Andrew Blaker takes a peek into The X-Files mythology…
Recently undertaking a rewatch of Season 1, it was refreshing to see the early seeds of the mythology strewn throughout the early “mythology” episodes as well as the stand-alone/monster-of-the-week episodes. It’s great fun to go back from time to time and watch the pilot episode of The X-Files—to see Mulder and Scully’s first meeting, and to see their first interactions as “believer” and “skeptic,” a role that would cement the characters for years to come.
]And yet, despite their opposing views on scientific and paranormal phenomena, there’s a camaraderie immediately, when Mulder confides in Scully the truth about his sister’s abduction and his suspicions about a government conspiracy aimed at keeping him from the truth. There’s the case, too, in Bellefleur, Oregon, where Scully first witnesses paranormal phenomena in the case of Billy Miles and Theresa Nemman—a case revisited seven years later, in another pivotal Mulder & Scully episode, “Requiem.”
Series creator Chris Carter has made it no secret that when he started the series, he had no original concept of the mythology. There was no blueprint to what Carter hoped to accomplish through the mytharc (many fans believe there was never a blueprint to the mytharc, of course, but rather that Carter & company made up plotlines as the series progressed), and so the earlier episodes have a very free-range approach that is forsaken by the series’ third season.
Elements of the mythology that would be later revisited are introduced in a handful of Season 1 episodes, including “Deep Throat,” “Conduit,” “Eve,” “Fallen Angel,” “E.B.E.” and the first season finale, “The Erlenmeyer Flask.” Even little-praised episodes such as “Ghost in the Machine” and “Young at Heart” feature Mulder’s first informant, Deep Throat (portrayed by Jerry Hardin), and reference the government’s meddling in the arguably stand-alone cases investigated by Mulder and Scully in those episodes.
In other words, the mythology introduced in the first season and even through several Season 2 episodes is very loose, not yet integrated into what would become known as the series mythology over the remainder of the series, and the 1998 feature film Fight the Future. In the 1993-1994 season, the series was very much attempting to find its roots. There are several arguably lesser episodes in this season, but in this author’s view, the series may have benefited from avoiding the densely plotted and easily contradictable mytharc as begun more or less with Dana Scully’s abduction in the excellent “Duane Barry.”
The Season 1 episodes are not “tied down” to anything: the viewer had never seen a series like The X-Files before, and could of course have no idea where the series would take its paranoid government conspiracy storylines. From wanting in on a sinister IT system in “Ghost in the Machine,” willing to buy the secrets of a dangerous scientist who’d discovered the ability to regenerate his arms and body organs in “Young at Heart,” and endorsing the Litchfield genetic experiments in “Eve,” the government seems to have its hand in every proverbial cookie jar, and exactly what the government is capable of is left unknown. The blending of the mytharc and monster-of-the-week episodes, never as seamless and effective than in the first two seasons, only serves to increase that classic attitude of paranoia that so typified the series and made it such a feverish hit in the mid-1990s.
Alas, the pregnancy of lead actress Gillian Anderson in early 1994 forced the series writers to find a way to excuse her from a handful of episodes in the midst of the second season. And what evolved from Scully’s abduction was at times an intensely well-crafted and thrilling mytharc, an integral part of the series, and in no way is this author suggesting that the mytharc as it developed should not have been developed. But it is always nostalgic, and an exercise in the viewer’s imagination, to consider what might have been had the series maintained the balance between the first season’s “mythology” and the stand-alone cases investigated by Mulder and Scully.
And that’s the best part about re-watching the first two seasons of the series: imagining the innumerable possibilities the series might have explored, and the innumerable directions the mytharc might have taken.
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