I have a few memories of watching The X-Files when I was young with my mom and my aunt. I don’t really recall any specific episodes, but I do remember liking it, thinking it was both weird and good.
Turns out they have all of The X-Files on Netflix. I came across this at some point last year and started watching it, starting at episode one, season one, and going from there. Since I don’t have cable or anything, this has been an especially fun endeavor for me. Some of the episodes are familiar, but I really didn’t remember any all that well. I must not have watched it regularly and I definitely stopped watching it long before they stopped making it. I’m currently on season 6. My husband, who must have watched it longer and more faithfully than I did, assures me that it starts to go downhill at some point. That might be true, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet. Some episodes are better than others, but I’m really enjoying it, both for entertainment value and as a writer. In honour of the new X-Files episodes that will be coming to television shortly, here are a few things I’ve noticed over the last few months that make this show such great storytelling.
The Main Characters. Ah Mulder and Scully, you are wonderful. These are great characters both individually and together. They each have a deep background that comes in and out of play in their dealings with each other and the various situations they find themselves in. They aren’t standard FBI agents, neither are they a standard man and woman. Alternating the plot between exploring these characters personally and just having them do their job keeps it interesting. They also never get together romantically (so far!) which is frustrating and brilliant. The unique dynamic between these two, where they clearly love each other and yet never become a couple is masterfully executed.
Supporting Characters. Skinner, the smoking man, frigging Krycek, Scully’s family, Mulder’s family are consistent and realistic within context of the show. Scully’s brother Bill might only pop up once in a while, but when he does you know who he is and what to expect. Since the show ran for nine seasons, having these characters come in and out with their own lives, motivations and backgrounds introduce conflicts or help resolve them in ways that seem perfectly natural.
Story Arch. The story arch is what keeps you hooked episode after episode, season after season. There is both a long view and an episodic one. Some episodes are self-contained, 45 minute stories with a beginning, middle and an end that you could probably watch and be satisfied by even if you had never seen the show before. Others play solely to the plots that snake through the entire series and move the agents along their journey through the black world of high level government conspiracies and alien take overs. This satisfies the need for short term gratification and also rewards a longer emotional investment. You stick with it and you’re happy to do so.
Humour. What I didn’t remember, or failed to appreciate at the time, was that the show is funny. For all its darkness, death, kidnapping and aliens, it’s also just funny. Mulder has his quirks and quips and Scully has her reactions to Mulder’s often ill-timed goofiness. Some of the episodes are purely humorous and are really making fun of the show itself which I think is done with grace. When you’re watching and starting to think, okay, this is getting a little ridiculous, there’s Scully who looks to Mulder, exasperated by the absurdity she finds herself in to declare, “but Mulder, this is getting a little ridiculous!” Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Good Actors. I am looking at this as a fiction writer, but of course, The X-Files is a TV show, not a book and props are due where they are due. The actors are great because they own their characters and portray them faithfully every time. I think it helps that they have the same actors play the same characters throughout the series (up to season 6, anyway) which gives you consistency. Also playing the same character for ten years probably gives you a pretty intimate knowledge of that person and that is undoubtedly part of why the show was so successful. David Duchovny is Fox Mulder for me, the viewer. Gillian Anderson is Dana Scully and Nicholas Lea, who is probably a perfectly pleasant human being, is the hated Alex Krycek. Most importantly, and perhaps the secret to their success, you get the feeling that to perform these characters so faithfully over such a long period of time, they must have enjoyed playing them as much as I enjoy watching them.
Since I don’t have cable or satellite or anything, I’m not sure when I’ll get to see the new episodes coming out this month. Maybe they’ll end up on Netflix or I’ll be able to buy them on DVD. In the meantime, I still have a few seasons to go with Mulder and Scully and if you haven’t seen this show since it was on in the nineties, make a cup of tea, suspend your disbelief and prepare yourself for a wild and entertaining ride.
The maxim that change is the only constant in life is difficult to refute, though I would be willing to give it a go. I recognize the validity of the idea, but at the same time I don’t feel like my day to day existence varies that much most of the time. Sometimes I think this is a great thing: Yay! Comfort and security rule! Other times it depresses me: God, I’m restless! Let’s shake things up around here! Of course there are many kinds of change, good and bad, mediocre, changes you enact yourself, and my most personally dreaded, those that feel thrust upon you from outside forces. That’s when I realize what a sad, frightened little creature I really am. That’s when I break out the Garth:
I think that one of my good qualities is that I’m aware of my many, many failings as a human being, perhaps too aware. That’s not to say I’m working on them all, but at least I’m aware of them and that’s a start. Some changes have recently happened in my life, not really bad or good, just changey. Though they have worked out fine, as most things tend to do, my feral animal behaviour entertained me and may entertain others as well. So allow me to present my phases when faced with change that does not factor into my ‘plan’, another truly hilarious concept.
Phase One: Resistance. Nooooooooooooo, I will not participate! I will turn my back on you, change, and ignore the need for you until you go away! This phase can last a surprisingly long time.
Phase Two: Grudging contemplation. If the change seems inevitable or is controlled by forces I cannot reasonably thwart, this is the next stage. This stage usually occurs at night when I’m trying to sleep or in the shower. This phase manifests in a particularly vivid and repeating montage of all the ways this change may lead to my utter and complete doom. My brain will conveniently leave out any potential positive benefits. Thanks, brain!
Phase Three: Plan. Since the change is inevitable and I am now well aware of every horror that could result from it thanks to Phase Two, I now must plan the best way to implement it and avoid as many of the horrors as possible. That’s the best I can do. Also usually completed when I should be sleeping.
Phase Four: Action. Make the change or allow the change to happen. This is best done quickly, like when a band aid dries right on to the wound it’s covering. Just rip that sucker off. It will be ugly, but at least it will be done with.
Phase Five: Suspicion. Tread lightly around this change for a while. It is not part of my usual zone of comfort and security, which I resent. Where will you fit in to my little world, change? Will you, should you? In what way, or ways, will you screw me over? Because surely you will, you bastard.
Phase Six: Acceptance. Another phase that can take a surprisingly long time. Realize change was fine, nothing all that bad happened and in fact, change may turn out to be for the better. Wonder why I was so worried about it in the first place, silly!
Phase Seven: Sleep. Being crazy is exhausting.
This past July I went to my first Major League baseball game. It was the Toronto Blue Jays against the Tampa Bay Rays. They were playing at the Rogers Centre in Toronto (Skydome to me) and it was also the first time I had been inside Skydome. I know nothing about baseball, as I have discussed before in this blog, I lead a very sheltered life.
That being said, I am unashamed of how uninformed I am and have no problem looking like an idiot because I get very excited about new things, turns out baseball was no different. We had really good seats in the first deck and it was a lot of fun. The day was blazing sunny so the dome was open. This was before the Blue Jays started doing really well and in fact they lost the game 3 – 2 to the Rays. That did not dampen my enthusiasm, however. My husband very, very patiently answered my myriad of questions throughout the game, many of which were also uttered by the six-year-old boy sitting behind me to his equally patient uncle. Between these two tolerant men, I managed to get a decent sense of, “what are all those letters on the score board?” “What’s a throwing error?” “Who’s that guy?” “Why does that guy suck?” and the infamous, “Why can’t he hit the ball?” The highlight of the game for me was when Jose Bautista hit a home run. Turns out he’s pretty good at that.
My dad played baseball when I was a kid and I remember attending his games regularly, he was a catcher and I paid about as much attention as you would expect of a little girl. His mother, my little Québécois nanny, was a huge Blue Jays fan and I remember visiting her often with the game on in the background, she had to watch ‘her jays.’ Wherever she is now, she must be a very pleased spirit. I also remember playing baseball, exceptionally poorly, in gym class. No one wanted me on their team. That was probably because I could not catch, throw or hit the ball well. Makes sense.
Turns out I like baseball, at least live. And what a fortunate year for me to discover this. There is one Major League baseball team in Canada, which you may recall is the second largest country in the world and has a population of 36 million people. One. The Toronto Blue Jays. Since the early 1990’s, they have pretty much sucked. Most of the players on the team are not Canadian, but Canadians don’t care much about that. Wednesday, they beat the Texas Rangers and are now in the American League Championship Series. 9 Million Canadians watched the game, which I find impressive. By four o’clock that day, Canada was a ghost town, and everyone said the same thing, got to get home to watch the game.
This is completely lame, yes, but we Canadians are a boring people. There is a lot to be said for our boring, comfortable existence. Let’s face it, nothing really happens here and that is usually a good thing, no news is good news should really be the motto of this country. Nine nights out of ten, the lead story on the national news will have something to do with the weather or an accident. Weather or an accident can trump even federal election coverage here. NOTHING HAPPENS HERE. Some times we import news from the U.S. or Europe just so our reporters have something interesting to talk about. Some days after watching twenty minutes of news, you honestly wish they had just said, you know what, Canada? Nothing all that interesting happened here today, so carry on, instead of the filler they come up with. If you talk to most Canadians for say, ten minutes, you will find that almost every stereotype pertaining to us is true. Yes, we flock to Tim Horton’s like it’s the golden gates. Yes, most of us do like hockey. Yes, we do say ‘eh’ a lot. Yes, we are very nice and yes, we apologize constantly for everything.
Some people are upset that everyone in the country is jumping on the Blue Jays bandwagon because they’re winning, people that aren’t ordinarily fans and don’t normally care. Personally, I think it’s nice. We don’t galvanize much in Canada, we don’t get excited and we don’t cause scenes, usually because it’s either too hot or too cold out for us to bother, hence all that news coverage. But the Blue Jays are winning and people are excited. People everywhere are wearing Blue Jays gear, watching the games, talking about them, and just having a good time. This is a big country and there is a lot of literature about how little different areas of if have in common. That may be valid, but right now everyone has the Blue Jays in common and it’s a lot of fun. I don’t know if they’ll keep winning, but it’s been a fun ride. And I’ve learned a lot about baseball. Go Jays!