Friday, July 13, 2007

Dear X-Files, sometimes you make me sad

I thought enough time had passed. I thought I'd finished with the three stages of X-phileism which are, as we all know, love, confusion and "what the hell was that all about?" But yesterday I had the urge to watch Fight the Future and I succumbed to that urge, only to find myself in the "what the hell" stage all over again. None of it makes sense! None of it! There's bees and there's a virus and Martin Landau urinating in an alley, and then there's more bees and cavemen and a giant space ship and just kiss already, for God's sake!! It's enough to make you crazy.

I was a devoted X-phile for all nine years. And don't get me wrong, I still love the show. There are a lot of great things about it. First of all, there was David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson who made Mulder and Scully the mournful, sardonic, repressed modern-day equivalent of Nick and Nora Charles. Mulder and Scully were great characters: flawed to the nines, self-absorbed yet heroic and devoted to one another. ("Scully's trapped in an alien ship in the Arctic, and I've just been shot in the head? Hand me my parka!") Their partnership, romantic or otherwise, made the show.

And then there was the comedy. Few "serious" shows brought the unexpected yet intentional funny better than The X-Files. You had brilliant Darin Morgan episodes like "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" which featured Peter Boyle as an actuary who could predict enough of the future to foresee people's deaths, but not enough to see those winning lottery numbers. You had "Jose Chung's From Outer Space," and "War of the Coprophages" with the cockroaches from outerspace and "Humbug," with Jim-Jim the Dog Face Boy and a town of circus freaks far more normal than most people. And best of all, you had a drugged Mulder singing the theme to "Shaft."

And the show could be scary, too. "Home" with the murderous, in-bred Peacock family and their limbless, insane mother hiding under the bed -- well, that freaks me the hell out ten years after the fact. And serial killer Donnie Pfaster in "Irresistible." I've never be able to look at Nick Chinlund, the actor who played Donnie, without thinking of that show. He could play the god of puppies and fluffy kittens and buttermilk pancakes, and I'd still think "psycho killer."

But here's where The X-Files blew: the conspiracy. I stopped understanding it around season four, and I'm pretty sure the writers stopped understanding it around season three. Not all the mood lighting or Well-Manicured Men in the world was going to make that mythology make sense. Mulder's kidnapped sister became a star in the sky? Barren Scully with her eggs in Mulder's refrigerator has a miracle baby...but it might be an alien? Cigarette-Smoking Man was killed how many times?


I'm sure it's difficult to produce a product that stopped making sense three years into the game, but that doesn't mean I don't feel enraged every time series creator Chris Carter shoves a stick through the spokes of my little TV viewer's bicycle. The sad part is that the show could have been even better than it was, but they just never took it to that next level. The level where logic lives. And for that I shake a rolled-up newspaper at Carter, rub his nose in "Gesthemane," and say, firmly, "Bad producer! Bad!"

All I can say is, I hope the second movie makes sense. And I hope Mulder sings "Shaft."


Shan said...

By all the rumblings I've heard, the second movie is going to be entirely "stand alone" and have nothing to do with the "conspiracy." I'm sure they'll make a few references to it, since, ya know, the world was gonna end a few years after the last show. But I hope they are sly, "wink-wink" references that poke fun at the bloated mess that throughline became. I'm like you, I LOVED that show (hell, my cat's name is Mulder) but found the conspiracy utterly incomprehensible. There are still the "Home" and "Bad Bloods" that are landmark TV, and I'll put the X-Files stand alones against anything on TV. But really, how hard would it have been to plot the alien story out? Even if it's bad, have it make SENSE. Sigh.

Liz said...

So true! I've been relieved to hear those rumors about a stand-alone plot as well. And heck, Carter probably doesn't even remember the conspiracy at this point anyway, so we're probably safe. I just want to see Mulder and Scully chasing monsters and cracking wise. They can have my $8.75 times ten for that.

Anonymous said...

The X Files was a freaking amazing show. I don't think there will be anything like it again. I love everything about it and can find myself immersed completely in the conspiracy eps due to their epic scale. I disagree about your comment on 'Gethsemane', The Redux-Gethsemane trilogy was just television gold.
I've never seen another show end in such a climatic way.

Liz said...

I agree 100% that X-Files was an amazing show. It's one of my top three all time favorites, alongside Buffy and West Wing. That's why it was so frustrating for me when I knew what their potential was and they didn't always meet it with the conspiracy. Even saying that, I loved most of the conspiracy episodes up until the end of maybe season five. I think it was after the movie that things started to seem a bit wonky to me. And by the end, it was just a mess. I really liked all the character moments in the finale, but I was just so angry that basically the last two hours of this amazing show was just a recap set in a courtroom. There was so little resolution. I think that finale is what actually left me with the bad taste in my mouth, although I was happy that Mulder and Scully ended up together. That said, though, I'm really looking forward to the movie and it's going to be great to see two of my favorite characters again. It truly was an amazing show.

Monica said...

The X-Files is without a doubt my favorite show of all time, and even I can't piece together the conspiracy and make it really make sense. This past winter/spring I even tried rewatching the series and taking NOTES, to no avail. Despite my huge amount of dorkyness and devotion, still no dice. For me, my love of the show always has come from the characters and the pure originality of the series. I can't wait to see some of that brought back in a second movie, and I think that leaving the tangled conspiracy out of it will produce something that captures the true spirit of the show.

Anonymous said...

Fact is, there may never be another movie. If there is, it'll have to be standalone, because nobody could possibly make sense of the mytharc after all this time, and all those wrong turns.

Don't assume because you hear Chris Carter or one of the actors say there's some kind of movie in the works that there actually IS one. They all stand to get paid no matter what kind of business a movie does. The studio would be the ones putting the money up. Last I heard, they were not all that enthused about an X-Files movie written and directed by Chris (I screwed up the only successful TV show I ever had) Carter and maybe you've noticed that Duchovny and Anderson have not had a successful project between them in the past five years?

I agree that the show was more or less over by season four. I wish it had ended even sooner.

wendelah1 said...

I came over here from Live Journal. I am a fan of The X-Files, but I didn't start watching seriously, as in buy all 9 seasons in box sets, until 2005. Starting back in 1993,I watched for the first couple of seasons, but there must have been a conflict when the show moved to Sunday night, because I definitely lost track of it after that. Oddly enough I started watching the show in order to understand the fanfiction, and got completely sucked in. First I was watching the show at 5 pm on the SciFi channel, then I was staying up nights to tape the show on TNT, then the thin boxes were released on dvd, and it was all over but the shouting. I don't think it is really possible for a show that is about aliens to make sense in the usual sense of that term. A little more internal consistency would have been nice, though. I do love the characters of Mulder and Scully. I understand all too well what it is like to be in a relationship with a man who is obsessed with his, well, whatever his latest obsession is. Currently he is obsessed with all things Latin: the language, the culture, novels about ancient Rome. I am hoping to at least get a trip to Italy out of this one.