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  • 2 Featurette

The X-Files - Nothing Important Happened Today

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 83 mins . MA15+ . PAL


There are undoubtedly die-hard fans of the show that would disagree, but as it headed into its eighth season The X-Files, once one of the most compelling and clever things on television, was starting to look a little frayed around the edges. The lessened involvement of David Duchovny was ultimately fatal to the show, which had built a huge following not just amongst bookish conspiracy and technology buffs, but also with the wider world. That was largely thanks to the complex and often amusing relationship between the two characters around which the show was built, Duchovny’s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s increasingly serious portrayal of medically-minded and determinedly rational Agent Dana Scully. Once Duchovny pulled back from the show in season eight, it was left to Robert Patrick to fill the void - a task akin to finding a new John Bonham for Led Zeppelin (who incidentally did the wise thing by breaking up instead).

Up until that point, Robert Patrick was best known as The Evil Terminator in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and had since done a lot of movies you never saw, two cameo appearances as the T-1000 Terminator (in Wayne’s World and the underrated Last Action Hero) and a return performance in a 3D theme park attraction. Like Duchovny when he started in the role of Mulder, Patrick was an experienced actor that had been keeping a fairly low profile before arriving on the show. But as Special Agent Doggett in The X-Files, he had to connect with the Scully character despite the mountain of plot history that he wasn’t around for. People saw him as a replacement for Mulder, and he didn’t measure up to that kind of expectation. But even as people started drifting away from the show, changes were afoot, with the introduction of a new character - a key element in what was to be the show’s resurgence. Special Agent Monica Reyes, played by the remarkably versatile Annabeth Gish, was the perfect foil for Doggett’s dour personality and Scully’s ever-increasing shell-shocked detachment. Played by Gish with a sense of fun that had been missing from the show for way too long, Reyes was an inspired character that arrived a little too late to save the show; its ninth season, which will air in Australia starting in July 2002, will be the last.

Nothing Important Happened Today is the latest in a series of “mini-movie” video releases that have been appearing separately from the full-season box sets. The idea is that while these double episodes are integral parts of the show’s story arc - indeed, they’re usually critical episodes - they can also stand on their own as entertainment for those who haven’t been tuning in every week. We decided to put this to the test? How? Easy - find a reviewer that hasn’t watched The X-Files for ages and has missed vital bits of the back-story, and see if this disc on its own makes any sense.

I watched The X-Files religiously for years, and was one of those people who regarded it for quite some time as the single best thing ever to happen to television. But like it did for so many other long-time viewers, the magic seemed to vanish somewhere during season seven, and Duchovny appeared to be phoning his performance in. Missing an episode no longer seemed so terrible, and soon the entire season had gone by, the story arc happily conspiring on without me. So to jump into Nothing Important Happened Today, which is edited together from the first and second episodes of season nine, was going to be a bit of a litmus test as to how well it can stand on its own. And surprisingly, it does.

The story’s fairly basic - plot points are being set in motion for the rest of the season here, so much is left open-ended. Essentially, we pick up the story with Mulder gone and his apartment empty, while Scully stays at home watching over her baby and hoping like hell that it’s as normal as she thinks it is. Back at the FBI, Special Agents Doggett and Reyes are still fighting the hierarchy, with an investigation into the organisation that Doggett has been conducting now seriously annoying the folks higher up, including Assistant Director Brad Follmer (played by well-known movie actor Cary Elwes), who also happens to have a bit of, errm, “personal history” with Monica Reyes. Meanwhile, some mysterious drownings are brought to Doggett’s attention by a mysterious source, and soon he’s confronted by old military buddy Shannon McMahon (Lucy Lawless, leaving Xena far behind her!), who seems unusually fond of lurking around underwater without any clothes on, providing the lighting team with many challenges that they creatively overcome every time. Forget the aliens - that was Mulder’s territory. Now we’ve got an even more sinister conspiracy at work - and the three “Lone Gunmen” are back after the cancellation of their own TV series to help out.

Extremely talky and very long on exposition (like most of the season-opener episodes of this series seem to be), Nothing Important Happened Today is hardly an action-fest and unlike some of the other “mini-movie” instalments probably has more appeal to fans of the show than it does to newcomers. But it’s still watchable as a feature in its own right, and has plenty to recommend it - some very stylish directing, first-class acting, and an intriguing premise that all combine to have this writer making plans to pick up watching the show again when it’s back on the air. Loyal fans, however, won’t need any convincing (and probably haven’t even bothered reading all of the above) and indeed have probably already got their copies on pre-order.


While it’s been the subject of some heated speculation online, it appears that The X-Files has been shot in 16:9 widescreen from its fifth season onwards. However, the only “mini-movie” DVD to have been released in widescreen to date has been the previous release to this one - Existence, the season eight climax. Pleasingly, Fox continues its widescreen X-Files policy on Nothing Important Happened Today, and it looks terrific.

Presented at the expected 1.78:1 aspect ratio and of course 16:9 enhanced, this is about as state-of-the-art as shot-on-film television can look on this particular home video format. The X-Files has always been shot very cinematically anyway, and combined with solid film-to-tape transfer work the show’s very distinctive (and dark) look comes across with no visual distractions save for some occasional film grain. You can still tell it’s a TV show - necessary compromises in both the photography and the telecine give that away - but we doubt anyone’s going to be coming away disappointed. Certainly the infamous “gauze” look that’s been the bane of so many film-sourced TV shows on DVD is not at all evident here.

Fox has allocated this fairly short “movie” (US TV show episodes just seem to get shorter and shorter) a dual-layered disc, and while the compression bitrate is appreciably high the amount of data on this DVD would have fit easily onto a single layer - there’s a lot of room that could have been used for even looser compression. However, no major problems crop up in this department, save for a couple of scenes with slightly messy background detail. The layer change is expertly placed right where a commercial break would be.

And speaking of the commercial breaks, it’s worth mentioning that a good deal of effort has been gone to here to make this “movie” flow naturally, and the way the frequent breaks are handled is terrific - you won’t notice many of them, because they’ve been gently tweaked to seem like natural fades or dissolves. Purists may disagree, but we’d like to see TV series handled this way by default on DVD.


And just when you thought that Fox had run out of surprises, here’s a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix! Don’t get too excited; though it’s encoded as discrete 5.1, it appears to have been mixed in much the same way as the usual Dolby Surround audio that this show has used in the past (indeed, this one actually starts off with an “in Dolby Surround where available” logo on screen). Probably done in anticipation of both satellite broadcast and DVD, this 5.1 mix essentially just anchors all the dialogue to the centre channel, uses the left and right mains for occasional effects and music, and throws some music reverb and occasional ambient sound into the surrounds. The LFE track, meanwhile, kicks in mainly for the music score (which is mixed in true 5.1) but occasionally also for key action sequences (of which there are not many here anyway).

It’s nothing to get excited about, but a perfectly serviceable and clean audio mix that’s naturally a big improvement over the usual matrixed surround track. It’s also mastered noticeably quieter than you’d expect for a TV show; presumably the broadcast version will have the proverbial hell compressed out of it.


The static, generic menu (exactly the same as the one on the previous disc) does lead to a couple of extras, though nothing to get excited over.

Featurette - Monica Reyes Revealed: A typical promo fluff piece introducing us to Annabeth Gish and her character. To be fair it does provide a little extra background on Reyes for those who didn’t see her introduction to the series, but surprisingly there’s nothing about Gish’s rather impressive acting career prior to The X-Files. Three and a half minutes, 4:3 full frame.

Behind The Scenes Featurette: Generic title, anyone? Sure, why not - it’s a generic behind-the-scenes fluff piece, after all, though it does offer some comments from the actors about this being the “new generation” of the show, obviously expecting at the outset of season nine that it would carry on for some time. Three minutes, 4:3 full frame.


As we said earlier, the fans won’t need any convincing; for the more casual viewer, though, these X-Files “movie” episodes are a terrific way to get to see the Big Story Moments without having to make a six-month commitment. Like earlier stand-alone discs, Nothing Important Happened Today can be watched and enjoyed even by newcomers to the show. It’s not as monumental an episode as some of the other doubles, but then, this plot’s only getting started and there’ll undoubtedly be one or two more of these discs still to come. With the addition of Gish, Lawless and Elwes to the cast there’s now some serious actor appeal as well.

With pristine 16:9 video and, for the first time, 5.1 audio, this is the most technically impressive X-Files DVD to date. It seriously skimps on the extras, which is a shame, but the main feature looks and sounds terrific.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1629
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      And I quote...
    "With pristine 16:9 video and, for the first time, 5.1 audio, this is the most technically impressive X-Files DVD to date"
    - Anthony Horan
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