The X-Files
The Complete First Season

Starring: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson
20th Century Fox
RRP 34.99
Certificate: 15
Available 11 October 2004

Sceptical Special Agent Dana Scully is assigned by her FBI superiors to observe and report on the paranormal investigations of her new partner, Fox Mulder...

It sure was sneaky of 20th Century Fox to re-release its so-called limited edition VHS box set of Season One after many dedicated fans had paid upwards of 150 for rare copies of its original run. It was even sneakier to then issue the same material on DVD, mere months after the VHS release. It's sneakier still of Fox to now bring out the DVD box set again, at a dramatically reduced price! But for any of you who still don't own this season, here is your chance to enjoy a fine collection of episodes.

Things were much simpler back then, before the production team had even dared to hope that they might need to sustain the show for nine years. Each episode stands alone as a potent piece of drama in its own right, with references to previous instalments being few and far between. Many of the most notorious paranormal phenomena, from UFOs and alien abductions to Bigfoot (in The Jersey Devil), werewolves (Shapes), ghosts (Shadows), channeling (Beyond the Sea), reincarnation (Born Again), faith healing (Miracle Man), spontaneous human combustion and pyrokinetic abilities (Fire), are tackled within this first year - leaving only vampires, witchcraft, lake monsters and more obscure topics for future seasons to explore. From Season Two onwards, the production team would be forced to make their stories more complex, self-referential and self-mocking, but the first season sticks to the basics of straightforward horror, mystery and paranoia, without having to worry unduly about any long-term consequences to a story arc.

Even the reputedly weaker episodes of this season, such as Space and Shapes, still make enjoyable viewing - they're not bad, just not as great as the majority. The much maligned Ghost in the Machine in fact makes a nice change from the usual subject matter of the series. For me, the only real clunker is Gender Bender, which takes an interesting if muddled set of ideas but then completely fails to reach a satisfactory resolution and instead whisks its mysterious characters off in a crop circle for no adequately explored reason!

To tempt those of you who already possess VHS copies of these episodes to part with your cash, this collection also includes a disc full of extra features. A "making of" featurette entitled The Truth Behind Season One isn't particularly revelatory, although the orange-suited blob in a special-effects clip from Fallen Angel is extremely amusing. Chris Carter discusses his 12 favourite episodes from this season in interviews that were originally included in the VHS box set, while Behind the Truth comprises 12 mini-features first shown on the Fox F/X channel (and is not the making of the featurette, as the packaging suggests). Two complete deleted scenes from the pilot episode are presented, featuring Scully's boyfriend, Ethan, and these can also be accessed while watching the pilot on Disc One. An extremely welcome inclusion is that of the original 10- and 20-second trailers to each episode, including a badly dubbed 20-second trailer for Squeeze and a rather misleading 10-second spot for Conduit. It would have been nice, though, to have had these trailers on the same discs as their respective episodes.

The features disc also contains a DVD-ROM game and episode guide, while the six "episode" discs also include a selection of scenes from nine shows dubbed for international markets.

Given its x-tremely reasonable retail price, this is an x-cellent package.

Richard McGinlay

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