I find it doubtful that anyone who is reading this is unaware of The X-Files. FBI Special Agents Mulder and Scully have been investigating alien conspiracies and other gooey paranormal criminals for seven years now. This box set from 20th Century Fox contains all 24 episodes from the first season.
All these episodes take place before the complicated and sometimes frustrating continuity was set up. Yes, this is before Krycek's multiple escapes from death (who does he think he is, the Master from Doctor Who?), before Scully's pregnancy (either one), and before we found out that Samantha was kidnapped by fairies (what the hell was that all about?).
As with any TV show, The X-files starts off pretty rocky. The Pilot is particularly rough, with an unfocused alien presence and a blurry conspiracy, and the second episode, Deep Throat, has an ending almost as bad as "It was all a dream." The third episode, Squeeze, established that the show would be about more than the alien conspiracy, which was probably a darned good thing.
From there the show develops slowly into a form much more recognizable. How slowly? Well, the trench coats don't show up on both agents until episode 11, Eve. It's also about that time that The X-Files becomes compelling television. Is there a connection? Maybe it was a conspiracy on the part of London Fog!
The first season is rather notably low budget. Check out the bad blue screen shot that's supposed to convince us Mulder is in Atlantic City in The Jersey Devil! And the season is overloaded with episodes that deal with killers coming back from beyond the grave, including Lazarus, Young at Heart, Born Again, and Roland. After a while you begin to just assume that the dead guy did it.
Even so, this is excellent TV, and is a must-have for fans of the show. People unfamiliar with the show should probably borrow a friend's copy, but hopefully they'll become fans too.
This being a TV show, the video quality doesn't look as good as a theatrically released, 35-millimeter film. As a matter of fact, we suspect that the show was edited on video instead of film, judging by the large number of video editing tricks used in the episodes (like the video zoom at the end of E.B.E., or the bouncing truck in Darkness Falls.
In any case, the video looks a tad softer than most DVDs. There are also some shots, mainly establishing shots of buildings, which look much grainier than the footage around them. This probably didn't make a difference during broadcast, but it sure stands out on DVD. On the other hand, some of the CGI special effects look too sharp! Again, in broadcast, this wasn't much of a problem thanks to the lower resolution.
The X-Files is shot almost completely in darkness, and these DVDs do an excellent job of rendering blacks without artifacting, and the colors all look great. This transfer looks the same as the laser discs that were released a few years ago, which is to say as good as you can expect for a TV series shot under these conditions. The sound is pretty much the same as the broadcast, with the dialogue all centered and the music taking up most of the separation.
The 24 episodes are presented over 6 discs (with a seventh disc for extras). The discs are kept in a cardboard and plastic folding case that is a little awkward, but it certainly is attractive, with a neat foil-enhanced black and white motif.
The seventh disc of the box set is devoted to extras; however, there are some extra features on every disc. Every disc of episodes includes a few short scenes from one or two certain episodes from that disc dubbed into various languages, in order to give us some idea of how The X-Files is presented in other countries. We enjoyed the Japanese dubbed clips, just because the voices were so clearly provided by the same people who do the voices of anime characters.
The Pilot episode allows you to watch the episode with the option of adding in two deleted scenes featuring Scully's boyfriend. Frankly, we feel the show is a lot better without that dynamic, but it's nice that they were included. And Fallen Angel allows you to watch a short behind-the-scenes of the invisible alien as it appeared on set. It looks kind of like we're being invaded by Mummenschanz.
The Pilot and Fallen Angels clips are also included separately on the seventh disc. A documentary on the First season called The Truth About Season One is included, though it doesn't have much that X-Files fans don't already know. This disc also includes Chris Carter's 12 intros from the initial VHS releases of the first season episodes, and 12 "behind the truth" spots that ran on the FX network chronicling various behind-the-scenes aspects of the production. Rounding out the disc are 47 TV spots (10 and 20 second ones for each episode except for the Pilot, which is represented by one 60 second spot) and some DVD-ROM material. All in all, this disc set is an amazing deal.
Scott Hamilton, 7/7/00