Easily one of the great cultural achievements of our age
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 03/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Before praising this series and set to the heavens, I want to begin with a complaint. Although this set comes with some of the finest special features I've ever seen with a box set (the set lacks only the X-FILES movie to be complete), it remains, like all of the individual seasons of THE X-FILES, hideously overpriced. The moralist in me reacts to the kind of gouging that takes place in sets like this. There is very little reason to price any single season of this or most other series any higher than around $60 list (so that discount outlets like Amazon would sell it for around $40), and for all nine seasons of THE X-FILES any price above around $360 discounted is completely unjustifiable, even with all the extras. I feel I ought to dock this set a star simply because of the outrageous pricing, but won't only because of my overall regard for the show. I consider the current discounted price of well over $600 to be a complete moral outrage. The content gets the five stars, not the pricing, which is simply atrocious.
On every level and by any standard, THE X-FILES was one of the truly great shows in television history. It is also remarkable for its extensive influence on other television shows. Its impact, in fact, on other shows has been profound. In part this has been by making fantasy-supernatural shows more acceptable, but in part by making the "mythology" shows with immersive, long story arcs popular. Without THE X-FILES and shows it influenced like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (many major members of THE X-FILES staff would later join Buffy's Joss Whedon on various shows, including David Greenwalt, Tim Minear, Howard Gordon, and Jeffrey Bell, all of whom played major roles on each show), the long story arc that plays such a central role in many of television's finest shows would probably not exist. THE X-FILES was the first non-detective show, non-soap on television to feature complex story arcs that extended over several seasons. The show made possible kinds of series that had been impossible before. Without THE X-FILES, it is hard to imagine such shows as BUFFY, ANGEL, FIREFLY, WONDERFALLS, DARK ANGEL, all of the later STAR TREK shows, FARSCAPE, SIX FEET UNDER, ALIAS, 24, DEAD LIKE ME, and LOST being given an opportunity (or not being given an opportunity in the cases of FIREFLY and WONDERFALLS) to thrive. Before THE X-FILES, the only acceptable format for genre shows was the stand alone episode. Plots had to be resolved each week. It had to be possible for first time viewers to immediately pick up on the central elements of any episode. And seasons had to be wrapped up neatly as the end of each year. THE X-FILES, on the other hand, while most of the episodes tended to be stand alones, featured a host of episodes that were part of a multi-season narrative. Many plot elements were left unresolved on various episodes. With the complexity of the long term story line it was often difficult for newcomers to get into the show. And every season of the show ended with a cliffhanger. Indeed, even the final episode, which was written knowing that it would be the last, was written with an open-endedness. It didn't close off the past so much as gesture towards the future (and for fans of the show, hopefully a series of feature films). Only recently I read an article on the demand for new "X-FILE" type shows in the wake of the unexpected success of ABC's LOST, a show that is a definite descendent of THE X-FILES.
It is almost impossible to enumerate all of the things that this show got right. To speak of the most immediately obvious, the casting was absolutely perfect. In the history of television, regardless of genre, it is impossible to come up with more than a very few duos as outstanding as David Duchovny as the ever credulous, passionately curious Special Agent Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as the detached, sceptical Special Agent Dana Scully. So vividly did they bring their characters to life that the expression "to Scully" someone has become part of the language (i.e., to doubt someone). Indeed, Mulder and Scully enter television's ranks of the greatest teams with such duos as Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton or Archie and Edith Bunker. Duchovny is not one of the great actors television has seen, but he brings a commitment to his role that made it work. He likewise has a fundamental likability and a gift for comedy that helped the show, especially beginning in Season Three, swing effortlessly between truly scary episodes to delightfully funny ones. His good looks didn't hurt either. Unlike Duchovny, Gillian Anderson is an extremely capable actress, capable of convincingly evincing nearly any mood asked of her. Indeed, she is so superb as an actress that many of the finest episodes of the nine seasons focused almost entirely on her character, whether in a Christmas episode where she shockingly learns that despite being barren (because of a Season One abduction), a young girl is apparently her genetic offspring, or in a Season Seven masterpiece where she encounters a man she had had a passionate relationship with years earlier, causing her to reevaluate whether the decision she had made to become an FBI agent rather than a doctor had been the right one. In fact, the more she is pushed in the show, the more her skills as an actress become evident. She is also one of the most delightfully short actresses to head a TV show, and one of the joys of the show is to watch the ongoing struggle of wardrobe and make up to high her shortness, watching them play with various coats and outerwear, spotting the occasional huge heels that poke from underneath her carefully hemmed pants, or reading about the boxes that she would sometimes stand on to keep her in the frame with Mulder. Her height is improbably listed as either 5'2 or 5'3 on websites, but clearly at least two or three inches below that.
But the marvelous cast didn't end with Mulder and Scully. Mitch Pileggi played Assistant Director Walter Skinner for most of the show's run, initially as a stubborn sceptic and mild antagonist, but in the end a true friend, ally, and true believer in all of the conspiracies that Mulder insisted existed. Tom Braidwood (who was also one of the show's assistant directors), Bruce Harwood, and Dean Haglund teamed to form The Lone Gunmen, who proved so popular as supporting characters that they briefly got their own spin off series. When Duchovny more or less after Season Seven, he was replaced by the unexpectedly magnificent Robert Patrick as Agent Doggett, and when he needed a new partner in the final season, Anabeth Gish stepped in as Agent Monica Reyes. There were a host of other recurring characters, none more crucial to the show's success-especially in the mythology episodes-than William B. Davis's extraordinary character The Cigarette Smoking Man. The CSM became synonymous with conspiracy in its worst possible forms.
I wish I had space to extol the virtues of the writers. Unless one has watched the show all the way through, one cannot possibly imagine the spectacular consistency of the writers, or the overall excellence of the writing for the show. Time and again they attempted to stretch the show to new limits, to try new kinds of episodes. Beginning in Season Three they even started writing comic scripts, and I have to confess to being on the fence as to whether I prefer the serious or comic episodes. The extreme virtuosity of the writers is obvious from beginning to end. Then there was Mark Snow, who with his synthesizer managed to produce absolutely perfect scores for the series from its inception until its end, including that eerie but incredibly appropriate theme. Although the crew as a whole was largely anonymous, the show possessed one of the most unique looks in TV history. Whether special effects or make up or set design, the show stands out from almost every other show.
THE X-FILES greatest legacy is probably going to be the way it has made possible enormously complex story lines. We have already seen this influence in the shows I mentioned above, but I think the effect is going to ripple down through all of what we see in TV in the future. If THE X-FILES had been merely a critical success, it would not have had this influence, but the fact that it managed for most of its run very high ratings showed TV execs that it was possible to have both a very complex story line and high ratings. Unfortunately, there was a lull in this attitude during the lamentable rise of the reality show, but with the unexpected success of LOST, the prognosis for the complex mythology show is once again quite high. Paradoxically, my only complaint with THE X-FILES is that it wasn't terribly consistent in its mythology. Chris Carter by his own admission acknowledges (in DVD add ons and elsewhere) that they were more or less making up the storyline as they went along. It sometimes shows. Many of the shifts in the mythology storyline fail to mesh well with the rest of the mythology. Parts contradict other parts. Until we got the series finale in the Ninth Season, for instance, it wasn't at all clear what happened to Mulder's sister or what his precise biological relation to The Cigarette Smoking Man was. Even at the very end, although they were clearly a deeply committed romantic couple, it wasn't clear that Mulder and Scully had ever slept together (despite her having had a child by him, but that it another complex issue). In other words, there is vagueness at many points in the show that was superficially cleared up in the finale.
By any conceivable standard, this is one of the truly great shows in the history of television. But it is more than that. I am not much of a fan of television. I rarely find more than one or two shows to watch during the typical television season (I currently watch only LOST and ALIAS and 24), but I do believe, unlike many of an intellectual bent, that television actually possesses an inherent superiority over film. Series simply have more time than a movie does. If handled properly, this allows for a degree of narrative exposition that is absolutely impossible for any movie to match. Very few television series have managed this. THE X-FILES is one of the few exceptions."
Save your money
Brandon Taylor | Palmdale, CA | 08/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well, you would be stupid to buy this set. Buying the first nine seasons SEPERATELY would cost nearly 200 less dollars..yes! add it up! but you do have to click your mouse 8 extra times to save hundreds, boo-hoo. The X files are always interesting to watch, and I recommend buying the seasons SEPERATELEY, not together, they are 49 bucks when you buy them seperateley, so 49 multiplied by 9 is 449 dollars, this set is 629, I HOPE YOU GET THIS!
Uh OH! Amazon just raised the price to buying the seasons seperateley..from 49.99 to 74.99! HOW COULD THEY! you better buy em used unless you are loaded, of course. :-)
Once again amazon changed things, the set used to be 629.99 now it is over 800 dollars, its getting rediculous!"
Great series, price too high
Kayla Bradford | Brandon, Florida United States | 11/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I agree with the reviewer below. This is a great box set, but it is hideously overpriced. I recommend that if you truly want this for a lower price, visit the amazon.co.uk site. You can get the UK version that was just released for £134.99. That's what I did. Ended up paying about $230 US, including S&H.
Of course, this only works if you have a DVD player set to play region 2 DVDs. But that's an easy fix. :)
I'm not quite sure why the US version costs almost 3 times as much as the UK version, because they both have the same episodes and extras on the 59 discs. (*edited on 12/29/05 -- for some reason, the price at Amazon.com has soared to over $800. No idea why; you'd really be better off shopping elswhere for this set.)
It only takes a bit of smart shopping to find this set at a reasonable price. Just be careful...most of the really cheap sets are the Asian/Chinese imports, and you may not want those. I personally prefer the real thing. :)"
Amazon....please raise the price again, it's not high enough
Jack Dempsey | South Miami Beach, Florida | 12/29/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Given that Amazon is now selling tractors, front-end loaders, greenhouses, boxing rings, $72k earrings, and, you better believe it, $225k Cartier watches, I feel the market for a $800 dvd set simply isn't large enough. No, Amazon, forget the fact that everyone and his brother has pointed out the multitudes of other places from which this set can be obtained just as easily for but a fraction of cost. Just forget that. Rather, double your price. IF you do that, you'll make it seem that you're so obscene in your pricing, that you have to be offering a superior, but altogether exact same, product. Brilliant move. These incremental moves from $600 to $800 and change are for nancy-boys. Do it big, and do it right. Move straight up to $1600 or something. Get a backbone for once."
Do not buy this from amazon
Kevin Petersen | Springfield IL | 12/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"i just got the complete set for 80 dollars on ebay. yes you heard right, thats ten times less than suckers who buy it here are paying. so if you feel like spending an extra 700+ dollars buy it on here. as for the show its good up until the guy from t-2 replaces duchovny"