The X Files is an American sci-fi/drama series that became insanely popular and very quickly gathered a cult following. The show was created by Chris Carter, and premiered on 10 September, 1993. At that time, it sparked a worldwide resurgence for all things supernatural. Suddenly the market in novelty items was flooded with UFO books, t-shirts, models and toys. It also headed the renaissance of science fiction into mainstream media.
The programme tells of a couple of FBI agents investigating 'The X Files'; a filing cabinet's worth of casefiles about unsolved incidents involving seemingly paranormal phenomena. It is explained in the episode 'Travelers' that the files should be filed under 'U' for 'Unsolved', but there just wasn't any room under 'U'. But there was room under 'X' and so that's where they were stored and that's where they have stayed.
There's a consistent theme, covering all the series, which involves the heroes' search for 'the truth', whatever that may be. It seems to involve aliens, an elaborate and convoluted government conspiracy, the disappearance of Mulder's sister, Samantha, when she was eight years old, Scully's brief disappearance in the show's second season, 'black oil', genetically engineered bees and many other indistinct characters and elements.
Of the two agents, Mulder, played by David Duchovny, is the one with real belief in the paranormal, sparked when, as he believes, his sister was abducted by aliens at the age of eight. Mulder started as a bright star in the FBI and was heading straight for the top. This ended when, under hypnosis, he relived the 'abduction' of his sister. Fox 'Spooky' Mulder1 discovered the X Files in 1991 with his then partner, Diana Fowley. Since then, Diana has left him, and eventually returned, but is now working against him and his current partner Scully.
In 1993 Agent Scully, played by Gillian Anderson, was assigned to the X files, mainly for the purpose of debunking Agent Mulder's work, and the series has run from there. Scully2 was trained as a doctor, with a specialty in forensics and has a resolute belief that science can explain anything. Paradoxically, however, she is not a 'Spock' clone who believes that logic and science is everything. She displays more religious beliefs than Mulder, and is more ready to believe in 'supernatural' phenomena, particularly that which is backed by her Catholic faith. Mulder's religious affiliation, however, is very unclear.
The Cigarette-smoking Man
The Cigarette-smoking Man - or 'cancer man', as Mulder calls him - acted by William B Davis, is the heroic duos' main characteristic foil. As his 'name' implies, he is secretive, outside the law and a part of the government conspiracy. Standing in the shadows, wreathed in smoke from a Morleys cigarette, his appearance always heralds danger. Throughout the series the viewer finds that he takes his orders from a secret group that Mulder's father may have been a part of. He also seems to know more than he is telling about the disappearance of Mulder's sister.
Assistant Director Walter Skinner
Once a marine, Assistant Director Walter Skinner, well played by Mitch Pileggi, is an ambiguous character. On the surface he is a 'by the book' man, with a stern sense of duty. Often he is not happy with the unorthodox techniques that investigation of the X Files requires. Who he works for is not known and though the Cigarette-smoking Man can often be found in his office, Skinner has worked against him, helping 'his' agents through 'unofficial' channels.
Now in its seventh season, in the US, The X Files has only marginally lost its appeal. A bunch of hardcore fans watch it without fail all over the world and although some people have tired of the show3, many die hard fans become X Philes - The X Files equivalent to 'Trekkers'.
From the outside, X Philes all seem a bit the same; an homogenous group all sucked into their world of the paranormal. However, it is possible to distinguish between the different groups:
'Scullyist' and 'Mulderist' are common, prefering one of either of the two main characters, though some are advocates of other characters in the show.
'Shippers' - a shortening of 'relationshipper' - believe Mulder and Scully should be romantically involved.
'Noromos' - a composite of 'No' and 'romance' - do not believe Mulder and Scully should be romantically involved.
'Fencers' - taken from 'fence-sitter' - take a neutral stance on the romance issue.
Most hardcore fans prefer the simple, neutral designation of Phile, but those who adopt any of these titles are usually quite devoted to the show, miss few episodes and enjoy discussing the series. Finding mistakes and inconsistencies in the production of the show, or with the theories and facts brought up in each episode is a popular pastime, as are extensive theorizing and analysis of the shows' characters and plotlines. The writing of 'fanfiction' is not uncommon.
The X-Files makes use of both the 'science' and 'fiction' parts of its genre quite extensively. Those involved with the show's writing and production seem to pride themselves on leaving viewers with more questions than answers. If this is done on purpose, or simply because the writers don't know what they're talking about, no one really knows. In general, though, the series is acknowledged to be one of the most intelligent on television today.
Not all the episodes deal with the show's underlying mythology and in the 'stand alone' episodes Agents Mulder and Scully have, over the years, chased everything from vampires to werewolves, from aliens to cockroaches and have even encountered people whose touch means instant fungal death. They have still found the time to uncover - at least partially - a massive conspiracy involving the existence of extraterrestrials which 'reaches down into the lives of every man, woman and child on this planet'.
The X-Files has received many awards and honours, including an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama Series, several Emmys for production and writing, Golden Globe awards for Best Actress and Actor in a Drama Series and Best Drama Series. It has also received honours from the Screen Actors' Guild, Viewers for Quality Television, and the People's Choice Awards.
Although most of the X Files have been series made for television, there was a blockbuster film, The X Files: Fight the Future intended to be viewed between series five and series six and this appears to be the future for The X Files. At the time of writing, season seven promises to be the last on television. Rumours abound that series eight is going to be shot and it is intended that feature films will follow. The X Files isn't done filling us with fear and suspense just yet.