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The Complete Fifth Season
Starring: David Duchonny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi
Retail Price: $149.98
Features: udio Commentaries, Foreign Language Clips, Television Spots, Deleted Scenes with Commentary, Documentary, Special Effects Sequences with Commentary, Television Special, DVD-ROM Game
Specs: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections
Released: June 26th, 2002
The first dead giveaway that Season Five of "The X Files" is unlike any other season of the series can be found by looking at the episode titles: "Redux," "Kitsunegari," "Schizogeny," "Chinga," and "Folie a Deux" are but five of the season's twenty episodes. The next thing you notice, once you pop a disc into the player, is the aspect ratio; for the Fifth Season was broadcast in the broader 1.78:1 aspect ratio (presented here with anamorphic enhancement), giving the creators of these diverse episodes a wider canvas to paint (Cerulian Blue?) their suspenseful gallery of tales upon. Then there's the array of Guest Talent (something that the first four seasons rarely used): actors like Diana Scarwid, Mimi Rogers, Veronica Cartwright, Richard Belzer, Anthony Rapp, Luke Wilson, Darren McGavin and Lili Taylor are all featured in stand-out episodes, while cyber-tech fiction's William Gibson and horror's very own Stephen King contribute interesting scripts for our familiar F.B.I. family of Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and the ever-evolving Fox Mulder (David Duchovny). Then there are the episodes themselves which often focus on only one of the central trio; and one of the season's earliest episodes is devoted entirely to The Lone Gunmen (Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund and Bruce Harwood). You might ask yourself, "What's going on?" Well, what was going on was the final season to be filmed in Canada as well as the season which would build up to the release of the big screen's "The X Files: Fight the Future" feature film (which had been lensed between the shooting of the serie's Season Four and Season Five). With all of that going on, it's hardly surprising to find that Season Five is the most schizophrenic season that Chris Carter's successful series had yet to offer to viewers. With eleven stand-alone episodes, not always the series strongest suit, combined with nine episodes devoted to the harrowing activities of The Conspiracy (ten, if you consider the movie a part of Season Five), "The X Files: The Complete Fifth Series" will leave both newbies as well as devout followers asking more questions than the series can answer as The Conspiracy continues to baffle and major characters undergo compelling changes all leading up to a fiery finale as Mulder's office, and the work on the X Files, goes up in a blaze of glory.
After Season Four's "Home," it seems that "The X Files" is playing it very safe as far as monsters are concerned. "The Post-Modern Prometheus" (Disc Two, Epsiode 5) may have divided the core fans, and it never completely won me over. Filmed in black and white, with no concession to the lighting that black and white entails, this often humorous episode features wolf-babies, a mad scientist, a peanut-butter eating, Cher loving, impregnating monster. It's not just the starkness that the black and white offers that drives this episode, but the radical influence of James Whale and Tod Browning on director Chris Carter's execution of the tale of "The Great Mutato," a genetically altered young man (Chris Owens - later to be seen sans make-up as an important Conspiracy character) whose plight is very much like that of The Elephant Man. Viewer division occurs since this is supposedly "the misunderstood monster" that we as viewers are supposed to empathize with, yet, script writer Carter allows his creature to drug and rape two women, and act which hardly invokes audience sympathy. Carter tries, and most of the word-play between Scully and Mulder is outstanding writing, but, except for the scenes with the mad scientist, Dr. Pollidori (John O'Hurley; whom viewers will recognize from a series of commercials set on Mount Olympus), the episode plays a little too fast and too loose to be a true classic.
Much more successful is "Bad Blood" (Disc 3, Episode 12) a captivating "He said, she said" take on Texas vampires. This is the kind of episode that we've grown to love; laced with humor, outrageous bits of blood-letting and true character delineation. Guest star Luke ("The Royal Tennebaums") Wilson delivers one (or two) of the best supporting acting that this series has ever seen. While we're talking guest stars, let's just say that Lili Taylor (indie queen par excellence) is astounding as a blind woman with visions seen from a killer's point of view in "Mind's Eye" (Disc 4, Episode 16). Diana Scarwid's varied career ("Mommie Dearest") continues to take unusual characters and bring them to life with her murderous turn in "Kitsunegari" (Disc 2, Episode 8), a well-thought out sequal to Season One's "Pusher." Which brings us to Veronica Cartwright's supporting role in two of the season's Conspiracy episodes, "Patient X" and "The Red and the Black" (Disc Four, Episodes 13 & 14). As multiple abuductee Cassandra Spender, Cartwright elicits pathos and earns our respect (as well as a much-deserved Emmy nomination) while maintaining an air of mystery. And oh, what a mystery unfolds as Cassandra's story enfolds! Her son, Special Agent Jeffrey Spender, will soon be revealed (and reviled) as the series' Cigarette Smoking Man's son! Now that's a mystery to die for! In a totally unexpected bit of casting, Duchovny's "The Rapture's" costar, Mimi Rogers shows up in the season's final episode as Agent Diana Fowley, a woman with whom Mulder has a past history. Speaking of mysterious women in Mulder's life, I'd like to address an issue which raises its head early in the season, ("Unusual Suspects," Disc One, Episode 3) and is followed through right up to the season finale. Three episodes deal explicitly with Mulder's past, in "Unusual Suspects" he meets The Lone Gunmen for the first time, in "Travelers," Mulder discovers the existence of the X Files and finally, within "The End," we meet one of Mulder's past romantic interests. That's all well and good, but in each instance of Mulder's past, Fox is seen to be wearing a WEDDING BAND!!!! Mulder's "wife" is never identified within the series, nor has she been mentioned in the big screen adaptation and finally, the series reached its conclusion this year - without ever explaining the mystery of Mulder's marriage! It's a conspiracy, I tell you! A conspiracy!
Above all, the series fifth season is a fascinating exchange of character traits for the skeptic Scully and "the truth is out there" Mulder. Following the miraculous cure of her cancer, it is Scully who now seeks truths not based on science; while Mulder has learned too much of The Conspiracy to accept anything other than scientific proof. Mulder and Scully are now like a married couple, who have been together so long that they practically become their mate - we the viewers have always known that Mulder and Scully are soulmates, this unexpected twist in the fifth season, clearly identifies them as such. As actors, Duchovny and Anderson have grown, and are finally given new challenges for their skills, they both redeem themselves quite efficiently. When all is said and done, we watch "The X Files" because of Anderson and Duchovny - see how quickly the series lost it once Duchovny left Anderson on her own - our vested interest in their characters has been carefully cultivated and nurtured by the serie's creative team, leading to this fifth season's switch. The role reversal may have brought out a maternal instinct in Anderson, while Duchovny's earnest Mulder has finally developed righteous anger. In its fifth season, "The X Files" strides into undiscovered territory and continues to break new ground.
(The Fifth Season's Episodes are: Redux, Redux II, Unusual Suspects, Detour, The Post-Modern Prometheus, Christmas Carol, Emily, Kitsunegari, Schizogeny, Chinga, Kill Switch, Bad Blood, Patient X, The Red and the Black, Travelers, Mind's Eye, All Souls, The Pine Bluff Variant, Folie a Deux, The End).
For some of the richest, darkest, detailed blacks in existence, one need only to check out "Bad Blood's" Chapter 8. There stands Mulder in a cemetary, and it's raining. His handy umbrella, which just happens to be black, is opened. Director Cliff Bole allows the camera a medium shot of Mulder enveloped by the unbrella, sporting his black trenchcoat, with his dark-windswept hair gently blowing in the breeze. It's a classic shot of David Duchovny, and one that not only shows off the brilliance that the photography has attained this season, but symbolically reinforces the character of Mulder. Not that the rest of the season always attains this perfection; oh, no. Indeed, several episodes still sport that graininess (prevalent in earlier seasons) in several poorly lit scenes. I will say that "Patient X" has more of this grain than any of the other episodes; it's central scenes in a Russian slave labor camp's dank basements are noticeably grainy.
The anamorphic widescreen presentation was truly worth the wait. The truth being that "The X Files" has never looked so highly detailed, so three-dimensional nor so alive. After four arguable boxed series sets of "The X Files," not to mention the decidely inferior transfers of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," I was startled by what I saw. Startled to see a television series looking so utterly film-like. The not-too-wide 1.78:1 aspect ratio opens the framework but a smidgen, but seriously, that tiny bit makes quite a bit of difference. "The X Files" now has a dependable depth of field, which its episodes' directors are up to the task of using to the fullest extent. FOX has made a commitment to the quality of its presentation, a commitment most in evidence on this current boxed set.
Gone too is the smeariness of the series earlier endeavors. Colors are remarkably stable and consistent throughout the entire twenty episodes. The fleshtones are consistent, bringing the stalwart F.B.I. agents as well as there assorted nemeses to brilliant, colorful life.
The presentation of "The X Files" soundtrack hasn't changed. The sound is the same, sensible stereo surround as heard on all previous sets. Not that this is a bad thing; this time around, I noticed how well composer Mark Snow's music has enhanced the program. From the obvious influence of Danny Elfman in "The Post-Modern Prometheus" to the liberal borrowing from such classic composers as Wagner, Saint-Saens, Mozart, Prokofiev, Brahms and Stravinsky, Snow has proven himself to be a mighty force amongst all the creative talents associated with "The X Files." A French stereo surround track is also accessable, while subtitles are offered in English and Spanish. The Closed Captioning is not always precise; the captioning was conceived while the episodes were still in script form, so many little changes have occured between inception and broadcast; "The X Files" is one series one should always take time to read the captioning with.
The Special Features are all here, and then some. Starting with the first episode ("Redux") on the first of the set's six discs, International Clips are featured. These short foreign language dubbed scenes are also featured on Disc Two's "Christmas Carol," Disc Three's "Kill Switch," Disc Four's "Patient X" as well as Disc Six's "The End." They're strange and wierd, showing off the series world success.
Chris Carter takes his turn behind the microphone for Disc Two's "The Post-Modern Prometheus." His Audio Commentary is pretty self-congatulatory, but not insignificent. After quite a few of Carter's commentaries, it's refreshing to hear from a new voice on Disc Five's "The Pine Bluff Variant;" the fifth disc's edge-of-the-seat undercover suspense story. John Shiban, the episode's scriptwriter (as well as a series co-producer) engaging recounts this stand-alone, no monster, no conspiracy tale's growth from a simple three-by-five card with the words "Mulder Undercover" to the episode's broadcast. When it comes to writing, it's fascinating to hear it from the source.
The Deleted Scenes, available with Commentary from Chris Carter, reflect the season that played it safe. Most of these cuts were for timing purposes, rarely because of standards and practices. Representative clips appear for "The Post-Modern Prometheus," "Christmas Carol" (Disc Two),"The Red and the Black" (Disc Four) and "All Souls" (Disc Five). As Carter states in his commentaries for these scenes, "The story is king," hence the whittling away. All these scenes are presented in full-frame with black and white photography presenting the episode itself, and going to color "Wizard of Oz-"like for the cut stuff. ("The Post-Modern Prometheus'" goes from a green tint to black and white). A little more humor, courtesy of a running gag of a dog with no hind legs and a flirtatious French frankfurter vendor, is "The Post-Modern Prometheus'" loss. These scenes easily could have been inserted with seamless branching as they really don't interrupt the flow of the episode. "The Red and the Black" loses a striking scene between Scully and Mulder that Carter can't recall the circumstances for its cutting, although it strongly reinforced the season's central conceit. The losses suffered by "Christmas Carol" and "All Souls" are negligible.
Which brings us up to the set's sixth disc, where the truth is put to the test. The Deleted Scenes can also be found as a supplement on the final disc. Why? I don't know; except that it puts them into one neat tidy little bundle with the options of playing all with or without Carter's Commentary. The up to the minute "The Truth About Season Five" brings viewers up to date on the wheres and whys of the season in a very short time span. I recommend these little truth additions for anyone who is just getting into the series, although by Season Five, is there really anyone out there who hasn't found out about the series? The stalwart Special Effects sequences are given great due with seven episodes sequences discussed by effects guy Paul Rabwin; here's it's the digital alteration of an actress which is the most satisfying ("Christmas Carol"), but "The Red and the Black's" sequence is also worth noting. Nor having the F/X Channel on our cable system until recently, all of the eleven "Behind the Truth" spots were new to me. Promotional, to be sure, but these minute long looks at one specific aspect of the series are often quite humorous, and contain a lot of behind the scenes footage. Indespensable information such as the state of Gillian Anderson's hair (it's naturally curly, so the Vancouver weather wreaks constant havoc for the hairdressers) can be found in these clips. All twenty episodes are represented with their original Promotional Television Spots; that's two spots per episode (30 seconds to 1 minute) that are TV's equivalent of trailers. Thankfully, the trai---, oops, Promotional Spot for "The Post-Modern Prometheus" garners audience interest for its monochromatic camera work. DVD-ROM users will have a field day with the all-new X Files' "Earthbound" game.
Completing the disc, and the Season (if truth be told) is "Inside the X Files," a forty-six minute television "special." This very promotional documentary, filled in the blank space leftover when the production of "The X Files" was curtailed by production logistics. Funny thing is, that it is not promoting the series as much as it is promoting the upcoming "Fight the Future" X Files film. What else could explain the presence of series non-star Martin Landau? The filming and editing of the special reflect the changing course of cinematography with swift camera moves and quick edits. The great thing about the special is having all of the principal players being given their due with above-average interview segments.
I'll let a few figures speak for "The Complete Fifth Season: The X Files." During the 1997-1998 season, "The X Files" was once again the highest rated show on the Fox Network. On July 23, 1998, the show received sixteen Emmy Award nominations, tieing it with NBC's "E.R." for the most nominations by a network series. "The X Files" was being broadcast in over ninety countries world-wide. "The X Files" won Emmy Awards in the following categories: Outstanding Art Direction ("The Post-Modern Prometheus"), Outstanding Single-Picture Editing for a Series ("kill Switch"); while being nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actress and Actor in a Drama Series, Outstanding Writing, Cinematography, Single-Picture Editing, Makeup and Music Composition for a Drama Series ("The Post-Modern Prometheus"), Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Veronica Cartwright in "Patient X" and "The Red and the Black"), Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Lili Taylor in "Mind's Eye"), Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series as well as Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Series. "The X Files" took home a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series, Drama in addition to its two other nominations for its leading Actor and Actress. The Producers Guild of America honored the series with a nomination as Outstanding Episodic Series; while The Directors' Guild of America though highly of Chris Carter's "The Post-Modern Prometheus'" Directing assignment. The Viewer for Quality Television awarded Gillian Anderson for being the Best Actress in a Quality Drama. As Lily Tomlin (an "X Files" 6th Season guest star) once quipped, "And that's the truth."