The X Files: Season 1 Review
So, this is where it all started. It's now over eight years since Chris Carter first pitched his idea for a conspiracy based weekly television series to the Fox executives. The X Files first splashed onto US TV screens back in 1993 and made household names of its two principle stars, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Carter himself quickly became a big name on the TV circuit, but to date he has been unable to replicate the success of the series that started it all.
As with the first series of any television programme, the first year of the X Files was more about scene setting and finding a footing than the huge arcs that would later become both an integral part of the overall story and also one of the main problems that would start turning people away. Familiar faces were still present back at the beginning with popular recurring characters such as the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B Davis) and Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin) making an appearance from time-to-time. The X Files of 1993 was much more a series of stand-alone 'monster of the week' episodes than the ongoing intertwining plots that we have today.
Of the twenty-four episodes of the first series, there are a number which still stand out today as being the pick of the bunch. No one who watched the series in its formative years could forget Eugene Victor Tooms (from the episodes 'Squeeze' and 'Tooms'). Homages to popular sci-fi and horror films pop up from time to time with the tense episode 'Ice' obviously taking a lot of it's ideas from 'The Thing' and ‘Fallen Angel’ apparently being inspired by ‘Predator’.
No other series takes reality, fiction, science and the paranormal and manages to successfully bring them together into a cohesive story as The X Files did. The first series of The X Files, whilst it does have the minor failings so apparent in the first series of any show, is still considered by some to be what the series should be all about - over the course of the subsequent six years many consider it lost a lot of the magic that it first had (although according to some reviews, the eighth season seems to have recaptured a lot of what was lost).
So, considering the above it’s surprising to learn that the viewing figures for this first year were nothing short of appalling – so much so that there was some significant doubt that the show would be renewed for a second year. It was, and the rest is history!
It comes as no surprise that Fox have elected to release The X Files in a series of boxsets – one for each season. That means that while the initial outlay is high, in the long term it costs a lot less than it would if you had to purchase volumes individually. The season one boxset consists of seven discs – six containing the twenty-four episodes and one extra disc containing extras. More on this in a bit.
The packaging itself is a slide-out cardboard gatefold box. While initially attractive, it will not stand up well to heavy use. I personally would much rather see the discs packaged in separate Amaray cases – even if this does take up a little more shelf space, at least they’ll look good for a lot longer.
The first series of The X Files, being made for American TV in the early nineties, was of course filmed at an aspect ratio of 4:3. It therefore comes as no surprise to discover that this is how the DVD is presented. It is also important to note that because of this there isn’t any need to enhance the disc anamorphically. The X Files has always been a very dark programme and this means that there is a lot of hidden detail in shadows – the DVD transfer does an adequate job of resolving as much of this detail as possible, however there are still times that the image isn’t quite as sharp and well defined as it could be.
Being a transfer from NTSC to PAL also introduces some minor picture issues. The main downside is the softness of the picture – there’s a little bit of colour bloom on some occasions and grain also stands out on some occasions.
The DVD transfer appears to have been competent with no major encoding issues. There is a little smearing from time to time, but nothing on the scale of that of the first two Buffy The Vampire Slayer boxsets. Colours themselves appear natural with good colour representations across the spectrum. Contrast levels are also good.
We have an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Considering the source, this is to be expected. In general it’s fine – nothing much to shout about, granted, but it is a faithful representation of the original broadcasts. There aren’t any issues with its transfer to DVD.
There is some minor surround action – not up to the scale of a big-budget action film, but just enough to create a little atmosphere. Dialogue is, for the most part, firmly locked in the centre channel.
Considering the wealth of material available, the actual quantity and quality of extras on the seventh discs is slightly lacking. There’s more of an emphasis on promotion and fluff than any real genuinely revealing or interesting material.
The Truth About Season One is a fairly superficial documentary running to around ten minutes. Consisting mainly of interviews with primary crew members. There are a few behind-the-scenes clips, but most of the other footage is from completed episodes.
Next up we have a selection of interview snippets with Chris Carter where he discusses some of the season’s key episodes. Again, there’s not really a lot to write home about – most run to a couple of minutes and don’t go into very much depth. Still there are one or two little factoids making it worth persevering.
The ‘Behind The Truth’ clips are really just a selection of fancy TV spots mixed in with some behind-the-scenes footage and revelations. In addition there are two deleted scenes from the pilot episode – both featuring Scully’s boyfriend and their removal resulted in him being completely erased from existence! There is the option of reintegrating these scenes, ‘white rabbit’ style back into the pilot if you so wish. To round of the standard DVD extras there’s a behind-the-scenes pre-effects clip from ‘Fallen Angel’ which is basically a person dressed in an orange sock running through a forest – this also features in the documentary.
The DVD-ROM content is limited to a trivia game. I haven’t tried it out, but I’ve heard it’s nothing particularly special and probably hardly worth the effort in trying it out!
To sum up, if you like the series then this boxset is already probably sitting on your shelf. As I’ve always maintained, DVD ideally suited to collecting TV series and this boxset isn’t any different. Presentation wise this boxset is up to the job, although the fairly superficial extras do offer little incentive if you already own the VHS boxset or don’t consider yourself to be a dedicated fan.