The X-Files: “Monday” and the Everyday Hell of Abusive Relationships

Art by Jared Adams

“I don’t think she was an accomplice. I think she was just trying to get away.”

These words, spoken by Mulder at the end of the episode “Monday” perfectly encapsulate the fear and danger in trying to leave an abusive relationship. She was just trying to get away. Only you can get out, no one can do it for you. No one can save you. You might die trying to get away, but even that is preferable to perpetual hell.

We know that the woman named Pam represents every woman. We only hear her name once. This could be done intentionally to both signify how she could be any woman, every woman, but also to show that these women aren’t just statistics and victims, but whole people with unique identities. She’s not just some woman. She’s Pam. It lends weight to everything that will happen after. She has a name, people and things she loves, a life, favorite foods, favorite movies, favorite books, dreams and goals.

But any woman (one just like Pam) can find herself in an abusive relationship. Smart women. Strong women. Because gas lighters are smart too. At least when it comes to this. Emotional manipulation is what they’re best at, and there’s usually no indication you’re in an abusive relationship until it’s too late. Using an amalgamation of countless real life stories, we can infer that Bernard probably started out sweet, telling Pam she’s beautiful and perfect and the only girl he’s ever felt this way about, that she deserves the best, and shouldn’t have to work. So he’ll work (as a janitor) so she doesn’t have to. It sounds very romantic and appealing until you realize that he’ll have her right where he wants her-with no financial independence of her own and no way to leave him once he starts showing his true nature.

But this is all just speculation right? We don’t know it’s an abusive relationship. The X-Files has always been subtle but profound. They don’t come right out and blatantly say anything. But we do have one important clue. So like Mulder and Scully we take what little evidence we have and run with it. We know this woman is living the same day over and over and has tried everything possible to stop the explosive ending from happening again. She drugs Bernard; it doesn’t work. She hides his keys; it doesn’t work. She even calls the cops on him herself. But like she says “he always gets here.” And she’s always there with him. There’s nothing she can do to change her circumstances.

When Bernard asks her why she’s always in a mood she replies “because nothing ever changes.” On the surface this is obviously directed at the “deja vu” of the repeating day. But beneath the surface it’s a commentary on the stagnant nature of being trapped in an abusive relationship. Often, the abusive party will apologize for their behavior and swear it’ll never happen again. Inevitably it always does. The only possible outcomes are a woman finally putting her foot down and getting away, living out the rest of her days in Hell, or when her abuser accidentally or intentionally kills her.

I like this bit from the show because you’d think calling the police would be more than enough. Calling the police with a tip about a bank robber with a bomb headed for a specific bank should be enough to stop Bernard, but for whatever reason, it isn’t. Going to the police for help if you are in an abusive relationship should get you out of it, but it often doesn’t. How many news stories include the details of a woman going to the police, filing a restraining order against her abuser and basically doing everything she’s “supposed” to do–“the right thing”–in order to save herself. But often abusers are controlling and possessive. They try to control where you go, who you can and can’t talk to, even how much money you have. When they lose control, the fear of no longer being able to possess the person they want can send them onto a violent and destructive path. But before that happens, they will do everything in their power to maintain that control. They’ll violate restraining orders, stalk, break into houses, whatever they need to do to try to talk the person into taking them back. The particular news story I’m thinking of ended with the woman dead after just such a series of events. She tried to get away, and he killed her. A final act of ultimate control. If I can’t have you, you aren’t going to be with anyone else. If I can’t control your existence, then you’re not going to exist.

But back to the main clue the woman is in an abusive relationship. One of the things she tries in order to change her circumstances is to tell Bernard “I’m not going with you.” He replies “Look, I’m not asking.” This is what abusive relationships are like. You don’t get to decide for yourself how you will live. You are told what to do. And you do it, or else. Frequently watching his episode I asked myself why doesn’t she stick to her guns? Why doesn’t she refuse to go with him? Probably because whenever she tried to say no, she got beaten. She’s afraid. You can see it in her face, her eyes and the bags beneath them, her stance. You can hear it in her voice. She is truly in hell. And there’s only one way out.

At the end of the episode Pam finally realizes what variable needs to change in the events of that Monday. She needs to be the one in the bank, not out in the car. She needs to be the one to get hurt. Bernard is responsible for killing her (accidentally), all the while claiming he was doing this for her. But as is the misplaced feeling of most abusers, that’s not really love. No freedom. No peace. That’s not a loving environment. Money won’t make her happy. Pam actually looks relieved as she lies on the floor of the bank bleeding out.

“This never happened before,” she says with the same optimism she exhibits whenever Mulder remembers something from the repeated day. Maybe this will do it. Maybe it’s finally, finally over. Maybe she’s finally free.

This is all juxtaposed with Mulder and Scully’s healthy relationship–one built on friendship, trust, independence, and mutual respect. Their banter with one another, even on a bad day, brings jokes, smiles, and conversations on fate versus free will. Scully volunteers to cover for Mulder and deposit his check for him, and (as always) they both try hard to save each other’s lives once inside the bank. We even see Scully cradling Mulder with gentle care, in stark contrast to the stiff and cold body language between Bernard and his girlfriend.

In this episode, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban cleverly show the hell, and all too often tragic ends that abusive relationships can meet.

“She was just trying to get away…”

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The X-Files Revival: 5 Wants, Needs, and Hopes From the Fans

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I’m part of a pretty kick-ass X-Files fan group on Facebook, Hooked on X-Files: Die Hard Fans Only. If you love reading about and talking about the show come join us. But be warned, you will have to pass a brief test identifying some characters to prove your fandom before your membership is accepted. Anyway, a while back we all had a discussion about what we most want to see in the revival. I’ve organized it all into the 5 major points that seemed to keep coming up. Don’t agree? Please add your thoughts below.

  1. The alien invasion

My biggest question, and other philes agree: what is really going on with the alien invasion? Did they really start a quiet invasion in 2012 (here among us without us knowing) and are now just getting everything in place for the fiery destruction we saw in Mulder’s vision? Did the alien invasion take place off screen in 2012? Did Mulder and Scully stop it? Is there a new syndicate operation? Sometimes I wish they would just SET the revival in 2012 instead of 2015 so we could see them address and stop the invasion. Maybe something Mulder and Scully did postponed the invasion until now. We just don’t know, but we all want to find out more than anything.

The consensus: Finding out what happened with Colonization is extremely important. It was always a major talking point throughout the series and first movie, and then the second movie didn’t address it at all. Rather, it played as a longer Monster of the Week episode. Most fans agree, it would be a mistake for the writers to avoid the subject of aliens and colonization again.

What I want to see above all else in this revival is vindication for Mulder and Scully–undeniable proof that Mulder has been right all along. I want people who made fun of Mulder to beg him for help, and I want to see him and Scully save the world from invasion.

2. William

Everyone’s second biggest question remains about the show’s smallest character.

Where is he?

S.C.–Exactly, that’s my number one as well A.W. And that’s also my second most wanted answer. Where is baby William? And who really is William. The last I heard was he was adopted by a family in Wyoming. Is he a teenager now, what are the extent of his powers? Can he be a savior to humanity?

A.W.–More so than where William is, I want to know what his deal really is. He’s very important, or at least he was as a baby. Can the Magnetite Jeffrey Spender injected baby William with suppress his alien powers forever? Will they resurface in this revival? I can see a 15 year old William now, frightened to find he can read thoughts or move things with his mind. If his powers were to resurface, that would certainly put his adoptive family in danger, and draw attention from Mulder and Scully.

From season 6 when the piece of the craft that Scully was “meant to find” spins and goes flying into the bible, to Genesis, to season 9 when the piece goes flying over Williams head and he’s looking up at it, spinning above his eyes, I’ve had major questions about Mulder and Scully’s child.

When William is born and Mulder doesn’t know how to get to Scully, he follows a bright light in the sky. And it leads him to this rundown shack, the only place Scully could go. And everyone is there just to witness this miraculous birth–that of a barren mother. Then the 3 gunmen come bearing gifts. It’s a story I hear in church every Christmas. William is alien Jesus. He’s definitely going be a big part of this new mythology. And if not, he should be. My theory is he’s the chosen one–maybe the only one that can stop the aliens. He or his possibly immortal mother…

 

3. How has Mulder and Scully’s relationship progressed?

S.C.–would love to see Mulder and Scully’s relationship and romance deepened.

A.W.–I think Mulder and Scully are as in love as they’re going to get. Even before they were officially together on the show, it was obvious they loved each other through care, concern, jealousy, and support. In the latest movie we’ve got them lying in bed snuggling and kissing. I know most fans like to see the relationship bits and how it’s evolved into a real romantic relationship, and I get it, but at the same time I don’t know how they can go any further with it because there’s certainly no place for a wedding in The X-Files. It’d just be corny and wouldn’t fit at all with the tone of the show. Hell, I don’t even like when they call each other by their first names. “Dearest Dana” and “I can’t help but think of him Fox” make me cringe. And I think if they wanted to be married they would be by now, but that’s not something they’ve ever needed. They just need each other. Likewise, I don’t think Scully can have any more children nor do I feel they’d want to adopt since they are back at the FBI in consuming and dangerous work. Besides, the pain from losing William has always haunted them. So I think that’s it for relationships and family stuff: just Mulder and Scully  hopefully finding their son. I’ll agree that I would like to see a family reunion there. Poor Scully.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who still want that sex scene, and for awhile I was one of them. But I honestly didn’t really need it in the last movie, nor do I want it now. The cuddling in the movie was already pushing it. They had a really romantic cuddling scene in “Requiem,” and overdoing it will only cheapen that rare and beautiful moment. Furthermore, I think their first time having sex was in “All Things” and that’s where I really wanted to see it. Like, did you see the deleted kiss from Fight The Future? That first-time passion is what I really wanted to see…that finally, finally, they can have each other moment. But by I Want To Believe I just assume they’ve been sleeping together for years so there’s no real reason for us to see it. Though that doesn’t stop some fans from wanting to, others agree with me:

C.D.–Nahh… No sex scenes for me. I think the most intimate moments are those where they are barely talking at a whisper. Soft utterances, the camera honed into their conversations and their tenderness toward one another.

E.S.–I love that their physical relationship is private….I hope it stays that way! That’s what makes the hand holding, the occasional kiss, spooning, the care, the rescues….all so so so special!

We now know that Mulder and Scully will be broken up in the revival. I know this has some fans enraged to the point of boycotting, but to me this is interesting writing that remains true to the characters. In the last movie, Scully was already ready to leave the life that cost her her health, family, and happiness behind. She’d thought of quitting before, but always stayed in the end. I think that changed after she lost William. She wants nothing to do with the darkness anymore. Mulder on the other hand, lives for the x-files. They want different things. That said, I think Chris Carter wants to rekindle in us the desire for them to be together. I trust him; he’s never given me a reason not to.

4. Where are Doggett and Reyes, and who, if anyone, is running the X-Files?

Of all the characters the show introduces, especially new ones in the later seasons, there really weren’t any bad or uninteresting ones. I remain the final seasons’ biggest defender and attest that David Duchovny leaving was the only reason the show failed. It was not for bad writing, lack of story material or uninteresting characters. To prove that fact, we all still care what’s become of them. We now know that Reyes will be returning, but Robert Patrick who is busy with his new show, “Scorpion,” will not.

S.C.–Doggett & Reyes (what have they been up to and did they get together or move on?)… And whatever happened to Assistant Director Brad Follmer?
A.W.–Good question. And for that matter, what happened to Kersh? I too am interested in what Doggett and Reyes are up to. Still fighting for the truth I hope. I love what C.D. is saying about The X-Files being a mystery. A lot of people complain that too little is ever wrapped up or satisfactorily explained, but I’m always saying, “that’s not the kind of show it is.” It’s about small victories, not big ones. It’s about personal growth and dealing with the fact that sometimes you don’t get the answers you want. The story and the journey still matter, and this one is always beautifully told.

 

5. A satisfying ending

S.C.–Really, I think there is still so much material they could use for an exciting return I really hope that season 10 is just a prelude for more and more. Its hard to believe everything can be answered in 6 eps.

C.D.–They have hinted that if these 6 EPs do well they may do more limited run seasons and or a movie. I have read that being hinted from CC and DD.

A.W.–We can only hope. Although, if they could truly conclude the story in a perfect and satisfying way in 6 episodes, I’d be happy. I don’t want infinite episodes as much as I’d like a great conclusion. But I do agree that we need more than 6 to wrap it all up. There’s still so much to see.

M.R.–I know there is a lot of talk about fans wanting more after these six episodes, however, I honestly feel like they should take this time to wrap up the series. Do not get me wrong, I would LOVE to have Mulder and Scully on my screen forever but I feel like that’s where Chris and Fox went wrong to begin with. They’re always pushing for more, more, more and I feel like it really hurt the story in the long run. Almost like they were afraid to tie up loose ends solely because the mythology might have continued. Now, if they could wrap up the existing mythology and tie those loose ends and then start another chapter, I might be OK with something after these six episodes.

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What do you all think? If you missed the conversation the first time around, add your thoughts now. The Revival happens in mere hours so lets make some predictions and see if they pan out!

 

The X-Files: Mulder and Scully’s Incomparable Chemistry

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Let me be clear about one thing right off the bat. As a lover of the English language I’m always searching for the exact right word to describe something, and I don’t use the word “incomparable” lightly. I use it because no relationship I’ve ever seen on television compares to how realistic and effortless the chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson is on The X-Files. When they perform a scene together, there’s absolutely no sense of actors repeating lines from a script. It’s genuine. Viewers believe a real conversation is happening between two actual people who know each other as well as Mulder and Scully would.

Remember my post from a few weeks back about how Gillian Anderson was, superficially speaking,  the antithesis of what the show was looking for in a female lead? –> (Dana Scully) The reason she got the part anyway was because no one in the room could deny the lightning they’d trapped in a bottle when they saw the unprecedented chemistry between the two. Chemistry on T.V. is like Voice in fiction. It can’t be taught or forcefully applied, but when a writer taps into it, and it’s right, they’d be a fool not to run with it because it’s not something easily harnessed.

Don’t take my word for it; listen to what The X-Files team has to say on the subject:

That’s not to say that the hard part is over. Chemistry is one thing, but then it’s up to the writers to give the characters excellent dialogue, and not let that potential go to waste. Luckily, the show is as well-written as it is well-cast. Let these Mulder and Scullyisms courtesy of Snakey973 be your proof:

When Mulder and Scully interact it’s easy to believe the two have known each other well and for a long time. Viewers believe that they know each other personally as well as professionally, and not only spend much time together at work, but outside of it as well. They have the kind of back-and-forth that happy long-term couples have, where they can joke with each other and understand and appreciate the other’s sense of humor. Their use of sarcasm, the faces they make at one another, and the way they good-naturedly give each other a hard time are all characteristics of real relationships. You can always tell when two people aren’t comfortable around each other because they are being too polite. Mulder and Scully share an intimate comfort and speak to each other as I would to my closest friends.

I’ve seen shows like Stargate-SG-1 (Jack and Carter) and 12 Monkeys (Cole and Cassie) come close, but I still have yet to see a real competitor for The X-Files in the chemistry department. The stars seem to have aligned perfectly over this one creative endeavor, and fans are eternally grateful.

The X-Files: Unique Mulder Gifts

As promised, every week leading up to the X-Citing X-Files revival, I’m posting something nostalgic and with a certain paranormal bouquet. This week, let’s take a look back at some of the wonderfully unique gifts Mulder has given to Scully over the years.

In the season 2 episode, “One Breath,” Scully wakes up from a negative prognosis after her family has literally pulled the plug and given up on her. Mulder, who has been having an extremely difficult time dealing with his first ever taste of losing his best friend, visits her in the hospital with a unique gift. He doesn’t bring her flowers, or candy, but a VHS tape:  “I brought you a present,” he says. “Superstars of the Super Bowl.” To which Scully sarcastically replies, “I knew there was a reason to live.” There’s so much to love about this scene. Is that really the movie he brought? Or was he making a joke to cover for something more sentimental? Or is that really what it is–something he had lying around his apartment? After all he’s been too worried and preoccupied to shop, and couldn’t just show up empty-handed. Is it something he feels they can enjoy watching together later? It certainly wouldn’t be the only time on the show that he tries to get her interested in football. And it’s not as though the two don’t watch movies together. At any rate, the gift reflects the stage in their relationship: we’ve known each other for over a year, and I’m doing my best to show that I have valued that time with you, and care for you.

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In the season 4 episode, “Tempus Fugit,” one of my all time favorites, Mulder and Scully eat dinner where he surprises her with a dessert with a sparkler shining in it, a “Happy Birthday” song, and a pretty little gift box. Scully remarks that in 4 years working together, he’s never remembered her birthday, to which he retorts that he prefers to do it like dog years. I always figured that Mulder, often joking to deflect genuine emotion, simply has found something worth giving her this year. Think about it: the less someone makes a big deal of holidays and occasions, the less they give gifts, the more meaningful that gift will be when they finally decide to give it. In this episode, Mulder gives Scully a gift worthy of tears, though it may not seem that way at first.

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Scully opens the gift box to reveal an Apollo 11 medallion commemorating that mission, and is grateful but relatively confused. As Mulder is about to explain why he gave it to her, all X-Files hell breaks loose and the agents embark on a tragic two-episode investigation. At the end of part two,  “Max,” after losing friends but not faith, Mulder and Scully stare at the stars, and Scully tells Mulder she figured out what he was going to say:

“I was thinking about this gift that you gave me for my birthday. You never got to tell me why you gave it to me or what it means. But I think I know. I think that you appreciate that there are extraordinary men and women; extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals. What can be imagined, can be achieved. You must dare to dream, but it is no substitute for perseverance and hard work. And teamwork, because no one gets there alone. And while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifices of those who make these achievements and dreams possible.”

Mulder, as per usual deflecting the depth of that sentiment, jokes that he just thought it was a cool key chain. But of course, Scully is right. This gift is made all the more important by the stage of the relationship that it is presented in–the season of Scully’s terminal cancer diagnosis, where Mulder once again will be struggling with the reality of losing her. Mulder realizes that things he used to be able to do alone, aren’t worth it anymore, and that he no longer wants to continue this quest without her. That’s what the medallion means.

In the season 6 episode, “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas,” even though the agents said they weren’t going to exchange gifts, at the end they reveal that they “got each other a little something.” The audience doesn’t get to see the gifts revealed, but only Mulder and Scully smiling while excitedly shaking boxes and untying ribbons. I actually like that we don’t know what they got each other, because we get to speculate, and that’s so much fun.

To me, it looks and sounds like Scully got Mulder a VHS tape (oh, 90s). But what is it? The two obviously enjoy watching movies together, if the season 7 episode “Je Souhaite” is any indication. But what movie would she choose for him? Or maybe, she is re-gifting Super Stars of the Superbowl simply so they could share in the memory of that moment, when their relationship, and the gifts themselves were less evolved.  And it looks like Mulder gets her….I don’t know….a salami? But I rest assured that whatever it is, his explanation is better than the gift itself. After all, things don’t matter–it’s only stuff. Words, loyalty, friendship, love, trust, and showing appreciation for those qualities is what matters.

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Later, in the season 6 episode, “The Unnatural,” (another episode that appears in my top 5 favorites overall) Mulder is prompted into an emotional epiphany by Arthur Dales, who stresses that Mulder need pay less attention to the heart of the mystery, and more to the mystery of the heart. Mulder is touched, and moved by Dales’s story of love–all kinds of love–being more important than any alien truth, so again, he decides to show his ever-growing appreciation for his partner. He calls Scully to meet him for a “very early or very late birthday present.” In other words, he gives her a “no-reason present,” which are often the best kinds because they prove you don’t need a special date or occasion to show your love and appreciation for someone.

Under the stars, and with a beautiful song playing in the background of the episode, Mulder teaches Scully to play baseball–to momentarily forget her cares and worries that he and his quest have inflicted on her over the years, and to let her know that her loyalty has never been undervalued. Though of course he doesn’t have to, Mulder insists on putting his arms around her, helping her position her hips, and hold the bat. The gifts are becoming more romantic as their relationship does. It is a truly beautiful moment on the show, and with all the horror the two experience, those are so wonderful and rare.

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By the time we reach the season 8 episode, “Empedocles,” their relationship has evolved pretty much as far as a romantic one can. Our dynamic duo is having a baby together, and to a pregnant Scully, Mulder presents a doll. This is such a sweet, and truly touching physical gift, that Scully makes this face when she opens it:

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Mulder explains that the doll is a family keepsake that he discovered while going through his late mother’s things. Scully helped Mulder through his mother’s tragic death, and we know how much a special family heirloom would mean to him. That he would give it to Scully solidifies that she and the baby are now his family. And as always, the thought behind Mulder’s gift makes it all the more meaningful.

Well, X-Philes, did I miss any wonderful, unique Mulder gifts over the years? What are your favorites and why? Please comment below, and don’t forget to visit every week for more X-Files nostalgia as we move closer and closer to the revival.

Mark Snow’s Score and other X-Files Musical Mastery

As promised, every week I’m bringing you new X-Files related posts in conjunction with the excitement for the new revival. If like me, you grew up with the show and simply can’t get enough, then please discuss the show here with me and other X-Philes like yourselves. Last week I brought you 10 lessons I learned watching The X-Files, including some particularly poignant moments. This week, let’s listen to some music that helped give those moments such profound emotion.

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There’s no better place to begin in a post like this than with the iconic theme:

Even people who have never seen an episode of The X-Files know this sound when they hear it. The high-pitched whistles and unmistakable echo have become synonymous with the show. Mark Snow once said in an interview that he was having trouble getting the theme just right, but a happy accident with a feedback machine led to the wonderful dadada dadada dadada that fills our hearts with joy. Let me say to the lucky children of this generation, that when I was a teenager, we didn’t have Netflix, or DVR, or Hulu, or YouTube to watch anything we wanted, whenever we wanted. And until I was 16, got my first job, and saved up $100 for my first collector’s edition DVD box set, I had to wait until two in the morning to watch X-Files reruns on SciFi (yes, before it was SyFy) This theme song was the sound I waited all day for.

Mark Snow didn’t only write the theme, but almost all of the music ever heard on the show throughout all nine seasons. One of my favorite pieces of his plays at the end of “Triangle” in season six when after a near death experience, Mulder tells Scully he loves her for the first time. Snow created a lighter, happier variation of The X-Files theme song, minus the creepy, slow overtones:

I don’t know if it’s just the emotionally charged scene behind it, but every time I hear this my heart nearly explodes with joy. If you were to express the concept or emotion of love musically, this is how you would do it. It’s light and happy, but also passionate and fierce at times. Contrariwise, Snow is a master at evoking tears of sadness. His “This is Not Happening” theme all but kills me, biting at the pain already inflicted by the scene it plays over: Scully discovering Mulder’s corpse, left behind by his alien abductors. Fans of the show know, that we got our beloved Mulder back thanks to alien physiology, but at the time, with Duchovny discussing leaving the show, he really might have been gone forever. At around 1:40 is where this one really starts breaking your heart:

But what The X-Files is most widely known for, is its horror factor, and Snow has no problem bringing the creep either:

The first time I heard this in the episode “Soft Light,” it was all I needed to give me Goosebumps, before even the first death occurred for the agents to investigate. So many of his themes are downright nightmare inducing, especially when you fall asleep watching your DVDs and then wake up to a horrifying picture on your menu screen accompanied by such an eerie tune.

It isn’t always Mark Snow alone, but a collaboration of writers and musicians, choosing the right music for the writing and story. In “Closure” when Mulder finally learns the tragic fate of his sister, Samantha, “My Weakness” by Moby is playing, and while this isn’t at all my type of music outside of the show, it was the absolute perfect piece for this scene. To illustrate this point, I’m using a video by XFyellowbee, one of my favorite Youtube fan vid makers. Yellowbee incorporates the song into one of many beautiful themes on the show: that souls reside eternally in starlight:

If you enjoy this video, be sure to check out more of Yellowbee’s compilations; you won’t be disappointed.

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Gillian Anderson used another Moby song, “Sky is Broken,” in an episode she wrote entitled “All Things.” In the episode, the song plays over a number of profound moments for Scully, where her world seems to slow down and she contemplates how every decision she’s made has ultimately led to her sitting on Mulder’s couch with him, a part of his quest.

At the end, it plays over a conversation between Mulder and Scully about fate, during which Scully falls asleep, and Mulder covers her with a blanket and pushes her hair behind her ear. Taking a moment to admire her face, and how lucky he is to have her in his life, his whole world slows down.

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In addition to the music you hear in the individual X-Files episodes, the show has spawned a soundtrack of pieces inspired by the show, though a few of them don’t necessarily make an appearance in the episodes. The first was entitled Songs in the Key of X, and featured incredibly fitting melodies for the theme of the show such as “Unmarked Helicopters” by Soul Coughing that one of my favorite characters, Max listens to in the episode “Max.” It also features “Red Right Hand” that can be heard playing in Duane Barry’s car after he’s kidnapped Scully, “Frenzy,” from the episode “Humbug” and my personal favorite, a Foo Fighters cover of Gary Numan’s “Down in the Park” that never appeared in an episode:

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I also just adore the artwork on Songs in the Key of X, but that’s a post for another day.

The second soundtrack, Fight The Future, was a product of the first X-Files feature film by the same name. Some of the more memorable tracks were the “Crystal Ship” cover by x , and “Walking After You” by the Foo Fighters, a song that never fails to make me remember the hallway scene where Scully tries to quit, and the almost kiss that follows. You can view both below:

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On the third soundtrack from the movie I Want To Believe, the clear winner is another spin on Mark Snow’s theme blending into an UNKLE song that fits perfectly the feel of the film, playing over the end credits:

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Some other favorites include:

“Come and go with me to that land” from “The Unnatural,” an episode written by David Duchovny. This song plays over Josh Exley’s death and then over Mulder and Scully playing baseball under the stars. I’d be lying if I said it never made me shed a tear.

“Walking in Memphis,” from “The Post Modern Prometheus” playing suring Mulder and Scully’s first dance. I always loved how Mulder doesn’t ask, but nervously sticks out his hand while bowing his head. As soon as Scully takes it, he pulls her in and doesn’t let go. Then of course there’s the black and white and the animated freeze frame finish: perfection.

“Twilight Time” from “Kill Switch,””Wonderful Wonderful” from “Home” are other standouts. I always find it so eerie when happy music plays over a brutal murder scene. On a lighter note, I also love when “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” plays over the gift exchange at the end of “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas.”

The photo I featured at the beginning of this post is the cover of The Truth and The Light album that was released for The X-Files 20th anniversary. I highly recommend it because it not only compiles all the best Mark Snow scores, but includes audio from the show including character quotes, and commentary by Executive Producer, Chris Carter.

The X-Files also inspires music. If you don’t believe me, ask Bree Sharp about her song “David Duchovny” that describes falling in love with Mulder while watching the show, or listen to Catatonia’s “Mulder and Scully.”

Philes, what are some of your favorite scores or musical moments in the show? Please comment below. until next week, you can check out my other X-Files related posts by clicking on The X-Files link under categories on the right hand side of the home page. Until then, don’t stop believing 🙂

10 Things The X-Files Taught Me

The X-Files is back and I just can’t keep calm about it! I’ve been watching since I was six years old, and have waited thirteen years for new episodes, but I know without doubt it will be worth the wait. This show and its characters have meant so much to me, and I know I’ll share the excitement with many other Philes when we see Mulder and Scully light up the dark places with their flashlights again on January 24. While we’re waiting, here are ten important things I learned from growing up watching The X-Files.

1. Don’t give up. Or the value of hope.

This is a theme on the show that runs from season one, all the way to the most recent movie, I Want To Believe, and I expect to see it in the new revival as well. No matter how much adversity Mulder and Scully face–and it’s a lot–ranging from loss of family members, kidnapping, threatening, disease, memory theft, near-death experiences, mind games, and Cigarette Smoking Man burning their life’s work to ash–they never, ever quit. Scully got close once, in the movie Fight the Future, when she had finally reached her limit of never having acquired any physical evidence to back up their claims. And her wavering almost made Mulder lose his faith too. But in the end of Fight the Future:

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And at the end of the series:

Scully: Why would I accept defeat? Why would I accept it, if you won’t? Mulder, you say that you’ve failed, but you only fail if you give up. And I know you – you can’t give up. It’s what I saw in you when we first met. It’s what made me follow you… why I’d do it all over again.

Mulder: And look what it’s gotten you.

Scully: And what has it gotten you? Not your sister. Nothing that you’ve set out for. But you won’t give up, even now. You’ve always said that you want to believe. But believe in what Mulder? If this is the truth that you’ve been looking for, then what is left to believe in?

Mulder: I want to believe that… the dead are not lost to us. That they speak to us… as part of something greater than us – greater than any alien force. And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen, to what’s speaking, it can give us the power to save ourselves.

Scully: Then we believe the same thing.

Mulder: Maybe there’s hope.

And at the end of I want to Believe:

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Mulder and Scully will never give up. They don’t have it in them. I don’t want to have it in me either.

2. The importance of wanting.

X-Files-I-Want-To-Believe-Poster1“I want to believe” is so much more than just words on a poster. It’s a mantra–a way of life. What we want, if we want it badly enough, can become what’s real.

“I want to believe” means never accepting the futility of the quest. If Mulder loses his belief, his passion, he would give up. Those are the darkest points in the show–the moments where Mulder thinks he wants to believe too badly, and that he has believed lies, and that his willingness to believe has led to all the misfortune in his life. But Mulder is that guy who everyone thinks is crazy, and is completely right about the oncoming storm. There is a conspiracy, there are aliens, people are out to get him, and if he ever stopped believing that, we would all be doomed, because there would be no one left advocating for the human race.

Hope, drive, goals, something to live for, the idea that there must be something more than what we know–what’s the point of living without that feeling?

3. Science and faith are not mutually exclusive.

Mulder shows little to no interest in religion in the show. However, he does believe in the paranormal, in ghosts, in at least some type of afterlife. Scully, the skeptic scientist, was ironically raised to believe in God, and never takes off the gold cross she wears around her neck. She refuses to believe in anything paranormal without hard evidence, yet believes God is watching over her unquestioningly, and this has often helped her cope with the most difficult moments in her life. A few of those moments have even swayed Mulder to her way of thinking, especially in the last episode when he touches his thumb to Scully’s cross and then to her lips, and the two confess that they ultimately want to believe in the same things.

But one of the most interesting moments in the show comes at the end of “Redux II” in season 5. Desperately seeking a cure for Scully’s terminal cancer, they’ve tried everything from radiation therapy, to Cigarette Smoking Man’s magical computer chip placed under the skin of her neck. It is never revealed to the viewer what officially sends Scully’s cancer into remission, but what we do know for sure is that she doesn’t start getting better until she embraces her faith and starts praying for a miracle.

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“You’ll be in my prayers.”

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 When it comes to science and faith, you can hold them both sacred. And it doesn’t hurt to believe in something divine.

4. Small victories matter, and they’re sometimes the only ones we get.

Through all of Mulder and Scully’s hard work in Fight the Future (and if you want to know exactly how much hard work, you need to watch the movie because I can’t possibly list it all here) all they are ultimately able to do is get the X-Files reopened:

Conrad Strughold: Oh, you look hot and miserable. Why have you traveled all this way?

Cigarette Smoking Man: We have business to discuss.

Conrad Strughold: You have regular channels.

Cigarette Smoking Man: This involves Mulder.

Conrad Strughold: Ah, that name. Again and again.

Cigarette Smoking Man: He’s seen more than he should.

Conrad Strughold: What has he seen? Of the whole, he has seen but pieces.

Cigarette Smoking Man: He’s determined now, reinvested.

Conrad Strughold: He’s but one man. One man alone cannot fight the future.

Cigarette Smoking Man: Yesterday, I received this.

[hands him a telegram]

Conrad Strughold: [reads it, then drops it with a worried look] Oh…

[we see that it reads: “X-Files reopened. Stop. Please advise. Stop”]

This doesn’t seem like much, after you’ve rooted for them throughout the entire movie, but a small victory can lead to a big one later. The X-Files being reopened will lead to Mulder and Scully continuing to fight the good fight, uncover more truths, and most importantly, keep their faith alive.

They may never be vindicated, but that doesn’t mean the journey wasn’t worth while. The universe is vast and we are so small. We can only control what we do. And Mulder and Scully stand up and fight the good fight every time, no matter how often they fail. Small victories matter, and they’re sometimes the only ones we get.

5. Teamwork: because no one gets there alone.

One year for Scully’s birthday, Mulder gives her an Apollo key chain, and Scully has a nice, long, tear-filled, two-part episode to ponder its meaning. At the end, while Mulder and Scully look at the stars, she says:

“I was thinking about this gift that you gave me for my birthday. You never got to tell me why you gave it to me or what it means. But I think I know. I think that you appreciate that there are extraordinary men and women–extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals. What can be imagined, can be achieved. You must dare to dream, but it is no substitute for perseverance and hard work. And teamwork, because no one gets there alone. And while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifices of those who make these achievements and dreams possible.”

Mulder jokes that he just thought it was a cool key chain, but it really is a symbol for the hard work they put in with each other and for each other, and an expression of his gratitude that she is in his life.

In Fight the Future, Mulder tells Scully:

“I don’t know if I wanna do this alone. I don’t even know if I can.”

Mulder and Scully only trust each other, and can only count on each other. All you need is one person. But you at least need one. If you try to go it alone, you will eventually perish under the weight of the solitary journey. But with a good friend shouldering half the burden, anything is possible.

6. Friendship is just as important as romantic love.

Chris Carter kept us waiting for seven long years for the obvious love between Mulder and Scully to come through officially on screen. But even if they’d never had a physically romantic relationship, what they had–each other’s company–would have been enough.

Having someone to depend on, lean on, who is always there for you, makes all the other tragedy in their lives worth it.

7. What true love is.

Mulder and Scully’s relationship did finally evolve into a romantic one, and I think it’s the truest love I have ever seen on television or elsewhere. In the beginning, all their affection was shown through concern for one another, worry, jealousy, a hand-hold, a touch, a hug, a meaningful look, a poignant moment. There was zero kissing for seven years, but it was obvious there was love between them. As Chris Carter says, Mulder loves Scully, and Scully loves Mulder.

When Scully informs Mulder she has cancer in season 4, Mulder is forced to confront his feelings for his partner. He can’t live without her. Later, as Scully lies dying of cancer in her hospital bed, Mulder all but falls apart. He realizes how close he is to losing her, and cries at her bedside while she sleeps, holding her hand.

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The tables are turned in season 7 when Mulder is the one in danger. After a horrifying ordeal with CSM tampering with his brain, and imagining living an entire other life of creature comforts without his quest, in which aliens end up destroying the earth, Scully saves Mulder in more ways than one. She physically gets him out of the operating room, but in his hallucination, she snaps him out of his metaphorical slumber demanding he “get up and fight the fight.” When he recovers he tells her: “The end of my world was unrecognizable and upside down. There was one thing that remained the same. You… were my friend, and you told me the truth. Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant… my touchstone.”

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Scully sacrifices a prominent career in medicine, her sister, and her health to follow Mulder on his quest. Mulder goes on an epic, dangerous journey multiple times to cure Scully’s inoperable brain cancer, and save her from alien experiments. He literally goes to the ends of the Earth for her in Fight the Future when he rescues her from Antarcica. Mulder and Scully are there for each other in the good times and bad, can always count on the other, and always feel safe, comforted, and loved in the other’s company. That is true love.

8. The underrated value of truth.

It’s rare in this life that we ever actually know what’s true. Greed rules, lies reign, dishonesty often prevails. Even if Mulder and Scully never made the truth known to the world (yet*) To have it just for themselves, to know it, is something they never stop searching for. At times, it may not seem important, but why should we just accept whatever we’re fed? Why not try to uncover it? When you really think about it, it starts to eat away at you, like it does Mulder.

Agent Monica Reyes (In defense of Mulder): “What is the point of all of this? To destroy a man who seeks the truth or to destroy the truth so no man can seek it?”

Fox Mulder: “I’d like to congratulate you. On succeeding where so many before you have failed. A bullet between the eyes would’ve been preferable to this charade. I’ve learned to pretend over the past 9 years. Pretend that my victories mattered only to realize that no one was keeping score’. To realize that liars do not fear the truth if there are enough liars. That the devil is just one man with a plan, but evil, true evil is a collaboration of men which is what we have here today. If I am a guilty man, my crime is in daring to believe, that the truth will out and that no one lie can live forever. I believe it still. Much as you try to bury it, the truth is out there. Greater than your lies the truth wants to be known. You will know it. It’ll come to you, as it’s come to me, faster than the speed of light. You may believe yourselves rid of your headache now, and maybe you are, but you’ve only done it by cutting off your own heads.”

The truth wants to be known. And it deserves to, for the vindication of those seeking it everywhere.

 9. Self Confidence.

Don’t care what anyone thinks of you. Mulder certainly doesn’t:

“I’m the key figure in an ongoing government charade, the plot to conceal the truth about the existence of extraterrestrials. It’s a global conspiracy, actually, with key players in the highest levels of power, that reaches down into the lives of every man, woman, and child on this planet, so, of course, no one believes me. I’m an annoyance to my superiors, a joke to my peers. They call me Spooky. Spooky Mulder, whose sister was abducted by aliens when he was just a kid and who now chases after little green men with a badge and a gun, shouting to the heavens or to anyone who will listen that the fix is in, that the sky is falling and when it hits it’s gonna be the shit-storm of all time.”

This show teaches you to be confident in yourself no matter what anyone else thinks. It doesn’t matter if the whole world thinks you’re crazy. Be you, believe what you believe in, and one day,  even if it takes decades, you will prove everyone wrong. And even if not, you lived your life in a way that was true to you, and that’s enough.

Furthermore, you never have to compromise who you are. See my previous post on Dana Scully: https://alyssawaugh.com/2015/03/24/kick-ass-women-of-scifi-fantasy-dana-scully/

10. Do what’s right.

This is something every character on the show struggles with.  For some, like Skinner, the decision is made more difficult by threats and precarious situations. Krycek can never decide what side he’s really on, but in the end, is usually just out for himself. Even Kersh has a moral epiphany in the series finale, and saves Mulder, doing “what he should have done a long time ago.” Mulder and Scully, will fight to do it every time, no matter the cost. That cost is usually the highest–the loss of family members, health, respectability, your life’s work, your sanity. But they never give up. They keep at it because they believe in what they do, and that bringing about justice is always right.

Even if you become an annoyance to your superiors and a joke to your peers, stand up for what you believe in, like Mulder does. The world will always need people like Mulder. Mulder not only stands up for the little guy, but represents him. This is why I love the Max storyline. Even though it’s short, Max is one of my favorite characters. Max’s story ends tragically, but that’s why we need Mulder to live on–so that Max and others like him will never be forgotten. Mulder is the only one who believes their stories, or cares about their plight. Mulder represents the Maxes of the world: The losers, the nerds, the geeks, the weirdos, the uncool, unpretty, and unbelieved–people who are never heard, people who when heard are called crazy, those beaten down by life at every turn, losing friends, family, and respectability, while acquiring diseases and alien tortures. Max is that weird guy, with the glasses and crazy hair that everyone always made fun of, only to die a horrible death without ever being vindicated. We need Mulder and Scully investigating that death, making sure it wasn’t for nothing, or at the very least, that the one thing Max has at the end, is that someone knows the truth. Mulder is the voice of the voiceless.

I want to shed new light on Scully’s quote from earlier:

“And while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifices of those who make these achievements and dreams possible.”

We can not forget the Maxes. If we do, nothing in our own journeys will be meaningful or right.

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Mulder keeps Max’s hat on the coat rack in the X-Files office as a constant reminder to keep fighting for the truth.


These were just 10 of so many poignant moments on the show. There are so many valuable truths to be discovered in the writing of The X-Files, and I discover more each time I delve back in.  What are some things you learned from the show? Share your favorite moments below. Until the revival episodes air, I’ll miss it so.

Can you believe it’s been over 20 years?

X-Philes–We never stop believing 🙂

Writing and the Art of Anticipation

“The thrill is in the chase, never the capture.” – Doctor Who, “The Unicorn and The Wasp”

I cannot stress enough the joy that exists in wanting. My favorite writers share the idea that romance is less about kissing and having sex, and more about the anticipation of a kiss, and building sexual tension. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, this can go on for years. Chris Carter was able to stretch the relationship between Mulder and Scully on The X-Files for seven, right up until David Duchovny’s departure from the show. In other words, he kept us waiting until the last possible moment, and if viewers weren’t grateful, they should have been. Good writers know there’s an art in giving characters space to miss each other, time to want each other, and the magic of the tease.

Yet when I recite the quote above to my writing workshop full of high school girls, one of whom just read me a first-kiss scene that she is particularly proud of, I am met with skeptical stares. “No kissing in the first book of a series,” I’ll say, “and if it’s a standalone story, absolutely no kissing until the end.” It’s easier said than done, and even I’ve been tempted to write that sensual, romantic first-kiss scene too early in my novel. To myself, my students, and writers everywhere, I urge you: Don’t do it! Build romantic suspense instead.

The X-Files did this so well, it is in fact, the best I’ve ever seen. All the affection had to be shown through the characters’ concern for one another. Chris Carter mastered the art of keeping from the audience what they thought they wanted, which was for the characters to get together and accomplish their goal. What audiences really want is to want the characters to get together. We wait seasons for them to kiss, but once they do, that anticipation dissipates and things get boring fast. You can never get that first kiss or the feeling of wanting it back. Afterwards, characters become a sort of mundane couple sickening us with their constant cloying cuteness. Think Jim and Pam on The Office. I remember reading a fan comment about four seasons into the show that said: “For once in a show I just want the characters to get together and be happy. Is that so much to ask?” No! Bad fan! And yes, it is a lot to ask for, because you are essentially asking the writers to terminate the anticipation you feel when tuning into their show every week. Will this be the episode they finally get together? Think about it. Did you enjoy the show more when Pam was an unattainable goal for Jim, or when they were happily married and working on baby number two? This question is rhetorical given that we’d already seen the latter storyline with baby number one. Pam gets pregnant because there is nothing left to do with their story. The best parts are over. Remember when Jim was in emotional agony because Pam was engaged to Roy? Remember feeling that pain with him? That was good stuff.

I know I’ve been talking T.V. shows here, but it applies to books as well. A book becomes a series when the first one hooks us, usually because our main character meets a new and intriguing person and they spend the length of that book chasing one another and a goal. By the time we reach book two or three, and the characters have already gotten together, most of their time is spent kissing and arguing over who’s prettier. Think Edward and Bella in Eclipse. However, if done correctly, we’ll still be waiting with bated breath for Katniss to choose Peeta or Gale, or to see what happens between star-crossed lovers June and Day in Marie Lu’s Legend series. Lu kept me waiting until the very last page, and I thanked her at the end.

But using T.V. as an example seemed appropriate since this Friday I found myself on the page of one of my favorite new shows, 12 Monkeys, discussing the relationship of the two main characters with another fan. In order for me to get to this stage in a relationship with a new series, several factors need to be in place. First, the concept has to hook me. In order to get me to the second episode (a rarity for me), it must be well written with well thought out story lines. But how do we reach the stage where I’m on the internet talking to other nerds about the show? Thirdly, and most importantly, there must be interesting characters that want something and make me want it for them. That’s anticipation.

We’ll keep tuning in for a stolen glance…a meaningful moment…a hand hold…a hug, that moment where their lips almost touch but some awesome story-related snafu interrupts it.

This fan and I shared concern that Cole and Cassie might kiss by the end of the first season. There were a few moments already that showed the characters growing closer, and it’s romantic to be sure. We love to see them dance, appreciate art, and be generally adorable despite the time-oriented plot device keeping them apart. I’m loving the development, but I do hope they keep that first kiss at bay. So far, the writers are doing a good job of emotionally attaching me to Cole and Cassie, making me want what they want, a difficult feat in so few episodes. I want Cole and Cassie to be happy together. I just hope the writers continue to keep from me what I want. Because that’s what I really want.

Perhaps, like the students taking my workshop, you’re reading this right now with eyebrows raised, thinking I’m off my nut. Don’t believe me? This theory is backed by science, which you can read more about in the Daily Mail, and upheld by writers long before me. After all, it was Robert Louis Stevenson who said, “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” My fellow story lovers, I wish you long and hopeful travels wrought with anticipation.

Jack and Carter of Stargate SG-1 separated by a forcesheild in the episode “Divide and Conquer.” They will never share a kiss in the series that is unaffected by an alternate universe, disease, or memory.