The X-Files
The Complete Seventh Season

Starring: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson
20th Century Fox
RRP 34.99
Certificate: 15
Available 14 March 2005

Very few American genre shows have ever got past their seventh season. Seven seems to be the magic number, the point at which studios such as Paramount decide that a series' number is up, as with three recent incarnations of Star Trek. But Fox decided that it was OK for The X-Files to exceed that figure, although David Duchovny begged to differ and jumped ship as a regular cast member at the end of this season.

Rather like the situation that faced J.M. Straczynski during the production of Babylon 5's fourth season, creator/producer Chris Carter wasn't sure whether or not there was going to be an eighth season. However, unlike the case with B5, this predicament worked to the show's benefit, because it forced Carter and co to reach some conclusions and bring a degree of closure to certain plotlines that had been simmering on the back burner and confusing the heck out of viewers for several years. The most obvious example of this is when Mulder's quest to find his sister Samantha is finally concluded in the two-part Sein Und Zeit/Closure. Following the decimation of the Syndicate the previous year, which left only the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea), Diana Fowley (Mimi Rogers) and Marita Covarrubias (Laurie Holden) active, "mythology" episodes such as The Sixth Extinction, En Ami and Requiem are driven in new (and sometimes interesting) directions. Closure is also offered to fans of The X-Files's ill-fated sister series, Millennium, in the crossover episode of the same name, in which Mulder and Scully meet Frank Black (Lance Henriksen).

The one-off, "monster of the week" episodes continue to gravitate towards the comical, quirky and/or experimental, but for the most part they work well. The best comedy episodes are The Goldberg Variation (in which a pathetic little man's gift of good fortune spells disaster for everyone around him), The Amazing Maleeni (guest-starring magician Ricky Jay in a tale of feuding conjurors) and Je Souhaite (a deadpan comedy about a genie held at the mercy of trailer-trash masters who can't think up a decent wish). On the other hand, Fight Club is far too silly and over-the-top for its own good. Lots of fans seem to like Hollywood A.D., written and directed by David Duchovny, in which Tea Leoni (Mrs Duchovny) and Garry Shandling are brilliantly cast as Scully and Mulder in a dreadful movie version of one of their cases, but I find conclusion incomprehensible and just plain daft. Still, it's an improvement on Duchovny's previous effort, The Unnatural in Season Six.

The more experimental episodes include X-Cops, All Things and First Person Shooter. X-Cops is a brilliantly staged and filmed pastiche of the US reality show Cops. All Things, written and directed by Gillian Anderson, is a triumph of style over substance, but it does set a precedent for the more open-minded Scully of Season Eight. For me, First Person Shooter is the opposite of Hollywood A.D. - lots of fans seem to hate it, but I quite like the unusual subject matter (for The X-Files anyway) of a killer computer game, though admittedly my opinion might have been swayed by the scantily clad virtual babe (Krista Allen)!

Just as Season Six was less uneven in quality than the year before, so the seventh season thankfully continues the trend towards returning a consistent level of quality to The X-Files. There are very few true duds in this season, although one of them is the impenetrable En Ami, written by CSM himself, William B. Davis. Sein Und Zeit/Closure is also something of a disappointment - after a promising beginning and many moving scenes, this two-parter fails to take into account all the previous episodes concerning the fate of Samantha. However, one good thing that Closure (and All Things) did was to introduce me to the wonderful music of Moby! The opening two-parter The Sixth Extinction is also rather dreary, as is all too often the case with The X-Files.

The season finale, Requiem, fares rather better, rewarding long-term fans with a return to the scene of Mulder and Scully's very first case, to resolve some questions and raise a whole lot more. Among the stand-alone episodes, Hungry, Rush, Signs & Wonders, Theef and Brand X all recall the series' creepy, blackly humorous early days, while Orison sees the welcome return of the twisted Donnie Pfaster (Nick Chinlund) from Season Two's Irresistible.

The customary special features are present and correct, including a Truth About documentary, promotional TV spots, 13 special effects clips and 10 deleted scenes, which can be "branched" into the relevant episodes or played with an optional audio commentary. There are also full commentaries for the episodes First Person Shooter (by Chris Carter), All Things (by Gillian Anderson) and Je Souhaite (by Vince Gilligan). Curiously, none of the ten minutes or so of material that Anderson recalls being cut from All Things are included among the deleted scenes.

Now reissued at a remarkably low price, this collection is well worth adding to your, um, collection.

Richard McGinlay

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