Sunday, 24 January 2016

The X-Files Returns!

Well, it's actually returning next month from my viewpoint, because I'm a Limey, so it will be shown on the UK's rather tacky Channel 5. (If you don't know Channel 5, imagine a  cheaply-produced 'documentary' entitled 'Hitler's Busty Henchwomen' and you'll get some idea of how classy it is.) Anyway, in February I will carefully don surgical gloves and switch to C5 to watch the new X-Files mini-series. I will probably enjoy most of it but also do quite a bit of shouting at the screen, as is my wont.

I've posted stuff about TXF here before, as it's one of my favourite shows and lots of episodes focus on the paranormal, supernatural, or just plain weird. Here's a post about Ghosts in Space (quite a few, surprisingly), and here's a look at a classic ep with Brad Dourif guest-starring as a convicted killer who claims to be able to contact the dead,

Over the years the show tackled the idea of spirit possession, reincarnation, diabolism, curses, precognition, clairvoyance, and just about everything else that counts as spooky. I think it's batting average was fair to brilliant with relatively few clunkers in the supernatural department.

I've been re-watching the original series (all nine seasons of it) over the last few months. This may have been a bad idea, as it's a fact universally acknowledged that, as the series wore on, producer/writer Chris Carter made ever more convoluted attempts to wrestle his UFO mytharc into submission. Also, perhaps inevitably, some of the best stand alone 'Monster of the Week' episodes were in the first three or four seasons. That said, I'm still impressed by how well some familiar (and not so familiar) ideas are handled.

In the early episode 'Shadows', for instance, we have a fairly conventional story of a vengeful ghost. A young woman  is attacked at an ATM machine, but something shadowy kills her attackers. The ghost turns out to have what Robert Westall called a 'metabolism' - a fully-fledged reason for existing the first place, and acting as it does. Any Victorian author might have penned a similar tale, but the X-Files approach makes it new as Mulder and Scully amass evidence that not only do ghosts exist, but that they can play merry hell with a hire car's electrical system.

Vampires, which were experiencing a grand revival in the Nineties, turn up more than once. The episode '3' sees Mulder encounter an Unholy Trinity of blood-drinking killers who really do burst into flames when touched by sunlight (a good bit of effects work). A later episode, 'Bad Blood', shows vampires struggling to keep a low profile in small town America. According to this interview it is Gillian Anderson's favourite episode.

Another favourite of mine is 'X-Cops', with its faux-reality footage and an elusive (yet satisfyingly alarming) monster that seems able to change its form. I mention this because an episode of the new series features some kind of shape-shifting menace. As this one is written and directed by Darin Morgan I'm expecting something rather wonderful from 'Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster'. (Some critics are saying that this episode justifies reviving the series.) While TXF will always be associated with science fiction and horror, for me it also produced some of the best examples of supernatural fiction in modern television.


Anonymous said...

I also look forward to the revived X-FILES series -- if I get the chance to watch it, for I seldom watch television nowadays. I have see nearly, but not quite, every episode from season one to nine, and it is always the ''Monster-of-the-week'' episodes that I enjoyed the most. The first three of four seasons are probably the best in times of atmosphere, but the later ones, especially eight, have some fine conceptions. I have also seen the 1998 film, which is decent, but have not seen the sequel, which probably would have been better as an episode than a full-length film.

Oscar Solis said...

Just finished watching the first two episodes and it seemed a satisfying return to form, by which I mean it seemed to remind me of the better seasons. I can't comment on the last two seasons of the original series because I was fed up with the constant alien war storyline and stopped watching. It wasn't hard to. It seemed the whole show had gone past it's "sell by" date. Like Anonymous, I've seen and enjoyed the first film but have yet to see the second one.

But it's back. Next week's episode is a monster of the week episode. Can't wait.

As an aside, The successor to The X-Files here in the USA seems to have been a show called Supernatural. The first three seasons were enjoyable, aggressive ghost stories that did their job scaring the heck out of the viewer. But it soon became about a war between heaven and hell. Wasn't hard to stop watching that one.

valdemar said...

Well, it's six episodes, so watching all of them won't be a chore! I agree that the last couple of seasons had little of the show's original charm or zest. There were a few good stand alone eps, though. Let's see what the splendid Darin Morgan has written for us.