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Recap / The X-Files S01 E01

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Season 1, Episode 01:

The namers of two of the most polarising tropes on this website.
Written by Chris Carter
Directed by Robert Mandel

Scully: I'm here to solve this case, Mulder, I want the truth.
Mulder: The truth? I think those kids have been abducted.
Scully: By who?
Mulder: By what.

FBI Academy instructor Special Agent Dana Scully is re-assigned to work with (and debunk the work of) Fox "Spooky" Mulder, who focuses on the "X Files", FBI cases dealing with unexplained phenomena. Their first case together sends them to Bellevue, Oregon, where members of the local high school's Class of '89 have been dying young under suspicious circumstances, and the local authorities appear to be involved in a cover-up.


  • Alien Autopsy: Scully is going to perform an autopsy on what looks like an alien corpse, but it's taken by the government before she can discover what exactly it is.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Mulder is established as being a very competent detective, although one deeply obsessed with the paranormal and conspiracy theories.
    Scully: [reporting what she has heard about Mulder] Generally thought of as the best analyst in the violent crimes section. He had a nickname at the academy... "Spooky Mulder".
  • Candlelit Bath: Scully gets ready for one when the power goes out.
  • Deadly Bath: Subverted. Scully draws one when the power goes out, but notices some unsettling marks on her back before she actually gets in it.
  • Decomposite Character: The early drafts of the script had a character named Lake Drazen serving as the primary catspaw for The Conspiracy. The character was eventually split into the Third Man and the Cigarette-Smoking Man (a consolation role for the "runner-up" of the Drazen auditions).
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Scully finds marks on her back similar to ones found on the victims in the case. In a very un-Scully like manner, she runs to Mulder's room, drops her robe, demands to know what they are, and then throws herself into his arms in relief when he says they're just bug bites. Even later in season one, Scully becomes infamous for her rigid control on her emotions, her staunch independence, and her unfailing logic. By season 2's "Irresistible", Mulder is trying to convince her that she doesn't have to be strong all the time and that it's okay to show weakness in front of him.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Mulder's first line of offscreen dialogue: "Sorry, nobody here but FBI's most unwanted". Then the first shot of him, sitting alone at his desk in his basement office, obsessing over photographs of UFOs.
    • Though not Scully's first scene, her scene with Mulder right after the above ECM firmly establishes her character as a skeptic and the dynamic that would follow Mulder and Scully for the run of the series.
    • He wasn't intended to be anything more than a background extra and doesn't say a word, but the Cigarette Smoking Man's scenes also pretty much tell you everything you need to know about him — his stance and dress during Scully's interview with her FBI superiors clearly signpost him as an ageing-but-powerful shadowy government type with a lot of connections, and the final scene where he deposits the alien implant in a secret government archive directly establishes his link to government and alien conspiracies.
  • Evil Cripple: Subverted. Billy has no control over his actions when he takes his fellow students to the forest for abduction.
  • Fanservice: Only one episode in, and we already get Gillian Anderson in a Lingerie Scene! Preparing for a Candlelit Bath, no less. But that pales in comparison to the next scene, in which Mulder gets to inspect her waist while she is still in the same garb.
  • Fiery Cover-Up: The hotel where Mulder and Scully are staying gets torched while they're out, conveniently destroying all their evidence.
  • Friendship Moment: In Mulder's room, right after their Security Cling of relief, when Mulder tells Scully for the first time about his sister's disappearance.
  • Grave Robbing: The local medical examiner accuses them of doing this, despite the fact that they have a permit to exhume the graves of the victims.
  • Lingerie Scene: Scully is just in bra and underwear when she takes off her robe in front of Mulder, asking him to inspect the marks on her back.
  • Missing Time: They experience this more than once.
    Mulder: [capering] Oh-ho, yes! Abductees... people that have made UFO sightings, they've reported unexplained loss of time!
  • Na´ve Newcomer: Scully, to the world of paranormal investigation.
  • No Theme Tune: The show's iconic theme song is notably absent from this episode.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: When the exhumed coffin containing Ray Soames' body falls down and reveals a ridiculously short corpse:
    Mulder: It's probably a safe bet Ray Soames never made the varsity basketball team.
  • Secret Government Warehouse: The Cigarette-Smoking Man is seen depositing the metal nasal implant in one at the end of the episode.
  • Security Cling: Scully hugs Mulder in relief when he tells her that those dreaded marks on her waist are nothing worse than mosquito bites.

Blevins: Agent Mulder, what are his thoughts?
Scully: Agent Mulder believes we are not alone.