The X-Files
Season Nine Box Set

Starring: Gillian Anderson, Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish
Twentieth Century Fox
RRP 59.99
Certificate: 15
Available now

Mulder is gone. Scully, Doggett and Reyes are left to uncover the truth about the military super-soldiers and Scully's baby, William. Are the super-soldiers products of genetic manipulation by the government, or are they alien mutations? Is William one of them, or could he be a weapon against them...?

This is the season in which David Duchovny finally quit, although he does return for the final feature-length story, The Truth. Many viewers have argued that his absence was the death of the show, but I don't think the truth is that simple. Certainly he was missed by many fans, but the producers did themselves no favours with the way they handled his absence. As with Season Eight, the show spends far too much time reminding the audience that Mulder is missing rather than encouraging them to move on and get over it.

Each of the "mythology" episodes, and a few more besides, touch upon the absence of Agent Mulder. In the two-part Nothing Important Happened Today and the single-part Trust No 1, this is a pivotal plot point. The latter episode even goes to the somewhat desperate lengths of showing a double playing Mulder in long shots.

Scary Monsters, a "monster of the week" episode (not surprisingly) takes a more progressive attitude. Mulder is referred to repeatedly - by the eager Agent Leila Harrison (Jolie Jenkins), who previously appeared in last season's memorable Alone - but the moral of the story is that Doggett's approach to the case works better than Mulder's would probably have done. Furthermore, Many of the Doggett/Reyes episodes, including Daemonicus, 4-D, Hellbound, Underneath, Jump the Shark and Release work very well.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the producers should have taken the even bolder step of writing Gillian Anderson out altogether, or at least for the majority of the season. As it is, Scully is reduced to a consulting role or a bit part during several instalments, including all of those listed in the paragraph above, so it makes you wonder why they didn't just bite the bullet and go the whole hog.

Scully tends to take a more significant role in the season's mythology episodes - in particular the two-part Provenance/Providence, which demonstrates that hell hath no fury like a mother protecting her child. She also comes to the fore during the amusing Lord of the Flies, a partial homage to Jackass in which she fends off the unwanted attentions of a romantic entomologist, Dr. Rocky Bronzino (Michael Wiseman), as well as in Audrey Pauley and the extremely bizarre Improbable, which guest-stars Burt Reynolds.

Both Audrey Pauley and 4-D build up some sexual tensions between John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish). This is perhaps not entirely welcome, since the "will they, won't they" dynamic has already been done to death with Mulder and Scully. Moreover, whenever Doggett and Reyes express feelings for each other, something dreadful tends to happen! In 4-D John is paralysed, while in Audrey Pauley Monica ends up in a coma.

4-D is one of the best episodes of the season, despite the fact that the ending could have been less silly. Other winners include Lord of the Flies (which could perhaps have been entitled The X-Flies!); William, the strongest mythology episode of the year; and Release, which resolves Doggett's personal demons concerning the death of his son.

Also worthy of mention is Jump the Shark, the final Lone Gunmen episode, which also sees the return of the amusing Michael McKean as Morris Fletcher. This instalment owes its title to a website that examines when various TV shows started to go downhill - the term refers to an episode of Happy Days in which the Fonz jumped over a tank full of sharks. Obviously the producers wish it to be known that The X-Files didn't "jump the shark" until its final year!

The weakest episodes of the season are Trust No 1 and John Doe, a tedious instalment that doesn't even feel like an X-Files story until the final ten minutes. The opening two-parter, the rather dull Nothing Important Happened Today, does not get things off to a good start, but at least it isn't as dreadful as the previous year's opening serial, Within/Without.

Perhaps not surprisingly, some questions are left unanswered by the final episode, The Truth. It would appear that the producers wish to leave some routes open for at least nine years' worth of X-Files movies. The Truth isn't nearly as great or as revelatory as its publicity makes out, but it does at least manage a semblance of closure and has a pretty good stab at making sense of the various plot strands from the last nine years.

It's a shame that Agents Doggett and Reyes could not have continued with their own cases for a few more years, so make the most of the adventures they have here, in a box set that is considerably more affordable than previous ones.

Richard McGinlay

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