The X-Files is a television show which began airing in 1993. The pilot, begins with special agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) being assigned to a project in the Bureau manned by a single agent, Fox Mulder. (David Duchovny) The higher ups in the Bureau wish for the methodical, skeptical Scully to partner up with the "driven" Mulder. Chief Scott Blevins, and the mysterious Cigarette Smoking Man who stands at the back of his office want agent Scully to report on the validity of Mulder's work, and, if possible, to debunk it. During the very first episode, Mulder and Scully encounter alien forces at work in Oregon, as several young people deal with their abductions, and the agents find evidence of a cover up. This first episode, watched by millions, sets the stage for the eight successful seasons this show has produced.

Since then, the show has gone on to touch almost every aspect of the paranormal, from psychic powers, to the undead, ghosts, mutants, werewolves, and even leech men. The show's popularity, however, is the result of several things. The aforementioned obsession with the paranormal hooks most people in, as all of us are still, in some corner of our souls, curious about such things, or frightened by them. What keeps people there are the well written, engaging characters, and the over-riding plot arc of the show, which began all the way back in that very first episode with the appearance of the Cigarette Smoking Man.

The characters of this show, in fact, are so well written that some of the supporting roles have developed followings of their own. Special Agent in Charge Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), the intelligent but empathic man who nominally oversees the agents, has especially has grown a signifigant number of fans online. The Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), though he probably doesn't have a great deal of fans, has developed an entire mythology within the show, to the extent that several episodes have revolved entirely around him. Another group of characters within the show that have had several epiodes focus on them is The Lone Gunman, the wacky bunch of geeks who run a conspiracy oriented newletter. Those characters, Ringo Langly (Dean Haglund), Melvin Frohike (Tom Braidwood), and John Byers (Bruce Harwood) have, in some ways, reflected the kinds of people who follow the show online, as well as being great comic foils. Other notable characters include "ratboy" Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea), Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin), Mr. X (Steven Williams), and The Well-Manicured Man (John Neville).

As far as the plot arc, it centers almost completely around the abduction of Agent Mulder's sister, Samantha (Vanessa Morley). Having witnessed her disappearance in his youth, Samantha's absence in Mulder's life is the driving reason behind his quest, and the rationale behind the extreme measures that Mulder takes throughout the show to learn the Truth behind her vanishing. The arc, as soon as the end of the first season, quickly began to encompass a plot involving persons within the federal government conspiring with an alien race to a dark purpose. I won't discuss the particulars here. The show, created by Chris Carter, has become one of the shows which, literally, defines the American landscape. Along with The Simpsons, Northern Exposure, and similar ground breaking shows, The X-Files have created a smarter, more interesting viewing audience. In 1990 the people at Fox were actually quite dubious about the likelyhood of the show succeeding. The pilot was in fact shown in some veiwing areas as a fictional special on aliens just so that people would watch. Thanks to overwhelming fan support, the show has survived for eight years. While, regrettably, the quality of episodes have declined somewhat in the latter years, this show will undoubtably go down in the annals of television history as one of the single most popular shows of all time.

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