I have a serious problem when it comes to re-watching television shows. I tend to enjoy my subsequent viewings more than my first viewing so my TV is usually inundated with repeats of stuff I’ve already seen. Not a problem for me, but my wife gets pretty exhausted with how much I watch things, particularly The X-Files.
In honor of this serious personality defect of mine, I’ve decided to rank episodes of the show as I embark on my ninth or tenth re-watch of the first season. The first season is…not a consistently good season of television. There are some classic episodes that stand up well with the best episodes the show has ever done. Sadly, this post does not involve any of those classics….
Here are the bottom four episodes (#24 to #21) of the first season of The X-Files.
#24. Episode 9 – Space (26/100)
This is perhaps the worst episode the show would do in its first six or so seasons. Space is a shoddy example of nineties television in general. There are other episodes this season that are bad but in those cases, it feels like the show is still trying to find it’s footing. This episode doesn’t even feel like The X-Files which is what makes it such a chore to watch. Everything about Space screams rush-job from the godawful special effects, the ridiculous amount of stock footage, and the hilariously bad paranormal aspect. None of it is dramatic, there is no tension, and the ghost seems to have no real objective other than to slowly destroy NASA from the inside while occasionally superimposing itself on Colonel Belt’s face.
Making matters worse is the complete lack of Mulder and Scully doing Mulder and Scully things. They stand around watching the proceedings and don’t affect the plot at all. Occasionally, Scully pipes up to ask inane questions so that Mulder can provide exposition to the audience. Oh and sometimes, they clap their hands and flash the thumbs-up. Yep they are brilliantly utilized here. This episode is not worth your time.
#23. Episode 19 – Shapes (35/100)
Despite being a huge step up from Space, this episode is pretty crappy. Yes, it has some atmospheric shots and a semblance of tension. But it’s also filled to the brim with excruciatingly slow and boring scenes. Just thinking about the interminable funeral scene or Ish’s tale of the Manitou or the climactic scene in the house exhausts me. Bad dialogue (the whole “creeps” exchange between Lyle and Scully), bad acting (Gwen is particularly obnoxious), and “Idiot Versions” of Mulder and Scully really don’t do this episode any favors. I mean, our dynamic duo basically take this case because Mulder believes the monster is a werewolf and yet for about forty minutes, neither of them make the most obvious connections to figure out who the culprit of the murders is. And the less said about Scully’s “mountain lion” line at the end the better.
No screw that…Scully gets attacked by what is clearly a humanoid wolf-man that came barreling out of a locked bathroom that she saw Lyle go into and she still claims that it was a mountain lion??? Ridiculous.
#22. Episode 7 – Ghost in the Machine (37/100)
Ghost in the Machine goes to some lengths in trying to up the stakes. The operative word here though is trying because it definitely doesn’t achieve those goals. Good lord the stakes have never felt lower and more contrived. They introduce Mulder’s former partner in an effort to give some real emotional resonance but they forget to not make his partner a complete and utter tool. They bring in Deep Throat to make the government conspiracy angle more dramatic but then they have their deep undercover agent, Clark Peters, be an incompetent buffoon during the climax. And worst of all, they create this villain in the COS system and try to impart some serious menace to the proceedings. Mulder and Wilchek discuss the COS like this technology portends the end times. But does it really scream menace when the villain’s catchphrases are “File Opened” and “File Deleted”? Or when an act break is the COS system reading Scully’s field journal?
That’s the thing with this episode. Ghost in the Machine suffers from being overly ambitious seeing that this is the seventh episode of the entire show. This concept was never going to work out well for the budget the show was on at this point and it ends up being laughable on too many levels.
#21. Episode 5 – The Jersey Devil (42/100)
The biggest problem with The Jersey Devil is it’s just boring. The opening is boring, Mulder’s long trek through Vagrant Alley and his first sighting of titular Jersey Devil is boring, the dialogue with the local police force is boring….the list goes on. At one point, there is a supposedly tension-filled sequence where Mulder and Scully investigate a warehouse. However, said scene is just six minutes or so of them literally walking around aimlessly. It’s so poorly paced! And then there is this awful, awful, AWFUL scene of exposition where a professor explains some science in the driest manner possible while Mulder prompts him with such insightful questions such as “why”, “how come”, and “what’s this chart”. Mulder is really using that Oxford education…
The Jersey Devil isn’t as bad as the other episodes on this list, thanks to some little character moments for Mulder and Scully. However, those moments are not nearly enough to overcome the flaccid pacing and ridiculously poor direction.