The term “Jumping the Shark” was coined in the late 90’s to describe the moment at which your favourite TV series has reached its peak. The instant that you know from now on, it’s all downhill. The name comes from the episode of Happy Days where The Fonz water-ski jumps over a shark tank to overcome his fear of sharks (and maybe even ski-jumping), and represents the point at which the series had reached it’s peak and would never be the same.
The X-Files jumped its shark long before Season 9 began, in fact the general view is that The X-Files Movie was the shark for The X-Files. From about Season 6 onwards, which coincided with changing the shooting locations from Vancouver to L.A., it was all downhill.
The Season 9 episode “Jump the Shark” is most likely a subtle salute to this term and given the content of the episode, it could be most certainly called a shark jumping moment in the whole series.
All sharks and jumping aside, is Season 9 worth owning or even watching?
Collectors and dedicated fans will already own this Season on DVD, for those divided on whether they should shell out for the 9th Season of a series they wish had ended after the 6th or 7th I think there are some good reasons to complete the collection.
Most of the questions about Mulder’s mysterious disappearance have been answered and the relationship between Scully and Doggett has strengthened with an obvious chemistry that never approaches that of Mulder and Scully but is unique and interesting nonetheless. Monica Reyes plays a larger role in this Season and receives a lot more character development.
The only real low-light of this Season is the disappointing final episode, “The Truth”, which attempts to wrap up all the loose ends, but ends up failing to live up to what the final episode should have been for a series such as The X-Files
The humour of previous seasons that was obviously absent in Season 8 has returned with a number of episodes being light and a little silly. On the other end of the spectrum, suspense and drama also makes a big comeback and the aforementioned episode “Jump the Shark” giving the heartstrings a good old tug.
The package for Season 9 includes one disc of extras and 6 single layer discs with 19 Season episodes:
Nothing Important Happened Today (1), Nothing Important Happened Today II (2), Dæmonicus, 4-D, Lord of the Flies, Trust No 1, John Doe, Hellbound, Provenance (1), Providence (2), Audrey Pauley, Underneath, Improbable, Scary Monsters, Jump the Shark, William, Release, Sunshine Days, The Truth
One thing that really puzzles me about the Season 9 box set release is the absence of a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix. Prior to the release of the Season 9 box set there were a number of individual or double releases of key episodes in the season. Each of these releases featured a 5.1 sound mix, but we have not been given the same option in the box set. Weird and very disappointing.
Disappointment aside, the soundtrack for this season is every bit as good as Season 8 was. Surrounds are used well, bass is occasional but appropriate and the center channel delivers clear and crisp dialog.
One last weird thing about the sound options for this season is that while flicking between the English and Italian 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks I noticed that the Italian track sounds a lot better, especially in regards to background noises. In one particular scene I could clearly hear crickets chirping on the Italian track but they were only just audible on the English version, this continued through pretty much all the episodes, congratulations Italian viewers.
The menu system has remained the consistent performer that has served the functional purpose throughout the entire series of DVD box sets. We are given an animated introduction showing scenes from the Season and a static but well presented and easily navigable menu system.
As with Season 8, top marks to the video transfer for this season. The only real criticism I can level is that some scenes can appear overly dark and lacking in shadow details but this can be attributed to style as much as technical aspects (the darker it is the spookier it is). The usual TV show grain is present but doesn’t detract from the cinematic feel of this widescreen presentation.
As with previous Seasons, the extras for Season 9 are spread over the 6 main episode discs but with an extra seventh disc packed with additional special features:
All New Documentary: "The Truth About Season Nine"
Running at around 20 minutes in full frame (1.33:1) and stereo sound we are presented with a summary of the featured characters and overall story of Season 9 punctuated with cast and crew interviews including guest stars like Burt Reynolds.
Over 1 1/2 Hours Of Additional Behind the Scenes Documentaries
These documentaries are included on disc 7 of this set and include “Secrets of The X-Files” (42:20), “More Secrets of The X-Files” (43:59) and “Reflections on The X-Files” (17:00). They cover topics that encompass the entire series, overall conspiracy storyline and interviews with X-Files fans giving a giving a unique, viewer perspective of the series.
10 Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary By Frank Spotnitz
These deleted scenes from various episodes are spread throughout the discs in the set and also shown on disc 6. You have the option to view the scenes integrated into the relevant episode or stand alone with commentary by Frank Spotnitz.
9 Special Effects Sequences With Commentary By Paul Rabwin And Mat Beck
Complete with commentary by Paul Rabwin (and Mat Beck on the final segment) we are shown original composite shots, alternate takes and final products of multiple special effects scenes from the Season.
2 X-Files Profile Featurettes
Originally produced for the home video market and packaged with certain episodes these segments are taken direct from their original source and cut together to form a single item. Featuring profiles on Monica Reyes and Brad Follmer we are given some additional details on the characters, particularly concentrating on Reyes and Follmers relationship before and during their involvement with The X-Files.
36 Promotional TV Spots
Running at 10 and 20 seconds these promotional TV spots were originally broadcast by fox in the week preceding the showing of each episode.
International Language Clips
5 clips shown in 3 languages each (German, Italian and Japanese).
Audio Commentary for "Improbable", "Jump The Shark" and "The Truth"
Chris Carter runs us through the main story points and character motivations in the episode “Improboble”, paying particular attention to Burt Reynold’s character, God. Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, and Frank Spotnitz run us through “Jump the Shark”, a particularly significant episode for fans of The Lone Gunmen, with a light atmosphere and good humour until the inevitable shark jumping moment. Finally, Kim Manners who directed 53 episodes of the show comments on the final episode, “The Truth”.
Overall, a fitting end to such an amazing series. The presentation of this set including the video and audio quality and the overwhelming amount of extras combine to create a worthy addition to your X-Files collection. Apart from the obvious and puzzling omission of a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix, this set is well worth owning.