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The X-Files
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The X-Files

The X-Files was a popular 1990s American science fiction television series created by Chris Carter. The show aired first-run episodes on the FOX network. Premiering in 1993, its ground-breaking success was due mostly to its stars, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Duchovny played Fox Mulder and Anderson played Dana Scully, two FBI agents tasked with investigating paranormal phenomena. With plots spanning alien conspiracy theories and high-level governmental cover-ups, the show mimicked episodic elements found in earlier shows such as The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone and the cult show Twin Peaks (in which Duchovny appeared as a cross-dressing DEA agent). The series became a surprise run-away success, with a devoted following. Fans of show are known as "X-Philes" or "eXcers".

The X-Files struck a unique balance between rationalism and mysticism, horror and wonder; its stories were told like police procedurals investigating the paranormal.

The series popularized the catch-phrases "Trust No One" and "The Truth Is Out There," and fosters a huge fan-based following to this day.

Fans commonly divide X-Files stories into "Mytharc" ("mythology") episodes, which concern an impending alien invasion, and stand-alone "Monster-of-the-Week" episodes, which deal with strange, other-wordly creatures and situations relating to the paranormal. Several episodes also explore the relationship between Mulder and Scully. A separate fan base evolved, referred to as "Shippers" (relationshippers), which chronicled and relished the sexual tension between Mulder and Scully. One pivotal shipper episode is "Triangle" (6x03), in which Mulder and Scully share their first on-camera kiss (on a ship, incidentally).

In 1998 the series produced a motion picture, , which received lukewarm reviews from most major critics, and was only profitable due to the show's exceptional worldwide popularity at the time, as the domestic box office was substantially less than what the studio spent on producing and promoting the film. The movie was intended as a continuation of the season five finale, "The End" (5x20), but was also meant to stand on its own. This led to an unwieldy narrative structure that not only disappointed many longtime fans but also confused newcomers. In the season subsequent to the film's release, the ratings for the show declined significantly, after rising steadily for the four previous years. This was perhaps due in part to the relocation of production from Vancouver to L.A, and to the loss of many important creative personnel, who had to be replaced. The look and feel of the series changed significantly and, many felt, for the worse.

But given that there were no major casting changes and that the timeslot remained the same, the influence of the movie in what became a five year ratings decline for the show cannot be discounted. Many longtime fans felt the movie robbed the show of much of its mystery, and revealed that the "mythology" was poorly planned, and increasingly derivative—the theatrical movie, for example, seemed to owe a huge number of plot points to the 1950s British SciFi film, Quatermass 2. It is widely (though not universally) felt that the quality of the show's scripts deteriorated progressively from season five through season nine, though at all times the writing for The X-Files was inconsistent, ranging from inspired to workmanlike to barely watchable, often within the span of a single month. One of the show's charms was that the viewer never knew what to expect from week to week—a timeless classic, or a laughable dud worthy of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Some believe the show's creative decline is due to the absence, from the fifth season on, of Glen Morgan and James Wong, whose contribution to the first two seasons was as great (some would say greater) than Chris Carter's, and who returned for the first half of the fourth season. Hired by Peter Roth, Chris Carter's boss at 20th Television, after the show's pilot had been shot, their considerably greater production experience (Carter had never produced a drama before, having helmed a series of unsuccessful light comedy shows for Disney in the 1980s) made them an invaluable addition to the show. In particular, their experience with the Vancouver production scene was of seminal importance. Most of the show's major directors, including Kim Manners, Rob Bowman, and David Nutter, had previously worked with them at Stephen J. Cannell's production company, on such shows as 21 Jump Street. All of these were hired on Morgan and Wong's recommendation. It is also due to their influence that cinematographer John Bartley, who gave the show its early dark and atmospheric look, was hired. His work was honored with an Emmy in 1996, the only Emmy for cinematography the show ever won. Morgan and Wong also had considerable influence on creating and casting most of the best-liked secondary characters, such as The Lone Gunmen, the Scully family, and FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner. Their work in season one, particularly the episode "Beyond the Sea" (1x13), drew most of the early critical plaudits, as well as the enduring affection of fans. Their episode "Little Green Men" (2x01) was the kick-off for the crucial second season, and their influence on both the "standalone" and "mythology" episodes was immense.

In the second and third seasons, Glen Morgan's younger brother Darin, hired thanks to his sibling's influence, wrote four legendary episodes, which gave the show greater critical respect than ever before, culminating in the only writing Emmy the show ever received, for "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" (3x04) in 1996, as well as a guest actor Emmy for Peter Boyle in the titular role of that episode. These were the only non-technical Emmys the show ever received, excluding Gillian Anderson's win for best actress in 1998.

Over the course of the next few years, the show would undergo several changes by way of both character growth and plot direction. One of the central mythologies of the show, Mulder's search for his sister, would finally be resolved, as well as a few turns of events involving the ever-deepening bond between Mulder and Scully and the dynamic between the two characters. Whether they "should" or "shouldn't" consummate their relationship was the subject of great debate among the fan community for many years, and is still subject to scrutiny, since even after numerous hints, Carter refuses to confirm whether the two characters ever had sex. Even now there remains a thriving online community devoted to debating The X-Files, its myths and monsters, though vastly reduced from its peak period in the mid-1990s. In a sense, the show had two audiences, one of which began to leave about halfway through, as a new audience, attracted by the show's newfound mainstream popularity, began to arrive. These two audiences tend to see the show quite differently, to say the least.

The Lone Gunmen, a trio of nerdish government watchdogs who occasionally assisted Mulder and Scully, had their own short-lived TV series. Its cancellation left its storyline unresolved, but all the characters from the series returned in the X-Files episode "Jump the Shark" (9x15) (definition of term "jump the shark"), which could be seen (and screened) as a de facto final Lone Gunmen episode. The trio also made a short appearance in the The X-Files' final episode, "The Truth" (9x19 & 9x20).

The X-Files inspired numerous other TV series, including Strange World, Burning Zone, Special Unit 2, Mysterious Ways, Carnivale, and Dark Skies, many of which did not enjoy the same popularity or following as The X-Files has achieved. Fox also produced a companion series based upon The X-Files entitled Millennium, also produced by Chris Carter. The storylines of Millennium and The X-Files occasionally crossed over, with Scully and Mulder making cameo appearances in at least one episode of Millennium (Frank Black hears somebody watching an episode of The X-Files as he walks through the hallway of an apartment building), and the protagonist of Millennium appearing in The X-Files to tie up loose ends after Millennium was abruptly cancelled. Since Mulder and Scully were clearly only supposed to be fictional characters in the Millennium universe, Frank Black's appearance on The X-Files as a real person was yet another example of Chris Carter's ongoing disregard for continuity. Carter changed positions several times on whether or not Millennium took place in the same world as The X-Files.

Increasingly bored with his role as Mulder, and displeased with the quality of the scripts, David Duchovny ceased to be a regular on The X-Files after the seventh season, at the conclusion of which, Mulder was abducted by aliens, and Scully revealed she was pregnant, though she claimed to have no understanding of how her pregnancy had come about, having supposedly been rendered barren during her abduction in season two (her compromised reproductive status was only revealed in season five). Though there were scattered hints that Mulder could be the father, no explanation of how this could have happened was ever offered, and the expedient of a modern DNA test on the child was apparently never considered. The baby, named William, was written out of the show in season nine, and was barely referred to afterwards.

Duchovny returned for brief stints in seasons eight and nine. In season eight, after Carter and his writers mainly ignored Mulder's disappearance for most of the year, Mulder reappeared as a corpse, was buried for several months, and then later revived. This did have a certain symbolic resonance in terms of the show. Carter tried desperately to promote the two new X-Files agents, John Doggett and Monica Reyes (played by Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish), as worthy replacements to Mulder and Scully, with both Duchovny and Anderson's involvement essentially at an end. It was Carter's belief that the series could continue for another ten years with the new leads. Neither the fans nor the network agreed that they were worthy replacements (though this was less the fault of the actors than the way the characters were written).

The show completed its ninth and final season with the episode "The Truth", which first aired on May 19, 2002. The show ceased production at the end of the ninth season—on a cliffhanger, though Carter knew well in advance that this would be the final episode. Plans for another movie are announced periodically, but have yet to come to fruition, and the earliest possible release date would be 2006. It is widely believed that a second X-Files movie would be a standalone adventure, leaving some question as to how (or if) the mythology-based series finale cliffhanger will be resolved.

See also: List of episodes of The X-Files

Partial list of the cast (main characters)

Format: Actor's real name - Character name (Years on show)

External links