Classic Intel: The X-Files - Season One - DVD Review

'Squeeze (S1E3) and Tooms (S1E21) display a trope which would later become the norm in series like Dexter and CSI'

The X-Files: Season One may not be the best of the nine seasons Chris Carter's creation ran for, but it does boast one of the greatest pilots in television history, an example of the completeness of vision that is obvious often but stretched a little too thin over a twenty-four episode run.

Everything we see over the course of the next twenty-three episodes is established in the very first forty-five minutes. Mulder (David Duchovny) as a reclusive, obsessive alien-hunter, Scully (Gillian Anderson) as the sceptical Christian doctor, the connection and sexual tension between the two, the mysterious cigarette-smoking man (William B. Davis) lurking in the background, the Powers That Be who simultaneously need Mulder and need to keep him quiet. It's all there, the perfect pitch for a full run of a series, the influence of which is still being felt today.

Whilst later series of the show would split their time more evenly between one-off adventures into the paranormal and episodes much more concerned with conspiracy and government cover-ups, here the balance is very much with the former. From Conduit (S1E4) onwards there's very little in the way of alien talk, save Gender Bender (S1E14), a brave episode which pulls an un-needed alien conclusion out of nowhere. The return to conspiracy comes about only in the final two episodes, Roland (S1E23) and The Erlenmeyer Flask (S1E24), the latter proving a wonderful denouement to the series and one of the first times Mulder's work begins to feel genuinely dangerous.

In between the beginning and then the clear highlights prove to be the linked episodes Squeeze (S1E3) and Tooms (S1E21). Displaying a trope which would later become the norm in series like Dexter and C.S.I., Mulder and Scully acquire a nemesis who proves hard to shake, returning after a gap of several episodes. When it aired in 1993, Eugene Tooms' ability to dislocate every bone in his body, squeezing through tiny gaps in home ventilation systems and barred windows, was terrifying. Looking now, the episodes struggle to scare, although, as a villain, Tooms still proves effective.

Elsewhere, Ice (S1E8) and Fire (S1E12) take the too-predictable routes of playing on elemental fears, although the latter is effective and the former works as a homage to John Carpenter's The Thing, the show wearing its Horror roots on its sleeve. The fact that Phoebe (Amanda Pays) from Fire, a mysterious sexually-threatening English lady from Mulder's Oxford past, does not reappear again is a tragedy, she being the only thing that knocks him off guard for much of the series. Eve (S1E11) is arguably the series at its scariest, Beyond The Sea (S1E13) shows the first of many times that the agent's roles are reversed (and hints that Carter will make things personal for Scully too), Born Again (S1E22) is a good mystery, and features Maggie Wheeler (Janice from Friends) as a tough-talking detective.

There's nothing stunningly wrong with Series One, and the plethora of stand-alone episodes make a welcome change from the heavy-going conspiracy the show would eventually turn into, but they're often not quite polished enough, with threat that arrives infrequently. There's some good groundwork here though, which still entertains and the influence this had should not be underestimated.

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