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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

The X-Files: The Complete First Season Program Rating: A

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

Scully: "The 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:

Disc One

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 abilities.

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.

Disc Two

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 force.

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… or what… is responsible.

Disc Three

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 so.

Disc Four

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 should.

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.

Disc Five

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 stop him.

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 been unleashed.

Disc Six

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 than ever.

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.

Okay… 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.

Disc Seven

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 the 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.

Bill Hunt
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