In preparation for some movie called THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE, series creator Chris Carter and FOX have decided to enlighten and reacquaint us with agents Mulder and Scully with a selection of 8 episodes from the show's run that apparently play an important role in the new film's creation (along with some other goodies). Is it a worthy addition for X-Philes' collections, or is it another case of Fox and their adWHOREation of the series?
I'll put this out here right now: While I continue to be a fan of the X-Files, I've been an even bigger fan of Chris Carter's criminally underrated (namely by Fox) series MillenniuM. That doesn't mean I hold a bias against the former, since MillenniuM probably wouldn't have been made if The X-Files hadn't done so well. I just preferred the darker tones that MillenniuM explored at times. Still, Carter's first hit lasted longer (perhaps too long), and has two movies now to boot, so it's a trade-off of sorts.
Also, when I use the term 'adWHOREation', I'm referring to certain companies (FOX in particular) that treat certain properties of theirs with such 'love' and adoration, that they basically use said property to grab a quick buck whenever the opportunity arises, justifications and quality be damned. That said, I'm sure some folks haven't picked up the series on DVD (or the even more overpriced boxset released not too long ago), so there's some rational explanation for this set of 8 episodes (I guess).
Since not every show in the series was directed or produced by Chris Carter, I'll break all the episodes down into mini reviews:
Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot - Despite being rough around the edges in spots, this was a taste of the series to come. It's here that Agent Scully is first assigned to work with Mulder, who is understandably reluctant to accept her help with his work. Despite kinks with the characters (which hadn't been developed yet) and low production values, it's a no-brainer to have this one. 3.5 out of 4
Season 1, Episode 13: Beyond The Sea - Co-starring Brad 'Hi, I'm Chucky!' Dourif as a supposedly psychic death-row inmate who plays Hannibal Lecter with Scully, claiming he'll help her get in touch with her recently deceased father, while at the same time help Mulder track down another killer who is currently on the loose. A few shades of MillenniuM here, coupled with exploration of Scully's background make this one a keeper. 4 out of 4
Season 2, Episode 2: The Host - One of my fave episodes (and one of the first X-Files episodes I saw), this is one of the 'Monster-of-the-Week' episodes, with casts Darin Morgan as the Flukeman, a mutant flukeworm that terrorizes New Jersey's sewer system, just when you thought it was safe to take a dump. Keep in mind that Gillian Anderson was along in her pregnancy at the time this was shot, so keep an eye out for masking shots of her figure. 4 out of 4
Season 3, Episode 4: Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose - At this point, the series is firing on all cylinders, with this episode in particular, which has the late Peter Boyle as a clairvoyant who helps Mulder and Scully track down a serial killer. Unfortunately, he also predicts a rather disturbing death. 4 out of 4
Season 4, Episode 14: Memento Mori - Another episode that centres on Scully, particularly her inoperable cancer. The Lone Gunmen make an appearance and join Mulder in trying to find a cure for Scully by breaking into a research facility. Behind the scenes, X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE was being prepped at this point. 4 out of 4
Season 5, Episode 5: The Post-Modern Prometheus - The only black-and-white episode of the series has Mulder and Scully going to a rural town where genetic experiments are hidden by its citizens. A retelling of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein with a smattering of other amusing references, this one earned Chris Carter his second DGA nomination. 4 out of 4
Season 5, Episode 12: Bad Blood - In another humourous episode, Mulder and Scully travel to a small town which has been the scene of a couple of cattle killings supposedly caused by vampires. Look out for Luke Wilson as the sheriff, and oh yeah, the green eyes. 3 out of 4
Season 6, Episode 18: Milagro - By this point, the show had undergone a few changes behind the scenes. David Duchovny's whining about Vancouver finally got the show moved to LA, and much of the original crew was gone. The show itself began to divide fans over it's direction (but that's another story). This episode centres on a writer who moves in next door to Mulder and develops an infatuation with Scully. Everything takes a turn when said writer is suspected of several recent murders. 3 out of 4
Now, obviously these are great episodes, but they have little (if any) connection to one another, or any hint of how they relate to the new film (other than hype). As it is, there's some good stuff here reminding you of why the show was so great.
Video: Ranging from 1.33:1 fullscreen during Season 1-5 episodes and anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen for the rest, the series' look got better as it continued on. Obviously, the earlier episodes are hit hardest with low production values, leaving grain and ghosting in spots, but the overall scheme of consistently muted colors remains constant, just as it should be.
Audio: Unfortunately, despite the Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks from previous releases, all we have in this set are Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo for some of the earlier episodes, and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround for the others. They serve the purpose of maintaining the atmosphere the show is known for, keeping the dialogue and music clear and balanced. Just don't expect much from the subwoofer.
Ah, now here's where it separates the diehards from the casuals in terms of purchase.
On the first disc is a brief Series Introduction with producer Frank Spotnitz, who tries to explain the inclusion of some of these episodes in the set in about 40 seconds. Yeah.
More interesting (but unfulfilling) are the Episode Introductions, starring Chris Carter and at least one person involved with that particular episode. These can be played separately, or watched at the start of its respective episode. More or less filler that reminded me of some VHS releases of selected episodes that contained equally so-so filler prior to each episode.
Wrapping up the first disc is a Series Trailer which acts as an ad for all nine seasons on DVD, and a Teaser Trailer for I WANT TO BELIEVE. Note that this isn't the same trailer from Wondercon, but looks to be an alternate.
On disc two, there are more episode introductions (which are the same quality as the previous ones), and, probably the big one for fans, the Wondercon Q&A Panel, which runs almost a half hour and involves Spotnitz, Carter, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. As far as these types of things go, it's a fairly typical Q&A, with text-based questions and varying in quality responses. All four participants seem very enthused with the fans, and generally seem interested in being there. Overall, this one would probably be for those who've been living in exile and didn't know about the new film.
Lastly included are a free movie ticket for the film, and a coupon for picking up the individual series' boxsets at reduced cost. Buyer beware, however, as the ticket is only good in the US, as is the coupon. Unless they cater to each country with this release (and I got screwed), this is just another reason for the rest of the world to hate Fox.
Excellent episodes aside, this set is nothing more than an example of adWHOREation by Fox to try and grab some cash from unwary fans. The casual fans who haven't bought the boxsets will find some satisfaction in this release, while the rest of us will be waiting for Fox to release these extras on the I WANT TO BELIEVE DVD.