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The X-Files Polls Results

A quick thanks to all who voted in our big X-Files poll to wrap up our coverage of the classic era of the show – from The Pilot up through The X-Files: I Want to Believe. I was very pleased with the response the poll got, with over 100 votes cast. (101, in total.) The results are below, but first two quick housekeeping announcements:

a.) we’ll be covering the modern era of the show (the IDW comics and the six episodes) sometime later in the year, probably around the DVD/blu ray release when things in my personal life are less hectic; part of that hecticness is because…

b.) I’ve written an unauthorised and unofficial critical history of The X-Files that is going to print at the end of the month; I’ll publish more details closer to publication, but it’s very much a refinement of everything that’s been put on the blog, with better research, more detail and a clearer narrative throughline; there is one really cool detail: the introduction is very kindly being written by the wonderful Kumail Nanjiani.

Anyway, enough housekeeping. Let’s get to the results!

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As ever, the goal was to take a measure of X-Files fandom at this moment in time, a snapshot of fandom’s tastes at the point where The X-Files returned to the popular consciousness. It is a nice litmus test of where the consensus lies. There were very clear favourites, as the numbers will attest; there are very clearly episodes that everybody likes a little, and also episodes that some love a lot. The top fifteen or so are fairly predictable, but there are some very interesting results outside of that.

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However, before we get to the actual countdown, a pause to acknowledge the episodes that didn’t make the cut, earning votes but not securing enough support to make it into the top hundred. The following episodes got a single vote each. Somebody loves them.

Surekill. Scary Monsters. Conduit. Synchrony. Invocation. The Calusari. Born Again. First Person Shooter. 3. Rush. Nothing Important Happened Today I/Nothing Important Happened Today II. Trust No 1. Avatar. The Jersey Devil. William. Shapes. Hellbound. Sanguinarium.

Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster also got a single vote, but was disqualified per the rules of the poll. One suspects that the episode might do quite well in future polls of X-Files fandom.

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The following episodes got more than one vote each, but failed to breach the top hundred:

Three Words. Roland. Terms of Endearment. Revelations. Lord of the Flies. Kitsunegari. Theef. Vienen. Badlaa. Red Museum. Trevor. Hell Money. Fire. Three of a Kind. All Souls. Fresh Bones. Dæmonicus. 2shy. Kaddish. Gender Bender. Agua Mala. Sleepless. Soft Light. Travelers. Patience. Shadows. The Goldberg Variation. Mind’s Eye. Zero Sum. Audrey Pauley. Blood. Redrum. Hungry. Empedocles.

Redrum was the most popular episode not to show up in the top hundred, with six votes.

And now the countdown commences…

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100.) Firewalker (3 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 49 Points)

97.) Orison (3 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 53 Points)

97.) Sunshine Days (5 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 53 Points)

97.) Our Town (5 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 53 Points)

I was thinking of this old movie that I loved with Spencer Tracy called Bad Day at Black Rock. And I don’t think that anything in the episode remains that overly resembles Bad Day at Black Rock, but you’ll notice that the mental patient in the documentary Mulder and Scully watch, he’s only got one arm. My little tip to Spencer Tracy in having only one arm in that movie.

– Frank Spotnitz

Attitudes in our society toward the small town are marvelously schizophrenic. On the one hand, we extol the virtues of small-town America as a reminder of the persistence of a way of life that we regard as nearly utopian. Even those of us who live by choice in metropolitan areas frequently engage in a sort of psychic flight to the top of Walton’s Mountain, to look down upon a world far more perfect than that in which we have chosen to live — a world without crime or violence, without noise or pollution, without any of the liabilities of living in cities. It is thus not surprising that while a clear majority of Americans live in urban areas, an even larger majority insist that they would prefer to live in open country or in small towns.

We harbour, on the other hand, some strong suspicions about small-town life, and the characterisation of the small town as evil, frightening, clannish, or corrupt is now a fixed stereotype in American mass culture. To a generation reared on a cinema diet of Bad Day at Black Rock, In the Heat of the Night, Deliverance, or Easy Rider, small towns are dangerous, malevolent places; in the 1960’s and 1970’s the small towns of the South, in particular, were regularly libeled by media as the last bastions of reactionism in America, as places where segregation and night riders, superstition and ignorance prevailed.

– Robert E. Tournier, Small Towns at the Crossroads (1983)

95.) The Amazing Maleeni (3 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 56 Points)

I had wanted to do a magic show all by myself, starring Ricky Jay, for years, and this is what I was talking about earlier – I couldn’t possibly do it by myself, and we needed a script. So John, Vince, and I scrambled to develop the story together, and wrote it amazingly fast. We were desperate to get Ricky Jay, and begged him for weeks before he finally agreed. As far as we’re concerned, that’s what made the episode. But we liked it too.

– Frank Spotnitz

95.) Release (4 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 56 Points)

94.) John Doe (6 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 61 Points)

93.) 4-D (7 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 62 Points)

90.) Kill Switch (5 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 69 Points)

Kill Switch was written by William Gibson — a novelist. When you’re writing novels, there’s no budget, you just write and make stuff up, and puts lots of really intricate stuff into scenes. So when the script for Kill Switch came, it was the biggest thing in terms of complexity — not scale but complexity — that I’d ever looked at for X-Files.

– Rob Bowman

90.) Alone (6 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 69 Points)

90.) Per Manum (9 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 69 Points)

89.) Little Green Men (7 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 71 Points)

87.) Chinga (6 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 75 Points)

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87.) Millennium (8 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 75 Points)

We thought after seven years that they deserved that kiss that never happened in the movie. And that the most natural time in the world to do it would be on New Year’s and on New Year’s of the Millennium for that matter. I was very happy with the way it came out. But, it’s still amazing to me that so much importance and anticipation could be locked up in an innocent smooch… when we see or almost see is pretty racy sex on almost every other TV show.

Chris Carter

84.) I Want to Believe (6 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 85 Points)

84.) Talitha Cumi/Herrenvolk (6 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 85 Points)

84.) Fallen Angel (6 Votes, 1 First Place Vote, 85 Points)

83.) Christmas Carol/Emily (9 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 87 Points)

82.) En Ami (6 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 91 Points)

Here we’d done seven years and I still hadn’t done a scene with Gillian. It seemed like an interesting relationship to explore and that’s what prompted the story. The character goes through a certain degree of conversion in that episode. It’s one of those things you never know: was that a good idea or not? It was kind of like once the villain starts to soften inside, have you lost something of the arc of the story? Certainly as an actor and for the development of the character it was interesting to explore how that exposure to Scully actually changed him and how he allowed some humanity to develop.

William B. Davis

81.) Via Negativa (11 Votes, 1 First Place Vote, 93 Points)

Why no! I never thought other than
That God is that great absence
In our lives, the empty silence
Within, the place where we go
Seeking, not in hope to
Arrive or find. He keeps the interstices
In our knowledge, the darkness
Between stars. His are the echoes
We follow, the footprints he has just
Left. We put our hands in
His side hoping to find
It warm. We look at people
And places as though he had looked
At them, too; but miss the reflection.

– R.S. Thomas, Via Negativa (1972)

80.) D.P.O. (8 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 94 Points)

79.) F. Emasculata (6 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 95 Points)

78.) Elegy (10 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 107 Points)

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77.) The Truth (8 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 111 Points)

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75.) Unusual Suspects (10 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 114 Points)

I’ve never really had a hand in writing any mythology episodes, save for Memento Mori, which I guess you could count. But I don’t think I’ve ever actually written for the CSM.

Vince Gilligan

I got the assignment to write it because David and Gillian weren’t going to be available at the fifth season’s beginning. They were still shooting the X Files movie. We had to get production rolling, but we needed an episode without Mulder and Scully. Chris decided our best bet was the Lone Gunmen. He gave the assignment to me. I was flattered, but I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with it. I came up with an entire board, with John’s help, that was a pretty cool story, and we’ll probably use later, but we didn’t use it for Unusual Suspects. It was a contemporary story starring the Lone Gunmen, and it took place in the present, rather than telling how they met each other. I pitched it to Chris, who said, Maybe you ought to go back and try again. A lot of work had gone into it, but he was right, and I knew it even then. We sat there for a few minutes and talked about it, and Chris said, Why don’t you just show us how they met? Go back in time and show us the particulars of their meeting and becoming the Lone Gunmen. That’s when it all clicked. After that, coming up with the particulars with pretty painless.

Vince Gilligan

75.) Improbable (12 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 114 Points)

The idea for this episode, it came out of a kind of big idea that I’d been thinking about since September 11th which had just happened a few months prior, and the idea that all these people died and many of them were believers in God and so were their families, and what that tested; the idea that God interferes in our lives or he listens to us and he acts and pulls the strings. And I think it tested a lot of people’s faith in a very horrible way, that so many people could be so affected, innocent people, by this one act and it made it hard for people to believe that God was someone who was listening to us or helping us.

– Chris Carter

74.) Syzygy (13 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 118 Points)

73.) The End/The Beginning (9 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 119 Points)

72.) Grotesque (10 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 128 Points)

There was a boy my brother’s age. He was 14 or 15. He was a good athlete and a good kid from a solid family. And then one day he was arrested. He had killed an Avon lady. Then they found that he had also killed his girlfriend with an ice pick. I didn’t know how to feel. I think I was wearing one of the kid’s T-shirts the day it happened. It was very unsettling. I would never have suspected he was capable of that. I think that was my first touch with darkness.

Chris Carter

71.) The Pine Bluff Variant (15 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 130 Points)

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70.) Within/Without (11 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 131 Points)

68.) Død Kälm (7 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 136 Points)

68.) The Field Where I Died (9 Votes, 1 First Place Vote, 136 Points)

I had gone through a failed marriage in which I had really believed. I had always wanted to believe there is somebody out there for you, and I had been in a situation where that didn’t come true. And I thought, ‘It’s a lie. That person you think is out there for you is a lie.’ But then I met Kristen and I was rejuvenated by that. I really thought that you can be reborn in this life, not just life after death. I regained faith that there is one person for you, one person who, by being in your life, can motivate you to change the crappy things you were doing before. In this case, it was Kristen

Glen Morgan

67.) Oubliette (12 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 143 Points)

66.) Demons (12 Votes, 1 First Place Vote, 152 Points)

65.) Essence/Existence (16 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 169 Points)

I wanted to be satisfied that this could function as either a series or season finale, and that either way it would continue to preserve the possibility of The X-Files movies.

Chris Carter

64.) Deep Throat (13 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 181 Points)

62.) E.B.E. (12 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 184 Points)

62.) Roadrunners (18 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 184 Points)

Actually, Roadrunners is a bit of an homage to the Spencer Tracy movie Bad Day at Black Rock. It’s a wonderful movie in which Spencer Tracy visits a small town in the desert, and quickly realizes nobody wants him there. He winds up uncovering its dark secret, although that secret has nothing to do with Giant Messianic banana slugs. If you’re not familiar with this movie, by all means go out and rent it. I won’t ruin the ending for you.

Vince Gilligan

60.) Sein und Zeit/Closure (11 Votes, 1 First Place Vote, 197 Points)

60.) Biogenesis/The Sixth Extinction/The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati (14 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 197 Points)

I’ve always thought the series was a search for God.

Chris Carter

59.) The Rain King (14 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 200 Points)

Because of the near kiss in the movie-which to me was significant because clearly there was intent and desire to kiss in that moment-we thought we’d play with the moment, with the attraction. Which we did a number of times, I thought: Mulder and Scully’s farewell in Dreamland II, certainly the kiss and [Mulder’s] ‘I love you’ in Triangle, the winks that there’s an attraction for each other in Rain King. But I don’t think any of us wants to get rid of the tension that keeps the relationship interesting…or ruin that relationship. So it’s an evolution. Theirs is very much an organic, continuing relationship.

Frank Spotnitz

They’re swaying to the music exactly the same way as the dancers. In a way they’re dancing without knowing that they are, or without admitting it.

Kumail Nanjiani

58.) Tempus Fugit/Max (14 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 208 Points)

57.) Patient X/The Red and the Black (16 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 214 Points)

56.) Two Fathers/One Son (12 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 225 Points)

55.) This is Not Happening/DeadAlive (15 Votes, 1 First Place Vote, 226 Points)

54.) Unruhe (18 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 248 Points)

53.) Wetwired (20 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 250 Points)

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52.) Tunguska/Terma (17 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 256 Points)

51.) Die Hand Die Verletzt (19 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 267 Points)

50.) Eve (18 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 276 Points)

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49.) Tithonus (19 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 279 Points)

Alas! for this gray shadow, once a man—
So glorious in his beauty and thy choice,
Who madest him thy chosen, that he seem’d
To his great heart none other than a God!
I ask’d thee, ‘Give me immortality.’
Then didst thou grant mine asking with a smile,
Like wealthy men, who care not how they give.

– Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Tithonus (1859)

48.) Piper Maru/Apocrypha (20 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 282 Points)

47.) all things (24 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 301 Points)

I felt akin to all things. It certainly wasn’t one of my favorite episodes, but the process of it was exhilarating and rewarding.

Gillian Anderson

46.) Tooms (21 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 313 Points)

45.) Arcadia (26 Votes, 1 First Place Vote, 331 Points)

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44.) Hollywood A.D. (24 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 336 Points)

There’s a lot of love for the show in it. I came to think of it as my way of saying goodbye. I wanted it to be a cynical, ironic piece that ends up on a schmaltzy note. When I write for The X-Files, my hatred and love for it show at the same time.

– David Duchovny

43.) Darkness Falls (25 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 349 Points)

42.) Leonard Betts (24 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 361 Points)

Actually the most fun writing I think was probably Leonard Betts. We, the three of us, basically hooked up a computer to a separate monitor, a laptop to monitor, and sat in a room together. Which is how we have been working since then but that was the first one that we did that on. It was fun to write because it was a fun story for one, and number two, we were all very excited so it was a great moment to be in. We enjoyed that very much.

John Shiban

41.) The Erlenmeyer Flask (30 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 364 Points)

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40.) Colony/End Game (24 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 372 Points)

That was my first episode. And I almost got fired. That was not a popular thing, that submarine tower. It was like, ‘You people are crazy. We don’t do this in television.’

Frank Spotnitz

This is where a certain amount of inexperience actually comes in handy. I’d say that we didn’t know what we couldn’t do. We tried to do everything. In trying to do everything, we pushed back on boundaries and limitations that were just people trying to be prudent.

Chris Carter

39.) Drive (30 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 406 Points)

Crump “runs out of west” in his own life, but his fate seems to have a larger symbolic resonance. America’s problem is that it is running out of west and one might generalise even further and suggest that the episode is showing that the whole West is running out of west. In American terms, ‘to run out of west’ is ‘to run out of Indians’, which is to say ‘to run out of enemies’ against which a civilisation can define itself. In the American imagination, the western frontier was the point at which civilisation supposedly intersected with barbarism – where the American nation met the Indian tribes, where a modern western culture confronted a people it viewed as tradition-bound savages. Americans thought that they could fulfill their national destiny, prove their heroism, and establish the superiority of their way of life by conquering and displacing the native inhabitants of the West. America thus made its history in the West. For America to run out of west is thus an ominous development: to be faced with running out of history.

– Paul A. Cantor, Gilligan Unbound (2001)

“There was concern originally: ‘This is the father from Malcolm in the Middle, which is night and day from Breaking Bad. Why do you think this is the guy?’ ” A longtime X-Files producer and writer, Gilligan had cast Cranston as a menacing racist in a 1998 X-Files episode. “We needed a guy who could be scary and kind of loathsome but at the same time had a deep, resounding humanity. When Malcolm went on the air, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t realize he could be so funny!’ ” To convince AMC, Gilligan distributed copies of Cranston’s X-Files appearance: “That was all it took.”

New York Magazine (2009)

37.) Field Trip (30 Votes, 1 First Place Votes, 424 Points)

Oh my God, that was so sick. I remember being covered in yellow goop and then being pulled through the earth, and then being covered in a layer of dirt on top of that. It was kind of fun and kind of just completely disgusting at the same time.

– Gillian Anderson

37.) Detour (35 Votes, 1 First Place Votes, 445 Points)

In The X-Files globalisation creates clashes between people representing principles that are fundamentally opposed, for example, the principle of scientific rationality and the principle of religious faith – fence principles that cannot easily be reconciled and that often do lead to a fight to the death. To the extent that The X-Files is tragic, it deals with tragedies of nonassimilation, of people (or creatures) who feel that they would have to sacrifice their identities, especially their cultural identities, in order to fit into a community at heart alien to them. Like tragic heroes, they would in fact rather die than abandon and betray the ways in which they differ from the ordinary people around them. Time and again in The X-Files, the monstrous alien must be destroyed, and in particular be prevented from reproducing, or it might penetrate and overwhelm the mainstream community. The show tends to portray the community as fundamentally exclusive, unwilling to assimilate the alien into its ranks.

– Paul A. Cantor, Gilligan Unbound (2001)

36.) The Host (29 Votes, 1 First Place Votes, 446 Points)

I remember when I got the script, thinking, “Okay. how does a half-man half-flukeworm move?” I wanted to come up with come creepy movement, like the creature from the Black Lagoon. It has a very particular way of swimming. The moment you see it, you go, “Oh my god, it’s the Creature from the Black Lagoon! We’re all dead!” Once I got into the suit, I realised that was irrelevant because my mobility was limited. That was the most I could move. The thing was incredibly heavy. You couldn’t breath. You couldn’t talk. There was no hole for me to urinate through. Sex was completely out of the question.

– Darin Morgan

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35.) Dreamland I/Dreamland II (29 Votes, 1 First Place Votes, 466 Points)

I’d become an X-Files fan when I was doing Saturday Night Live because the show was on Friday nights to begin with, which is when the last-ditch rehearsals for SNL take place. What that means is that you get there at, I don’t know, probably 6:30 p.m., and they just work you until they decide to let you go home, which usually isn’t until about 3 a.m. And if they don’t get to your stuff right away, too bad, you have to be there. So I was there in my dressing room, and, you know, if other people weren’t doing anything, we’d hang out. I liked everybody on the show, but sometimes it was just me, sitting on my ass in my dressing room, watching The X-Files.

I think The X-Files was a very important moment in TV history. Shows like thirtysomething had already proven that you could make a really good-looking show every week, but they were shot in health clubs and parking lots and in homes. The X-Files was the first time when they said, “We can make a really big-budget, good-looking show where the special effects are %$#!ing amazing and draw you in like it’s that kind of movie every week.” That’s what they really did. They kicked it all up, and from then on you couldn’t have special effects like you had in the original Star Trek or… Logan’s Run. I mean, look at Logan’s Run now, and you’re like, “Uh, okay, whatever.” But they really kicked it upstairs with The X-Files. And the scripts were really interesting, and the casting was so great, so off-brand. It was just a wonderful show. So when they called… actually, I think I had to say “no” the first time, but I’m glad I did, because it meant that I said “yes” when Morris Fletcher came along.

Michael McKean

34.) Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man (29 Votes, 1 First Place Vote, 470 Points)

They can’t accept that someone as inconsequential as Oswald could have killed someone as consequential as Kennedy. To believe that only Oswald killed Kennedy — that there wasn’t some larger plot — shows people how random the world is, how uncertain. And I think it pains them; they don’t want to accept that fact.

Robert Dallek

No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men.

– Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1841)

33.) Je Souhaite (34 Votes, 1 First Place Votes, 475 Points)

I always wanted to make movies, and in my mind, I wanted to do everything – I wanted to write and direct them, I wanted to do the special effects and make the costumes, and all these years later, I’ve been very lucky to have seen that dream fulfilled. Writing is a wonderful career, and I feel very blessed to get to do it, but I wanted to try directing as well. The first time I directed (on Je Souhaite), my plate was already full, and I was really nervous. In the back of my head, I thought, ‘Maybe I should call this off, what if I screw this up terribly and waste 20th Century Fox’s money? What if everyone just thinks I’m a fool and completely screw me up?’ But something kept me going, and I guess it was the self knowledge that if I didn’t take this golden opportunity when I had it, I would forever be looking back and kicking myself in the butt for not having at least tried and failed.

Vince Gilligan

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31.) Milagro (28 Votes, 1 First Place Votes, 493 Points)

I’ve always been keen to do a Western. Or just a good human interest story. I’d have cut my arm off to be able to direct The Green Mile. Did you see that movie? Truly amazing. And American Beauty. I would have loved to have done that. Simple stories — those human interest pieces really appeal to me. That’s why I enjoyed doing Milagro, because Milagro was a character study.

Kim Manners

Milagro is, to my mind, an underappreciated episode. That’s why it’s there. It’s also, for us, somewhat autobiographical. By season six of the show, we had spent so many hours thinking about Mulder and Scully and fascinated by them and every aspect of who they were, that we could identify with the writer character, Milagro. And it’s really about the power of writing, and the power of fiction. In this episode a fictitious character actually becomes real and is capable of operating in the world. It’s about how what you write reflects who you are. It’s so personal, in fact, that the cards that are on the writer’s wall are the same format that we wrote The X-Files in. We would use those same cards when figuring out stories for the series. And those cards are in my handwriting because the prop guy couldn’t do it as well as we could because that’s really the way we did it. It’s a very emotional love story and it’s really about our love for these characters as writers.

Frank Spotnitz

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31.) X-Cops (36 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 493 Points)

I had been a fan of Cops even longer than I had been a fan of The X-Files, by virtue of the fact that it has been on the air longer. I couldn’t tell you how many episodes I’ve seen over the years. But the big thing I did in preparation for writing that episode was to spend an 8 PM to 3 AM shift with the LA County Sheriff’s Department. I rode along with a deputy who kept apologizing for how slow the “action” was that night. Nonetheless, he wound up pulling his gun on no fewer than five occasions! It was very exciting — better than Disneyland! I even got to wear a bulletproof vest.

Vince Gilligan

X-Cops was a really inventive, I think, episode. FOX loved it because it cost them a million dollars less than every other episode that we did.

Chris Carter

30.) Quagmire (37 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 501 Points)

I was involved in that [decision to kill the dog off], a little bit. I went along with that because I was younger, and we were all younger. There were practical reasons we killed off the dog. Nowadays, I wouldn’t have allowed even a fictional dog to be killed like that. I think Chris is of the same [page of] thinking. It’s just a thing you do when you’re young and you’re not concerned about the feelings [people will have when they see it]. Now I’m older, I don’t want to see a dog get killed, even a fictional one. We probably wouldn’t have done that nowadays.

Darin Morgan

29.) Requiem (34 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 509 Points)

We didn’t know if David Duchovny would come back for Season 8 or would be leaving the show. We didn’t know if The X-Files would come back, for that matter. The episode needed to be satisfying in any event and also set up a movie. I believe that it worked in almost every way and for any eventuality, but here we are!

Chris Carter

28.) How the Ghosts Stole Christmas (33 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 511 Points)

It’s a messed-up, super dark thing and I really like that, because you think it’s going to be this sweet Christmas story.

Kumail Nanjiani

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26.) Nisei/731 (34 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 533 Points)

I wanted to do a train show very badly. I wrote that as a single, stand-alone episode, but that was unable to produce it because it was simply too difficult and expensive. So in a very short period of time, we reconfigured the story to be a two-parter and it ended up being better than it ever could have been as a stand-alone. I was pleased with those shows.

Frank Spotnitz

 

26.) Monday (38 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 533 Points)

The funny thing about Monday is… people say ‘we really like it a lot’, but people always smile and say, ‘well, you’re ripping off Groundhog Day, aren’t you? With this day that keeps repeating over and over again?’ And I say, ‘We’re not ripping off Groundhog Day. We’re ripping off The Twilight Zone!’

– Vince Gilligan

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25.) Folie à Deux (37 Votes, 1 First Place Votes, 564 Points)

Unfortunately, I don’t really have a single favorite. For what it’s worth though, I can mention one that I was very proud of… that other people don’t usually consider one of my best and that was Folie à Deux. I had a lot of fun writing that one.

Vince Gilligan

 

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24.) Fight the Future (30 Votes, 3 First Place Votes, 574 Points)

Like Mission: Impossible, this is a movie that depends on surface, on mystery, on atmosphere, on vague hints and murky warnings. Since the underlying plot is completely goofy, it’s probably just as well it’s not spelled out. If it were, this would play more like a seminar on the works of Whitley Strieber. Instead, producer-writer Chris Carter, who conceived the TV series, reassembles his basic elements in a glossy extravaganza that ends, apparently, with humankind facing precisely the same danger it did at the beginning.

Roger Ebert

23.) Never Again (35 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 577 Points)

It’s a really weird thing to write a scene and then go through it yourself. Ed signs the papers and then four or five months later I was in court, going, ‘Oh my gosh!’ I suspected that Gillian, who was going through a separation at the time, would understand that. I didn’t want to be specific with her life, because a lot of fans are familiar with it. And nobody at the time knew my problems.

Glen Morgan

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22.) The Unnatural (43 Votes, 2 First Place Votes, 665 Points)

David wrote one episode last year called The Unnatural. That was his first directing assignment. I thought he did a lovely job. For David to write on the show is a chance for him to reinvest his creative juices. Both Chris and David have great shorthand with the show. I can’t think of two people who are more easily acclimated at writing what goes on here. It’s fun when he’s on the set and participating, because he’s there all the time. He takes it seriously — not that he doesn’t take everything seriously, because he is a wonderful actor. But when your words are being performed, you take them even more to heart. Having him there made the dialogue of directing all the more interesting and detailed.

Michael Watkins

21.) War of the Coprophages (43 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 707 Points)

When I saw Kim Manners talking to a bucket of cockroaches, that was a highlight for me.

– John Bartley

20.) Irresistible (48 Votes, 2 First Place Votes, 785 Points)

The original idea for the story and the original script Chris wrote was that he was a necrophiliac. The network had huge problems with that. I don’t know why? In fact, we get Standards and Practices notes for every script and its somebody’s job to read it and say “no, no. You can’t say this word” or “no, don’t make this too violent. etc. That was the shortest Standards and Practices notes that we have ever seen which was basically one sentence: “this episode is unacceptable”. So Chris went back and rewrote it and made him a fetishist so he was instead of romancing dead bodies, he was taking parts of their hair and their finger nails and stuff like that. The irony is… that’s how we shot it, it was a great episode. When TV Guide came out that week, the log line was “Mulder and Scully investigate a necrophiliac.”

John Shiban

19.) Gethsemane/Redux I/Redux II (43 Votes, 7 First Place Votes, 808 Points)

I believe that we have made some very good and lucky choices. This occurred to me during the episodes Redux and Redux II, when the mythology storylines almost created themselves.

Chris Carter

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18.) The Pilot (46 Votes, 4 First Place Votes, 842 Points)

Carter’s dialogue is fresh without being self-conscious, and the characters are involving. Series kicks off with drive and imagination, both innovative in recent TV.

– Tony Scott, Variety (1993)

17.) Squeeze (51 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 900 Points)

You must put the camera in certain places to scare people, and you must not put the camera in other places, because you will not scare them. There were many re-shoots. There was a lot of editorial wizardry by Heather McDougall. And there was Jim and Glen, who worked on it tirelessly to make it right.

– Chris Carter

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16.) Humbug (56 Votes, 0 First Place Votes, 930 Points)

I don’t know if you guys saw the Humbug episode, the freaks episode last year. That’s just an ep that I never imagined. To tell you the truth, when it came in, I thought it was a pretty big departure from what we had done before, but I thought at that time, the 45th episode, that we had earned the right to stretch a little. If I can make a baseball analogy, we had been throwing fast balls and curve balls and this was a knuckleball, something new to our repertoire.

Chris Carter

Everyone thought it was going to be a disaster up until the time we aired it.

Darin Morgan

15.) Memento Mori (48 Votes, 3 First Place Votes, 953 Points)

Memento Mori was challenging for a number of reasons. Most people don’t know that Memento Mori almost didn’t happen. John, Vince and I were still writing Leonard Betts and Darin Morgan was supposed to do the next episode. But he dropped out and we had no script. So there were literally only a few days in which to come up with a story and write a script. We had talked about the Scully cancer story for six months and very quickly decided that this would be the time to do it. So we wrote the story in a mad rush. The crew in Vancouver began prepping the episode right before the Christmas vacation. Over Christmas break, Chris Carter took it with him to Hawaii and did a rewrite of it which really made it into the script it was.

Frank Spotnitz

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14.) Small Potatoes (59 Votes, 2 First Place Votes, 1021 Points)

I did watch a couple, but just the ones that I have on my iPad. There’s three on my iPad for some reason, I don’t know why. I can’t remember what they are. I think one is your favorite.

Bad Blood?

I think Small Potatoes. I don’t know.

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson

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13.) Paper Hearts (55 Votes, 4 First Place Votes, 1061 Points)

In his dreams, Mulder, who worked the case before catching the killer, has a vision that leads him to the body of one previously unfound child. He begins to think that perhaps the criminal was also responsible for the abduction of his sister, Samantha, the event that set him on his alien-foiling quest. The episode proves inconclusive on that point, but it’s haunting anyway. Mulder’s dreams, as scripted by a young Vince Gilligan, suggest how this methodical man might puzzle over cold cases in his subconscious: laser pointers dancing along walls, pointing out bits of evidence his conscious brain missed all those many years ago.

The A.V. Club

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12.) One Breath (51 Votes, 2 First Place Votes, 1074 Points)

Duchovny challenged us to do a Beyond the Sea for him. The show had been so dark and bleak, and Jim and I feel that there is a side to the paranormal that’s very hopeful. We wanted to do that side of it. I thought it would be a great opportunity for Duchovny, but then the situation came up with Gillian’s pregnancy. We needed to get her off her feet anyway. There’s a line in there where Scully’s sister says ‘Just because the belief is positive and good doesn’t make it silly or trite’. It was the whole theme of the show.

– Glen Morgan

 

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11.) Duane Barry/Ascension (58 Votes, 1 First Place Votes, 1100 Points)

It was actually a good test of my skills. I kept communicating with directors for 30 episodes, telling them what I wanted. Now it was really a chance to show them what I wanted.

– Chris Carter

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10.) Ice (61 Votes, 3 First Place Votes, 1109 Points)

I really think that, like on The X-Files, maybe even Ice or something sooner than that, about the forth of fifth episodes, there'[re] good things in the first few, and then everybody figures it out, or they don’t.

Glen Morgan

 

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9.) Anasazi/The Blessing Way/Paper Clip (59 Votes, 4 First Place Votes, 1214 Points)

There was a story that I read in the New Republic, during the beginning of the show, over the course of the first few years of the show. It was right around the time that Schindler’s List came out. It was an article on memory and how important memory is to action – and not just to history, but to the future. I think that idea played through the course of The X-Files, the idea that you cannot bury the truth. You don’t bury someone… you’d bury the dead alive, is how we put it. That’s really how memory played into the story that was really the throughline for The X-Files.

– Chris Carter

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8.) The Post-Modern Prometheus (66 Votes, 7 First Place Votes, 1220 Points)

The Post-Modern Prometheus is probably Chris’ all-time favorite episode.

Frank Spotnitz

I have too many that I am proud of. But I have favorites from each season. The one that was the most personal one to me was the black and white one called Post Modern Prometheus.

Chris Carter

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7.) Home (65 Votes, 5 First Place Votes, 1285 Points)

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning play Buried Child, actor and playwright Sam Shepard uses the image of a child’s corpse unearthed in a family’s backyard to speak to us of buried hopes and fears, and the dark secrets that can hold a family together. Just as silence can bind family members in a net of conspiracy and oppression, so are the inarticulate and grotesque Peacock brothers of Home entangled in a hopeless web of silence, ignorance, and depravity.

Sarah Stegall

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6.) Triangle (67 Votes, 2 First Place Votes, 1303 Points)

One of the episodes I’m most proud of in terms of taking a risk would be the episode called Triangle, which took place on the Queen Mary. 24 edits in the hour of television, so big, long takes. We would do one take before lunch. You just don’t do that in television production.

Chris Carter

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5.) Pusher (70 Votes, 3 First Place Votes, 1304 Points)

I remember turning in the draft and I was very proud of it. And I remember saying to Chris, ‘This is the best work I’m ever gonna do for you.’ And he was annoyed when he heard it. He said, ‘Don’t say that. Don’t think that way. You’ve always got to better yourself.’

– Vince Gilligan

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4.) Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space” (66 Votes, 13 First Place Votes, 1439 Points)

Then there are those who care not about extraterrestrials, searching for meaning in other human beings. Rare or lucky are those who find it. For although we may not be alone in the universe, in our own separate ways on this planet, we are all alone.

– Jose Chung, From Outer Space (1996)

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3.) Beyond the Sea (70 Votes, 1 First Place Votes, 1474 Points)

We thought Gillian Anderson needed to show off her talents more. And this was a perfect opportunity to dispel those notions that Scully will never believe. It was time for the character to grow, because she was just doing the same kind of thing too often.

– James Wong

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2.) Bad Blood (82 Votes, 5 First Place Votes, 1748 Points)

A lot of Bad Blood sprung out of my love for the characters of Mulder and Scully. I started off as a fan of The X-Files before I had anything to do with the show as a writer. And the most enjoyment I ever got out of writing the show was coming up with more illumination about Mulder and Scully and what their relationship is to one another. That stuff always interested me more than the monster of the week, although I enjoyed coming up with those as well.

Vince Gilligan

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1.) Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (83 Votes, 16 First Place Votes, 2057 Points)

I guess the only thing — and this isn’t so much a misinterpretation — but people really struggle with trying to explain to themselves why the character kills himself in the end. To me, it was kind of self-explanatory, but then I realized some people needed to come up with more of an uplifting take. For whatever reason, I’ve come across many people’s interpretations of why the character kills himself at the end.

It’s not so much the interpretations are wrong. It’s more that I find them interesting. As opposed to the immortal line, which I just think is silly. Other people’s interpretations on why he killed himself I find more interesting, because when someone kills themselves, there’s no clear-cut answer.

Darin Morgan

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12 Responses

  1. Thanks very much for doing this Darren and for all your work covering The X-Files. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the recent miniseries and comics. Congratulations on the book I’ll definitely buy a couple of copies when that becomes available.

  2. Many thanks for organising the poll. Made for fascinating reading and was certainly surprised at some of the episodes which got votes. I guess (almost all) episodes have their fans!

  3. Wow, interesting results; I placed Clyde Bruckman’s in the number 1 of my list but wasn’t that sure it would be the favorite of the poll. Also the best placed mythology heavy episodes are Anazasi and the other two parts in 9th, this could lead to many interpretations, perhaps the “monster of the week” chapters had stood better the test of time to this point than the mythology centric ones. Thanks Darren!

    • To be fair, there are quite a lot of highly-placed mytharc ones. Anasazi, Duane Barry, One Breath, Fight the Future. But I think history has been kinder to the monster of the week ones.

  4. I am actually a little surprised the mythology did as well as it did since each grouping tends to have a weak link, which I expected to weigh it down.
    Something interesting has occurred during the revival and that is I’ve noticed that younger viewers seemed to like the mythology episodes more (there also seems to be a clear demarcation in viewers who would classify Founders Mutation as a myth or MOTW). I think that’s a product of more shows being serialized, binge-watching trends, etc. But it made me realize that it isn’t just the x-files mythology that doesn’t hold up. For example, I would be hard pressed to go back and choose a single episode of Breaking Bad to rewatch. Later seasons of Lost would be the same. This is just the decline in episodic television. Breaking Bad was a great show but it can’t offer anything close to Clyde Bruckman.
    Conversely, Anasazi was a great episode but it’s hard to judge it outside the context of Blessing Way and Paper Clip, or the rest of the mythology for that matter.

    • I think all of that’s fair.

      I’m surprised at the way the mythology seems to have bounced back into popular consciousness, to the point that there seemed to be people expecting six straight mythology episodes. (Or five mythology episodes punctuated by a Darin Morgan episode.) The revival had its issues, but I don’t think “not being a six-part miniseries” was one of them. And I think you’re right about the divide over Founder’s Mutation. I’d consider it a conscious hybrid, but it’s functionally a MOTW and thematically a mytharc episode. But there are those who contend it is explicitly and heavily a mytharc episode.

      (Although I would say that Breaking Bad was capable of a handful of distinctive standout episodes of television; Fly is probably the best example, but I’d consider Crawl Space as another. But you’re right it’s hard to pick individual episodes across the seventy-episode run. Still, I remember being impressed by the episodic structure while watching it; certainly more than contemporaneous prestige drama like Boardwalk Empire or True Detective or Game of Thrones. I suspect Gilligan’s experience with The X-Files did give him a better appreciation of crafting an individual episode.)

  5. I Know I’m late to this but excellent poll. Some surprising results as well. A couple of my favourites made the top ten though so I’m happy.

    • I thought the top ten was fairly predictable. But the interesting stuff was very much in the ten-thirty slots.

      • There were some random episodes I would have pegged for further down the list. I Want to Believe was higher than I expected generally.

      • And The Truth surprised me as well.

        But I don’t want to be seen to cast judgment on the votes. It was a fun project, though.

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