Written by: Chris Carter
Directed by: Robert Mandel
Original Broadcast: September 10th 1993
Australian Broadcast: February 10th 1994
Special Agent Dana Scully is partnered with Special Agent Fox Mulder to validate his work on a special project called The X-Files. While he is a believer in the paranormal, fuelled by a lost memory where his sister was abducted by aliens; she is a scientist and prefers to look for rational, logical explanations. Their first case takes them to Oregon, to investigate the unsolved deaths of several high school classmates, which Mulder believes are linked to an alien abduction
There is a certain joy to watching the Pilot as someone who has seen the X-Files before. The episode gives us the very first taste of those things we know and love from series and its a sweet reminder this is where it all started. Tropes like Scully always missing all the action. On the flip side, Mulder seeing it all, but gathers no tangible evidence. And of course, those late night phone calls we’d be so lost without. We’re introduced to the alien mythology and the shadowy figure of the CSM who says nothing during the episode but we know by his hovering, he’s important.
For a show that premiered in 1993, the Pilot actually stands the test of time really well. While the fashion and technology may be well out of date, there is no doubt the storytelling is as good, if not better than what we see on TV today. The atmosphere and tone are set up perfectly for the show and Mulder and Scully are so well crafted and they work so well off of each other that its not hard to see, even in these early days, why their relationship is still one of the best TV has offered.
BLEVINS: The reason you’re here, Agent Scully, is we want you to assist Mulder on these X-Files. You will write field reports on your activities, along with your observations on the validity of the work.
SCULLY: Am I to understand that you want me to debunk the X-Files project, sir?
After the teaser opening, we meet Special Agent Dana Scully (whose credentials are widely speculated on by the fandom). She’s a fresh-faced, enthusiastic medical doctor with two years experience in the bureau. And she’s about to have all that enthusiasm snatched away from her. In a scene reminiscent of ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Scully sits in front of section chief Blevins (and two other questionable dudes – one we later learn is the CSM) and is told that she’s been reassigned to The X-Files. She’s to report on the scientific validity of Agent ‘Spooky’ Mulder’s work. At this point, you just want to reach into the TV and tell her to get out while she still can.
MULDER: Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI’s most unwanted.
The first meeting of our two favourite agents easily makes any top ten list of moments from the show. Its hard to remember here, but Scully is essentially the enemy and Mulder is going to take some time to open up to her.
MULDER: I was under the impression that you were sent to spy on me.
While Scully knows a lot about Mulder from his reputation, it seems that Mulder has done his research on his new partner too, he’s even read her senior thesis, which apparently he liked.
The scene that follows is one that becomes so familiar over the next nine years of the show. Mulder shows Scully the case on his slide projector, she questions him at every opportunity. In this first episode this scene is important because we learn that she is more than just a pretty face. Dana Scully is not there as the token eye-candy in this show. She is Mulder’s equal.
SCULLY: What I find fantastic is any notion that there are answers beyond the realm of science. The answers are there. You just have to know where to look.
Its also important to note that this is the very moment where Scully loses her first name. She shall forever be addressed by her partner as “Scully” and we as viewers know something is up when he calls her “Dana” – it just sounds weird on the ears, doesn’t it?
MULDER: This is amazing, Scully. You know what this could mean? It’s almost too big to even comprehend.
The very first autopsy Scully performs on the show is also memorable because its a sign of things to come. A pattern she and Mulder will slip into. But for me, I love Mulder’s wide-eyed enthusiasm and eagerness in this scene. His belief that they’ve found an alien life form buried in the grave pretty much takes over any rational thinking and he tells Scully to get every test in the book. What ever they can’t get they’ll order to go. Scully gets her first real taste of single minded Mulder, who can’t see anything beyond his discovery. Its a classic.
SCULLY: You’re saying that time disappeared. Time can’t just disappear, it’s a universal invariant!
MULDER: Not in this zipcode.
As they return from investigating the scene where Karen Swenson found, Mulder notices his compass on the fritz. Suddenly their car is engulfed in a blinding light and comes to a complete stop. Not only has their car lost power, but Mulder says they’ve lost nine minutes. He gets out of the car and finds the red X he drew on the road when they first arrived. He’s pretty happy about this, Scully is doubtful. I love this scene because so much of it is quintessentially X-Files. The rain, Mulder and his theories, the rain.
MULDER: I was twelve when it happened. My sister was eight. She just disappeared out of her bed one night. Just gone, vanished. No note, no phone calls, no evidence of anything.
The hotel scene, perhaps one of the most famous and favourites among X-Philes, is an important one. Mulder opens up to Scully about how his sister was abducted and his discovery of the X-Files. Its a great and heartfelt moment. We learn this is Mulder’s driving force, his reason for pushing so hard on the X-Files and becoming an outcast at the FBI. Scully listens to him, considering his position judgement free.
MULDER: I think I know who did it. I think I know who killed Karen Swenson.
SCULLY: Who? The detective?
MULDER: The detective’s son. Billy Miles.
SCULLY: The boy in the hospital? The vegetable?! BillyMiles, a boy who’s been in a coma for the last four years, got out here and dug up these graves?
I love the graveyard scene mostly just for Scully’s laugh and the stories the actors tell about it. Much like the scene outside the car there is just so much rain. Its a great moment all round.
BLEVINS: What we’ve just witnessed, what we’ve read in your field reports… the scientific basis and credibility just seem wholly unsupportable, you’re aware of that?
In the end, Scully faces her superiors with no real evidence of what happened in Oregon and they question the legitimacy of the investigation. She does however, produce the implant found in one of the bodies she examined. In the final scene we get a glimpse at the future conspiracy mythology of the show, as we see the menacing (and still unknown/unnamed) CSM walking down a long hallway that looks like some kind of storage facility. He has the implant Scully gave as evidence and he places it in a container on one of the shelves. When he leaves the building, we see that its actually at The Pentagon. Cue mysterious gasps of wonder.
Autopsy count: 1
May or may not have been aliens/bigfoot sightings: Mulder: 1 | Scully: 0