Given a new assignment, Special Agent Dana Scully (Anderson) is partnered with Special Agent Fox “Spooky” Mulder (Duchovny) in order to validate his obsessive work on a special project outside the FBI’s mainstream called “The X-Files”. While Scully believes that everything can be explained by science, Mulder (whose sister might have been abducted by aliens as a child) is open to explanations that include extraterrestrial or paranormal involvement. Occasionally pointed in the right direction by a mysterious ally known as “Deep Throat” (Hardin) they discover that the government is involved in a number of conspiracies and cover-ups…
Since it first aired back in 1993, The X-Files has spanned nine series, two feature films and a grungy pop tune by Catatonia. Over the years, it has provided much debate, very few answers and an ever-spiralling amount of questions. But while it is still deservedly hailed as one of the most influential shows ever to grace the small screen, it was also one of the most frustratingly inconsistent, a trend which began in the first season.
While one episode will prove utterly gripping as Mulder and Scully investigate the ongoing government cover-up (known as the “myth-arc”), the next will veer off into some self-contained monster-of-the-week filler. Occasionally, these do provide us with the odd gem, such as Squeeze / Tooms (which features Doug Hutchison’s iconic, creepy tunnel-slitherer Eugene Tooms) and Ice (which is basically a brilliant rip-off of The Thing), but more often than not they merely distract from the overall puzzle.
But when The X-Files gets it right, it really gets it right. Oozing paranoia, conspiracy theories and sinister agendas, the myth-arcs episodes (such as Pilot, Deep Throat, E.B.E. and The Erlenmeyer Flask, among others) offer compelling viewing which is dotted with spine-tingling moments. William B. Davis trades heavily in background menace as “The Smoking Man” and Jerry Hardin gets many of the season’s best moments as ambiguous informant Deep Throat (“Mr Mulder, they’ve been here for a long, long time.”), but the show belongs to David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson whose chemistry is the definition of smouldering.
Season one, like the show itself too much of the time, is an inconsistent mix of brilliant mythology episodes and disposable monster-of-the-week filler. But when The X-Files gets it right, it delivers utterly compelling viewing.