It seems that the producers of many long-running television shows are starting to catch on to what the viewing public has known for years; it’s best to go out on top. Shows such as Seinfeld, Friends and even Frasier (to an extent) have decided to pull the plug while the material is still operating on an acceptable level. It’s rare that shows can successfully pull the great switch like ER did, and replace virtually every member of the cast, while still not losing what made them great in the…first place.
I only wish that Chris Carter bought into this school of thought. While the Ninth season of The X-Files was still one of the better sci-fi dramas on television, it just wasn’t the same. The departure of David Duchovny left a hole in the cast that could not be filled. Now, that’s not to say that Robert Patrick isn’t great as Agent Doggett, it’s just that he’s not the same character. It was like those episodes of The Cosby Show that focused on Theo or Vanessa. It’s the same show, but there is a big piece missing.
A second problem with this season is that it fell victim to another one of those problems that frequently plague long-running television programs; the focus has moved off of the cases, and it is now on the personal lives of the characters. This shift in focus results in the show becoming a character drama, instead of a sci-fi drama. Nobody would have tuned in to the first season of this show had the focus been on the relationships of freaked-out FBI agents. Monsters, UFOs and unexplained phenomenon’s… that’s what we want to see.
Season Nine is still an interesting program, and there are still plenty of strange things going on, but it’s just not the same as it used to be. The fact that one of the episodes from this season is actually called Jump the Shark is a good clue that something may be amiss. Fans will undoubtedly want to pick this one up and finish off their collections, but for newcomers to this series, there is truly only one place to start… at the beginning.
If there was ever a television program that cried out to be re-mastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 for the DVD release, this is it. While the 2.0 track performs well, it is still a 2.0 track after all. The X-Files needs room to breathe, and stretch its atmosphere around the viewer. When all of the sound is anchored to the front of house, however, it separates the viewer from the drama just a little bit. When it comes to effective sci-fi, every device that can involve the viewer should be taken advantage of.
The good news is, the track that does exist is well above average. Dialog is extremely detailed, and Patrick’s powerful voice comes through loud and clear. The score is also quite clear, and it nicely fills out the action on screen. Bass response is thin, however. While there is some bass, there is not anywhere near enough. Instead of big scares thumping the viewer in the chest, they merely tap. This is a good soundtrack, but it could have been much better in 5.1.
The video quality, however, is way better than I expected. Deep colors dominate this film noir-inspired presentation, with deep blacks and rich browns and reds. Shadows fall ominously across mysterious faces and dark corners, adding to the eerie feel of the episodes. Especially well done is the lighting on this set. One of the perks to doing a show for nine seasons is that the crew has developed the skills they need to master the desired look for a particular show. Daytime scenes look great, and nighttime scenes look even better. I was thoroughly impressed with the manner in which scenes were lit. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that this aspect of the production is even better than many feature films.
Unfortunately, there are some severe problems with regards to edge enhancement. Details such as words on a newspaper and window blinds get lost in the shuffle, creating some severe noise with minute details. While this will most likely not be an issue for the casual viewer, DVD-philes will certainly notice the flaw. On the whole, however, this is a clean transfer, free from problems with blemishes or grain.
If I had to pick just one word to describe the extras included with this set, that word would be “thorough”. There are literally hours worth of extras here. So many, in fact, that they fill a single disc on their own (with the exception of the commentary track on the series finale, The Truth). In addition to the usual DVD-ROM content and ten Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary, there are a total of 36 Promo Spots, with many episodes including more than one. Also here are nine Special Effects segments with optional commentary. These bits briefly outline how the effects were created, through multiple layers of practical elements, computer graphics and camera tricks.
Next up is an interesting section of Character Profiles that were created especially for the international home video market. These featurettes focus on different characters from the show, and tell some of their back story through clips from the series and interviews with the cast and crew. Also here are three bonus featurettes that include behind-the-scenes footage and advertisements.
Finally, we have the big guns. Reflections on The Truth and The Truth About Season 9 total about a half-hour in length, and both feature interviews with the cast and crew. While “Reflections…” focuses more on the series as a whole, the “Season 9” segment focuses more on… you got it… the season in question. This segment goes roughly episode-by-episode through the season, and includes comments on the filming, planning, character arcs and special effects work. At the end is a short montage of scenes from all nine seasons of the show. Finally, The Making of The Truth is a mammoth documentary (running an hour-and-a-half) that covers every detail of creating the final episode, from pre-production meetings, to location scouting, planning, production meetings, shooting, sound editing, scoring, editing, color correction, stunt coordinating, ADR and even the final wrap party. This is the most detailed look at filming a television program that I have ever come across.
In an age where boxed sets seem to be skimping on the extras, Fox has certainly not let the consumer down with this bevy of special features. No X-Files fan could dare complain about the amount of goodies included with this set. These extras easily rate a 5 out of 5.
What can I say? This DVD collection marks the end of an era. The X-Files was the first television series since the Star Trek franchise to really hit it big in the science fiction drama market. It was also one of the first television shows to be released in its entirety to the consumer; first on VHS, and then on DVD. Though the show didn’t end as powerfully as it began, it still deserves its place as one of the best science fiction series’ of all time. Fans of the show will be pleased to see that these episodes have been given quality treatment on DVD, even though the audio has not been specially mixed to Dolby Digital 5.1. The extras make up for it, however, as this season has more extras included with it than most TV-on-DVD titles have on all of their other seasons combined.
Special Features List
- Commentary on The Truth by Kim Manners
- 10 deleted scenes with optional commentary by Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter, with play-all feature
- Special effects featurettes
- “The Truth About Season 9”
- “The Making of The Truth“
- “Reflections on The Truth“
- Profiles: Monica Reyes, Brad Follmer, Cake Cutting, On Location
- TV spots and international clips
- Bonus DVD-ROM features