Monday, November 15, 2010

X-Files--"Pilot"

As promised or threatened, depending on your point of view, the beginning of X-Files reviews. Like Deep Space Nine, I used to watch this show religiously, so expect a generally positive tone. I have not seen some of these episodes in as much as fifteen years, however, so I am anxious to see how well we have all aged.

Dana Scully, who does not remind me as much of Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling as with regards to her viewpoint. generally accepted, is assigned by the FBI to offer a rational, scientific explanation to complement the work of Fox “Spooky” Mulder, a brilliant profiler who has developed an obsession with the X-Files, which are cases involving unexplained phenomena the bureau does not want to spend resources to investigate.

Scully’s first meeting with FBI brass is overseen by the as yet unknown Cigarette Smoking Man. There is an air of menace to him already even though he has less than three minutes of screen time in the three scenes in which he appears.

The first meeting between Mulder and Scully is tense. While reviewing the series, I am attempting to keep future developments out of older episodes. Nevertheless, there is already a sense that there is not going to be an animosity between the two even though Mulder is a true believer and Scully is the rationalist sent to debunk him. Throughout the pilot, Scully is put on the defensive regarding her viewpoints. Their first assignment together is not a typical criminal investigation. The two of them are subtly pushed towards one another even at this early date to an use against them search for the truth.

Mulder and Scully travel to Oregon to investigate the most recent of four deaths from the graduating high school class of 1990. The latest girl was found dead in the woods with two circular markings on her back. The others have had similar ends, but the pararents of the kids, conveniently the sheriff and coroner, impede the two agents at every turn.

All the trappings are here: missing time, electrical power going dead during alleged alien activity, a dug up corpse which is no longer human, and all evidence that cannot be debunked either destroyed or confiscated by unknown conspirators. The revelation to Mulder and Scully is that all the kids were in the woods celebrating their graduation four years ago when they were abducted by aliens. The aliens performed genetic experiments on them, hence the exhumed corpse of one of the kids was no longer human. The final member of the party, the sheriff’s daughter, is kidnapped by the only other surviving member of the group, even though he is in a coma, and taken away in a flash of light. Nevertheless, nothing remains to prove any of it really happened.

The plot introduces the mythology which will run through most of the series. At one point, Mulder explains to Scully his obsession with the X-Files is due to his sister’s disappearance years ago. He believes she was abducted by aliens and the government knows something about the matter, but is covering it up. The my logy will eventually wear out its welcome as it is stretched well beyond the original five year plan, but it is entertaining for a good while there.

As I said above, the pilot has all the elements that will make this series great. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have not settled into their roles yet, obviously, but the chemistry is palpable already. The pilot set the tone well. Much more good stuff to come.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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