Hello Ragers, and welcome to the third edition of Final Season Failures. The concept really isn't that complex, so I'll keep the introduction short. The goal of this feature is to take a once popular show that experienced a massive drop in quality during its final season, and examine the various mistakes that led to its downfall. Our third subject is arguably the defining sci-fi show of the 1990s, one that spawned video games, comic books, CDs, a spin-off, and even a midseries theatrical film. If only it had known how to quit while it was ahead...
Case File 003: 'The X-Files' - Season 9
Debuting on FOX in September 1993, 'The X-Files' emerged from the mind of Chris Carter, and focused on a pair of FBI agents tasked with investigating cases involving the supernatural or the paranormal. Special Agent FOX "Spooky" Mulder (David Duchovny), a former rising star in the bureau, has become obsessed with these previously deemed unsolvable cases. Special Agent Dana Scully works primarily as a medical examiner, but finds herself suddenly reassigned to 'The X-Files,' with her implicit instructions being to spy on Mulder, and use science to disprove his often "out there" theories.
Over the course of seven seasons, Mulder and Scully grew all the way from reluctant partners, to good friends, to close confidants, to finally the love of each other's lives. In that time, 'The X-Files' had done something no prior sci-fi series had been capable of: it made the genre cool. During the show's prime, everyone who was anyone watched 'The X-Files,' with the audience growing almost every year. With it's labyrinthine conspiracies, mysterious alien abductions, unexplained monster attacks, endlessly twisting plot, and kitchen sink approach to sci-fi, 'The X-Files' was 'Lost' before 'Lost' even existed.
Then came season eight. David Duchovny wanted to pursue film opportunities, and thus Mulder was written out of the show. To compensate, genre mainstay Robert Patrick was brought in to play Scully's new partner, Special Agent John Doggett. Doggett was a by-the-book type, and was even more of a skeptic than Scully had been at the start of the series. This awkwardly forced Scully into the believer role, and the dynamic just wasn't as good. Still, the season had its moments, Mulder did end up returning later on, and the show was still the 31st highest rated program in all of network television. So...how did 'The X-Files' go from #31 to #63 in the span of one season?
What Went Wrong?
For starters, Duchovny left the show, again. When one gets offered roles in classic films like 'Evolution' and 'Zoolander,' one has no choice but to say yes. Okay, that's not entirely fair. After all, 'Zoolander' ended up being quite funny, and it's hard to blame a TV star for wanting to make the jump to the big screen. Still, Season 9's greatest downfall is a complete and total absence of Mulder, at least until the series finale. It's no coincidence that ratings for Season 8 spiked whenever Mulder showed up. 'X-Files' fans still wanted the team of Mulder and Scully, and lots of them.
Of course, Duchovny's absence was hardly the only problem. Instead of continuing to explore the still forming relationship between Doggett and Scully, Chris Carter opted to bump up Annabeth Gish (who had recurred as Special Agent Monica Reyes during Season 8) to full-time cast member status, and team her up with Doggett. While Scully remained on the show, and appeared in every episode, she was relegated to the background of most episodes. This was a clear attempt by Carter to future proof 'The X-Files,' and establish Doggett and Reyes as the new anchors of the show.
On paper, that plan wasn't necessarily a bad one. Even if 'The X-Files' had continued, Anderson would have surely left sooner or later, and neither FOX or Carter wanted such a big cash cow to stop giving out fresh milk. Unfortunately, Doggett and Reyes didn't have half the chemistry present between Mulder and Scully, or even between Doggett and Scully for that matter. No offense intended to Annabeth Gish, who has given good performances both before and since 'X-Files,' but Reyes was a boring, often annoying character, whose new age beliefs took the show down some really dumb paths.
For a notable example of that, check out "Improbable," easily one of the worst 'X-Files' episodes ever. The plot entirely revolved around the eye-rolling pseudo-science of numerology, and featured a scenery chewing Burt Reynolds as an omnipotent god-like character that loved to break the fourth wall. Sadly, that wasn't even the biggest insult 'The X-Files' delivered to its hardcore fans during Season 9. That will be covered in our next section.
The Hall of Shame (aka the worst episode of the season)
"Improbable" came very close to claiming this spot, but upon reflection, there is clearly no bigger folly present in Season 9 than the ridiculously titled two-hour series finale "The Truth." I still remember how excited I was to sit down and watch this for the first time. After 200 episodes, Chris Carter and the 'X-Files' team were *finally* going to wrap up the show's lingering plot threads, expose the conspiracy, and let Mulder and Scully reunite. Well, one of those things happened, the other two...
At its heart, "The Truth" is nothing but a glorified clip show, a two-hour walk down memory lane. It's nothing more than an excuse to bring back old characters for one last hurrah, and recap all that has happened to Mulder and Scully up to this point. If a "previously on" segment was stretched out to run the entire length of an episode, this would likely be the result.
Sure, Mulder does escape with Scully, but for what? To spend the rest of their lives on the run? What did they even accomplish? The conspiracy still reigns. The alien invasion is still right on track to occur. Mulder is still wanted for murder. "The Truth" solves nothing, and is a slap in the face to every viewer who stuck with 'The X-Files' for the preceding nine years. In 2008, it looked like fans would finally get answers, as FOX released the follow-up film 'The X-Files: I Want to Believe.' Which of course chose to completely gloss over the events of the finale, and tell a stand-alone story. Sigh.
The Best of the Worst (aka the best episode of the season)
Picking a best episode is tough here, as Season 9 really was pretty terrible. So I decided to just go with one of the few decent outings, that being "Scary Monsters." Doggett and Reyes head up to a remote mountain home, after strange reports of a mother stabbing herself to death. It turns out that her son has a powerful imagination, and can make his macabre drawings come to life. This leads to a fairly good "monster-of-the-week" type affair, with Doggett's stubborn skepticism actually coming in handy for once. It's hard to be attacked by imaginary monsters if you don't believe that they exist.
This concludes the third edition of Final Season Failures. I hope you found it to be a interesting read. Be sure to tune in next time, when I'll cross the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky bridge, and travel through a dimensional gateway that leads to the worst mistakes of 'Sliders' Season 5.
Good summary....Season 9 was the one I disliked the most. Scully is too often only in very short clips, and that was very annoying. Why ask G. Anderson to stay only to then give her a few seconds only of air time in many episodes? They also, never explained why she was taken off the X files and reassigned to the Academy. Then there was the monster-of the week stories that didn't have much weight or good explanations. For example, the "John Doe" one where Doggett gets amnesia...from some cartel guy with glowing eyes that can do brain wipes. Was that guy a monster..alien..freak..? I liked Doggett. I liked Reyes, but for some reason, their platonic chemistry wasn't working. It would have been better to let her be the recurring character. X-files, in its hey-day, was one of the best shows ever (minus season 9).
Message Posted On Mar 24th, 2014, 12:17 pm
Yeah this article pretty much hits the nail on the head. Whenever I watch The X-Files now, by the time I get to season 8 I'm basically done -- the best seasons are easily the first five or so. The show had an eerie look and feel to it back then which was essentially lost when they decided to move to LA. For me, the peak was around the time of the first movie, "Fight the Future", after that it gradually went downhill.
Message Posted On Mar 7th, 2014, 5:47 pm
Funny...I had gotten the entire nine season set for Christmas 2013, and just finished watching it a week ago. Of course I've been a fan since 1993, but I haven't seen the show in it's entirety in ten years.
I think X-Files ended with the last episode of season 7, anything after that was destined to fail. I was terribly disappointed with season 9 and think Fox and Carter owe the fans proper closure.