I don’t think I need to explain the phenomenon that was The X-Files, you all know how popular the series was, you know about all the characters and you know that the whole series took a nose dive around Season 6 or 7.
Season 8 is characterised by the absence of David Duchovny and his character Fox Mulder. Fox is off in the desert somewhere making crappy movies (Evolution) and probably regrets going missing for almost the entire two final Seasons of the series.
In the first episode of this Season we are introduced to Agent Doggett (Robert “Nice Bike” Patrick) as a gritty, down to earth character with an interesting past who uses his experience as a cop in New York to investigate cases with traditional methods of gathering evidence and exploring leads. Doggett’s sceptical and scientific nature is reminiscent of Scully in early Seasons and he makes a good opposite to his now, less sceptical co-star.
Later in the season Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) joins the team acting as a balance between Scully and Doggett, injecting a dynamic third outlook into the usual duality we have become so accustomed to.
Like most of you reading this review I was a huge X-Files fan. I religiously followed the exploits of Mulder and Scully every week, bought all the VHS tapes (some are still in their original shrink wrap) and of course, watched the movie once (that was enough).
However, the ratings tell the story of a series that lost a lot of fans at around Season 8. Was it the mostly unexplained absence of Mulder? The introduction of Agent Doggett? The fact that Season 7 seemed to wrap up the series and there was no need for more? Did people finally just give up waiting for The Truth? Or just that after 7 Seasons the writers had run out of fresh ideas and apart from story arc episodes, they all seemed like the same old stories?
Whatever the reason Season 8 still retains a lot of the magic that made The X-Files such a hit. The character dynamics are still there and although the sexual tension between Mulder and Scully is obviously missing, it is replaced with all the wonders of a new dynamic generated by Doggett as he and Scully learn to work together and gain respect for each others abilities. Annabeth Gish does a fantastic job as the uniquely gifted Agent Monica Reyes and her appearance and ongoing presence is a highlight of the Season.
The humour of the first few Seasons is almost non existent, none of the episodes really hit the mark for pure silliness in Season 8 making the whole Season a lot darker for it.
Mixed in with the usual one-off episodes are the story arcs which further explore the disappearance of Mulder, Scully’s pregnancy and the new Super Soldiers (which may or may not be one in the same, cue spooky music).
The package for Season 8 includes 6 single layer discs with 21 Season episodes: Within, Without, Patience, Roadrunners, Invocation, Redrum, Via Negativa, Surekill, Salvage, Badlaa, The Gift, Medusa, Per Manum, This Is Not Happening , DeadAlive, Three Words, Empedocles, Vienen, Alone, Essence, Existence
"I want to catch this guy Agent Scully, Whatever it takes"
-Agent John Doggett
The extras for Season 8 are spread over all 6 discs in the set with the bulk of the extras being on disc 5 and 6:
Main Menu Introduction
A non-skippable montage of scenes from the season, it’s stylish and cool, but after the 20th time you’re forced to sit through it, it’s just annoying.
Main Menu Audio
Although listed as an extra I’m not sure how this is any different to the music we heard over just about every animated menu system on other DVD’s.
Featurette-International Clips (6) (German, Italian, Japanese)
On 6 episodes we get to see selected clips from each one presented in the three mentioned languages, but why not English also?
Each episodes has the option to view the cast credits as a separate option.
Audio Commentary-Alone, Existence
With writer Frank Spotnitz and director Kim Manners respectively.
Deleted Scenes-7, With Optional Commentary
These scenes are also presented on the relevant episode disc, but here, on the 6th disc with an option audio commentary.
Featurette-The Truth About Season 8
Chris Carter and other crew talk about the challenges surrounding Season 8, particularly the absence of Duchovny and the introduction of two new characters in John Doggett and Monica Reyes.
Featurette-X-Files Profiles: Gibson Praise
Featurette-X-Files Profiles: John Doggett
Featurette-X-Files Profiles: Alex Krycek
These three featurettes were originally packaged with the VHS release of selected X-Files episodes and concentrate on characters who appeared in key episodes throughout Season 8
TV Spots running for 10 or 20 seconds, these are intended as teasers for each episode.
Featurette-Special Effects With Narration By Paul Rabwin
Paul Rabwin leads the viewer through the process of producing special effects for the show, featuring original and alternative effects shots to contrast which parts actually made it into the series and which were cut.
Audio-wise this Season is as good as we have heard in previous efforts. The bass is strong, dialog is clear and distinct and although the series would have most certainly benefitted from a 5.1 mix, the 2.0 channel track is excellent.
The dialog tends to muddy a little in some scenes but never enough to warrant a trip to the volume knob. The score by Mark Snow features as prominently as ever and adds to the spooky atmosphere as usual.
Each episode in this season is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is 16:9 enhanced. For a TV series, the video transfer for all episodes is outstanding. Well-lit daytime scenes are bright and colourful without being washed-out or over-saturated. Night scenes, of which there are a lot, can be be a little too dark at times but mostly without losing detail . The presence of grain in some scenes can also be a little distracting.
Like a lot of people, I lost interest in The X-Files during Season 8. After missing the first episode when it was first broadcast I tried to catch up but the harder I tried the more confusing it got, “Where’s Mulder?”, “Who’s that guy?”, “What is that guy doing with that wrench?” and “What happened to that guys face”. You know, the usual questions, it was like quicksand, the harder I struggled, the worse it got and I eventually gave up.
So, it was great when I was given the option to review this Season of The X-Files because it gave me a chance to get it right. I’m glad I did because despite the bad reputation (and not so good ratings) the final two Seasons still have a lot to offer.
No X-Files collection will be complete without this set, if you’re like me and you missed Season 8 and 9 the recent price drop on all the X-Files DVD sets presents the perfect opportunity to catch up.