The Horror Honeys: Celebrate the X-Files with Sci-Fi Honey - Part 1!

Celebrate the X-Files with Sci-Fi Honey - Part 1!

A Sci-Fi Honey X-Files Series Retrospective by Katie


This fall marks the 21st anniversary of the original airdate of the pilot episode of The X-Files; a seminal coming-of-age moment for fans of great science fiction storytelling not seen since Serling brought us The Twilight Zone.  The weight and impact of this show still resonates all these years later, as the series has found a new generation of fans discovering it for the first time through Netflix.  Its creative influence on television can be traced from its own spinoffs and companion shows (Millennium, The Lone Gunmen, Harsh Realm) to other sci-fi horror-dramas such as Buffy, Supernatural, and Fringe.  With The X-Files, Chris Carter and co. managed to create an indelible part of pop culture history, with some of the greatest heroes and monsters to come flickering to life in your living room.

To celebrate, I’m letting my “X-Phile” flag fly and counting down my 21 favorite entries in the entire nine-season run of the show in this three-part series retrospective.

Let’s get started!
21.  Arcadia
Season 6 / Episode 6 / Original airdate:  December 13, 1998
Written by:  Daniel Arkin
Directed by:  Michael Watkins
The first entry on my list, for the most part, is pure fluff.  It has a ridiculous premise, a laughable monster, and some truly unbelievable moments, even for a series as lovably “out-there” as this one.  Arcadia is important, however, for one reason: SHIPPING.  Mulder and Scully have to go undercover as a married couple, adorably cover-named Rob and Laura Petrie, to investigate a series of disappearances in a seemingly picture-perfect upper middle-class housing community.  What ensues are the kinds of scenarios that made every Mulder/Scully shipper’s heart go pitter-patter: Mulder asking his wife to make him a sandwich, putting his arms around her, coaxing her into bed – while Scully, of course, retorts with the world’s best “bitch, please” faces and exasperated eye rolls.  Donning their blandest vanilla-suburban attitudes and dorky L.L. Bean-style attire, it’s obvious that they’re only pretending they’re not having the most amazing time with this assignment.  I mean, ladies… who could resist?

20.  Aubrey 
Season 2 / Episode 12 / Original airdate:  January 6, 1995
Written by:  Sara B. Charno
Directed by:  Rob Bowman
This underrated episode in the series gets a nod because it is one of the early episodes I remember that genuinely scared me.  Deborah Strang plays B.J. Morrow, a woman experiencing haunting psychic memories of a decades-old string of serial murders.  Catching this episode live as a 10-year-old, one chilling image has always suck in my mind: B.J. awakens covered in blood, with the letters “SISTER” carved in her chest, similar to a mutilation inflicted on female victims half a century ago.  Co-starring everyone’s favorite scary-stepfather, Terry O’Quinn, the episode churns out an engaging murder-mystery story that has plenty of twists along the way and culminates in a satisfying ending.  It even has one of the best Mulder one-liners: an impetus to look into working the case, he muses, “I’ve always been intrigued by women named B.J.”  Mulder, you rascal!

19.  How the Ghosts Sole Christmas 
Season 6 / Episode 6 / Original airdate:  December 13, 1998
Written by:  Chris Carter
Directed by:  Chris Carter
Aww, this episode gives me all the warm fuzzies.  Opening with some playfully festive Mulder/Scully banter and moving right along into classic haunted house territory, this episode captures the perfect tone of fun holiday horror/comedy in the vein of Gremlins and Scrooged, and features inspired guest turns by Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin as the titular spooks of our tale.  A must-watch on anyone’s annual Christmas television list.

18.  Duane Barry 
Season 2 / Episode 5 / Original airdate: October 14, 1994
Written by:  Chris Carter
Directed by:  Chris Carter
One of the best alien-themed episodes of the series also has the best abduction scene since Fire in the Sky: Duane Barry (Steve Railsback) is a repeated-abductee who breaks out of a mental institution and holds several victims against their will in a hostage situation.  Mulder’s unique position as a believer in extraterrestrials makes him a fitting negotiator and empathetic to Barry’s plight, even as his sanity is routinely questioned.  While Scully largely takes a backseat in this episode, her role becomes crucial to the episode’s nail-biting cliffhanger of an ending, making it a rough week for all X-Files fans who caught this episode back in ’94 and had to wait impatiently for the conclusion.

Also this. 
17.  Beyond the Sea
Season 1 / Episode 13 / Original Airdate: January 7, 1994
Written by:  Glen Morgan & James Wong
Directed by:  David Nutter
This episode is frightening and poignant at the same time, which is an appropriate way to describe what it feels like to deal with the death of a loved one.  Scully mourns the loss of her father (whose death is portrayed in one of the most unsettling ways I’ve ever seen, on television or otherwise), and her stance as a skeptic begins to falter, as Mulder (surprisingly) becomes the more rational of the two.  It’s a humanizing episode for them both, as Scully’s convictions are shaken and Mulder attempts to keep her grounded during a vulnerable time.  But the best thing about this episode?  Brad Fucking Dourif, who turns in a spookily spectacular performance as psychic killer Luther Lee Boggs.  Unforgettable.

16.  Small Potatoes
Season 4 / Episode 20 / Original Airdate: April 20, 1997
Written by:  Vince Gilligan
Directed by:  Cliff Bole
This is the first – but certainly will not be the last – entry on my list that was authored by Breaking Bad guru Vince Gilligan, who got his big break in television as a writer and eventual co-producer of The X-Files.  Darin Morgan (brother to Glen, and both outstanding writers for the series) plays Eddie Van Blundht, a man who can transform his physical features into that of anyone he comes into contact with.  Being born with the unfortunate deformity of a freakish tail, Eddie goes through life doing his best to be anybody but himself.  And who does he transform himself into, in order to score points with one Miss Dana Scully…?  As with Arcadia, this episode had some fun shipper moments, including a hilariously awkward seduction scene between Eddie as Mulder and a confused (and slightly inebriated) Scully.  Small Potatoes is a goofy and inventive installment that lets Duchovny’s comedic skills shine.

15.  Die Hand Die Verletzt
Season 2 / Episode 14 / Original Airdate: January 27, 1995
Written by:  Glen Morgan & James Wong
Directed by:  Kim Manners
Who didn’t grow up thinking their school’s Parent-Teacher Association was really a cover for some kind of Satanic sect, meeting after school to conduct occult rituals and blood sacrifices?  Amirite?!  Incredibly, this episode straddles a line between darkly comedic satire and more serious subject matter, including mutilation, child rape, and infanticide.  What it’s likely to be remembered for most, however, are the striking images captured by first-time director Kim Manners, who would go on to shoot many more classic episodes: a man-eating snake, a woman’s eyes turning black during an invocation, toads falling from the sky and onto an incredulous (and thankfully, umbrella-toting) Mulder and Scully.  It’s one of the more remarkable horror-centric episodes of the series, delivering some powerful nightmare-inducing sequences.

Had enough?  We’ve only just begun!  Stay tuned next week for Part II of Sci-Fi Honey’s X-Files series retrospective!