Because I review a whole tv series rather than individual episodes, there is a chance of spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the whole series yet, stop reading now!
If The X-Files had made its tv debut in 2012, I genuinely believe it would have been cancelled after season 1. It’s not that season 1 is particularly bad, it just doesn’t really feel like The X-Files that I was obsessed with as a kid. I remember it being a show about monsters, aliens, conspiracies and shady, cigarette smoking men. It does have elements of that but only hints of it. Season 1 is the show trying to find its feet.
The biggest complaint is that it’s so slow. The episodes have a lot of character development, even those that aren’t regulars. The episodes are made up of explanations and interviews rather than full on action that makes up some of the better episodes in the later series.
As a kid, I always remember my favourite episodes being the “monsters” rather than the “conspiracies.” I always liked the episodes where Mulder and Scully faced off against something that was a threat, killing people in an unusual way. Unfortunately, season 1 has very little of this or when it does, it never really hits the heights of episodes I know are coming later.
That isn’t to say there isn’t some of the X-Files magic present in this season. Both Squeeze and Tooms are examples of how to do the classic “monster” episodes very well and seem to be the first attempt at the formula that makes up majority of the seasons. The same for the itch-inducing Darkness Falls which sees Mulder and Scully being placed under-siege by killer bugs. Nothing at all beats the highlight of the season which is undoubtedly Ice, a claustrophobic, “trust-no-one” episode which is tense, scary and brilliant.
I have noticed that as an adult, I’m appreciating the aspect of the show that it became so much more famous for, the alien conspiracy. Here we get episodes that would have bored me as a kid actually interesting me, as I seem to appreciate what they are trying to do, tying a much larger story in-between the “monster-of-the-week” regular episodes. Our first real look at this is the episode entitled Fallen Angel, where Mulder and Scully are chasing aliens in the back of lorries and find a secret testing facility. It has conspiracy, action and misdirection which I know also gets much better as the seasons progress.
It’s actually testament to Chris Carter, the shows creator, that he had the foresight to build a conspiracy at such an early stage. Knowing that “The Smoking Man” and Agent Skinner will be such huge characters, or that Deep Throat and his actions this season will have huge effects in the future, really make you notice when they have very small parts in early episodes. In the case of The Smoking Man, he literally stands and smokes in the pilot episode. You’d never guess he would be a huge character in the later seasons.
The biggest triumph of the show is of course the two main characters. David Duchovney and Gillian Anderson will never get past the iconic Mulder and Scully and its easy to see why. The chemistry between the two and the way their characters go from mistrusting acquaintances to best of friends is something you literally watch develop on-screen. Knowing what happens in season two, it’s a real achievement that they manage to build that relationship so strongly, so early on.
Overall, Season 1 of The X-Files is not a fair reflection of the how good the show actually is. Being a fan as a kid, I know it gets a lot better and I know that it begins as early as season 2. It has glimpses of brilliance in this season but it’s definitely a show that took a little while to find its feet and reach its stride.
Best Episode – Ice, the perfect mix of claustrophobia, terror and a brilliant story. An episode that offers a glimpse at how good things will become.
Best performance – Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully
Should there have been another season? – If I didn’t know what was yet to come, I would probably have said no. I know it gets so much better though!
Season Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)