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17 March 2011 @ 02:12 pm
Rediscovering the X-Files: A Photo Essay  
Catching up on S1 of Fringe recently did more than simply fill the speculative fiction hole in my TV schedule. Watching Olivia and the Bishops race against time to solve supernatural mysteries was awfully familiar and yet not. It filled me with a certain nostalgia that led me to be reunited with my past love and first fandom experience, The X-Files.

In the last few months, I decided to re-watch my favourite XF episodes from my favourite seasons S3-S6. For the most part the experience was like reaching into my closet and finding my favourite old jeans still fit. Scully! Mulder! Skinner! Samantha! The Gunmen! Krycek! Marita! CSM! Grrr Fowley! Grrr Bill Scully! It is amazing what I had forgotten. I used to know every detail of the mytharc. I knew dialogue by heart, some of which came back as I watched. I also discovered a few things about myself that I had forgotten. I thought I would share the highlights of my passionate trip down memory lane, including my crushes, my favourite episodes, my fandom lie, and some fic recs. Please be warned, there are spoilery references.



The Beginning



Mulder: Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI's most unwanted.
Scully: Agent Mulder. I'm Dana Scully. I've been assigned to work with you.
Mulder: Oh, isn't it nice to be suddenly so highly regarded. So who did you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully?
Scully: Actually, I'm looking forward to working with you. I've heard a lot about you.
Mulder: Oh, really... I was under the impression that you were sent to spy on me.


I fell in love with the X-Files in 1997 during my second year of university, midway through the airing of S4. I believe my interest in the show was sparked by an EW cover story. I watched the show obsessively that year and caught up with old episodes as best I could in an era where downloading, Netflix and DVD box sets did not exist. Eventually I tracked down every episode and for the next three years, I was captivated.

My interest in XF faded in mid to late S7, around the time it became clear the mytharc, which held so much of my interest, had become a tired enigma wrapped in a convoluted conundrum. Coupled with the post-S7 loss of Mulder, who for me represented much of the urgency and drive for storytelling, everything from Requiem onward fell flat. I stuck it out through most of S8 and then just stopped watching.

When I quit a show, I usually go cold turkey. No more fic. No more re-watching beloved old episodes. It’s almost like everything good that I loved before is tainted by my disappointment. I taped the series finale but watched it in fast forward. Up until recently, I never saw the second movie. With the exception of watching The Ghosts Who Stole Christmas a few times, I had not seen an episode in twelve years.

If Princess Leia was my childhood heroine, Scully was my first grown-up girl crush



Scully: Please explain to me the scientific nature of the whammy?


During my first time watching XF, Scully was a revelation to me and still remains so today. She is a scientist and a scholar. She values critical thinking. She is determined, loyal, and brave. These are all things I’ve always strived toward. I remember buying a navy blue pants suit after graduation, ostensibly for an interview, but also because I felt I could capture some of Scully’s authority and character while wearing it.

Watching the episodes again, I still love her so much and I’m bothered by the way Scully never got as much respect from story or Mulder. In the span of episodes I re-watched, Mulder frequently dismissed Scully’s opinion or abandoned her or generally made it all about him! I wish Scully would have called Mulder on his shit more often. But I also respect that she is not a drama queen. Back in the 1990s, when I was not so confident about my feminism, I remember thinking something was wrong about how often the stories placed her in vulnerable situations based on her gender. (This time around the number of cases dealing with rape or attempted rape really bothered me, especially since it was really only a backdrop for something else or used in the playful episodes like Small Potatoes or Post-Modern Prometheus.)

At the same time Scully’s directness and fierceness led the way for other strong heroines. I’m still in awe at how little Scully barks orders and get things done and frequently saves her partner from doing something stupid.

My favourite Scully episodes: Christmas Carol and Momento Mori

Oh Mulder



Maurice: Cause you're a lonely man. A lonely man chasing paramasturbatory illusions that you believe will give your life meaning and significance and which your pathetic social maladjustment makes impossible for you to find elsewhere. You probably consider yourself passionate, serious, misunderstood. Am I right?


I think Maurice nails Mulder with this unflattering observation. Yet in spite of his self absorbed and asshole behaviour, I truly liked and cared for him. He charmed me with his unmasked vulnerability and willingness to do anything to find the truth. I admit to then and now being swept away by the handsome rebel persona, but I also appreciated his wit and snark. I loved him best as a frantic brother and dedicated partner. When it mattered, he was always there for Scully.

My favourite Mulder episode: Paper Hearts (This was also the first episode I ever saw!)

Remember how many times I claimed not to be a shipper? Apparently I lied!



Mulder: You... were my friend, and you told me the truth.
Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant*... my touchstone.

Scully: And you are mine.


I loved XF for a lot of reasons, and a big one was because I completely believed that Mulder and Scully belonged together and the series was their journey to that point. Don’t dare tell me otherwise! Seeing the episodes again made me realize how much squee (before I knew that word existed) poured out of me at every little touch, remark, special look or near kiss (damn bee!). If anything can be said about the progress of the series after I stopped watching, at least it ended with them together. So yeah, when it comes to Mulder and Scully, I am totally a shipper.

*Ahem, Darlton, before Penny and Desmond claimed that word, Mulder and Scully were the ultimate constants; their one in five billion.

My favourite shippy episode: Redux II

In XF, Crack is Canon



Mulder: Yeah, I had a praying mantis epiphany and, as a result, I screamed. No, not... not a girlie scream, but the scream of someone being confronted by some before unknown monster that had no right existing on the same planet I inhabited. Did you ever notice how a praying mantis' head resembles an alien's head? I mean, the mysteries of the natural world were revealed to me that day, but instead of being astounded, I was... repulsed.

Scully: Mulder... are you sure it wasn't a girlie scream?


I loved the mixture of genres that X-Files played with. What other show went from jolly to terrifying to silly to perplexing week to week? I love that XF had such a tongue in cheek sense of humour that gently mocked its premise and stars. Now that I can no longer take mytharc episodes seriously, I think the lighter episodes are my favourites. Waterbeds! Alex Trebek as a Man in black! Luke Wilson’s buck teeth! Cher! Time travelling Nazis! Baseball! Rob and Laura Petrie! The geek! Bambi! Sure. Fine Whatever.

My favourite humour episode: Bad Blood – this may be my favourite episode of all time.

Things that go bump in the night



Mrs. Peacock: I can tell you don't have no children. Maybe one day you'll learn...
the pride... the love... when you know your boy will do anything for his mother.


Despite being funny quite often, the XF is the only TV show to ever give me chills. It’s maybe best that I did not start watching in S1 and S2 with all those classic monster of the week episodes - The Fluke worm, Tombs, the Eves. I may have been scared off. I remember watching Duane Barry late one night when my husband was out of town. Bad idea. The scenes of his alien abduction really freaked me out. After the episode was over, I turned off the TV and sat frozen on the couch. I was scared to walk to my bedroom in the dark. While I was trying to sum up the courage, out of nowhere the TV turned on by itself. Yikes! Needless to say, I did not sleep well that night.

In my re-watch I was most disturbed by the concept, violence and imagery in Home. I would write more but I don’t even want to think about it!

My favourite scary episode: Duane Barry (1990s) and Home (now).

The Truth is Out There: Philosophy 101



Jose Chung: And though we may not be alone in the universe, in our own separate ways, on this planet we are all alone.


I was quite taken by how the series explored the concept of truth. I am referring more to the narrative technique than the literal truth Mulder so desperately sought. XF was full of unreliable narrators, from Chris Carter himself to the CSM. As a history student then and a historian now, I appreciate how storytelling on XF frequently sifted through evidence, memory and agendas to show how difficult it is to find out what happened.

Jose Chung from Outer Space is a great example of this narrative play. Here we see a variety of different perspectives answering what happened to Chrissy and Harold, two kids driving home one night who had an experience hat changed their lives. Was it pre-marital sex? Date rape? Alien Abduction? Faked Alien Abuction? Real + fake alien abduction? Is Scully a mandroid? We’ll never know for sure! But it made for entertaining and provocative viewing. If I ever teach a course on Historical Narratives, I would show that episode.

My favourite thoughtful episode: Jose Chung from Outer Space

From Gossamer to Sparky’s Doghouse to RaTales



Scully: It's a good story, Mulder, and very well told, but I don't believe it.


Re-watching the series triggered nostalgia for XF fic too. As much as I enjoyed writing and reading Lost fic, the culture of that fandom was very different that what I knew before. If I had to generalize, most Lost fic are relatively short introspective character or romantic pieces. There is nothing wrong with that, and I can understand why people avoided writing plot driven stories, especially ones that delved in the murky island mythology. Still I missed the variety of story types and the long, often novel length size of stories commonly found in XF fic, at least when I was around in the late 1990s.

I also loved the breadth of XF “gen” fic which included subgenres such as horror, supernatural, AU, sci-fi, adventure, conspiracy-driven, humour etc. My favourite fic were the post-apocalyptic stories that took place after the predicted alien invasion. I also liked that many of these complex plotty stories wove in romantic elements too.

My memory is not great, but a few fics still stand out after all these years. One memorable series was Rachel Anton’s World Without End, an exciting post-invasion tale that presented a realistic context for a Scully/Krycek relationship, while still respecting the Mulder/Scully connection. I also really loved Torch’s classic Mulder/Krycek story Ghosts which I think was the first slash story I really loved.

I only ever wrote three of my own fic (under a different name), an AU story, a Krycek-centric series (featuring *gasp* a Mary-Sue original character) and a short humour piece. In looking over some XF fic sites on LJ, I was shocked to find my very first fic being recommended. I re-read it and was pleasantly surprised to feel it held up well.

Speaking of Krycek...



Krycek: Well, look who's answering the bat-phone..


So you can see from those above fic recommendations, I was totally a Krycek fangirl. Even so much that as a Mulder/Scully shipper I’m remembering Mulder/Krycek and Scully/Krycek stories before anything else. Yup, I was captivated by Alex Krycek, especially in S4-S6 when he was at his unpredictable best as a triple agent and solo player. And he is oh so hot, especially when he is being beaten by Mulder and Skinner or speaking Russian or leering at Mulder or fucking Marita or kissing Mulder. I expected upon my re-watching to be less impressed with him, believing to be embarrassed by giddy younger self. But no, I fell completely under his spell again. If I had a fic muse anymore I would be tempted to write a XF/Lost crossover where Alex meets Richard Alpert.

My favourite Krycek episode: The Red and the Black & Patient X

So there you have it! My little trip down X-Files memory lane. You can go home again, but just not to the Peacock residence.
 
 
Current Mood: lovedloved
 
 
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elliotsmelliot: X Files Scullyelliotsmelliot on March 17th, 2011 07:44 pm (UTC)
Growing up I was fascinated/terrified by the idea of alien abductions, so XF hit a real nerve for me. The show definitely has a formula - investigate something spooky - but the format for how that happened was never fixed.

Did you start watching S1? I imagine it is hard to get into the series right away because there is slow build to the serialized story and character relationships. Plus now the early years look so dated. For me, the show didn't really find its pacing until S3, but that is not to say there are not great moments early on too.
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elliotsmelliot: X Files Mulderelliotsmelliot on March 17th, 2011 07:53 pm (UTC)
If you ever give it another shot, I recommend starting with a season 4 episode called Paper Hearts as it gives a good sense of the show at its best. That's the first episode I saw and I was hooked.
Vanzettivaznetti on March 17th, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC)
Well, this takes me back...
elliotsmelliot: X Files Mulder Krycekelliotsmelliot on March 17th, 2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
Doesn't it? I've been reminiscing a lot about our time together in RaTales.
ozmissage: XF. Mulder/Scully.ozmissage on March 17th, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC)
Your nostalgia is making me nostalgic. ;)

(This time around the number of cases dealing with rape or attempted rape really bothered me, especially since it was really only a backdrop for something else or used in the playful episodes like Small Potatoes or Post-Modern Prometheus.)

I've always considered "Post-Modern Prometheus" my favorite episode. It made a big impression on me when it aired the first time and the experience of watching it stuck with me over the years. The thing is, I was ten/eleven the first time I saw it. I remember seeing it a few times when I was teenager, but it wasn't until I revisited it on Netflix recently and watched it as an adult that I picked up on the disturbing themes of the ep. It makes me sad because I feel like all of the things that I loved about it (the use of b&w, the playful narrative) have been tainted now.

I loved XF for a lot of reasons, and a big one was because I completely believed that Mulder and Scully belonged together and the series was their journey to that point. Don’t dare tell me otherwise! Seeing the episodes again made me realize how much squee (before I knew that word existed) poured out of me at every little touch, remark, special look or near kiss (damn bee!).

YES. Their friendship/relationship was always the main draw for me and I blame them for every friend/partner ship I've obsessed over since. But in a good way. :)

I feel like I was too young to appreciate Krycek at the time, but I'm sure if I ever do an organized rewatch I'll fall for him.
elliotsmelliot: X Files Mulderelliotsmelliot on March 18th, 2011 02:18 pm (UTC)
I would count Post-Modern Prometheus among my favourites too. I really love the style of the episode. However, watching it so soon after Small Potatoes rubbed me the wrong way. In both episodes rape is simply the backdrop to tell a sympathetic and playful story about the "monster" rapist. And to make that story work, all the women have to end up content because it gave them a baby. Really? (Though I am never clear if it is Mutato or his grandfather who is doing the impregnating and if it was through sex at all.)Anyway, it is a really weird choice, especially given how fertility and medical rape is portrayed with Scully. Hmmm...maybe I have enough for another academic article here!

I blame them for every friend/partner ship I've obsessed over since. But in a good way. :)

It's funny, I have become less obsessive. Maybe that is because I have yet to feel as strongly toward another couple - though Jim/Pam, Roslin/Adama, Josh/Donna and Ned/Chuck came close.

It would be interesting to know if Krycek catches your eye in the future!
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elliotsmelliot: X Files Mulder Scully Sadelliotsmelliot on March 18th, 2011 02:19 pm (UTC)
Well, now you can forever bring up my shippy past whenever I say I don't understand you!

The Chrissy and Harold episode are among my top 3! Aw, you BF is an XF fan.
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elliotsmelliot: Mad Men Peggy Peteelliotsmelliot on March 18th, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC)
I am a lapsed shipper. We'll see if I get caught up in the spirit again.

The 2nd movie was pretty bad!
luna481516: Richard Starbucksluna481516 on March 18th, 2011 12:09 am (UTC)
I enjoyed your retrospective so much! I had small children during the X-Files run, and there was NO way I was going to have those monsters on the TV screen while they were still up (and I raised night owls so they were frequently up at 9 pm on Sundays) so I didn't see it consistently but always liked it. In recent years I've caught up on SciFi reruns and committed a lot to DVD - all out of order, though, which doesn't help understand the alien mythology much - but after asking an X-Phile friend for an explanation, I realized it didn't make much sense anyway.

During my first time watching XF, Scully was a revelation to me and still remains so today. She is a scientist and a scholar. She values critical thinking. She is determined, loyal, and brave.
This continues to be my conception of Scully and I didn't notice the few times she was made into a damsel in distress. Maybe because Mulder was missing and on the edge of death just as many times - it seemed pretty equal opportunity jeopardy.

In my re-watch I was most disturbed by the concept, violence and imagery in Home. I would write more but I don’t even want to think about it! Word. That's probably the most disturbing episode. Hence my first point about not having it on while the kids were awake!

I loved XF for a lot of reasons, and a big one was because I completely believed that Mulder and Scully belonged together and the series was their journey to that point. Don’t dare tell me otherwise! Seeing the episodes again made me realize how much squee (before I knew that word existed) poured out of me at every little touch, remark, special look or near kiss (damn bee!).
I didn't ship them, but I appreciated the subtlety in their interaction and above all how far they would go for each other. Their frequent failure to reach each other by cell phone (they had those cool flip phones while the rest of the world had bricks) was symbolic of their almost-but-not-quite romance for most of the run, missing each other's signals at the wrong times.
But there was an episode opening where Scully is voicing a letter to her son about Mulder, about how it is to find your soulmate, your opposite, the part that completes you. It's gorgeous.
Some of my favorite eps were the Ghosts Who Stole Christmas, Clyde Bruckman, Arcadia, and the one where Scully is in a coma and sees her father while she's in a rowboat.

Krycek! I despised him for what a traitor he was. But you should see "V" - he turns up as Elizabeth Mitchell's ex-husband and he's a good guy! And a Krycek/Richard crossover - that would be great!

I think it's a given that X-Files will stand the test of time as one of the all time great series. Thank you for the memories!


elliotsmelliot: X Files Scullyelliotsmelliot on March 18th, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
XF is definitely not kid friendly! It's a wonder you saw any episodes at all!

all out of order, though, which doesn't help understand the alien mythology much - but after asking an X-Phile friend for an explanation, I realized it didn't make much sense anyway.

For a while I thought I got it, but there were too many retcons with the CSM/consortium folk to make it work.

That is an interesting symbolism with the cellphones about them never connecting.

My re-watch is out of order because I was missing several S3 episodes, so I think the last episode I watch will my Clyde Bruckman which will be very fitting.

I don't watch V, but I was flipping channels and was like what is Krycek doing with Juliet? Except the scene I saw does not suggest he will be back! Too bad, he is a good actor.

Thanks for reading!
the story girl: X Fileseponine119 on March 18th, 2011 12:45 am (UTC)
Oh, the memory lane was lovely. All the quotes and so many of my favorite things.

I find it really interesting that most of your favorite episodes are from the later years, around the time you started watching. Most of my favorites are from season 3, which is the season I started with. Maybe that's just how it goes.

I still haven't seen the second movie.
Does World Without End hold up? I loved that fic.
elliotsmelliot: X Files Scully BBelliotsmelliot on March 18th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
Maybe that's just how it goes.

Although I watched Lost from the beginning, my favourite seasons are 3 & 4, which was was I was active in fandom. Maybe that has something to do with it too.

I would not recommend the second movie!

Does World Without End hold up? I loved that fic.

It's bookmarked for me to re-read again soon. But I have read it since I've been on LJ and it held up. I think it was a conversation with you about your XF fic that sparked me to look for it a few years ago.
a geek in such the wrong way: x-files-I want to believehaldoor on March 19th, 2011 02:39 am (UTC)
Thanks for this! it was really interesting to read the standpoint of someone involved in fandom! I was a huge XF watcher but had never even considered fandoms back then when I didn't have a computer (Lost was my first true fandom!).

I love how well you know it all and how much thought you gave to it all. I'm such a shallow fan that names of episodes mean absolutely nothing to me and I couldn't even tell you what the ones I remember are called! I also have this problem with cute guys, wherein I'll watch anything for a guy who gets my heart racing... ;-P

I started watching from S1 because David Duchovny reminded me of Richard Gere (yes, I have been his fangirl forever), and I like SF stories, but the interactions between Mulder and Scully drew me in as much as anything from there. I didn't watch all of it because back in 1995 my hubby (we weren't married yet!) and I took Spanish lessons on XF night and had to skip it (we didn't even have a video recorder then!), so I never managed to fully appreciate what was happening with a lot of the mytharc from there on in, but I guess I preferred the one-off shows anyway.

Not long ago, we managed to catch a few episodes on an offbeat kind of channel here, and all I could think was how YOUNG Mulder looked!

I also loved Krycek and wish I'd followed the show better to understand more about him! (and see him more with Mulder because I definitely liked them in a slashy way but didn't fully appreciate the possibilities of things like fanfic, which I had no idea about way back when!).

The creepiest episode for me, which is the only one I have any clarity on after all these years(!), probably because it creeped me out so much, is the one where that woman was kept under the bed and she'd borne children to her own sons.

There were a lot of great moments though, and I do hope to revisit the whole of XF through DVD again one day.

Anyway, thanks again; this was great!

Edited at 2011-03-19 02:41 am (UTC)
elliotsmelliot: X Files Mulder Krycekelliotsmelliot on March 19th, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading. I debating even posting because I didn't know if anyone would be interested.

Lost was my frist true fandom too. I only dabbled with XF because of limited internet access and extreme shyness. I only participated in a very niche listserv for Krycek fans.

It's funny that you mention Richard Gere. I watched Pretty Woman this week with my students and noticed the resemblance. I have never been a Gere fan, though I once saw him in person and was truck by how beautiful he was in real life. Oh wait, I did like him in Sommersby!

Practically every scene Mulder and Krycek share is super slashy. I think the impossibility of a relationship between them, given Krycek killed his father, make it interesting. But a good writer could make it work.

The creepiest episode for me, which is the only one I have any clarity on after all these years(!), probably because it creeped me out so much, is the one where that woman was kept under the bed and she'd borne children to her own sons.

Yes! That's the one I was referring to, Home. *Shivers*

Thanks again for reading and sharing your thoughts.
a geek in such the wrong way: x-files-I want to believehaldoor on March 20th, 2011 08:01 am (UTC)
See what I mean about names of episodes! *shivers too* It definitely freaked me way out, so I'm kind of glad to hear I'm not the only one!

Thank you again for reminding me how much fun fandom can be! (and how great XF was)
elliotsmelliot: X Files Mulderelliotsmelliot on March 20th, 2011 11:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks again for reading. It's been neat hearing about how other people watched the show.
siluria: XFiles_Ponderingsiluria on March 21st, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
My first XF ep was either Blood or SLeepless, from S2, can't remember which but I was hooked from that (and obsessed when it came to getting the other half to tape record the eps while I was at Uni). A friend recently watched the whole boxset and admitted that no-one, anywhere, can complain about UST in their shows when stood next to an X-Phile :) I didn't see much of S7, and I've seen one episode of S8 and nothing of S9. Although I've seen both movies, I haven't seen the last ep - I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

Thank you for reminding me about my first fandom love xx
elliotsmelliot: X Files Scullyelliotsmelliot on March 22nd, 2011 09:02 pm (UTC)
Aw Sleepless, isn't that the one with the infamous red speedo?

I'm glad we are passed the era of taping episodes on VHS.

Didn't Mulder and Scully invent UST?

Thank you for reminding me about my first fandom love xx

Thanks for reading!
tiphanyigap on November 1st, 2011 10:41 pm (UTC)
Great post! I want to see a follow up to this topic

elliotsmelliot: X Files Mulderelliotsmelliot on November 2nd, 2011 12:11 am (UTC)
Thanks!