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The X-Files: Season 8 (15)



Review: Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: The Truth About Season Eight; Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Frank Spotnitz and John Shiban; Special effects sequences with commentary by Paul Rabwin; Character profiles on Alex Krycek, Gibson Praiseand John Doggett; 42 promotional television spots. DVD-ROM game 'Existence'.

Episode titles: Within; Without; Redrum; Patience; Roadrunners; Invocation; Via Negativa; Per Manum; Surekill; Salvage; The Gift; Badlaa; Medusa; This Is Not Happening; DeadAlive; Vienen; Empedocles; Three Words; Alone; Essence; Existence.

SOME of the best and most enduring American television series often have to survive in the face of the biggest adversity.

Think of ER losing George Clooney, or NYPD Blue struggling to cope with the loss of David Caruso, for examples of how programmes have adapted, and in some cases, got better, in spite of suffering such blows.

With this in mind, it is a tribute to the writing team behind the X-Files that Season 8 became such a classic, despite the disappearance of one of its biggest assets.

Season 8 marked a time when David Duchovny’s dissatisfaction with the show had prompted him to take a back seat, forcing its makers to risk a new direction.

Hence, while Duchovny’s pivotal character, Fox Mulder, now only appeared in a few shows, it was left to Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully to carry the lion’s share of the work - complete with a new partner, in the form of Robert Patrick’s Special Agent John Doggett.

But what could have proved a series crippler, turned out to be something which breathed new life into it. Doggett became an instant hit with X-Files fans, appearing as the sceptic alongside Scully’s new-found believer.

The chemistry between the two flitted between admiration and distrust, as both continued the search for Mulder, in between some truly memorable stand-alone episodes, aimed at building Doggett’s character.

From early on, fans realised that Mulder’s absence was not as big a blow as first feared, even though the story arc involving his character frequently continued to draw the series’ highest viewing figures.

Hence, the writers continued to weave in elements of the convoluted alien conspiracy story, by playing up Scully’s pregnancy, as well as the bounty hunter and black oil aspects of the story, while also tossing in some of the virtues which made the early episodes of the series so fondly remembered.

Episodes featuring a contagion in the Boston subway tunnels, or strange deaths aboard an oil rig, bore all the hallmarks of classic stand-alone X-Files cases, while also serving to offer an intriguing insight into Doggett’s character.

Returning cast members also played neat little cameos, with the sinister Krycek making another welcome appearance, and the Lone Gunmen adding the required humour (not to mention several in-jokes at the expense of Patrick’s appearance in Terminator 2).

At a time when many sceptics were looking for X-Files to falter, Season 8 came back stronger than ever, providing plenty of proof that there is no replacement for good, quality writing - the main element which helped to make the series such a success in the first place.

For fans, therefore, this remains an essential purchase.

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