The X-Files is an American science fiction drama television series and a part of The X-Files franchise, created by screenwriter Chris Carter. The program originally aired from September 10, 1993 to May 19, 2002. The show was a hit for the Fox network, and its characters and slogans, such as “The Truth Is Out There”, “Trust No One”, and “I Want to Believe” became popular culture touchstones in the 1990s. Seen as a defining series of its era, The X-Files tapped into public mistrust of governments and large institutions, and embraced conspiracy theories and spirituality as it centered on efforts to uncover the existence of extraterrestrial life. The series spawned a spin-off show, The Lone Gunmen.
In the series, FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are the investigators of X-Files: marginalized, unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena. Mulder is a believer in the existence of aliens and the paranormal while Scully, a skeptic, is assigned to make scientific analyses of Mulder’s discoveries which could ultimately be used to debunk Mulder’s work and thus return him to FBI mainstream. Early in the series both agents become pawns in a larger conflict, and come to trust only each other. They develop a close relationship, which begins as a platonic friendship, but develops into a romantic relationship by the end of the series’ run.
In addition to the series-spanning story arc, “monster of the week” episodes made up roughly two-thirds of the series. In such stand-alone episodes, Mulder and Scully investigated strange crimes which often had no long-term effect on the storyline, though the episodes contributed to the show’s background.
In 1998, the feature film The X-Files was released. This was followed in 2008 by a post-series film, The X-Files: I Want to Believe. In the last two seasons, Gillian Anderson became the star as David Duchovny appeared intermittently, and new central characters were introduced: FBI agents John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish). Mulder and Scully’s boss, Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), also became a central character. By the time the series ended, The X-Files had become the longest-running science fiction series in U.S. broadcast television history, though it was subsequently surpassed by Stargate SG-1 in 2007 and by Smallville in 2011.
The X-Files follows the careers and personal lives of FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Mulder is a talented profiler, and a firm believer in the supernatural. He is also adamant about the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life and their continual presence on Earth. This set of beliefs has earned him the nickname “Spooky” and an assignment to a little-known department that deals with unsolved cases, known as the X-Files. His belief in the paranormal springs from the abduction of his sister Samantha Mulder by extraterrestrials when Mulder was 12. His sister’s abduction is a driving force in Mulder’s career throughout most of the series. Because of this, as well as the more nebulous desires for vindication and the revelation of truths kept hidden by human authorities, Mulder struggles to maintain objectivity in his investigations. Agent Scully is a foil for Mulder in this regard. As a medical doctor and natural skeptic, Scully is frequently able to approach the X-Files with complete detachment even when Mulder, despite his considerable training, is not. She is initially assigned to the X-Files to debunk Mulder’s theories, supplying logical, scientific explanations for the apparently unexplainable phenomena the cases involve. Although she is frequently able to offer scientific alternatives to Mulder’s deductions, she is rarely able to refute them completely and, over the course of the series, becomes increasingly dissatisfied with her own ability to contextualize the X-Files in a scientific way.
The main story arc involves the agents’ efforts to uncover a government conspiracy to hide the existence of intelligent extraterrestrials and the sinister collaboration of governments with those extraterrestrials. Mysterious men comprising a shadow element within the U.S. government, known as “The Syndicate”, are the major villains in the series; late in the series it is revealed that The Syndicate acts as the only liaison between mankind and a group of extraterrestrials that intends to put an end to human life as we know it. They are usually represented by the The Smoking Man (William B. Davis), a ruthless killer and a masterful politician and negotiator, and the series’ principal antagonist.
The series also deals with the relationship between Mulder and Scully, a platonic relationship for most of the series that later develops into a romantic one. Mulder and Scully are joined by John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) late in the series, after Mulder is abducted. Doggett replaces him as Scully’s partner and aids her in her search for Mulder, and later involves Reyes, of whom Doggett had professional knowledge. The X-Files ends when Mulder is secretly subjected to a military tribunal for breaking into a top-secret military facility and viewing plans for alien invasion and colonization of Earth. He is found guilty, but he escapes punishment with the help of the other agents, and he and Scully become fugitives.
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