I consider myself a big fan of The X-Files. I watched it from day one to the final episode. In fact, I accidentally locked myself out of my apartment the day the series finale was going to air, so I walked three miles to a friend’s house to catch it. I could list many, many fantastic episodes. It worked as both an anthology type of show with its monster of the week episodes and a serialized story with its mythology episodes. And as convoluted as the mythology became, overall it hangs together fairly well. Especially the first six seasons’ worth. Some of those monster of the week episodes weren’t the strongest, though. Personally, I think it’s because making 20+ hours of TV a year full of stand alone ideas is nearly impossible. That said, in nine seasons, some stand out as epically awful. Here’s the ten to avoid whenever you decide to binge on the show.
Episode 10 of season 8 (a couple years after the show probably should have ended) featured Scully and Dogget (Mulder was gone for almost all of seasons 8 and 9) on an X-File. And it was a pretty tasteless one on several levels. Basically, there’s a legless Indian beggar who kills obnoxious Americans. Does the X in X-Files stand for Xenophobic? So yeah, they’re chasing a little homeless guy who can fool you into thinking he looks like other characters. And the first guy he kills, he seems to literally crawl up the guy’s ass and explode out of his stomach. It’s so stupid.
Seventh episode of season 2. Scully had just been abducted and this was the first episode to feature only Mulder. Instead of exploring what that loss meant, they just had Mulder act uncharacteristically skeptical. When some people are murdered, he thinks it’s a cult but it ends up being vampires. The episode honestly seems to mostly exist so that star David Duchovny could get his then-girlfriend a role where they made out a bunch. Eventually that character kills herself and the vampires. Mulder doesn’t do much other than wander around the proceedings.
8. Agua Mala
How about an episode about evil water? That’s what this one was. Episode 13 from season six. It requires some real legwork to invent a scenario where tainted water is a problem, so Mulder and Scully get trapped with people in a shelter during a hurricane. Ultimately, Mulder and Scully figure out that there is a monster made out of salt water that can look like people. But freshwater kills it. I don’t know how any of that works. Not scary, not funny. Just bland.
Season 9, episode 13. This episode is all about Scully and her partners Doggett and Reyes meeting God. Yup, God. As played by Burt Reynolds. They’re after a plain old serial killer and God talks to the killer and to the agents. God doesn’t do much. Eventually, they find the killer in a parking garage and Doggett shoots him. Then the camera pulls back until we see that the city looks like Burt Reynolds’ face. Ugh.
6. Ghost in the Machine
There were a few rough episodes in season one, but episode 7 dated itself the fastest. It features an evil artificial intelligence killing people in a building. The writers acknowledged that they new very little about computers so they made a lot of stuff up. The end result was basically a ripoff of HAL from 2001. A company decides to shut down the operating system that controls its building to save costs somehow. But the computer can see them talking through security cameras and soon it’s electrocuting people through keycards and dropping elevators and turning on massive wind turbines in the vents. It’s ridiculous.
5. all things
Gillian Anderson is a great actress. She’s not necessarily a great writer. She got to write episode 17 of season 7 and this is what we got. It was originally only 15 pages long without a final act but the producers helped shape it into a full episode. Basically, Scully learns that a professor she had an affair with back in medical school is really sick with some sort of heart condition. Scully decides to investigate alternative medicine and learns some Buddhist techniques that fully heal the guy. Not too scary, is it?
4. Teso Dos Bichos
Season 3’s 18th episode was so bad that director Kim Manners made t-shirts for the crew that said “Teso Dos Bichos Survivor.” An archaeologist takes an artifact from Ecuador, despite the local tribespeople protesting it. A shaman puts a curse on it and when it gets to Boston, a jaguar spirit kills some folks. Mulder and Scully investigate and track a suspect into the sewers. There, they have an epic battle with… feral kitty cats. It’s so lame. The urn gets returned after Mulder and Scully stop the stray cats.
3. Sunshine Days
Writer/director Vince Gilligan created Breaking Bad, which was basically a perfect show. But if you ever wanted to see that he himself is not perfect, subject yourself to Sunshine Days, the 18th episode of season 9 of The X-Files, and the second-to-last episode of its initial run. Where to begin? How about that it’s all about a guy obsessed with The Brady Bunch who uses his psychokinetic powers to make his house look like a perfect recreation of it? Or that it co-stars David Faustino (Bud Bundy from Married with Children). Eventually, the agents are able to stop the guy who lives in the house who has out of control powers by hooking him up with his old doctor. When the guy doesn’t feel lonely, his powers go away.
2. Fight Club
In a nutshell, season 7’s episode 20 features Kathy Griffin in a dual role. Whenever the two women are near each other, things get chaotic – earthquakes, instant fighting, just chaos. When Mulder and Scully investigate, they find out that the women share a father who is mentally insane and in prison. And then the women are in relationships with another pair of dopplegangers. It doesn’t really mean anything but in the end, all the characters including Mulder and Scully are at a baseball stadium and everyone ends up fighting. The episode ends with Mulder and Scully all beaten and bruised and I guess that’s it. Maybe it was supposed to be funny. I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Universally held to be the single worst episode of the show is Space, the ninth episode of season 1. NASA brings in Mulder and Scully because they think they’re dealing with sabotage. And they are. A former astronaut and now mission commander was possessed by, like, a ghost alien I think? It’s based on the mountains on Mars that in real life resemble a face. And the episode has some super dodgy special effects of a face attacking things here and there. Ultimately, the former astronaut jumps out of a window to stop the alien ghost from doing any more sabotage. It’s really hokey. The episode was designed to be a “bottle episode” that took place primarily in one location, the NASA command center, because the show had been going over budget. But then the construction of the set sent them massively over budget. They also accrued massive delays when they filmed at a real life flight operations center and they allowed everyone to play with the flight simulator. Just a bad episode both on screen and behind the scenes.