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The X-Files Season 5 Box Set

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 870 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

The fifth season of The X-Files was definitely one of the best. A little shorter than the rest (20 episodes as opposed to the usual 24), this was because the cast and crew were also hard at work on the feature film, which was shot in between the fourth and fifth seasons, and released between the fifth and sixth. Thus, unusually for The X-Files, the writers and directors had a clear set of goals for the fifth year, setting up plot points and characters that would pay off in the film.

As usual, there's a mix of "stand-alone" shows (in which our heroes investigate cases involving supernatural phenomena, bizarre murders, serial killers and hideous freaks) and "mythology" episodes (that tie into the massive and hugely complex alien invasion/government conspiracy plot). There seems to be more of the latter than usual in Season 5, probably due to the amount of set-up required for the mythology-based movie.

Season 5 was the peak of the show's popularity, as many viewers - confused and upset by the film's lack of genuine resolution and the increasing incomprehensibility of the sprawling conspiracy arc - turned off during the following year. Which is a shame, as Season 6 was a rip-snorter in which humour took a front seat at the expense of the familiar doom, gloom and portentousness.

With an impressive roster of guest writers - including episodes by cyberpunk writer William Gibson and, in a remarkable publicity coup, Stephen King - improved special effects, some great scripts and the usual slick, film-like production values, there's plenty to enjoy in Season 5. Here are some of the highlights (check out the link to an episode guide at the right of the page):

Redux 1 and 2 - the concluding episodes of the three-part cliffhanger, we see if Mulder really died at the end of Season 4 (spoiler: duh, he didn't). Another main character "dies" (as much as anyone ever does in The X-Files), alien invasion theories are debunked, and Scully's cancer is dealt with in another addictive mythology-based mini-movie.

The Lone Gunmen, a trio of lovable techno-geeks whose paranoia and distrust of authority is well-founded, are the stars of Unusual Suspects, an hilarious flashback tale in which we discover how they first banded together to help Mulder resolve yet another enigmatic US government conspiracy.

Detour is a rather too conventional monster-of-the-week episode wherein our heroes face a monster prowling the Florida woodlands.

Hailed as one the best X-Files episodes ever, Post-Modern Prometheus sees Mulder and Scully track down a hideously disfigured boy with a horrifying Cher obsession. It's X-Files meets Frankenstein, filmed in beautiful black-and-white. Brilliant stuff.

Christmas Carol / Emily is another two-parter, and a depressing experience it is. Scully learns that she may have a daughter (!), a young girl who is slowly dying of an inoperable cancer. Well made, but unrelentingly bleak and a little on the dull side.

Chinga is the somewhat disappointing murder mystery penned by Stephen King, set in (where else?) Maine. A strange little girl may be responsible for a string of mutilated corpses...

William Gibson co-wrote Kill Switch, which deals with a sentient computer that kidnaps Mulder. One of the most expensive and effects-intensive hours of X-Files ever made...

...followed by Bad Blood, one of the show's cleverest and most gut-bustingly hilarious episodes. How can you top a pre-credits sequence wherein Mulder pursues a shadowy figure through a dark forest, impales him with a wooden stake, grimly shows Scully the "vampire's" impressive set of fangs... and then, in a moment of shocking realisation, sees the dentures slide off the corpse's teeth? "Oh shi..." (Cue opening credits.)

Another two-parter, comprised of Patient X and The Red and the Black, sees the duo's roles flip-flopped: Scully becomes a believer, Mulder the skeptic. Recurring character Cassandra Spender is introduced as a wheelchair-bound victim of an alien abduction with an unexpected link to Scully.

The End is the cliffhanger episode leading directly into the feature film, and introduces Gibson Praise, a young boy whose supposed psychic abilities make him a target for sinister, scheming officials.

  Video
Contract

This was the first year of The X-Files to be shot in a widescreen format - 1.78:1 to be precise - and, with 16x9 enhancement, it looks fantastic. Sure, there's a little bit of background grain and slight loss of shadow detail, but on the whole there's really nothing to complain about for a '90s television show. The X-Files has a reputation for being one of the first TV shows to put out episodes with a made-for-cinema feel on a weekly basis, and this box set shows why.

  Audio
Contract

We get a decent English 2.0 Dolby Digital surround soundtrack which rarely draws attention to itself, but is sufficiently gutsy in the pyrotechnic scenes and remains crisp and clear throughout. The subwoofer stays fairly quiet though.

  Extras
Contract

Five of the discs feature four episodes apiece along with a few features (commentaries and deleted scenes), with the bulk of the extras being jammed onto a sixth disc.

The Truth About Season 5 is a very watchable eighteen minute documentary with a variety of writers, directors, producers and actors talking about their favourite episodes. There's a bit of useful information pertaining to the special guest writers, the manner in which the lead-up to the feature film changed the way in which the season's arc was constructed, and the ever-expanding mythology of the show.

There are two commentaries. The series' creator takes us through an episode that he wrote and directed, the delightfully skewed The Post-Modern Prometheus, and has some interesting things to say about the origins of the show and the ongoing sexual dynamic between Mulder and Scully. John Shiban wrote The Pine Bluff Variant and gives another worthy monologue, riffing on the screenwriting and production processes with a dry sense of humour.

We've got a mere six deleted scenes - less than in the last box set, but then there are also fewer episodes. They're all fairly inconsequential, but hey, they're always nice to have! Episodes including The Post-Modern Prometheus, Christmas Carol, The Red and the Black and All Souls can be played with the scenes reinserted if you so choose (although the poor-to-average video quality and the fact that they often repeat previous footage mar this feature), or you can watch them separately with Chris Carter commentary.

As usual, we get a collection of one minute FX - Behind the Truth spots (eleven this time) that were made to accompany the reruns on US station FX. These mini-doumentaries are short, snappy and often wryly amusing as we go behind-the-scenes with makeup artists, special effects technicians, writers, directors, and some minor cast members. They can be played individually or as a single 11-minute entity, and are well worth watching.

Running at over 40 minutes, Inside The X-Files is an extensive documentary that gives an overview of the first five seasons. It's designed to introduce new viewers to the alien consiracy mythology, and incredibly, after watching this, the convoluted storyline almost makes sense! This worthy, albeit overly polished and hype-heavy doco is also included on the feature film DVD.

Eight short special effects featurettes are comprised of excerpts from the relevant episodes accompanied with behind-the-scenes footage and commentary by SFX maestro Paul Rabwin. He's a genial host not afraid to poke fun at his work as explains the various processes used and the pressures of producing such a vast amount of work for a weekly television series. Some interesting effects that he explains are the shot in Emily wherein Scully turns into an eroding sand sculpture, the alien spacecraft in The Red and the Black, and the tortured apparition trapped in the supermarket freezer in Chinga.

There are short excerpts taken from foreign versions of the show. Watching Mulder and Scully speak in German, Russian and Japanese can be momentarily amusing, but all in all this is pretty unnecessary stuff.

Finally, there are 40 TV spots, two for each episode. Utterly redundant for most of us, but completists will appreciate the addition.

  Overall  
Contract

The fifth X-Files box set is comprised of 20 of the series' best and most confident episodes, a great set of extras and decent sound and vision. X-Philes shouldn't (and won't) think twice before purchasing.


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      And I quote...
    "The fifth X-Files box set is comprised of 20 of the series' best and most confident episodes, a great set of extras and decent sound and vision. "
    - Terry Oberg
      Review Equipment
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    • Receiver:
          Diamond
    • Speakers:
          Diamond
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          Diamond
    • Surrounds:
          Diamond
    • Subwoofer:
          Diamond
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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