Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Once More unto the Breach
It’s the most wonderful time of the year again.
The sixth annual X-Files Halloween marathon is scheduled to start tonight, at the customary time of 8:00 pm sharp. Every night, for the next eight nights, a different episode from each season of the series will be screened, highlighting the scares and creepiness of the long-lived television show and savoring both the cool, all-too-brief atmosphere of the season and the warm companionship of friends and family.
But that’s not all the marathon is meant to underscore. The X-Files itself is, without hyperbole, one of the strongest-produced series to have graced the boob tube. From concept to cinematography, acting to music, special and visual effects to dialogue – the most subtly sublime ingredient of showrunner Chris Carter’s recipe – X-Files is on a par that few have reached.
The fundamental achievement underlying all this success, however, is the show’s incredible level of production value. Few, if any, television productions before or since have managed to maintain the sheer number of locations shot at every week, the consistency in detail of set dressing (“End Game’s” submarine tower and “Piper Maru’s” diving suit are just two examples of intricate – and, in this case, huge – props that come immediately to mind), and the prodigious but nuanced atmosphere assiduously applied to each and every scene. More than any other string of components, it is these elements that combine to create a movie each and every installment, doing so six years before David Chase would have a similar dream – and realization – with another seminal series, The Sopranos.
Yes, such glorious praise is, indeed, mitigated, if not hamstrung, by the arsenal of flaws that Carter and his writing staff brought to bear on their prodigal creation. The weaknesses – some systemic, some occurring at the end of a long marathon (no pun intended) of a production – exhibited in The X-Files are voluminous and run the gamut of incongruous continuity (“The Truth”), inconsistent characterization (Special Agent Monica Reyes), and ham-handed theatrics (C.G.B. Spender’s return in the series finale). It is not for nothing that I personally omit the ninth and final season from my personal version of the canon, though I still do include it, of course, in the Halloween marathon every year.
But to err is human, even in the immortal realm of art. And, ultimately, despite the stumbles and the failures, the missteps and the (sometimes very blatant) course corrections, the passion and soul that Carter and his cabal of writers poured into their baby shines through. It is such quality, both within and without, that keeps the show afloat through any marring or, indeed, the passage of time itself; no matter how dated the hairdos or the big, bulky cell phones become, the series itself never will be antiquated.
Making it the perfect choice for a perennial marathon.
Tuesday, October 13th – “Conduit” (season one)
Wednesday, October 14th – “Blood” (season two)
Thursday, October 15th – “Avatar” (season three)
Friday, October 16th – “Paper Hearts” (season four)
Saturday, October 17th – “Unusual Suspects” (season five)
Sunday, October 18th – “Tithonus” (season six)
Monday, October 19th – “En Ami” (season seven)
Tuesday, October 20th – “Roadrunners” (season eight)
Wednesday, October 21st – “Scary Monsters” (season nine)