Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Why did Mulder never carry a camera?

In 1994 I watched the first episode of The X Files… and then I watched every single subsequent edition, in order, including the movie.

Everyone raved about it in those early days. Well, everyone except Herschel, who complained that the stories didn’t follow any logic, but I rarely noticed.

When that first gritty realism-trenched season came to its apparent password-inventing close, I remember new friend Diana in Jamaica protesting that it really should have ended with Mulder and Scully dying.

I thought about it. She was right. It should have.

But I was just so pleased that at last someone had made a serious believable science-fiction show that even the general public had recognised as brilliant.

Then in the newspaper I read a review, or a letter or something, that actually slammed the show for lack of realism. Why? Because, the lady argued, in real life Scully would have ripped Mulder’s clothes off as soon as she’d laid eyes on him.

Oh, dear.

Sure enough, the show was becoming super-popular not because of its complex thought-provoking scripts, but because so many airheads took it, quite literally, at face value.

Once this had happened of course, everyone quickly hated it. It’s that mad arrogance that so many of us suffer from, whereby we try to exalt ourselves as superior to the majority, by rubbishing them all whilst they're safely out of earshot.

Although most episodes of The X Files were about the paranormal, for some reason the word that everyone singled-out to ridicule the show’s fans (i.e. me) for, was not ‘aliens’, or ‘demons’ or even ‘supernatural’. No, the word that the show was condescendingly sniggered at for was… (wait for it, you’ll remember it when you read it!)… yes, ’conspiracy.’

The saddest casualty of this random act of sneering was surely the way in which, as I recall, the word was then hastily dropped from the series.

For ages.

And then one day there was this episode with Mulder and Scully sitting in a car on a deserted street somewhere, and Mulder’s coming out with some huge long theory about the upper echelons of the US government’s true agenda, and suddenly Scully says something like “So – you’re saying that there’s a…”

Mulder quietly cuts her off: “Conspiracy?”

And there’s a pause. And the look on Mulder’s face is one of absolute embarrassment. And there’s only one possible motivation for this: it’s because he knows he sounds like a nerdy fan of that embarrassing TV show The X Files.

Which of course is impossible.

And for me, that’s the moment when I realised that the show itself had got a bit scared.

Pushing the conspiracy storyline to the fore, or removing it from the series entirely, would both lose the show a lot of viewers. A very subtle balance had to be maintained.

So the episodes concerning the ongoing conspiracy became ever more tangled, the staple one-off stories continued, and, almost in rebellion, into the mix of each season were thrown half a dozen jarringly-silly comedy episodes. (chatty ghosts, appearances by The Brady Bunch, Burt Reynolds singing a few numbers in Italian, that sort of thing)

But all played with the same constant total conviction.

The marks of a really successful TV series must surely be:

1. It runs a long time.
2. It spawns a spin-off.
3. It survives without its lead actor.
4. It makes episodes that feature none of the regular cast.

How many shows have accomplished all of these four things?

The X Files even made the occasional detour to tie-up the loose ends left in another cancelled series, such as Millennium.

Truly, a continuitologically responsible series.

Finally, after 9 seasons and 10½ years, this morning I watched the very last episode The Truth in which, believe it or not (pun intended), they actually wrapped-up the whole darn 9-year-long conspiracy.

For all its plot-holes, pseudo-science and hazy religious uncertainty, I will miss The X Files. I hope it comes back again and runs forever.

Whether or not Mulder finally gets a camera.

Related Posts:

1. The X Files (TV series)
2. The X Files (1998 film)
3. The Lone Gunmen (TV series)
4. The X Files: I Want To Believe (2008 film)


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