When season seven of The X-Files began filming in late summer of 1999, and subsequently premiering on the Fox Network in November of that year, there was a feeling that the series was on the home stretch to finishing its television run. David Duchovny’s contract was up, Chris Carter activey discussing the seventh run of twenty-two episodes as a concluding point to the series, and with a commerically successful feature film in the can only the year before, there was a genuine feeling that the series was going to make its way to the big screen for any future installments.
Plans change of course, and the series wasn’t to finish. As The X-Files entered its seventh season there was a feeling that the series should have wound down. The season was far from terrible, but it didn’t feel just as strong as previous years, especially coming of the back of a sixth season that felt fresh and fun. Not that it was all awful, the series still showed signs of ingenuity, with some of the better episodes actually ranking as some of the show’s finest ever instalments.
So here we go, our top five of Season Seven, with the worst for good measure…
A lovely little experiment courtesy of Vince Gilligan, although the third episode of the season, and its first stand alone, the episode was actually the first of the season to be filmed, so as to give David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson a chance to rest up after a summer of shooting feature films. Putting more emphasis on the monster of the week, the episode was hugely influenced by Columbo, telling its story from the point of view of Rob Roberts (a superb Chad E Donella), subsequently making Mulder a Columbo-like pest/villain.
Best of all, it makes the audience look back on previous monsters in episodes like “Squeeze” and question what their lives where like when Mulder and Scully were investigating them and hunting them down for their crimes. While Roberts does kill people, Gilligan portrays the characters emotional torture at having to deal with his actions, and for the most of the run time the people he kills aren’t the nicest. It’s after he gives into his hunger and kills his friendly landlady that the game is up and he must be punished.
A brilliant little experiment, and the first of many fantastic episodes from Gilligan in the season, it would have been nice to have seen this type of thing more than once in the series’ long history.
An absolutely dazzling crossover with the famed reality television series that follows the men and women of law enforcement, “X-Cops” is quite simply magnificent. Filmed on video, instead of film, and utilising the “Bad Boys” theme song from Cops itself, this is a brilliant experiment that works wonders throughout its entire forty-five minute run time.
Best of all, Vince Gilligan’s teleplay is not a simple case of self-indulgent fun, and actually tells a pretty damn entertaining horror story that gives our heroes a superb “monster” to combat during the course of the episode.
That it throws in blurred faces and “bleeped” out bad language is the tip of its iceberg, while the differing attitudes of Mulder and Scully to being followed by a camera crew throughout is a funny slice of character development for both throughout.
The first of three episodes of the season to be written by its stars, “En Ami” presents a script courtesy of the Cigarette Smoking Man himself, William B Davis, and gives the wonderful performer at the heart of the series’ arch nemesis a chance to share screen time with Gillian Anderson, his excuse for writing it, dismayed at never getting a chance to act with her.
Made up of some wonderful scenes between the two of them as they share a road trip to meet a scientist who has potentially developed a cure for all known disease (far-fetched, yes, but go with it and it’s a brilliant thriller), the scenes between Scully and CSM crackle with a brilliantly uneasy chemistry, while Mulder, the Lone Gunmen and Skinner try to figure out where she’s gotten to the with notorious black lunged villain.
The type of self-contained episode that utilises mythology elements, like “Wetwired” and season two’s “F.Emasculata”, it’s a shame the series never did mini myth-arc tales like this more often. Davis’ script is tightly written and very witty around the edges, and with a brassy Mark Snow score and direction by Rob Bowman, his last time calling the shots on an episode of the series, it’s like a brilliantly made mini-feature film.
Marking the directorial debut of Vince Gilligan, “Je Souhaite” is perfect. Funny, quirky and delightfully charming, albeit with a surprisingly dark bite at times, “Je Souhaite” is the ultimate “be careful what you wish for” parable.
Like many of Gilligan’s comedies, this a lot of heart and warmth, even when killing people off imaginatively or explosively, and most brilliantly of all, even when the main thrust of the story is completed before it goes into the final act, it has a final stretch that feels like a bonus element to the story.
Guest starring Paula Gorge as Jenn, a genie with a very cynical attitude to her job, with great support from Will Sasso of Mad TV fame and Kevin Weisman from Alias, everything about the episode a mini-masterpiece that only gets better with repeat viewing, while the final moments with Mulder and Scully watching Caddyshack while kicking back with a beer each is simply the greatest shipper moment the series ever done.
In a parallel universe, “Requiem” is probably the series finale of The X-Files, but as it is, it ended up launching the show for a further two seasons, and when the series returned for its eighth year, there would be some changes undergone.
Bringing the series full circle and returning to Bellfleur, Orgeon, the setting of the pilot episode, complete with most of the guest cast from the very first episode, “Requiem” is a superb season finale that could have worked as a launching pad for the series to pick up on if it made the move to feature films.
As cliffhangers go, it throws a lot into the air, with Mulder being abducted by aliens, Skinner witnessing it and subsequently challenging his own beliefs, while Scully discovers she is pregnant after years of believing herself to be barren, while the CSM appears to meet his fate at the hands of Krycek and Marita Covarrubias.
It is a brilliant finale, with a superbly emotional script from Chris Carter and fantastic direction from Kim Manners. You can debate all you want as to whether or not this should have been the end of the series, but its quality cannot be disputed. Funny, emotional, dramatic and with a jaw dropping final line of dialogue, it is the series at its very best.
And the worst…
Chris Carter is a very talented writer and director, there is no doubt about it, but whatever he was thinking when he wrote “Fight Club”, we’ll never know. Very similar in plot line to his own, superior, season three episode “Syzygy”, in that when two female characters come together, chaos reigns, but whereas the season three episode was a dark blast of super sarcastic fun, “Fight Club” is just mediocre at best, awful at worst.
Featuring Kathy Griffin mugging her way through the episode, it begins intriguingly enough, and even has some lovely Mulder and Scully banter in the early stages of the episode, but it subsequently gives way to an unfunny comedy, a boring narrative and a mean-spirited ending that goes for laughs it simply doesn’t get.
In a word… awful and possibly the single worst episode of the series since ‘Teso Dos Bichos’.
What are your top 5 episodes of The X-Files Season Seven? Let us know.