By the fall of 1993, The Fox television network had graduated from “fledgling network” to “upstart network” and was well on its way to becoming “a pain in the ass to the Big Three networks.” With hits like The Simpsons, Beverly Hills 90210, and In Living Color (to name just a few), Fox had begun to convince its detractors that it was in it for the long haul. On September 10, 1993 a new show premiered after The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., the network’s heavily-promoted comic western/sci-fi series which had, in turn, premiered a few weeks prior. That night, viewers who stayed around after Bruce Campbell’s goofily endearing bounty hunter show found a moody, grey-toned pilot that exhibited stylistic elements borrowed from 1990’s cult hit television show Twin Peaks, 1991’s Silence of the Lambs, and drew inspiration from several decades’ worth of genre-bending television shows, most notably The Twilight Zone and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. And, as if that pedigree wasn’t enough, it was all tied up in the neat bow of a procedural drama. Series creator Chris Carter, having spent more than a decade as a contributor to Surfing Magazine, began his television career writing TV movies for Walt Disney Studios. Moving on from that gig he wrote several network pilots, but none of them were able to find a footing. In 1992, he was recruited to develop content for Fox, and he found a home. The X-Files was picked up for the ’93-’94 season. Despite its historically problematic Friday evening timeslot, this weird little show about the impulsive, mania-driven FBI agent and his long-suffering skeptic partner began to overshadow its better-advertised lead-in. The show’s anti-establishment paranoia as well as its creature feature format struck a nerve and it quickly became a cult hit. Over the course of nine seasons (and two feature films), The X-Files transcended its cult status, becoming a phenomenon and cultural touchstone. The significance of the X-Files to a generation then coming to be known as Gen X was palpable. As a card-carrying member of said generation, I can say that the thought of hidden government installations, top-secret eugenics experimentation, and even military-industrial cover-ups of extraterrestrial contact did not seem entirely implausible. To the disaffected, down-trodden, over-educated, under-employed Gen Xers, it was nearly oddly comforting to fantasize about forces working so far beyond us to exterminate any hope of self-determination. We connected with the recklessly driven Mulder, even as we were able to relate to Scully’s rational scientific explanations (as irritating as these truths could be sometimes). These were two seekers of truth, in what became a mutually Quixotic quest against the forces that were determined to keep them, and, in turn, all of us, from knowing the Truth. Of course, it was also a great excuse for a broke college student to sit at home on a Friday night. The first season was a sort of exploration of the boundaries and rules for this show. In the end, we were left with the determination that there were no boundaries or rules for this show. In one respect, it was an introduction to a vast conspiracy involving the presence of extraterrestrials here on Earth and an international governmental effort to keep the general public in the dark. On another hand, it was a procedural crime drama unlike any other populating the television landscape at the time. The cases revolve around topics such as pyrokinesis, human cloning, prehistoric microscopic alien organisms, human organ-eating super-stretchy genetic mutations… Do I need to go on? And as the common unifying factor throughout all of this, we bear witness the forging of an historic partnership between two star-crossed allies. I must admit that it was my firm belief throughout much of this series that Mulder and Scully’s affection for each other was mostly platonic and professional. If anything, I was convinced that Mulder looked to Scully as a sort of surrogate sister. In repeated viewing, I was unable to sustain this theory. Even as their partnership and professional trust grew, there was something more human and organic developing between them. It’s understated and never becomes the focus of the series, and I think we should make note of Chris Carter’s (as well as series stars’ Anderson’s and Duchovny’s) respectful and pragmatic adherence to a long-standing policy of anti-rom-com. Perhaps Moonlighting’s crash and burn served as a cautionary tale? The world may never know. The first season saw the introduction of long-impacting supporting players like Cigarette-Smoking Man (later redubbed Cancer Man), Deep Throat, the Lone Gunmen, and Assistant Director Walter Skinner. The overarching series mythology plays out through the episodes “Pilot,” “Deep Throat,” “Fallen Angel,” “Eve,” “E.B.E,” and “The Erlenmeyer Flask.” This season has its ups and downs, although the ups far outnumbered the downs. Even the lackluster hours of this season have redeeming value, thanks to the synergy of the series creator and his two stars. Let’s dig into the episodes and see what it’s all about. S1E1: “Pilot” (w: Chris Carter/d: Robert Mandel) The way I see it, a successful pilot is a delicate balancing act. Just like the first ten minutes of a screenplay or the first chapter of a novel, it needs to serve a very important dual purpose. On a somewhat superficial level the pilot needs have enough flash and bang to engage the audience and keep them hungry for more. But on a deeper level, it has an incredibly important job to do; namely, give the audience all the tools it will need to navigate the remainder of the overarching story as well as establish the broad status quo of the rest of the series (or movie or novel, as the case may be). Within those parameters, the pilot of the X-Files is very nearly a perfect pilot. As a side note, if I had been a marketing intern at Fox Television Network back in the early 90s, the aerial shot of Mulder and Scully standing in the middle of a rain-swept Oregon highway over a red spray-painted X marking the spot of their supposed extraterrestrial contact and subsequent time loss would have been plastered on the side of every bus and taxi stand in this country. That has long stood as one of my favorite images from this show. Shadowy players working within the corridors of power are trying to manipulate Fox Mulder’s work in some way. They send Dana Scully, a medical doctor, in as his partner, hoping to… discredit? Debunk? …Mulder’s work. The push me/pull you professional relationship between Agents Mulder and Scully is firmly established, which will carry for the remainder of their work together. Mulder will always jump to a seemingly rash, impossible conclusion and rush to pursue it. Scully will always question him and rely on the evidence and data before eventually realizing Mulder may have been right after all. In the moment of truth, Mulder will see evidence to support his ideas, but Scully will, through natural circumstance, miss the spectacle. At best, Scully’s reports can never be conclusive. At worst, Mulder might get himself killed in his maniacal pursuit of The Truth. The agents go to Oregon to investigate a case of recent high school graduates disappearing and dying in the woods outside of town. All of them have dual red marks on their bodies. One of the abductees, Billy Miles, lies in a waking coma in the hospital. The local constabulary (including Billy’s dad, Detective Miles) are far from supportive of the federal assistance. Mulder firmly believes aliens are involved, and the evidence and circumstances build a case to support his theories above any other possible explanation. In an intimate moment, Mulder tells Scully about the abduction of his younger sister when he was a boy, and of the light which lifted her out of the window while he sat frozen, unable to prevent it from happening. Eventually, Mulder will bear witness to Billy being “released” by the light in the sky, even while Scully works her way through the woods trying to find her way to him. It should be noted that this pilot would be much weaker if not for the supernaturally instantaneous chemistry between stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Initially, Scully scoffs at Mulder’s theories of alien abduction. But as the case progresses, she finds her rationale shaken as she is unable to scientifically reconcile things that happen. The incredible thing which we will come to see about Dana Scully, though, is the way her scientific training works in tandem with her intellectual malleability to never stop searching for “reasonable explanations” for the unexplainable situations she finds herself in while partnered with Fox Mulder. S1E2: “Deep Throat” (w: Chris Carter/d: Daniel Sackheim) Just so we’re clear, the name of the pseudonymous character of introduced in this episode has more to do with Woodward and Bernstein’s informant during the Watergate scandal than it does with Linda Lovelace. With our two protagonists firmly established in the pilot episode, Chris Carter used the first full series episode to begin to scratch at the surface of an overarching story that would unfold over the next decade (and then some). This would also serve as an introduction to a character who will serve as an indispensable ally throughout the first season (well, maybe). Deep Throat appears throughout the episode, offering Mulder advice and warning in equal measure. We don’t know anything about this man, but based upon his access to information, we must assume he walks the Capitol’s halls of power in some capacity. This episode also features the character of Emil. In a series which regularly makes use of helpful townies to step forward and offer key information and/or aid to the agents’ investigations, Emil and his girlfriend Zoe easily set the high water mark to which all the Helpful Townies of later episodes must aspire. Mulder convinces Scully to join him in investigating the disappearance of a US Air Force test pilot. The pilot’s wife was desperate for information about her missing husband and had reached out to the FBI for help. Before they can leave Washington, Mulder is confronted by a mysterious man who warns him away from the case. Ignoring this unwarranted advice, the partners travel to Idaho and Ellens Air Force Base. As they pursue their line of questioning, it becomes clear that base security is monitoring their activities. From outside the fence surrounding the base, Mulder and Scully witness lights in the sky performing feats of maneuverability that would be impossible for any known aircraft. They catch Emil and Zoe, two local teenagers who have trespassed on the base, presumably to get high and watch the lights in the sky. Emil, played by a young, long-haired Seth Green (who seems surprisingly method in this role for some inexplicable reason), tells the agents over burgers at a local diner his theories about UFOs coming from a bunker deep within Ellens AFB. Soon, Budahas is returned to his wife with no memory of where he had been, and Mulder and Scully are stopped by men in black who destroy any evidence they had collected thus far. Mulder, in a fit of defiance, sneaks into the base and is confronted by an experimental craft that is advanced beyond any known current technologies. The next morning, Scully arranges a gunpoint trade of a member of base security for Mulder’s return and they head back to Washington. Mulder’s memory of the ordeal is hazy at best. Deep Throat approaches Mulder once again. When Mulder asks him if “they” were really here, Deep Throat responds “They’ve been here a long, long time.” Jerry Hardin’s Deep Throat character seems at once a fatherly guardian and ominous harbinger. He is the first member of a supporting cast that will build up to serve as a thin line of defense around Mulder and Scully as they dig deeper into this vast conspiracy. I can’t help but think that his interactions with Mulder serve as something of a counterpoint to Scully’s encounter with William B. Davis’ intimidatingly silent Cigarette Smoking Man in the pilot episode. S1E3: “Squeeze” (w: Glen Morgan & James Wong/ d: Harry Longstreet) With “Squeeze,” we are treated to our first “Monster of the Week” episode, and it remains one of the very best in the series. It’s also the first of many X-File collaborations between Glen Morgan and James Wong. In Baltimore, people are dying and their livers are being removed. Mulder steps into the locked-room murder investigation and discovers what appears to be an impossibly elongated fingerprint next to a tiny air duct. Mulder’s interest is piqued by the fact that this murder matches a pattern of crimes going back at least as far as 1933 and recurring every three decades. A visit to a retired detective who had worked the 1933 case turns up a photo of a man they had seen and questioned earlier who apparently hasn’t aged in sixty years. Eugene Victor Tooms is a physical anomaly who can stretch and contort his body to fit through nearly any space, as is demonstrated by trip down a chimney that is much more Grinch than it is St. Nick. Mulder discovers that he is eating the livers (without fava beans or Chianti? How gauche!), to sustain him through hibernation for thirty years after each killing spree. Discovered and eventually captured, Tooms uses his time to build a new bile-instead-of-glue papier-mache nest in the corner of his cell, even while hungrily eyeing the slot in the door through which his meals are passed. Doug Hutchison’s portrayal of Eugene Tooms is easily the highlight of the episode. Tooms really comes off as an innocent, despite his horrifying actions. He is simply going about the cycle of his own particular existence, defending himself and sustaining himself as is necessary. The acts of a predatory animal in the wild are savage and bloody, to be sure, but it is a simple fact of its existence that must be held above reproach. Hutchison’s Tooms is very similar in this respect, and that’s what makes him work as a particularly great monster. Another thing that makes this episode important is seeing Mulder and Scully work together to reach conclusions. Her medical science meets his wingnut theories to create a complete portrait of this killer mutant. Scully’s flexible mind and extensive training keeps searching for explanations, even while Mulder tilts at windmills. But it never feels like Scully is looking to match her observations with the contents of a textbook. It seems that they both “want to believe”, but each pursues that belief in unique ways. With this episode, Mulder and Scully are one step closer to becoming a true team. S1E4: “Conduit” (w: Alex Gansa & Glen Morgan/ d: Daniel Sackheim) If nothing else, this primarily stand-alone episode gave viewers a deeper understanding of Mulder’s experience regarding the disappearance of his sister Samantha. In a somewhat surprising turn, Academy Award Best Actress Nominee and two-time Golden Globe winner Carrie Snodgress appears as former-alien-abductee-turned-mother-of-possible-teen-alien-abductee Darlene Morris. The agents travel to Sioux City, Iowa to look into the disappearance and supposed alien abduction of local teen Ruby Morris from the family’s campsite at a nearby lake. What has turned Mulder’s head is the fact that Ruby’s mother, Darlene, was part of a Girl Scout troop that reported a UFO sighting at the same lake in 1967. While interviewing Darlene, they meet Ruby’s little brother Kevin. Kevin has withdrawn somewhat upon his sister’s disappearance, and fills page after page with what appears to be binary code. Out of curiosity, Mulder sends copies of the pages back to DC for analysis. As they continue their investigation, they meet Tessa, who hands them a succulent red herring in the form of a cock-and-bull story about Ruby’s pregnancy with local bartender/motorcycle guy Greg. She’s lying, by the way. At the lake, Mulder and Scully find the top of the tree line scorched and sand along the shore that has been fused into glass. Oh, and the body of the aforementioned Greg in a shallow grave. Meanwhile, the NSA arrives to ransack the Morris household. Kevin’s pages of binary code, as it turns out, were Defense Department satellite transmissions. Kids these days, am I right? The NSA agents take Darlene and Kevin away for questioning, and Mulder and Scully return to their empty house to discover what might be the best visual reveal of the entire first season. Kevin’s binary pages, when arranged properly, form an enormous image of his missing sister Ruby. After being released from NSA custody, Darlene and Kevin return to the lake where Mulder and Scully find them. Kevin seems to be following some unheard instructions and is wandering in the woods. Ruby is found, but the next day in the hospital, she says an unnamed group told her not to talk about what happened to her. Darlene clams up, too, fearing a repeat of her teen humiliation after her Girl Scout outing. Elements of this case bear enough similarity to Mulder’s sister’s disappearance that it becomes highly personal for him, leading Scully to doubt his effectiveness as an investigator. This becomes important as it increasingly becomes Scully’s task to keep Mulder from succumbing to his obsessive need to solve the case of Samantha’s abduction. It’s a crack in their growing partnership that certain elements within the government will continue to attempt to exploit. Section Chief Blevins, who originally gave Scully the assignment of “debunking the X-Files” under Cigarette Smoking Man’s watchful eye in the pilot episode, takes the opportunity to show Scully the X-File regarding Samantha’s disappearance after telling her that Mulder issued a travel requisition form to Iowa based solely upon a tabloid article. The episode ends with Scully listening to recordings of Mulder undergoing hypno-regression to recall the details of his sister’s abduction. S1E5: “The Jersey Devil” (w: Chris Carter/ d: Joe Napolitano) Series creator Chris Carter stepped up with his first Monster of the Week episode with this story of a Bigfoot-like primitive humanoid living in the Pine Barrens just outside of Atlantic City. This episode also granted us a first glimpse into Dana Scully’s life outside of her duties as an FBI Special Agent. The episode begins on the side of a New Jersey road in 1947. A dad leaves his family in the car to change a tire, but is swept away by an unseen assailant. His body is discovered later with a leg chewed off. An exceptionally hirsute humanoid is killed. In the present day, Mulder and Scully travel to an Atlantic City morgue to check out a body that was found with a hand and arm missing. Unfortunately, the local authorities aren’t feeling like sharing that day and send them packing. Mulder’s oppositional defiance disorder kicks into overdrive and he sends Scully back to Washington while he sticks around to stick his nose where it isn’t welcome. He does crack a joke about getting a room at a casino and making a weekend of it, but Scully has her godson’s birthday party to get to, so his offer has to remain a theoretical wisecrack (for the time being, at least). At the party, Dana meets a divorced parent of one of the other kids and they go out for a pleasant, if uneventful yawner of a date. Back in AC, Mulder spends the night in an alley and sees a hairy figure moving through the back alleys looking for food. He tries to pursue it, but is arrested. Scully has to come bail him out of jail. Hey, didn’t she just have to bail him out of being captured at an Air Force base a couple of episodes ago? They go to Maryland to visit a helpful anthropologist, but are called back to Jersey upon the discovery of the body of an apparent wild man in the woods. They track Hirsute Harry’s ladyfriend to a warehouse. Cornered, she attacks Mulder and is eventually shot and killed. Back in the woods, a young hairy girl hides and watches hikers pass her. Mulder makes an appointment with someone at the Smithsonian to discuss the particulars of the case, and Scully skips her second date with boring Rob to join him. It was in this episode that we really got the first hints of what would become a respectfully-drawn intimacy between Mulder and Scully. Chris Carter hid it well, but it’s there for most of the series. We’ll discuss it further as the series progresses, but this was the first shot across the bow, so to speak, that would lead to much bigger things. We see Scully in her personal life and being a person for the first time, and Carter finally allows Mulder to do the same. S1E6: “Shadows” (w: Glen Morgan & James Wong/ d: Michael Katleman) This was a largely forgettable hour, due in no small part to Fox executives dabbling in the creative process. A request was issued that the writers create more relatable characters and show Mulder and Scully “helping people.” You know, like Highway to Heaven with UFOs, I suppose. The episode, while entirely watchable, just feels like sort of a place-filler and is one of the few low points of this first season. In Philadelphia, a woman is mugged at an ATM, but her assailants are found the next day with their throats crushed from the inside, with no sign of exterior trauma. The woman, named Lauren, is the former secretary of Howard Graves, who had committed suicide a few weeks prior. As the investigation rolls out, there arises the possibility that Graves’ partner, Robert Dorlund had been selling the company’s technology to a terrorist group. One of Lauren’s ATM attackers has ties to this group. It would seem that Graves’ ghost is lurking about trying to protect Lauren and expose his former partner. Dorlund hires assassins to stop Lauren from talking to the investigators, but they are slain by the friendly poltergeist. Back in the office, when Lauren confronts Dorlund, he attacks her with a letter opener, but Howard the Friendly Ghost steals it and uses it to reveal an implicating computer disk hidden in the office wall. Months later, as Lauren starts her new job, it becomes apparent that Howard is still traveling with her. The most notable thing about this episode is that it contains what is arguably the first season’s most blatant example of one of this show’s recurring themes. During the scene where the assassins are killed by the spirit of Howard Graves, Scully finds herself locked out of the room where the action is happening, while Mulder has a front row seat. This will become a common trope of the show. Mulder can see everything, but Scully can’t offer collaboration. This will keep the X-Files division in the figurative and literal basement, as none of their case reports can fully jive with each other. “Shadows” is a not-awful ghost story, and is directed well, but not one of the season’s otherwise mostly strong episodes. See larger image The X-Files: Season 1 New From: $17.92 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.