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X-Files: The Ultimate Collection
As one of the most memorable television creations in recent memory, Chris Carter's landmark series The X-Files (1993-2002) delivered atmosphere and imagination in generous handfuls. Seamlessly blending sci-fi, drama and suspense with solid storytelling, great performances and striking visuals, the ongoing adventures of FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) enjoyed massive commercial and critical success during the bulk of its nine-year run. The 1998 theatrical release of Fight The Future brought Carter's creation to the big screen---and with a sequel currently being filmed, The X-Files may soon enjoy a popular resurgence. Even with a few bumps along the way, the series that reminded us "the truth is out there" has certainly earned our respect.
It took me a few years to fall for The X-Files, at least completely. My comfort level with anything science fiction-related was limited to Star Trek: The Next Generation and the like, but Carter's creation did something most weren't expecting at the time: it brought sci-fi back down to Earth. The series certainly looked skyward more often than not, but the driving core of The Seen vs. The Unseen---laced with conspiracy theories, cover-ups and other slow-burning mysteries---was enough to get me hooked. To its credit, The X-Files didn't attempt to discredit the perspective of either central character: Mulder's quest for extraterrestrial life was given plenty of attention, as were Scully's conflicting anchors of science and spirituality. The fact that both could co-exist---though not always peacefully, of course---almost provided us with a certain level of comfort.
It's been said many times before, but each weekly episode almost felt like a short film: whether a "monster-of-the-week" outing or rooted firmly in the series' established mythology, The X-Files remained remarkably consistent for several years. In most cases, each season felt larger than the last---and while many die-hard fans would agree that the first five years were better than the final four (divided by Fight The Future, incidentally), there are plenty of highlights to uncover during the series' lengthy run. If nothing else, consider this: The X-Files survived the unexpected pregnancy of a lead character and moving production to a different country, among other roadblocks. One could also include the eventual "replacement" of Mulder and Scully on that short list, but the changing of the guard didn't last quite long enough.
The X-Files was the first TV-on-DVD franchise to collect seasons in their entirety---and luckily for fans, Fox got off to a terrific start. Though steep price tags scared off most casual viewers, these multi-disc sets combined solid technical presentations with plenty of bonus features and slick packaging. After dropping the MSRP a few times, Fox revisited the series with (literally) slimmed-down versions: these thinpak sets didn't take up nearly as much shelf space, but several of the coveted bonus discs were apparently abducted by aliens. The studio has attempted to combine the best of both worlds with The Ultimate Collection, though the bulk of this content remains largely unchanged. With all extras present and accounted for (as well as a bonus disc with featurettes from the Mythology collections) and Fight The Future thrown in for good measure, it's pretty much all things X-Files in one oversized box. Before we get to the technical portion of the review, however, let's take a brief look at the series' lengthy lifespan:
Right from the start, it was easy to see that The X-Files was something special. The fledgling series' heavy atmosphere and gnawing suspense was highly reminiscent of 1990's FBI-centric The Silence of the Lambs, albeit with a supernatural twist. Several early episodes quickly became fan favorites and have held up fairly well; for the most part, these "monster-of-the-week" outings (especially "Deep Throat", the Carpenter-esque "Ice" and "Darkness Falls", to name a few) were enough to establish a strong formula and plenty of memorable characters along the way. The relationship of Mulder and Scully presented a solid dynamic, allowing us to become familiar with the emotionally-driven sky watcher and grounded skeptic. Hints at a larger picture formed almost immediately, coaxed forward by hints of governmental cover-ups and informants like the mysterious "Deep Throat". Season 1 still stands as one of the series' finest years, but not purely for nostalgic reasons: simply put, there's plenty of quality on display here.
Season One Episode Listing: "Pilot", "Deep Throat", "Squeeze", "Conduit", "The Jersey Devil", "Shadows", "Ghost In The Machine", "Ice", "Space", "Fallen Angel", "Eve", "Fire", "Beyond the Sea", "Gender Bender", "Lazarus", "Young At Heart", "E.B.E.", "Miracle Man", "Shapes", "Darkness Falls", "Tooms", "Born Again" ,"Roland",
"The Erlenmeyer Flask".
Originally airing in 1994, the second season of The X-Files brought a few troubles with it. The pregnancy of star Gillian Anderson proved to be a fork in the road for the series' tight production, just as The X-Files had started to find its footing in the ratings. Network executives wanted creator Chris Carter to recast the role; instead, he and the writing team chose to work around it by adding her pregnancy to the series' mythology. As ratings continued their gradual climb upward, the writing team was able to expand the world of Mulder and Scully---because as entertaining as they might be, "monster-of-the-week" episodes are simply an appetizer before the main course. Memorable characters like Duane Barry, Alex Krycek and new informant "Mr. X" left strong impressions at various points during the season; meanwhile, writer Darin Morgan made his mark in the quirky "Humbug", his first of several memorable scripts during the series. The striking season finale "Anasazi" would begin one of The X-Files' strongest story arcs and carry the load towards the series' finest year.
Season Two Episode Listing: "Little Green Men", "The Host", "Blood", "Sleepless", "Duane Barry", "Ascension", "3", "One Breath", "Firewalker", "Red Museum", "Excelsis Dei", "Aubrey", "Irresistible", "Die Hand Die Verletzt", "Fresh Bones", "Colony", "End Game", "Fearful Symmetry", "Død Kalm", "Humbug", "The Calusari", "F. Emasculata", "Soft Light", "Our Town", "Anasazi".
They say the third time's a charm---and though The X-Files had plenty of memorable moments during its nine-year run, Season 3 holds more than any other. The one-two punch of "The Blessing Way" and "Paper Clip" are complemented greatly by memorable outings like "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose", "War Of The Coprophages", "Piper Maru" and the quirky "Jose Chung's ′From Outer Space′". It was here that The X-Files balanced itself perfectly---and though a few episodes don't quite hit the mark, it's a strong collection of stories that holds up very well. Plenty of familiar faces also showed up along the way; guest stars included the late Peter Boyle, R. Lee Ermey, Giovanni Ribisi, Jack Black, future governor Jesse Ventura, Alex Trebek, Charles Nelson Reilly, Lucy Liu, J.T. Walsh, Dave Grohl and several others. Supporting characters like Assistant Director Walter Skinner and the mysterious Cigarette Smoking Man were given more face time as the season unfolded, paving the way for plenty of plot twists and complex revelations.
Season Three Episode Listing: "The Blessing Way", "Paper Clip", "D.P.O.", "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose", "The List", "2Shy", "The Walk", "Oubliette", "Nisei", "731", "Revelations", "War Of The Coprophages", "Syzygy", "Grotesque", "Piper Maru", "Apocrypha" , "Pusher", "Teso Dos Bichos", "Hell Money", "Jose Chung's ′From Outer Space′", "Avatar", "Quagmire", "Wetwired", "Talitha Cumi".
The previous year marked my first memories of regular X-Files viewing, but the solid run of the series' fourth year certainly held my interest. Most casual fans remember episodes like the brutal "Home" (which was eventually banned from evening syndication on the network, due to its controversial story elements), while other memorable standouts like "Unruhe", "Paper Hearts", "Leonard Betts" and "Tempus Fugit" helped to make this a strong run in nearly all respects. Memorable supporting characters like The Lone Gunman were given time to shine during outings like "Memento Mori", leading to more concrete appearances in future seasons. Many consider the latter half of Season 4 as the starting point in the series' slow decline through its final years, possibly due to the forthcoming production of Fight The Future and Carter's attention shift towards the memorable but short-lived Millennium and Harsh Realm. Despite a few snags along the way, though, this fourth season of The X-Files still left plenty to the imagination.
Season Four Episode Listing: "Herrenvolk", "Home", "Teliko", "Unruhe", "The Field Where I Died", "Sanguinarium", "Musings Of A Cigarette Smoking Man", "Tunguska", "Terma", "Paper Hearts", "El Mundo Gira", "Leonard Betts", "Never Again", "Memento Mori", "Kaddish".
"Unrequited", "Tempus Fugit", "Max", "Synchrony", "Small Potatoes", "Zero Sum", "Elegy", "Demons", "Gethsemane".
The fifth season started on strong footing with another multi-part story arc that expanded the series' scope and atmosphere, eventually followed by the standout black-and-white episode "The Post-Modern Prometheus". Though 1998 was soon around the corner (which meant that Fight The Future and Millennium would soon divert much of Carter's time and attention), the series still enjoyed critical and commercial success with strong ratings and a dozen Emmy nominations. This would be the shortest season of the series (aside from the ninth and final season, of course), but good things come in small packages: standout episodes include The Unusual Suspects, the vampire-flavored Bad Blood (with a memorable supporting role by Luke Wilson), "Kill Switch" and "The Pine Bluff Variant". As this round of adventures paved the way for the feature film, Carter's original contract with the network had expired---yet he signed on for more, resisting the urge to end the series with a collection of big-screen adventures. Most fans would agree that the final four years show a marked decrease in consistency, yet plenty of memorable moments would be right around the corner.
Season Five Episode Listing: "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".
Arriving in theaters during the summer of 1998, Fight The Future was a big-screen adventure that felt like more than just a really long episode. Most audiences found it to be a satisfying extension of the existing X-Files universe that worked well by itself or as a link between the fifth and sixth seasons. Directed by long-time series collaborator Rob Bowman, Fight The Future examines Mulder and Scully's lives following the second "cancellation" of the FBI's X-Files program. Our story revolves around a mysterious black oil of ancient origins, whose discovery was revealed to Mulder following an explosive terrorist threat. The film's twisting plot proved to be a hit with audiences of all "experience levels"---and though it didn't quite set the domestic box office ablaze, a strong international run made Fight The Future a rousing success overall. Filming for the long-awaited second feature film is finally underway as of this writing, though it's most likely old news to X-Philes already.
The sixth season represented a modest departure from the first five years, mainly due to the production's shift from Vancouver to Los Angles at the request of David Duchovny. The more temperate locale didn't hinder the series' overcast roots, paving the way for fan-favorite episodes like "Drive", "Triangle", the hallucinatory "How The Ghosts Stole Christmas", "Tithonus", "Monday", "Agua Mala" and "Milagro", among others. Still, the show's switch to a Sunday night timeslot (beginning partway through Season 4) would eventually push away many long-time fans of the series, though The X-Files still enjoyed strong ratings and nominations for 8 Emmys during this year. Memorable guest stars include Darrin McGavin, Ed Asner, Lily Tomlin, Bruce Campbell, Michael McKean and famed baseball announcer Vin Scully. Supporting characters like The Cigarette Smoking Man (eventually known as CGB Spender), Diana Fowley (played by Mimi Rogers) and the disloyal Alex Krycek were given plenty of time to shine---but with several key replacements made behind the scenes due to the production's relocation, such changes didn't bode well with the core audience.
Season Six Episode Listing: "The Beginning", "Drive", "Triangle", "Dreamland", "Dreamland II", "How The Ghosts Stole Christmas", "Terms Of Endearment", "The Rain King", "S.R. 819", "Tithonus", "Two Fathers", "One Son", "Agua Mala", "Monday", "Arcadia", "Alpha", "Trevor", "Milagro", "The Unnatural", "Three Of A Kind", "Field Trip", "Biogenesis".
The seventh season marked the beginning of the end for The X-Files as many knew it: David Duchovny would eventually abandon a regular role in the series, new faces were on the horizon, production costs were steadily increasing and several storylines displayed a markedly different style. Oddly compelling experiments like "X-Cops" (a quasi-crossover attempt with the long-running police reality series) and the Anderson-directed "All Things" proved to be interesting diversions, while more mythology roots were planted firmly along the way. Still, this year marked a sharp decline in the series' critical and commercial reception, leading to a near-cancellation following the season finale. With a new male lead about to be revealed due to Mulder's abduction, more changes were lying in wait---and though many viewers had abandoned ship already, a few surprises helped to keep things cautiously afloat.
Season Seven Episode Listing: "The Sixth Extinction", "Amor Fati", "Hungry", "Millennium", "Rush", "The Goldberg Variation", "Orison", "The Amazing Maleeni", "Signs & Wonders", "Sein Und Zeit", "Closure", "X-Cops", "First Person Shooter", "Theef", "En Ami", "Chimera", "All Things", "Brand X", "Hollywood A.D.", "Fight Club", "Je Souhaite", "Requiem".
Season 8 continued the trend of major changes behind and in front of the camera; most notably, the introduction of agents John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish). Since Duchovny had more or less departed from the series as a regular cast member at this point, Doggett and Reyes served as quasi-replacements for Mulder and Scully...albeit with notably different temperaments. Behind the scenes, Carter insisted that the series would continue to press onward (perhaps as much as another decade, the creator would admit), expecting the casting revamp to be a permanent one. It was here that The X-Files attempted to return to certain roots despite cosmetic changes, once again juggling "monsters-of-the-week" with more expansion to the series' admittedly complex mythology. The commercial and critical reception continued to dwindle, unfortunately, despite the solid performances of Patrick and Gish. Still, the continued presence of Scully and AD Skinner created an interesting dynamic with the new agents, especially during episodes like "Patience", "Via Negativa" and "Alone".
Season Eight Episode Listing: "Within", "Without", "Patience", "Roadrunners", "Invocation", "Redrum", "Via Negativa", "Surekill", "Salvage", "Badlaa", "The Gift", "Medusa", "Per Manum", "This Is Not Happening", "Deadalive", "Three Words", "Empedocles", "Vienen", "Alone", "Essence", "Existence".
All good things must come to an end---and though most fans regard The X-Files' ninth and final season as its weakest, there are still a few gems buried under the rubble. Duchovny's partial departure continued to leave a hole in the production, despite the continued strong performances of old and new faces alike. Behind the scenes, it's likely that Carter was feeling quite a commercial backlash after so many years of success: with The X-Files slipping away and the earlier cancellation of Millennium, Harsh Realm and short-lived spinoff The Lone Gunmen, the public's attention was slowly shifting towards action-packed juggernauts like 24 and the rapidly expanding glut of reality TV. Still, the introduction and/or continued presence of supporting characters like AD Brad Follmer (played by Cary Elwes) and the dangerous Knowle Rohrer (Firefly's Adam Baldwin) helped to keep things running until series finale "The Truth": boasting a reunited cast and the return of a few more familiar faces, this double-length episode refused to tie everything together neatly, still dishing out as many questions as it did answers. The upcoming second feature film should be an interesting endeavor; with both Duchovny and Anderson signed on (as well as several long-standing members of the creative team, of course), the ongoing adventures of The X-Files still won't stay buried.
Season Nine Episode Listing: "Nothing Important Happened Today", "Nothing Important Happened Today II", "Dæmonicus", "4-D", "Lord of the Flies", "Trust No 1", "John Doe", "Hellbound", "Provenance", "Providence", "Audrey Pauley", "Underneath", "Improbable", "Scary Monsters", "Jump The Shark", "William", "Release", "Sunshine Days", "The Truth I", "The Truth II".
NOTE: Episodes marked in dark red contain optional commentary. Details are below.
Presented in their original aspect ratios (1.33:1 during Seasons 1-5, anamorphic 1.78:1 during Seasons 6-9), these episodes look very good from start to finish. The earliest years obviously suffer a bit from lower production values, but there's very little to complain about overall. The natural but often muted color palette appears accurate, black levels are typically fine and image detail increases slightly as the series progresses. Some fans voiced their opinions about the transfer for the Season 6 episode "Triangle", which appears noticeably more soft and muddy than others that year. This was a problem from the original DVD collections which hasn't been corrected (and most likely stems from the source material), but it's hardly a deal-breaker.
On the audio front, it's roughly the same story. The first two seasons are presented in English 2.0 Stereo, while the final seven are granted more immersive Dolby 2.0 Surround mixes (all are available with a French dub). The series' distinct atmosphere and haunting music cues fill the soundstage without fighting for attention with the dialogue, though the subwoofer and rear channels aren't always given a great deal to do. Optional English and Spanish subtitles have been included during the episodes only.
Fight The Future is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and is enhanced for 16x9 displays. Being identical to the previous remastered stand-alone version, it's hard to complain about the transfer quality overall. Black levels are solid, the color palette looks good and no major digital imperfections were spotted along the way.
The film also keeps the Dolby Surround mix and optional French dub, but we're also treated to a full blown English DTS track (again, identical to the remastered stand-alone release). Dialogue is clean and crisp, though the soundstage occasionally roars to life with ample surround activity and LFE. Just like the series, optional English and Spanish subtitles have been included during the main feature only.
Identical to the original stand-alone collections and feature film, the spooky animated menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. Each 44-minute episode has been divided into roughly half a dozen chapters, while no obvious layer changes were detected during playback. Each season is housed separately in casing not unlike a hardback book; appropriately enough, Fight The Future is housed in a similar fashion with a 61st bonus disc. All ten books fit snugly inside an outer box adorned with images appropriate to the series. Also tucked away (below the books, in a separate pull-out drawer) are a number of extra printed items, including a Fight The Future theatrical poster, a Season 1 era comic book, a handful of classic art cards and a handy 60-page episode guide.
Unfortunately, not much thought went into this boxed set's durability. Since all ten "hardback books" sit on the upper level of the box, the weight can eventually cause the bottom to tear and sag slightly (especially during shipping). This alone wouldn't be a huge issue, but the torn bottom prevents the bottom drawer from pulling out---and though it's doubtful you'll have to dig for the printed material very often, this problem could've easily been avoided with a smarter design. If that weren't enough, the 60-page episode guide has weak binding glue, enough so that a dozen pages or so have loosened or fallen out already! Ideally, Fox should correct these problems and issue sturdier replacements...but let's not hold our collective breath.
For a photo collage of the packaging, click here.
Aside from the printed materials described above, owners of the thick Collector's Edition sets won't find much in the way of new material to dig through. All of the original bonus discs are present and accounted for, each boasting a number of short documentaries, deleted scenes, promo spots and more; audio commentaries are also present on their respective episode discs. A bonus DVD containing four 30-minute featurettes from the quartet of X-Files Mythology collections is packed with Fight The Future, which proves to be a nice touch. For completion's sake, all bonus features have been listed below in abbreviated form.
The first season's bonus disc leads off with "The Truth About Season One", which includes words from the cast and crew. Things get a bit more detailed when Chris Carter Talks About 12 Episodes ("Pilot", "Deep Throat", "Squeeze", "Conduit", "Ice", "Fallen Angel", "Eve", "Beyond the Sea", "E.B.E.", "Darkness Falls", "Tooms" and "The Erlenmeyer Flask")...which serves as a series of mini-commentaries, for lack of a better term. A dozen "Behind-the-Truth" Spots (which originally aired on the F/X channel during syndication) are also included, which contain plenty of interesting bits despite their short length. Things close out with a Deleted Scene from the pilot episode, a Special Effects Clip from "Fallen Angel" and a handful of Promotional TV Spots.
The second season includes another "Truth About..." featurette, as well as another round of Chris Carter Talks About 12 Episodes ("Little Green Men", "The Host", "Sleepless", "Duane Barry", "Ascension", "One Breath", "Irresistible", "Die Hand Die Verlezt", "Colony", "End Game", "Humbug" and "Anasazi". Next up are a few more Special Effects Clips from "End Game" and "Anasazi", as well as a curious Gillian Anderson Clip from "Humbug". We also get a few short Deleted Scenes from "Sleepless", "3", "Humbug" and "Anasazi", nine more "Behind-the-Truth" Spots and another collection of TV Promos. The latter are especially interesting; in all honesty, it's a shame that more season sets don't include such things for posterity.
The third season ups the ante with two Episode Commentaries, one each during "Aprocrypha" (featuring director Kim Manners and Chris Carter) and "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" (featuring director Rob Bowman and writer Darin Morgan). Also here is another "Truth About..." featurette, plus another round of Chris Carter Talks About 12 Episodes ("The Blessing Way", "Paper Clip", "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose", "Nisei", "731", "War Of The Coprophages", "Piper Maru", "Apocrypha", "Pusher", "Jose Chung's ′From Outer Space′", "Wetwired" and "Talitha Cumi". Also here are more Special Effects Clips (with audio commentary by visual effects producer Mat Beck), Deleted Scenes from "The Blessing Way", "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose", "The List", "Revelations" and "Avatar" (presented with optional commentary by Chris Carter), 17 "Behind-the-Truth" Spots and another collection of TV Promos.
The fourth season features two more Episode Commentaries during "Memento Mori" (with writer Frank Spotnitz) and "Small Potatoes" (with writer Vince Gilligan), as well as another "Truth About..." featurette. Chris Carter no longer talks about the episodes strictly by himself; instead, we're treated to a series of Crew Member Interviews regarding their respective episodes. Frank Spotnitz talks about "Herrenvolk", Vince Gilligan speaks about "Unruhe" and "Paper Hearts", James Wong discusses "Home" and Carter returns to talk about "Tunguska". Another series of Special Effects Clips are also here (with audio commentary by Paul Rabwin), as well as Deleted Scenes from "Unruhe", "Home", "The Field Where I Died", "Tunguska", "Paper Hearts", "Memento Mori" and "Max". Closing out this disc are 13 more "Behind-the-Truth" Spots and another collection of TV Promos.
The fifth season feels a bit thinner overall, but there are still plenty of familiar favorites to dig through. Leading things off are two Episode Commentaries during "The Post-Modern Prometheus" (featuring writer/director Chris Carter) and "The Pine Bluff Variant" (featuring writer John Shiban). Next up is a pair of general behind-the-scenes featurettes, including another installment of "Truth About..." and "Inside The X-Files"; the latter is a slightly retrospective piece which originally aired on F/X. We also get another round of Special Effects Clips (with audio commentary by Paul Rabwin), as well as more Deleted Scenes from "The Post-Modern Prometheus", "Christmas Carol", "The Red And The Black" and "All Souls" (this time, they're presented with optional audio commentary by Chris Carter). Winding things down are 11 more "Behind-the-Truth" Spots and another collection of TV Promos.
Intermission time! Fight The Future contains only a small handful of bonus features, but they're all worth a look. The main attraction is a feature-length Audio Commentary with series creator Chris Carter and director Rob Bowman, who provide a fairly standard but interesting chat. Both participants seem to have been recorded separately, but they trade off technical comments and personal stories quite nicely. Comments from the cast (or more crew members) might've been helpful during a few key sequences, but most fans should be happy overall. Also on board is a rather interesting 29-minute Behind-the-Scenes Documentary and a trio of Theatrical Trailers.
The sixth season treats us to another pair of Episode Commentaries for "Triangle" (with Chris Carter) and "Milagro" (with long-time director Kim Manners), a sixth installment of "Truth About..." and a general Behind-the-Scenes Featurette. Also here are more Special Effects Clips (with audio commentary by Paul Rabwin), as well as a collection of Deleted Scenes from "Tithonus", "Two Fathers", "One Son", "Arcadia", "Alpha", "Milagro", "The Unnatural" and "Biogenesis" (with optional audio commentary by Frank Spotnitz). Last but not least is a Character Profile for the Cigarette Smoking Man and another collection of TV Promos.
The seventh season beefs things up a bit with three Episode Commentaries during "First Person Shooter" (featuring director Chris Carter), "All Things" (with writer/director Gillian Anderson) and "Je Souhaite" (by writer/director Vince Gilligan). Also here is a seventh "Truth About...", another general Behind-the-Scenes Featurette, more Special Effects Clips (with audio commentary by Paul Rabwin) and another collection of Deleted Scenes from "Amor Fati", "Orison", "Signs & Wonders" "Closure", "Theef", "En Ami" and "Requiem" (with optional audio commentary by Chris Carter). Closing things out is a pair of Character Profiles for A.D. Walter Skinner and Samantha Mulder, as well as another collection of TV Promos.
The eighth season leads off with Episode Commentaries during "Alone" (with writer/director Frank Spotnitz) and "Existence" (with director Kim Manners), plus an eighth installment of "Truth About...". Also here are more Special Effects Clips (with audio commentary by Paul Rabwin) and Deleted Scenes during "Surekill" , "Badlaa", "Per Manum", "Empidocles" and "Existence" (presented with optional audio commentary by Frank Spotnitz and John Shiban). Last but not least is a trio of Character Profiles for Alex Krycek, Gibson Praise and John Doggett, as well as another collection of TV Promos.
The ninth and final season contains the lion's share of bonus features (spread across several discs, in fact), leading off with three Episode Commentaries during "Improbable" (with writer/director Chris Carter) "Jump The Shark" (with writers Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz) and "The Truth" (with director Kim Manners). Next up are no less than six brief Behind-the-Scenes featurettes, including "The Truth About Season Nine", "The Making of The Truth", "Reflections on The Truth", two "Secrets of The X-Files" segments and "Tribute to The X-Files". Also here is another collection of Special Effects Clips (with audio commentary by Paul Rabwin) and Deleted Scenes from "Nothing Important Happened Today" (Parts I and II), "4-D", "Jump The Shark", "Lord of the Flies", "Provenance" and "The Truth" (with optional audio commentary by Frank Spotnitz and John Shiban). Closing things out is a pair of Character Profiles for Monica Reyes and AD Brad Follmer, as well as another collection of TV Promos.
The final disc packaged with Fight The Future boasts a quartet of Featurettes from the X-Files Mythology collections, including "Abduction" (27:28), "Black Oil" (31:38) "Colonization" (27:18) and "Super Soldiers" (27:02). Each mini-documentary traces its subject through the X-Files universe (from centuries ago to the modern era), often making stops on a "timeline" to detail important events. We also hear from members of the cast and crew, who provide insights regarding the characters, their surroundings and the show's production itself. Presented in one lump instead of nestled with each appropriate set of episodes, these featurettes feel a bit too similar at times---but they're certainly work a look, especially for those who didn't pick up the four separate collections. NOTE: The newer audio commentaries that appeared on the Mythology sets don't appear in The Ultimate Collection, so completists might want to keep those for posterity.
All bonus features are presented in 1.33:1 and non-anamorphic format, paired with letterboxed episode and film clips when applicable (though occasional clips are oddly 16x9 enhanced). Unfortunately for the deaf and hearing impaired, no subtitles or Closed Captions are offered during the extras.
Aside from the missing Mythology commentaries (or a few new bonus features to sweeten the pot, of course), Fox has done well in preserving the excellent presentation that made The X-Files such a terrific franchise on DVD. The participants (for audio commentaries and deleted scenes, among other things) are interesting and varied, though slightly larger groups---and more participation from David Duchovny, of course---would've been nice to have. The Ultimate Collection is hardly an upgrade in the extras department, but at least it's a convenient all-in-one package for interested parties. All told, it'll take most viewers the better part of a weekend to dig through every nook and cranny.
Chris Carter's The X-Files was truly landmark television, boasting pitch-perfect performances, amazing atmosphere and compelling cliffhangers. Some fans may argue that the formula started to wear thin after a few seasons---and while a few of the series' lowest valleys can be seen after Season 5, there are still plenty of peaks to keep things interesting. The "changing of the guard" from Season 7 onward almost divides the series in two---and even if you heavily prefer one over the other, both can be effective in their own ways.
Fox's detailed package finally collects the entire series in one handy boxed set, though most fans have undoubtedly shelled out for many of the nine individual volumes by now. The technical presentation remains the same from start to finish---and the same goes for the extras, aside from a few printed goodies tucked inside. Boasting the original bonus discs and relatively compact packaging (quality issues notwithstanding), The Ultimate Collection represents the most logical middle-ground between the Collector's Edition and thinpak sets. Here's the bottom line: if you don't own The X-Files on DVD, this is perhaps the easiest way to get everything in one fell swoop. If you do, however, there's relatively little here that hasn't been available already. Recommended, but only for rabid completists and those who haven't taken the plunge already.
DVD Talk Review Links: Individual X-Files Collections & Related DVDs
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.