The X-files (1993 series)

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Summary

"The truth is out there. I want to believe." Two FBI agents, Fox Mulder the believer and Dana Scully the skeptic, investigate the strange and unexplained while hidden forces work to impede their efforts.

Details

  • Release Date: 1993-present
  • Country/Language: US, English
  • Genres/Technical: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Mystery (monster-of-the-week), occasional Comedy (dark humor)
  • Runtime: (generally formatted for a 1-hour commercial television slot)
  • Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, Robert Patrick, Annabeth Gish
  • Creator: Chris Carter
  • Producer/Production Co: Ten Thirteen Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, 20th Century Fox Television, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Dune Entertainment III
  • View Trailers/Promotional Shorts: (Intro), (Season1), (1998_film), (2008_film), (2016_revival)
  • TVTropes: (link)
  • IMDB Page: (link), (link), (link)

Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: generally TV-14/PG-13(Violence, mild Profanity and Adult Content)

Episodes of the series over its long run could range anywhere from mostly kid-friendly, to the infamous episode "Home" (about depraved, incestuous, hideously deformed mutant hillbilly cannibal-rapists, the first episode of The X-Files to be rated TV-MA and carry a viewer discretion warning about graphic content).

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • Ss___ (One and a Half Tentacles: Barely Lovecraftian)

Generally not very "Lovecraftian", though Lovecraft was almost certainly one of the inspirations (either directly or indirectly) for the series; the monster-of-the-week formula used in the program's long run, combined with a main story arc premise involving paranormal investigators tracking down sketchy information about ancient alien astronauts and conspiracies filtered through a variety of unreliable narrator sources should hint at some occasionally vaguely Lovecraftian themes and make this series a useful source of ideas for Delta Green and Call of Cthulhu scenarios.

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • (review needed)


Synopses of Suggested Episodes

 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

The overarching story, which spans events as early as the 1940s, is built around a government conspiracy to hide the truth about alien existence and their doomsday plan. Not all episodes advanced the mythology plot, but the ones that did were often set up by Mulder or Scully via an opening monologue. Most mythological elements in The X-Files relate to extraterrestrial beings, referred to by the writers as "Colonists", whose primary goal is to colonize Earth. Late in the series, this was revealed to have been planned for the year 2012.

As the show progressed, key episodes, called parts of the "Mytharc", were recognized as the "mythology" of the series canon; these episodes carried the extraterrestrial/conspiracy storyline that evolved throughout the series. ("Monster-of-the-Week" came to denote the remainder of The X-Files episodes. These episodes, comprising the majority of the series, dealt with paranormal phenomena, including: cryptids, mutants, science fiction technology, horror monsters, and religious phenomena. Some of the Monster-of-the-Week episodes even featured satiric elements and comedic story lines.)

The main story arc involves the agents' efforts to uncover a government conspiracy to hide the existence of extraterrestrials on Earth, and their sinister collaboration with those governments. Mysterious men comprising a shadow element within the U.S. government, known as "The Syndicate", are the major villains in the series; late in the series it is revealed that The Syndicate acts as the only liaison between mankind and a group of extraterrestrials (referred to as "the colonists" in background materials), representing Earth's original, inhuman inhabitants who have returned to try to destroy humans and reclaim the planet after a period of time dating from pre-history in which Earth was uninhabitable to them. The Syndicate are usually represented by Cigarette Smoking Man (a ruthless killer, masterful politician, negotiator, failed novelist, and the series' principal antagonist). As the series goes along, Mulder and Scully learn about evidence of the alien invasion piece by piece. It is revealed that the extraterrestrials plan on using a sentient virus, known as the black oil, to infect mankind and turn the population of the world into a slave race. The Syndicate — having made a deal to be spared by the aliens — have been working to develop an alien-human hybrid that will be able to withstand the effects of the black oil. The group has also been secretly working on a vaccine to overcome the black oil; this vaccine is revealed in the latter parts of season five, as well as the 1998 film. Counter to the alien colonization effort, another faction of aliens, the faceless rebels, are working to stop alien colonization. Eventually, in the season six episodes "Two Fathers"/"One Son", the rebels manage to destroy the Syndicate. The colonists, now without human liaisons, dispatch the "Super Soldiers": beings that resemble humans, but are biologically alien. In the latter parts of season eight, and the whole of season nine, the Super Soldiers manage to replace key individuals in the government, forcing Mulder and Scully to go into hiding.


Some suggested episodes either with vaguely Lovecraftian overtones, or which might provide some inspiration for Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green scenarios:

  • Complete list of Main Story Arc Episodes:
    • Summary: The main story arc mainly revolved around an extraterrestrial/conspiracy storyline: the agents' efforts to slowly unravel a conspiracy entrenched in secrecy within a mysterious "shadow element" of the U.S. government to hide the existence of extraterrestrial "Colonists" on Earth, and their sinister collaboration with those conspirators, known as "The Syndicate", led by the "Cigarette Smoking Man". Late in the series it is revealed that The Syndicate acts as the only liaison between mankind and the Colonists, a group of ancient aliens whose main goal is to enslave and eliminate human life on Earth; the Colonists have promised to spare the Syndicate in return for their collaboration. As the series goes along, Mulder and Scully learn about evidence of the alien invasion piece by piece, and it is revealed that the extraterrestrials plan on using a sentient virus, known as the black oil, to infect mankind and turn the population of the world into a slave race, while the Syndicate have been working to develop an alien-human hybrid that will be able to withstand the effects of the black oil, as well as a vaccine to overcome the black oil. Counter to the alien colonization effort, another faction of aliens, the faceless Rebels, are working to stop alien colonization for their own mysterious reasons, eventually managing to destroy the Syndicate. The colonists, now without human liaisons, dispatch human-looking alien "Super Soldiers", who manage to replace key individuals in the government, forcing Mulder and Scully to go into hiding. By Season 10 (2016), the agents are continuing efforts to find a vaccine for the alien virus, the virus is released on the public, and the Cigarette Smoking Man is revealed to have survived the destruction of the Syndicate....
    • Main Story episode list ("(s)" denotes a secondary episode related to the main story arc): 1x01 "Pilot", 1x02 "Deep Throat", 1x04(s) "Conduit", 1x09(s) "Space", 1x10 "Fallen Angel", 1x17 "E.B.E.", 1x24 "The Erlenmeyer Flask", 2x01 "Little Green Men", 2x05 "Duane Barry", 2x06 "Ascension", 2x08 "One Breath", 2x10 "Red Museum", 2x16 "Colony", 2x17 "End Game", 2x18(s) "Fearful Symmetry", 2x23(s) "Soft Light", 2x25 "Anasazi", 3x01 "The Blessing Way", 3x02 "Paper Clip", 3x09 "Nisei", 3x10 "731", 3x15 "Piper Maru", 3x16 "Apocrypha", 3x20(s) "Jose Chung's From Outer Space", 3x21(s) "Avatar" , 3x24 "Talitha Cumi", 4x01 "Herrenvolk", 4x07(s) "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", 4x08 "Tunguska", 4x09 "Terma", 4x14 "Memento Mori", 4x17 "Tempus Fugit", 4x18 "Max", 4x21 "Zero Sum", 4x23 "Demons", 4x24 "Gethsemane", 5x01 "Redux", 5x02 "Redux II", 5x06(s) "Christmas Carol", 5x07(s) "Emily", 5x13 "Patient X", 5x14 "The Red and the Black", 5x15(s) "Travelers", 5x20 "The End", Film: The X-Files (1998), 6x01 "The Beginning", 6x04(s) "Dreamland", 6x05(s) "Dreamland II", 6x09 "S.R. 819", 6x11 "Two Fathers", 6x12 "One Son", 6x19(s) "The Unnatural" 6x22 "Biogenesis", 7x01 "The Sixth Extinction", 7x02 "The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati", 7x10 "Sein und Zeit", 7x11 "Closure", 7x15 "En Ami", 7x22 "Requiem", 8x01 "Within", 8x02 "Without", 8x11 "The Gift", 8x13 "Per Manum", 8x14 "This is Not Happening", 8x15 "Deadalive", 8x16 "Three Words", 8x18 "Vienen", 8x20 "Essense", 8x21 "Existence", 9x01 "Nothing Important Happened Today", 9x02 "Nothing Important Happened Today II", 9x06 "Trust No 1", 9x09 "Provenance", 9x10 "Providence", 9x16 "William", 9x20 "The Truth", film The X-Files: I want to Believe (2008), 10x01 "My Struggle", 10x06 "My Struggle II"
    • Keeper's Notes: The series' main story arc is a well-known example of a "kudzu plot": a plot which became more and more complicated, elaborate, and tangled until it seemed to grow out of control, with many bizarre and intertwined clues but very little sign that they actually fit together; the main series' plot is thus probably best not used as a direct model for a Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green RPG campaign, though elements of the series' mythology might make useful fodder for scenario background and plot ideas.
  • Suggested Monster-of-the-Week Episodes:
    • "Conduit" - As the Section Chief expresses his concern with the direction of the X-Files department, Mulder becomes obsessed with solving a case that closely parallels an encounter he experienced as a child, which dealt with alien abduction and an exploration of Mulder's determination to find his sister, Samantha.
    • "The Jersey Devil" - An homage to Night Stalker (1972 franchise) in which the murder of a homeless man leads Mulder and Scully to the legendary man-beast the Jersey Devil roaming in the forests surrounding Atlantic City.
    • "Ice" - When an Arctic research team mysteriously kill each other and themselves only days after drilling deeper into the ice than ever before, Mulder and Scully accompany a team of doctors and scientists to investigate. They discover an organism which infects living creatures and amplifies the host's feeling of anger and paranoia, and the new team starts to deteriorate as they wonder who among them are killers.
    • "Eve" - When two fathers on opposite sides of the country are inexplicably murdered at exactly the same time in exactly the same way, Mulder and Scully find that their eight-year-old daughters are perfect twins and were created in order to continue The Litchfield Experiment, a eugenics project of the 1950s which produced cloned boys named Adam and girls named Eve who have heightened strength and intelligence, but are prone to psychotic behavior.
    • "Gender Bender" - A series of identical sexual murders, where the killer appears to be both male and female, draw Mulder and Scully to members of a strange religious sect who may be of alien origin, leading to the discovery of a man who can change sex.
    • "Darkness Falls" - Mulder and Scully travel to a remote area of Washington State National Forest after an entire group of thirty loggers goes missing. They soon discover that an unseen force that was lying dormant has been awakened.
    • "Squeeze" - A series of murders appear to have no tangible method for the murderer's entrance and escape. Eugene Victor Tooms, a seemingly normal janitor, is suspected to be a mutant who kills his victims and extracts their livers in order to prolong his existence.
    • "Tooms" - Tooms is released from the psychiatric sanitarium in which he was incarcerated for assaulting Scully – and he needs to kill once more to get the final liver which will allow him to hibernate for another thirty years. Mulder and Scully race against time to find evidence of his involvement in the past string of murders before Tooms disappears again.
    • "The Host" - When a man's decomposed body is found in the sewers of Newark, Mulder is given the supposed "grunt" work. But after Scully's autopsy turns up a parasite living inside the body and a sewer worker is attacked and bitten by something, it opens up a whole new can of worms.
    • "Firewalker" - A malfunction in a robot designed for volcanic exploration yields evidence of a lifeform living in the caves. When this lifeform seemingly causes the death of a member of the research team, Mulder and a newly recovered Scully are flown out to the site in The Cascades to investigate before anyone else dies.
    • "Die Hand Die Verletzt" - Teenage students at Crowley High School feign an occult ritual in an attempt to "score" and inadvertently cause the murder and mutilation of one of their group. When Mulder and Scully are called to look into the matter, the town's real cultists attempt to hide their tracks, though it seems there is a mysterious force at work that even the cultists are afraid of.
    • "Fresh Bones" - One morning, after two gruesome hallucinations, an Army Private crashes his car into a tree that has a voodoo symbol drawn on it; the second death of a marine in two weeks that has featured that symbol. The marines in question were guarding a processing centre for Haitian refugees, and when Mulder and Scully visit the centre they find the deaths were not as unexpected as they seemed.
    • "Fearful Symmetry" - The death of a federal construction worker and the destruction of various property can only be tied to an escaped elephant, yet the witnesses claim to have seen no animals which might have caused the turmoil. Soon, Mulder and Scully discover the local zoo whose claim to fame is that they've never had a successful animal birth.
    • "Død Kalm" - Mulder and Scully are called in when a boatload of survivors from a U.S. Navy destroyer escort are found, and all of these Sailors appear to have aged many decades in the course of a few days. Mulder and Scully travel to Norway where they find a civilian fisherman who is willing to take them to the ship's last known position.
    • "Humbug" - Mulder and Scully must find the paranormal among the abnormal when they are sent to investigate a long standing series of ritualistic killings which match no known patterns. The latest of which was the death of the "Alligator Man", just one of many sideshow acts around which the town of Gibsonton, Florida, is built.
    • "Soft Light" - An ex-student of Scully's asks the agents to help her with her first investigation concerning a number of disappearances with very few clues. Mulder ponders the idea of spontaneous human combustion but rethinks it when they find a a scientist researching dark matter who is afraid of his own shadow.
    • "Our Town" - Dudley, Arkansas, is the site of the latest investigation for Mulder and Scully, who are sent to find a missing poultry inspector. The case takes a twist when another poultry worker is shot after she goes insane, giving Mulder a hunch that the townsfolk really are what they eat.
    • "2Shy" - Meeting insecure women through an on-line service, a serial killer seduces his prey with the right words. However, Mulder and Scully determine these killings are far from ordinary by the presence of a strange substance coating the victims, a substance which seems to digest the fatty acids in flesh.
    • "War of the Coprophages" - A small town is plagued by deaths in which the bodies are found covered in cockroaches. Working from home, Scully has scientific explanations for all of them, but Mulder — at the crime scene with an attractive bug expert — suspects the insects may not be organic, or even earthly.
    • "Home" - In a small, otherwise peaceful town, the agents investigate the death of an infant with disturbing birth defects, and the trail leads to a clan of inbred, genetic mutants.
    • "Leonard Betts" - The disappearance of a man's body from a hospital morgue leads Mulder and Scully to investigate the strange circumstances surrounding the man's death. However, for Scully it will lead to a horrifying revelation.
    • "Detour" - On the way to an FBI convention in Florida, Mulder and Scully stop to help in the investigation of the mysterious disappearance of three people in the woods, where a pair of invisible humanoids lurk.
    • "Travelers" - In 1990, a bizarre murder leads young agent Fox Mulder to question a former FBI Agent (Darren McGavin) who investigated one of the first X-Files dating back to the 1950s – a case which may have involved Mulder's father.
    • "Folie à Deux" - Mulder and Scully encounter a delusional man who believes his boss may be a monster – and is willing to pay any price to prove it.
    • "Agua Mala" - A former X-Files agent (Darren McGavin), now living in a Florida trailer park, calls the agents for help when a neighbouring family disappears; and, with a hurricane approaching, Mulder and Scully find themselves trapped with a group of residents in a building where there is something in the water.
    • "Arcadia" - Several disappearances at an idyllic planned community lead Mulder and Scully to go undercover as a married couple. However, they soon discover that the president of the homeowners' association takes the community covenants and regulations more seriously than they could have imagined.
    • "Field Trip" - The skeletonized remains of a young couple are found in the fields of North Carolina. When Mulder and Scully go to investigate, they find that a giant fungal life form releases an LSD-like drug into the air with spores, and then slowly digests its victims. Mulder and Scully fall into its trap and are not sure of what is reality and what is fantasy.
    • "Hungry" - In an episode told from the point-of-view of the "monster", a fast-food employee with unusual cravings becomes the focus of an FBI investigation. The victims appear with no brain and a suction hole in the forehead.
    • "Patience" - Having been assigned to the X-Files, John Doggett joins Scully to investigate a series of gruesome murders that appear to be the work of a bat-like creature. This being their first case together, Scully and Doggett find that their investigative techniques are less than similar.
    • "Roadrunners" - Working alone, Scully pursues a cult that worship a slug-like organism; but in her efforts to save an injured stranger, she discovers she's in over her head.
    • "Medusa" - A string of bizarre deaths in the tunnels of the Boston subway system sees Doggett join a team of professionals underground to investigate. Meanwhile, Scully has to defy the train authorities above land, who are determined to get the trains up and running within hours.
    • "Alone" - With Scully on maternity leave, Doggett is paired with an enthusiastic young agent named Layla Harrison who knows everything about the X-Files, and her hero-worship of Mulder and Scully leads to him learning a thing or two. But when Harrison and Doggett disappear, Mulder defies orders in an attempt to find them.
    • "Scary Monsters" - Special agent Leyla Harrison takes Reyes and Doggett on a drive into the mountains after a woman stabs herself repeatedly and her widowed husband refuses to let anyone see their son.
    • "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster" - When a dead body is found in the woods of Oregon, Mulder and Scully begin investigating the involvement of a lizard-man.
    • "Home Again" - Mulder and Scully investigate the murder of callous city officials killed by a monstrous defender of the homeless: the Trashman.


Notes

Comments, Trivia, Dedication

  • A Season 7 crossover episode "Millennium" was made after Millennium (1996 series) was canceled after its third season, giving that series by the same creative team some closure, and officially placing the two series in the same fictional universe.
  • In an earlier and less official crossover, the eccentric author character Jose Chung from Season 3 Episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" (When a couple claims to have been abducted by aliens, Agents Mulder and Scully try to get at the truth but everyone has a different version of the story, including the "aliens" themselves) would re-appear in Season 2 Millennium episode "Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense" (An apostate member of a pop religion is murdered, leading Frank to co-investigate with a flamboyant writer.)
  • A spin-off show, The Lone Gunmen (2001 series), aired at about the same time as the 8th season of The X-Files; it featured the titular group of amateur conspiracy buffs who appeared as Mulder's friends and recurring characters in the parent series, and had more of a slapstick/comedic tone to it, with little of the supernatural horror found in its parent series. The Lone Gunmen are given a backstory in the fifth season X-Files episode "Unusual Suspects" and more screen time in the sixth season episode "Three of a Kind"; when the spin-off was canceled after its first and only season, a Season 9 X-Files crossover episode "Jump the Shark" was made to give the spin-off some closure.
  • A dispute between Fox network and star David Duchovny over money during the 7th season of The X-Files would lead to Duchovny walking out of the 8th season of the series, leading to the introduction of agents Doggett and Reyes (Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish) during Season 8 to replace Mulder, to the mixed reception of fans at the time. Duchovny would return to the series in Season 9.


Associated Mythos Elements

The "Flukeman" from The X-files (1993 series) Season 1 episode "The Host"...
  • TO DO
  • typical UFO mythos:
  • race: various (typically alien) parasites, insects, worms, fungi, bacteria, viruses, and other body-horror-inducing vermin and diseases
  • race: various psychic, hybrid, and mutant humans (or humanoids) with assorted powers, including:
    • character: Eugene Victor Tooms, a mutant who has lived for centuries by eating human livers, stretching and squeezing through abnormally tight spaces, and hibernating in nests made from paper and bile (see "Squeeze" and "Tooms")
    • race: Flukeman, a hideous mutated hybrid human/fluke created as a result of the Chernobyl disaster (see "The Host")
  • general horror and folklore stand-bys:


Keeper Notes