"Dana, after all you've seen, after all the evidence, why can't you believe?"
"I'm afraid. I'm afraid to believe."
-excerpt from Beyond The Sea-
In the spirit of the 20th Anniversary celebration of all things The X-Files we return with The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 10: The X-Files Season One.
The X-Files debuted on September 10, 1993 and changed television as we knew it. After looking at Season One here and a closer look at Season One, Episode 13, Beyond The Sea here it seemed a good opportunity to lay down my ten personal favorites of that inaugural first season that started it all.
It was a pleasure to look back at both Season One and Season Two of The X-Files. Perhaps a more thorough analysis of that powerful, game-changing first season is in order, unfortunately it is unlikely to happen for me any time soon and thus a retrospective seemed the appropriate antidote.
Each episode of Season One is memorable and yet despite some flaws it's clear it was entirely successful in what it set out to achieve. David Duchovny felt there were some good episodes in that first season, but ultimately saw Season Two as the moment The X-Files became "the best show on television."
Season One does feel as though it is "groping in the dark" with "a real grab-bag of different kinds of episodes," as Chris Carter described it in The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide To The X-Files (p. 31), but these outstanding shots in the dark laid the foundation and framework for The X-Files approach. It may be an imperfect season, but first seasons are rarely this memorable or this good at being effectively and refreshingly creepy and original while touching upon classic horror tropes and reworking conventions or classic material into the unconventional and unexpected.
Writer/producer Frank Spotnitz noted quite accurately in SciFiNow #84, "You can go back and look at the pilot and it says very clearly what the show is." Chris Carter added, "You can actually see the whole mythology in three episodes in the first season, and that really sets up the entire mythology" (p.61). Season One does just that, it established the mythological foundations of the beloved series.
As I enjoy my look back at all nine seasons of The X-Files over time I'll make efforts to deliver my personal BIG 10 for each season.
Selecting ten of the best isn't easy because The X-Files Season One is an exceptional first season by any standards. It is dark, well-choreographed, wonderfully creepy and beautifully compelling science fiction with that wonderful UFOlogical-based mytharc. It really doesn't get much better than that.
So here we go with The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 10 for Season One of The X-Files.
10. Squeeze (Glen Morgan, James Wong).
9. Deep Throat (Chris Carter).
8. Eve (Kenneth Biller, Chris Brancato).
7. Ice (Glen Morgan, James Wong).
6. E.B.E. (Glen Morgan, James Wong).
5. Fallen Angel (Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa).
4. Darkness Falls (Chris Carter).
3. Pilot (Chris Carter).
2. The Erlenmeyer Flask (Chris Carter).
1. Beyond The Sea (Glen Morgan, James Wong).
Chris Carter enthusiastically underscored the strength of the first season from a writer's perspective by noting its all-star cast of scribes. "Those hires ended up becoming a big reason the show was a hit. ... They were smart, they understood the show, they understood the genre, and they helped me and the show get onto its feet," referring to Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon (Homeland), Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) and of course Morgan and Wong (Space: Above And Beyond). "We were crawling in the beginning and... all those writers were fundamental to the show's success and existence" (SciFiNow #84, p.63).
It's interesting to note that four selections each belong to Morgan and Wong and five to Chris Carter. If you frequent Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic you know my affection for the work of both Glen Morgan and James Wong. If you are looking to get more insight into the minds of these wonderful writers, Chris Carter included, you can discover more in analysis and interviews in the fabulous publication Back To Frank Black: A Return To Chris Carter's Millennium (2012) with a heavy emphasis on the work of Morgan and Wong who were instrumental in Millennium Season One and as show runners for Season Two of that aforementioned series.
What exactly is happening here in Ice? Something about this feels a little hot.
Regarding The X-Files' Season One there are other episode selections that have so many redeeming qualities here that while imperfect deserve honorable mention for being solid on many fronts from performances to endings including Gender Bender (Larry Barber, Paul Barber), Tooms (Glen Morgan, James Wong), Young At Heart (Scott Kaufer, Chris Carter), Conduit (Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa), Fire (Chris Carter) and Roland (Chris Ruppenthal).
There is a genuine homage throughout The X-Files Season One taking classic images and ideas and reworking them into something classic and entirely original in its own right.
That is my take on the very best of The X-Files Season One. There is plenty in this first season of television that welcomes revisitation just as soon as the aliens return me home.
For a series wide overview of the best and worst check out this list from SciFiNow here.