The Truth Ain’t In Here

Becky and I used to be huge fans of The X-Files and watched regularly. In fact, it was “social TV” for us, and we often got together with friends to watch it. Eventually, though, I gave up on the show, stopped watching in disgust, walked away, and never looked back. Becky followed not long afterwards. The reason? The damned “Mythology Arc”.

Here’s the deal. In season two Gillian Anderson, the actress who played Scully, got pregnant. The show made use of her expanded tummy and need to be gone for an episode or two to say that she’d been abducted, possibly by aliens! She came back non-pregnant, with some kind of chip in her neck, and thus was really born the Mythology Arc. It was an over-arching storyline that promised to get to the very heart of the series’ questions regarding aliens, the government, and the personal toll of Agents Mulder and Scully.

Fans ate it up, thinking that at last we were seeing the true genius of the show. Each new “Mytharc” episode teased with a little more information. Except it didn’t take long to realize that the information never added up. None of the pieces fit together, and things didn’t make a whole lot of sense. As I expressed my doubts, mainly to the denizens of the alt.fan.tv.x-files newsgroup, I was assured by others that eventually it would all fall into place.

Gradually I began to dread the mytharc episodes. Seeing William B. Davis’ (The Cigarette-Smoking Man) or Nicholas Lea’s (Krycek) name listed as a guest star made me sigh with despair as I knew I’d have to go through another pointless meandering on this endless path. The part that started to aggravate me the most was that the non-mytharc episodes, known as “monster of the week” (MOTW) episodes started to suck as well. And even if they didn’t, my reaction to the mytharc episodes seemed to be the same as the reaction of other fans to the MOTW ones. On alt.fan.tv.x-files, people complained loudly when the mytharc was interrupted for an MOTW episode.

I wasn’t enjoying the show anymore, but I seemed like an aberration. The other fans were eating up the mytharc. This was the height of X-Files Mania, when it was on every other cover of TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. The movie (which I haven’t seen) was announced. This was season five. I decided to bail.

Eventually I would be exonerated. As the mytharc devolved more and more into ridiculousness, others also realized what I had been trying to point out: that Chris Carter, the creator of the show, was just making it up as he went along, that none of it made any sense, and that only through ludicrous leaps of logic and picking and choosing elements of the “mythology” for inclusion and omission could any kind of resolution come out of it. All of that apparently happened. From what I understand the mytharc was finally resolved in a half-ass manner and then quickly shoved aside out of embarrassment. Try reading an article about this season’s hit mystery show, Lost, without it mentioning The X-Files as one of the two examples (the other being Twin Peaks) of a continuing mystery serial gone horribly wrong.

I bring this up because of an item in this month’s Previews, on page 535. Ahem:

The X-Files Mythology: “Abduction” DVD Set – For the first time, viewers can follow every twist and turn of the complete mythology story arc beginning with The X-Files Mythology: Abduction. Abduction consists of 15 episodes from seasons 1-3 and presents the government conspiracy episodes in order, beginning with the series pilot.

Of course, this is ridiculous. The entire series is available on DVD. Anyone interested in this can already watch these episodes, plus more, in whatever order they choose. But wait:

The set also features commentary on selected episodes and part one of Chris Carter’s all-new documentary “Threads of Mythology” which explains the meaning of The X-Files and how all lies lead to the truth.

Let me repeat that for the irony-impaired:

The set also features commentary on selected episodes and part one of Chris Carter’s all-new documentary “Threads of Mythology” which explains the meaning of The X-Files and how all lies lead to the truth.

Jesus, what stones this guy has! Talk about polishing a turd! Chris Carter went from being a “mastermind” to a joke, from being a wunderkind to the poster child for show-destroying, and he’s going to trot us out a documentary on how he all did it AND include it in a special “Buy them again!” DVD set.

I realize that, in a world where anything and everything must be preserved in digital quality, asking this is kind of stupid, but, who is this for? Are there even die-hard X-Files fans anymore? Are there especially die-hard fans that want to re-live the glory days of watching their favorite show plummet in a death spiral of stupidity? If these fans do exist, are they going to be willing to re-buy these shows on DVD just to drink from the well of Chris Carter’s storytelling wisdom? I can maybe see a game in this, where a bunch of different people watch it and they each try to pinpoint the exact moment it becomes irredeemably idiotic. Bonus points are awarded for each “important fact” that is completely ignored afterwards (or inexplicably changed.)

In Texas there’s a saying most people don’t have trouble remembering: “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” How many people are going to be willing to be fooled again by Chris Carter, and what number fooling will this be? Does it count if it’s the exact same fooling they fell for the first time?

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6 Responses to The Truth Ain’t In Here

  1. Charlie says:

    Think I gave up on the show right about the time Scully had the chip implanted but then I tend to give up on series after 2 to 3 seasons…ala Buffy and Angel both of which stopped holding interest once I realized that there was no real plot anymore. Ehhh…bad series are why I stick to the DVD player and could do without cable (except for watching the news once a week).

  2. Dan Coyle says:

    I think I might actually buy this, since the season sets are hideously overpriced and the mytharc, as bad as it was, was still the thing that kept me coming back.

  3. David Thiel says:

    While I agree with most of what you wrote, I would add that the entire series is available in *ridiculously overpriced* DVD boxed sets. For some reason, the “Star Trek” and “X-Files” sets tend to retail at $100+, whereas other series with a comparable number of episodes per season sell for about half that. The result is that while I really love “Deep Space Nine,” I don’t own any “Deep Space Nine” on DVD. The attraction to sets such as “Abduction” or the “Star Trek” release “The Jean-Luc Picard Collection” is that one can get a bunch of the more significant episodes from the series without springing for the whole damned thing. Granted, I don’t want to relive the “X-Files” Mythology either, but if they did a “Monster of the Week” set, or an “Everything Darin Morgan Wrote” set, I’d be there.

  4. Brian says:

    Dave, we’ve mused on this many times before. While I don’t share the strength of your anger at the show, I would at least agree in principle with most everything you wrote. I own Seasons 1-6 on DVD, after working out a financial plan to acquire such goods. ;) Funny thing is, that while I watched the show on TV, I was most drawn to the show for the mythology episodes, at least for the first 5 seasons or so. Once Spender Jr.’s whineeey character became part of the show and it was obvious Carter was milking the arc needlessly (and eventually, poorly without a clear sense of direction), I lost interest. Ironically, with DVDs in hand, I enjoy the MotW episodes, and by and large skip the mythology episodes on a rewatch. Well, I do like most of the episodes with The Lone Gunman. The series with them in it, btw, was not bad, IMO.

    And the inevitable link to Lost is, Terry O’Quinn. He played an agent in one of the X-Files episodes, and was in a little known, and little-watched series called Harsh Realm, as the main protagonist. I absolutely loved Harsh Realm while it aired for a whole 3 episodes. The setup was great, there was a lot of potential, and the actors were well casted, IMO, except for the trying-to-look-sultry-and-looking-corny woman who seemed to be a proverbial double-agent. So I got the Harsh Realm DVDs. I rather enjoyed 7 of the 9 episodes, another was OK, and the last was bad.

    I think Carter has great ideas, I really do. But the execution of these ideas is very questionable. In Harsh Realm, it became hauntingly obvious, despite the talents of Terry O’Quinn and Scott Bairstow (sp?), the story line was another “Let’s move the overall arc along slow enough to anger the audience while I tell my stories”. I think Carter was more interested in being able to do a made-for-TV movie-of-the-week in a kinda cool setting than in fully developing (and actually thinking through) an overall plot line that was consistent and was interesting to the audience.

    So now Terry O’Quinn is in Lost, and is basically the best character in the show. Kudos to O’Quinn for getting his due, but the thoughts of Lost turning X-Files is certainly on my mind, especially after the producers have acknowledged that due to the show’s popularity, they are going to milk it for extra episodes. That should concern fans indeed, especially those burned by the broken ‘promise’ of the mythology episodes. I still like Lost, and am hoping that the writers are telling the truth when they say publicly that they have a 3-year story arc and everything was planned out in advance. If they’re are pulling our chains, it’ll kill any future series from the get-go, as I sense people are VERY tired of good shows being turned into crap all for milking the unsuspecting audiences for the Holy Advertising Dollar (HAD, tm).

  5. Ken Lowery says:

    Sweet jesus, I hated the mytharc. Nothing bores me faster than aliens. But the individual episodes, the “little weirdness” episodes… I lived for those.

  6. Bill Sherman says:

    I’ve never been able to spring for the season sets either – and keep hoping that they’ll someday release a set of the best stand-alone episodes. (“Home,” for instance.) Perhaps if a “mytharc” set sells, there’s a better chance that, say, a two-disc set of Darin Morgan scripted eps would be made available.