SHOW: FOUR STARS
FILMS: THREE STARS
With the untimely death of James Gandolfini in June, much was made of how The Sopranos marked a sea-change in TV drama that paved the way for all future emmy magnets.
“Without Tony Soprano, there would be no Walter White,” said Breaking Bad creator and The X Files writer Vince Gilligan. Hold on. Rewind. Without The X Files there would be no Breaking Bad, no 24, no Supernatural.
And American Horror Story would be a lot less spooky.
Because besides launching the careers of its indelibly photogenic stars, The X Files was a hothouse, an Erlenmeyer flask of TV-writing talent. (Jane Goldman even penned a couple of tie-in books before turning to screenwriting.)
When David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reunited at Comic-Con in July (joined by Gilligan), it was clear that time had been kind to them. Can the same be said of the show? For the most part, yes.
The mid-’90s fashions are drab and unflattering and the FX in early series require some extra suspension of disbelief, but the characters of the FBI agents are fully formed from the pilot: stoic debunker Dana Scully, giddy conspiracy nut Fox Mulder.
There are epic, seasons-spanning myth-arcs – some released in the US as the The X-Files Mythology: Abduction, Black Oil, Colonisation and Super Soldiers – but most entertaining are the monster-of-the-week episodes, with memorable characters like liver-hungry Tooms, the inbred Texas Chain Saw Massacre-style family in ‘Home’ and Giovanni Ribisi’s lightning-conducting teen.
Not until Duchovny lost interest circa Season 7 does the quality drop.
The weak links are the movies (both new to Blu individually and available as a pair on DVD with the complete-series boxset).
Fight The Future (1998) came between Seasons 5 and 6; it tries at once to stand alone and tie into Mulder’s obsession with aliens, falling between the two stools.
On the big screen the acting seemed hammy and the plot felt sub-Close Encounters; watched on TV it’s not so incongruous but still feels like a cash-in.
Follow-up I Want To Believe (2008) is more interesting, if arguably less successful; it opts for a monster-of-the-week story and finally gives in to the worshippers and makes Mulder and Scully a couple (even though he’s gone fully foil-hat).
It’s a far-from-fitting end to the franchise, but talk of a third film continues, fired up by Comic-Con. Whether this will mean another reissue next decade, who knows. The truth is… probably.