Thursday, June 30, 2011

"I've Got That Sinking Feeling..." The X-Files Descends Into Average Territory With The Sixth Season!

The Good: Some fun, clever episodes, Moments of character
The Bad: A greater sense of repetition in this season, no exceptional highs
The Bottom Line: The X-Files - The Complete Sixth Season concludes the conspiracy with the aliens and otherwise presents remarkably simple bottle episodes.

The X-Files is the series I am currently embedded in to the point of not watching much of anything else on DVD until I can finish the series and get my reviews posted (finally). But the thing is, when the series begins to turn toward the common, it sure takes the fast train there. In the sixth season of The X-Files, it got right on that train. The stories tend to be much more formulaic and when they do diverge, they do not do nearly enough to impress the viewers.

This is the season that followed the release of The X-Files: Fight The Future (reviewed here!), the first cinematic endeavor of The X-Files. With all that Mulder and Scully have seen by this point, it is natural that Scully begins to believe more and between that and a more overt sense of romance between Mulder and Scully, recreates the series as something more obvious than it had been. This is a disappointment for those of us who had been enjoying how unique and different the series had been. The argument may be made, though, that the sixth season of the show is the last of the "indispensable" The X-Files because the conspiracy that had been going on for fifty years is undone, finished. There are a few ambitious and well-executed episodes, like "Triangle" and "Dreamland" I and II, but after the conspiracy-killing "One Son," the season slumps. In fact, the only episode of note after that is "Field Trip," which is the penultimate episode of the season. It's pretty sad when your season finale is not such a "knock it out of the park" episode that the penultimate episode is more noteworthy.

Having been removed from the x-files, Mulder and Scully look to prove what happened to them in the Antarctic by tracking down the new, virulent, murderous aliens which are reconstituting from the Black Oil using human hosts. With the aid of Gibson Praise, who is hunted by the members of the conspiracy because of his ability to communicate with the aliens, Mulder and Scully track an alien to a nuclear power plant where it evolves into a new form of alien.

Following this incident, Mulder and Scully quietly work on cases that resemble the x-files, which result in Mulder getting abducted by a psychopath who may have been experimented upon by the government, a trip to the Bermuda Triangle that puts Mulder back in the 1939, and an Area 52 employee who swaps bodies with Mulder to escape his humdrum men-in-black life. The agents deal with ghosts, a demon, the return of the Cigarette-Smoking Man and his annoying son, Jeffrey Spender. With the return of Cassandra Spender, though, the agenda of the aliens becomes clear: conquering the planet as opposed to any form of peaceful coexistence! This puts Mulder and Scully in the crosshairs as they attempt to thwart the alien colonists and find an unlikely ally in . . . Krycek! As the season rushes toward an end, Mulder and Scully encounter a rubbing from a U.F.O. that makes Mulder go insane and puts Scully on course for an experience she cannot deny!

In this season, the pair is dumped on by a new Assistant Director - Kersh - who threatens their jobs at every turn. Skinner becomes compromised and extorted using a bioweapon controlled by Krycek and Mulder's mentor Arthur Dales returns to spin more stories. When Mulder and Scully return to working on the x-files, they encounter a repeating day ("Monday"), are forced to go undercover as a couple in a planned community ("Arcadia"), and go after killer dogs in "Alpha." There's a pretty uninspired story about a writer whose novel seems to be coming true, putting Scully in mortal danger ("Milagro") and one about a baseball player who was actually an alien ("The Unnatural"). The Lone Gunmen get their own episode ("Three Of A Kind") and the series finally pays off the promise of "Clive Bruckman's Final Repose" (reviewed here!) with "Tithonious."

The thing is, the highs are not as high as in other seasons and while "Two Fathers" and "One Son" are generally lauded as a great ending to the conspiracy story, it's clear that this was more of an "out" for the writers who had so mixed up the various elements of the mythology by this point that they needed to end it lest it become more confused and nonsensical. In fact, as the season opened and closed talking about humans possessing alien DNA it largely felt like the writers were just throwing out random scientific terms to play to their audience as opposed to actually writing something that made sense and worked in the context of the series. Moreover, it is an idea that the series never satisfactorily delves into. And while there are passing attempts at creativity, some of them, like "Milagro" seem like pale afterimages of much greater episodes, like "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'" (reviewed here!).

The sixth season of The X-Files is a fair balance of episodes that expand the mythology of the show as well as shake up the central characters. New guest stars enter and recur, old ones return and a whole load of recurring characters are killed! At the heart of all great television are the characters and here is how the sixth season finds the primaries on The X-Files:

Fox Mulder - Reinvigorated in his faith in a conspiracy between the United States and other governments with extraterrestrial life forms here on Earth, Mulder returns to his roots with an eager interest in the x-files. Thwarted at almost every turn by Kersch and Spender, he comes to rely more on Scully and Skinner, trusting only them as he makes his biggest leaps forward,

Dana Scully - Having seen proof of extraterrestrial life, she begins to work more with Mulder as opposed to questioning him at every turn. Her scientific approach still is used to confirm many of his suspicions, but she begins to grow closer with Mulder through a series of events which put them more overtly on the same side, as opposed to anything so adversarial. As well, she encounters a man who provides her with something she never asked for: eternal life!,

Assistant Director Walter Skinner - No longer Mulder and Scully's direct superior, he risks his job to help Scully find Mulder in the Bermuda Triangle and offer them support when he can. Realizing this, Krycek infects him with a biomechanical toxin that he controls, putting Skinner under his thumb,

Krycek - Once more the protege of the Cigarette-Smoking Man, he soon finds himself abandoned by him and after attempting to teach Jeffrey Spender how to be like him, he abandons the shreds of the conspiracy and goes rogue, making Skinner his tool,

The Cigarette-Smoking Man - Outted as alive again, he continues to kill for the conspiracy, taking in Diana Fowley, Mulder's past love interest. He looks out for himself when it becomes clear that the colonists are turning on the humans who had aided them, a move which saves his life and sets him up for future machinations.

By this point, the two stars of The X-Files have their beats down pretty well. David Duchovny continues to play Mulder as a fairly brilliant guy who does what he can to get by. In this season, Duchovny gets to play Mulder as a fish out of water ("Triangle"), himself trapped in the body of another in Area 51 ("Dreamland II"), and as Scully's husband ("Arcadia"). Duchovny seems to relish the comedic roles he is given, though when the show needs dramatic gravitas for terrible things like Mulder going mad ("Biogenesis"), he still earns his paycheck!

At least on par is Gillian Anderson. She is given the chance to be incredibly funny in "Three Of A Kind" and she is awesome with the physical comedy opposite the Lone Gunmen, who play her straightmen for the episode! As well, in the latter episodes, Scully is actually played by Anderson as a happier person and it is refreshing to see! Not always serious now, Anderson has a little room to play and she does it well in this season.

On DVD, The X-Files - The Complete Sixth Season has a great commentary track by Chris Carter on "Triangle" and a mediocre one on the mediocre episode "Milagro" by director Kim Manners. As well, there are several deleted scenes, with branching options to put them back into their appropriate episodes at the correct points, which is a nice touch. There are two blase featurettes and the usual promotional spots for the episodes.

All in all, this is a rather average season of science fiction television that is well-executed but not extraordinary. It is definitely not the series most people remembered and loved. Still, it's better than a lot of television and there is enough here to recommend it. It might be the last set that has moments of real intrigue as the main conspiracy dies here and what it's replaced with . . . well, that's for the next one!

This set is better than most average DVD sets out there and it it certainly worthy of the time and attention of anyone who likes science fiction and/or drama. Then again, fans of The X-Files would probably be better served by purchasing the Complete Collection, reviewed here!

For other shows that made it to a sixth season, check out my reviews of:
Lost The Complete Sixth Season
Frasier - Season 6
Gilmore Girls - Season 6


For other television set reviews, please check out my index page on the subject by clicking here!

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