abandoned during the last Ice Age – looked to totally eschew the need for human collaborators and take it all ‘in-house’ by creating Super Soldiers. A refinement on all that had followed before, they are virtually indistinguishable from humans despite being part-metallic, super strong, virtually indestructible and totally loyal. A nice touch is that the first super soldier we’re introduced to is born in the form of Billy Miles – the kid we first met leading people to their abductions in the show’s very first episode some ten years earlier.
Unfortunately for the X-Files TV show, they (and Dogget and Reyes, replacements for Mulder and Scully in the later episodes) just weren’t as interesting as what came before them, and thus things wound up. However, while Mulder may have discovered The Truth, stopping the colonisation is another matter – and the end of Season 9 saw the work towards taking over earth continuing (scheduled for 2012). Whilst the show may not have had the legs for another elongated run, there’s still plenty of mileage in the mytharc that Carter’s spent 15-odd years laying down. Presumably the new film will continue this story. Exciting stuff.
COOLNESS: XXXIMPACT: XXXCREEPINESS: XX
Agree? Disagree? Head to the comments!
The X-Files: I Want To Believe hits UK cinemas on 1st August 2008.