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'The X-Files'
is stuck in
a UFO rut


August 13, 1998
By Franklin Harris

At its best, "The X-Files," is the finest program on television. At its worst, however, it can be very, very annoying.

I don't mean it's annoying in an ordinary way. No, I mean it's annoying in that nagging, obsessive, splinter-under-the-skin sort of way.

The best episodes of "The X-Files" are the ones that stand on their own
-- the "monster-of-the-week" episodes.

The monster episodes have charm, wit, humor and suspense -- all precious commodities these days in Hollywood.

They are also the episodes written by the show's best writers -- like Darin Morgan, who is responsible for the show's two best installments: "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space' " and "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose."

Yet the episodes upon which the program has built its image are those mired in the mythology of UFOs.

And, as time has passed, the show has become increasingly obsessed with its increasingly boring, predictable and improbable UFO story arc.

Originally, the conspiracy arc was relegated to the background. It popped up occasionally to add continuity to an otherwise anthology-like program. It allowed the show's creator, Chris Carter, to insert supporting characters into a formula for which they where otherwise ill suited.

But now the UFOs, and the conspiracy designed to conceal them, dominate everything else.

"The X-Files" is a symptom of the nation's UFO hysteria, which has been fueled by crank authors, late-night talk show hosts and FOX television specials, all seeking to convince the feeble-minded that extraterrestrials have nothing better to do than travel millions of light years to draw pictograms in wheat fields.

The "X-Files" movie, which performed modestly this summer at the box office, is an example of everything that is wrong with the conspiracy saga: it promises the "truth" but never delivers, has a plot requiring that characters come on screen just to explain it and ends with the status quo just as it was before the film began.

No matter how close FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder comes to the evidence he needs to unmask the conspiracy, he is ultimately left empty handed.

That Mulder is so ineffectual is the only explanation of why the bad guys haven't offed him already.

Sadly enough, the film, taken in isolation, is rather good. It is slick, suspenseful, well paced and beautifully photographed. In a summer filled with drivel like "Godzilla" and "Armageddon," "The X-Files" is a standout.

Put into the television show's context, however, its plot is just more of the same.

Unsurprisingly, reviewers who've never seen the television series are more kind to the film than are many of show's fans.

The critics are newcomers. They don't know the movie is just the latest tease.

And, eventually, everyone hates a tease.

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