In 1993, following two previously unsuccessful pitches, creator Chris Carter finally convinced the FOX network to take a chance on a new show that he saw as a spiritual successor to cult favorites ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’. Later that year the world was introduced to FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully and ‘The X-Files’ quickly became a global phenomenon, not only spawning numerous books, comics and tie-ins but also renewing the mass public’s interest in all things paranormal.
While it’s generally accepted that the shows later seasons suffered considerably due to the shows focus shifting away from stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, the show lasted for over 200 episodes over the course of 9 seasons and 2 feature film spin-offs, the most recent of which was released in 2008. Fan fervor has ensured the franchise’s longevity and while talks are ongoing about the possibility of a third movie, last month ‘The X-Files’ returned for a 10th season in comic form under the supervision of Chris Carter.
It’s testament to the strength of the early episodes that a show so unusual and complex captured the public’s imagination as swiftly as it did, and in fact the opening season contains some of the most memorable episodes of the entire run. On my list, you’ll notice that I’ve chosen ‘Monster Of The Week’ episodes over those that play into the show’s overarching mythology, mostly because they are better enjoyed in order and in the context of the whole series. With that in mind, here are my 5 personal favorite episodes from ‘The X-Files’ first season.
written by: Chris Carter
originally aired: December 17, 1993
Cecil L’Ively is an Irish gardener who appears to possess the power of pyrokinesis, literally being able to will fire into existence. After using his abilities to kill his employer (in what seems to be an act of spontaneous human combustion). Phoebe Green, a London police officer and ex-girlfriend of Mulder’s (the two studied together at Oxford University), enlists the help of Mulder & Scully to determine how L’Ively, a serial arsonist, commits his crimes while leaving no trace of evidence.
We learn here that Mulder has a debilitating fear of fire and he confides in Scully that he believes Green, aware of his phobia, is using the case to play mind games. Evidence suggests that the killer’s next target is Sir Michael Marsden, another British aristocrat who is holidaying in Cape Cod with his family. In the episode’s finale Mulder is forced to confront his fear or face fatal consequences for both himself and Marsden’s young children.
While this episode has received a mixed reception it does contain some fascinating concepts and impressive stunt work and it’s a shame that neither Mulder’s pyrophobia nor his relationship with Phoebe Green would be elaborated on in future episodes.
written by: Glen Morgan & James Wong
originally aired: November 5, 1993
When an entire team of geo-physicists working at an isolated Alaskan outpost are found to have died in an inexplicable mass murder-suicide, Mulder and Scully along with a team of three scientists are flown to the scene to investigate. Having arrived and discovered the corpses of the geo-physicists, Mulder and the pilot, Bear, are attacked by a dog that Scully believes to be infected with bubonic plague.
Unable to leave due to fear of contaminating the outside world, Bear is forced to stay with the team as his health worsens and his temper flares, causing him to attack Mulder. Bear dies when Scully removes a parasite from the back of his neck, leaving the team stranded with no pilot, no means of escape and the threat of the parasite, which Mulder now believes to be extra-terrestrial in origin. Heavily influenced by ‘The Thing’, ‘Ice’ is a masterpiece of dramatic tension.
3. Beyond The Sea
written by: Glen Morgan & James Wong
originally aired: January 7, 1994
For the majority of ‘The X-Files’ run, Mulder and Scully are well-established in their respective roles of believer and skeptic. This particular outing was the first episode to reverse those roles.
Following a Christmas Eve visit from her parents, Scully has a vision of her father William, played by the late Don Davis (perhaps best known for his role of Major Briggs in ‘Twin Peaks’) sitting opposite her in a chair and silently speaking. Immediately following this, her mother calls to tell her that William has passed away from a heart attack.
Meanwhile Mulder is investigating the kidnapping of a young couple. Lee Boggs, a serial killer who Mulder apprehended years earlier, claims to have psychically obtained information about the case which he is willing to share in exchange for the commutation of his death sentence. Mulder is highly skeptical and aims to prove that Boggs is lying, however Scully is caught off guard when he appears to demonstrate that he has the ability to contact her father.
An emotional and thought-provoking episode with excellent performances all around, particularly Brad Dourif’s unforgettable turn as Boggs.
written by: Glen Morgan & James Wong
originally aired: September 24, 1993
As only the third episode in the season’s run, ‘Squeeze’ introduced audiences to ‘The X-Files” first great villian in the shape(s) of Eugene Victor Tooms, a serial killer who can seemingly contort his body to squeeze through impossibly small spaces.
When Mulder discovers an elongated fingerprint at the scene of a murder, he links the evidence to an existing X-File documenting similar findings in 1933 and 1963. Mulder hypothesizes that the murderer is a genetic mutant who has been getting away with his killings for over 90 years, feeding upon his victims as a gruesome means of sustaining himself through his dormant periods.
Played with just the right amount of eerie charisma by Doug Hutchinson it’s little wonder that fan favorite Eugene quickly returned in ‘Tooms’, a great follow up episode later the same season.
written by: Kenneth Biller & Chris Brancato
originally aired: December 10, 1993
A Conneticut man is found dead with two holes bored into his neck. Claims from the man’s daughter Teena who was near the scene seem to suggest that the man was exsanguinated by ‘men from the clouds’, understandably attracting the attention of Mulder. However when it is discovered that an identical crime took place across the country in California at precisely the same time, it seems that the truth may be even stranger.
Mulder and Scully travel to the scene of the second crime and meet the victim’s family, including their daughter Cindy, who to their astonishment is identical to Teena. Searching for a link between the two families, Scully discovers that both mother’s had received fertility treatment by a Dr Sally Kendrick, who was later fired for conducting unauthorized eugenics experiments. It seems that Teena and Cindy were not the only clones created in the experiment, which used extra chromosomes to give it’s subjects super-intelligence – with the unfortunate side-effect of homicidal psychoses.
Featuring plenty of action, a gripping plot and the creepiest twins this side of ‘The Shining’ courtesy of Erika and Sabrina Krievins, and a wonderfully unhinged performance by Harriet Sansom Harris as their mentor (and perhaps, creator). It’s drama builds consistently over the course of its 45 minutes and the story’s twists and turns are never predictable. ‘Eve’ is everything I personally want from an ‘X-Files’ episode.
Was your favorite episode of the season included on my list? Please let me know in the comments below.