the agents continue their paranormal investigations, Mulder
is still haunted by the abduction of his sister Samantha, while
the aftermath of Scully's own abduction takes a deadly turn
for the worse...
of The X-Files was a hard act to follow. Even bearing
this fact in mind, Season Four feels, in general, rather bland
by comparison. It has been claimed that creator Chris Carter
neglected the series while he paid closer attention to the
of his new show, Millennium, although the interview
material among the extra features in this box set steer clear
of this controversial topic.
is a higher proportion of weak episodes in Season Four than
in any previous year. One of the worst ones, Teliko,
is another in a long line of rehashes of the first season's
Squeeze, even down to the killer's contortionist abilities.
Unruhe and Unrequited are merely OK. In spite
of their embrace of new supernatural subjects, both El
Mundo Gira and Kaddish also lack distinction. El
Mundo Gira, in particular, is very silly and, in terms
of plot, all over the place. Synchrony is a time-travel
story that offers great potential, but ends up being a muddled
mess. Small Potatoes is an attempt to recapture the
offbeat style of writer Darin Morgan (who plays the guest-starring
role of loser Eddie van Blundht). This culminates in some
superb Mulder/Scully scenes, but is let down by a monumentally
nonsensical explanation for Eddie's shape-shifting abilities.
Why couldn't his mutation have been tied in with the alien
shape-shifters, if no better explanation could be concocted?
the series' production values continue to rise, particularly
during the "mythology" episodes, there is an increasing tendency
for the two-parters to overlook the need to offer viewers
a sense of resolution. Both Herrenvolk, the conclusion
to the third season cliffhanger Talitha Cumi, and Terma,
the continuation of Tunguska, favour spectacle and
sensation but lack substance. Granted, the mysteries of the
deeper conspiracy need to remain a secret at this stage in
the game, but previous "mythology" instalments, such as Season
Two's End Game and Season Three's Paper
Clip, nevertheless managed to round off the drama with
a satisfying sense of closure. Herrenvolk and Terma
just leave you wondering what the plot has achieved and what
these shows are trying to tell us.
said, this season also includes the excellent two-parter,
Tempus Fugit/Max. This is a more self-contained affair,
even though it reprises a character from the first
the amusing and sympathetic abductee, Max Fenig (Scott Bellis).
Zero-Sum is an enjoyable one-shot "mythology" episode,
full of excellent Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) scenes and scary
episodes that make this box set worth buying include the intensely
moving The Field Where I Died, Memento Mori
and Paper Hearts (featuring a chilling performance
by guest star Tom Noonan). Like Paper Hearts, Demons
delves into Mulder's recollection of his sister's abduction.
Both of these episodes question whether the event actually
had a more down-to-earth - and perhaps less comfortable -
explanation than Mulder (David Duchovny) has always believed.
The spotlight turns on Scully (Gillian Anderson) in Never
Again, an eyebrow-raising episode that shows a sexier
and more dangerous side of the agent than she usually allows
anyone to see.
season also contains some of the scariest and most disturbing
images of the series' entire run. Top of list has to be Home,
a deeply distressing (some would say distasteful) tale of
in-bred country bumpkins, echoing the style of The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre. The runner-up prize must go to the
medical nastiness and pitch-black humour of Sanguinarium.
Then there's the gruesome regenerative powers of Leonard
Betts (guest-starring E.R.'s Paul McCrane). This
is another variant on Eugene Victor Tooms, but a far more
imaginative and stylish one than Teliko.
of a Cigarette-Smoking Man is an extremely peculiar episode,
which encapsulates some of the strengths and weaknesses (including
Carter's lack of attention) of the entire season. Written
and directed respectively by Glen Morgan and James Wong, who
returned to the X-Files fold as consulting producers
following a one-year absence, this instalment purports to
reveal the pivotal role that the Cigarette-Smoking Man (William
B. Davis) has played in American history since the 1960s.
This account is not only extremely - and amusingly - far-fetched,
but it also clashes with the 1950s flashback in the third
season's Apocrypha. Does this mean that the account
is a fictionalised version of CMS's career (he also tries
to get a work of fiction published during the course of this
episode) or was the continuity gaff simply the result of Morgan
and Wong having been away from The X-Files during Season
Three? Chris Carter has always claimed that the flashbacks
in Musings were never intended to represent the "truth",
but I'm not so sure that this was Morgan and Wong's intention.
their sabbatical from The X-Files, Morgan and Wong
launched their own series, Space: Above and Beyond,
which was cancelled after its first season. An interesting
game that you can play while watching Season Four is "spot
the ex-Space: Above and Beyond actor"! For example,
the role of Lee Harvey Oswald in Musings is played
by Morgan Weisser. Watch out also for Rodney Rowland in Never
Again and a stunning multiple-personality performance
by Kristen Cloke in The Field Where I Died.
episodes are accompanied by the now familiar selection of
extra features. The documentary, The Truth About Season
4, is slightly longer than usual, at 24 minutes. To compensate
for the lack of Private Conversations with Chris Carter,
of which there is only one this time - for the two-part Tunguska/Terma
- there are four similar short interviews with other members
of the production team. Memento Mori can be viewed
with an audio commentary by writer Frank Spotnitz, while Small
Potatoes offers a commentary by writer Vince Gilligan.
As well as the usual behind-the-scenes spots, episode trailers
and special effects clips, there is an impressive array of
deleted scenes from seven episodes, including a four-minute
sequence from Memento Mori and two minutes from The
Field Where I Died.
is certainly a below-par season by X-Files standards,
but somewhat better than I had remembered it - and definitely
still great value for money.
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