The X Files – 20th Anniversary

Posted: September 9, 2013 in TV series
Tags: , , , , , ,

It seems like was yesterday, but the TV series “The X Files” is turning 20 years this month.

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What it was (just in case of you have being born in another planet)

“The X-Files” is an American science fiction horror drama television series. It is part of “The X-Files” franchise, created by Chris Carter. The program originally aired from September 10, 1993 to May 19, 2002, spanning nine seasons and 202 episodes (see the list of all episodes and the movies clicking here). The series recounted the exploits of FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) who investigate X-Files: marginalized, unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena. In addition to the series-spanning story arc, “Monster-of-the-Week” episodes formed roughly two-thirds of the episodes. In such stand-alone episodes, Mulder and Scully investigated strange crimes that had no effect on the show’s mythology, though the episodes enriched the show’s background.

“The X-Files” was inspired by shows like “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, “The Twilight Zone”, “Night Gallery”, “Tales from the Darkside” and especially “Kolchak: The Night Stalker”. When creating the main characters, Carter sought to reverse the usual gender stereotypes and made Mulder a believer and Scully a skeptic. For the first seven seasons, the show featured Duchovny and Anderson equally.

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In the last two seasons Anderson became the star, while Duchovny appeared intermittently, following a lawsuit. New main characters were introduced: FBI agents John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish). Mulder and Scully’s boss, Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), also became a main character. The first five seasons of “The X-Files” were filmed and produced in Vancouver, British Columbia, but the series eventually moved to Los Angeles, California to accommodate Duchovny.

“The X-Files” was a hit for the Fox network; initially it was considered a cult show, but eventually gained mainstream popularity. By the time it ended, the show had become the longest-running science fiction series in U.S. television history. The series spawned a spin-off show, and two feature films. The series received largely positive reviews from television critics, although its long-term story arc was criticized near the show’s conclusion. The series won multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Awards, and Duchovny and Anderson received multiple award nominations with several wins. It became a popular culture touchstone, tapping into public mistrust of governments and large institutions and embracing conspiracy theories and spirituality.

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Trust no one

“The X-Files” follows the careers and personal lives of FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Mulder is a talented profiler and a firm believer in the supernatural. He is also adamant about the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life and its presence on Earth. This set of beliefs earns him the nickname “Spooky” and an assignment to a little-known department that deals with unsolved cases, known as the X-Files. His belief in the paranormal springs from the claimed abduction of his sister Samantha Mulder by extraterrestrials when Mulder was 12. Her abduction drives Mulder throughout most of the series. Because of this, as well as more nebulous desires for vindication and the revelation of truths kept hidden by human authorities, Mulder struggles to maintain objectivity in his investigations.

Agent Scully is a foil for Mulder in this regard. As a medical doctor and natural skeptic, Scully approaches cases with complete detachment even when Mulder, despite his considerable training, loses his objectivity. Her initial task is to debunk Mulder’s theories, supplying logical, scientific explanations for the cases’ apparently unexplainable phenomena. Although she is frequently able to offer scientific alternatives to Mulder’s deductions, she is rarely able to refute them completely. Over the course of the series, she becomes increasingly dissatisfied with her own ability to approach the cases scientifically.

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Various episodes also deal with the relationship between Mulder and Scully, originally platonic, but that later develops romantically. Mulder and Scully are joined by John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) late in the series, after Mulder is abducted. Doggett replaces him as Scully’s partner and helps her search for him, later involving Reyes, of whom Doggett had professional knowledge. “The X-Files” ends when Mulder is secretly subjected to a military tribunal for breaking into a top-secret military facility and viewing plans for alien invasion and colonization of Earth. He is found guilty, but he escapes punishment with the help of the other agents and he and Scully become fugitives.

Government denies knowledge

As the show progressed, key episodes, called parts of the “Mytharc”, were recognized as the “mythology” of the series canon; these episodes carried the extraterrestrial/conspiracy storyline that evolved throughout the series. “Monster-of-the-Week” – often abbreviated as “MOTW” or “MoW” –  came to denote the remainder of The X-Files episodes. These episodes, comprising the majority of the series, dealt with paranormal phenomena, including cryptids and mutants; science fiction technologies; horror monsters; and satiric/comedic elements. The main story arc involves the agents’ efforts to uncover a government conspiracy to hide the existence of extraterrestrials on earth and their sinister collaboration with those governments. Mysterious men comprising a shadow element within the U.S. government, known as “The Syndicate”, are the major villains in the series; late in the series it is revealed that The Syndicate acts as the only liaison between mankind and a group of extraterrestrials that intends to destroy the human species. They are usually represented by The Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), a ruthless killer and a masterful politician and negotiator and the series’ principal antagonist.

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As the series goes along, Mulder and Scully learn about evidence of the alien invasion piece by piece. It is revealed that the extraterrestrials plan on using a sentient virus, known as the black oil, to infect mankind and turn the population of the world into a slave race. The Syndicate – having made a deal to be spared by the aliens – have been working to develop an alien-human hybrid that will be able to withstand the effects of the black oil. The group has also been secretly working on a vaccine to overcome the black oil; this vaccine is later revealed in the latter parts of season five, as well as the 1998 film. Counter to the alien colonization effort, another faction of aliens, the faceless rebels, are working to stop alien colonization. Eventually, in the season six episodes “Two Fathers”/”One Son”, the rebels manage to destroy the Syndicate. The colonists, now without human liaisons, dispatch the “Super Soldiers”: beings that resemble humans, but are biologically alien. In the latter parts of season eight, and the whole of season nine, the Super Soldiers manage to replace key individuals in the government, forcing Mulder and Scully to go into hiding.

x-files-pilot-1993The first autopsy we never forget. Scully and Mulder on The X-Files Pilot on September 10, 1993.

The truth is out there

Fox Mulder (David Duchovny):

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Mulder is an FBI special agent who believes in the existence of extraterrestrials and a government conspiracy to hide the truth regarding them. He works in the X-Files office, which is concerned with cases marked as unsolvable; most involve supernatural/mysterious circumstances. Mulder considers the X-Files so important that he has made their study his life’s main purpose. After his abduction by aliens at the end of season seven, his role in the show diminished and much of his work is taken on by Agent John Doggett. Duchovny appeared in an episode of “The Lone Gunmen” and both the 1998 film “The X-Files” and the 2008 film “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”.

Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson):

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Scully is an FBI special agent, medical doctor and scientist who is Mulder’s partner. In contrast to his credulity, Scully is a skeptic, basing her beliefs on scientific explanations. As the series progresses, she becomes more open to the possibility of paranormal happenings. In the latter part of the eighth season, her position in the X-Files office is taken by Agent Monica Reyes, and Scully moves to Quantico to teach new FBI agents. She appeared in both “The X-Files” feature films.

Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi):

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Skinner is an FBI assistant director who served in the United States Marine Corps in the Vietnam War. During this time he shot and killed a young boy carrying explosives, an incident which scarred him for life. Skinner is originally Mulder and Scully’s direct supervisor. He later serves the same position for Doggett and Reyes. Although he is originally portrayed as somewhat malevolent, he eventually becomes a close friend of Mulder and Scully. He appeared in an episode of “The Lone Gunmen” and both “The X-Files” feature films.

John Doggett (Robert Patrick):

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Doggett is an FBI special agent who makes his first appearance in the season eight episode “Within”. Doggett served in the United States Marine Corps from the 1970s to the 1980s. Later, he started to work with the New York Police Department, reaching the rank of detective. After his son’s death, he joined the FBI’s Criminal Investigations Division. In 2000, Alvin Kersh assigned him to the X-Files office as Scully’s partner after an unsuccessful task force attempt to find Mulder.

Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish):

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Reyes is an FBI special agent who was born and raised in Mexico City. She majored in folklore and mythology at Brown University and earned a master’s degree in religious studies. Her first FBI assignment was serving on a special task force investigating satanic rituals. She is a longtime friend of Doggett’s and becomes his partner after Scully’s departure. Reyes was last seen in the New Mexico desert in 2002, where she warns Mulder and Scully of the arrival of Knowle Rohrer.

The Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis):

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The Cigarette Smoking Man is the series’ primary villain. In the seventh season episode “Requiem”, The Smoking Man is believed to be killed after being pushed down a flight of stairs by Alex Krycek until the series finale “The Truth”, where Mulder and Scully travel through remote New Mexico and reach a pueblo where a “wise man” reputedly lives and is revealed to be the Cigarette Smoking Man. Later he is killed by a rocket shot from a helicopter. He appears in the 1998 feature film.

The Lone Gunmen:

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The Lone Gunmen are Richard “Ringo” Langly (Dean Haglund), Melvin Frohike (Tom Braidwood) and John Fitzgerald Byers (Bruce Harwood). Described as counterculture patriots, they were ardent conspiracy theorists, government watchdogs and computer hackers who frequently assisted central X-Files characters Mulder and Scully, though they sometimes had their own adventures. The Lone Gunmen authored a news publication called The Lone Gunman (once referred to as The Magic Bullet Newsletter; a pejorative reference to the single bullet theory and, like the group’s name, a reference to the Kennedy assassination), to which Mulder loyally subscribed. They also starred in a short-lived spin-off, also called “The Lone Gunmen”.

Paranormal activity

California native Chris Carter was given the opportunity to produce new shows for the Fox network in the early 1990s. Tired of the comedies he had been working on for Walt Disney Pictures, a report that 3.7 million Americans may have been abducted by aliens, the Watergate scandal and the 1970s horror series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker”, triggered the idea for “The X-Files”. He wrote the pilot episode in 1992. Carter’s initial pitch for “The X-Files” was rejected by Fox executives. He fleshed out the concept and returned a few weeks later, when they commissioned the pilot.

Carter worked with “NYPD Blue” producer Daniel Sackheim to further develop the pilot, drawing stylistic inspiration from the 1988 documentary “The Thin Blue Line” and the English television series “Prime Suspect”. Inspiration also came from Carter’s memories of “The Twilight Zone” as well as from the “The Silence of the Lambs”, which provided the impetus for framing the series around agents from the FBI, in order to provide the characters with a more plausible reason for being involved in each case than Carter believed was present in “Kolchak”.

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David Duchovny had appeared as a cross-dressing DEA agent in “Twin Peaks” and the Mulder character was seen as a parallel to that show’s FBI Agent Dale Cooper. Duchovny had worked in Los Angeles for three years prior to “The X-Files”; at first he wanted to focus on feature films. In 1993, his manager, Melanie Green, gave him the script for the “pilot episode” of “The X-Files”. Green and Duchovny were both convinced it was a good script, so he auditioned for the lead. Duchovny’s audition was “terrific”, though he talked rather slowly and while the casting director of the show was very positive toward Duchovny, Carter thought that he was not particularly intelligent. This inspired him to ask Duchovny if he could “please” imagine himself as an FBI agent in “future” episodes. Duchovny, however, turned out to be one of the best-read people that Carter knew.

Gillian Anderson auditioned for the role of Scully in 1993. “I couldn’t put the script down,” she recalled. The network wanted either a more established or a “taller, leggier, blonder and breastier” actress for Scully than the 24-year-old Anderson, a theater veteran with minor film experience. After auditions Carter felt she was the only choice. Carter insisted that Anderson had the kind of no-nonsense integrity that the role required. Anderson rewarded his insight by winning numerous awards: the Screen Actors Guild Award in 1996 and 1997, an Emmy Award in 1997, and a Golden Globe Award 1997.

David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson Created by Chris Carter

The character Walter Skinner was played by actor Mitch Pileggi, who had unsuccessfully auditioned for the roles of two or three other characters on The X-Files before getting the part. When the actor auditioned for Walter Skinner, he had been in a grumpy mood and Pileggi’s attitude fit well with Walter Skinner’s character, causing Carter to assume that the actor was only pretending to be grumpy. Pileggi later realized he had been lucky that he had not been cast in one of the earlier roles, as he believed he would have appeared in only a single episode and would have missed the opportunity to play the recurring role.

More than 100 actors auditioned for the role of John Doggett, but only about ten were considered. Lou Diamond Phillips, Hart Bochner and Bruce Campbell were among the ten. The producers choose Robert Patrick. Doggett’s presence did not give the series the ratings boost the network executives were hoping for. The eight season episode “This is Not Happening” marked the first appearance of Monica Reyes, played by Gish, who became a main character in season nine. Her character was developed and introduced due to Anderson’s possible departure at the end of the eighth season. Although Anderson stayed until the end, Gish became a series regular.

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Glen Morgan and James Wong’s early influence on “The X-Files” mythology led to their introduction of popular secondary characters who would continue for years in episodes written by others: Scully’s father, William (Don S. Davis); her mother, Margaret (Sheila Larken); and her sister, Melissa (Melinda McGraw). The conspiracy-inspired trio The Lone Gunmen Byers, Frohike and Langley (Bruce Harwood,  Tom Braidwood and Dean Haglund) were also secondary characters. The trio was introduced in the first season episode “E.B.E.” as a way to make Mulder appear more credible. They were originally meant to only appear in that episode, but due to their popularity, they returned in the second season episode “Blood” and became recurring characters. William B. Davis’ character, The Cigarette Smoking Man, was initially cast as an extra in the pilot episode. His character, however, grew into the main antagonist.

I want to believe

The music was composed by Mark Snow, who got involved with “The X-Files” through his friendship with executive producer R.W. Goodwin. Initially Chris Carter had no candidates. A little over a dozen people were considered, but Goodwin continued to press for Snow, who auditioned around three times with no sign from the production staff as to whether they wanted him. One day, however, Snow’s agent called him, talking about the “pilot episode” and hinting that he had got the job. The theme, “The X-Files”, used more instrumental sections than most dramas. The theme song’s famous whistle effect was inspired by the track “How Soon is Now” from The Smiths’ 1985 album Meat Is Murder. After attempting to craft the theme with different sound effects, Snow used a Proteus 2 rack-mount synth with an effect called “Whistling Joe”. Listen the full X Files theme here.

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The opening sequence was made in 1993 for the first season and remained unchanged until Duchovny left the show. Carter sought to make the title an “impactful opening” with “supernatural images”. These scenes notably include a split-screen image of a seed germinating as well as a “terror-filled, warped face”. The latter was created when Carter found a video operator who was able to create the effect. The sequence was extremely popular and won the show its first Emmy Award, which was for Outstanding Graphic Design and Title Sequences. Producer Paul Rabwin was particularly pleased with the sequence and felt that it was something that had “never [been] seen on television before”.

The opening sequence ends with the tagline “The Truth Is Out There”, which is used for the majority of the episodes. The tagline changes in specific episodes to slogans that are relevant to that episode. The first of these was “Trust No One” in “The Erlenmeyer Flask”. Other examples include: “Everything Dies” in “Herrenvolk”, “Believe to Understand” in “Closure”, and “They’re Watching” in “Trust No 1”. See above all the taglines. You can read the full list of taglines and the best X Files quotes just clicking here.

believe-the-lieTrust No One – “The Erlenmeyer Flask”
Deny Everything – “Ascension”
Éí ‘AaníígÓÓ ‘Áhoot’é – “Anasazi” (“The truth is far from here” in Navajo)
Apology is Policy – “731”
Everything Dies – “Herrenvolk”
Deceive Inveigle Obfuscate – “Teliko”
E pur si muove – “Terma” (“And still it moves” in Italian)
Believe the Lie – “Gethsemane”
All Lies Lead to the Truth – “Redux”
Resist or Serve – “The Red and the Black”
The End – “The End”
Die Wahrheit ist irgendwo da draußen – “Triangle” (“The truth is out there somewhere” in German)
In the Big Inning – “The Unnatural”
Amor Fati – “Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (“Love of fate” in Latin)
Believe to Understand – “Closure”
Nothing Important Happened Today – “Nothing Important Happened Today II”
erehT tuO si hturT ehT – “4D” (“The Truth Is Out There” backwards)
They’re Watching – “Trust No One”
Dio ti ama – “Improbable” (“God loves you” in Italian)

See or remember how were the classic opening titles (and try not to whistle while you watch):

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Remember the first dialogue between Mulder and Scully in “The X Files Episode Pilot” (10 September, 1993):

Third Man: Are you familiar with an agent named Fox Mulder?
Scully: Yes, I am.
Third Man: How so?
Scully: By reputation. He’s an Oxford educated psychologist, who wrote a monograph on serial killers and the occult, that helped to catch Monty Props in 1988. Generally thought of as the best analyst in the violent crimes section. He had a nickname at the academy… Spooky Mulder.
Section Chief Blevins: Are you familiar with the so-called X-Files?
Scully: I believe they have to do with unexplained phenomena.
Dana_Scully_meets_Fox_MulderSection Chief Blevins: More or less. The reason you’re here, Agent Scully, is we want you to assist Mulder on these X-Files. You’ll write field reports on your activities along with your observations on the validity of the work.
Scully: Am I to understand that you want me to debunk the X-Files Project, sir?
Section Chief Blevins: Agent Scully, we trust you’ll make the proper scientific analysis.
[Scully knocks at the door to Mulder’s office.]
Mulder: Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI’s most unwanted.
Scully: Agent Mulder. I’m Dana Scully. I’ve been assigned to work with you.
Mulder: Oh, isn’t it nice to be suddenly so highly regarded. So who did you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully?
Scully: Actually, I’m looking forward to working with you. I’ve heard a lot about you.
Mulder: Oh, really… I was under the impression that you were sent to spy on me.
Mulder: Do you believe in the existence of extraterrestrials?
Scully: Logically I would have to say no. Given the distances need to travel from the of reaches of space the energy requirements would exceed a spacecraft’s capabilities …
Mulder: Conventional wisdom…

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Inside the X Files

“Inside the X Files” was a doccumentary broadcasted by Fox network in 1998 to promote the 5th Season and the first The X Files movie “Fight the Future”. Watch and look for more videos with interviews and behind the scenes on this YouTube Channel The X Files Forever.

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Famous Rolling Stones cover with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson:

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Recent photo of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson to celebrate the 20 years of “The X Files”:

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Mulder and Scully (1993):

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Mulder and Scully (2008):

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David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and The X Files creator Chris Carter (2008):

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Dream Team of the X Files writers:

x-files-writers-reunionThis photo was taken in a recent reunion this year. From left: Howard Gordon (“Homeland”), Steven Maeda (“Helix”), Darin Morgan (“Fringe)”, David Amann (“Castle”), John Shiban (“Hell on Wheels”), Greg Walker (“Vegas”), Jeff Bell (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Vince Gilligan “(Breaking Bad”), creator Chris Carter (“The X-Files: I Want to Believe”) and David Duchovny (“Californication”).

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (Comic-Con 2013):

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Text: Wikipedia. All photos: Google.

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