I recently started watching The X-Files for the first time. When it premiered almost 25 years ago, I didn’t watch much TV. But now, working at home and having access to streaming video, binge-watching is one of my favorite things. Since I watch nearly every paranormal/supernatural show I can find, finally watching The X-Files was bound to happen.
Let me be clear about one thing. I do like the show. I’m into season 7 now, so obviously I enjoy it. I’m less clear about why it has achieved legendary status and a reboot. (I’m looking forward to the reboot seasons, though! Another week or so and I should be there.)
Since it premiered in 1993, I expected it to feel dated, and it does, a little. The cars, technology, wardrobe, even the on-screen graphics show it’s not a recent production. I was surprised to find the feel of the show felt dated even for 1993. Then I decided that’s what they were going for. Sort of a noir atmosphere, or a somber Twilight Zone tone. Fine. I can live with that.
But there are still some things that nag at me as I’m watching.
- Scully’s wardrobe. I know it’s 1993 business professional stuff, but were the suits really so boxy then? And collars up to the jaw? Because I’ve seen nuns and Amish grandmothers looking more stylish. I assume Gillian Anderson has a figure under there, but you rarely catch even the faintest hint. I’m not saying dress her up like she’s on The Bachelorettee, but c’mon.
- Lack of facial expressions. I’ll probably catch hell for this, but I don’t think Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are spectacular actors. They’re not bad. They’re just not…great. The lack of facial expressions is almost amusing. It’s like all their emotions are on a dimmer switch set to low. Even when they raise their voices, their faces barely move. It’s almost like a ventriloquist dummy. The mouth moves, and the eyes go back and forth, and that’s it. Sometimes it even looks like they’re trying to speak while moving their mouths as little as possible. Duchovny has at most three expressions. Neutral/brooding, alarmed or excited (which are the same) with slightly widened eyes and open mouth, and worried/angry/furious which involves a somewhat furrowed brow.
- Where’s the humor? I get it, it’s a serious show. But even the most serious, dark shows usually break it up now and then, or have the wacky best friend, nosy neighbor, quirky co-worker, running jokes…something to lighten the tone once in a while. As I’m getting to later seasons, it has improved. There are a few episodes where they break from the weighty story arc, like the time the shapeshifter guy locked Mulder in the basement and put the moves on Scully, or the one where they went to Texas and discovered vampires, and they were each recounting the case from their perspective to Skinner. Mostly, though, it’s dark, dark, dark and kind of oppressive. Oh, The Lone Gunmen? They’re awesome.
- Zero chemistry. Maybe it’s coming, or maybe it’s just never going to happen, but most shows which feature male and female leads usually bring them together eventually. Booth and Bones, for example. They didn’t get together until the start of season 7, but even before then, they had a lot of chemistry. I know, it’s not necessary for them to get together; it doesn’t change the point of the show. But, hey, maybe then they’d show some emotion. Not betting on it, though.
- Are there aliens or not? At this point, I guess there are. There’s that fetus they’re passing around like a dead baby football and using to try to breed hybrids. But it could well turn out to be something else. First, it’s “the government is covering up the existence of aliens.” Then, “the government is pretending to cover up the existence of aliens so people will think that’s what they’re up to and not notice they’re really conducting human experiments.” Now I think it’s “all of the above, but there are actually aliens involved in the experiments.” Maybe. That could change in the next episode.
One thing I really enjoy is watching the list of guest stars after the opening theme. So many actors who have become favorites in other shows appeared on The X-Files back in the day. Mark Sheppard, Laurie Holden, Luke Wilson, Bruce Campbell, Willie Garson, Peter Boyle, Seth Green, Bryan Cranston, Donal Logue, Kurtwood Smith, James Pickens Jr., just to name a few.
So, what do you think? Are you a fan of The X-Files? What do I need to know, or what am I just not seeing clearly? I like it a lot. I’ll keep watching. But I don’t see me getting an “I Want To Believe” tattoo any time soon.