The Showcase Magazine - Articles


Good Storytelling Is In Short Supply

By Walker Joyce

My sister Liz has a knack for gift-giving. She always produces the perfect gift for each individual and occasion. Recently, she proved it again when she gave me a wonderful birthday present: one of my favorite TV shows, The X Files, preserved on DVDs.

All eleven seasons, plus the two feature films. We began watching that evening and have savored at least one episode a night ever since. Lizzie didn’t watch the program during its original run, but now she’s hooked.

I’m a charter member of The Horror Boys, the generation of adolescents who discovered the classic Universal Studio films when they debuted on Television. Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man and the rest scared me silly, and created a permanent appetite for supernatural tales. Stephen Spielberg, Joe Dante and other Hollywood big shots were in the same unofficial club, so I’m in good company.

The X Files arrived in the fall of 1993 and became Appointment TV for over a decade. It centered on a pair of FBI agents investigating the Paranormal, cases that often remained unsolved, hence the X label on their folders.

The spine of the series was a recurring UFO investigation, labeled the Mythology by its creators. Fox Mulder, the male half of the team, was a fervent believer in aliens, who he blamed for abducting his sister when they were kids. He joined the bureau so he could use its resources to search for her and discover the real story behind her kidnapping. At the

end of the show’s haunting theme, the slug line “The Truth is Out There” would appear.

His female partner, Dana Scully, was a medical doctor devoted to science, and therefore a skeptic. Initially assigned to the X Files to debunk Mulder’s work, she eventually embraces his acceptance of “extreme possibilities.”

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were unknown actors when the show began but became international stars during its run. They had incredible chemistry, to the point where most fans hoped their relationship would become a romantic one.

Most episodes were stand-alone scripts, unrelated to the Mythology. They became known as “Monster of the Week” stories, and they were by far my favorites—especially after the UFO through-line became convoluted.

As the years unspooled and the characters became familiar, even intimate with the fan base, the writers expanded the format to embrace humorous material, even winking self-satires loaded with inside jokes. We X-Philes, as devotees became known, couldn’t get enough.

The show’s greatest virtue was the inexhaustible imagination of its creator, Chris Carter, and the staff of writers and editors he assembled. One week it would be pure sci-fi, the next a police procedural, or a flat-out horror story. Carter’s first desire was to scare the audience, but he could also turn on a dime and crank out a comic tale or tease the fans with hints of the leads falling in love. Thus, the scripts could be suspenseful, unnerving, puzzling or titillating.

The power of a good story well-told remains immense, and with UFOs back in the headlines, let’s open the file cabinet again. Duchovny and Anderson can mentor a new pair of young agents, and Carter can hire another generation of clever writers.

In a world that often feels like it’s turned upside-down, this groundbreaking show would fit the Zeitgeist even better.