The conspiracy--and its players--in a nutshell.

If you’ve never watched the series and feel unprepared for the film, relax. Even zealots have a hard time deconstructing the so-called mythology. It’s a tangled web Chris Carter weaves, but the following should get you through the movie.

— AGENTS FOX MULDER AND DANA SCULLY Our indefatigable heroes were the entire staff of the X-Files — a branch of the FBI devoted to unexplained phenomena — until its office suspiciously burned down in the season finale. The movie will find them reassigned to a terrorism detail.

”The Truth Is Out There” is the show’s much-recycled slogan, though ”Suspend Disbelief” might be more apt. To wit, Mulder’s motivation: the abduction, apparently by aliens, of his younger sister, Samantha, when she was 8 — an act he helplessly observed and remains haunted by. (It explains his brooding, conspiracies-are-everywhere paranoia, though not why he’s had sex only once in five seasons.) FBI higher-ups partnered Mulder with forensics-trained Scully, hoping her nearly pathological dedication to proven scientific fact would debunk his work on the paranormal. That certainly backfired: Thanks to a couple of her own close encounters (including abduction), skeptic and believer have forged a passionate bond. Mulder and Scully trust no one but each other — and, occasionally, a motley crew of cybergeeks known as…

— THE LONE GUNMEN In addition to providing comic relief, these publishers of the underground conspiracy newsletter Magic Bullet regularly aid the agents in circumventing FBI channels. The fringe-dwelling trio (longhaired Langly, suited Byers, Scully-lusting Frohike) idolize Mulder because his ”theories are even crazier than ours.” At any rate, FOMAS (Friends of Mulder and Scully) tend to get bumped off; their only other surviving ally is…

— ASSISTANT DIRECTOR SKINNER The duo’s FBI boss (Mitch Pileggi) spends most of his time clenching his teeth in frustration, but he’s saved our agents’ asses enough times to place him squarely in the good-guy camp. Certainly he shares their profound hatred for that ”black-lunged son of a bitch”…

— CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN (A.K.A. CANCER MAN) The greatest X-Files mystery? How two lowly agents have managed to survive as long as they have, given what they’ve seen. That Mulder and Scully live is thanks to the show’s chain-smoking ubercreep, CSM (William B. Davis). His protection — or ”control,” as he calls it — of the agents seems to stem from his relationship with Mulder’s parents: CSM and the late Bill Mulder were military officers recruited into a shadowy intelligence agency back in the ’50s; together they worked on the supersecret project known as Purity Control (see below). CSM was also involved with Mulder’s mother, Teena — possibly romantically. He has implied that he is Samantha’s real father; some (shades of Darth Vader!) postulate he’s Mulder’s as well. Though CSM clearly has his own agenda (which could be altruistic, given Files’ frequent curveballs), he works in some capacity for a covert international organization more powerful than any government. Known simply as The Syndicate, they answer to one…

Episode Recaps

The X-Files
  • TV Show
  • 11
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