"Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI's most unwanted."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Scully, Mulder and the Cancerman are introduced in an episode about teenagers abducted, driven mad and/or killed in the Oregon woods.
REVIEW: It's always a bit strange watching the pilot of a long-running and well-known series, because things are often a little... off. In The X-Files' case, there still isn't an opening credits sequence, and Skinner isn't the man in charge yet. But the most obvious change is in the personalities of Mulder and Scully, who I remember as a lot more staid and detached than they are here. Mulder is more than sarcastic, he's almost a clown - he definitely gets all the best lines. Scully, for her part, has unusual moments where she might burst into laughter, come with a ludicrous conspiracy theory, or - and a sex idol is born - show up in Mulder's motel room in her underwear so he inspect her lower back (prescient given one of the few details I remember well from later in the series).
But it's essentially all there. This "odd couple" has instant chemistry of a sort, though it's not really sexual - Mulder is more bemused than aroused by Scully's appearance in his room, and winds up sharing his life story, not his bed. But though we find out more about Mulder than Scully - his abducted sister, his wasted brilliance at profiling, his obsession with the X-Files, and so on - it's really HER story. Mulder has already gone through a transforming experience, he already believes (in pretty much everything, as it turns out). But Scully is only at the start of her journey. She must COME to believe, or possibly destroy Mulder's world view. That struggle is dramatized by her being sent in by her bosses to spy on Mulder, a man who already claims he's being undermined at higher levels of power. But his faith that all things are possible shakes Scully's resolve; it's infectious. The more she is exposed to him, the most she becomes like him, and the top brass' hold on her will start to start to slip. In the series proper, I seem to remember Scully being a more steadfast unbeliever. The Pilot shows what is perhaps to come, with Scully letting herself fall for Mulder's enthusiasm, or red herrings like mosquito bites that feel like they might be signs of alien abduction.
The Pilot's story is shockingly unresolved, and while I like Chris Carter's contention that a show about the unexplained should not offer explanations, it perhaps goes overboard. Were these alien abductions? What were the bumps on the kids' skin all about? What happened during the missing minutes? Why were the kids lured to their deaths, but that last one spared and cured? Why did that one girl's nose start spontaneously bleeding? What's the deal with the alien-looking cadaver? And of course, we have the Cigarette-Smoking Man (Cancerman for short) walking through the episode, no lines to his name, stealing evidence and filing it in the warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Obviously, Cancerman returns, and alien abduction will form the crux of X-Files' "mytharc", so we shouldn't worry too much, but it's still a lot of random stuff thrown in, mostly to create an atmosphere. And on that level, it succeeds spectacularly. The British Columbia locations (meant to be Oregon) are dank and wet, and scenes are allowed to play out in torrential rain. A lot of characters seem to have a macabre wit that adds a layer of black comedy to the proceedings. And the show doesn't shy from shock horror tropes like the aforementioned nosebleed (cued to a line meant to make you feel safe), Mulder smiling through heavy turbulence, and the exhumed coffin rolling down the hill. Not your normal TV fare for 1993.
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: A section where we might indulge in theories, but with minimal spoilers. After all, I don't really remember what the endgame was. Perhaps it'd be truer to say these notes will be about questioning what we see on screen, and debating whether the world is more in line with Mulder's point of view, or Scully's. In the Pilot, that alien corpse really does look like an ape's (but if the real body was replaced, why does it also have an implant?), and future episodes will show secret government aircraft with stealth and VTOL capability which could have produced that light, as well as how hypnotic suggestion could be used to "steal" time away from subjects. And yet, how do we explain the magical disappearance of the bumps on the last would-be victim? Or is it a simple deactivation of the implants, reversing any changes they might cause in the body and mind of the subject before Mulder gets too close to the truth? In other words, the Pilot does not convince me that aliens exist - the government conspiracy could just be covering up their own strange experiments of its citizens and disguising their actions as so-called X-Files, either discrediting or destroying all the evidence.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Give or take a few quirks - and quirks I don't actually dislike at all - the show is born fully formed. Its storytelling could be more rigorous, but the interesting characters, the macabre humor, and the boldness of entertaining so many mysteries, shock and delight. We're off to a good start.