The X-Files – The complete series Blu-ray Review
I have a running list of the top TV shows of all time that I regularly debate with my friend and I always get stumped when the conversation turns to The X-Files. On one hand, the show has some of the best single episodes in television history, managing to capture humor, horror, mystery and suspense all in one 42 minute episode. On the other hand, the entire series lacked direction and it felt at times the showrunners were just making things up as they went along. So I could easily pick 100 episodes that would blow anything else out of the water. Unfortunately, the series ran for 202 episodes, so I’m not sure a 50% success rate is enough to consider the entire run “great”. But I have to admit; I had a blast revisiting The X-Files.
The premise of the show focuses on FBI agent Mulder (Duchovny) who is obsessed with finding his lost sister, who he believes was abducted by aliens. After an immensely successful early career, Mulder is rewarded by the FBI and given the X-Files program. The X-files are a series of cases that all have mysterious circumstances, from alien encounters to monster sightings. To help him with his investigations, the FBI assigned Agent Scully (Anderson) to be his partner. At first, she’s skeptical and feels like she’s being punished, but it doesn’t take long for her to realize there’s some truth to the mysteries in the X-files cases.
There are two types of X-files fans; some fans love the individual, standalone episodes. These are the episodes that always begin with Mulder telling Scully about some crazy event and then the two run off to investigate. The other types of fans are the ones that love the “drama” episodes. In The X-Files, there are a few running plots that last the duration of the series, such as the search for Mulder’s sister, the proof of alien life or the various conspiracies and cover-ups. I’ve always been a fan of the “drama” episodes as I like to see characters grow and develop over the course of a season or series. But that’s really where The X-Files failed.
The problem I have with The X-Files, at least when discussing its greatness, is that it didn’t go anywhere. Fans stood by for nine seasons while nothing got resolved and every answer came with a series of questions. I attribute this to a lack of planning and laziness on the part of Chris Carter and the rest of the show’s writers. By not closing anything out, they afforded themselves the opportunity to revisit any storyline anytime they got a case of writer’s block. Although this might have seemed like a good idea, it burned them in the long run, most notably with the second movie. The other major issue with The X-Files was the fact that it had, in my opinion, the worst series finale in television history. We suffered through the ninth season without David Duchovny, only to have him show up for the finale screaming nonsense in an episode that looked like it was written by someone that had not seen a single episode. It was very frustrating.
But when The X-Files was on, it was up there with the best of them. David Duchovny is one of the best television actors of his generation and he carried every single episode. Gillian Anderson looked lost for the first couple of seasons, but when the show hit its stride, she was incredible. There was also an intense chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson and that chemistry alone saved many episodes. I enjoyed revisiting the series again on Blu-ray and Fox needs to be applauded for giving fans such a great set.
Video: So, I guess this is where there’s some controversy with this Blu-ray set. Hardcore fans of the show might remember that the first four seasons of The X-Files were presented in a full frame aspect ratio. Well, ALL nine seasons are presented in the traditional widescreen format (1.78:1). Fans have gone a little nuts with this news and I’ll point out two things. First, this is supposedly the way they were intended to be shown in the first place according to cinematographer John Bartley. Second, the show looks fantastic and if I had to choose between this and the original full frame version, I would choose this every time.
Audio: Likewise, this is the best we’ll ever get in terms of audio quality.
There are nine seasons worth of special features on this disc with most seasons duplicating the same types of features. So I’ll cover the gist of what each feature goes over. My one complaint about this set is that all of the special features are spread out randomly. I would have liked to have all the special features on a couple of discs and episode-specific features like deleted scenes and commentaries on the individual discs.
Commentaries: 32 commentaries are somewhat evenly spread out over the nine seasons, although the latter seasons seem to get more. Chris Carter shows up for most of them while others have the writers. I especially enjoyed hearing Kim Manners talk about her shows, but everyone seems to like talking about their episodes.
Chris Carter introductions: Carter shows up for a few minutes every season to talk in general terms about that season. These were nice, but I would have liked the option of watching them all together. There are also some show-specific introductions, which serve as mini-commentaries.
International Clips: Select episodes have some short clips of what the show looked like in various languages. Not sure this was necessary, but a fun feature nonetheless.
Deleted Scenes: There are a handful of deleted scenes sprinkled throughout the set. I didn’t see anything that stood out, but more X-Files is never a bad thing.
Behind the Scenes Clips: Another random sampling across the nine seasons shows some behind the scenes footage from the show.
Documentary: The truth behind season X: Each seasons gets about a ten minute “documentary”. Again, something I would have liked to watch all at once, but these occasionally offered some interesting tidbits.
FX featurettes: These cover a wide range, but last between 5 and 15 minutes. Some of them cover a specific episode and others cover a specific sequence within an episode.
Threads of Mythology: Things like black oil and abductions are covered in these 30 minute featurettes. They focus on the running mythology of the shows and it’s impact to the series.
There are also some random featurettes on some seasons like “Inside the X-Files” on the sixth disc of season 5. These feel a little out of place and maybe a little overkill after countless hours of X-Files.