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Click above to purchase "The X-Files Season 4" from DVDEmpire.com

 

The X-Files
Season 4

review by Anthony D.

 

 

Starring: David Duchonny, Gillian Anderson, William B. Davis, Ken Camroux, Charles Cioffi, Jerry Hardin, Scott Bellis, Sheila Larkin, Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood, Mitch Pileggi, Vanessa Morley
Steven Williams, Nicholas Lea, John Neville, Brian Thompson, Chris Owens

 

Studio: Fox

Retail Price: $149.98

Features: Commentary Tracks for "Memento Mori," "Small Potatoes," Deleted Scenes, International Clips, Special Effects Clips with Commentary, Documentary, "Behind the Truth" Television Spots, Promotional Television Spots, DVD-ROM Game.

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections

Released: November 13th, 2001

 

 

Six discs of the show itself, plus a seventh disc loaded with bonus features constitutes the deluxe FOX boxed set of "The X Files: The Complete Fourth Season." And what a season it was! With the second episode broadcast in the fall of 1996, Chris Carter's genuinely creepy series broke radical ground with a powerful show entitled, "Home," which promptly divided the audience into those who would continue to watch "The X Files," and those (including the U.S. government) who felt that the show had finally gone too far afield. (Count me in on the former). The 1996-97 season also saw further development of the show's major "Conspiracy" threads with believability and humor. It was the year that "The X Files" left its comfortable niche on Friday nights with a drastic move to Sunday evenings; a risky move to be sure, but the show is still sitting there comfortably in its NINTH season. Season Four saw the first kiss exchanged by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson - - and event worth the waiting for, even though it was not a kiss shared between their characters. Reincarnation formed the theme for a highly memorable episode. As with previous seasons, major characters are killed off; including Fox Mulder, as the final episode unreels. In hindsight, some toss-away lines of dialogue are actually important to the series later seasons: this is after all, the season which contains Agent Dana Scully's opinions on child-rearing; and Agent Mulder's throw away line about Dana settling down to raise a batch of Uber-Scullys! For the uninitiated, the fourth season following its well-established rules, would not be the best place to begin; but for those of us who haven't lost the faith yet, this particular season has many treasures to dwell upon. Rmemeber that this is "The X Files," and the only series rule is that there are NO RULES. Disc by disc, here's the roundup:

 

DISC ONE:

Herrenvolk a conspiracy episode which picks up precisely where Season Three left off. This episode posits that human beings are being inventoried by alien beings through smallpox vaccinations. These outer space colonists intend to take over the earth through genetically altered bees. The title means "Master Race" in German. Gets the season off to a great start.

Home is where the heart is, and where "The X Files" lost a great deal of its audience with this audacious exercise in Grand Guignol. Home concentrates on the Peacock Family, incestuous brothers who keep their mother/sister under the bed - without arms or legs - using her as a source of reproduction. The thought of the episode, which is brilliantly directed, is much more provoking than the actual episode. The darkest of dark humors pervades this episode, which has only been shown once on network television. Also features the amusing pop-culture reference, "Baa-ram-ewe," and a Johnny Mathis sound-alike singing "Wonderful, Wonderful." This episode is not for the faint-hearted.

Teliko a functional episode which is hardly memorable about a strange pituitary problem causing loss of skin pigment and death in African men.

Unruhe disturbing episode with a near-lobotomy for Agent Scully being one of the tensest moments. Photographs display ghosts around their screaming subjects, subjects who were smiling and alive when the pictures were taken.

 

DISC TWO:

The Field Where I Died beautifully written and directed episode, which channels current events as well as Civil War past lives. In a David Koresh-type compound, Agent Mulder finds meets Melissa, a woman whose past lives may have included a Civil War marriage to Mulder. Souls come back together. Different, but always together. Again and again.

Sanguinarium OH! The horror! The horror! 1960's heartthrob Richard Beymer ("West Side Story") guest stars as a plastic surgeon with a flair for alternative medicine. Bloody as all hell, but with honest characterizations, and fine support from Tim Burton regular O-Lan Jones as a white witch. Not an episode for the squeamish.

Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man This particular fan favorite may or may NOT be "the truth" about the series chief villain. Outrageously funny, this episode is one of the series finest accomplishments. "Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for!"

Tunguska harrowing episode from beginning to end, as viewers get the return of "Rat Boy" Alex Krycek who joins forces with Mulder in Siberian Russia, pursuing the elusive Black Oil. Taken prisoners, and stripped and caged, Mulder awakens from one nightmare to another: his caged, naked body is being sprayed with Black Oil. (First of two parts).

 

DISC THREE:

Terma disappointing down the line, the episode tries to cover too much in too little time, and forgets that it is the fate of Mulder (he'll be fine) and Krycek (he loses an arm) which concern the viewers.

Paper Hearts very spooky going as Mulder makes use of his profiler skills to capture a serial killer.

El Mundo Gira is the season's stange monster episode. This one is a Mexican blood beast: El Chupacabra. Guest starring Latino actor Reuben Blades.

Leonard Betts adds yet another gross-out episode to the long-growing list, as Scully is featured in the agents' search for a man, "ER's" Paul McCrane, who survives by eating cancer. Yucky, but fascinating.

 

DISC FOUR:

Never Again features the guest appearance of Jodie Foster as the voice of a tattoo. Notable to all X-Filers as the episode in which Scully has a brief romantic encounter. A chilling episode, laced with humor.

Memento Muri finds Mulder and Scully on the trail of several women who have been infected with the same cancer which is ravaging Scully's body. A conspiracy episode which contains fine acting work from Gillian Anderson. It took four writers to come up with this episode, which suffers from a lack of cohesion, at times pretentious, at other times moving, but constantly genuinely emotional.

Kaddish is the Hebrew prayer said at funerals. This episode, a horror entry, concerns the growth of a Golem, a Jewish demon bent on vengeance. It's the not worst of the series many monster episodes.

Unrequited Military meddling with science has created an invisible assassin, or one that has the ability to make himself invisible. Told very straight-forward, with an opening that negates most of the episode which follows.

 

DISC FIVE:

Tempus Fugit and Max offer up a harrowing airplane crash, and brings back a favorite character from Season One: Max Fenig, the ultimate UFO-geek. Fenig's sister seeks out the agents to investigate the cause of the crash which has taken Max's life. Frightening and satisfying.

Synchrony truly bizarre, even for the X Files, science-fiction time warping tale. Still makes no sense to me. But, it has some very cool special effects, if not much atmosphere.

Small Potatoes ranks highly among X Files fans, as it is the ULTIMATE episode in more ways than one. Darin Morgan ("Flukeman") returns to the screen as a man with the ability to alter his appearance to suit any situation. Fathering children with tails, he spreads himself out amongst the fairer sex, seeming to be "Luke Skywalker," or even F.B.I. Agent Fox Mulder. Thoroughly entertaining from start to finish, and containing the season's second "Babe" reference with the onscreen casting of "Babe's" offscreen voice, Christine Cavanaugh. Glorious, stunning scripting from Vince Gilligan, which doesn't sacrifice drama in its pursuit of humor.

 

DISC SIX:

Zero Sum supporting actor Mitch Pileggi finally gets to strut his stuff, in more ways than one, in a nearly solo episode for Assistant Director Walter Skinner. Great companion piece to the opening episode. Ah, the bees! The bees! This episode will make you think twice about restrooms in public buildings.

Elegy a truly haunting episode with what is quite possibly the best performance ever given by Gillian Anderson. Any episode that features bowling AND ghosts (or pre-death manifestations) can't be overlooked. And, an ending to die for. They don't get much better than this, as the characters reach the ultimate tests of friendship, and of beliefs.

Demons is bloody good psychological horror as Mulder finds himself sans memory and drenched in blood in a strange motel room. Scully's attempts to find "the truth" lead to even more questions regarding Mulder's past, and the unfortunate abduction of his sister.

Gethsemane Mulder is dead as the Fourth Season reaches a dramatic conclusion. Despondent over a series of events which shake his beliefs, Scully testifies before a Senate Committee that Mulder has indeed committed suicide. (Hey, she's a doctor, she should know a dead body when she sees one.)

 

Once again, FOX should be complimented for its attention to the series' dark, brooding template and reproducing it effectively. Deep rich blacks, shadowy shadows, graphic gore presented at better than network television broadcasting. Every atmospheric wonder which the world of "The X Files" struggles to unleash is characteristically displayed in the finest fashion possible, thanks to the digital clarity of these discs. I'm certain that with all the hype surrounding the first three seasons, that "The X Files" had been granted a better budget for its fourth season, which is amply displayed by the lack of grain even in the darkest of dark episodes.

 

As with its previous seasons, "The X Files" has been recorded in Dolby Surround. Even by taking into account that "The X Files" is a television series, the audio portion is as active as many feature films, placing the soundtrack way above average. Ample bass is provided, and the use of surround channels can go the distance from subtle ambience to full-out sensory attack. Mark Snow's signature theme rings true, as always, creating a mysterious mood with its foreboding whistled tones. The dialogue is firmly centered, always clear and direct. The English closed captioning often veers into paraphrase, while Spanish subtitles have also been provided. Each episode is also presented with a Dolby Surround encoded French language track.

 

In addition to the set's Disc Seven (which I'll get to in a moment), each of the box's episode discs contain little features all their own. Disc Five's "Small Potatoes" allows regular series writer Vince Gilligan his chance to deliver, with his mid-western twang, an enjoyable Commentary Tack praising the guest starring performance of Darin Morgan. I loved hearing the tales that came from Gilligan's pen and mouth, as "Small Potatoes" is one of my top five "The X Files" episodes. Writer Frank Spotnitz is also given his own Commentary Tack on Disc Four's "Memento Mori" episode, though I would have really liked a Commentary Tack for say, "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" or "Home," this one will suffice. Several interesting Deleted Scenes pop up, usually cut for time restraints, though the Deleted Audio from the opening of "Home," with its caterwauling baby being buried alive, sends chills to the spine of even the least faint-hearted viewer. Episodes represented with Deleted Scenes are "Home," "Unruhe," "The Field Where I Died" (this one is a true winner, with a standout performance from guest star Kristen Cloke), two from "Tunguska" (one featuring a nifty confrontation between Skinner and The Cigarette Smoking Man), "Paper Hearts," "Memento Mori" and "Max." International Clips, brief show excerpts in French, Italian, German, Japanese and Castilian can be found for one episode on each of the series' discs.

As promised, Disc Seven is where the real Special Features can be found. You want background material? The disc's documentary: "The Truth about Season Four" supplies a lot of information in a very short time span. You want to know "how they did it?" Seven sets of Special Effects Sequences are offered with knowledgeable commentary from effects wizard Paul Rabwin. Why were those Deleted Scenes deleted to begin with? Series creator Chris Carter tells you everything you needed to know with Disc Seven's Optional Commentary for those scenes. There are some good talking head Interviews - each relating to a specific episode, from series writers and directors. Most impressive, to me, is James Wong's take on that second episode, "Home." Each episode's two original Promotional Television Spots (why cant we just call them trailers?) are presented - thirty second and one minute running times for each, as well as the F/X network's Behind the Truth Spots for thirteen episodes. These short peeks into the behind the scenes work on "The X Files" are a welcome relief, as they not only offer information, they can be highly amusing, too. Finally, for those with DVD-ROM capabilities, there's a new "The X Files" game, "Urbs Teritia." They certainly know how to pack a disc to the max at FOX.

 

This is not the set for neophytes, this is the season for fans. Most definitely NOT the ideal starting place for new viewers of "The X Files," as so much information has been given in the past three seasons, which is acted upon in "Season Four," that confusion could possibly set in for anyone remotely unaware of the series' several back stories. But, for those viewers who have stuck with "The X Files" through thick (Season Three) and thin (Season One), "The Complete Fourth Season's" purchase is a no-brainer. The convenience alone of having direct access to any one of the so-called "conspiracy" episodes is a true boon. The ability to watch the chemistry between series stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson grow as the season progresses (or regresses now that the series is in its uneventful ninth season) doesn't come along every day; and it IS a true chemistry, one that cannot be "acted." These are two actors with such respect for their craft, and their characters, that finally a season came along that allowed them to completely inhabit the skins (and in Anderson's case) and very souls of Agents Mulder and Scully. FOX has done its duty to the series, and "The X Files" fans world-wide should be truly grateful to them by snapping up these boxed sets the very day that they hit the stores. Not only is the truth out there - it's right here, inside "The X-Files: The Complete Fourth Season."