The X Files: Season 2 Review
The X Files is one of the TV phenomenon of the nineties. It first aired back in 1993 and over the past 8 years has grown to be one of the most successful television programmes of all time. Chris Carter - the man behind the series has tried on several occasions to repeat this success with various other shows but to date his hit rate has been fairly low.
Season One introduced us to FBI Special Agent Fox 'Spooky' Mulder and his quest to uncover the hidden truth about alien encounters following the apparent alien abduction of his sister when he was a child. Initially, his partner Dana Scully was assigned to the X Files in order to discover their worth but as cases progressed and it became evident that there was a lot more to most of the cases than first appeared she began to, while not totally believe, respect Mulder's theories.
However, the people behind the conspiracies obviously didn't want Mulder to uncover the truth and hidden forces managed to shut down the X Files. The death of Mulder's informant, Deep Throat and Mulder and Scully's reassignment to different cases made things worse and the first year of the series did end on a bit of a downer.
So after that very brief introduction, here we are at the second series. This boxset most probably represents the series at it's peak. The actors have now all settled into their roles nicely and we now begin to see the formation of various plot threads which will merge and intertwine both throughout Season Two and throughout the series as a whole. The larger Government cover-up begins to come to the fore and more of the 'so-called truth' is unveiled.
The series get's off to a flying start with 'Little Green Men' - not only do we get more 'proof' of alien life by way of the SETI project, we also get a flashback sequence to the abduction of Mulder's sister, Samantha. The X Files may still be closed, but that doesn't mean that Mulder has given up on his search and while they may be separated, both he and Scully still manage to fight on.
Mulder is assigned a new partner in the form of Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea) in 'Sleepless' which also stars Tony Todd as an army veteran who was subjected to sleep-depravation experiments in the sixties. However, Krycek isn't all that he first appears and later episodes reveal his true loyalties.
Scully is abducted in by what appear to be aliens after she is taken hostage by Duane Barry (in the imagintively titled episode, 'Duane Barry'). In reality Scully's absence was due to her real-life pregnancy. The episodes surrounding Scully's abduction and Mulder's relentless search for her make up the best of the season in my view.
We get to discover more about Samantha's fate in 'Colony', but the truth remains tightly under lock and key. Things progress nicely over the rest of the series - although for fear of spoiling things I'm not going to go into too much more detail. The end-of-season cliffhanger 'Anasazi' is a must-see episode though as it sets the scene for much of what is to follow in subsequent seasons.
As a whole, the ongoing plot threads and individual stories all seem to flow nicely - there's not too much of either although you really have to watch the whole series in order as the on-going narrative is never too far from the fore. Season Two manages to walk the fine line between believability and inventiveness far more successfully than later seasons - everything here is grounded in reality and we don't get too many of the absurd revalations which begin to spoil things later on. This is The X Files before it became too cocky.
As always, it appears at first glance that Fox have taken a significant amount of time putting together this release. I'll start with the packaging itself - this second boxset is certainly far sturdier than the first series. It's more rigid but still takes the same fold-out form as before. There are seven discs in total - the first six dedicated to the episodes, the seventh featuring the season finale and a number of additional features.
The DVD transfer, while not state-of-the-art, is acceptable. Presented in the original 4:3 aspect ratio, the picture is good. I do have some reservations - firstly there is an obvious lack of detail in some of the darker, more shadowy scenes. This is something that does occasionally cause problems in a series where the darkness is something of a trademark. In addition, there is a little bit of smearing on one or two occasions that does distract. This is mainly down to the source material but it's still worth noting that you won't be getting picture perfection.
I also noticed some strange goings on when there were bright lights on the screen - there was a little bit of distortion where colour seemed to be missing and replaced with white. I was planning to do a screenshot of this, but oddly I couldn't replicate the problem on my PC! Having double-checked everything in my main setup, I am at loss to explain the problem and it's certainly nothing I've seen before.
Soundwise, everything is in order. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is pretty good with some (limited) surround effects being used on occasion. The front soundstage takes precedence here, and I'm pleased to report that it's nice and clear with nothing in the way of distortion marring the experience. While it's not used extensively, it's nice to see that there is a little bit of bass to add that extra something to the mix.
Fox certainly aren't skimping on the extras either. However, I do get the feeling that it's more a case of 'chuck it in' regardless of the value or quality of the material.
Highlights in the array of extras include deleted scenes from 'Sleepless' (revealing an interesting alternative casting for the Deep Throat replacement, X), '3', 'Humbug' and 'Anasazi' and special effects clips from the episode 'End Game' and 'Anasazi'.
We also have some Chris Carter interview snippets focussing on twelve key episodes from the season. One thing I will say is that you shouldn't watch these before watching the episodes in question - they're not exactly spoiler free!
There is a fairly odd addition in the way of foreign language examples. If you like watching selected scenes dubbed into foreign languages then this certainly your cup of tea, for the rest of us it's little more than a pointless curiosity.
There's also a 15-minute promotional documentary - "The Truth Behind Season Two", 9 promotional "Behind The Truth" spots which, while being little more than fancy TV adverts, do reveal various little bits and bobs about the series and include various little interview snippets. In addition we also have 49 promo spots - two for each episode of the season with the exception of the finale which only gets the one.
It's quite a comprehensive package, however a couple of commentaries would have been nice - we already know that the cast and crew like to talk about their series, so I doubt it would have been that difficult. I'm dubious about the value of the foreign-language clips but other than that, I'm fairly impressed!
Other than the minor picture issues I've indentified, the main reservation I have is the price of the boxset. Well, not really the price, but the very nature of a boxset means that it's out of reach to a lot of people. In addition to the boxset, single-disc releases wouldn't really be that much of a problem - even if they cost a little more in total, surely it opens the series up to a bigger audience?
All in all, if you can afford it I very much doubt you'll be too disappointed...