Well, it’s a good year for TV anniversaries. The anniversary of The X-Files was officially yesterday, but I thought I’d drag out the festivities a little. When the Pilot episode aired, I was barely over six months old. Asides from through secondary sources, I know little about how the show was received or the impact it had. But it’s certainly had a personal impact. So this is, I suppose, a personal reflection. Of my own favourite things about The X-Files, and why I love it. Of the change it had on my life growing up and now.
The first memories I have of The X-Files are from when I was around seven years old. I already had a fascination with the unknown, with UFOs and aliens especially. I would stay up one night a week and try not to get sent to bed before The X-Files, but I didn’t often manage it. I would lie in bed awake and listen for the theme music and try and catch every bit that I could – then I would go to sleep and have nightmares. It turns out that my imagination was scarier than the show ever was.
Last year was the year that I decided to watch The X-Files of my own volition. I watched it from its brilliant start to its less than incredible end, and I was in love. This May, I paid good money and drove to Milton Keynes to meet Gillian Anderson in the flesh – and she was the sweetest person I’ve ever met.
The X-Files is good. It’s visually accomplished, funny, well-researched, and well-written. It is at times cinematic, dark and terrifying in all the right ways. For its time and for all time, it’s impressive. It was a game changer. It spawned a thousand rip-offs, porn parodies, and influenced the way that TV is structured today. The alternating ‘Monster of the Week’ and myth-arc episodes is a structure that we see today, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Supernatural. Scully’s character was incredibly important for feminists everywhere, and her relationship with Mulder was nuanced and complex. All of this is important, but it isn’t what I love.
At times, I love the subtlety. I love that nothing is outright, from the existence of aliens to Mulder and Scully’s romantic relationship. I love the personal motivation behind Mulder’s quest for truth. I love that he admits that his entire belief system is based on one event in his life that may or may not have happened. I love the writing, especially Mulder and Scully’s epic dramatic narration at the start and end of important episodes. I love the humour, even in the darkest times. I love the episodes that are rife with Moby Dick episodes, in black and white, that focus on witchcraft or voodoo. I love the 90s of it all. The computers and Scully’s blazers and her horrific baggy sweaters. I love the haircuts and the glasses. I love the Lone Gunmen. I love the sporadic and special long gazes between Mulder and Scully, the way they look at each other when the other is hurt. That you don’t really need a kiss for confirmation that their friendship is special, it’s one of a kind. I love the way Scully looks at him when he is wrong. Her constant glares and facepalms at his constant need to believe – but the way that she follows him anyway. I love that she is feisty and unstoppable, that she can beat any man at his own game. I love that it is so well researched and so well thought out and imagined that it often feels real. It feels like what you are being shown is 100% reality and truth. I love that it has reinforced my belief time and time again. I love a thousand things and more. The X-Files is sometimes boring, but often fascinating and multi-faceted. I could write tens of these pieces, and I probably will. There is a lot left to say.
I love that I and thousands of others still want to believe, twenty years later.