The X-Files

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The X-Files
Format Science fiction, drama, thriller, horror, mystery, comedy
Created by Chris Carter
Starring David Duchovny
Gillian Anderson
Mitch Pileggi
Robert Patrick
Annabeth Gish
Country of origin United States, Canada
No. of seasons 9
No. of episodes 202 ( List of episodes)
Location(s) Canada
United States
Running time 43 min (per episode)
Original channel FOX
Picture format 4:3 (original broadcast)
16:9 (DVD seasons 5 - 9)
Original run 10 September 1993
19 May 2002
Related shows The Lone Gunmen
External links
Official website
IMDb profile summary

The X-Files is a Peabody, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning American science fiction television series created by Chris Carter, which first aired on September 10, 1993, and ended on May 19, 2002. The show was a hit for the Fox Broadcasting Company network, and its main characters and slogans (e.g., "The Truth Is Out There", "Trust No One", "I Want to Believe") became pop culture touchstones. The X-Files is seen as a defining series of the 1990s, coinciding with the era's widespread mistrust of governments, interest in conspiracy theories and spirituality, and the belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life.

In the series, FBI agents Fox Mulder ( David Duchovny) and Dana Scully ( Gillian Anderson) are tasked with investigating the "X-Files": marginalized, unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena. Mulder plays the role of the " believer", having faith in the existence of aliens and the paranormal, while Scully is a skeptic, initially assigned by her departmental superiors to debunk Mulder's unconventional work. As the show progressed, both agents were caught up in a larger conflict, termed "the mythology" or " mytharc" by the show's creators, and developed a close relationship which was often seen as romantic rather than platonic. The complex and more romantic side was explored further in subsequent films years after the series ended. The X-Files also featured stand-alone episodes ranging in tone from horror to comedy, in which Mulder and Scully investigated uniquely bizarre cases without long-term implications on the storyline. These so-called " monster of the week" episodes made up roughly two-thirds of the series.

The show's popularity peaked in the mid-to-late 1990s, leading to a feature film in 1998. In the last two seasons, Anderson became the star as Duchovny appeared rarely, and new central characters were introduced: FBI Agents John Doggett ( Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes ( Annabeth Gish). At the time of its final episode, The X-Files was the longest running sci-fi show ever on American television. The show was declared by TV Guide to be the second greatest cult television show ( Star Trek being number one) and the 37th best television show of all time. In 2007, Time magazine included it on a list of the "100 Best TV Shows of All Time." In 2008, Entertainment Weekly named it the fourth best piece of science fiction media and the fourth best TV show in the last 25 years.

Idea and pilot

California native Chris Carter, who had previously met with limited success writing for television, was given the opportunity to produce new shows for the Fox Broadcasting network in the early 1990s. Tired of the comedies he had been working on, inspired by a report that 3.7 million Americans may have been abducted by aliens, and recalling memories of Watergate and of the 1970s horror series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Carter came up with the idea for The X-Files and wrote the pilot episode himself in 1992. He initially struggled over the untested concept—executives wanted a love interest for Scully—and casting. The network wanted either a more established or a "taller, leggier, blonder and breastier" actress for Scully than the 24-year-old Gillian Anderson, a theatre veteran with minor film experience, who Carter felt was the only choice after auditions. Nevertheless, the pilot with both Anderson and David Duchovny was successfully shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in early 1993, and the show was picked up for the Friday night 9:00 p.m. slot on the American fall TV schedule. Carter started a new company called Ten Thirteen Productions, named after his October 13 birthday, to oversee The X-Files. Carter's idea was to present FBI agents investigating extraterrestrials and paranormal events, but Carter also wanted to deal directly with the characters' beliefs. Carter said, "I think of myself as a non-religious person looking for religious experience, so I think that's what the characters are sort of doing too." Dana Scully, in addition to being the scientific " skeptic" and a trained medical doctor, was open to the Catholic faith in which she was raised; while Fox Mulder, in addition to being an Oxford-educated psychologist and renowned criminal profiler, was the "believer" in space aliens, derisively nicknamed "Spooky Mulder" by his colleagues. Carter said, "Scully's point of view is the point of view of the show. And so the show has to be built on a solid foundation of science, in order to have Mulder take a flight from it... If the science is really good, Scully's got a valid point of view... And Mulder has to then convince her that she's got to throw her arguments out, she's got to accept the unacceptable. And there is the conflict." Carter also felt Scully's role as the more rational partner and Mulder's reliance on guesses and intuition subverted the gender roles usually seen on television.

In the pilot episode, Scully is assigned to the X-Files as Mulder's partner, in order to serve as a scientific check on Mulder's belief in the paranormal. In later episodes, it becomes apparent that she was actually set up in that role so that the government conspirators could contain the implications of Mulder's work, which they viewed as a danger to their devious plans. Notably, the powerful shadow government official known only as the Cigarette Smoking Man, or "Cancer Man", appears without any spoken lines in the first and last scenes of the pilot episode—although at that point his ongoing importance to the series had not yet been established. The "unresolved sexual tension" between Mulder and Scully was also a central underlying theme from the beginning, although they were each given other brief romantic interests in future episodes. Carter thought the show should be " plot-driven", and was quoted as saying, "I didn't want the relationship to come before the cases." For example, throughout the series, Mulder and Scully, with rare exception, refer to each other in a professional manner by using each others' last names, rather than calling each other by their first names, which might seem more personal.

Carter's superior at FOX, Peter Roth, brought on more experienced staff members from the start, many of whom had previously worked with him at Stephen J. Cannell's production company. Two of the most highly-regarded writers were Glen Morgan and James Wong. Their contributions to the first two seasons, such as the episode " Beyond the Sea", were particularly popular among fans, television critics, the show's actors, and even Carter himself. Morgan and Wong also returned for the first half of the fourth season. Prior to their work on The X-Files, Wong and Morgan had worked extensively with David Nutter, Rob Bowman, and Kim Manners on cop dramas such as The Commish and 21 Jump Street. Nutter, Bowman and Manners all became frequent X-Files directors, with Nutter working on many of the darker episodes in the first three seasons. The duo of Wong and Morgan also had an important role in hiring several supporting actors on the show, as well as John Bartley, the cinematographer who gave The X-Files its early dark atmospheric look, for which he won an Emmy Award in 1996. Bartley left after the third season and was replaced by directors of photography Ron Stannett, Jon Joffin, and ultimately Joel Ransom until the end of the fifth season.

The show moved production to Los Angeles beginning with season six. Carter said, "We originally intended to film the pilot in Los Angeles. When we couldn't find a good forest, we made a quick decision to come to Vancouver. As it turned out, it was three weeks that turned into five years. The benefits of being in Vancouver were tremendous." The temperate rainforest climate of Vancouver itself was also seen as crucial to The X-Files, allowing directors to create a mysterious, foggy aura, seen as somewhat similar to that of then-recent TV hit Twin Peaks. Responsibility for casting the show fell to Randy Stone, who had first recommended both leads to Carter, and to Rick Millikan, who predominately used local Canadian actors. The move to Los Angeles was controversial among fans, as many wondered how the show could maintain the dark tone and atmosphere that characterized many of the episodes in the first five seasons. One reason the show moved was because David Duchovny wanted to be closer to his wife, actress Tea Leoni, whom he married in 1997.


Season 1 (1993–1994)

In the first two seasons, executive producer Carter and co-executive producers Morgan and Wong, along with other writers, helped to define the show's fledgling story arc. The "mythology", as the producers called it, was initially established as a government plot to cover up anything pertaining to the existence of extraterrestrial life, and Mulder's attempts to discover the fate of his sister, Samantha. He believed that she had been abducted by aliens years prior, when Mulder was a child, which profoundly affected him and ignited his obsession with the paranormal. Carter himself wrote the show's second episode, " Deep Throat", which was directed by Daniel Sackheim. It introduced a character named Deep Throat (played by Jerry Hardin), the first of several secret government informants who would at times help or hinder Mulder and Scully's investigations.

" Conduit", the first of many episodes to deal with Mulder's repressed memories of his sister's abduction, was written by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa. Gordon became another key writer/producer in the show's first four years, also writing " Fallen Angel" and other episodes in the first season with Gansa. That early mythology episode centered on Mulder's futile efforts to discover a crashed UFO which was being covered up by the government. It also introduced UFO enthusiast and abduction victim Max Fenig, one of many idiosyncratic outsiders portrayed on the show, which helped attract an "intensely loyal" cult following (see below). Fenig, played by Scott Bellis, returned for two episodes in the fourth season. Ironically, "Fallen Angel" also received the lowest Nielsen ratings of the first season. Another early and influential mythology effort, the Wong and Morgan-written episode " E.B.E." (for "extraterrestrial biological entity"), which saw Mulder and Scully tracking another crashed UFO, did almost as poorly; it was the fourth least-watched episode of the series overall until its final season.

Carter and his writers were mostly left to their own devices because FOX was concentrating on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and other shows that they considered more commercially promising at the time. The producers still ran into early opposition on some key episodes, among them "Beyond the Sea", "E.B.E.", and the popular " Ice". According to Carter, "the issue of closure has been an ongoing dialogue with the network, because we've always resisted wrapping up each episode with a neat little bow at the end. You can't do that... because pretending to explain the unexplainable is ridiculous and our audience is too smart for that." Eventually FOX backed down and it was decided "X-File stories would not have forced plot resolutions, but would conclude with some emotional resolution."

Morgan and Wong's early influence on X-Files mythology led to their introduction of popular secondary characters who would continue for years in episodes written by others, such as the Scully family—Dana's father William ( Don S. Davis), mother Margaret ( Sheila Larken) and sister Melissa ( Melinda McGraw)—as well as conspiracy-buff trio The Lone Gunmen, named after the Warren Commission's disputed theory on the John F. Kennedy assassination.

However, the duo's first episode, " Squeeze", was not a part of the mythology. The episode featured Eugene Victor Tooms, an elastic, liver-eating mutant serial-killer who emerged from hibernation every 30 years. After the first two episodes, the writing staff wanted to broaden the concept of The X-Files; executives had initially rejected Carter's idea for a series centered only around alien conspiracies, having already had one at the time, Sightings. "Squeeze" became a template for the paranormal " Monster-of-the-Week" episodes that would be a mainstay of the series. Wong and Morgan followed it up later in the season with a direct sequel called " Tooms." "Tooms" was also the episode where the writers gave the Cigarette Smoking Man his first lines, and introduced FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner ( Mitch Pileggi), Mulder and Scully's boss. Whilst a relatively in-the-background type character in the 1st season, the character's role and importance in the storyline would evolve over the next seasons, until Skinner became an integral part of the X-Files plot.

Early production issues

Initially, The X-Files was fighting for its life in the ratings, and as a result, there was no long-term plan in the beginning to guide its writers. The only guideline provided by Carter was that the show should take place "within the realm of extreme possibility". The show's first season thus featured numerous standalone stories involving monsters, and also diverse alien/government cover-ups, with no apparent connection to each other — such as the Arctic space worms in "Ice", and the conspiracy of genetically engineered twins in " Eve." Carter himself wrote " Space", a low-budget affair about the manifestation of an alien "ghost" in the NASA space shuttle program, which was subject to cost overruns and became the most expensive of the first season; he later called it one of the worst hours ever produced for the show.

According to Glen Morgan, the writers were inspired by a glowing New Yorker review noting the show's exploration of "suburban paranoia", and planned for more thematic unity in the second season: "the whole year was to be about the little green men that you and I create for ourselves... because there’re not nuclear missiles pointed at our heads, you can’t consolidate your fears there anymore." However, the plan fell through quickly due to the pressure of the network TV schedule.

But by the end of the first season, Carter and his staff had come up with many of the general concepts of the mythology that would last throughout all nine seasons, whose outlines first appeared in Carter's Edgar Award-nominated season finale " The Erlenmeyer Flask", written in early 1994 before he knew whether the show was going to be canceled. In the episode, The X-Files are closed down and Mulder and Scully are to be reassigned. The finale was the first episode directed by R. W. Goodwin, a senior producer (and husband of Sheila Larken, who played Scully's mother on the show) who went on to direct every season opening and closing episode for the next four years.

The X-Files was picked up for a second season despite finishing 102nd out of the 118 shows in the U.S. Nielsen ratings. It also received its first Emmy nod, for best title sequence. The electronic theme song in the sequence, featuring eerie whistling sounds, was by Mark Snow and became very well known ( club versions of the theme song have reached the pop charts in France, the UK and Australia, where a remix by Triple X became a number 2 hit in 1996). Snow's music scores for each episode, often dark, synthesized and ambient, were another distinctive aspect of The X-Files from its earliest years, as the show used more background music than typical of an hour long drama. A soundtrack CD, The Truth and the Light, came out in 1996.

The show's mix of genres, the stressful schedule (22 or more episodes per season) and the shooting in different settings each week, required a large and experienced technical crew. At least 300 in Vancouver were under the supervision of producer Goodwin, who called The X-Files "the most difficult show on television" and "the equivalent of making a feature film every eight days". The first year, budgets were at times as low as $1 million. By 1998, its final year in Vancouver, the show cost $2.5 million per episode, most of which was not the stars' salaries. The longtime crew included producers Joseph Patrick Finn and Paul Rabwin, in charge of post-production; production designer and art director Graeme Murray, who won two Emmys for his work on the show; film editor Heather MacDougall, who worked on 51 episodes and won an Emmy for "Kill Switch"; Emmy-nominated editor Stephen Mark, who also edited the 1998 film; sound designer Thierry Couturier, who won two Emmys, and whose son says "I made this" over the Ten Thirteen company logo; Mat Beck, visual effects supervisor (many were created on computer, unusual in early 1990s TV) for 91 episodes and also wrote the episode "Wetwired"; Emmy-nominated makeup artist Toby Lindala; and props master Kenneth Hawryliw, who later co-wrote the episode "Trevor".

Season 2 (1994–1995)

As the series ended its first season, a problem had arisen for the producers: the pregnancy of Gillian Anderson, who played Dana Scully. Some network executives wanted the role recast, which Carter refused to do. Another problem arose for Carter, who was unable to finish his planned season opening extravaganza. Morgan and Wong were asked to come up with a lower-key replacement, but their " Little Green Men" was nevertheless the first episode to actually show an alien and got the show's best ratings thus-far (with a 19% audience share). The early part of the second season solidified Mulder and Scully's close relationship, even as the two had been separated on drudgery assignments in different departments when the X-Files had been closed at the end of season one. Due to her pregnancy, Anderson was largely demobilized from active scenes with Duchovny, which matched her character's confinement to teaching medical students at Quantico. During early episodes of season two, Scully is typically pictured only in closeup, at a desk, or conducting autopsies — one of her usual roles on The X-Files due to her training as a medical doctor.

The beginning of the second season saw an increasingly frustrated and hopeless Mulder, having been reassigned at the FBI to tedious wiretaps. He also had his prior informant taken away and replaced by the far more reluctant and less friendly Mr. X ( Steven Williams), who never fully revealed his true allegiances. Carter's script " The Host" somewhat symbolized Mulder's frustration and loss of hope. In the episode, he is given what he thinks is a dead-end assignment in Newark, New Jersey, literally sifting through sewage, which actually turns out to be an X-file — a giant mutant Flukeman who breeds in nuclear waste. Critics felt The X-Files of this period often consciously resembled classic B-movies in containing environmental and political morals, as in Carter's earlier " Darkness Falls" (about ancient forest bugs who exact revenge on Pacific Northwest loggers), Morgan and Wong's " Blood" (dealing with mind control from electronic devices and pesticide spraying), and Howard Gordon's script for " Sleepless" (about Vietnam veterans who had been guinea pigs in a cruel government experiment in sleep deprivation). Notably, "Blood" was the first episode whose story credit went to Darin Morgan, the actor who had portrayed Flukeman and the brother of writer/producer Glen Morgan (of the Morgan and Wong writing team). "Sleepless" was the second X-Files episode directed by Rob Bowman, who would become one of the most prolific X-Files staff members behind the scenes, directing dozens of episodes as well as the 1998 feature film. "Sleepless" introduced Agent Alex Krycek ( Nicholas Lea) as Mulder's new partner. Their partnership would last only into the next two episodes, " Duane Barry" and " Ascension", which proved crucial to the fate of the series. Searching for a solution to the now acute problem of Anderson's pregnancy, Carter and his writers decided to have Scully abducted by Duane Barry ( Steve Railsback), himself a likely alien abductee, in the episode, "Duane Barry." The episode was both written and directed by Carter (his debut) and received several Emmy nominations the following year.

Anderson was not featured at all in the episode " 3", but reappeared when Scully mysteriously returned in Morgan and Wong's " One Breath" (directed by R. W. Goodwin), an episode which consistently scores among the highest in fan ratings. Scully's abduction provoked an existential crisis in Mulder. Although the show left it up in the air for years as to who was directly responsible (aliens, the government, or some combination of both), the earlier episode "Sleepless" had foreshadowed the events with the Cigarette Smoking Man's declaration that "every problem has a solution" (referring to Scully). Scully was now seen to be firmly on Mulder's side in the larger conflict, regardless of her original role as a debunker and her continued skepticism towards the paranormal.

After Scully's recovery (and the birth of Anderson's daughter, Piper), Mulder and Scully returned to work on the re-opened X-Files, investigating cases ranging from Haitian zombies (" Fresh Bones") to animal abductions (" Fearful Symmetry") and exorcism (" The Calusari"). This period would see the show gain more mainstream appeal, often earning winning scores during its Friday night timeslot. Its Nielsen ratings rose to their highest peaks thus-far with the occult-themed " Die Hand Die Verletzt" and the epic " Colony"/" End Game". The latter was a two-part episode introducing the idea of colonization, the Alien Bounty Hunter, as well as the characters Bill ( Peter Donat) and Teena (Rebecca Toolan) Mulder, Fox Mulder's parents. "Die Hand Die Verletzt" was Morgan and Wong's final X-Files script until the fourth season, as they departed to start their own series Space: Above and Beyond, but at the same time there was new involvement behind the scenes. The episode also marked the X-Files directorial debut of Kim Manners, who would stay with the show until its end and direct the largest number of episodes of the series. On "Colony", star David Duchovny collaborated with Chris Carter on the story, the first of Duchovny's involvements in writing for the show. Frank Spotnitz, a new story editor brought on by Chris Carter, wrote "End Game", the second of the two-part episode; Spotnitz would be a producer and writer on The X-Files and other Ten Thirteen projects for years and had a key role in shaping the mythology. The middle of the second season also saw " Irresistible", an episode directed by David Nutter and written by Chris Carter, which Carter later credited as a blueprint for his even darker show Millennium. This was the first non-paranormal episode of The X-Files, dealing with the trauma of investigating Donnie Pfaster, a " death fetishist" (so named instead of "necrophiliac" to get past the FOX censors). A sequel, "Orison", was made in the seventh season.

During its second season, The X Files finished 64th out of 141 shows, a marked improvement from the first season. The ratings were not spectacular, but the series had attracted enough fans to be classified as a "cult hit," particularly by Fox standards. Most importantly it made great gains among the 18-to-49 age demographic sought by advertisers. The show was chosen as Best Television Show of 1994 by Entertainment Weekly and named best drama by the Television Critics Association, and it received seven Emmy nominations, mostly in the technical categories, with one nomination for best drama series. In 1995, The X-Files won a Golden Globe Award for best television drama, winning out over several more established series such as ER, Picket Fences and NYPD Blue.

The last weeks of season two brought more changes, beginning what some saw as The X-Files' peak creative period. The Edgar Award-nominated " Humbug", an unconventional standalone episode about a small town inhabited by circus sideshow performers, was the first script fully written by Darin Morgan. At the time it was also considered a risky experiment, as it was the first outright comedy episode. Gillian Anderson famously swallowed a real cricket in one ad-libbed scene. Eventual senior writer Vince Gilligan also offered his first episode, the darker sci-fi " Soft Light", guest starring Tony Shalhoub as a remorseful physicist whose shadow kills people.

Season two ended in May 1995 with " Anasazi" (co-written by Carter with David Duchovny), which attracted widespread attention with its cliffhanger ending and put the future of the mythology up in the air. In the episode, Mulder and Scully are contacted by a computer hacker who has gained access to the Majestic-12 documents. Now-free agent Alex Krycek also made his first reappearance since "Ascension". The episode began a three-part arc, the show's most ambitious mythology episodes thus-far, which extended into the third season and centering around Navajo former code talker, Albert Hosteen ( Floyd Red Crow Westerman). The show could not afford location filming, so a rock quarry in British Columbia was painted to match the desert hues of the American Southwest. Outside the U.S., The X-Files was by now one of the most popular shows in the world, and was being broadcast in (approximately) 60 countries.

Season 3 (1995–1996)

Continuing from "Anasazi", " The Blessing Way" and " Paper Clip" opened the third season, bringing in the involvement of former Nazi scientists, formally introducing the leading conspiracy member Well-Manicured Man ( John Neville), and containing revelations about both Mulder and Scully's families. Ratings-wise, "The Blessing Way" was the most successful X-Files episode thus far.

The third season confirmed the existence of extraterrestrial life within the show and suggested that a shadowy international consortium known as the Syndicate were conspiring with the aliens to colonize Earth. This would be achieved via use of the so-called black oil, introduced in the two-part " Piper Maru"/" Apocrypha." However, the season's other main mythology episodes, " Nisei" and " 731", continued to call some of these conclusions into question. Chris Carter began to receive criticism for posing as many questions as answers in the mythology, while the mythology episodes were also praised for their increasingly Hollywood-like production values. "Nisei" received Emmy Awards for its sound editing and mixing. Season three was noted for its wide variety of "monster of the week" episodes. " Pusher", the second effort by writer Vince Gilligan, depicted the cold blooded Robert Patrick Modell, a man who could control people telepathically (a sequel, " Kitsunegari", came two years later in the fifth season). Simultaneously, the show continued to yield darker episodes, such as " The Walk" (a mysterious deadly force in a veterans hospital), " Oubliette" (a metaphysical connection between a recently kidnapped girl and another woman) and " Grotesque" (Mulder's descent into the world of a gargoyle-possessed killer, which received an Emmy for John Bartley's cinematography).

Behind the scenes, Darin Morgan continued his involvement with the show, becoming The X-Files' most critically acclaimed writer. Despite intense perfectionism and having been unsatisfied with his well-received "Humbug", Morgan managed to turn in three dark comedy episodes which were considered original for the show. The first of these, " Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose", concerned a St. Paul insurance salesman ( Peter Boyle) who could predict death. It won Emmys for best writing and guest actor Boyle, and comes in very high in fan polls of favorite episodes. " War of the Coprophages" was Morgan's parody-tribute to H.G. Wells/ Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, this time with an infestation of cockroaches driving a town to hysteria. It also mocked the sexual tension between Mulder and Scully by introducing the attractive female entomologist Dr. Bambi Berenbaum. A similar technique was also used in Chris Carter's own " Syzygy", only one week later, leading to what some viewers felt was a comedy overdose. Morgan's third effort of the season, and his final episode as an X-Files script writer, was " Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'", which presented multiple perspectives as in Kurosawa's Rashomon, and made fun of the X-Files mythology while remaining consistent with it. Graeme Murray and Shirley Inget were nominated for an Emmy for art direction. Morgan would later write a sequel also involving the writer Jose Chung ( Charles Nelson Reilly), for Chris Carter's other series, Millennium in 1998.

In the spring of 1996, The X-Files began to achieve wide recognition. In addition to its eight Emmy nominations in its third season, of which it won five, it was awarded a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in television broadcasting. Both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were nominated for Screen Actors Guild Awards for the first time, and Anderson won. Both actors were also nominated for Golden Globe Awards. Guest stars in season 3 included Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek (both " men in black" in "Jose Chung's"), Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black (in " D.P.O.", about a young man who can control lightning), Lucy Liu and B.D. Wong (in " Hell Money", about mysterious and deadly occurrences in the Chinese immigrant community), JT Walsh (in " The List", about the reincarnation of a death row prisoner), and R. Lee Ermey (in " Revelations", about a stigmatic boy, played by Kevin Zegers, the first of several episodes in the series to deal directly with Scully's Catholic faith). Black, Ribisi and Liu were not widely known at the time they appeared on The X-Files. Dave Grohl also had a cameo in the "Pusher". His rock band, Foo Fighters, were fans of the show, and contributed songs to the compilation album, Songs in the Key of X, released that spring. They also contributed to The X-Files film two years later (see below for other pop culture inspirations).

The final part of the season brought the episode " Avatar" (the first episode centered around Mitch Pileggi's Assistant Director Walter Skinner, who was being punished by the Syndicate for his efforts on behalf of Mulder and Scully), " Quagmire" (about a lake monster; the famous "conversation on the rock" between Mulder and Scully was added by script editor Darin Morgan as his last contribution to The X-Files), " Wetwired" (an episode involving a conspiracy to send subliminal messages in TV reception), and season finale " Talitha Cumi", which introduced Jeremiah Smith ( Roy Thinnes), an alien with healing powers. The finale had a complex plot, tying back to Mulder's mother's past with the Cigarette Smoking Man. One scene, produced by writers Chris Carter and David Duchovny, was modeled directly after " The Grand Inquisitor" chapter from Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. The episode was again a cliffhanger, "to be continued" in the next season.

Season 4 (1996–1997)

The next season began with The X-Files' highest ratings success to that point, with " Herrenvolk". The season premiere introduced several new elements to the conspiracy: " killer bees" designed to unleash smallpox, clones and alien hybrids, United Nations Special Representative Marita Covarrubias (played by Laurie Holden), and the removal of a previous important character. Covarrubias became an informer to Mulder and Scully in several episodes in the season, such as " Teliko" and " Unrequited." However it was the horror episode " Home", signaling the return of Morgan and Wong as writers after their canceled Space: Above and Beyond, that was most noticed. "Home" told the story of an inbred family of murderers in rural Pennsylvania, with references to The Andy Griffith Show and grisly violence contrasted with calm, becoming a hit with many fans ("X-Philes") and dividing others. FOX's Standards and Practices department granted it a rare TV-MA "Parental Advisory" rating and refused to ever air it again, though the episode later went into syndication. Two major changes occurred behind the scenes in the autumn of 1996, during the early part of the fourth season. Chris Carter's new series Millennium, also produced in Vancouver, debuted on Friday nights. As a result, The X-Files was moved from Friday night to Sunday, seen as a key to better ratings success, although Carter was initially wary and the decision was controversial with the show's audience. The first episode to air in the new time period was " Unruhe", written by Vince Gilligan and directed by Rob Bowman. It was one of the series' darkest episodes, dealing with a man (played by Pruitt Taylor Vince) who lobotomizes women and can project his fantasies in "thought photography". Gilligan also wrote " Paper Hearts", an emotional episode for Mulder, twisting his memories of his sister's disappearance with a case involving an unrepentant child killer.

Wong and Morgan contributed their own, possibly non- canon addition to the mythology, " Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", which referenced Shakespearian history, tied The X-Files to real life conspiracy theories about the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, and was the first episode in which neither Mulder or Scully appears on screen (except in flashback). The death of Lone Gunmen member Frohike was originally going to be in the episode, before Carter nixed the idea, but the scene was actually shot by director James Wong. Chris Owens, later to play other roles for the show, first appeared in this episode as the young CSM. The action-oriented " Tunguska" and " Terma" were the more traditional mythology episodes for the autumn sweeps period, sending Mulder and Krycek to a Russian gulag and involving the black oil and the Syndicate closely. X-Files ratings by the middle of the fourth season were as high as they had ever been, and by autumn 1996 it was the FOX network's most popular show.

Many episodes of the fourth season were character driven, such as " The Field Where I Died" and " Demons", both about Mulder trying to recover his past, or past lives. " Never Again", Morgan and Wong's final episode of the series, centered on Scully's personal life, with Jodie Foster providing the voice of a tattoo. It had originally been planned as a collaboration with director Quentin Tarantino, but Tarantino was not allowed to work in network television because he was not a member of the Directors Guild of America. The episode was ultimately directed by Rob Bowman, with an homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy. FOX had attained rights to broadcast Super Bowl XXXI in January 1997 and planned to showcase The X-Files in the premier post-game slot. As a result, "Never Again" was bumped to the next week, and " Leonard Betts", a stylish and gory monster-of-the-week episode about an EMT (played by Paul McCrane) who was decapitated and could regrow his body, received the coveted spot (episodes of The X-Files were often aired slightly out of production order). "Leonard Betts" became the all time most-watched X-Files episode, with 17.2 Nielsen rating and 29% audience share. It was also the first episode to be written by the team of Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz, who were responsible for many episodes during the show's middle-to-late era.

The air date of "Leonard Betts" became relevant because the final scenes of the episode were central to the ongoing story arc of the show and led directly into the events of " Memento Mori", in which it is revealed that Dana Scully has contracted terminal brain cancer. When originally aired, however, the episode "Never Again" came between these, implying Scully's behaviour in that episode was a result of her diagnosis; Gillian Anderson said she would have played the role completely differently if that had been the case. Nevertheless, Anderson's performances during the fourth season "cancer arc" were praised. She won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1997, as well as her second straight Screen Actors Guild award and a Golden Globe. "Memento Mori" relied on extended emotional voiceovers, a technique that had become increasingly common in the show over the years, as Scully came to grips with her illness while simultaneously investigating its origins, leading back to her own abduction. Mulder, Walter Skinner and the Cigarette Smoking Man all became dramatically involved, which played out in the later episode " Zero Sum", one of the few episodes of the show not to feature Anderson's involvement, although the events were driven by Scully's worsening condition, as well as the Syndicate's plans for unleashing killer bees.

Once Scully had contracted cancer, she continued to work in her former capacity as Mulder's partner investigating X-Files, apparently debilitated only by occasional nosebleeds, though the issue of mortality was again addressed in " Elegy" late in the season. In the intervening time, notable episodes included the two-part " Tempus Fugit" and " Max", in which Max Fenig from season one's "Fallen Angel" returned briefly as the agents investigated mysterious "lost time" in a deadly plane crash, loosely modeled on TWA Flight 800.

Amidst what was considered the show's darkest year, " Small Potatoes" provided a lighter tone. The episode was written by Vince Gilligan, and featured departed X-Files writer and former Flukeman Darin Morgan in the role of Eddie Van Blundht, a shape-shifting self-described "loser" who becomes the focus of Scully and Mulder's investigation of a West Virginia town where children are being born with tails. The final scenes of the episode provided " shippers" with the sight of "Mulder" and Scully finally together, the first of many such jokes by the writers in later seasons. Season 4 ended with " Gethsemane", a resolution which appeared to leave one main character near death and kill off the other one, as well as turning his entire belief system into a house of cards.

Season 5 (1997–1998)

When season 5 opened, to the show's best numbers ever (with the exception of "Leonard Betts"), it turned out Fox Mulder was still alive, having gone into hiding after becoming involved with Michael Kritschgau, a renegade Department of Defense employee. The continuation of the three-part arc with " Redux" and " Redux II" brought Scully's metastasizing cancer to the fore, as Mulder continued to question his own ideas about aliens and government conspiracies, while working to find a cure to a disease he believes the government gave Scully. Scully is finally cured, though it's unclear what has caused the intervention, and what sacrifices have been made for the end. Skinner's loyalties are in question, and the Cigarette Smoking Man is seemingly put out of commission by the Syndicate.

These events were soon followed by Chris Carter's " The Post-Modern Prometheus", which he both wrote and directed. It was the show's only episode filmed entirely in black-and-white, a retelling of the story of Frankenstein (subtitled by author Mary Shelley, The Modern Prometheus), mixed with allusions to Young Frankenstein, Jerry Springer, comic books, David Lynch's The Elephant Man, and Cher. Carter earned his second DGA nomination for his work. A few months earlier in 1997, The X-Files had received its largest awards recognition yet for its fourth season, with 12 Emmy nominations including best drama series, sound mixing, makeup, music, directing, writing, two nominations for editing, and wins for sound editing, art direction, and Anderson. Duchovny was also nominated at both this event and at the Golden Globes, where along with Anderson's win, he won best actor in a TV drama and the show itself won that category for a second year — taking all three top awards. The X-Files also won a second Saturn Award for best genre television series, and Anderson won for best actress; these awards were given by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films.

Chris Carter's contract with FOX ran through the fifth season, and he and the stars had originally preferred to stop there, turning The X-Files into a series of films; but the show was such a hit that FOX was intent to continue it on TV in some form, and Carter was convinced to sign a new contract, retaining creative control. In a very rare move for a show still in production, a feature film of The X-Files had been planned by Carter ever since the show achieved commercial success in season two. The film's scripts were printed in red ink on red paper to ensure secrecy by making it impossible to photocopy, and it was largely filmed in California between season four's "Gethsemane" and season five's resumption of the plot with "Redux", pushing back the debut date for the season to November 1997 and resulting in the fifth being (until the ninth) the shortest season, only 20 episodes.

As a result, several episodes in season five featured either Scully or Mulder at the expense of the other, to make time for personal projects or re-shoots on the film throughout the season (both stars were now reportedly receiving the same pay, $100,000 per episode). " Christmas Carol" and " Emily", written by the team of Spotnitz, Gilligan and Shiban, were the first mythology episodes mostly centered around Scully. In "Christmas Carol", she receives further information about her abduction, coinciding with the mysterious arrival of a young child into her life.

Another result was that two episodes of the season, " Unusual Suspects" and "Travelers", focused on the origins of The Lone Gunmen in 1989 and the origin of the X-File cases at the FBI during the McCarthy era in the 1950s, respectively. Duchovny appears only briefly in the episodes, and Anderson is in neither. Richard Belzer guest starred in "Unusual Suspects", playing Detective John Munch of Homicide & Law & Order: SVU. "Unusual Suspects" was later followed up in the sixth season with "Three of a Kind", and these episodes about Lone Gunmen John Fitzgerald Byers ( Bruce Harwood), Richard "Ringo" Langly ( Dean Haglund), and Melvin Frohike ( Tom Braidwood) later became the basis for a short-lived spinoff in 2001.

Early in 1998, the show, largely written by a staff of regulars, aired its first episodes by well-known guest writers. Stephen King contributed " Chinga" (also known as "Bunghoney"), about a demonic doll, which was co-written with Chris Carter and featured Scully investigating the case, between tongue-in-cheek phone conversations with Mulder. The episode, directed by Kim Manners, received mixed reviews. Next up was " Kill Switch", written by cyberpunk author William Gibson along with Tom Maddox. The episode covered issues of virtual reality and received better reception. Then an episode aired where both Mulder and Scully's diverging viewpoints on a vampire case were presented, and humorously contrasted. Vince Gilligan's "Bad Blood", another pairing with "Small Potatoes" director Cliff Bole, was a fan favorite and featured Luke Wilson in a guest role as a young Texas sheriff with or without "buck teeth".

In February, the fifth season continued a tradition of mythology episodes in sweeps month and aired the dramatic two-part episodes "Patient X" and "The Red and the Black", the latter of which was again directed by Carter. These dealt with the beginning of colonization, and introduced two new characters, Cassandra Spender (a chronic alien abductee, played by Veronica Cartwright, who was nominated for two Emmys in the role) and her estranged son Jeffrey Spender (a colleague of Mulder and Scully at the FBI, played by Chris Owens). The episodes also juxtaposed Mulder's ongoing crisis of belief in the existence of aliens, with the machinations of the Syndicate and Scully's own personal experiences. Krycek and Covarrubias were involved, while the Cigarette Smoking Man continued to be largely out of the picture during the fifth season. Leading up to the end of the year, more monster of the week episodes were aired, including "Mind's Eye" (guest starring Lili Taylor as a blind woman suspected of murder, and written by season 5 story editor Tim Minear), "The Pine Bluff Variant" (about Mulder's involvement in a plot to spread deadly biological terrorism, with tie-ins to the ongoing mythology) and "Folie à deux" (about Mulder and Scully's investigation into a telemarketing employee who claimed his boss could turn into an insect).

"The End" was the last episode to be filmed in rainy Vancouver, British Columbia (pictured), closing season 5. The show produced 117 episodes in Canada before moving to Los Angeles in its sixth season.
"The End" was the last episode to be filmed in rainy Vancouver, British Columbia (pictured), closing season 5. The show produced 117 episodes in Canada before moving to Los Angeles in its sixth season.

David Duchovny had been unhappy with his geographical separation from his wife Téa Leoni, although his discontent was popularly attributed to frustration with climatic conditions in Vancouver. Gillian Anderson also wanted to return home to the United States, and Carter decided to move production to Los Angeles following the fifth season. The season ended in May 1998 with "The End", the final episode shot in Vancouver and the final episode with the involvement of many of the original crew members who had worked on the show for its previous five years, including director and producer R. W. Goodwin and his wife Sheila Larken (who played Margaret Scully and would later return briefly). "The End" introduced Diana Fowley, a new character who had apparently once worked with Mulder on early X-Files, but it focused largely on the efforts of the Syndicate to get control of mind-reading chess prodigy Gibson Praise.

The X-Files were closed for a second time in this episode (following season 2). This set up the events of the film, The X-Files, which had just completed post-production and was to open in theatres one month later. The show finished its fifth season with a season Nielsen average of 12.1, its all time peak viewership, and an X-Files record of 16 Emmy nominations (winning two), in addition to winning the Golden Globe for best drama series for the third year. Overall, seasons three to five appear to have marked the show's most popular and acclaimed period.

The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998)

In summer 1998 the series produced a feature length motion picture, The X-Files, also known as The X Files: Fight the Future. It was intended to be a continuation of the season five finale "The End" (5x20), but was also meant to stand on its own. The season six opener "The Beginning" picked up where the film left off. The majority of the film was shot in the break between the show's fourth and fifth seasons.

The film was written by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz and directed by series regular Rob Bowman. In addition to Mulder, Scully, Walter Skinner and the Cigarette Smoking Man, it featured guest appearances by Martin Landau, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Blythe Danner as characters that only appeared in the film (though Mueller-Stahl's Conrad Strughold is later mentioned in the series). It also had the last X-Files appearance by John Neville as the Well-Manicured Man. Jeffrey Spender, Diana Fowley, Alex Krycek and Gibson Praise do not appear in the film. The film had a strong domestic opening and got mostly positive reviews from critics. However, its box office dropped sharply after the first weekend. Although it failed to make a profit during theatrical release, due to a very high promotional budget, The X-Files film was more successful internationally. Anderson and Duchovny received equal pay for the film, unlike their original contracts for the series.

The worldwide theatrical box office total was $189 million. The film's production cost was close to $66 million, and its advertising budget was similar.

Season 6 (1998–1999)

Over the course of the previous two years, the show had built upon the mythology storylines that grew in complexity and prominence (and confusion, especially for new viewers) as the show progressed. The loyalties of the Cigarette Smoking Man and Krycek were continually shifting and the influence of CSM appeared to be waning. Above all, the Syndicate's co-operation with the colonizers was proven to be a ploy, as they were secretly attempting to develop a vaccine to the black oil (also known as "purity") which was shown to be an agent which would allow for the transportation of alien beings, and which would be spread through bees come the time for colonization. However, another alien faction was proven to exist, and these rebels opposed the colonists and the Syndicate for their co-operation. Consequently, in mid-season 6 "full disclosure" episodes "Two Fathers" and "One Son", the rebels destroyed the Syndicate.

At the end of The X-Files film, the X-Files had again been re-opened. However, Agents Spender and Fowley were assigned to them rather than Mulder and Scully, who were reassigned from Walter Skinner — who continued to appear on the show, nevertheless — to a new boss, Assistant Director Alvin Kersh (played by James Pickens, Jr.). Gibson Praise was dispatched in the first episode of season 6, "The Beginning" (which also posited a possible alien source for humanity), and Jeffrey Spender was also written out of the show during season 6, while Mimi Rogers' Diana Fowley continued to play a role and appeared quite close to the Cigarette Smoking Man. The latter character was finally given a name, CGB Spender, and an identity — father of Jeffrey and ex-husband of Cassandra.

With the move to Los Angeles, California in season 6, many changes behind the scenes occurred, as much of the original X-Files crew was gone. New production designer Corey Kaplan, editor Lynne Willingham, writer David Amann, and director and producer Michael Watkins would stay on for several years. Bill Roe became the show's new director of photography, and episodes generally had a drier, brighter look due to the sunshine and climate of California, as compared with the rain, fog and temperate forests of Vancouver, Canada. Early in the sixth season, the producers took advantage of the new location, setting the show in parts of the country they had not been able to write episodes in previously. For example, Vince Gilligan's "Drive" (about a man subject to an unexplained illness) was a frenetic action episode, unusual for The X-Files, not least due to its setting on roads in the stark desert of Nevada. The "Dreamland" two-parter was also set in Nevada, this time in the legendary Area 51. It marked another comedy outing for the show, in a season increasingly light in tone, with guest star Michael McKean playing man in black Morris Fletcher, who switches bodies with Fox Mulder during the course of the episodes. It is the only non-mythology two part episode of The X-Files.

The sixth season also explored the ever-deepening bond between Mulder and Scully. The episode "Triangle" was Chris Carter's fifth try at directing as well as writing The X-Files. With its ambitious mise-en-scène featuring continuous takes and split screens, and its setting on an ocean liner on the eve of World War II (played by RMS Queen Mary anchored in Long Beach, California), it was widely seen as a bid for an Emmy Award, which Carter did not receive, though the episode was up for sound editing. "Triangle" concerned Mulder's trip to the Bermuda Triangle to investigate an X-File there, disobeying superiors such as Kersh, in parallel with Scully and The Lone Gunmen's dogged efforts to locate him, contrasting this with time warp versions of all the main characters in September 1939, and ending with a pivotal " shipper" moment while leaving both the preceding events and the agents' relationship ambiguous. Whether they "should" or "should not" consummate their " platonic" love was a matter of immense debate among the fan community for years, and is still subject to scrutiny, since even after abundant hints Carter refuses to substantiate whether the two characters ever had sex. Other episodes that season, such as "The Rain King", "Monday", "Field Trip", and Carter's "Milagro" and "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" (guest starring Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin), also dealt primarily with romantic relationships and alternate realities, using these to comment on Mulder and Scully's status.

Late in the season, David Duchovny — who had a master's degree in English and considered a career as a writer before joining the cast — contributed his first solo X-Files script, "The Unnatural", which he also directed. It was about Josh "Ex" Exley, a baseball-loving alien who played in the Negro Leagues after the fabled Roswell crash in 1947. A baseball announcer in "The Unnatural" was voiced by famous Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, Chris Carter's original inspiration for the name of Dana Scully. The episode was also originally set to feature the involvement of Darren McGavin, star of early X-Files inspiration Kolchak: The Night Stalker. McGavin had to pull out due to illness, but he does appear as original X-File investigator Agent Arthur Dales in season five's "Travelers" and season six's "Agua Mala" (about Mulder and Scully's discovery of a dangerous water-based life form during a hurricane in Florida).

Some longtime fans were alienated by the show in season 6, due to the different tone taken by most stand-alone episodes after the move to Los Angeles Rather than adhering to the previous style of "monsters of the week", they were often romantic or gently humorous or both, such as "Arcadia", where Mulder and Scully pose as a married couple in a gated community in order to solve a case, or the darker, campy "Terms of Endearment", starring Bruce Campbell as a demon. Meanwhile, some felt there was no coherent plan to the mytharc, that Carter was "making it all up as he goes along". The show ended season 6 with solid ratings, but its lowest average since season two, beginning a decline that would continue for the final three years of its run. This may have been due to different competition on Sunday nights, or because viewers felt the show was burning out or even " jumping the shark" (the show would actually reference the concept in its episode "Jump the Shark" three years later). The show's producers acknowledged they had been trying to do something different from previous years in season six. The X-Files was nevertheless FOX's highest rated show that year, and was nominated for eight Emmys in 1999, winning one for makeup. It was also nominated for SAG Awards for Anderson, Duchovny and Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast, recognizing Pileggi, Pickens, Owens and Davis' continuing contributions.

As compared with other seasons, relatively few mythology episodes were made during season 6, only "The Beginning", the stand-alone "S.R. 819" (in which Walter Skinner's health is compromised by a mysterious nanotechnology affliction as possible blackmail to force him to turn against Mulder and Scully), "Two Fathers" and "One Son", and the season finale "Biogenesis", the first of a three-part story continued into season 7, about Scully's investigation of an ancient UFO discovered off the coast of West Africa and effects on Mulder from it.

Seasons 7 – 9 (1999–2002)

In November 1999, "The Sixth Extinction" and its second part "Amor Fati" continued the story arc begun in the previous year. New sixth season director Michael Watkins oversaw the latter episode, which was a writing collaboration between Chris Carter and David Duchovny, harkening back to the themes and characters of previous X-Files history — "Anasazi/The Blessing Way/Paper Clip" and Carter's "Redux" trilogy — as well as to The Last Temptation of Christ. However, it was the lowest rated season premiere since 1994's "Little Green Men". Subsequent offerings like "Millennium" (a crossover with Carter's recently canceled other series), and Vince Gilligan's "Hungry" (a sardonic " monster of the week" in which Mulder and Scully barely appeared) and "X-Cops" (an experimental merging with Fox's reality show COPS), did not substantially improve viewership. "Millennium", however, as well as featuring Lance Henriksen reprising his role of Frank Black for the final time, also made waves for showing the first consensual mouth-to-mouth kiss of Mulder and Scully. The occasion was New Year's 2000.

Nick Chinlund also reprised his role of Donnie Pfaster in "Orison", a sequel to season two's " Irresistible", while Ricky Jay played a magician in "The Amazing Maleeni", which contrasted with the generally more emotional tone of season seven. Novelists Tom Maddox and William Gibson returned with a second episode, " First Person Shooter", this time directed by Chris Carter. There were reports of friction between cast and crew, however. David Duchovny, who had filed a lawsuit with Fox Broadcasting that also alleged Carter was paid "hush money" to approve an unfair syndication contract, was reputed to be bored with The X-Files a year after relocating. The show's production costs since the move from Vancouver — typically over $3 million per episode — were also a matter of concern to the network, as it both financed and distributed the show and could not pass off costs to itself without hurting the corporate bottom line.

Breaking the formula of standard stand-alone episodes were several efforts written and directed by the show's stars. Gillian Anderson directed her own script for the metaphysical "all things", further exploring Scully's character. It was the first X-Files to be directed by a woman, though the show had had several female writers for periods during seasons 2, 3 and 4 (Carter himself had been subject to a harassment lawsuit years earlier, which was dismissed). Duchovny followed up his prior episode "The Unnatural" with the over-the-top satire, "Hollywood A.D." The title referenced both the Church scandal uncovered therein, and the prospect of Mitch Pileggi's Assistant Director Skinner as a Hollywood player; the self-reflexive episode concerned Skinner's effort to get a blockbuster film made about Mulder and Scully's X-Files investigations, but the "stars" playing the agents are actress Téa Leoni, Duchovny's real life wife as Scully, and comedian Garry Shandling as Mulder. Finally, William Davis, known for his ongoing role as the Cigarette Smoking Man, wrote an episode examining his character, called En Ami. It was one of Davis' final appearances in the show.

En Ami was also director Rob Bowman's final episode for the show. Before the seventh season finale, longtime writer Vince Gilligan also got the chance to direct his first episode, "Je Souhaite" (about a reluctant genie), and Chris Carter turned in the dark slapstick "Fight Club", a return to Carter's roots in comedy. The episode, guest starring Kathy Griffin, did not go over well, particularly so close to what fans expected would be final revelations to the mythology; it became the lowest-voted episode of the series in a survey of viewers.

The final three seasons were a time of closure for The X-Files. Characters within the show were written out, including the Cigarette Smoking Man and Mulder's mother, and several plot threads were resolved, including the fate of Fox Mulder's sister Samantha, who had been a long running plot device within the show, in the episodes " Sein Und Zeit" and "Closure". After settling his contract dispute, Duchovny quit full-time participation in the show after the seventh season. This contributed to uncertainties over the likelihood of an eighth season. Carter and most fans felt the show was at its natural endpoint with Duchovny's departure, but it was decided Mulder would be abducted at the end of the seventh season, leaving things open for the actor's return in 11 episodes the following year. Season finale "Requiem" was written by Chris Carter as a possible series finale, but the show was again renewed by Fox, despite lower ratings.

For the next two years, Carter was offered incentives to continue the show, which he did despite reservations, concluding there were "more stories to tell." Executive producer and screenwriter Frank Spotnitz was largely responsible, with Carter, for running the show in its final two years, introducing new central characters. With Duchovny's involvement reduced (and in anticipation of Anderson's possible absence in the future), the show's eighth season introduced two new X-Files agents, John Doggett and Monica Reyes (played by Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish, respectively). Doggett was initially the primary character with Anderson, playing off her in a now-reversed dynamic from The X-Files' earliest seasons, with Scully the "believer" and Doggett the "skeptic", once again investigating paranormal monsters of the week. Carter, Spotnitz, John Shiban and Vince Gilligan continued to serve as writers, with Kim Manners frequently directing, but otherwise the behind the scenes staff experienced turnover.

It was Chris Carter's belief that the series could continue for another ten years with new leads, and the opening credits were accordingly redesigned for the first time in season 9 to emphasize the new actors (along with Pileggi, who was finally listed). This was not to be the case, however, as over the course of the final two seasons, Doggett and Reyes did not provide the ratings boost the producers had hoped for. Following the launch and U.S. commercial failure of spinoff show The Lone Gunmen, whose March 2001 debut episode had dealt with an airplane being hijacked and flown into the World Trade Centre, writers were also finding it hard to deal with stock X-Files themes in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The show received meager Emmy attention in its final years, nevertheless picking up a nomination for Bill Roe's cinematography in "This is Not Happening", and a win for makeup in the stand-alone "Deadalive". Robert Patrick won a Saturn Award for Best Actor, however, and the mythology continued to develop, with a new "super soldiers" concept, and the informer Knowle Rohrer, who interacted with Doggett. Cary Elwes also played a new character. Jeff Gulka's Gibson Praise and Chris Owens' Jeffrey Spender eventually made a return, as well as Scully's mother Margaret, played by Sheila Larken (who had not appeared since the show moved from Vancouver in season 5). The show also alluded to religious allegory in a story line about Scully's pregnancy. It was a seeming reversal of earlier seasons' mythology, in which experiments that had given the character her cancer had also left Scully infertile.

Duchovny returned over the eighth season for several dramatic episodes, and flashbacks were seen in the ninth. Duchovny also directed an episode. Anderson was nominated for her final Screen Actors Guild award as Dana Scully in 2001. The Mulder/Scully relationship by this point reflected what some " shippers" had imagined for years, although others were dissatisfied or offended by the characterizations. The two were eventually joined by Baby William, Scully's child via an implant related to her abduction, while the crew also offered a tribute to an Internet fan fiction writer who had died from cancer in 2001, creating the character of young FBI Agent Leyla Harrison (a self-professed admirer of Mulder and Scully) to honour her memory in the season 8 episode "Alone" and Season 9 episode "Scary Monsters."

The X-Files completed its ninth and final season with the two-hour episode " The Truth", which reunited David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and much of the original cast. It first aired on May 19, 2002, finishing third in its timeslot (13.2 million viewers) in the Nielsen ratings, with a slightly lower audience share than the original X-Files pilot episode. The show ceased production at the end of the ninth season — on a cliffhanger, though Carter knew that this would be the final episode. Carter's Ten Thirteen Productions also went into hibernation, and actors, writers, producers and technical staff all moved on to other projects. The show's final Emmy nomination in 2002 went to composer Mark Snow.

The X-Files: I Want To Believe (2008)

The X-Files: I Want to Believe is the second movie based on the series, after the original 1998 film adaptation, The X-Files. Filming took place in Vancouver and ended on March 11, 2008. The movie was directed by Carter and co-written by Carter and Frank Spotnitz. It was released in the United States on July 25, 2008.

Episode types

The X-Files combined continuing serial drama elements, such as those often found in miniseries and soap operas, with individual standalone episodes that did not require a viewer to understand the show's history prior to watching. Due to these differing episode types, fans as well as the show's producers commonly divide X-Files episodes into two categories:

  • "Mythology" or "Mytharc" episodes told the tale of a governmental conspiracy revolving around extraterrestrials.
  • Standalone or " Monster-of-the-Week" episodes dealt with paranormal creatures and situations, while generally being unrelated to the series mythology.

Mytharc episodes

Major mythology episodes were typically presented as season premieres and finales each year, as well as several times throughout most seasons. They made up about one third of the total episodes, and often occurred as two-parters.

Below is a list of episodes that tell the mythology story, according to The X-Files Mythology DVD series released in 2005. They are listed in original broadcast order, the same order in which they appear on DVD.

  • Season 1: Pilot, Deep Throat, Fallen Angel, E.B.E., The Erlenmeyer Flask
  • Season 2: Little Green Men, Duane Barry, Ascension, One Breath, Red Museum, Colony, End Game, Anasazi
  • Season 3: The Blessing Way, Paper Clip, Nisei, 731, Piper Maru, Apocrypha, Talitha Cumi
  • Season 4: Herrenvolk, Tunguska, Terma, Memento Mori, Tempus Fugit, Max, Zero Sum, Gethsemane
  • Season 5: Redux, Redux II, Patient X, The Red and the Black, The End
  • Season 6: The Beginning, Dreamland, Dreamland II, S.R. 819, Two Fathers, One Son, Biogenesis
  • Season 7: The Sixth Extinction, The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati, Sein und Zeit, Closure, En Ami, Requiem
  • Season 8: Within, Without, Per Manum, This is Not Happening, Deadalive, Three Words, Vienen, Essence, Existence
  • Season 9: Nothing Important Happened Today, Nothing Important Happened Today II, Trust No 1, Provenance, Providence, William, The Truth

Cast of characters

Actor Character Years
David Duchovny Special Agent Fox William Mulder 1993 – 2002
Seasons 1-7: 161 episodes
Season 8: 12 episodes
Season 9: 2 episodes
The X-Files: I Want To Believe (2008)
Gillian Anderson Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully, M.D. 1993 – 2002
The X-Files: I Want To Believe (2008)
Mitch Pileggi Assistant Director Walter S. Skinner 1994 – 1995 (guest star)
1995 – 2000 (also starring)
2000 – 2002
The X-Files: I Want To Believe (2008)
Robert Patrick Special Agent John Doggett 2000 – 2002
Annabeth Gish Special Agent Monica Reyes 2001 – 2002

Recurring guest characters

Actor Character Seasons
William B. Davis C.G.B. Spender, a.k.a.
Cigarette Smoking Man
1–5, film, 6–7, 9
Jerry Hardin Deep Throat 1, 3–4, 7
Steven Williams X 2–5, 9
Nicholas Lea Alex Krycek 2–9
Brian Thompson Alien Bounty Hunter 2–8
John Neville Well-Manicured Man 3–5, film
Don S. Williams First Elder 3–5, film, 6
Laurie Holden Marita Covarrubias 4–7, 9
Veronica Cartwright Cassandra Spender 5–6
Chris Owens Agent Jeffrey Spender 5–6, 9
Mimi Rogers Agent Diana Fowley 5–7
James Pickens, Jr. Assistant/Deputy Director Alvin Kersh 6, 8–9
Tom Braidwood Melvin Frohike 1–5, film, 6–9
Bruce Harwood John Fitzgerald Byers 1–5, film, 6–9
Dean Haglund Richard Langly 1–5, film, 6–9
Rebecca Toolan Teena Mulder 2–4, 7
Sheila Larken Margaret Scully 1–5, 8–9
Adam Baldwin Knowle Rohrer 8–9



The X-Files directly inspired numerous other TV series, including Strange World, Burning Zone, Special Unit 2, Mysterious Ways, Lost, Carnivàle, Dark Skies, The Visitor,. Some of these included former crew-members of The X-Files, such as Lost, whose cinematographer is John Bartley; the mytharc-dominated 24, executive produced by writer Howard Gordon; Six Feet Under, coproduced by Lori Jo Nemhauser; and Supernatural, involving directors David Nutter and Kim Manners, and writer-producer John Shiban.

The X-Files is parodied in The Simpsons episode The Springfield Files. In it, Mulder and Scully (voiced by Duchovny and Anderson) are sent to Springfield to investigate an alien sighting by Homer Simpson, but end up finding no evidence other than Homer's word (in humorous Simpsons fashion) and depart. The Cigarrete Smoking Man appears in the background when Homer is interviewed, and the show's theme plays whenever the "alien" is on screen.

The influence can be seen on other levels: television series such as Alias have developed a complex mythology that may bring to mind the "mytharc" of The X-Files. In terms of characterization, the role of Dana Scully was seen as somewhat original, causing a change in "how women [on television] were not just perceived but behaved", and perhaps influencing the portrayal of "strong women" investigators. Many procedural dramas also feature a Mulder-esque lead with a supervisor similar to Skinner or Kersh. Some of these procedurals, such as NCIS, feature a quirky technogeek similar to The Lone Gunmen characters.

Musical influence can also be heard in The WB/ The CW superhero series Smallville, on which X-Files composer Mark Snow has worked since the show's first episode

Russell T. Davies said The X-Files had been an inspiration on his current British series Torchwood, describing it as "dark, wild and sexy... The X Files meets This Life." Other shows have been influenced by the tone and mood of The X-Files, e.g., Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which drew from the mood and coloring of The X-Files, as well as from its occasional blend of horror and humor. Joss Whedon described his show as a cross between The X-Files and My So-Called Life.


As The X-Files saw its viewership expand from a "small, but devoted" group of fans to a worldwide mass audience, digital telecommunications were also becoming mainstream. According to The New York Times, "this may have been the first show to find its audience growth tied to the growth of the Internet." The X-Files was seen to incorporate new technologies into storylines beginning in the early seasons: Mulder and Scully communicated on cellular phones, e-mail contact with secret informants provided plot points in episodes such as "Colony" and "Anasazi", while The Lone Gunmen were portrayed as Internet aficionados as early as 1994. Many X-Files fans also had online access. Fans of the show became commonly known as "X-Philes," a term coined (from the Greek root " -phil-" meaning love or obsession) on an early Fidonet X-Files message board. In addition to watching the show, X-Philes reviewed episodes themselves on unofficial websites, formed communities with other fans through Usenet newsgroups and listservs, and wrote their own fan fiction. As has also become commonplace in television today, episodes never displayed their titles on screen or in TV Guide; the producers disseminated the information via the Internet.

In Sweden, X-Files fandom correlated with Internet use. Early ISP:s such as Algonet experienced that logins went down to zero as TV4 syndicated X-files at 9 pm.

Unusually for the time, review sites and fan groups were also influential on the producers. Chris Carter claimed to read them: "The show originally [from 1993 to 1996] aired at 9 o'clock on Friday night and at 10 o'clock, I could get on the Internet and see what people thought of it." Writer-producer Glen Morgan also described how he "would come in on Monday and find all these comments from the Internet that you could directly apply to the next episode... When I started out in television, your only input was if your family called you afterwards, they liked the show... What we found out on The X-Files is that there is an intelligent audience that's out there who doesn’t want TV to just wash over them. They want to talk about things."

The writing staff were prohibited from reading unsolicited scripts or fan fiction for legal reasons, but an online fan base and their critiques of the show became crucial to its early survival. "Beyond the Sea", a 1994 episode which received acclaim, was made (over the objections of FOX executives) partly because "several fans had written messages criticizing Scully's character... they decided the fans had a point" in asking for more depth. In the episode "E.B.E." from the same period, Deep Throat is "shown to be an unreliable character with questionable motives." According to Morgan, "[the network] thought he was just a guy who should feed Mulder information. We went in with the online comments, which, at the time, were presenting some very challenging, articulate notions about who Deep Throat was and his impact on the show." As a result, FOX aired the episode without forcing any changes. Fans also paid close attention to continuity: "Early on, people were really talking about themes and character, and then they became overwhelmed by people who were totally focused on plot points", according to Morgan. The writers received instant criticism from Internet fans when 1994's "Little Green Men" gave an account of Mulder's sister's abduction that contradicted an earlier episode. Writer Frank Spotnitz came up with the idea for the 1996 mythology episode "Apocrypha" when X-Philes at an X-Files convention reminded him of an unresolved plot thread about Scully's sister. This convention was one of a series of official meetings for fans (known as the "X-Files Expo") organized in various U.S. cities, similar to those of other science fiction shows.

The X-Files also "caught on with viewers who wouldn't ordinarily consider themselves sci-fi fans." Chris Carter said the show was plot-driven, while many fans saw it as character-driven. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were characterized as being "Internet sex symbols." As the show grew in popularity, subgroups of fans developed, such as "relationshippers" hoping for a romantic or sexual partnership between Mulder and Scully, or those who already saw one between the lines. The word " shipper" was first used in this context by online X-Files fans on the popular newsgroup as early as mid-1996, responding to the episode "Pusher" in which Mulder and Scully held hands. Other groups arose to pay tribute to the stars, their characters, and even to a small supporting role, Agent Pendrell, while others joined the subculture of " slash" fiction. As of summer 1996, a journalist wrote, "there are entire forums online devoted to the 'M/S' relationship." In addition to "MOTW" (monster of the week), Internet fans invented acronymns such as "UST" (unresolved sexual tension) and "COTR" (conversation on the rock) to aid in their discussions of the agents' relationship, which was itself identified as the "MSR."

The producers did not endorse some fans' readings, according to a study on the subject: "Not content to allow Shippers to perceive what they wish, Carter has consistently reassured NoRomos [those against the idea of a Mulder/Scully romance] that theirs is the preferred reading. This allows him the plausible deniability to credit the show's success to his original plan even though many watched in anticipation of a romance, thanks, in part, to his strategic polysemy. He can deny that these fans had reason to do so, however, since he has repeatedly stated that a romance was not and would never be." The Scully-obsessed writer in Carter's 1999 episode "Milagro" was read by some as his alter ego, realizing that by this point "she has fallen for Mulder despite his authorial intent." Writers sometimes paid tribute to the more visible fans by naming minor characters after them.


On July 16, 2008 Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz donated several props from the series and new film to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Some of the items included the original pilot script and the poster "I Want to Believe" from Mulder's office.

Influences on the show


Chris Carter listed television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, Tales from the Darkside and especially Kolchak: The Night Stalker as his major influences for the show. Carter said, "Remembering that show, which I loved, I said to the FOX executives, 'There's nothing scary on network television anymore. Let's do a scary show.'" Actor Darren McGavin, who played Carl Kolchak in Kolchak: The Night Stalker, appeared in two episodes of The X-Files as Agent Arthur Dales, a character described as the "father of The X-Files."

Carter has mentioned that the relationship between Mulder and Scully (platonic but with sexual tension) was influenced by the chemistry between John Steed ( Patrick Macnee) and Emma Peel ( Diana Rigg) in the 1960s British spy TV program The Avengers. One journalist documented possible influence from Nigel Kneale's Quatermass series and its various television and film iterations. Kneale was invited to write for The X-Files, but declined the offer.

The early 1990s cult hit Twin Peaks is seen as a major influence on the show's dark atmosphere and its often surreal blend of drama and irony. David Duchovny had appeared as a cross-dressing DEA agent in Twin Peaks, and the character of Mulder was seen as a parallel to the show's FBI Agent Dale Cooper. Both shows were filmed in the Pacific Northwest.

In the pilot episode of The X-Files, the first time Mulder is seen, he's sitting at his desk, and among the clutter on the desk, a framed copy of the Laura Palmer "prom-queen" photo is seen.


The producers and writers have cited All the President's Men, Three Days of the Condor, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Rashomon, The Thing, The Boys from Brazil, The Silence of the Lambs, and JFK as influences on the series. Gangster films such as the Godfather trilogy are also frequently referenced in the show's conspiracy plotlines, particularly concerning the Syndicate. A scene at the end of the episode "Redux II" (5X03), for instance, directly mirrors the famous baptism montage at the end of The Godfather. Chris Carter's use of continuous takes in "Triangle" (6X03) was modeled on Hitchcock's Rope. Other episodes written by Carter made numerous references to other films, as did those by Darin Morgan.


Over the course of its nine seasons, the show was nominated for 141 awards, winning a total of 61 individual awards from 24 different agencies, including the Emmys, the Golden Globes, the Environmental Media Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The X-Files also won a Peabody Award in 1996, during its third season.

The show earned a total of 16 Emmys; two for acting, one for writing, and 13 for various technical categories. In September 1994, The X-Files won its first award, the Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Graphic Design and Title Sequences.

Peter Boyle later won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of the title character in the third-season episode " Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose". In the same year, Darin Morgan won the Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing for a Drama Series for the same episode. "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" was one of four highly-acclaimed episodes Morgan wrote during his short time on the show's writing staff. In 1997, both Duchovny and Anderson won Golden Globe awards for the best male and female actors in a drama series. Later that year, Anderson won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Throughout its run, The X-Files also won Emmy awards in seven technical categories: Graphic Design and Title Sequences, Cinematography, Sound Editing and Mixing, Art Direction, Single Camera Picture Editing, Makeup, and Special Visual Effects. It was additionally nominated for 15 Saturn Awards, and its wins include three for Best Network Television Series, one for Best Actress on Television (Gillian Anderson), and one for Best Actor on Television (Robert Patrick).

Broadcast history

The first season of The X-Files premiered on September 10, 1993 on Fox Broadcasting. In the United Kingdom it first aired on satellite television channel Sky One January 19, 1994 before being shown to a wider audience on the terrestrial channel BBC2 from September 19, airing at 21:00. Since then, it has expanded into other countries across the world (including Canada, Latin America, New Zealand, Ukraine, Australia, Republic of Ireland, Singapore, Pakistan, the Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Croatia, Germany, Poland, South Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, South Africa, France, Malaysia, Italy, China, Taiwan, Brazil, Thailand,Turkey, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Serbia, Bulgaria and Japan),Belgium, either being dubbed or subtitled to accommodate for foreign language viewers.

For the first few years of its run, its ratings steadily increased, reaching its zenith in terms of ratings by its fifth season. Season 4's "Leonard Betts" which aired on Fox after the Super Bowl in 1997, holds the record for the highest rated episode in the United States. The next 15 highest Nielsen ratings were for "Redux" (5X02), "Redux II" (5X03), " El Mundo Gira" (4X11), "Herrenvolk" (4X01), " Detour" (5X04), "Small Potatoes" (4X20), "Never Again" (4X13), "Unusual Suspects" (5X01), "Schizogeny" (5X09), "Christmas Carol" (5x05), "Gethsemane" (4X24), "Chinga" (5x10), "Patient X" (5X13), "The Rain King" (6ABX07) and "Emily" (5X07).

The show was first syndicated in the U.S. on a Fox-owned cable channel, FX. This arrangement resulted in a 1999 lawsuit from Duchovny, claiming the contract had not been open to fair bidding. The suit was settled out of court. The X-Files reruns subsequently have been shown on TNT and the Sci-Fi Channel, among others. Carter filed his own lawsuit over syndication issues against 20th Century Fox Television on December 30, 2005; this was seen as the main impediment to plans for a second X-Files film. The lawsuit was settled and a second X-Files film was made, entitled The X-Files: I Want to Believe which was released on 25th July 2008.


The X-Files-related merchandise includes:

  • Action figures based on the film
  • Barbie and Ken dolls as Scully and Mulder
  • Collectible trading cards
  • Comic books (by Topps and Checker)
  • Episode sets on VHS and DVD
  • Soundtrack recordings on CD

The entire series is currently available on DVD by season. Also available are "mythology" sets which were compilations of episodes that related to its "mytharc" storyline. Forty-eight episodes, selected to represent the best of the show's first four seasons, were also made available on VHS. Video game titles include The X-Files: The Game, The X-Files: Unrestricted Access and The X-Files: Resist or Serve, which expand on the show's storyline.

Ten Thirteen Productions

Chris Carter founded Ten Thirteen Productions to produce The X-Files, and later produced other shows under that company name. The shows were often shown to be related to one another, and references from one show to the next were often made:


  • The X-Files fourth season episode " Never Again": Agent Dana Scully goes to a tattoo parlor at the behest of her new acquaintance Ed Jerse. While there she selects a tattoo called an Ouroboros, a depiction of a serpent, coiled into a circle, eating its own tail. This emblem was the logo for the television series Millennium and the fictional group after which the program is named. The episode was written by Glen Morgan & James Wong, who were frequent contributors to Millennium.
  • The X-Files seventh season episode " Millennium": Lance Henriksen and Brittany Tiplady make their final appearances as Millennium characters Frank and Jordan Black. Millennium had been canceled earlier that year, after its third season.
  • Millennium first season episode "Lamentation" (written by Chris Carter): The main character, Frank Black, visits the FBI building and Mulder and Scully are briefly seen descending a stairway. In fact, they are Duchovny and Andersons' stand-ins.
  • Millennium second season episode "Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense": The writer Jose Chung appears, who was first seen in the The X-Files episode, "Jose Chung's From Outer Space". Both episodes were written by Darin Morgan.
  • Millennium second season episode "The Time Is Now": Character Peter Watts ( Terry O'Quinn) picks up a " Morley" cigarette butt, indicating that the nefarious X-Files character, Cigarette Smoking Man, has been lurking in the vicinity recently.

Harsh Realm

This brief 1999 series was based on a comic book series. Gillian Anderson provided voiceovers in the pilot episode, and Terry O'Quinn, who costarred in Millennium and guest starred in several X-Files episodes and the feature film, had a large role. Scott Bairstow, who starred in The X-Files episode " Miracle Man", also had a lead role. In the season 7 X-Files episode "Sein Und Zeit", written by Chris Carter soon after Harsh Realm had been cancelled, a character is seen watching the series on TV. Unlike Millennium and The Lone Gunmen, there is no indication in the produced episodes of this series that it took place in the same universe as The X-Files.

The Lone Gunmen

This show was a short-lived spinoff that revolved around The X-Files' "The Lone Gunmen" characters: John Fitzgerald Byers, Richard Langly (aka "Ringo") and Melvin Frohike. The show occasionally featured guest appearances by The X-Files characters, such as Walter Skinner in the episode "The Lying Game"; and Fox Mulder and Morris Fletcher in the finale episode, "All About Yves". With the cancellation of The Lone Gunmen series coming after a cliffhanger finale, The X-Files episode " Jump the Shark" served as its resolution, showing the trio getting killed while attempting to stop the release of a contagion. It also featured other characters from The Lone Gunmen show.

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