DVD
The X-Files
The Complete Ninth Season

Starring: Gillian Anderson, Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish
20th Century Fox
RRP 34.99
23877MDVD
Certificate: 15
Available 14 March 2005


Mulder has vanished. Agents Scully, Doggett and Reyes are left to uncover the truth about the military super-soldiers and Scully's baby, William. Are the super-soldiers products of genetic manipulation by the government or are they alien mutations? Is William one of them, or is he a weapon that could be used to fight them...?

This was the season in which David Duchovny finally quit the series, though he did return for the final feature-length story, The Truth. Many commentators have argued that his absence was the death of the show, but I doubt the truth is that simple. Certainly he was missed by many fans, but the producers did themselves no favours with the way they handled his absence. As with Season Eight, the show spends far too much time reminding the audience that Mulder is missing rather than encouraging them to get over it.

Each of the "mythology" episodes, and others besides, touch upon the character's absence. In the two-part Nothing Important Happened Today and the single-part Trust No 1, it is a pivotal plot point. The latter episode even goes to the desperate lengths of having a double play Mulder in long shots.

Scary Monsters, a "monster of the week" episode (not surprisingly), takes a more progressive approach. Here, Mulder is referred to repeatedly, by the eager Agent Leila Harrison (Jolie Jenkins), who previously appeared in last season's memorable Alone. However, the moral of the story is that Doggett's (Robert Patrick) angle on the case works better than Mulder's would probably have done.

Furthermore, Many of the Doggett/Reyes episodes, including Daemonicus, 4-D, the extremely gruesome Hellbound, Underneath, Jump the Shark and Release work very well.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the producers should have taken the even bolder step of writing out Scully (Gillian Anderson) altogether, or at least for the majority of the season. As it is, she is reduced to consulting roles or bit parts during several instalments, including all of those listed in the paragraph above, which makes you wonder why they didn't just go the whole hog.

Scully tends to take a more significant role in the season's mythology episodes, in particular the two-part Provenance/Providence. She also comes to the fore during the amusing Lord of the Flies, a partial homage to Jackass in which she fends off the unwanted attentions of a romantic entomologist (Michael Wiseman), as well as in Audrey Pauley and the extremely bizarre Improbable, which guest-stars Burt Reynolds.

Both Audrey Pauley and 4-D build up some sexual tension between Doggett and Reyes (Annabeth Gish). This is not entirely welcome, since the "will they, won't they" dynamic has already been done to death with Mulder and Scully. Moreover, whenever Doggett and Reyes express feelings for each other, something dreadful tends to happen to them! In 4-D John is paralysed, while in Audrey Pauley Monica ends up in a coma.

4-D is one of the better episodes of the season, despite an ending that could have been much less silly. Other highlights include Lord of the Flies (which could perhaps have been entitled The X-Flies!); William, easily the strongest mythology episode of the year; and Release, which resolves Doggett's personal demons regarding the death of his son.

Also worthy of note is Jump the Shark, the final Lone Gunmen episode, which also sees the return of the amusing Michael McKean as Morris Fletcher. This instalment owes its title to a website devoted to examining when various TV shows began to go downhill. The term refers to an episode of Happy Days in which the Fonz jumped over a shark tank. Obviously the producers of The X-Files wished it known that their show didn't "jump the shark" until its final year!

The weakest parts of the season are Trust No 1 and John Doe - a tedious instalment that doesn't even feel like an X-Files story until the final ten minutes. The opening two-parter, the rather dull Nothing Important Happened Today, doesn't get things off to a good start, but at least it isn't as dreadful as the previous year's opening serial, Within/Without.

Perhaps not surprisingly, some questions are left unanswered by the final episode, The Truth. It would appear that the producers wish to leave some routes open for at least nine years' worth of X-Files movies. The Truth isn't nearly as great or as revelatory as its publicity (or its director Kim Manners in the audio commentary) makes out, but it does at least manage a semblance of closure and has a pretty good stab at rationalising the various plot strands from the last nine seasons.

The discs are generally well presented, though the montage sequence that opens each DVD is rather too revelatory for viewers who might not have seen the final episode before. Another annoying factor is that the theme tune is very poorly sound-edited on each of these introductions.

In addition to commentaries to the episodes The Truth, Improbable (by creator/executive producer Chris Carter) and Jump the Shark (by executive producers Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz), the box set contains two discs that are entirely devoted to special features. However, whether or not the use of two discs is entirely justified is open to question.

Disc 6 includes the 21-minute documentary The Truth About Season 9, 36 promotional spots, nine special effects clips, and deleted scenes from seven episodes with optional audio commentaries by Frank Spotnitz. These deleted scenes are also present on the relevant episodic discs and can be "branched" into each show. There are also "making of" featurettes and character profiles on Monica Reyes and Brad Follmer (Cary Elwes), which originally appeared on the individual VHS and DVD releases of Nothing Important Happened Today and Providence.

The seventh and final DVD comprises three documentaries, Secrets of the X-Files (42 minutes), More Secrets of the X-Files (44 minutes) and Reflections on the X-Files (17 minutes). Secrets is a collection of clips and interview segments that highlights, among other things, how often characters, especially Scully, have said "Oh my god!" in the series! This documentary was originally produced as a scene-setter for the start of the third season, so one wonders why it was not instead included in the Season Three box set. Similarly, More Secrets, produced a year later, would have been better suited to the fourth season box set. The latter documentary is also blighted by poor-quality encoding, with grainy images, particularly on the clips, and jerky motion, which probably indicates a substandard transfer from an American disc (with a different frame rate).

Of all the documentaries on the final disc, only Reflections on the X-Files truly merits a place here. This short but sweet affair comprises recollections from celebrity fans, including movie director Kevin Smith, and guest stars, many of whom have gone on to greater roles, such as Buffy and Austin Powers star Seth Green. However, I strongly suspect that all of the special features would have fit on one disc rather than two.

It's a great shame that Agents Doggett and Reyes could not have continued with their own investigations for a few years longer, so make the most of their final cases.

Richard McGinlay

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£26.24 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
£29.99 (MVC.co.uk)

All prices correct at time of going to press.