Mulder has been abducted. Special Agent John Doggett is assigned
to the X-Files to help track him down. Meanwhile, Scully is
pregnant, despite having supposedly been rendered infertile.
What is the true nature of this miraculous pregnancy...?
is the season in which David Duchovny eased his way out of
The X-Files, reducing his participation to 12 out of
the 21 episodes, before finally resigning from the show altogether.
It is a bit annoying that the first six of these appearances
are little more than bit parts and/or practically non-speaking
roles, which are a waste of not only the actor's talent but
also the cost of hiring him.
I don't subscribe to the school of thought that says The
X-Files isn't The X-Files without Mulder and Scully.
Indeed, Duchovny's absence provides opportunities for some
interesting new character developments.
witnessed so many bizarre incidents over the previous seven
years, Scully (Gillian Anderson) actually becomes the believer
of the team, while her new partner Doggett (Robert Patrick)
is the no-nonsense sceptic. This is not so out of character
as it might appear. In the third episode, Patience,
Scully explains that she owes it to Mulder to try and fill
his shoes, and her theories usually have some scientific basis
to them. In any case, the only reason Scully continued to
play the doubter for so many years was because Mulder asked
her to (in the cinema movie) in order to balance his own undisciplined
leaps of logic.
is none of the trademark X-Files sexual tension between
Scully and Doggett, except perhaps a little jealousy on the
part of Doggett following Mulder's return. But then, the Mulder/Scully
"will they, won't they?" chemistry had proven notoriously
difficult to sustain over seven years, because in real life
such an attraction would by now have cooled off or been consummated.
On that note, the ambiguity of Mulder and Scully's relationship
is finally resolved at the end of this season. New character
dynamics also include some extreme hostility between Mulder
also some invigorating mixing and matching of the cast. Via
Negativa, for example, brings Doggett and Assistant Director
Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) to the fore, while Vienen is
a Doggett and Mulder episode. It's quite exciting not knowing
who will be the major players in each episode. This factor
comes to the fore during the gradual integration into the
show of Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), whose theories
make even Mulder sceptical (in Empedocles). The pairing
of Doggett and Reyes at the very end of the season offered
a potential new lease of life for the show - though unfortunately
it was to prove short-lived.
is too often the case, the season does not get off to a good
start. Paranormal elements are few and far between in the
opening two-parter Within/Without, the plot of which
virtually grinds to a standstill in favour of extended depictions
of Scully's misery.
remaining episodes are an improvement on this, though the
overall quality of the storytelling isn't as consistent as
that of the previous season. Several, including Invocation,
Via Negativa and Badlaa, are either not very
interesting or interesting but muddled. Via Negativa,
despite some weird David Lynch-style dream sequences, is marred
by a naff ending. The powers of the legless Indian mystic
in Badlaa don't really speak to any of society's, or
therefore the audience's, innate fears (though I have to admit
the creaking of his trolley wheels sends a shiver down the
contrast, the claustrophobic Medusa makes effective
use of creepy subway tunnels and a biological horror similar
to that of Season One's Darkness Falls. Both Per
Manum and the concluding two-parter Essence/Existence
play upon Scully's fear of bearing an alien child, and
thus every parent's fear of birth defects, as well as wider
concerns about genetic engineering.
the weakness of the opening two-parter, it is remarkable that
the rest of this season's "mythology" episodes, including
the two-part This is Not Happening/DeadAlive, its follow-up
Three Words and the spectacular Vienen, are
as strong as they are. Essence and Existence,
despite their rather tacky allusions to the Nativity, represent
what is probably the most diligently pre-planned season finale
in the show's entire history, the culmination of plot developments
from throughout the previous year.
highlights include the fairly silly but nevertheless scary
and exciting Roadrunners. Redrum is an effective
homage to the movie Memento, with a Twilight Zone-style
"moral" at the end. The third to last episode, Alone,
brings some much-needed comic relief, in the shape of Leila
Harrison (Jolie Jenkins). This enthusiastic young agent, all
too eager to follow in the footsteps of Agent Scully, who
is away on maternity leave, makes a splendid foil for the
the notable exception of Alone, this season is relatively
low on humour, especially compared to the offbeat excesses
of recent seasons. However, the production team does have
some fun playing upon the familiarity of Robert Patrick's
role in Terminator 2. In Roadrunners he paraphrases
his "Have you seen this boy?" line, while in both Salvage
and Essence Doggett finds himself up against unstoppable
cyborg killing machines.
usual array of special features are all present and correct,
including a half-hour Truth About documentary, promotional
TV spots, seven special effects clips and seven deleted scenes,
which can be "branched" into the relevant episodes or viewed
with an optional audio commentary. Most of the deleted scenes
are a bit on the brief side, with the exception of a one-minute
sequence from Per Manum. There are also three six-minute
character profiles, which were originally included on the
feature-length releases of the mythology episodes, plus director's
commentaries for Alone (by Frank Spotnitz) and Existence
(by Kim Manners).
was a little harsh towards this season when I reviewed its
VHS release. True, Season Eight is a mixed bag, but, though
it has its low points, its highlights are very strong indeed.
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