The Truth Is Out There
by Erik Arneson
Sept. 10, 1993 to present
David Duchovny as FBI Agent Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as FBI Agent Dana Scully Mitch Pileggi as FBI
Assistant Director Walter Skinner Nicholas Lea as FBI Agent Alex Krycek
William B. Davis as Cigarette-Smoking Man
In a post-Watergate era full of government cover-ups both perceived
and actual, "The X-Files" tapped into a conspiracy theory that
existed decades before Richard Nixon moved into the Oval Office: the
FBI holds evidence of extraterrestrial life.
The UFO crash landing at Roswell, New Mexico, an incident well-known
to those who believe in life on other planets, was presumed fact by
FBI Agent Fox Mulder. His partner, Dr. Dana Scully, was assigned to
the X-Files specifically because of her more skeptical, scientific
outlook. After being abducted and operated on by aliens, however,
Scully's attitude shifted to the point where she occasionally had to
convince Mulder that something unearthly was nonetheless real.
Agents Mulder and Scully investigate anything paranormal -- not just
aliens. The Jersey Devil, pyrokinetic serial killers, a mysterious
lake creature, stigmatics, psychics and faith healers all found
their way into at least one "X-Files" plot. Rarely satisfied with
the simple solution, the show's writers liked to add layers of
unanticipated twists. Often, Mulder and Scully were given room to
consider the moral implications of the strange realities they
The pair also ran into plenty of trouble from humans. Supporting
characters like Cigarette-Smoking Man, Well-Manicured Man,
Gray-Haired Man, Deep Throat, the Lone Gunmen and rogue FBI Agent
Alex Krycek added to the mystique of "The X-Files."
Cigarette-Smoking Man loomed most ominously. As leader of the
Syndicate, a collection of some of the world's most powerful and
shadowy figures, Cigarette-Smoking Man was the mastermind behind a
devil's pact made with an alien race that intended to colonize the
earth and enslave or murder its human inhabitants. If not for
Mulder's relentless pursuit for the truth and a gang of rebel
aliens, Cigarette-Smoking Man's plans may have come to fruition.
But true to form for the show, Cigarette-Smoking Man could not be
dismissed as purely evil. In a two-part episode that aired during
the show's sixth season, he claimed that the Consortium's deal with
the aliens actually extended the life of the human race because it
called for the development of human-alien hybrids. The Syndicate, he
said, never intended to succeed with the hybrid experiments until
they produced a vaccine that would thwart the aliens' plans.
FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner, Mulder's and Scully's
supervisor, was a good man trapped in a bureaucratic job. Although
he initially doubted the veracity of Mulder's outlandish claims as
much as anyone, he seemed to want to do what was right.
Unfortunately, his job responsibilities sometimes made doing the
right thing a very creative proposition.
Rogue FBI Agent Alex Krycek, who debuted on the show as Mulder's
apprentice, turned out to be in cahoots with Cigarette-Smoking Man.
He tried to kill Scully, and was present when her sister Melissa was killed; he also tried
unsuccessfully to kill Mulder. Even Cigarette-Smoking Man turned
against Krycek for a time, although their unholy alliance rekindled
"The X-Files," filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, for
the first five seasons and Los Angeles thereafter, helped define the
Fox Network's identity through the 1990s. Along with "The Simpsons"
and NFL football, it was one of the three programs most commonly
associated with Fox. But few would have blamed Fox if it had pulled
the plug on the show after season one.
Winning an Emmy after its first season ended in 1994-- albeit for
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Graphic Design and Title
Sequences-- helped establish the show as a legitimate drama. It also
may have given Fox executives a reason to keep the show on the air
despite its number 102 (out of 118) ranking in the Nielsen ratings.
Fox's faith in the show paid off handsomely. Just a year later, "The
X-Files" was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding
Guest Actress and four other Emmys. It won none of those, but took
home five Emmys in 1996. By 1997, Gillian Anderson won as
Outstanding Lead Actress, and Anderson and David Duchovny both
earned nominations in 1998. Through the years, the show also won
various Golden Globes, Saturn Awards from the Academy of Science
Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Films, Q Awards from Viewers for Quality
Television, Screen Actors Guild Awards and numerous others.
Creator Chris Carter's directions to the writers-- that every
episode must take place "within the realm of extreme possibility"--
worked well. "The X-Files" can attribute much of its appeal to the
fact that many viewers believe it could happen.
Inspired in part by shows like "The Twilight Zone" and "Kolchak: The
Night Stalker," the series served as a breakout platform for Carter
and stars Duchovny and Anderson. Carter, who previously created and
executive produced the comedy series "Brand New Life" for The Disney
Channel, went on to create a crime drama even more bizarre than "The
Duchovny's most notable credit prior to "The X-Files" was a stint as
the transvestite detective Dennis/Denise on "Twin Peaks." Anderson,
who had less than a handful of screen credits before joining the
show, first earned recognition by winning a Theatre World Award for
her off-Broadway performance in "Absent Friends."
"The X-Files" sparked a number of ancillary products, including
novels, comic books, retail videos, trading cards, calendars and
more. The 1998 feature film "The X-Files: Fight the Future" grossed
more than $80 million in the U.S.; Carter has said he plans to
produce more films, even after the television series ends.
NOTE: "The X-Files" can be seen on Fox Sunday nights, as well as on
the F/X cable network and in syndication.
Erik Arneson is a published writer of mystery short stories and
serves as chief of staff to the Majority Whip in the Senate of