“I want to believe”
On the chart of serialized television evolution there are a number of important milestones pre-Buffy the Vampire Slayer and LOST, and these mainly included Twin Peaks and The X-Files. While Twin Peaks took the soap opera-esque continuous narrative structure and turned into something much more interesting and special, The X-Files defined the term “mythology” in the context of a TV show, now a core concept of the genre.
At the heart of The X-Files mythology was of course the alien conspiracy and below is a case file tracking that story in the first season. Core episodes are listed as well as other episodes which offer deeper insight into the show’s universe, characters and history.
SEASON 1 – What We Learn
We’re not alone and the government doesn’t want us to know. There’s never any doubt from the start of The X-Files that aliens are real in agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully’s (Gillian Anderson) universe, the doubt is centred firmly around what the government’s motives are. From the moment the Cigarette Smoking Man places the metallic implant from Mulder and Scully’s first case together into a box inside a massive Pentagon storage area, it becomes clear there are powers greater than the FBI who don’t want the world to know about the existence of aliens.
While the mythology doesn’t really get off the ground until the second season, the five core episodes of season one set up a strong foundation for what’s to come. We’re introduced to the mysterious superior power in the form of the Cigarette Smoking Man, the informant who we’re really not sure where their motives lie in the form of Deep Throat, and help from an unlikely source in the form of the Lone Gunmen.
The motivations of Mulder and Scully’s superiors may be a mystery but Mulder’s certainly isn’t as in the pilot episode we learn of the abduction of Mulder’s sister Samantha when he was a child. His account of her abduction may vary but there’s no doubt he’s chasing aliens because of his past trauma. Mulder’s sister was eight years old when she went missing, he was 12 at the time. It’s revealed that through hypnotic regression sessions with Dr Heitz Werber, Mulder recalls being paralysed while seeing a bright light during the abduction. He also claimed that he felt a presence in the room which told him his sister would be returned safely.
It’s also established in the pilot that Scully is assigned to Mulder to validate his work or, as he initially thinks, to spy him. We learn that Scully was recruited for the FBI out of medical school and that Mulder has a degree in Psychology from Oxford University, and earned the nickname “Spooky Mulder” while training at the Academy and wrote a monograph on serial killers and the occult which helped to catch Monty Props in 1988 .
Real-world events are used to make the stories more believable which fed UFO frenzy at the time of airing (records released by the UK’s Ministry of Defence in recent years show a sharp increase in the number of sightings as the X-Files grew in popularity), but the main reference point that is used is the supposed alien crash at Roswell in 1947 (and according to Deep Throat there have been six similar incidents since). In ‘E.B.E’ we see Mulder get close to seeing an alien for the first time only to find Deep Throat waiting by an empty chamber. The informant tells Mulder that in 1947 an ultra-secret pact was made between the nations of the world meaning that any surviving alien that landed on Earth would be exterminated and he’s been one of the men who’s been responsible doing it.
Later in ‘The Erlenmeyer Flask’, Scully glimpses a real Alien as she retrieves a frozen foetus in a bid to save Mulder’s life. In this landmark episode it becomes clear humans have been experimented on with Alien DNA which leads to such side affects as super-human strength and green blood. We’re also introduced to another new and shady character in the form of the Crew-cut Man. In addition to the confirmation that a human/alien hybrid has been created, Deep Throat tells Scully that in 1987 a group of children in a southern state were given what their parents thought was a routine inoculation but was in fact clone DNA from the alien tissue that Scully retrieved.