A Study in Sci-Fi

The X-Files’ Impact

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M. Balmes

Molly Balmes explores another staple in the Sci-Fi world.

Molly Balmes

FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are two of the most well-known characters in all of television history. Countless comparisons and allusions in movies, books, and media are inspired by the revolutionary 1990s TV series “The X-Files.” 

When its first episode aired in 1993, “The X-Files” asked questions many people had not even thought to ask yet in the world of cable TV. With its dynamic characters, thrilling plots, and risky ideas, it is a landmark in the genre of sci-fi

The series centers around the cases FBI agents Mulder and Scully investigate, with what became known as “Monster of the Week” episodes and “Myth arc” episodes, which tie into a larger plot explored throughout the series. Almost every staple of sci-fi media like aliens, ghosts, supernatural creatures, and even government conspiracies are covered frequently on the show. 

One of the unique things about “The X-Files” is the variety of styles and concepts it explores through its original nine-season run. Episodes vary from the dramatic tale of a murderer who attacks by squeezing through air ducts to the humorous story of a vampire-infested town told from the drastically different perspectives of Mulder and Scully. It even has an episode that is banned from being shown on TV after its first airing due to its graphic and terrifying nature. 

What makes the show stand out are the amazing performances by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, who portray Mulder and Scully, respectively. The agents are two highly complex characters that carry the show on their backs, which is a hefty challenge for any actor. 

Duchovny and Anderson humanize the strange world that the agents explore and add a layer of emotional connection that leaves the show in the minds of viewers even 20 years after its premiere. 

While the show overall is a creative landmark that holds up throughout time, there are a few episodes that have aged like milk. The season 1 episode “Gender-Bender” focuses on a killer that can change their gender, leading to a transphobic plot that was underwhelming and more than a little cringe-worthy. 

Similarly, the season 7 episode “First Person Shooter” has a risky concept centered around a video game program turned killer, but the experience crumbles under today’s eyes when the viewer sees the truly atrocious visual effects. What might have been mind-boggling for 2000 just looks tacky in 2022 and makes it difficult for the audience to enjoy the already bizarre episode concept. 

Despite its occasional stumble, “The X-Files” is really something special. It took risks and challenged the competition to live up to its excellency. It has a huge positive impact on sci-fi, reigniting the spark of creativity for the genre that was beginning to die out. 

“The X-Files” is a unique and fascinating show that leaves viewers on the edge of their seats, still rooting for Mulder and Scully all of these years later.