There are some shows that demand attention. As soon as you notice them while channel surfing you are inclined to stop and watch, regardless of how long it has been on or which episode it is. For me, that show is the legendary detective-sci-fi-psychological-horror series The X-Files (1993-2002).
The critically acclaimed show focused on the tense relationship between two ‘black site’ FBI agents named Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) who search through unsolved paranormal cases- known as ‘X-Files’ to try and answer the only question that matters – ‘Are we alone in the Universe’? With 62 Emmy and 12 Golden Globe nominations, as well as a multi-media legacy spanning video games, novels, comic books and two feature-length movies, the question is: What made The X-Files the cult classic it is today?
Key to the show’s success was its excellent production values and scripting. The show’s creator Chris Carter, knew what the audiences for these types of shows wanted. Yes they tuned in for the ‘Monster of the Week’ stories that make up most episodes, but they also want character development, tribulation and long spanning arcs. He succeeded by taking the dramatic, suspenseful elements from Twin Peaks and combined them with the level of isolation and dread found in the first two Alien films, to bring television sci-fi away from its pulp-fiction 50s origins screaming into the grungy dark of the 1990s.
The show’s design department won multiple awards across the its run and deservedly so. Their creations were often genuinely terrifying (especially to this seven year old) and the ambiance created by the music and cinematography led to something very rare in TV sci-fi, a genuine sense of foreboding.
What also drew the audiences in week after week was the ‘will-they-won’t-they relationship between the shows leads. As a kid I personally didn’t care whether they knocked-boots and found the sub-plot annoying. However, watching it again as an adult I have realised that the question was never about if they would get together but about how this would change the power-dynamic between them.
Don’t get me wrong I now find their back and forth interesting, funny and emotional at times, but it serves as a way of connecting them against the world, or universe in this case. What also needs to be noted is the power exhibited by Anderson’s character. She is just as smart, capable and independent as her male counter-part, something unfortunately not commonplace in shows from that time.
While Twin Peaks remains my favourite show of all time, The X-Files is a close second. Its intelligence, humour, aesthetic quality, suspensefulness and character dynamics raise it to a level beyond anything else. Gender, sexuality, religious views, political views and all other dividers don’t affect your enjoyment of this show because at its heart it is solely about what it means to be human. Will it ever be surpassed? Let’s just say….
Last modified: 21st February 2020