Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Legitimization of the Fringe: The X-Files Begins With "Pilot" And "Deep Throat!"

The Good: Interesting Characters, Good balance
The Bad: Awkward acting, Simplistic plots
The Basics: A geek's delight, "Pilot" and "Deep Throat" are a must-see for fans of The X-Files and something truly different for people fed on typical network programming!

It's not every day that the geeks get their airtime and the first two episodes of The X-Files present the geek population with something to cheer about. If you became a fan of The X-Files after the first season or if you've never seen an episode, you might find this opening a bit incongruent with your experiences. In the first episodes, Fox Mulder is your classic conspiracy theorist geek (before they changed David Duchovny to a Hollywood-mold hunk) and Dana Scully is your bland, unimaginative government worker (before Gillian Anderson was forced to dye her hair TOO red).

In the "Pilot," Dr. Dana Scully, who works as a field agent for the FBI is assigned to investigate a case with Special Agent Fox Mulder, an agent who is an expert profiler, but who spends his time in the basement of the FBI working on unsolved cases called "X-files." The first case to come across their desk is a murder of a young woman out in Oregon whose body shows no cause of death and no marks save two bumps on her back that are filled with an organic compound.

Mulder and Scully go out to investigate the case and discover that she is not the only person in her graduating class to have unexplained phenomenon occur to her. Her classmates, Billy Miles who is in a catatonic state and Peggy O'Dell, who has been confined to a wheelchair since an accident around graduation have been inexplicably wounded. The duo exhumes a body of another member of the class of 1989, which appears to be a monkey and the coroner's daughter, fearing that she is next, appeals to Mulder and Scully for protection.

In "Deep Throat," Agents Mulder and Scully begin to investigate the disappearance of an Air Force test pilot out in Idaho, when Mulder receives a visit from a mysterious man who insists that the pair stop their investigation. Defying that, Mulder and Scully head to Idaho and Ellens Air Force Base where they find that Colonel Boudahouse is not the only pilot to have gone missing and some who have returned after disappearing seem to have memory loss that is rather selective.

Soon, Scully and Mulder find themselves under intense surveillance by shady government operatives with agendas that are far from clear and nowhere near benevolent. After witnessing maneuvers from two UFOs over the Air Force base, the test pilot is returned, Mulder is captured and Scully finds herself in a dangerous predicament!

The X-Files opens with a level of truthfulness that it lost as the series went on. It presented two very adult characters who were very strongly individual and had them exploring the unknown elements in today's world. The first two episodes are an excellent investment of anyone's time and effort, especially those who think The X-Files is just some weird, scary science fiction show. In "Pilot" (the most unimaginative episode name of the series) the plot pacing and characterization is more in tune with a "chick flick" than a horror. There's nothing scary in the first two episodes and that's a selling point. In fact, it's probably why the series failed to knock the socks off of people from the first episode; it's fairly unremarkable.

The strengths of the first episode are the characters and the fact that it defies our expectations of what the show should be. After spending four acts on talks of UFOs and aliens it's almost laughable that we see neither of them in the series premiere.

"Deep Throat" is actually a better representation of the mythology of The X-Files. It introduces an unnamed character who sort of helps Mulder by giving him leads to a case. He's intriguing and he's a good hook to keep people watching the show.

The weaknesses of the first two episodes are in the acting and the simplicity of the plot and characters. The actors often appear uncomfortable in the first few episodes, they often seem like they don't know what to make of the situations or the show and it comes across on camera. More than that, there's an unrealistic level of trust at the beginning between Mulder and Scully. While the subtle sexuality is a welcome change from most television, one of the awkward scenes in "Pilot" has Scully partially disrobing in front of Mulder, whom she barely knows and who she does not share many of the same fundamental beliefs.

The X-Files is a rare gem and because so few people saw it from the beginning, the "Pilot"/"Deep Throat" tape is a good investment - it's good television and it's more than just entertaining! And besides, it's nice to see geeks on television, for however long they last!

[Given that VHS is a rapidly dying medium, a far better investment would be The X-Files - The Complete First Season, which can be found by clicking here!
As well, those who already love The X-Files will find The X-Files - The Complete Series to be an even better buy, which is reviewed here!
Thanks for reading!]

"Pilot" - 8/10
"Deep Throat" - 7/10
VHS - 7/10

For other television reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2011, 2008, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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