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X Files is a US TV show featuring Mulder and Scully who investigate paranormal activity.
X-Files is a science fiction television series. The X-Files was created by Chris Carter. The X-Files first aired on September 10, 1993 and ended on May 19, 2002. The X-Files was one of the FOX network's first major hits. The X-Files main characters and slogans (e.g. "The Truth Is Out There," "Trust No One," "Deny Everything," "I Want to Believe") became pop culture touchstones. The X-Files was seen as a defining series of the 1990s, coinciding with the era's widespread distrust of governments, interest in conspiracy theories and spirituality, and belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life. According to The New York Times, The X-Files "made sci-fi accessible to viewers who didn't consider themselves sci-fi fans," winning awards including Emmys and a Peabody.
In the series, FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are tasked with investigating the eponymous "X-Files," marginalized cases often involving paranormal phenomena. In one flashback episode, it is explained that the reason the "X-Files" were used is that there was no more room in the "U" file, for "unsolved case" files. Mulder plays the role of the "believer," having faith in the existence of aliens and the paranormal, while Scully is a skeptic, initially assigned by her departmental superiors to debunk Mulder's unconventional work. As the show progressed both agents became embroiled in the same larger conflicts (termed "the mythology" or "mytharc" by the show's creators) and developed a close and ambiguous friendship-which some fans, known as "shippers," saw as more than platonic. The X-Files also featured stand-alone episodes ranging in tone from horror to comedy, in which Mulder and Scully investigated uniquely bizarre cases without long-term implications on the storyline. These so-called "monster of the week" episodes made up the bulk of the series.
The show's popularity peaked in the mid-to-late '90s, even inspiring an international hit movie in 1998. However, in the last two seasons, Anderson became the star as Duchovny appeared rarely, and new central characters were introduced: FBI Agents John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish). At the time of its final episode, The X-Files was the longest running sci-fi show ever on American TV (a title since lost to Stargate SG-1). The show was declared by TV Guide to be the second greatest cult television show and the 37th best TV show of all time.
X-Files cast of characters.
Other important X-Files characters throughout most of the show's run included the mysterious Cigarette Smoking Man, or "Cancer Man" (played by William B. Davis); "counterculture patriot" research trio The Lone Gunmen; the loyalty-shifting Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea); the families of Scully and Mulder, including Fox Mulder's disappeared sister Samantha; and the agents' informants, beginning with Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin) and X (Steven Williams).
Additionally, the Alien Bounty Hunter (Brian Thompson) appeared frequently beginning in season two; the Well-Manicured Man (John Neville) and the First Elder (Don S. Williams) beginning in season three; Marita Covarrubias (Laurie Holden) beginning in season four; and Cassandra Spender (Veronica Cartwright), Jeffrey Spender (Chris Owens) and Diana Fowley (Mimi Rogers) beginning in season five. Some of these characters were eventually written out of the show. Many other characters were important for more limited periods.
X-Files plot and mythology.
The X-Files was considered unique for a popular TV show of the 1990s, in combining continuing, serial drama elements (such as those often found in miniseries and soap operas) with individual stories which did not require a viewer to understand the show's history. Fans and the show's producers commonly divide X-Files stories into two categories: "Mythology" or "Mytharc" episodes, which concerned the ongoing tale of a governmental conspiracy regarding the extraterrestrial, and stand-alone episodes (sometimes called "Monster-of-the-Week" or "Freak-of-the-Week" episodes), which dealt with unusual creatures and situations relating to the paranormal, generally being unrelated to the series mythology. Some fans have even gone so far as to write up the entire storyline of the show, including every important date, while others have examined its internal consistencies and contradictions.
X-Files mytharc episodes.
Major mythology episodes were typically presented as season premieres and finales each year, as well as several times throughout most seasons, making up about one third of the episodes. They often occurred as two-part stories during sweeps months (beginning with "Duane Barry"/"Ascension" and "Colony"/"End Game" in the second season).
Below is a list of episodes that directly concern the mythology of The X-Files in broadcast order.
X-Files other types of episodes.
Several installments explored the relationship between Mulder and Scully, while some episodes focused on supporting characters such as Walter Skinner or the Lone Gunmen. Such episodes sometimes fell in a gray area between "mythology" and stand-alone. Chris Carter said the producers "wanted to avoid the 'monster of the week' syndrome," so even stand-alone episodes sometimes involved aliens and government conspiracies (particularly during the show's first and sixth seasons), and many "monster" episodes also had important developments for the characters and plot of the show (particularly early episodes in the second and fourth seasons). There is disagreement about whether episodes ranging from season 1's "Beyond the Sea" to season 6's "The Unnatural" may properly be counted as mythology, as the producers did try for a degree of continuity. However, most viewers considered episodes to be mythology only if they involved the specific conspiracy around alien life that was considered central to The X-Files.
For example, "Sleepless" and "Wetwired" feature the close involvement of ongoing conspiracy elements and characters in certain scenes. However, these two episodes, along with several other episodes in the above list, were not included on the officially released X-Files "mythology" DVDs. Alternately, the episodes "Soft Light" and "Leonard Betts" have rarely been considered mythology, although the former is an episode about a government conspiracy involving an important side character, and the latter is a monster episode with pivotal character revelations connecting to the larger plot. Likewise, the "Dreamland" two-parter is about a man in black working at Area 51, but the story is more of a parody than a mythology episode that ties in with others.
X-Files non-paranormal episodes.
In many cases paranormal "X-File" elements were only a backdrop to character-driven plots, but nonetheless, nearly every episode of The X-Files involved supernatural or science fiction themes in some way. However, a small number of episodes were seen to depart from the show's central theme, involving bizarre, horrific or vaguely explained events, without being conventionally implausible. These include the popular episodes "Irresistible" and "Home", although in the first case some have seen supernatural elements in the episode as well. The episode "Hell Money" has also sometimes been included. Some have remarked on the strange fact that out of all the hundreds of cases Mulder and Scully investigate in The X-Files universe, nearly all of them actually turn out to involve the paranormal, possibly vindicating Mulder's desire to "believe" in anything and everything.
History list of The X-Files episodes: Idea and pilot.
California native Chris Carter, who had previously met with limited success writing for television, was given the opportunity to produce new shows for the struggling FOX network in the early 1990s. Tired of the comedies he had been working on, inspired by a report that 3.7 million Americans may have been abducted by aliens, and recalling memories of Watergate and '70s horror show Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Carter came up with the idea for The X-Files and wrote the pilot episode himself in 1992. He initially struggled over the untested concept-executives wanted a love interest for Scully-and casting. The network wanted either a more established or a "taller, leggier, blonder and breastier" actress for Scully than the 24-year-old Gillian Anderson, a theatre veteran with minor film experience who Carter felt was the only choice after auditions. Nevertheless, the pilot with both Anderson and David Duchovny was successfully shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in early 1993, and the show was picked up for the Friday night 9 pm slot on the American fall TV schedule. Carter started a new company named after his birthday, Ten Thirteen Productions, to oversee The X-Files.
The unique idea was to present FBI agents investigating extraterrestrials and paranormal events throughout the United States, but Carter also wanted to deal directly with the characters' beliefs. Carter said, "I think of myself as a non-religious person looking for religious experience, so I think that's what the characters are sort of doing too." Dana Scully, in addition to being the scientific "skeptic" and a trained medical doctor, was open to the Catholic faith in which she was raised; while Fox Mulder, in addition to being an Oxford-educated psychologist and renowned criminal profiler, was the "believer" in space aliens, derisively nicknamed "Spooky" by his colleagues. Carter said, "Scully's point of view is the point of view of the show. And so the show has to be built on a solid foundation of science, in order to have Mulder take a flight from it... If the science is really good, Scully's got a valid point of view... And Mulder has to then convince her that she's got to throw her arguments out, she's got to accept the unacceptable. And there is the conflict." Carter also felt Scully's role as the more rational partner and Mulder's reliance on guesses and intuition subverted usual gender roles on television.
In the "Pilot," Scully is unwittingly set up to serve as a check on Mulder, in order that the government conspirators can contain the implications of his work on the X-File cases, which they view as a danger to their plans. Notably, the powerful shadow government official played by Canadian playwright and acting teacher William B. Davis and known only as the Cigarette Smoking Man, or "Cancer Man", appears without speaking in the first and last scenes of the pilot episode, though his ongoing importance to the series was not yet established. The "unresolved sexual tension" between Mulder and Scully was also central from the beginning, although the agents were often openly at odds during the first season, and they were each given other brief romantic interests in certain episodes, such as "The Jersey Devil," "Fire," and "Lazarus." Carter thought the show should be "plot-driven," saying, "I didn't want the relationship to come before the cases." Thus, throughout The X-Files, Mulder and Scully call each other by their last names, with rare exceptions.
Carter's boss at Fox, Peter Roth, brought on more experienced staff members from the start, many of whom had previously worked with him at Stephen J. Cannell's production company. Two of the most highly-regarded writers were Glen Morgan and James Wong. Their contributions to the first two seasons, such as the episode "Beyond the Sea" (guest starring Brad Dourif as a condemned killer with psychic visions pivotal to Scully and to an X-file Mulder is investigating), were exceptionally popular and influential among fans and television critics as well as the show's actors and Carter himself. Morgan and Wong also returned for the first half of the fourth season. Prior to coming to The X-Files, Wong and Morgan had worked extensively with David Nutter, Rob Bowman, and Kim Manners on cop dramas (such as The Commish and 21 Jump Street) produced for Cannell in the Vancouver area, where Chris Carter had also set up production for the low costs and an array of natural environments. Nutter, Bowman and Manners all became frequent X-Files directors, with Nutter working on many of the darker episodes in the first three seasons. The duo of Wong and Morgan also had an important role in hiring several supporting actors on the show, as well as John Bartley, the cinematographer who gave The X-Files its early dark atmospheric look, and who won an Emmy Award in 1996 for his work (Bartley left after the third season and was replaced by DPs Ron Stannett, Jon Joffin and ultimately Joel Ransom for the remainder of the Vancouver years).
The show, which made a big move to California in its sixth season, was originally going to be filmed there in the first place. Carter said, "we originally intended to film the pilot [in March 1993] in Los Angeles. When we couldn't find a good forest, we made a quick decision to come to Vancouver. As it turned out, it was three weeks that turned into five years. The benefits of being in Vancouver were tremendous." The temperate rainforest climate of Vancouver itself was also seen as crucial to The X-Files, allowing directors to create a mysterious, foggy aura, seen as somewhat similar to that of the then-recent TV hit Twin Peaks (which had been set in Washington state, while the X-Files pilot was set in a small town in Oregon). Responsibility for casting the show fell to Randy Stone, who had first recommended both leads to Carter, and to Rick Millikan, who largely used local Canadian actors.
X-Files seasons 1 - 2 (1993-1995): Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
In the first two seasons, executive producer Carter and co-executive producers Morgan and Wong, along with other writers, helped to define the show's fledgling story arc. The "mythology," as the producers called it, was initially established as a government plot to cover up anything pertaining to the existence of extraterrestrial life, and Mulder's attempts to discover the fate of his sister, Samantha. She had apparently been abducted years prior when Mulder was a child, profoundly affecting him and igniting his obsession with the paranormal. Carter himself had written the show's second episode after the pilot, the Daniel Sackheim-directed "Deep Throat," introducing the character of the same name (played by Jerry Hardin), the first of several secret government informants who would alternately help and hinder Mulder and Scully.
"Conduit," the first of many episodes to deal with Mulder's repressed memories of his sister's abduction, was written by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa. Gordon became another key writer/producer in the show's first four years, also writing "Fallen Angel" and other episodes in the first season with Gansa. That early mythology episode centered on Mulder's futile efforts to discover a crashed UFO which was being covered up by the government. It also introduced UFO enthusiast and abduction victim Max Fenig, one of many idiosyncratic outsiders portrayed on the show, which helped attract an "intensely loyal" cult audience of fans. Fenig, played by Scott Bellis, returned for two episodes in the fourth season. Ironically, "Fallen Angel" also received the lowest Nielsen ratings of the first season. Another early and influential mythology effort, the Wong and Morgan-written episode "E.B.E." (for "extraterrestrial biological entity," with Mulder and Scully tracking another crashed UFO led by Deep Throat), did almost as poorly; it was the fourth least watched episode of the series overall until its final, ninth season.
Carter and his writers were mostly left to their own devices because FOX was concentrating on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and other shows considered more commercially promising at the time, but the crew ran into early opposition on some key episodes, among them "Beyond the Sea", "E.B.E.", and the popular "Ice". According to Carter, "the issue of closure has been an ongoing dialogue with the network, because we've always resisted wrapping up each episode with a neat little bow at the end. You can't do that... because pretending to explain the unexplainable is ridiculous and our audience is too smart for that." Eventually FOX backed down and it was decided "X-File stories would not have forced plot resolutions, but would conclude with some emotional resolution."
Morgan and Wong's early influence on X-Files mythology led to their introduction of popular secondary characters who would continue for years in episodes written by others, such as the Scully family - Dana's father William (Don Davis), mother Margaret (Sheila Larken) and sister Melissa (Melinda McGraw) - as well as conspiracy-buff trio The Lone Gunmen, named after the Warren Commission's disputed theory on the John F. Kennedy assassination.
However, the duo's first episode for The X-Files was only the third aired, "Squeeze", and it was not a part of the mythology. The episode instead featured Eugene Victor Tooms, an elastic, liver-eating mutant serial killer who emerged from Hibernation every 30 years. After the first two episodes and the show's marketing had dealt explicitly with alien abductions and conspiracy theories, the writing staff wanted to broaden the concept of The X-Files (indeed, executives had initially rejected Carter's idea for a series centered only around aliens, conspiracies and UFOs, as they already had one at the time, Sightings). "Squeeze" became the template for the paranormal "Monster-of-the-Week" episodes that would be a mainstay of the series over the next nine years. Wong and Morgan followed it up with a direct sequel, "Tooms", later in the season, one of the only times a monster returned in a later episode. "Tooms" was also the episode where the writers gave the Cigarette Smoking Man his first lines, and introduced FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner, Mulder and Scully's boss (played by Mitch Pileggi), who was to have a central supporting role in the series until its end.
Initially, The X-Files was fighting for its life in the ratings. As a result, there was no long-term plan or "bible" from the start to guide writers, simply a guideline from Chris Carter that each episode should take place "within the realm of extreme possibility". The show's first season thus featured numerous stand-alone stories involving monsters, and also aliens and government cover-ups of diverse types, with no apparent consistency-such as the Arctic space worms in "Ice", based on The Thing, and the conspiracy of genetically engineered twins in "Eve," both among Carter's favorite episodes. Carter himself wrote "Space", a low-budget affair about the manifestation of an alien "ghost" in the NASA Space Shuttle program, which was subject to cost overruns and became the most expensive of the first season; he later disavowed as one of the worst hours ever produced for the show. According to Glen Morgan, the writers were inspired by a glowing New Yorker review noting the show's exploration of "suburban paranoia", and planned for more thematic unity in the second season: "the whole year was to be about the little green men that you and I create for ourselves... because there’s not nuclear missiles pointed at our heads, you can’t consolidate your fears there anymore." However, the plan fell through quickly due to the "controlled chaos" and pressure of the network TV schedule.
But by the end of the first season, Carter and his staff had come up with many of the general concepts of the mythology that would last throughout all nine seasons, whose outlines first appeared in Carter's Edgar Award-nominated season finale "The Erlenmeyer Flask", written in early 1994 before he knew whether the show was going to be canceled. The X-Files are closed in the episode, and it ends with a shot mirroring the end of the pilot. The finale was the first episode directed by R. W. Goodwin, a senior producer (as well as husband of Sheila Larken, who played Scully's mother on the show) who went on to direct every season opening and closing episode for the next four years in Vancouver.
To much relief from fans, The X-Files was picked up for a second year, despite finishing 102 out of 118 shows in the U.S. Nielsen ratings. It also received its first Emmy nod, for best title sequence. The electronic theme song in the sequence, featuring eerie whistling sounds, was by Mark Snow and became very well known. Club versions of the theme song have reached the pop charts in France, the UK and Australia, where a remix by Triple X became a number 2 hit in 1996. Snow's music scores for each episode, often dark, synthesized and ambient, were another distinctive aspect of The X-Files from its earliest years, as the show used more background music than typical of an hour long drama. A soundtrack CD, The Truth and the Light, came out in 1996.
The show's mix of genres, stressful schedule-24 or 25 episodes per season to begin with-and its format of shooting in different settings each week required a large and experienced technical crew. At least 300 in Vancouver were under the supervision of producer Goodwin, who called The X-Files "the most difficult show on television" and "the equivalent of making a feature film every eight days". The first year, budgets were sometimes as low as $1 million. By 1998, the final year in Vancouver, the show cost $2.5 million per episode to produce, most of which was not the stars' salaries. The longtime crew included producers Joseph Patrick Finn and Paul Rabwin, in charge of post-production; production designer and art director Graeme Murray, who won two Emmys for his work on the show; film editor Heather MacDougall, who worked on 51 episodes with multiple nominations and won an Emmy for "Kill Switch", and Emmy-nominated editor Stephen Mark, who also edited the 1998 film; sound designer Thierry Couturier, who won two Emmys and whose son speaks the "I made this" over the Ten Thirteen company logo; Mat Beck, visual effects supervisor (many were created on computer, unusual in early '90s TV) for 91 episodes and also writer of third season episode "Wetwired"; Emmy-nominated makeup artist Toby Lindala; and props master Kenneth Hawryliw, who eventually co-wrote an episode ("Trevor") in the sixth season. Carter often talked about the show's "cinematic look", while directors themselves also said they were granted more freedom to express their own personal styles in The X-Files than on much other TV work.
However, as the series ended its first season, a problem had arisen for the producers: the impending pregnancy of Gillian Anderson, who played Dana Scully. Some network executives wanted the role recast, which Chris Carter refused to do. Another problem arose for Carter, who was unable to finish his planned season opening extravaganza. Morgan and Wong were asked to come up with a lower-key replacement, and their "Little Green Men" was nevertheless the first episode to actually show an alien (Mulder travels to SETI's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to try to find evidence for his beliefs) and got the show's best ratings so far with a 19% audience share. The early part of the second season solidified Mulder and Scully's close relationship, even as the two had been separated on drudgery assignments in different departments when the X-Files had been closed at the end of season one. Due to her pregnancy, Anderson was largely demobilized from active scenes with Duchovny, which matched her character's confinement to teaching medical students at Quantico. During early episodes of season two, Scully is typically pictured only in closeup, at a desk, or conducting autopsies (one of her usual roles on The X-Files, due to her training).
Mulder was increasingly hopeless, having had his prior informant taken away, and replaced by the far more reluctant Mr. X, played by Steven Williams, who never revealed his true allegiances. Mulder is frequently seen conducting tedious wiretaps and chewing his favorite snack of sunflower seeds during this period. Carter's script "The Host" tried to symbolize Mulder's frustration and loss of hope. In the episode, he is given what he thinks is a dead end assignment in Newark, New Jersey, literally sifting through sewage, which actually turns out to be a legitimate X-file-a giant mutant Flukeman who breeds in post-nuclear waste. Critics felt The X-Files of this period often consciously resembled classic B-movies in containing environmental and political morals, as in Carter's earlier "Darkness Falls" (about ancient forest bugs who exact revenge on Pacific Northwest loggers), Morgan and Wong's "Blood" (dealing with mind control from electronic devices and pesticide spraying), and Howard Gordon's script for "Sleepless" (about Vietnam veterans who had been guinea pigs in a cruel government experiment). Notably, "Blood" was the first episode whose story credit went to Darin Morgan, the actor who had portrayed Flukeman and the brother of writer/producer Glen Morgan. "Sleepless", on the other hand, was the second X-Files episode directed by Rob Bowman after "Gender Bender" the previous season. Bowman would become one of the most prolific X-Files staff members behind the scenes, directing dozens of episodes as well as the 1998 feature film.
On screen, "Sleepless" introduced Agent Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea, a bit player in "Gender Bender") as Mulder's new FBI partner. Their partnership would last only into the next two episodes, "Duane Barry" and "Ascension," which proved crucial to the fate of the series. Searching for a solution to the now acute problem of Anderson's pregnancy, Carter and his writers decided to have her abducted by Duane Barry (Steve Railsback), himself a likely alien abductee, in the episode of the same title. The October 1994 episode was both written and directed by Carter (his debut) and received several Emmy nominations the following year.
Anderson would not appear at all in the episode "3", and then mysteriously returned in Morgan and Wong's "One Breath" (directed by R. W. Goodwin), an episode which consistently scores among the highest in fan ratings. Scully's abduction provoked an existential crisis in Mulder. Although the show left it up in the air for years who was directly responsible, aliens or the government or some combination of both, the earlier episode "Sleepless" had foreshadowed the events with the Cigarette Smoking Man's declaration, of Scully, that "every problem has a solution". Scully was now seen to be firmly on Mulder's side in the larger conflicts, regardless of her original role as a debunker and her continued skepticism about Mulder's beliefs.
After Scully's health recovery (and the birth of Anderson's daughter Piper), Mulder and Scully returned to work on the re-opened X-Files, investigating cases ranging from Haitian zombies at an exploitative U.S. military internment camp ("Fresh Bones") to animal abductions ("Fearful Symmetry") and Christian exorcism ("The Calusari"). This period would see the show begin to appeal to a larger audience on Friday nights, often winning its timeslot as its Nielsen ratings rose to their highest peaks so far with the tongue-in-cheek, occult-themed "Die Hand Die Verletzt" and the epic "Colony"/"End Game". The latter was a two-part, sweeps episode introducing the Alien Bounty Hunter, the idea of "colonization", and Mulder's father (Bill, played by Peter Donat), mother (Teena, played by Rebecca Toolan; note, the show used alternate spellings of her name) and grown-up "sister".
"Die Hand Die Verletzt" was Morgan and Wong's final X-Files script until the fourth season, as they departed to start their own series Space: Above and Beyond, but at the same time there was new involvement behind the scenes. The episode also marked the X-Files directorial debut of Kim Manners, who would stay with the show until its end and direct the largest number of episodes of the series. On "Colony", star David Duchovny collaborated with Chris Carter on the story, the first of Duchovny's involvements in writing for the show. Frank Spotnitz, a new story editor brought on by Chris Carter, wrote "End Game", the second of the two-part episode; Spotnitz would be a producer and writer on The X-Files and other Ten Thirteen projects for years and had a key role in shaping the mythology. The middle of the second season also saw "Irresistible", an episode directed by David Nutter and written by Chris Carter, which Carter later credited as a blueprint for his even darker show Millennium. The episode was the first non-"paranormal" episode of The X-Files, dealing with the trauma of investigating Donnie Pfaster, a "death fetishist", so named to get past the FOX censors (a sequel, "Orison", was made in the seventh season).
During its second season, The X Files finished 64th out of 141 shows, a marked improvement from season one. Despite the less than spectacular ratings, the series had attracted enough fans to be classed as a "cult hit," particularly by Fox standards, making great gains among the 18-to-49 demographic sought by advertisers. The show was chosen as Best Television Show of 1994 by Entertainment Weekly and named best drama by the Television Critics Association, and it received seven Emmy nominations-mostly in technical categories, but also its first nomination for best drama series. In 1995, The X-Files won a Golden Globe Award for best television drama over more established series such as ER, Picket Fences and NYPD Blue, a surprise given that this was its only nomination.
The last weeks of season two brought more changes, beginning what some saw as The X-Files' peak period. The Edgar Award-nominated episode, "Humbug", an unconventional stand-alone outing about sideshow performers or "circus freaks" in a Florida town, was the first full script by Darin Morgan. At the time it was also considered a risky experiment, the first outright comedy episode of the show. Gillian Anderson famously swallowed a real cricket in one scene. Eventual senior writer Vince Gilligan also offered his first episode, the darker sci-fi "Soft Light", guest starring Tony Shalhoub as a remorseful physicist whose shadow kills people.
Season two ended in May 1995 with "Anasazi" (co-scripted by Carter with David Duchovny) which attracted widespread attention with its cliffhanger ending putting the future of the series up in the air. In the episode, Mulder and Scully were contacted by a computer hacker, apparently the erstwhile fourth member of The Lone Gunmen, ultimately drawing them and their families further into the targets of the conspiracy. Now-free agent Alex Krycek also made his first reappearance since "Ascension". The episode began a three-part arc, the show's most ambitious mythology episodes so far, extending into the third season, and centering around Navajo former code talkers such as the character of Albert Hosteen (played by Floyd Red Crow Westerman), who says "nothing disappears without a trace", a line repeated by the Cigarette Smoking Man in another context. The show could not afford location filming, so a rock quarry in British Columbia was painted to match the hues of the American Southwest. Outside the U.S., The X-Files was by now one of the most popular shows around the world, and was already being seen in 60 countries
Continuing from "Anasazi", the episodes "The Blessing Way" and "Paper Clip" opened the third season, bringing in the involvement of former Nazi scientists, formally introducing leading conspiracy member the Well-Manicured Man (played by British actor John Neville), and containing revelations and events involving both Mulder and Scully's families. "The Blessing Way" was the most successful X-Files episode thus far in the Nielsen TV ratings, which were increasing steadily.
The third season confirmed the existence of extraterrestrial life within the show and suggested that a shadowy, international sub-governmental consortium known as the Syndicate-one of the members being the Cigarette Smoking Man-were in co-operation with these aliens, in order to allow them to colonize Earth. This would be achieved via use of the so-called black oil, introduced late in the season in the two-part "Piper Maru"/"Apocrypha", along with another reappearance by homme fatale Alex Krycek, played by Nicholas Lea. However, the season's other main mythology episodes "Nisei" and "731", in which Scully confronted her own abduction experience while Mulder investigated the role of WWII-era Japanese scientists from Unit 731, continued to call some of these conclusions into question. Series creator Carter began to receive criticism for posing as many questions as answers in the mythology, while the mythology episodes were also praised for their increasingly Hollywood-like production values. "Nisei" received two Emmy Awards for its sound editing and mixing.
Season three was noted for its wide variety of "monster of the week" episodes. "Pusher", the second effort by writer Vince Gilligan, depicted the cold blooded Robert Patrick Modell, a man who could mentally "push" people into doing his will (a sequel, "Kitsunegari", came two years later in the fifth season). Simultaneously, the show continued to yield dark efforts like "The Walk" (about a mysterious force killing generals in a veterans hospital, and the first outing for longtime X-Files writer John Shiban), "Oubliette" (about a metaphysical connection between a recently kidnapped girl and another woman) and "Grotesque" (about Mulder's descent into the world of a gargoyle-possessed killer, written by Howard Gordon and recipient of an Emmy for John Bartley's cinematography), while for the first time self-reflexive episodes also became a more frequent occurrence.
Behind the scenes, Darin Morgan continued his involvement with the show, becoming The X-Files' most critically acclaimed writer and helping to break a pattern of establishment ignorance of genre television. Despite intense perfectionism and having been unsatisfied with his well-received prior effort "Humbug", Morgan managed in addition to serving as a script editor in season three, to turn in three dark comedy episodes which were considered quite original for the show. The first of these, "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," concerned a St. Paul insurance salesman (played by Peter Boyle) who could predict death. It won Emmys for best writing and for guest actor Boyle, and comes in very high in fan polls of favorite episodes. "War of the Coprophages" was Morgan's parody/tribute to H.G. Wells/Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, this time with an infestation of cockroaches driving a town to hysteria, and it also mocked the sexual tension between Mulder and Scully by introducing attractive entomologist Dr. Bambi Berenbaum. A similar technique was also used in Chris Carter's own "Syzygy" episode, only one week later, leading to a comedy overdose for some viewers.
Morgan's third effort of the season, and his final episode as a writer of The X-Files-out of only four total-was the postmodern "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'", which presented multiple perspectives as in Kurosawa's Rashomon, and made fun of the X-Files mythology itself while remaining internally consistent with it. Graeme Murray and Shirley Inget were nominated for an Emmy for art direction on the episode. (Morgan would later write a sequel also involving the writer Jose Chung, played by Charles Nelson Reilly, for Chris Carter's series Millennium in 1998.)
In spring of 1996, The X-Files began to achieve wide recognition. In addition to its eight Emmy nominations for its third season, of which it won five, it was awarded a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in television broadcasting. Both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were nominated for Screen Actors Guild Awards for the first time; Anderson won. Both actors were also nominated for Golden Globe Awards. Guest stars in season 3 included Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek (both "men in black" in "Jose Chung's"), Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black (in "D.P.O.", about a young man who can control lightning), Lucy Liu and B.D. Wong (in "Hell Money", about mysterious and deadly occurrences in the Chinese immigrant community), JT Walsh (in "The List", the second episode both written and directed by Chris Carter, about the reincarnation of a death row prisoner), and R. Lee Ermey (in "Revelations", about a stigmatic boy, the first of several episodes in the series to deal directly with Scully's Catholic faith). Black, Ribisi and Liu were not widely known at the time they appeared on The X-Files. Dave Grohl also had a cameo in the episode "Pusher"; his rock band the Foo Fighters were fans of the show, and contributed songs to the compilation soundtrack album Songs in the Key of X, released that spring, and to The X-Files movie two years later (see below for other pop culture inspirations).
The final part of the season brought the episode "Avatar" (the first episode centered mostly around Mitch Pileggi's Assistant Director Walter Skinner, who was beginning to be punished by superiors for his reluctant efforts on behalf of Mulder and Scully), "Quagmire" (about a lake monster; the famous "conversation on the rock" between Mulder and Scully was added by script editor Darin Morgan as his last contribution), "Wetwired" (a semi-mythology episode involving Mr. X and a possible conspiracy to send subliminal messages of violence in TV reception), and season finale "Talitha Cumi", introducing Jeremiah Smith (played by Roy Thinnes), apparently an alien with healing powers. The finale had a complex plot, tying back to Mulder's mother's past with the Cigarette Smoking Man and to the future foreseen by Smith and the Alien Bounty Hunter (played by Brian Thompson) trying to kill him. One scene was directly modeled by writers Chris Carter and David Duchovny on "The Grand Inquisitor" chapter from Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. The episode was again a cliffhanger "to be continued" in the next season.
The next season, four, again began with The X-Files' highest ratings success to that point, with "Herrenvolk". The season premiere introduced several new elements to the conspiracy: "killer bees" designed to unleash smallpox, clones and alien hybrids, United Nations Special Representative Marita Covarrubias (played by Laurie Holden), and the removal of a previous important character. Covarrubias became an informer to Mulder and Scully in several episodes in the season, such as "Teliko" and "Unrequited." However it was the horror episode "Home," signaling the return of Morgan and Wong as writers after their canceled Space: Above and Beyond, that was most noticed. "Home" told the story of an inbred family of murderers in rural Pennsylvania, with references to The Andy Griffith Show and grisly violence contrasted with calm, becoming a hit with many fans ("X-Philes") and dividing others. FOX's Standards and Practices department granted it a rare TV-MA "Parental Advisory" rating and refused to ever air it again.
Two major changes occurred behind the scenes in the autumn of 1996, during the early part of the fourth season. Chris Carter's new series Millennium, also produced in Vancouver, debuted on Friday nights. As a result, The X-Files was moved from Friday night to Sunday, seen as a key to better ratings success, although Carter was initially wary and the decision was controversial with some of the show's devoted audience. The first episode to air in the new time period was "Unruhe", written by Vince Gilligan and directed by Rob Bowman. It was one of the series' darkest episodes, dealing with a man who lobotomizes women and can project his fantasies in "thought photography". Gilligan also wrote "Paper Hearts", an emotional episode for Mulder, twisting his memories of his sister's disappearance with a case involving an unrepentant child killer.
Wong and Morgan contributed their own, possibly non-canon addition to the mythology, "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", which referenced Shakespearian history, tied The X-Files to real life conspiracy theories about the JFK and MLK assassinations and was the first episode in which neither Mulder or Scully appears on screen (except in flashback). Chris Owens, later to play other roles for the show, first appeared in this episode as the young CSM. The action-oriented "Tunguska" and "Terma" were the more traditional mythology episodes for the autumn sweeps period, sending Mulder and Krycek to a Russian gulag and involving the black oil and the Syndicate closely. X-Files ratings by the middle of the fourth season were as high as they had ever been, and by autumn 1996 it was the FOX network's most popular show.
Many episodes of the fourth season were character driven, such as "The Field Where I Died" and "Demons," both about Mulder trying to recover his past, or past lives. "Never Again", Morgan and Wong's final episode of the series, centered on Scully's personal life. Jodie Foster provided the voice of a tattoo. It had originally been planned as a collaboration with director Quentin Tarantino, but ultimately was directed by Rob Bowman, with an homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy. FOX had attained rights to broadcast Super Bowl XXXI in January 1997 and planned to showcase The X-Files in the premier post-game slot. As a result, "Never Again" was bumped to the next week, and "Leonard Betts", a stylish and gory monster-of-the-week episode about an EMT (played by Paul McCrane) who was decapitated and could regrow his body, received the coveted spot (episodes of The X-Files were often aired slightly out of production order). "Leonard Betts" became the all time most-watched X-Files episode, with 17.2 Nielsen rating and 29% audience share. It was also the first episode to be written by the team of Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz, who were responsible for many episodes during the show's middle-to-late era.
The air date of "Leonard Betts" became relevant because the final scenes of the episode were central to the ongoing mytharc of the show and led directly into the events of "Memento Mori", in which it is revealed that Dana Scully has contracted terminal brain cancer. When originally aired, however, the episode "Never Again" came between these, implying Scully's behavior in that episode was a result of her diagnosis; Gillian Anderson said she would have played the role completely differently if that had been the case. Nevertheless, Anderson's performances during the fourth season "cancer arc" were praised. She won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1997, as well as her second straight Screen Actors Guild award and a Golden Globe. "Memento Mori" relied on extended emotional voiceovers, a technique that had become increasingly common in the show over the years, as Scully came to grips with her illness while simultaneously investigating its origins, leading back to her own abduction. Mulder, Walter Skinner and the Cigarette Smoking Man all became dramatically involved, which played out in the later episode "Zero Sum", one of the few episodes of the show not to feature Anderson's involvement, although the events were driven by Scully's worsening condition, as well as the Syndicate's plans for unleashing killer bees.
Once Scully had contracted cancer, she continued to work in her former capacity as Mulder's partner investigating X-Files, apparently debilitated only by occasional nosebleeds, though the issue of mortality was again addressed in "Elegy" late in the season. In the intervening time, notable episodes included the two-part "Tempus Fugit" and "Max", in which Max Fenig from season one's "Fallen Angel" returned briefly as the agents investigated mysterious "lost time" in a deadly plane crash, loosely modeled on TWA Flight 800.
Amidst what was considered the show's darkest year, "Small Potatoes" provided a lighter tone. The episode was written by Vince Gilligan, and featured departed X-Files writer and former Flukeman Darin Morgan in the role of Eddie Van Blundht, a shape-shifting self-described "loser" who becomes the focus of Scully and Mulder's investigation of a West Virginia town where children are being born with tails. The final scenes of the episode provided "shippers" with the sight of "Mulder" and Scully finally together, the first of many such jokes by the writers in later seasons. Season 4 ended with "Gethsemane," a resolution which appeared to leave one main character near death and kill off the other one, as well as turning his entire belief system into a house of cards.
However, when season 5 opened, to the show's best numbers ever (with the exception of "Leonard Betts"), it turned out Fox Mulder was still alive, having gone into hiding after becoming involved with Michael Kritschgau, a renegade Department of Defense employee. The continuation of the three-part arc with "Redux" and "Redux II" brought Scully's metastasizing cancer to the fore, as Mulder continued to question his own ideas about aliens and government conspiracies, while working to find a cure to a disease he believes the government gave Scully. Scully is finally cured, though it's unclear what has caused the intervention, and what sacrifices have been made for the end. Skinner's loyalties are in question, and the Cigarette Smoking Man is seemingly put out of commission by the Syndicate.
These events were soon followed by Chris Carter's "The Post-Modern Prometheus", which he both wrote and directed. It was the show's only episode filmed entirely in black-and-white, a retelling of the story of Frankenstein (subtitled by author Mary Shelley, The Modern Prometheus), mixed with allusions to old horror films, Jerry Springer, comic books, David Lynch's The Elephant Man and Cher. Carter earned his second Director's Guild of America nomination for his work. A few months earlier in 1997, The X-Files had received its largest awards recognition yet for its fourth season, with 12 Emmy nominations including best drama series, sound mixing, makeup, music, directing, writing, two nominations for editing, and wins for sound editing, art direction, and Anderson. Duchovny was also nominated at both this event and at the Golden Globes, where along with Anderson's win, he won best actor in a TV drama and the show itself won that category for a second year-taking all three top awards. The X-Files also won a second Saturn Award for best genre television series, and Anderson won for best actress; these awards were given by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films.
Chris Carter's contract with FOX ran through the fifth season, and he and the stars had originally preferred to stop there, turning The X-Files into a series of films; but the show was such a hit that FOX was intent to continue it on TV in some form, and Carter was convinced to sign a new contract, retaining creative control. In a very rare move for a show still in production, a feature film of The X-Files had been planned by Carter ever since the show achieved commercial success in season two. The movie's scripts were printed in red ink to ensure secrecy, and it was largely filmed in California between season four's "Gethsemane" and season five's resumption of the plot with "Redux", pushing back the debut date for the season to November 1997 and resulting in the fifth being (until the ninth) the shortest season, only 20 episodes.
As a result, several episodes in season five featured either Scully or Mulder at the expense of the other, to make time for personal projects or re-shoots on the film throughout the season (both stars were now reportedly receiving the same pay, $100,000 per episode). "Christmas Carol" and "Emily", written by the team of Spotnitz, Gilligan and Shiban, were the first mythology episodes mostly centered around Scully. In "Christmas Carol", she receives further information about her abduction, coinciding with the mysterious arrival of a young child into her life.
Another result was that two episodes of the season, "Unusual Suspects" and "Travelers", focused on the origins of The Lone Gunmen in 1989 and the origin of the X-File cases at the FBI during the McCarthy era in the 1950s, respectively. Duchovny appears only briefly in the episodes, and Anderson is in neither. Richard Belzer guest starred in "Unusual Suspects," playing Detective John Munch of Homicide and many other series. "Unusual Suspects" was later followed up in the sixth season with "Three of a Kind," and these episodes about Lone Gunmen John Fitzgerald Byers (Bruce Harwood), Richard "Ringo" Langly (Dean Haglund), and Melvin Frohike (Tom Braidwood) later became the basis for a short-lived spinoff in 2001.
Early in 1998, the show, largely written by a staff of regulars, aired its first episodes by well known guest writers. Stephen King contributed "Chinga", about a demonic doll, which was co-written with Chris Carter and featured Scully investigating the case, between tongue-in-cheek phone conversations with Mulder. The episode, directed by Kim Manners, received mixed reviews. Next up was "Kill Switch", written by cyberpunk author William Gibson along with Tom Maddox. The episode covered issues of virtual reality and received better reception. Then an episode aired where both Mulder and Scully's diverging viewpoints on a vampire case were presented, and humorously contrasted. Vince Gilligan's "Bad Blood", another pairing with "Small Potatoes" director Cliff Bole, was a fan favorite and featured Luke Wilson in a guest role as a young Texas sheriff with or without "buck teeth".
In February, the fifth season continued a tradition of mythology episodes in sweeps month and aired the dramatic two-part episodes "Patient X" and "The Red and the Black", the latter of which was again directed by Carter. These dealt with the beginning of colonization, and introduced two new characters, Cassandra Spender (a chronic alien abductee, played by Veronica Cartwright, who was nominated for two Emmys in the role) and her estranged son Jeffrey Spender (a colleague of Mulder and Scully at the FBI, played by Chris Owens). The episodes also juxtaposed Mulder's ongoing crisis of belief in the existence of aliens, with the machinations of the Syndicate and Scully's own personal experiences. Krycek and Covarrubias were involved, while the Cigarette Smoking Man continued to be largely out of the picture during the fifth season. Leading up to the end of the year, more monster of the week episodes were aired, including "Mind's Eye" (guest starring Lili Taylor as a blind woman suspected of murder, and written by season 5 story editor Tim Minear), "The Pine Bluff Variant" (about Mulder's involvement in a plot to spread deadly biological terrorism, with tie-ins to the ongoing mythology) and "Folie a Deux" (about Mulder and Scully's investigation into telemarketing employees who turn into insects).
David Duchovny had been unhappy with his geographical separation from his wife Téa Leoni, as well as with climatic conditions in Vancouver. Gillian Anderson also wanted to return home to the United States, and Carter decided to move production to Los Angeles following the fifth season. The season ended in May 1998 with "The End", the final episode shot in Vancouver and the final episode with the involvement of many of the original crew members who had worked on the show for its previous five years, including director and producer R. W. Goodwin and his wife Sheila Larken (who played Margaret Scully and would later return briefly). "The End" introduced Diana Fowley, a new character who had apparently once worked with Mulder on early X-Files, but it focused largely on the efforts of the Syndicate to get control of mind-reading chess prodigy Gibson Praise.
The X-Files were closed for a second time in this episode (following season 2). This set up the events of the movie, The X-Files, which had just completed post-production and was to open in theatres one month later. The show finished its fifth season with a season Nielsen average of 12.1, its all time peak viewership, and an X-Files record of 16 Emmy nominations (winning two), in addition to winning the Golden Globe for best drama series for the third year in a row. Overall, seasons three to five appear to have marked the show's most popular and acclaimed period.
X-Files movie and season 6 (1998-1999): Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
In summer 1998 the series produced a feature length motion picture, The X-Files, also known as The X Files: Fight the Future. It was intended as a continuation of the season five finale "The End" (5x20), but was also meant to stand on its own. The season six opener "The Beginning" picked up where the movie left off. (Although the events are supposed to occur between the fifth and sixth seasons, the majority of the film was actually shot in the break between the show's fourth and fifth seasons.)
The movie, written by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz and directed by series regular Rob Bowman, was more action-oriented than a typical episode, but it dealt with the central mythology and conspiracy of the show. In addition to Mulder, Scully, Walter Skinner and the Cigarette Smoking Man, it featured guest appearances by Martin Landau, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Blythe Danner as characters that only appeared in the movie (though Mueller-Stahl's Conrad Strughold is later mentioned in the series). It also had the last X-Files appearance by John Neville as the Well-Manicured Man. The film does not have appearances by Jeffrey Spender, Diana Fowley, or Gibson Praise. The film had a strong domestic opening and got mostly positive reviews from critics, however, its box office dropped sharply after the first weekend. Although it failed to make a profit during theatrical release, due to a very high promotional budget, The X-Files film was more successful internationally. Anderson and Duchovny both received equal pay for the film, unlike their original contracts for the series.
Over the course of the previous two years, the show had built upon the mythology storylines that grew in complexity and prominence (and confusion, especially for new viewers) as the show progressed. The loyalties of the Cigarette Smoking Man and Krycek were continually shifting and the influence of CSM appeared to be waning. Above all, the Syndicate's co-operation with the colonizers was proven to be a ploy, as they were secretly attempting to develop a vaccine to the black oil (also known as "purity") which was shown to be an agent which would allow for the transportation of alien beings, and which would be spread through bees come the time for colonization. However, another alien faction was proven to exist, and these rebels opposed the colonists and the Syndicate for their co-operation. Consequently, in mid-season 6 "full disclosure" episodes "Two Fathers" and "One Son", the rebels destroyed the Syndicate.
At the end of The X-Files movie, the X-Files had again been re-opened, however, Agents Spender and Fowley were assigned to them rather than Mulder and Scully, who were reassigned from Walter Skinner-who continued to appear on the show, nevertheless-to a new boss, Assistant Director Alvin Kersh (played by James Pickens, Jr.). Gibson Praise was dispatched in the first episode of season 6, "The Beginning" (which also posited a possible alien source for humanity), and Jeffrey Spender was also written out of the show during season 6, while Mimi Rogers' Diana Fowley continued to play a role and appeared quite close to the Cigarette Smoking Man. The latter character was finally given a name, CGB Spender, and an identity-father of Jeffrey and ex-husband of Cassandra.
With the move to L.A. in season 6, many changes behind the scenes occurred, as much of the original X-Files crew was gone. New production designer Corey Kaplan, editor Lynne Willingham, writer David Amann, and director and producer Michael Watkins would stay on for several years. Bill Roe became the show's new director of photography, and episodes generally had a drier, brighter look due to the sunshine and climate of California, as compared with the rain, fog and temperate forests of Vancouver, Canada. Early in the sixth season, the producers took advantage of the new location, setting the show in parts of the country they had not been able to write episodes in previously. For example, Vince Gilligan's "Drive" (about a man subject to an unexplained illness) was a frenetic action episode, unusual for The X-Files, not least due to its setting on roads in the stark desert of Nevada. The "Dreamland" two-parter was also set in Nevada, this time in the legendary Area 51. It marked another comedy outing for the show, in a season increasingly light in tone, with guest star Michael McKean playing man in black Morris Fletcher, who switches bodies with Fox Mulder during the course of the episodes. It is the only non-mythology two part episode of The X-Files.
The sixth season also explored the ever-deepening bond between Mulder and Scully. The episode "Triangle" was Chris Carter's fifth try at directing as well as writing The X-Files. With its ambitious mise-en-scene featuring continuous takes and split screens, and its setting on an ocean liner on the eve of World War II (played by the HMS Queen Mary anchored in Long Beach, California), it was widely seen as a bid for an Emmy Award, which Carter did not receive, though the episode was up for sound editing. "Triangle" concerned Mulder's rebellious trip to the Bermuda Triangle to investigate an X-File there, disobeying superiors such as Kersh, in parallel with Scully and The Lone Gunmen's dogged efforts to locate him, contrasting this with time warp versions of all the main characters in September 1939, and ending with a pivotal "shipper" moment while leaving both the preceding events and the agents' relationship ambiguous. Whether they "should" or "should not" consummate their "platonic" love was a matter of immense debate among the fan community for years, and is still subject to scrutiny, since even after abundant hints Carter refuses to substantiate whether the two characters ever had sex. Other episodes that season, such as "The Rain King", "Monday", "Field Trip", and Carter's "Milagro" and "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" (guest starring Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin), also dealt primarily with romantic relationships and alternate realities, using these to comment on Mulder and Scully's status.
Late in the season, David Duchovny-who had a master's degree in English and considered a career as a writer before joining the cast-contributed his first solo X-Files script, "The Unnatural", which he also directed. It was about Josh "Ex" Exley, a baseball-loving alien who played in the Negro Leagues after the fabled Roswell crash in 1947. A baseball announcer in "The Unnatural" was voiced by famous L.A. Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, Chris Carter's original inspiration for the name of Dana Scully. The episode was also originally set to feature the involvement of Darren McGavin, star of early X-Files inspiration Kolchak: The Night Stalker. McGavin had to pull out due to illness, but he does appear as original X-File investigator Agent Arthur Dales in season five's "Travelers" and season six's "Agua Mala" (about Mulder and Scully's discovery of a dangerous water-based life form during a hurricane in Florida).
Some longtime fans were alienated by the show in season 6, due to the different tone taken by most stand-alone episodes after the move to L.A. Rather than adhering to the previous style of "monsters of the week", they were often romantic or gently humorous or both, such as "Arcadia", where Mulder and Scully pose as a married couple in a gated community in order to solve a case, or the darker, campy "Terms of Endearment", starring Bruce Campbell as a demon. Meanwhile, some felt there was no coherent plan to the mytharc, that Carter was "making it all up as he goes along". The show ended season 6 with solid ratings, but its lowest average since season two, beginning a decline that would continue for the final three years of its run. This may have been due to different competition on Sunday nights, or because viewers felt the show was burning out or even "jumping the shark" (the show would actually reference the concept in its episode "Jump the Shark" three years later). The show's producers acknowledged they had been trying to do something different from previous years in season six. The X-Files was nevertheless FOX's highest rated show that year, and was nominated for eight Emmys in 1999, winning one for makeup. It was also nominated for SAG Awards for Anderson, Duchovny and Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast, recognizing Pileggi, Pickens, Owens and Davis' continuing contributions.
As compared with other seasons, relatively few mythology episodes were made during season 6, only "The Beginning", the stand-alone "S.R. 819" (in which Walter Skinner's health is compromised by a mysterious Nanotechnology affliction as possible blackmail to force him to turn against Mulder and Scully), "Two Fathers" and "One Son", and the season finale "Biogenesis", the first of a three-part story continued into season 7, about Scully's investigation of an ancient UFO discovered off the coast of West Africa and effects on Mulder from it.
X-Files Seasons 7 - 9 (1999-2002): Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
In November 1999, "The Sixth Extinction" and its second part "Amor Fati" continued the story arc begun in the previous year. New sixth season director Michael Watkins oversaw the latter episode, which was a writing collaboration between Chris Carter and David Duchovny, harkening back to the themes and characters of previous X-Files history-"Anasazi/The Blessing Way/Paper Clip" and Carter's "Redux" trilogy-as well as to The Last Temptation of Christ. However, it was the lowest rated season premiere since 1994's "Little Green Men". Subsequent offerings like "Millennium" (a crossover with Carter's recently canceled other series), and Vince Gilligan's "Hungry" (a sardonic "monster of the week" in which Mulder and Scully barely appeared) and "X-Cops" (an experimental merging with FOX's reality show COPS), did not substantially improve viewership. "Millennium", however, as well as featuring Lance Henriksen reprising his role of Frank Black for the final time, also made waves for showing the first consensual mouth-to-mouth kiss of Mulder and Scully. The occasion was New Year's 2000.
Nick Chinlund also reprised his role of Donnie Pfaster in "Orison", a sequel to season two's "Irresistible", while Ricky Jay played a magician in "The Amazing Maleeni", which contrasted with the generally more emotional tone of season seven. Novelists Tom Maddox and William Gibson returned with a second episode, "First Person Shooter", this time directed by Chris Carter. There were reports of friction between cast and crew, however. David Duchovny, who had filed a lawsuit with FOX that also alleged Carter was paid "hush money" to approve an unfair syndication contract, was reputed to be bored with The X-Files a year after relocating. The show's production costs since the move from Vancouver-typically over $3 million per episode-were also a matter of concern to the network, as it both financed and distributed the show and could not pass off costs to itself without hurting the corporate bottom line.
Breaking the formula of standard stand-alone episodes were several efforts written and directed by the show's stars. Gillian Anderson directed her own script for the metaphysical "all things", further exploring Scully's character. It was the first X-Files to be directed by a woman, though the show had had several female writers for periods during seasons 2, 3 and 4 (Carter himself was subject to a harassment lawsuit over the supposed atmosphere that existed among the writing staff years earlier, which was dismissed). Duchovny followed up his prior episode "The Unnatural" with the over-the-top satire, "Hollywood A.D." The title referenced both the Church scandal uncovered therein, and the prospect of Mitch Pileggi's Assistant Director Skinner as a Hollywood player; the self-reflexive episode concerned Skinner's effort to get a blockbuster movie made about Mulder and Scully's X-Files investigations, but the "stars" playing the agents are actress Téa Leoni, Duchovny's real life wife as Scully, and comedian Garry Shandling as Mulder. Finally, William Davis, known for his ongoing role as the Cigarette Smoking Man, wrote an episode examining his character, called "En Ami". It was one of Davis' final appearances in the show.
"En Ami" was also director Rob Bowman's final episode for the show. Before the seventh season finale, longtime writer Vince Gilligan also got the chance to direct his first episode, "Je Souhaite" (about a reluctant genie), and Chris Carter turned in the dark slapstick "Fight Club", a return to Carter's roots in comedy. The episode, guest starring Kathy Griffin, did not go over well, particularly so close to what fans expected would be final revelations to the mythology; it holds the record for all time lowest voted episode of the whole series in a survey of viewers.
The final three seasons were a time of closure for The X-Files. Characters within the show were written out, including the Cigarette Smoking Man and Mulder's mother, and several plot threads were resolved, including the fate of Fox Mulder's sister Samantha, who had been a long running plot device within the show, in the episodes "Sein Und Zeit" and "Closure". After settling his contract dispute, David Duchovny quit full-time participation in the show after the seventh season. This contributed to uncertainties over the likelihood of an eighth season. Carter and most fans felt the show was at its natural endpoint with Duchovny's departure, but it was decided Mulder would be abducted at the end of the seventh season, leaving things open for the actor's return in 11 episodes the following year. Season finale "Requiem" was written by Chris Carter as a possible series finale, but the show was again renewed by FOX, despite lower ratings.
For the next two years, Carter was offered incentives to continue the show, which he did despite reservations, concluding there were "more stories to tell." Executive producer and screenwriter Frank Spotnitz was largely responsible, with Carter, for running the show in its final two years, introducing new central characters. With Duchovny's involvement reduced (and in anticipation of Anderson's possible absence in the future), the show's eighth season introduced two new X-Files agents, John Doggett and Monica Reyes (played by Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish, respectively). Doggett was initially the primary character with Anderson, playing off her in a now-reversed dynamic from The X-Files' earliest seasons, with Scully the "believer" and Doggett the "skeptic", once again investigating paranormal monsters of the week. Carter, Spotnitz, John Shiban and Vince Gilligan continued to serve as writers, with Kim Manners frequently directing, but otherwise the behind the scenes staff experienced turnover.
It was Chris Carter's belief that the series could continue for another ten years with new leads, and the opening credits were accordingly redesigned for the first time in season 9 to emphasize the new actors (along with Pileggi, who was finally listed). This was not to be the case, however, as over the course of the final two seasons, Doggett and Reyes did not provide the ratings boost the producers had hoped for. Following the launch and failure of spinoff show The Lone Gunmen, whose early 2001 debut episode had dealt humorously with an airplane being hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center, writers were also finding it hard to deal with stock X-Files themes in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The show received meager Emmy attention in its final years, nevertheless picking up a nomination for Bill Roe's cinematography in "This is Not Happening", and a win for makeup in the stand-alone "Deadalive". Robert Patrick won a Saturn Award for Best Actor, however, and the mythology continued to develop, with a new "super soldiers" concept, and the informer Knowle Rohrer, who interacted with Doggett. Jeff Gulka's Gibson Praise and Chris Owens' Jeffrey Spender eventually made a return, as well as Scully's mother Margaret, played by Sheila Larken (who had not appeared since the show moved from Vancouver in season 5). The show also alluded to religious allegory in a story line about Scully's pregnancy. It was a seeming reversal of earlier seasons' mythology, in which experiments that had given the character her cancer had also left Scully infertile.
Duchovny returned over the eighth season for several dramatic episodes, and flashbacks were seen in the ninth. Duchovny also directed an episode. Anderson was nominated for her final Screen Actors Guild award as Dana Scully in 2001. The Mulder/Scully relationship by this point reflected what some "shippers" had imagined for years, although others were dissatisfied or offended by the characterizations. In the end, the apparent result of the partnership was Baby William, while the crew also offered a tribute to an Internet fan fiction writer who had passed away from cancer in 2001, creating the character of young FBI Agent Leyla Harrison (a self-professed admirer of Mulder and Scully) to honor her memory in the season 8 episode "Alone" and Season 9 episode "Scary Monsters."
The X-Files completed its ninth and final season with the two-hour episode "The Truth", which reunited David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and much of the original cast. It first aired on May 19, 2002, finishing third in its timeslot in the Nielsen ratings, with a slightly lower audience share than the original X-Files pilot episode. The show ceased production at the end of the ninth season-on a cliffhanger, though Carter knew that this would be the final episode. Carter's Ten Thirteen Productions also went into hibernation, and actors, writers, producers and technical staff all moved on to other projects. The show's final Emmy nomination in 2002 went to composer Mark Snow.
X-Files future of the show.
Plans for another movie are announced periodically but have yet to come to fruition. While Carter, Duchovny and Anderson have expressed their desire for involvement, there is still no script and no official shooting schedule. According to Bowman, director of the first film, and producer Frank Spotnitz, the plot for a second film would most likely be a stand-alone story, rather than focus on the alien conspiracy storylines. Although Bowman has commented about the film's status, and Spotnitz was apparently commissioned to write a script in 2006, recent comments by David Duchovny suggest there is "no script" yet for the film, and it is unknown whether Bowman and Spotnitz would reprise their directing and writing roles if a second film was made.
In early 2004, Duchovny stated his belief that the sequel would start shooting in 'the next year or so'. In January of 2005, Duchovny confirmed that a sequel was in the works and that it would be a "stand-alone horror film." In an article in Parade published on August 6, 2006, David Duchovny said he still believed that there would be a sequel to the first X-Files movie, Fight the Future. "We're all signed on," he said of the movie. "I think it could work very well as a sequel, an authentic franchise that will hold up-much more so than Mission: Impossible."
One issue seen to be holding up production is a lawsuit filed in late 2005 by Chris Carter against 20th Century Fox Television over syndication profits of the show, which has only recently been resolved.
In a 2006 posting on her website, Gillian Anderson stated that she was very much willing to take part in the project: "And as far as the X-F movie? I have no clue. I think there's still a law suit, as far as I know the script has not been written, and as much as we all want it to take place as soon as possible, AND YES THAT INCLUDES ME, AND ALWAYS HAS, SO STOP WITH THE NONSENSE! It is out of my hands. Completely. Write to Fox guys, tell them to make it happen!"
David Duchovny mentioned an X-Files sequel again in late March 2007. In an interview with IESB.net about another of the actor's films, Duchovny said that negotations for the sequel were in their final stages, and filming would probably start in 2008. He described the film as a "supernatural thriller" and has said that "there is no script completed, they are still developing the entire story." In an interview with ComingSoon.net given around the same time, he said he "thought" Carter and Spotnitz were talking to 20th Century Fox about another X-Files movie that week, saying, "I guess there are things to figure out."
On April 2nd 2007, the website Empire published an interview with Gillian Anderson. Although the interview focused on another movie she is in, when asked about an X-Files sequel, she said "Every year or two they talk about it again, but it seems like it might be for real this time. Somehow it seems like somebody’s really serious about it. I know that Chris’ lawsuit with Fox is over, so maybe now it can be done." Regarding the plot for the new sequel, Anderson said "All Chris says is that he wants to make a really scary horror, like a stand-alone episode. I don’t think they’re interested in touching on any of the conspiracy stuff."
The next day, on April 3rd 2007, David Duchovny was mentioned in a brief article on IMDB. In the article, Duchovny, as he has done many times in recent years, confirmed that he and Gillian Anderson would like to return in a sequel to the 1998 movie, reprising their roles as Mulder and Scully. He said that X-Files creator Chris Carter was presently working on a story and that "This week, they're starting some kind of road towards doing it (the film). Gillian and I both want to be in it now. We're happy to do it. At this point all of the kind of fatigue and anxiety that we had towards the end of a nine-year run is gone. We've forgotten why we hate one another and can only remember why we love one another and we're very happy to go back. Chris and Frank are going over the story. It's a story they've had for a few years but we haven't all settled on the fact that we wanted to do it, so now they're hammering it out."
In spite of Duchovny's comments in his ongoing promotional interviews, no recent statement of any kind regarding an X-Files movie has been issued by the studio, or Carter, or Spotnitz, nor has there been any mention of an X-Files movie, or coverage of Duchovny's statements in either Variety (magazine) or The Hollywood Reporter.
Legacy of The X-Files.
The X-Files directly inspired numerous other TV series, including Strange World, Burning Zone, Special Unit 2, Mysterious Ways, Carnivàle, Dark Skies, The Visitor, Freaky Links, The 4400, Lost, Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, and Supernatural. A few of these shows actually involved former staff of The X-Files behind the scenes-such as Lost, whose current cinematographer is John Bartley; the mytharc-dominated 24, executive produced by X-Files writer Howard Gordon; Six Feet Under, coproduced by X-Files alum Lori Jo Nemhauser; and Supernatural, involving directors David Nutter and Kim Manners, and writer/producer John Shiban.
The influence can be seen on other levels: television series such as Alias have developed a complex mythology that may bring to mind the "mytharc" of The X-Files. In terms of characterization, the role of Dana Scully was seen as somewhat original, causing a change in "how women [on television] were not just perceived but behaved", and perhaps influencing the portrayal of "strong women" investigators in shows such as CSI. Many procedural dramas also feature a Mulder-esque lead with a supervisor similar to Skinner or Kersh. Some of these procedurals, such as NCIS, feature a quirky technogeek similar to the Lone Gunmen characters. Other shows have been influenced by the tone and mood of The X-Files, e.g., Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which drew from the mood and coloring of The X-Files, as well as from its occasional blend of horror and humor. Joss Whedon described his show as a cross between The X-Files and My So-Called Life.
X-Files in pop culture.
X-Files influences on the show: Television.
Chris Carter listed television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, Tales from the Darkside and especially Kolchak: The Night Stalker as his major influences for the show. Carter said, "Remembering that show, which I loved, I said to the Fox executives, 'There's nothing scary on network television anymore. Let's do a scary show.'" Actor Darren McGavin who played Carl Kolchak in Kolchak: The Night Stalker appeared in two episodes of The X-Files as Agent Arthur Dales, a character described as the "father of the X-Files."
Carter has mentioned that the relationship between Mulder and Scully (platonic but with sexual tension) was influenced by the chemistry between John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Mrs. Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) in the 1960s British spy TV program The Avengers. One journalist documented possible influence from Nigel Kneale's Quatermass series and its various television and film iterations. Kneale was invited to write for The X-Files, but declined the offer.
The early '90s cult hit Twin Peaks is seen as a major influence on the show's dark atmosphere and its often surreal blend of drama and irony. David Duchovny had appeared as a cross-dressing DEA agent in Twin Peaks, and the character of Mulder was seen as a parallel to the show's FBI Agent Dale Cooper. Both shows were filmed in the Pacific Northwest.
The producers and writers have cited All the President's Men, Three Days of the Condor, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Rashomon, The Thing, The Boys from Brazil, The Silence of the Lambs, and JFK as influences on the series. Gangster movies such as the Godfather trilogy are also frequently referenced in the show's conspiracy plotlines, particularly concerning the Syndicate. A scene at the end of the episode "Redux II" (5.02), for instance, directly mirrors the famous baptism montage at the end of The Godfather. Chris Carter's use of continuous takes in "Triangle" (6.03) was modeled on Hitchcock's Rope. Other episodes written by Carter made numerous references to other films, as did those by Darin Morgan (see below).
Over the course of its nine seasons, the show was nominated for 141 awards, winning a total of 61 individual awards from 24 different agencies, including the Emmys, the Golden Globes, the Environmental Media Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The X-Files also won a Peabody Award in 1996, during its third season.
The show earned a total of 16 Emmys; two for acting, one for writing, and 13 for various technical categories. In September 1994, The X-Files won its first award, the Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Graphic Design and Title Sequences.
Peter Boyle later won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of the title character in the third-season episode "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose". In the same year, Darin Morgan won the Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing for a Drama Series for the same episode. "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" was one of four highly-acclaimed episodes Morgan wrote during his short time on the show's writing staff. In 1997, both Duchovny and Anderson won Golden Globe awards for the best male and female actors in a drama series.
Throughout its run, The X-Files also won Emmy awards in seven technical categories: Graphic Design and Title Sequences, Cinematography, Sound Editing and Mixing, Art Direction, Single Camera Picture Editing, Makeup, and Special Visual Effects.
The phrase from the X-Files "The Truth is Out There" is usually shown on screen at the end of the opening credits sequence. However, over the course of the series, this phrase would occasionally be replaced with a different phrase, especially for "mytharc" episodes.
Broadcast history of the X-Files.
The first season of The X-Files premiered on September 10, 1993 on FOX. Approximately a year later, it started showing in the United Kingdom upon the terrestrial channel BBC2, airing at 21:00. Since then, it has expanded into other countries across the world, either being dubbed or subtitled to accommodate for foreign language viewers.
For the first few years of its run, its ratings steadily increased, reaching its zenith in terms of ratings by its fifth season. Season 4's "Leonard Betts" which aired on FOX after the Super Bowl in 1997, holds the record for the highest rated episode. The next 15 highest Nielsen ratings were for "Redux" (5x02), "Redux II" (5x03), "El Mundo Gira" (4x11), "Herrenvolk" (4x01), "Detour" (5x04), "Small Potatoes" (4x20), "Never Again" (4x13), "Unusual Suspects" (5x01), "Schizogeny" (5x09), "Christmas Carol" (5x05), "Gethsemane" (4x24), "Chinga" (5x10), "Patient X" (5x13), "The Rain King" (6ABX07) and "Emily" (5x07).
The show was first syndicated in the U.S. on a Fox-owned cable channel, FX. This arrangement resulted in a 1999 lawsuit from David Duchovny, claiming the contract had not been open to fair bidding. The suit was settled out of court. X-Files reruns are currently being shown on TNT and the Sci-Fi Channel, among others. Chris Carter filed his own lawsuit over syndication issues against 20th Century Fox Television on December 30, 2005; this is seen as a main impediment to plans for a second X-Files movie.
The X-Files merchandise.
X-Files X-Files related merchandise includes VHS and DVD sets, music compact discs, video games, t-shirts, a collector's edition of Barbie and Ken as Scully and Mulder, action figures based on Fight the Future, and a magazine devoted specifically to the show. The entire series is currently available on DVD by season, one of the first shows to be released in such a format. Also available are "mythology" sets which collect episodes related to a particular storyline, such as Colonization or Black Oil. Forty-eight episodes, selected to represent the best of the show's first four seasons, were also available on VHS in "wave" sets; the interviews with Carter preceding these were later included on the DVDs.
Video games included The X-Files: The Game, The X-Files: Unrestricted Access and The X-Files: Resist or Serve which expanded on the storyline of the show. The X-Files: The Game fits into the mythology, taking place near the end of the third season. The episodes Renascence, Resonance, and Reckoning from The X-Files: Resist or Serve fit into the mythology, having an unknown placement in the seventh season.
Millennium (TV series).
Millennium is generally not considered to be set in the same "universe" as The X-Files, with many episodes dwelling on brutal crime stories without paranormal elements, and others featuring their own more spiritual "mythology". However, several connections exist between the series:
This brief 1999 series was based on a graphic novel and is not considered to have many ties with The X-Files or other Ten Thirteen shows. However, Gillian Anderson provided voiceovers in the pilot episode, and Terry O'Quinn, who costarred as Peter Watts in Millennium and guest starred as different characters in several X-Files episodes and the feature film, had a large role. Scott Bairstow, who starred in the season one X-Files episode "Miracle Man", was another lead actor before the show's quick cancellation.
The Lone Gunmen (TV Series).
The key relationship of this 2001 show to The X-Files is its starring role of John Fitzgerald Byers, Richard "Ringo" Langley and Melvin Frohike-the "Lone Gunmen" of the eponymous show. Due to it being set within the same "universe" as The X-Files, the show occasionally featured characters from The X-Files, such as Walter Skinner in TLG's "The Lying Game" episode; Fox Mulder and Morris Fletcher in The Lone Gunmen episode "All About Yves," the show's finale.X-Files spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
With the cancellation of The Lone Gunmen series before a resolution to this cliffhanger could be produced, The X-Files episode "Jump the Shark"-a reference to the television term-served as an epitaph to the show. It featured the Lone Gunmen, Jimmy Bond, Yves Adele Harlow, Kimmy the Geek, plus Walter Skinner and Morris Fletcher, two X-Files characters also featured on The Lone Gunmen. In this episode, the trio is supposedly killed while attempting to stop the release of a plague contagion.
Further reading of books about the X-Files.
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