THE X-FILES Archive. Everything there is to know about the groundbreaking science fiction series

When Fox Broadcasting launched two new series in September 1993, The X-Files and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., then programming director Sandy Grushow made the bold remark that he would…

Karolina Chymkowska

16 January 2023

x-files fight the future poster

…eat his own desk” if the The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. co-star Bruce Campbell will not become a television star of the first magnitude. It was not stated whether consumption took place, but it was The X-Files, not The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., that turned out to be the biggest hit in the history of the studio.

TV Series

The pilot of the X-files aired on September 10, 1993: no one at the time expected that this extraordinary media phenomenon would lead to the spread of phrases such as “Trust no one” or “The truth is out there” or I want to believe”.  Nobody even dared to assume that such a huge group of loyal fans (X-phils) of the series and actors appearing in it would arise (suffice it to mention Gillian Anderson’s Testosterone Brigade or David Duchovny’s Estrogen Brigade); that the X-Files will receive (among other things) a Golden Globe Award for Outstanding Achievement in Television Series Dramaturgy and Fox Broadcasting’s first ever Emmy nomination (in the end, The X-Files received fourteen Emmys and 61 different awards overall, out of 141 nominations ).

x-files logo

Chris Carter dreamed of creating a series that would echo the TV movies of his early youth: The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and most notably Kolchak: The Night Stalker. At the same time, however, it was to be a completely fresh creation, and the adventures of the main characters were to be devoid of unnecessary randomness. Ultimately, it’s hard to believe that the common man accidentally stumbles upon UFOs and the paranormal. The idea was given to Carter by the Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs – the key to opening the door to the paranormal world was to become the FBI. This is how the series was based on the idea of a special unit for unexplained phenomena in the FBI, which would be run by a pair of agents with extremely different approaches to these phenomena. He steadfastly believes and looks for evidence, and he is personally motivated – as a child he witnessed the abduction of his sister. She, a doctor with a strict mind, controls her partner’s actions and looks for rational explanations. In addition, they both share a special kind of platonic flirtation.

dana scully fox mulder

The X-Files ran for eleven seasons – the last episode was broadcast on May 19, 2002 – thus becoming one of the longest-running sci-fi series in American television history. In addition to the so-called “investigative” episodes, devoted to broadly understood paranormal phenomena, there are interconnected “mythological” episodes, the content of which is a great government conspiracy, the existence of a powerful, secret organization that manipulates public opinion and hides from it the truth about the existence of extraterrestrial civilization and what’s more – about the aggressive plans that this civilization has for the Earth. This idea was intriguing not only to the die-hard conspiracy theorists, who smell deceit in absolutely everything, but also to ordinary bread eaters who throughout history have felt to a greater or lesser extent deceived, manipulated, disappointed and disregarded. Who among us can say with full satisfaction that he has full confidence in the authorities and the people at the top? That he is fully convinced that this group at the helm provides him with security and comfort, honestly fulfilling the duties imposed by the office? Two agents opposing the dark Consortium in their quest to reveal the Truth are the materialization of human desires for clarity and clarity of principles. They act on our behalf as advocates of justice, whether we believe in UFOs or not.

dana scully fox mulder with guns

However, since man is an ambiguous being, his needs are not necessarily one-sided. Thus, even if we are suspicious of enigmatic “people in power”, we still have a deep-seated need for security. Convincing ourselves that even if evil is a lesser evil, and if something threatens us – there will be someone who will stand up for us. Yes, that’s right – “I want to believe”! Hence the informants, opposing Syndicate politics and helping Mulder in his crusade. Hence, over time, the evolution of presenting the Syndicate itself: no longer as a group of selfish careerists caring about saving their own butts by collaborating with the future occupier (sounds familiar, right?), but playing for time to find a way out of the situation and save humanity from annihilation . It is no coincidence that when the egocentrism of individual members of the group comes to the fore, when their mission threatens to collapse – the Syndicate is destroyed, and the New Syndicate that appears in its place is something completely different: it consists of transformed aliens, not real ones. people with specific responsibility.

So, summarizing this thread – we can look at the government with suspicion and reluctance, we support Mulder and Scully on their way to discover the facts (i.e. “tell us, we have the right to know”) but at the same time we still hope that you are, after all, who resist (“then if that’s the truth, for Heaven’s sake, do something about it – what are you there for!”). A failure of trust at such a time is a total failure. Aliens and their colonization plans are a powerful, terrifying, mind-incapable threat: we want to make sure that we do not turn out to be defenseless and helpless in the face of such a threat. That someone will protect us. Then that trust returns, because we demand immediate solutions – now they are simply really necessary, when everything, our whole world and life so far can come crashing down. This is where we need power – someone who can tell us what to do.

dana scully fox mulder in the field

We love to criticize it and many times we have reasons to do so – Mulder and Scully are digging in search of the origins of her manipulations and smokescreens and isolating the citizen from the proper truth, they want to bring to light the facts to which we as a society have a right. But when it comes to light that corruption, Vietnam and Watergate are small mics in relation to what is about to happen to us – we naturally look to the only people who can provide it for us. Hence Carter’s psychologically justified attempt to whiten the Consortium a bit, to see positive and prospective elements in their activities. Looking at this, let’s remember that the main audience of the series was supposed to be the American society, which, through periodically coming to light scams (suffice it to mention Watergate), still loses trust in people at the top, but at the same time still firmly believes that America is a force and an inviolable power, that America cannot be destroyed, because there will always be “a way”. So, again – “I want to believe”. Such a layout in the series (drawing the Syndicate’s dirt – but also the desire for the same Syndicate to protect us) turned out to be perfectly inscribed in the viewers’ assessment and their own beliefs.

fox mulder dana scully with shadows

The second element that keeps the audience glued to the screen is the element of horror and eerieness, crossing the borders of what is verifiable and real, reaching dangerous and unexplored regions. The fascination with such topics results from at least several reasons. First, it satisfies the craving for the amazing and delivers the thrill. Secondly, it suggests that the world we live in is not so bad in its gray ordinariness. Thirdly, crossing the limits of intelligible perception brings hope to extend also the limits of possibilities available to us so far. The X-Files plays on many people’s fears and needs. These may be the fear of death, strong phobias that we are unable to control, the fear of darkness that has always been characteristic of humans, associated with danger and evil, and further – the need to believe that life is not the end of everything, that one day we will meet our relatives. Both these fears and needs are presented in the series in the context of paranormal phenomena, but despite this, they strongly appeal to the viewer, arousing fear in him (milder, after all, because of something that is “impossible”; plus satisfaction, because for this short moment managed to be “above him”) and hope (“maybe there is something in what they say about ghosts/life after death/reincarnation…”). We feel in a strangely paradoxical way that our phobias are, after all, so ordinary and so human.

In addition, the series does not shy away from addressing the topic of universal truths, from delving into the meanders of considerations about the randomness and purposefulness of things, the very opposition between the pair of heroes looks like a clash of the empirical school with the rationalist one. The theme of God, faith, reconciling faith with science, the clash of the forces of good and evil, and in all this, a single man lost and uncertain which path to follow and whether by choosing a certain path he made a good and conscious decision or was deceived and deceived, is constantly present. These are problems that have always been present in human life, thanks to which we see the heroes of the Archive not as superheroes, but flesh and blood people who are not spared the obstacles and troubles that are common to all of us.

dana scully fox mulder with flashlights

And finally, the last element, perhaps the most important: Mulder and Scully themselves. In most series of this type, the private and spiritual life of the characters is either absent or separated from the main theme by a clear and strong line. Here, however, it is different: their lives are intertwined with what they do, and their spiritual reflections have a significant impact on how they act. The development of their mutual intimacy is also intriguing (until the screenwriters, resigning from the rightly adopted concept at the beginning, decided to make Mulder and Scully a couple). Their relationship develops in two ways. The first track – how step by step they become the center of the world for themselves, they become addicted to their partnership. Several times Scully tries to build her own life, but without success. Their mutual intimacy based on absolute trust grows, they blindly rely on each other, they temper their partnership in the most dramatic situations: life threat, professional defeat, personal tragedy. At some point, they discover the emptiness around – they have moved away from others so much that they have only themselves. The second track is the fascination between them, the elusive erotic tension that gives the series a nice mole.

dana scully and fox mulder blue

And finally, each of them – whom we so easily endowed with sympathy – is in some way a tragic figure. Mulder lives only for his obsession to know the ultimate Truth, motivated by the painful loss of his sister Samantha in childhood. He never got over this tragedy, never allowed himself to think that it was a loss forever, for years he struggled with guilt and a survivor complex. Perhaps, subconsciously, he hopes that this mistake will be corrected and that he will take Samantha’s place wherever she is. That’s why he doesn’t get attached to anything, doesn’t lead an organized life, he still exists in the atmosphere of the temporary. He does not accumulate anything that he would not be reluctant to abandon. His life is the X-Files and only thanks to it does he feel truly free and on the right track, closer to the Truth and closer to Samantha. His belief in everything unexplained is a kind of religion. It is she who gives him hope and motivates him in his mission.

dana scully fox mulder fight the future closeup

The central character, however, is Scully, because in her case everything is much more complex and maybe even more difficult. She is not as sure as her partner that they lead the life they should lead. She doesn’t know 100 percent whether it actually suits her – how much she makes her choices herself, and how much out of loyalty to Mulder. His mission need not be hers as well. He suffers the tragedy of a mother who loses her daughter. She is torn between what her mind, which she has always trusted, tells her, and what she had the opportunity to look at while working at the Archive. Science is no longer her ally, and Scully has a hard time coming to terms with it. She is lost, full of doubts, and is haunted by an inner sadness. Through her experiences – abduction, humiliating tests, taking away her ability to bear children, and then an illness that leads her to the brink of death – she sees everything from a different point of view. She had the opportunity to feel completely vulnerable, she had to accept her weakness and lack of control. Admit to yourself that you have failed.

She is not just self-sufficient and independent, she is not only an efficient and organized worker – but also a woman. And finally, religion, which should give it strength, but mainly brings doubt, uncertainty about God’s intentions for it, and whether it is always able to recognize the right way to act, or whether it believes excessively in the power of reason and in the truth science loses sight of something important and thereby makes mistakes that distance it from God? He fears that “God speaks to us constantly – but we do not listen to Him.” But where, in times when threats are multiplying at an alarming rate and the world seems to be falling apart from scratch (when The X-Files was created – it was a special moment of reckoning and summing up and fear of the New Millennium), where to look for an element of certainty? Should God be completely silent for all of us, contaminated by a rationalist vision of the world pushing towards progress and perhaps at the same time towards destruction? Is it by closing our eyes to the truths of reason, turning to the things that reason cannot grasp, that we can find hope and peace?

fox mulder and dana scully sceptic

An element hard to miss in a comprehensive view of The X-Files is the undeniable messianic element. Fox Mulder, in his search for the Truth, over time becomes more than just an enthusiast motivated by personal experiences. It turns into a real Voice, whose mission is not only to enlighten humanity, but also to save it from destruction. Mulder becomes the last righteous person persecuted for his faith. His crusade leads to a voluntary sacrifice, and the sacrifice to a martyr’s death, after which – after all – he was resurrected. It should be remembered that what we associate today with abductions and UFOs, a few centuries ago would be described as visitations by angels – luminous figures coming from the stars and giving their message. If you get rid of the whole mythological-colonization shell, what is the birth of William – Scully’s child, if not an immaculate conception (understood here as a “miraculous” birth, not the Catholic dogma of freedom from original sin)?

However, since we are at William, it should be noted that the X-Files in the last two seasons fell into a form quite indigestible in its extreme. Partly because of Mulder’s martyrdom and the birth of William – the savior. This intrusive symbolism stands in opposition to the current concept of the series, making the main characters artificial icons, adding a pseudo-religious ideology to what was previously a natural and psychologically justified action. The eighth season is largely based on John Doggett, the pregnant Scully struggles with the depressions of the mother-to-be, and their relationship – overcoming distrust and gradually growing mutual dependence – are just washings from the analogous evolution of the Mulder-Scully relationship. Although Doggett himself is quite an interesting character (mainly due to the great Robert Patrick), it is obvious that he was appointed only to fill the void left by Mulder. Even the plot of personal experiences affecting work (kidnapping and death of his son) brings to mind Mulder’s struggle with painful memories of his sister. However, while the eighth season is still defending itself, the ninth is already a clear decline in form. First of all – the character of agent Monika Reyes does not work at all, her cooperation with Doggett and the repetition of the clash of skepticism with openness to the unknown is like a fairy tale that is repeated ad nauseam. Secondly – the subject of the investigative episodes is unbearably stretched, as if the ideas have already run out. All the freshness, verve, brilliance have disappeared somewhere, there is a lack of lightness and humor. There isn’t a single special that compares to gems like Humbug or the Post-Modern Prometheus. There are no sparkling dialogues with specific humor. Reflective comments, if they appear, are no longer an accurate summary of the plot, but art for art’s sake, and for the most part boring and bloated.

the truth is out there

Fortunately, a certain … flash in the thickets of darkness … is the end of the whole thing. The Truth is an episode referring to the best mythological traditions of the X-Files. As a proper series finale, it works well. The characters who accompanied us on the way to the Truth return, flashbacks from previous seasons and the production and scripting treatments characteristic of the series: Mulder’s stubbornness, consistent disregard for the rules, pursuit of the goal despite the danger, the final summary of the complicated relationship with the Smoker, even flashes of old humor . The rehabilitation of Kersh and Krycek may seem a bit surprising, but it makes significant sense in the context of the final solution and “hope after all” – even the “bad guys” in a situation of global threat are now on the same side of the barricade as the “good guys”.

Karolina Chymkowska

Karolina Chymkowska

In books and in movies, I love the same aspects: twists, surprises, unconventional outcomes. It's an ongoing and hopefully everlasting adventure. When I don't write, watch or read, I spend my days as a veterinary technician developing my own farm and animal shelter.

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