Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 4/12/00
The X-Files: The
Complete First Season
1993-94 (2000) - Ten
Thirteen Productions/20th Century Fox (Fox)
review by Bill Hunt,
editor of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/A-
Specs and Features
Approx. 1,152 mins (24 episodes at 48 mins each), NR, full frame
(1.33:1), 6 single-sided, dual-layered discs (containing 4 episodes
each) and 1 single-sided, single-layered disc (containing bonus
materials), custom gatefold packaging, 2 deleted scenes and a
special effects outtake accessible using multi-angle feature (from
the pilot episode and Fallen Angel),
4 "international" clips from the pilot episode (in dubbed
Japanese, German, Spanish and Italian), 47 TV spots (10 and 20
second spots for each episode and a 60 second spot for the pilot),
12 Behind the Truth segments
(as seen on FX), 12 interview clips with Chris Carter about the
episodes, The Truth About Season One
featurette, collectible booklet, PC Friendly DVD-ROM features
(including an interactive trivia game - Roots
of Conspiracy, weblinks and access to online events),
animated program-themed menu screens with music, scene access (12
chapters per episode), languages: English and French (DD 2.0),
subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned
answers are there - you just have to know where to look."
Mulder: "That's why they put the "I" in FBI
As a fan of The X-Files since
its first season, it's a lot of fun to look back at these early
episodes of the series and rediscover the things that hooked me in
the first place. It's especially nice, given that we're nearing the
end of the seventh (and probably the final) season of the show.
Striking and noir-ish cinematography, against-the-grain characters,
unforeseen plot twists, aliens, government conspiracies - they're
all here in the show's pilot and the 23 episodes that make up its
first season. The X-Files is a
show that dared to be different, and different it was (and still is
today, although its success has spawned a host of would-be
imitators). I often wonder if the real magic of the show is that
series creator Chris Carter DIDN'T in fact have a clue as to where
all this was going when he created it - all the story arcs and
character revelations that have come over the years as the show has
developed. Because if he did
wow. I guess when you create a
hit show, you're entitled to allow everyone to think you're a
genius, right? Now, Fox is bringing the ENTIRE series to DVD one
season at a time, as a number of multi-disc boxed sets. And the
first is almost here (it streets May 9th).
The X-Files: The Complete First Season
is, simply put, a fan of the show's dream come true. First of all,
it's the only way, outside of expensive Japanese laserdisc imports,
to get the complete first season of the show at a stroke. Even on
VHS, Fox has only previously released selected episodes from each
season - many are simply unavailable here in the States in any other
form. There's also no way, other than DVD, to get these episodes in
such amazing quality. What's more, if you buy this 7-disc set, you
also get some nice bonus material, including TV spots, an all-new
documentary and more.
Let's start with the episodes themselves - they're arranged four to
a disc, on six dual-layered DVDs. Here's a rundown of the episodes
included, along with the episode number and a brief synopsis:
The X-Files (Pilot, a.k.a.
1x79) - FBI Special Agent Dana Scully, a forensic pathologist and
scientist, is assigned to debunk the unpopular work of another
agent, Fox Mulder, who is investigating the Bureau's unsolved cases
- the so-called X-Files. But their first case takes the pair to
Oregon, where a number of high school students appear to be the
victim of alien abduction.
Deep Throat (1x01) - Mulder
and Scully investigate the disappearance of an Air Force pilot who
suffers strange symptoms after flight-testing what may be a flying
saucer reverse-engineered from alien technology.
Squeeze (1x02) - A gruesome
murder leads the agents to a series of decades-old similar cases
documented in the X-Files, and they begin to make connections which
seem to indicate a killer with unique and seemingly impossible
Conduit (1x03) - When a young
girl is abducted seemingly by aliens, the FBI launches an
investigation and discovers that the girl's younger brother seems to
be the real key to solving the mystery.
The Jersey Devil (1x04) - The
discovery of a cannibalized human body in a forest in New Jersey
leads the agents on the trail of a creature which may be a missing
link in our evolution.
Shadows (1x05) - Unexplained
deaths begin occurring around a young woman in Philadelphia, and the
agents discover that she may be protected by a strange and invisible
Ghost in the Machine (1x06) -
The CEO of a defense contractor doing research into artificial
intelligence dies, and Mulder and Scully find themselves trapped in
a building which seems determined to kill them.
Ice (1x07) - Researchers
working in the Arctic suddenly turn against each other, and the
agents must race to uncover who
Space (1x08) - Mulder and
Scully are assigned to investigate a possible attempt to sabotage
the space shuttle, and soon discover that one of NASA's astronauts
may have had a close encounter of his own.
Fallen Angel (1x09) - When a
UFO enthusiast uncovers evidence that an alien may have crash landed
on Earth, Mulder tries to track it down and encounters a military
effort to catch the creature at all costs.
Eve (1x10) - When two men die
on opposite sides of the country, the trail leads the agents to a
pair of girls with strange powers.
Fire (1x11) - An old flame of
Mulder's enlists the agents' help in solving the case of a murderer
who kills with fire, and Mulder must overcome his fear of fire to do
Beyond the Sea (1x12) - After
Agent Scully's father dies of a heart attack, her beliefs are
challenged by a killer on death row, who seems to know more than he
Gender Bender (1x13) - A
series of sex killings leads the agents to an Amish-like community,
where the identity - and gender - of the killer is uncertain.
Lazarus (1x14) - Mulder and
Scully must stop a bank robber who isn't afraid of dying, because
he's already dead.
Young at Heart (1x15) - One of
the first criminals captured by Agent Mulder when he first joined
the FBI is at large. Now he wants revenge and he's eluding the
agents by "unconventional" means.
E.B.E. (1x16) - When the Iraqi
military shoots down a UFO, a mysterious informant leads Mulder on
the trail for evidence. But our own government will do anything to
Miracle Man (1x17) - The
agents discover a young man who seems to have the power to heal
simply by touch. But when people start dying at his hands, the
question remains - is his power a blessing or a curse?
Shapes (1x18) - Mysterious
deaths on a Native American reservation seem to point to a creature
of myth, and strange evidence leads Mulder and Scully back to the
very first case in the X-Files.
Darkness Falls (1x19) - The
disappearance of a group of loggers sends the agents to the forests
of Washington state, where an ancient force of nature seems to have
Tooms (1x20) - The mutant
killer caught by Mulder and Scully in the episode Squeeze
is released from custody, and his strange need to kill is stronger
Born Again (1x21) - An
investigation into a little girl seemingly tied to the deaths of two
Buffalo policemen leads the agents on the trail of a killer who
commits crimes from beyond the grave.
Roland (1x22) - A mentally
handicapped janitor is the only suspect in the murders of a pair of
research scientists. But Mulder and Scully discover that the real
killer is already on ice.
The Erlenmeyer Flask (1x23) -
The episode which launched the series' conspiracy storyline has
Mulder and Scully on the trail of evidence that the government not
only knows about the existence of aliens, but is actually
experimenting with extraterrestrial DNA
and killing anyone who
discovers the truth.
those are the episodes. So how do they look and sound,
you may be wondering? Pretty damn good. Not reference quality by any
means, but definitely very, very good. Let's start with the video. I
was blown away at the quality of the image I saw on these discs, not
so much because it's better than anything I've seen on DVD before,
but because it puts the quality of the original network broadcasts
to shame. Unless you've visited a post production suite at Ten
Thirteen Productions when one of the episodes was being edited,
you've probably never seen The X-Files
looking this good before. That's not to say that the video doesn't
have its problems. The video often has an overly-soft,
digital-looking quality to it - but then the show has always looked
a little "processed" to me. You'll see plenty of film
grain, but then that's just the style in which the show is shot -
low lighting and all. You'll see some edge enhancement, but that's
par for the course for any video not originated in high definition
these days. You'll see some MPEG-2 compression artifacting and NTSC
moire on fine detail, but none of that is distracting in any real
way. What you'll also see is very nice contrast, solid and accurate
color saturation (if often muted by choice of style), and very good
blacks. That last bit is important. The
X-Files is a show where so much takes place in the
shadows, making good black level detail critical. And these DVDs
definitely deliver it. I gave the video a solid "B". I
actually wanted to grade higher, again because this is better than
the show has ever looked on my TV. But compared to other DVD video,
it probably doesn't measure up. So this "B" grade is sort
of on a different scale of quality measurement - make sense?
Let's talk audio. The audio here is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0
stereo surround, and it's a perfect match for the video. The
X-Files has never sounded this good in my living room.
It's surprisingly encompassing, despite using only light surround
effects for ambience. It creates a solid acoustic environment, that
draws you into the action on screen nicely. The dialogue is crisp
and clear, and there's decent bass in the mix. Every now and again,
it surprises you - listen to the sound of a military jet fly-over at
about 7:45 into the episode Deep Throat.
Not too shabby. Overall, the audio doesn't jump through any hoops to
impress, but it works just fine. And it comes in French flavor too.
Now we'll talk extras, 'cause there are plenty included in this
set. To start with, you get a brand new 11-minute featurette,
entitled The Truth About Season One.
Then there are some 12 interview segments with Chris Carter, where
he discusses particular episodes and gives behind-the-scenes
anecdotes on their production (they run between 3 and 5 minutes
each). Next up are 12 Behind the Scenes
segments (each a minute or two long) which were run before each
episode in syndication on the FX cable network. But we're not done
yet - not by a long shot. You also get some 47 TV promo spots which
appeared on Fox - a 60 second spot for the series pilot and 10 and
20 second spots for each of the rest of the episodes in the first
season. Then you get 4 different "international" clips
from the pilot episode, dubbed in Japanese, German, Spanish and
Italian. And you also get two scenes that were deleted from the
pilot episode (betcha didn't know Scully originally had a live-in
boyfriend), along with a funny special effects outtake from the
episode Fallen Angel. They're
on the extras disc... AND are also included on the discs containing
each particular episode, using an option that allows you to switch
to the outtake while you're watching the episode. It works via the
multi-angle feature on your player - when you enable the option, a
little "X" appears in the corner of your screen when you
get to the place in the episode the clip was edited from. You can
click over to watch the edited scene, then click right back to where
you left off in the episode (a la the "Follow the White Rabbit"
feature on the The Matrix
DVD). Very cool indeed. And we haven't even covered the PCFriendly
ROM extras on the seventh disc yet! If you spin the disc in your PC
DVD-ROM drive, you get to play an elaborate, interactive trivia game
called Roots of Conspiracy.
There are also the requisite weblinks to
official X-Files website and eventual online events.
Of all these extras, I really like the deleted scenes in
particular, and I hope that Fox includes a lot more of them in
future sets. I happen to know that there are a host of scenes that
haven't made the final cut over the years, and it would be great to
see them on DVD. I'd also like to see new interviews with series
regulars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Something else that I
think Fox should consider is anamorphic widescreen. My understanding
is that if you have an anamorphic-capable TV, you can watch the
recent episodes of the series in widescreen right now. I'm told that
seasons 1-5 were shot full frame, but from season 6 on, they were
shot in widescreen (at about 1.85:1), TV safe. It would be a shame
to have the series released here in the States in full frame only
and then have a future Region 2 release make the later episodes
available in anamorphic widescreen. For that matter, since Fox just
went back and released a revamped Entrapment:
Special Edition, how about going back and doing up The
X-Files: Fight the Future in anamorphic widescreen?
Consider it something to chew on. One last note to our friends at
Fox - wanna make sales of these sets go through the roof? I'll tell
you how. Get Chris Carter to let you include the gag reels they
created for the cast and crew at the end of each season in future
sets. I've got a VHS tape full of X-Files
bloopers from the first 5 seasons, and they're absolutely hilarious.
They should be on DVD. Fans of the series would fall all over
themselves to get these outtakes in an authorized format (as opposed
to bootleg VHS) - trust me on this.
In any case, The X-Files: The Complete
First Season is a welcome treat. I'd love to see more
deserving TV series given such cool treatment. I think it's simply
outstanding that Fox is rewarding DVD fans by letting them own the
entire series on the format. Sure, this set isn't exactly cheap (the
SRP is $149.98). But if you're a fan and you can get it for a good
price, it's a must own. I'm so jazzed about these discs, that I'm
already jonesing big-time for seasons two, three and beyond (which
I'm told are definitely on the way). The truth may be out there
but for those of us who love The X-Files,
the fun is definitely in these discs.