The X Files: The Event Series was something of a mixed blessing event at the start of 2016 with the return of one of the most iconic series of the last quarter century featuring episodes both involving and infuriating.
The Production: 3/5
If you’re going to resurrect an iconic series, the smart thing would be to involve as many people from the original work as possible and then stay as true to the mythology which had been established as it’s possible to be. Fox’s The X Files: The Event Series certainly employed many of the key people who were instrumental in creating the nine-season smash hit for the network, but while the six episode reboot which premiered in January 2016 offered some of the pleasures of the original work (bringing back its beloved stars and some of the creature delights typical of the series at its best), other aspects of the show’s mythology (particularly the alien takeover scenario which formed the basis for the show’s foundation for nine seasons and two feature films) have been tampered with and not for the better.
Having once again gone their separate ways, former FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are reunited when a burgeoning conspiracy involving a new direction of human-alien interaction is brought to their individual attentions. Once into investigating, it’s not long before the old basement X Files office is reopened with the two outsiders – the believer and the skeptic – once again ready to scrutinize the paranormal aided by their old boss Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) once again as the stern father figure doling out assignments and sarcasm over his agents’ return to the tarnished FBI division.
The mini-season of six episodes is bookended by the alien conspiracy plotline (now altered to insist that it’s human beings who are using alien technology from decades ago to “thin the herd” and give Earth its fresh start: a narrative arc which lays waste to nine seasons and two movies of stories involving extraterrestrial tampering on Earth with governmental sanction) that will likely anger devoted fans of the series (and if that doesn’t infuriate them, the cliffhanger ending to the series with no more episodes planned despite great ratings for the show probably will). In between, however, are four “monster of the week” episodes which offer the kinds of weird and wacky X Files thrills for which the series is known. The “Garbage Man” episode in particular brings to mind some of the classic creatures from seasons long past, and the “Lizard Man” episode written and directed by Darin Morgan offers the kind of twist on the expected story which gives the show the poignancy and cleverness which were at one time watchwords of the program at its best.
In interviews, the stars expressed an eagerness to return to the roles of their greatest fame, but David Duchovny especially seems less than enthusiastic in performance during some of the episodes. Gillian Anderson overall gives herself over more fully to reinvesting in the Dana Scully character (and her character has the more emotional journey of the duo since she must deal with her mother’s (Sheila Larken) coma during one of the episodes. Mitch Pileggi isn’t given much of importance to do during the show’s return, but William B. Davis as the Cigarette Smoking Man is absurdly brought back from certain incineration at the end of season nine for half of this new mini-season. Were the network eager to bring the show back on a permanent basis, two younger Mulder-Scully clones turn up in the final two episodes of the series: Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose as Agents Miller and Einstein who could pick right up where Duchovny and Anderson left off: he a firm believer in the paranormal and she a devout scientist. They already share wonderful dual chemistry and would make excellent leads for a new series of adventures. Among those famous faces guest starring in these new episodes are Joel McHale, Rance Howard, Doug Savant, Rhys Darby, and Annabeth Gish.
Here are the six episodes contained on two Blu-ray discs in the Event Series set. The names in parentheses are the speakers for that episode’s audio commentary:
1 – My Struggle
2 – Founder’s Mutation (writer-director James Wong, creator Chris Carter)
3 – Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster (writer-director Darin Morgan, actor-podcaster Kumail Nanjiani, stars David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson)
4 – Home Again
5 – Babylon
6 – My Struggle II (writer-director Chris Carter, producer Gabe Rotter)
3D Rating: NA
The program is presented in its widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Superior in every way to the network broadcasts, sharpness is generally excellent (except for occasional soft shots), and color is rich and full with believable skin tones throughout. Black levels are also quite wonderful, and contrast has been dialed in with consistency. Each episode has been divided into 12 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix may not have the overall thrust and power of a sci-fi feature film, but it’s very impressive for a television mix with dialogue solely contained in the center channel and the surround fronts and rears used for Mark Snow’s always interesting and atmospheric music and the thoughtful placement of ambient sounds throughout the soundfield.
Special Features: 4.5/5
Audio Commentaries: three commentaries are offered (see episode list above). None of the three offers exemplary supplemental information on the production of the episode though Darin Morgan’s commentary with super fan Kumail Nanjiani who also acted in the episode makes for by far the liveliest exchanges. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson recorded their comments separately and are edited in at certain moments but have little to say since they hadn’t seen the episode put together and get wrapped up watching it rather than speaking. James Wong’s commentary is rather dull, and Chris Carter’s commentary on the finale does too much explaining of what’s happening on screen.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (5:21, HD): two scenes may be watched separately or in montage.
Gag Reel (9:38, HD)
The Makings of a Struggle (53:35, HD): from the table read through to the final wrap, this behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the two-part alien-based episodes feature soundbites from creator Chris Carter, producers Glen Morgan and Gabe Rotter, production designer Mark Freeborn, director of photography Joel Ransom, editor Heather MacDougall, and stars Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, Mitch Pileggi, Joel McHale, among others.
Season X (1:23:16, HD): key members of the cast and crew of each episode (including the writer, director, and stars) offer background comments on the making of each of the six episodes of the “event series.”
Monsters of the Week (10:54, HD): Podcaster-actor Kumail Nanjiani offers his choices for the nine top monsters from the show, one choice (with accompanying clips) from each of the nine seasons during the show’s original run.
The X Files: Green Production PSA (2:44, HD): a brief vignette on how the cast and crew made concerted efforts to recycle as much as possible during the making of the show in Vancouver.
Grace (9:36, HD): a Twilight Zone style short film created by Karen Nielsen.
The X Files: The Event Series was something of a mixed blessing event at the start of 2016 with the return of one of the most iconic series of the last quarter century featuring episodes both involving and infuriating. The Blu-ray release of the new episodes offers outstanding video and audio presentations and detailed behind-the-scenes looks at the production of the show which fans will undoubtedly savor. But there is no denying that most of us felt the show could have and should have been better.