In September 1993, a little sci-fi show relatively quietly debuted on Fox in the Friday 9pm slot. Inspired by “all the scary shows” of creator Chris Carter’s childhood (Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Night Gallery, Outer Limits, Kolchak: The Night Stalker) and more contemporary work such as Twin Peaks and Silence of the Lambs, The X-Files redefined television sci-fi. A show of slashers (sci-fi/conspiracy theory/cop show/paranormal phenomenon/drama/comedy/horror), headed by stars David Duchovny (Special Agent Fox Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (Special Agent Dana Scully), it all somehow worked creating an unforgettable nine seasons and two movies (though many of us really wish to forget season 9 and the second film).
As we fast approach the return of The X-Files to our TV screens for the first time since 2002, we give you a run down of our 15 favourite episodes.
1. “Squeeze” (S1 Ep3)/”Tooms” (S1 Ep21)
Stephanie: Even though these two episodes don’t take place one after another I still think of them like a two-parter. “Squeeze” was when X-Files found it’s Monster of the Week pattern that would carry the show through nine seasons.
Clare: Yep agree to everything you said here. Tooms was the perfect Monster of the Week: deceptively innocent looking, cunning, ability to apparently vanish without a trace, ability to get in anywhere, scary as hell, and those eyes! Doug Hutchison was fantastic in these two episodes.
2. “Beyond the Sea” (S1 Ep13)
Clare: This is the first time you really get to see how amazing Gillian Anderson is and we all thank Chris Carter for fighting with Fox to get her as Scully. Her ability to express so much of the inner turmoil Scully is feeling and her out of character behaviour (yes, already established by the 13th episode of season 1) is beautifully done almost solely through how expressive her eyes and face are. It’s just incredible. I love the vulnerability of Scully, the role reversal of Mulder and Scully, and the genuine caring nature between the two.
Stephanie: Mulder and Scully were partners from episode one. But in this episode you can really see the depth of emotion already building between them. Gillian Anderson absolutely kills it.
3. “Irresistible” (S2 Ep13)
Stephanie: One of things that makes X-Files timeless is showing sometimes the worst monsters are just people. Like Donnie Pfaster, a flat out creepy guy who collects pieces of the dead.
Clare: Absolutely agree, fucking freaky guy and awesome acting all round. It’ll take you a while before you ever let anyone but a hair dresser wash your hair again.
4. “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (S3 Ep4)
Clare: This awesome episode is always up there in the top X-Files episodes and certainly deserves it. It won two Emmys (one for writing and one for Peter Boyle as guest star, Clyde Bruckman). One of the more lighter episodes, it explores some pretty heavy subject material. I like the juxtaposition of the two “psychics” – the Stupendous Yappi and Clyde Bruckman and we get that all important reveal towards the end of the episodes when we find out how both Mulder and Scully will die (or not as the case may be) – a very important point that is picked up throughout the rest of the series and is rumoured to appear again in the new season.
Stephanie: An absolute classic. It explores something supernatural while also addressing something so human: death.
5. “War of the Coprophages” (S3 Ep12)
Clare: One of my go-to eps when feeling down, it’s guaranteed to have me in stitches and luckily since I grew up in Sydney, cockies (cockroaches) don’t tend to faze me. We have jealous Scully, so many classic one-liners, an entomologist named Bambi (“Her name is Bambi?”). Plus Scully saves the day. A good fun episode.
Stephanie: Yes to all of these points and also shout out to the moment that makes me think a cockroach is on my TV. I jump every time.
6. “Pusher” (S3 Ep17)
Clare: Modell is a piece of work. His abilities and the way he got them illustrates how little we know of the human mind and its capabilities. Similar to Tooms from season 1, whereas Tooms’ scare factor came from his physical ability to manipulate, Modell’s comes from his psyche. I love this episode for being able to see Mulder pushed to his limits, and the depth, once again, of the Mulder/Scully relationship. No matter how many times I watch it, the Russian Roulette scene at the end still makes me hold my breath.
Stephanie: It’s because Modell is so ordinary that he’s extra disturbing. Modell’s persuasive ability is a fluke of nature and science, nothing more. As Mulder says, “he was always such a little man.” When he got something that made him different, he let it waste him away simply so he could use it to hurt and kill others. That’s a special kind of psychopath.
7. “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” (S3 Ep20)
Stephanie: Another episode that makes me laugh every time. I especially enjoy the stand-in phrases the story uses for one detective’s cursing. “That’s a bleepin’ dead alien if I ever bleepin’ saw one.”
Clare: The bleepin’ episode!!!! This episode was so wonderfully structured and a lot of fun to watch. Not one that I often reach for to rewatch, it still has some truly classic X-Files moments.
8. “Home” (S4 Ep2)
Stephanie: This episode is mostly known for being classified as so disturbing, Fox refused to air it again. But it’s a fascinating study on human nature and small towns. The disturbing main plot is undercut with some very funny moments and reminds us Mulder and Scully are truly exceptional at what they do.
Clare: I think I’ve only seen this episode maybe three times. A truly disturbing episode, but one of the most intriguing in the series. The character studies are intense; delving into notions of home, family, quality of life, as well as experiences in a small town.
9. “Paper Hearts” (S4 Ep10)
Clare: This ep just tore me up. We have a truly disgusting monster, and awesome acting all round. I loved the exploration of what if Samantha was never abducted by aliens and it was just a run-of-the-mill human monster. The Mulder’s confrontation with John Lee Roche and then the final scene in Mulder’s office just kills me.
10. “Memento Mori” (S4 Ep14)
Clare: One. Of. The. Best. Episodes. In. The. Entire. Series. Gillian won an Emmy, SAG and Golden Globe in 1997 with this episode and you can certainly see why. This episode can be summed up in three words: Scully, Mulder, cancer. The acting from both Gillian and David is awesome acting. The depths that Mulder and Scully will go to protect the other, the hallway scene (even though they cut the bloody kiss!). This episode just blows me away.
Stephanie: Yes to all of these points.
And because everyone needs to see the deleted kiss
11. “Small Potatoes” (S4 Ep20)
Clare: I think this is one of the first episodes I ever watched (yes I was too scared to watch when it first premiered) and so it has a special place in my heart, especially since, like me, the lead guest character is a massive Star Wars fan (though I think even she has me beat). This episode is hilarious and I love Darin Morgan (also a writer in the series) starring as Eddie Van Blundht. However, above all else, what this episode is known for is the almost-kiss at the end. Shouts of frustration rang out around the world. Terrific work by Duchovny there.
Stephanie: I had forgotten just how hilarious this one is until a recent re-watch. Morgan plays a guy who can morph into other people so naturally he becomes Mulder. David Duchovny is so good I forget every time that it’s not another actor who has somehow taken on Mulder’s appearance.
12. “Detour” (S4 Ep4)
Stephanie: Another very funny episode and also includes the famous line about sleeping bags. The monsters are really creepy and make you think twice about messing with nature.
Clare: Another hilarious episode (are you sensing a pattern that so many of our favs are the light-hearted ones?), the main things you need to watch for in this episode is team-building exercises, wine and cheese night, Scully singing so Mulder knows she’s awake and keeping guard, and sleeping bags!
13. “Post-Modern Prometheus” (S4 Ep5)
Clare: This nod to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is simply stunning. Shot completely in black and white, it’s full of humour, pathos, and explores once again themes of belonging, acceptance, home, and family. And that dance at the end!!!!
Stephanie: The black and white is just gorgeous. And then the music and Mulder and Scully dancing at a Cher concert is perfection.
14. “Bad Blood” (S5 Ep12)
Stephanie: SO FUNNY
Clare: Absolutely. My go to ep whenever I need a pick me up. Both Gillian and David are such masters of comedy and they are let loose here to maximum effect. Add Luke Wilson and vampires (before vampires got all Twilighted) and this ep is about as perfect a comedy ep as you can get.
15. The X-Files: Fight the Future Movie
Stephanie: I know, it’s not technically an episode. Whatever. It still counts. This movie is enjoyable whether or not you followed the show and it has some huge Mulder and Scully relationship moments including the kiss that was interrupted by that damn bee.
Clare: This has everything you would want in an X-Files movie: a big story, further development of the mythology, exotic locations, and a hint at the truth. Fantastic character development for Mulder and Scully in terms of their more romantic relationship and shippers everywhere developed an extreme hatred of bees. So many great quotable lines as well – “Don’t think. Just pick up the phone and make it happen!”
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