Sunday, September 10, 2023

The X-Files at 30 - Close Encounters of the First Kind


Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the airing of the first episode of my favourite TV series - The X-Files. I've talked about The X-Files multiple times on this blog, and you know how obsessive I am, but as it's the anniversary I couldn't help but talk about it again.

Bear in mind that it's not really the thirtieth anniversary for me. Over here in the UK we had to wait just over a year before that first episode aired on BBC2. However, to mark the anniversary I thought I'd do a series of posts about it, picking out my favourite episodes and memories of the series. 

The best place to start is at that very beginning - my first contact with the series. I was obsessed with TV series in my teens. I LOVED TV. I fell in love completely with Moonlighting, watched every episode of Midnight Caller making notes of great lines of dialogue, and then along came Twin Peaks. When I left school I didn't go off to university immediately, and was kinda left behind, trying desperately hard to write RPGs or draw comics, and spending my weekends renting VHS movies by the armful. I watched the VHS of the UK 'Twin Peaks' movie, was immediately hooked and loved every second, so when the actual series started airing in the UK I was faithfully recording them on my parents' VHS so I could watch them over and over again (I still have them somewhere, though I'm guessing the tape has probably degraded a bit now).

This started a trend in me - FBI agents investigating weirdness. Sign me up! Dale Cooper was everything I wanted to be in life, and I couldn't believe it when they left us hanging for so long.

Eventually, I went off to art school, or university as it is now, and even there my love of Twin Peaks influenced my projects (graphic design projects to explain something became complicated flowcharts explaining the relationships in the series). I started buying Wrapped in Plastic magazine, and this only fuelled my love of the series. 

Now, bear in mind I didn't have access to the internet then, and the UK was a whole year behind the States, but whispers of this new series called The X-Files had made it over the waters, and when Wrapped in Plastic dropped that issue looking at The X-Files as well as Twin Peaks, I knew this was a series I had to check out. 

Besides, one of the leads of this new series was iconic in Twin Peaks (as DEA Agent Denise Bryson). That issue featured an episode guide, and interviews, and I knew reading what was in store on The X-Files that I had to watch it. 

Eventually, a year after the States, BBC2 aired the first episode. I have a distinct memory of this as the adverts on TV had already made it look awesome, and a fellow student at art college/uni was also a fan of all things UFOlogy and weird. Debs and I were already dating back then, and we were invited over to this student's flat (we'll call her Caroline, even though that's not her name) to watch. Snacks at the ready, TV tuned in, we all watched, engrossed in the episode.

The Pilot

What is there to say about The Pilot that hasn't already been said? Rewatching it now I can remember the feeling of seeing it that very first time. When the opening caption saying "The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts" came on screen I knew I was in for something cool. And I wasn't wrong, when the leaves are swirling around and he light shines down from the sky? Heck yes... I was grinning like a school kid.

The introduction of Mulder and Scully was great, they had a dynamic and a chemistry straight away on the screen, and I instantly loved them both. 

But there was one moment, out of all the cool scenes in The Pilot, that stood out and I remember as the moment when I knew my life would never be the same again. Mulder and Scully investigate the forest where the abductions are alleged to have taken place, but are forced to leave by local law enforcement. On the drive back the radio bursts into life, there's a blinding light, and we see these freeze frames of the agents shielding their eyes in the car. The lights go out, the car has stopped, and they're just at the X in the road Mulder painted earlier in the episode, and Mulder realises they've lost nine minutes of time. 

That was the moment I knew this was the coolest thing I'd seen since Twin Peaks and I had to watch every episode religiously. 

Going by that issue of Wrapped in Plastic, I knew that The X-Files had already taken the US by storm, and had quickly become a favourite. We may have been a year late in the UK, but I was eager to make up for lost time.


Happy Anniversary to The X-Files, here's to thirty more years searching for the truth.

1 comment:

Marcus Bone said...

Can only but agree... I vividly remember watching the pilot and the session 2 finale also sticks in my mind (as in I remember exactly where I saw them). Funnily enough I really dislike the Mythology episodes when I first watched them (preferring the 'Monster of the Week' ones), however in subsequent rewatches I've grown to enjoy the mythology to the point where I've created a playlist that focuses on them alone.

Not sure if I'll be around in another 30 years, but hopefully X Files will be :)