Top 10 Episodes: The X-Files Season 1
Overhead projectors. Shoulder pads. Buick Century’s. Wasn’t 1993 great?
That was when Fox first premiered their paranormal investigation series The X-Files. It went on for a stellar run that lasted 9 years. Now, luckily for us ‘Philes’, it’s making a return in 2016! Who would have thought? What better way to celebrate what’s to come then by looking back on what was in a Countdown of the best episodes of Season 1? Remember – the truth is out there…
10. Pilot – September 10th, 1993
While it may not be the most exciting case Mulder and Scully ever investigate, this is the one that started it all.
Dana Scully is assigned by the higher ups at the FBI to essentially “spy” on Fox Mulder, as the powers that be don’t buy into a lot of his wild theories and methods. In a re-occurring theme that would eventually be dropped halfway through the season, after every case worked Scully would type up a report back to her superiors,, giving her notes and observations on the “Spooky” Mulder. (What is she using there, WordPerfect? AppleWriter?)
Mulder’s (usual) calm cool composure and off-beat humor is discovered right away when the two first meet, and little did they know (both characters and actors alike) just how long this pairing was going to last.
9. Deep Throat – September 17th, 1993
Hot off the heels of the series pilot, “Deep Throat” is quick to act on some of the cliché themes you’d expect early on from this type of series, and this one focuses on UFO’s.
After an Air Force pilot suffering from a mental breakdown returns after mysteriously disappearing, Mulder and Scully look into other personnel from the same base and find he’s not the only one to have suffered these same symptoms. It also turns out the air force base is coincidentally next to a popular spot that is known for apparent UFO sightings. While Mulder immediately links the two together, Scully is positive there are medical reasons for the recent breakdowns. With assistance from a young Seth Green (although he doesn’t really seem to age) M&S realize they have stumbled upon something much bigger than they thought.
The “Deep Throat” character makes his series debut, offering just enough advice to try and steer Mulder and Scully in the right direction. Green’s character and his lady friend are funny as the stoner UFO enthusiasts, especially during a diner scene where all it takes is a few free cheeseburgers to spill the beans to the FBI agents…”and junk”. Oh, and try not to judge the effects too harshly, it’s the early ‘90’s…on a TV budget.
8. Beyond the Sea – January 7th, 1994
Almost immediately after the death of Scully’s father, Dana volunteers to help Mulder in trying to track down a serial killer in hopes that going back to work will help her during a difficult time. The twist in this case that has Mulder’s attention is a self-declared psychic on death row named Luther Lee Boggs (played by Brad Dourif – one creepy piece of work) that can apparently speak to the dead, offering to help in exchange for cutting a deal.
What makes this episode interesting is that due to a recent perceived supernatural experience Scully has after her father’s death, she is much more open to exploring Boggs’ apparent claim of speaking to the dead, especially after he starts hinting that he can communicate with Dana’s now deceased father. Boggs starts to say things to Scully that he couldn’t possibly know, such as the nickname her father had for her, or the song that was played during her father’s funeral. Meanwhile, not impressed by Boggs or his “ability”, Mulder is extremely skeptical and has a hard time believing anything Luther says.
After having an apparent “vision” of where to find 2 victims, there is an interesting sequence as Scully starts to see all the things Boggs described, with the clues appearing in a much more symbolic sense. As she follows this hunt with these apparent “signs” to find the missing people, you see Dana’s transformation from skeptic to believer in Boggs.
Up until now, Mulder has always been the believer, the one to take that leap of faith. Scully has been the one to base everything in science; to try and prove there is a logical reason for everything. It’s an interesting role reversal.
7. Squeeze – September 24th, 1993
Hey LOSTies, remember Horace? Member of The Dharma Initiative? Namaste? Well, picture that actor 14 years younger (and lighter) and you have our creepy, seemingly ageless and QUITE limber “monster of the week” in “Squeeze.”
A series of murders occur that follow a pattern that hasn’t been recoded for over 30 years. Mulder and Scully are tasked with trying to find out who is responsible for these deaths and answer (if it’s the same person) why the 3 decade wait to strike again?
Oh and by the way, the perp kills his victims by removing and eating their kidneys.
Also, M&S’s first victim was found locked in his office, with no windows. How did the killer get in? Through the air vent? Nahhhh…..
Bruce Hutchison gives a fantastic and disturbing performance as Eugene Victor Tooms. When Mulder and Scully come across a “nest” made of bile and paper (yeah…) and decide to crawl through it, your skin will crawl. This episode is a standout in what is still the infancy of the series, being only the 3rd one to air.
6. Tooms – April 22nd, 1994
Since Eugene Victor Tooms was such a creepy hit the first time around, why not bring him back later in season 1 for an encore?
Much to Mulder’s chagrin, Tooms is back and Fox knows he is going to strike again; it’s just a matter of time. Unfortunately, the X-Files division of the FBI is under some heavy scrutiny, thanks to the introduction of a rather stern and all-around agitated Assistant Director Walter Skinner. Making his series debut, Skinner lays it out that the methods taken by both Mulder and Scully are unorthodox & unnecessary. It’s time to go by the book. In spite of a stellar case record, the FBI seemingly doesn’t care or believe in the X-Files and the work they are doing.
During a stakeout, Scully tries to convince Mulder to go home and get some rest. There is a great little exchange between the two that hints at the budding relationship these two characters are forging and makes you wonder if there is something more forming between them…
This is also the first appearance of the mysterious “smoking man” since he was first seen in the series opener, and with very little dialogue, one can’t help but wonder: who is this guy?
5. Roland – May 6th, 1994
Zeljko Ivanek (Drazen from “24”? Emile Danko from “Heroes”? …anyone? That’s alright, a lot of people bailed on “Heroes”) does an excellent job playing the mentally handicapped character of Roland, someone we immediately sympathize with as he gets talked down to while trying to gain access to a university laboratory to fulfill his custodial duties. However, later in that same scene he knowingly locks that same rude scientist in a wind tunnel and purposely sets the controls so that the wind velocity is so great the scientist gets sucked into the blades of the massive turbine, leaving you wondering if Roland is as vulnerable as we are led to believe.
We soon learn that Roland often acts under the influence of someone else, and can barely control these urges to carry out some of the things he sees in violent visions. Mulder and Scully do their best to help Roland and find out where these instincts are truly coming from and who is responsible.
You can’t help but feel for Roland as he goes through the traumatic events that take place. To see how upset he gets at the very thought of causing his friend Tracy any harm is particularly touching.
4. Darkness Falls – April 15th, 1994
The episode basically comes down to this: is there enough gas in a generator to keep a single lightbulb on long enough to reach daybreak to avoid being eaten alive by millions of bugs that swarm in darkness and suck all the fluids out of human beings?
Mulder convinces Scully to go for “a nice trip to the forest” to investigate what caused both a logging team and the ecological terrorists who are disrupting them to disappear. After traveling 4 hours deep into the forest to get to the “crime scene” accompanied by the local sheriff and a park ranger, the group comes across a cocoon in the trees containing a fully grown dead man – The search for answers begins. In a scene where Scully is starting to lose it, Mulder is the only one who can calm her down. You start to see the trust these two have formed with each other. Over the course of the season they have experienced things they never thought possible. A true bond is starting to form between the two, which will carry through until the series’ end.
Yes LOST fans, underneath that wicked ‘stache is the Man in Black as one of the eco-terrorists, trying to fight the good fight for the trees.
3. The Erlenmeyer Flask – May 13th, 1994
The season 1 finale touches on one of the ongoing “mythologies” the series has started to generate, focusing on the possibility of extraterrestrial life and if the government has encountered them but choose to withhold the truth.
From that first car coming over the hill and getting some MAJOR air in the opening teaser, it’s non-stop until the end. Mulder gets roughed up, there is a man oozing a mysterious green liquid for blood, a human cloning project is being covertly run and Scully has to infiltrate a high security facility. “Deep Throat” makes another appearance, casting doubt at every turn as only his character can do. Having Mulder and Scully work together for the majority of the series thus far, it’s interesting to watch how the more scientifically minded Dana goes forward. Especially once Fox and his ultimate faith and belief in the extraordinary is out of the picture.
Everything comes to a head in the final moments, and when the dust settles it looks like M&S have something more pressing to worry about. The way Mulder spits out Skinner’s name with pure disgust at the end shows just how upset he really is. And frankly, it’s pretty funny.
2. E.B.E. – February 18th, 1994
This episode taps into the very essence of what the series was all about: What is the truth? – And in classic X-Files fashion, you’re still asking that question when the end credits roll.
Mulder and Scully are turned onto a case of what seems like a genuine UFO sighting and encounter, after interviewing a truck driver who was found in the very center of the experience. However, when they check out the trucker’s story, they find that everything he told them during their interview was a fabrication, a lie set up in hopes to throw M&S off from finding the truth. Much of the episode has both agents questioning who they can trust and what information is true after several leads turn out to be false. After several brief appearances throughout the season, we finally get to know a little more about the “Deep Throat” character, and start to wonder if he really can be trusted, as Mulder was led to believe.
There is a scene that HAS to be an homage to Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” (with Mulder playing the Gene Hackman role) as he practically tears his apartment apart trying to find a possible bug planted for audio surveillance by an unknown observer. That feeling of “being watched” carries through much of the episode and forces you to wonder if you can trust ANY new character you see on the screen.
This episode also marks the first appearance of Mulder’s paranoid conspiracy theory buddies The Lone Gunmen, and a very small part for 24’s Curtis, as an unnamed security guard. (How awesome was Curtis in 24? He’s right up there with Tony Almeida.) Covert surveillance, secret meetings and constant second guessing all make this for a very paranoid experience.
1. Ice – November 5th, 1993
This episode pretty much has you right from the beginning. Two guys who are clearly not right in the head are fighting it out, and then both decide that the best way to settle their differences is to commit suicide SIMULTANEOUSLY.
Roll opening credits.
How’s that for an opening teaser? “Ice” gets right into it, as Mulder and Scully are matched up with a small collection of scientists and whisked away to an arctic location to investigate what caused an entire science team to kill themselves.
We soon learn that there is an infection caused by a worm-like creature that lives just under the skin of the host. It was discovered deep inside the ice the scientists were sent to study. It doesn’t take long for us to learn that one of the team members gets infected. Yet,as is the case in almost every other show or movie, he decides against coming forward and hides his infliction from everyone else. This is only the beginning as deaths start to occur, accusations are thrown around and paranoia begins to set in.
Mulder and Scully find themselves at odds with the other scientists, and eventually themselves, which makes for great drama. There is a scene midway through the episode where everyone is on edge about what is going on and it’s time to retire for the night. Each team member, wary of the other, retreats to their own separate quarters for fear of possibly being attacked by the other. There is a great “calm before the storm” feeling that is generated as the show focuses on each team member individually as they deal with the dire situation in their own way. As a viewer you KNOW something is going to go down, it’s just a matter of when.
Using the familiar theme of an unknown threat in a remote location, (John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi “The Thing” was a direct inspiration to this episode) and performances from a solid supporting cast, (yes, that’s Kenny Banya playing the ice specialist; I wonder if he ever called Uma’s number?) this episode is the very best season 1 has to offer.