Watching the X-Files again

For a bit of fun I downloaded the first series of The X-Files to my Apple TV when I wound up in Doreen. Back in the day I was an avid viewer, and the show probably rates in my personal top 10 of TV series.

The first series dates back to 1993, and looks it. For a start David Duchnovy looks very young – too young to be a notorious FBI agent. There are no mobile phones, no google, and the fashions – particularly Scully’s – are very much of the era. Even the politics is different. On top of that the SFX are not as good as what we’ve become accustomed to – though at the time, not knowing any better, I’d have not thought twice about it.

All that set to one side, I was kind of disappointed 20 years on by the show. It seemed pedestrian at times, and occasionally silly. For the most part the stories were diverting, but lightweight. The odd episode carried more weight, and the series got better as it progressed (I’m only up to ep. 10). The telling thing for me is that I’d be watching and often reading a magazine at the same time, or playing on my phone. It didn’t have my undivided attention because it didn’t demand it.

I tried to remember what my reaction was when it first came. It started over 20 years ago, which seems an age. I lived a simpler life then because I’d not been around long enough to make it complicated. I’d have had a different opinion on that back then of course – I’d recently broken with a woman I was very much in love with, had quit a job I’d safely been in for five years, and had embarked on a potentially risky (but ultimately very successful) period of contracting.

I’d not long moved into the first home I bought in Rockley Road, South Yarra. It was cosy and well located and I was happy there. By and large I had different friends to what I have now, but I was very close to those friends, and we led a social lifestyle. I was 20 years younger and ambitious and didn’t really have the mindspace to believe I wouldn’t live happily ever after.

I would have welcomed the advent of The X-Files. It was the sort of show I liked. I don’t recall my initial reaction, but I suppose I was encouraged at least by what I saw. History tells us that I became an avid viewer over the full span of the series, which, as it went on, became more sophisticated and more adventurous. In my memory at least the sort of disposable story-line I’ve seen so far (mostly) were later supplanted by stories that were more probing and linked thematically. What began as a bunch of moderately weird tales became a tale of conspiracy and cover-up, stories of alien involvement and intervention interspersed with more intriguing stories of strange happenings.

The characters, Mulder and Scully, have become legendary, and that’s what’s missing in the first series. That first series they’re both a couple of well-drawn and interesting characters that have yet to achieve that status – but 20 years plus on, I look at them aware of their legendary status. Viewing any show is a lot to do with perspective, and that’s particularly true in this instance.

I watch today knowing what the series became. What was then novel has since become a well saturated subject matter. I might have been surprised then, and excited, but events since have muted any of that – it takes more to produce the same result. And I guess I’m different too, though in many ways the significance of that perspective is hard to quantify. It’s like a man in a train watching the scenery rushing by, while he remains in place.

I suspect once I’ve finished this series I’ll download and watch the others in sequence. There’s a significant nostalgia factor, and I’m curious to re-visit the whole journey to find if I’m the same man now who watched it then.

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