Review – The X-Files Revelations

The X-Files Revelations
Release Date: July 8, 2008
Own it on DVD

Directors: Robert Mandel, David Nutter, Daniel Sackheim, Rob Bowman, Clifford Bole, Kim Manners

Writers: Chris Carter, James Wong, Glen Morgan, Darin Morgan, Frank Spotnitz, John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, John Shiban

Stars: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson

MPAA Rating: Unrated

HoboTrashcan’s Rating:

In this fast-paced world we live in, six years can seem like an eternity. So, with a six year gap between the end of The X-Files television series and the new movie, X-Files: I Want to Believe, there may be some concern that people have forgotten about Agents Mulder and Scully and their never-ending quest for the truth.

So, in order to re-familiarize moviegoers with The X-Files, Fox has released The X-Files Revelations, a collection of eight X-Files episodes selected by series creator Chris Carter and producer Frank Spotnitz. The DVD cover promises that Revelations is the “essential guide to The X-Files movie” and the official press release from Fox claims that this new DVD includes introductions to each episode from Carter and Spotnitz that reveal why each episode was selected and “how they related to the highly anticipated feature film.”

So first, let’s take a look at the eight episodes selected, then I will address whether or not the DVD delivers what it promises:

Pilot
Season One (Originally aired September 10, 1993)

Written By: Chris Carter
Directed By: Robert Mandel

Since X-Files Revelations is hoping to familiarize people with The X-Files, it’s no surprise that they chose to include the pilot episode. In the episode, Dana Scully is assigned to The X-Files to watch over Fox “Spooky” Mulder and to write reports on whatever the two investigate. The episode introduces the two main characters, features a brief cameo by the Cigarette Smoking Man and reveals the details of Mulder’s sister’s abduction.

While the episode itself is an important introduction to the show’s mythology, like most TV pilots, the episode feels off. The story is solid – a group of teens in Oregon who were abducted by aliens begin mysteriously dying – but the way the episode is shot and a lot of the acting in it just seem off. This episode also doesn’t have the series’ trademark opening sequence, it lacks the dark lighting the show became known for and the fashion in it is questionable at best. So, from a storyline perspective, this is an important episode, but if someone was truly unfamiliar with the show and this was their first exposure to The X-Files, this episode might not make a great first impression.

Interesting side note: This episode ends with a Raiders of the Lost Ark-esque closing shot.

Beyond the Sea
Season One (Originally aired January 7, 1994)

Written By: James Wong, Glen Morgan
Directed By: David Nutter

In his introduction to the episode, Chris Carter says that “Beyond the Sea” is one of his favorite X-Files episodes because it showed what the series could be. It certainly is a great episode and one that is leaps and bounds ahead of the pilot. In it, Scully’s father dies unexpectedly and as she continues to try to soldier on and focus on her work instead of her grief, she begins to believe that death row inmate Luther Lee Boggs is actually psychic, even though Mulder is skeptical.

It’s an interesting episode because it features a role reversal for the two main characters. Also, Brad Dourif does a terrific job as Boggs, which really helps to make the episode so memorable. And, while the fashion is still suspect (Mulder wears wacky ties, Scully has shoulder pads and bad hair), this season one episode is much more inline with the signature look the show developed in later seasons.

Interesting side note: When Scully first comes in to work after her father dies, a concerned Mulder actually calls her “Dana,” which doesn’t happen very often.

The Host
Season Two (Originally aired September 23, 1994)

Written By: Chris Carter
Directed By: Daniel Sackheim

For all intents and purposes, this is a fairly standard “Monster of the Week” episode of The X-Files, meaning that it is a stand-alone episode featuring a mysterious creature. In this episode, the monster is The Flukeman, a sewer-dwelling half-man, half-worm hybrid that attacks people in an effort to store its eggs inside of them.

The episode has a few moments, but overall is easily forgettable. However, it’s interesting to watch because it is one of the first episodes to feature AD Walter Skinner and it gives some insight into his personality. In the end of the episode, he is unphased by the fact that the suspect in the case is a sewer monster and is solely interested in how Mulder reports the facts of the case, which throws Mulder for a loop since he assumes Skinner is one of the bad guys.

Interesting side note: This episode also introduces X, Mulder’s mysterious informant.

Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose
Season Three (Originally aired October 13, 1995)

Written By: Darin Morgan
Directed By: David Nutter

This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite episodes of The X-Files. Clyde Bruckman (played flawlessly by Peter Boyle), is an insurance salesman who can see people’s deaths. While Mulder sees this ability as a gift, Bruckman himself considers it a curse. Mulder and Scully need Bruckman’s help to catch a serial killer who is targeting psychics.

In the introduction to the episode, Frank Spotnitz reveals that the first choice for Clyde Bruckman was Bob Newhart. Honestly though, I’m glad they ended up with Peter Boyle because he makes the episode. His interactions with Mulder and Scully are comical, yet sad and he manages to create a very memorable character.

Interesting side note: When determining whether or not Clyde Bruckman is really psychic, Mulder gives Bruckman a piece of his own New York Knicks t-shirt as a red herring, which is the exact same thing Mulder gives to Luther Lee Boggs in “Beyond the Sea” to prove Boggs is a phony.

Memento Mori
Season Four (Originally aired February 9, 1997)

Written By: Frank Spotnitz, John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, Chris Carter
Directed By: Rob Bowman

This episode is part of The X-Files complex mythology. In it, Scully discovers that she has cancer, which is most likely a result of her abduction. While she is in the hospital attempting to fight the disease, Mulder investigates the cause of her cancer and searches for a way to cure her.

Since this wasn’t meant to be a stand-alone episode, it is difficult to judge it on its own, out of context. “Memento Mori” does a great job of exploring Scully and Mulder’s relationship and it is interesting to see how both characters deal with her illness. The episode also features cameos by The Lone Gunmen and the Cigarette Smoking Man, which are always appreciated. While “Memento Mori” may not make a lot of sense to someone unfamiliar with the show, it does showcase the best of what the mythology episodes had to offer.

Interesting side note: In the introduction, Frank Spotnitz reveals that this episode was written at the last minute when a different episode fell through.

The Post-Modern Prometheus
Season Five (Originally aired November 30, 1997)

Written By: Chris Carter
Directed By: Chris Carter

This episode is a modern take on the old Frankenstein movies. Mulder and Scully are called to a small town to investigate a woman’s claim that she was impregnated by The Great Mutato, a monster with two faces. The monster may be the creation of Dr. Pollidori, a mad scientist living in the town (who is played by J. Peterman himself, John O’Hurley).

If I could only show someone unfamiliar with the show one episode of The X-Files, it would be “The Post-Modern Prometheus.” This episode has everything I love about the show – it’s quirky and funny, yet also incredibly touching. Everything about the episode is perfect – including the musical score and the choice to shoot the entire episode in black and white. Though what makes this episode truly memorable is The Great Mutato’s obsession with Cher, who he feels would love and understand him because of her role in Mask.

Interesting side note: Both Cher and Roseanne expressed an interest in being in The X-Files, so this episode was written for both of them to star in, but neither one of them took the roles written for them.

Bad Blood
Season Five (Originally aired February 22, 1998)

Written By: Vince Gilligan
Directed By: Clifford Bole

“Bad Blood” is a comedic episode of The X-Files that centers around a pizza delivery boy in a small town who Mulder believes is a vampire. The episode begins with Mulder driving a stake through the pizza guy’s chest, only to discover that the vampire fangs in his mouth are fake. The rest of the episode is told in Rashômon fashion, with Mulder and Scully getting their stories straight before meeting with Skinner.

What makes this episode great is the way that Mulder and Scully see each other. The way David Duchovny plays Scully’s over-exuberant version of Mulder and the way Gillian Anderson plays Mulder’s cold, impatient version of Scully are hilarious. The episode is so well done that I am willing to forgive them for giving the pizza delivery vampire neon green eyes, which looks cheesy as hell.

Interesting side note: This is Gillian Anderson’s favorite episode of the series.

Milagro
Season Six (Originally aired April 18, 1999)

Written By: Frank Spotnitz, John Shiban, Chris Carter
Directed By: Kim Manners

While Mulder and Scully investigate a series of murders involving a killer who rips out his victims’ hearts with his bare hands (think Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), a writer living next door to Mulder reveals an unsettling obsession with Scully. As they continue to investigate the crimes, Mulder begins to suspect that the writer next door is actually the killer.

The writer character, Phillip Padgett, is incredibly creepy and annoying – he is one of those pretentious, self-important writers who fills his prose with flowery language (he actually describes Scully’s hair as “titian”) – and it’s hard to believe that Scully would take an interest in him and defend his innocence to Mulder when Padgett clearly seems like an unstable stalker.

This is another episode where the roles are reversed and Mulder is the skeptic while Scully is the believer, so thematically it feels like a retread of “Beyond the Sea,” which is a superior episode. By no means is “Milagro” bad, but I’m not sure why Spotnitz and Carter chose to put it on this DVD when they were only allowed to select eight episodes. It just seems like there are better episodes out there that they could have selected. (Although, what do I know? According to Chris Carter, this is Sean Penn’s favorite episode in the series.)

Interesting side note: Carolyn Keene often describes Nancy Drew’s hair as “titian.”

Overall, I think Carter and Spotnitz did a great job showcasing the wide range of The X-Files. The episodes on this DVD range from serious to comedic and from suspense to science fiction. For people unfamiliar with the show or those looking to reconnect with the series after six years apart, this DVD will certainly help to serve as a refresher course before seeing I Want to Believe.

However, the claim that this DVD is an “essential guide to The X-Files movie” is dubious. While Carter and Spotnitz do give their reason for selecting each episode on this DVD, they never address how the episodes tie-in to the film. It seems that Carter and Spotnitz simply selected eight of the best episodes from the series to showcase what The X-Files has to offer, but there is certainly nothing contained in the DVD that provides any insight into the new film. Outside of a trailer for the film and some discussion of it on the Wondercon panel included in the special features, I Want to Believe is barely mentioned on the DVD. (Although the DVD does come with a free ticket to see the new film, which is a nice perk.)

If you were looking to pick up this DVD to help you prepare for the new film, I suggest you save your money. But, if you are a fan of the show who doesn’t already own the complete series on DVD or someone new to The X-Files who wants to know what all of the fuss is about, this is a worthwhile purchase.

Written by Joel Murphy, July 2008. X-Files Revelations is currently available on DVD. X-Files: I Want to Believe opens in theaters July 25.

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