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"I want to believe."
The truth is out there.
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The X-Files is an American TV series created by Chris Carter. It ran nine seasons (1993-2002) and two movies (Fight the Future, which was The Movie, in 1998 and I Want to Believe in 2008). 2016 saw a limited revival in the form of a six-episode 10th season, which in 2018 was continued with a longer 11th season running ten episodes.

FBI physician Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) is assigned the task of keeping tabs on Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), a talented detective whose obsession with the paranormal is of grave concern to his superiors. Working out of the Hoover Building basement, Mulder specializes in the Bureau's "X-Files": a collection of cold cases deemed unsolvable due to macabre or taboo elements. While Mulder attributes these elements to the supernatural and extraterrestrial, Scully is a skeptic who attempts to debunk his theories through scientific reasoning. Together they investigate all manner of strange and unusual cases, which over time hint at a massive government conspiracy linked to a series of alien abductions going as far back as the forties.

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The show's writers, among them Carter and future Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan, were celebrated for their innovative mix of cop-show conventions, Moonlighting style romance, urban legends, new age mysticism, government conspiracies, action, wry humor and genuinely scary moments. The show's high production values and sharp writing helped it reach beyond the niche Twin Peaks crowd to make it one of the most popular and acclaimed shows on television and a bona fide worldwide cultural phenomenon. It was one of the earliest shows to be released in box sets (albeit on home video with inflated price tags) with behind-the-scenes goodies. These VHS sets became a common sight in supermarkets and rental stores, which fueled viewership even more.

Although it genuinely was good in its own right, the series arrived at the right time for that to happen; mainstream interest in ufology and related topics peaked in around 1998. These days, however, E.T. doesn't get quite as much airtime as he used to outside of fringe circles, and as a result, The X-Files as a series is a lot less culturally relevant now than it was during production.

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Episodes alternate between standalone Monster of the Week episodes and a complex, unfolding Myth Arc confirming pretty much every terrifying "conspiracy" of the past forty years (and even predicting a few new ones): there was a second gunman, the Cold War is a sham, the government is in cahoots with various factions of aliens, and we're all slaves to the machinations of sinister (and worse — borderline incompetent) old men in smoke-filled back rooms. A quarter to a third of each season figures into Mulder's ever-growing investigation, though it was put on hold in 1997 to avoid conflicts with Fight the Future (then in post-production), resulting in the Denser and Wackier Season Five. Several of the show's most acclaimed comedic episodes were aired during this period. The final season was supposed to be followed by a series of movies that would eventually resolve the ongoing plot, but the first post-series movie did not touch on the conspiracy plotline and met with lukewarm success. The show received a short-lived spinoff, The Lone Gunmen.

The future of The X-Files and its Myth Arc remained uncertain for a long time while die-hard fans kept expecting a third film that would either close-up the mystery or revive the franchise. In March 2013, IDW announced that they would be continuing the series as a comic book. The comic book, marked as the tenth season, came out in July 2013 and picks up after the events of the second movie. And now it has a trope page!

A six-episode miniseries, which functions as the 10th season, with the involvement of Carter, Duchovny and Anderson began airing January 25th, 2016, and feature a split of mythology and Monster of the Week episodes. Former writers/producers James Wong, Darin Morgan, and Glen Morgan contributed to the revival, and composer Mark Snow will also return. The first full-length trailer can be viewed here. After this, an 11th season, consisting of ten episodes, started airing on January 3, 2018. Following this, though, Anderson has expressed reluctance to do further seasons, and Carter has declared the series on hold as a result, possibly permanently.

The show has a Best Episode Crowner and many sub-pages like a character sheet or recaps.

"Cold Cases", a series of Audio Adaptation episodes of the season 10 comic books with revisits to past cases such as the Flukeman, was released on Audible on July 18, 2017, featuring the voice talents of Duchovny, Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, and more. It does not correspond to the season 10 TV miniseries continuity.

As a long-running show with a passionate fanbase, the series has attracted many recap, review and parodies from the internet: The AV Club had one, primarily by Emily VanDerWerff and Zack Handlen, a former Mary Sue writer has been working on a review blog of the entire series for 5 years, there's a podcast recapping the whole series and a webcomic recapping all the episodes has been started by Shaenon K. Garrity.


The X-Files and its Myth Arc provide examples of the following tropes:

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    A-G 
  • Aborted Arc:
    • At the end of the first movie, Scully talks about the vaccine that saved her, saying that it could cure people of the alien virus. It could also seriously mess up with the upcoming alien invasion. Sigh, the agents decided to pursue other things.
      • This comes back in the Season 10 revival, when Scully realizes the alien DNA introduced into her system through the vaccine might in-turn create a vaccine that can save Mulder and the rest of humanity that are beginning to succumb to a planned global epidemic.
    • During Season 6-7 the Syndicate was destroyed at the hands of the Alien Rebels. At the time, the writers spoke of their plans for a new Syndicate, headed by Alex Krycek and Marita Covarrubias. This plotline was set up in "Requiem" but never resurfaced.
    • The beginning of Season 9 reveals that Reyes and Follmer are having an affair. It's never brought up again.
  • Adventure Towns: The Dynamic Duo chases aliens, alien-human hybrids, clones, genetic mutants, vampires, serial killers or conspirators and encounters weird phenomena all over the United States. Plus in Norway, Hong Kong, Russia, and Antarctica.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Mulder and Scully would touch each other's forehead, stroke each other's hair, hold each other's head or cup each other's face. UST at its best.
  • Agents Mulder and Scully: The Trope Namers no less.
  • Albinos are Freaks: Samuel Aboah from the episode "Teliko". He was a Burkinabe immigrant who lacked a pituitary gland and harvested them from other African or African-American men to restore his skin tone. He is compared unfavourably to a vampire-like creature from West African folklore (the eponymous Teliko) by a Burkinabe ambassador. He is depicted as a merciless killer with a seemingly inhuman ability to squeeze into small spaces.
  • Alien Abduction: A common theme, although it's usually ambiguous whether extraterrestrials or human conspirators are responsible for it. Both Scully and Mulder were victims of it, among many others.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The Greys fit this to a t. They didn't use to be like this and were once very peaceful beings, but the Black Oil corrupted and twisted them like it does all other life.
    • The Greys may just be part of the Black Oil’s life cycle, rather than being infected and controlled by it. In the season 6 opener, we see a feral alien that hatched out a Black Oil-infected lab tech molt its skin to become a classic Grey.
  • Alien Autopsy:
    • We see a doctor take away a murdered alien body from the site of the Rosewell crash in the Season 10 revival. The tech obtained from his dissection of the alien, later on, has far-ranging consequences.
  • The Alleged Boss: Walter Skinner is type 3. He eventually gets replaced due to his inability to make Mulder and Scully obey him. Alvin Kersh, the new boss, would be the same type, since it's not like Mulder, Scully and/or Dogget and Reyes listen to him any better, except for the fact that he plays dirty and has better connections within the Bureau than Skinner.
  • All Theories Are True
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version has a few ending themes, including "Love Phantom" by B'z, "Unbalanced" by Maki Oguro, and "True Navigation" by Two-Mix.
  • Always Save the Girl: In the very first episode, Mulder said that nothing else mattered to him except finding out the truth about the conspiracy and what happened to his sister. Early seasons of the show got a lot of mileage out of making him choose between pursuing his quest and saving Scully. Around the beginning of season 5, though, it pretty much ceased to even be an issue — he decided Scully was priority #1 and never looked back. (She saves his butt just as often, of course.)
  • Anchored Ship: For the first five seasons.
  • Alternate Continuity: The IDW comic to the 2016 miniseries.
  • Anti-Villain: The Cigarette Smoking Man, some of the time.
  • Anyone Can Die: The show wasn't afraid to kill off characters each season, that were either well known and/or much loved throughout its original run and later miniseries, starting with William Scully and Deep Throat in season one
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: In several scenes throughout the series between Mulder and Scully, forehead kisses, kisses on the cheek, and a couple kisses on the hand.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism:
    • Scully remains a hardcore skeptic long after she's seen shape-shifting aliens, watched Mulder be mind-controlled into things he'd never do on his own, etc. It's somewhat justified, though: later seasons tended to imply that Scully felt she had to take a more skeptical stance than she felt to keep Mulder's wacky ideas grounded. That is until Mulder himself is abducted, at which point Scully is promoted to a full-on believer. But as of season 10, she's back to something much closer to her original role, making this a Zig-Zagging Trope.
    • Even Mulder refused to believe in anything close to miracles and religiously paranormal stuff (in these episodes it's Scully who's open-minded, due to her religious beliefs). In episode "3", Mulder doesn't believe in vampires, which of course turn out to exist.
  • Arc Words: "Trust no one", Deep Throat's last words which come up various times throughout the series.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • The Cigarette-Smoking Man had four brief, mostly wordless appearances in the first season, doing little beyond hover in the background smoking. His role gradually expanded, and by the middle of Season Two, he was firmly established as the show's Big Bad.
    • Nicholas Lea, who had a brief guest spot in Season One's "Genderbender" as a random character, before going into a major role as Alex Krycek in Season Two. The character of Krycek himself is an Ascended Extra as he was originally conceived as a temporary partner for Mulder when Scully was missing, and the producers were going to kill him off if Lea didn't do a good enough job portraying him. He instead went on to appear in every subsequent season.invoked
  • Asshole Victim: Warden Brodeur and Fournier in "The List".
  • Badass Bookworm: An Oxford-educated psychologist and a forensic pathologist with a physics degree fight aliens (and all sorts of other things).
  • Badass Longcoat: Worn by most characters who look rather intimidating. The FBI wear them, the conspirators wear them, the mysterious informants wear them, everybody wears them! They all wear long trench coats or lab coats, and they all look awesome in them.
  • Bad Black Barf: An alien virus called "Black Oil" caused black liquid to come out of the mouth, nose, and eyes of its victims.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Well, the good guys don't, anyway. Sure, CSM and Rohrer are both dead and Mulder has escaped. However, many of the conspirators are still alive, our heroes have been forced into a life on the run, they have just discovered the date of a planned alien invasion and are no closer to stopping the alien takeover than they were at the beginning of the pilot.
    • In "The List" Neech Manley manages to reincarnate and kill all five men on his hit list, and accidentally gets a hated fellow inmate and his wife’s lover killed too.
  • Bag of Holding: Mulder's and Scully's pockets. Boy, do they have to be deep and spacious! They have there their FBI badges, mobile phones, wallet/purse, calling cards, coins, keys, pens, latex gloves, bags for collecting evidence, flashlights of various sizes, and Mulder occasionally pulls sunflower seeds out of there.
  • Bat Signal: Mulder summons his informants by switching on a blue light lamp in his apartment (Deep Throat) and by putting the iconic X sign from masking tape on the window pane (Mr. X). Marita gave him his phone number, though.
  • Bee Afraid: The Government Conspiracy uses bees as a vector for spreading The Virus.
  • Berserk Button: Do not come between Mulder and Scully. No, really. It's a bad idea. That goes for both of them, by the way.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The Syndicate, a shadowy group of powerful individuals led by Conrad Strughold and the First Elder with the Cigarette Smoking Man as The Dragon and the alien colonists as the Greater-Scope Villain, with later seasons revealing that its more of a big bad shuffle between its various myriad forces & factions; each with vastly differing goals and agendas.
  • The Big Board: The X-Files office has bulletin boards and walls covered with pictures, photos, and newspaper clippings concerning the paranormal and the cases Mulder and Scully were working on. Also, they often used slide shows to present cases. Considering Mulder's interest in the paranormal and the level of his obsession, some might consider his office to be a Room Full of Crazy.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the end of the show, the Government Conspiracy has taken some hits but is still going strong, and alien colonization of Earth is supposedly inevitable and proceeding on schedule for 2012. Mulder and Scully are on the run from a death sentence... but they're both alive, and they're together, and that means maybe there's hope.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: They mean you've been infected with the Black Oil, some kind of alien virus... thing.
  • Black Helicopter
  • Black Speech: Whenever you hear German, Japanese or Russian, the chances are they are spoken by evil conspirators, and dark post-world-war-two and post-cold-war undertones are implied.
  • Bland-Name Product: "Morley Cigarettes", the Cigarette Smoking Man's brand of choice — although this isn't the first show on American TV to use Morleys.
  • The Blank: The Alien Rebels have no faces, having sealed every orifice on their bodies to prevent infection by the Black Oil.
  • Blessed With Suck / Cursed With Awesome: Tends to be the case whenever the Monster of the Week is human.
  • Bloody Murder: Alien-human hybrids with acidic blood.
  • Body Horror: All the time, especially in the Myth Arc episodes.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: The Conspiracy has the opportunity to kill Mulder, but never does.
  • Breather Episode: The comic relief episodes provided some of the more interesting and innovative filler and served to counterbalance some of the more ridiculous serious episodes as the series went on.
  • Candlelit Bath: Scully likes them.
  • Captain's Log: Early seasons had Scully (and sometimes Mulder) writing case reports at the end of many of the Monster of the Week episodes. In the final seasons, after David Duchovny left the show, Scully read her journal entries as letters to the missing Mulder.
  • Chekhov M.I.A.: Mulder's sister. She did get used eventually.
  • Chemically-Induced Insanity: In the second season finale, it is revealed that Mulder's erratic behavior of late was due to drugs in his water supply, presumably done by The Conspiracy to discredit him.
  • Chest Burster
  • Child by Rape:
    • A woman in the episode "Aubrey" was raped by a serial killer, bore his child, and put it up for adoption. Her grandchild ended up continuing her grandfather's work, to the letter, apparently due to genetic memory essentially making her become him.
    • In "The Post-Modern Prometheus", Mutato is revealed to gotten women pregnant by raping them after they're knocked senseless by gas. This is because he wanted a mate, but couldn't find one. While viewed sympathetically by Mulder and Scully, it was not only a crime they never arrest him for, but drastically undercuts his status as a "good" monster.
    • Scully's son William who was thought to be Mulder's son is revealed to be the product of Medical Rape and Impregnate by the Smoking Man.
  • Chilly Reception: Mulder toward Scully initially; later, either of them towards anyone replacing the other (especially between Scully and Fowley).
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Loads of 'em, including Mulder and the Lone Gunmen.
    • At the beginning of the 2016 revival, Mulder & Scully meet Tad O'Malley, a conspiracy theorist in the vein of Alex Jones that helps drive the season's arc.
  • Contagious Cassandra Truth: Mulder usually had this problem after convincing Scully. Other characters they convinced also tended to suffer this trope (if they weren't blackmailed or bribed by the Ancient Conspiracy).
  • Continuity Lockout: The show's mythology is incredibly elaborate from the beginning and becomes increasingly more difficult to follow as the seasons go by (in particular after the destruction of the Syndicate).
  • Cool Old Guy: Arthur Dales
  • Creepy Child: Approximately one per season and several were a part of the Myth Arc stories.
  • Crisis of Faith: Scully started the show as a nonpracticing Catholic. Part of her Character Arc involved her coming to terms with her faith and deciding she could pray and attend church regularly even if she didn't always agree with everything The Church said.
  • Crossover: With, of all things, COPS. It starts with a normal episode for the latter, but it's interrupted by Scully and Mulder chasing an MoTW.
  • Cryptid Episode: There are enough cryptid episodes to stuff the Berlin Zoo full with them.
  • Darker and Edgier: Seasons 4 and 8.
  • A Deadly Affair: The episode "Familiar" has a woman discover her husband has been having an affair with another married woman. So, she turns to witchcraft to kill him. It works, but not before their daughter and the son of the other woman are also killed by the dark forces. The ensuing chaos also leads to her husband killing the other woman's husband and the other woman dying in a car accident. Then, she spontaneously combusts for good measure.
  • Deadly Doctor: Evil doctors collaborate with the conspiracy, having no scruples performing experiments on people.
  • Deadly Nosebleed: She doesn't die of it, but this is the only visible symptom when Scully has terminal cancer.
  • Dead Star Walking: R. Lee Ermey shows up in The Teaser of "Revelations" as a con artist priest, and is set up as the Monster of the Week of the episode. Then he gets murdered by the ACTUAL Monster of the Week, and the episode switches gears.
  • Deal with the Devil: We find that Monica Reyes has made a deal with Smoking Man to save herself from the triggered pandemic that occurs at the end of Season 10.
  • Death by Pragmatism: The Conspiracy, despite their best wishes.
  • Death by Materialism: In "Død Kalm" Captain Trondheim’s efforts to keep the uncontaminated water for himself lead to him drowning when the hull bursts.
  • Declaration of Protection: Mulder goes just a little nuts with the protection when Scully returns from being abducted in season two. He feels he failed to protect her from it, which is only compounded by the guilt he still feels over his sister's abduction years before. He ditches her when things get hairy, lies to her about where he's going so she won't follow him, and asks her to sit out cases for fear of her life. The only thing this does (besides piss Scully off—she's a trained FBI agent, after all) is show the bad guys that the only way to hurt him is to hurt her and it starts a vicious cycle of Scully being kidnapped, saved, and then Mulder being more protective.
  • Deus Angst Machina: The main characters get a disproportionate number of metaphorical Groin Kicks just within the few years in which the show takes place. Mulder has both parents die and is constantly tormented by people who appear to be his sister but aren't, but Scully takes the cake having one parent and her sister die (the sister being at least partly her fault) and the entire abduction plotline.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Lots of teasing from late-season seven on. Eventually, it's confirmed that yes, they did.
  • Died Happily Ever After: The fate of Samantha Mulder.
  • Distressed Damsel / Distressed Dude: One of the first shows to have both male and female leads carry the Distress Ball more or less equally.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set
  • Elective Mute
  • Elvis Lives: Mulder claims to believe this, but knowing Mulder he could be making fun of himself.
  • Emergency Refuelling: Mulder is held hostage by a man with a Brown Note in his head that will cause it to burst if he doesn't drive at a certain speed in the same direction. They run into a problem when Mulder has to stop the car for refueling.

    H-M 
  • Hacker Collective: The Lone Gunmen, who are probably the duo's most trustworthy allies. As odd as they can be, they're also scrupulous to a fault.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Alien/Human hybrids.
  • Half-Witted Hillbilly: The infamous episode "Home" featured a family of mutants that was the result of generations of incest. Like the Deliverance rapists, this family was not meant to be funny.
  • Headbutt of Love: Gently bumping their heads is Mulder and Scully's signature gesture of their mutual trust and support.
  • Healing Hands: Aliens have this ability, as well as several monsters of the week.
  • Held Gaze: Mulder and Scully are big on doing this.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Mulder.
  • Hollywood Spelling: Constantly.
  • How We Got Here: Used several times for both Myth Arc and Monster of the Week episodes.
    • The monologues that bookend Season 10 recap nearly the entire series.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Necrophiliac Serial Killer Donnie Pfaster was one of the most horrifying villains to appear in the series, and was human, though there were a few hints he was some sort of Humanoid Abomination.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The Myth Arc episodes (often two-parters or trilogies) sometimes used complementary names as "The End"/"The Beginning", "Two Fathers"/"One Son", "Biogenesis"/"The Sixth Extinction I & II" or "Within"/"Without". The standalone episodes' titles were often extremely vague words or phrases brought up by a single line of dialogue or some other subtle or insignificant aspect of the episode, sometimes in a foreign language. The show famously played a game with its fans who tried to find meaning in anything, no matter how obscure or insignificant it might appear, including the names of the episodes.
  • If Jesus, Then Aliens: Averted. Scully is Catholic and believes in miracles, but is a hardcore skeptic about all other paranormal phenomena; Mulder is agnostic and rather cynical about organized religion but believes in basically everything else. (It's implied at least once that God is deliberately hiding from Mulder's perception as a test of Scully's faith.)
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Eugene Victor Tooms and Rob Roberts. The former only feeds on human livers, and enjoys his murders, while the latter is a remorseful Tragic Villain who mostly preys on Asshole Victims.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Mulder and Scully, although the former tended to drop his gun for Rule of Drama in early seasons.
  • Infant Immortality: Baby William, at every turn. The number of times that child should have died, before and after birth, are staggering. But not even a scratch.
  • Inverse Law of Fertility: Inverted — Scully doesn't seem particularly interested in having kids until she finds out her abduction left her infertile, at which point she decides she really wanted to become a mother...and then she inexplicably becomes pregnant.
  • Jerkass:
    • Agent Spender (though he had his sympathetic moments).
    • Assistant Director Brad Follmer.
    • Assistant Director Kersh is one until the show's first Grand Finale, where he helps break Mulder out of prison.
    • Prison guard Fornier from "The List" is a sexist jackass who is heavily implied to have abused Neech Manley out of personal dislike. He gets his comeuppance pretty quickly.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: One of the things that made Kersh a formidable antagonist towards Mulder and Scully was that he quite accurately pointed out that their actions often flouted FBI procedure and law.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Present in the very first episode.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Whenever an episode recycled a plot previously seen in another show or movie, someone would typically point it out.
    • A particularly good one from the season six opener, when recapping what happened in Fight the Future:
    "Are you sure this isn't something I saw in Men in Black?"
  • Last-Name Basis
    • Mulder and Scully to each other. Mulder says he even made his parents call him Mulder, but it doesn't seem to have stuck. Mulder occasionally called Scully "Dana" at emotional moments in the first few seasons, then mostly gave it up, as if the last names had become more intimate by that point. Scully never even tried to call him Fox after the first time.
    • The Lone Gunmen are also known only by their last names, likely because two of them have Embarrassing First Names.
    • Most of the agents at the FBI go by last names; Skinner is always called by his last name even after becoming more of a friend than a superior to Mulder and Scully.
    • Averted by Reyes and Doggett, who refer to each other by first name regularly.
  • Let X Be the Unknown
  • Light Is Not Good: The classic "aliens have floodlights all over the place" effect.
  • Lighter and Softer: Season 6, and most of the comedic episodes in general.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Both Mulder and Scully become this to each other, verging on Heroic BSoD whenever they're involuntarily separated. This is portrayed as basically a good thing; their relationship ends up helping both of them overcome their issues to some degree.
  • Locked Room Mystery
  • "London, England" Syndrome: All over the place.
  • Longing Look: Mulder and Scully had an astonishing talent for giving each other looks so singular, emotional and full of meaning they made anyone else in the room — or on the other side of the television screen — feel like they were intruding on some absurdly private moment.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: By the time the series ended, only AD Skinner remained a main character. Mulder, Scully, and the Cigarette-Smoking Man were all demoted to regulars or extras.
  • Loved I Not Honor More: Subverted. Several times the show puts Mulder in what looks like a Friend or Idol Decision between saving Scully and his quest for the Truth — but ultimately it's strongly implied that the only reason he's able to achieve any success in his quest is that he has Scully as his partner.
  • MacGuffin Super Person: Baby William. He is described as "more human than human", a normal human child with none of the human frailties. He is seen as the salvation of the human race from alien invasion; he is the epitome of what the Syndicate has been trying to do for years: create a human/alien hybrid. While they did it in a lab (with disastrous results), William was gestated naturally. If they can figure out to replicate that or make a vaccine against the alien virus, the human race has a chance of surviving. So, they're after him. And the Super Soldiers, who are bent on making sure alien invasion is swift and that resistance is futile, are after him to kill him. On top of that, he is kidnapped mid-season 9 by a UFO cult which is convinced he is connected to a UFO they found. He has supernatural powers, most notably telekinesis. He is seen making the mobile above his crib move on its own (scaring his mother to death in the process). He also has a Christ-like birth, with Scully giving birth in a shack in the middle of nowhere, a guiding star, and the Lone Gunmen acting as the Three Wise Men. Though it took place in mid-May, not December.
    • William factors heavily through the entire arc of the Season 10 revival.
    • By Season 11, a young adult William is shown to be able to induce hallucinations in others, and even telekinetically make people explode in a shower of gore.
  • The Man Behind the Man
  • Mayan Doomsday: December 21, 2012, was listed as the day the alien invasion was supposed to happen.
    • Reyes mentions 2012 as when the mechanizations began for pandemic that begins at the end of Season 10.
  • Maybe Ever After: The television series ends on this note for Mulder and Scully.
    • The second film confirms that they are in a relationship.
    • However, at the beginning of Season 10, they are still friendly but are now estranged, and that Scully initiated it.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It’s left unclear if Donnie Pfaster was some sort of demon, or if these were just panicked hallucinations. “Irresistible” and “Orison” come down on opposite ends of this.
  • Meaningful Look: Mulder and Scully have many of these.
  • Meaningful Name: It's eventually revealed that the main alien antagonists call themselves the Purities. This should tell you everything you need to know about what they think of themselves... not to mention what they think about everybody else.
  • Medical Rape and Impregnate: It's strongly implied this happens to many victims of Alien Abduction. Including Scully. Mulder calls the conspirators "medical rapists" at one point.
    • In Season 10, the agents meet Sveta, who says she has been abducted and impregnated several times, with the fetuses taken from her before she is returned.
  • Men Don't Cry: Averted. Mulder is much more prone to openly showing emotion than Scully is.
  • The Men in Black: Alex Trebek?
  • Menagerie of Misery: The zoo from the episode "Fearful Symmetry" was explicitly stated to have been abysmal in the recent past before the episode, to the point where they actually hired new management along with a scientific adviser to reform the zoo. Also notable in that the (fictional) zoo in question had never once had a live birth of any animal in captivity, ever. The animals are regularly abducted by aliens and made the subject of strange experiments, including the theft of their unborn children.
  • Missing Time: Comes up several times, most prominently happening to Mulder and Scully in the very first episode.
  • The Mole: A lot of these.
    • Krycek, for all of one episode before he's found out.
    • Marita Covarrubias, X's replacement.
    • Fowley
    • Section Chief Blevins.
    • Deep Throat is a Mole in the Syndicate.
    • Mulder originally thought Scully was a mole (and says so outright when he first meets her).
    • Reyes becomes a mole, reaching out to Scully when a planned pandemic is set into motion.
  • Monster Munch / Monster of the Week: The modern Trope Codifier for both.
    • Subverted on a few occasions where the "monsters" are human, and during episodes where the Monster helps the agents in their case (or is otherwise non-violent).
    • On very rare occasions, the monster is tied to the Myth Arc or is a recurring character, including the Black Oil in ‘’Vienen’’, Virtual!Langley in ‘’This’’, and even William Scully, Fox and Dana’s child in ‘’Ghouli’’.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science:
    • Inverted. Mulder is the emotional, intuitive one who believes in mysticism and the paranormal, while Scully is a stoic, logical scientist. (The inversion of conventional gender roles was quite deliberate on the part of the writers.)
    • Played jarringly straight in the few episodes where the Monster of the Week is a religious icon that Scully believes and Mulder doubts.
    • Played straight in seasons 9 with Doggett and Reyes, as they were meant to replicate (but not duplicate) the believer/skeptic relationship of their predecessors.
    • In season 8, with Doggett being the non-emotional, straight-laced former cop and Scully being the believer, it's played straight. Even though she's not as skeptical as she was when she joined the X-Files, Scully is still Scully. She's still the logical scientist, and though she admits she's seen things she can't ignore, she's not the believer. However, to keep the office running (and to keep Doggett from dismissing the work outright), she is forced to take on Mulder's role in his absence. In some of the episodes, you can tell she's suggesting things she does not believe in but entertains them because the cases are X-Files. It's mentioned at least once that she finds it hard to "be Mulder," not only because she's never been the believer in the relationship, but because she is unable to make the insane leaps of logic Mulder was infamous for.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: What happens when you film in Vancouver (and later Los Angeles) but set your stories all over the US, even the flat bits.
  • The Movie: Two of them. The first one is part of the show's Myth Arc, the second is a long Monster of the Week episode.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Scully's abduction left her infertile (somewhat ironic, considering her abduction was written in to allow Gillian Anderson to go on maternity leave). It's a source of angst for her. It's played much more subtly — and with good reason; he'd never be enough of a jerkass to bring it up, considering Scully's infertility — but Mulder is implied to be somewhat wistful about not being in a position to have kids too.
  • Multi-Part Episode: There are almost as many multi-part episodes of the show as there are stand-alone. Most of the mythology episodes ended up being multi-parters though they were rarely named as such.
  • Mystical Pregnancy: At least two, despite the first one having supposedly rendered her infertile.
  • Mysterious Informant: Several. Deep Throat, X, and Marita are the three main recurring ones.
    • An unnamed doctor present at the Rosewell crash site in 1947 appears to have been in contact with Mulder since the X-Files were closed.

    N-T 
  • Next Sunday A.D.:
    • The episode "Millennium", which aired in November 1999 and is set in December 1999 and January 2000.
    • The episode "The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati", which aired in November 1999, features a flash-forward vision to the alien colonization of 2012.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: The show was famous for this early on, but even then it was oddly subverted in a few instances, and by around season 6 Mulder and Scully had become, uh, cuddly for platonic friends.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Mulder in regards to Scully, as well as being quite affectionate. She is unnerved by it in the early seasons, but eventually gets used to it.
  • Noodle Incident: In season 2, it's revealed that Scully has a key to Mulder's apartment. How this came about is never discussed. It's not known whether Mulder has a key to her apartment.
  • Not Love Interest: While it took them seven seasons to get around to making it official, for all intents and purposes Mulder and Scully were best friends/lovers/spouses since day one. It could even be argued that their bond transcended all three of those roles to become something more all-encompassing than most people ever experience. It certainly cannot be denied that they were the most important people in each others' lives almost since the first time Scully walked into Mulder's basement office.
  • Not of This Earth: The mysterious bacteria and virus, first appearing in "The Erlenmeyer Flask".
    Dr. Carpenter: A fifth and sixth DNA nucleotide. A new base pair. Agent Scully, what are you looking at... it exists nowhere in nature. It would have to be, by definition... extraterrestrial.
  • Not Quite Dead:
    • Mulder on more than one occasion.
    • Krycek, many times.
    • The Cigarette-Smoking Man in season 5 and again in season 7.
      • And we find he survived the airstike on his position at the end of Season 9.
    • Jeffrey Spender, presumed dead in season six but seen again in season nine.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Practically everyone else in the FBI except for Skinner. In particular, Kersh and Follmer.
  • Occult Detective: Mulder and Scully investigate the paranormal.
  • Odd Couple
  • Ominous Obsidian Ooze: The Black Oil, a sapient parasitic mind-controlling goo used by the alien colonists to reproduce and take over the universe, it can often be found invading potential hosts through their eyes, mouth, nose or ears.
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The mysterious and shady group called "Syndicate" effectively controls the world with various conspiracies.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted — there are at least four fairly important characters named William, three of whom go by the nickname Bill: Mulder's father, Scully's father, Scully's older brother, and Baby William. And it's Mulder's middle name.
  • The Only One I Trust: Mulder and Scully towards each other. No wonder they provide the page quote.
  • Orifice Invasion: Very common, most memorably in the form of the Black Oil.
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: So many examples that the show may have started some cryptid legends.
  • Our Hero Is Dead: Killing Mulder at the end of the season becomes almost traditional.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: Well, most of the time. The monster being investigated may be quite different from the traditional description, such as the Jersey Devil and the Tulpa.
  • Paranormal Investigation
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Mulder and Scully for the first five seasons.
  • Police Are Useless: Zigzagged. Mulder and Scully are themselves police and extremely competent, hence an aversion. Other cops, be they local police or other FBI agents, can be all over the place: genuinely helpful, well-meaning but ineffectual, obstructive bureaucrats, or in cahoots with the Syndicate/Monster of the Week.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The Consortium as a whole. The upper levels seem to be composed entirely of older, upper-class white men. They also consistently failed to realize it was Mulder and Scully as partners, not Mulder individually, who might pose a threat to their plans, thinking of Scully only as Mulder's Berserk Button when they could be bothered to notice her existence at all.
  • Porn Stash: It's a recurring joke that Mulder has one. Unusually for the trope, he makes no real attempt to keep it secret, and Scully doesn't seem to care beyond thinking it's kind of silly.
    Mulder: Whatever tape you found in that VCR? It isn't mine.
    Scully: Don't worry, I put it in the drawer with all the other videos that aren't yours.
  • Power of Trust: "Trust no one" is a major catch phrase in the show, but it's subtly ironic — one of the show's main themes is the importance, in a world of lies and conspiracies, of having someone you can trust absolutely. Mulder and Scully spend so much time saying things like "You're the only one I trust," it became a common fandom joke that they were just using "trust" as a code word for "love".
  • Powers That Be
  • Properly Paranoid: Practically the entire cast displays this behavior at some point. Yes, the Conspiracy is out to get them. So much so that everyone largely stops caring after a while. What Suzanne Modeski tells the Lone Gunmen could be the series' motto: "No matter how paranoid you are, you're not paranoid enough." This might, however, take paranoia to the point of kitsch.
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses: Both Mulder and Scully are seen wearing reading glasses occasionally in the early seasons.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Used to great comedic effect in season 3 and later in season 5.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Mulder in season 2 after the X-Files were shut down, and both Mulder and Scully in season 6 when Fowley and Spender replaced them.
  • Reassignment Backfire: Scully was pulled out of being a professor at Quantico to debunk Mulder's work on the X-Files. She is unable to do it and starts siding with him.
  • Red Herring: Red Herrings were used on the Myth Arc level as well in some standalone episodes. Several clues that appeared to be important to the mysteries the agents Mulder and Scully were supposed to unravel ultimately lead nowhere or were not simply addressed again.
    • The fate of Samantha Mulder was probably the biggest Red Herring of the series. Her abduction was a defining moment of Mulder's life as it triggered his belief in the paranormal and motivated his career at the FBI. Throughout the series, Mulder was tormented by her clones and reassurances that she's still alive. However, it was revealed that she had been abducted by the conspiracy who had collaborated with the aliens. She was saved by some strange kind of fairies or angels which made her body disappear, meaning that her corpse will never be found, but Mulder did see her ghost.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: Happens frequently, usually when Mulder catches a glimpse of something in the footage that everyone else overlooked.
  • Roswell That Ends Well
  • Rubber Man: The series’ first Monster of the Week, Eugene Victor Tooms, is a rare variant played for horror. It works.
  • Say My Name: The two leads do this an awful lot.
  • Science Hero: Both of them, but more so Scully than Mulder.
  • Serial Killer: Several times. Most of them are horrifying. The most notable was Donnie Pfaster, who was a perfectly mundane Serial Killer who was really good at masking his evil.
  • Shapeshifting: The Alien Bounty Hunters and several monsters of the week.
  • Sherlock Scan: Mulder does this sometimes, being able to tell that the person he's interviewing happens to BE the monster of the week. It's often forgotten that Mulder acquired his reputation of "Spooky Mulder" from way before he got involved with the paranormal. Supposedly, his skill at quickly building detailed profiles was so good that people felt that it was "spooky", to the point that he had attracted the attention of senior FBI agents when he was still a cadet. However, after repeatedly getting dismissed for his outlandish theories he became less and less forthcoming with them unless it's to Scully, who feverishly does everything she can to debunk him.
  • Ship Tease:
    • A lot for Scully and Mulder, although they were mostly relatively restrained about it until around season 6.
    • The writers were also very aware of other shippers in the fandom, including the slash fans, and enjoyed throwing out occasional bones for the Scully×Skinner, Mulder×Skinner, and Mulder×Krycek crowds.
  • Shirtless Scene: Mulder was shirtless fairly often.
  • Shout-Out: Enough with it's own sub-page. And it's looong.
  • Signature Item Clue: The ash from The Smoking Man's cigarettes have made it clear he's somehow involved a few times (one of the first being when it tipped Mulder off that he'd been in The Mole's car).
  • Sinister Minister: Common in the religiously-themed episodes.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Pretty far over on the cynical side... but not quite as far as it might appear at first. It's a world of dark conspiracies, betrayal, and lies, with monsters hiding in every shadow, but there are two people in it who really can trust each other, and that might be enough to make a difference.
  • Spiritual Successor
  • Start to Corpse: Varies, but episodes frequently opened with unfortunate victims dying in mysterious ways, so it was often pretty close to zero.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: The First Elder constantly suggests killing Mulder... only to be overruled by the other conspiracy members, who are either feeding him information or manipulating him for their purposes.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Happens to both Mulder and Scully occasionally.
  • Strictly Professional Relationship: Mulder and Scully slowly develop feelings for each other, but hold back on them for a while due to their professional partnership and close friendship.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Scully, as The Stoic, is very steely and distant with everyone, including her family. But with Mulder, she's a lot more relaxed and emotionally open.
  • Super Soldier: A new Myth Arc element added in season 9.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Just assume the Conspiracy is always spying on everything.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Carefully and consistently averted.
    • X was very different from Deep Throat, replacing grandfatherly benevolence with deadly pragmatism.
    • Marita, X's replacement, was quite different from either of her predecessors and turned out to be a mole to boot.
    • Doggett and Reyes were very different from Mulder and Scully, replacing the Absolute Believer/Healthy Skeptic dichotomy with Absolute Skeptic/Open-Minded, and replacing Mulder and Scully's relationship with a more conventional gender dynamic. While they become close, they're never as emotionally dependent on each other as Mulder and Scully could be even before they were romantically involved, and they're on a First-Name Basis right from the start.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Very common. You're usually supposed to feel at least some degree of sympathy for the monster/antagonist, even if Mulder and Scully end up having to kill it.
    • A very good example is Rob in the episode "Hungry." He's a Nice Guy who has the biological need to eat human brains (it seems to be the only thing he can eat) but he hates himself for it and tries to keep it at bay as long as possible through sheer willpower and appetite suppressant pills. When he does kill, it's only because he's literally starving and can't control his appetite anymore, and he considers himself a monster as a result. He usually kills people who are posing a threat to him anyway, like his ex-felon co-worker who was about to bash his skull in with a baseball bat. It's the one time that you wish Mulder and Scully would just leave the guy alone, especially since, once you see the two of them through someone else's eyes, it's clear that Mulder can be outlandishly dickish to whoever he suspects, almost to the point of sadism, and Scully just lets him say whatever he wants.
  • There Are No Therapists: Interestingly averted in the earlier seasons, at least for Scully. She sees a therapist a few times after her abduction in season two.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: One of the most horrifying monsters in the series, Donnie Pfaster, is a handsome, charming young man who is actually a necrophiliac Serial Kille.
  • To Be Continued: They had several two-parters and trilogies. Some mythology stories ended with this as well, and the next episode would be a standalone one.
  • Toilet Humour: Unfortunately. Mulder would often make not very tasteful jokes about hemorrhoids and similar things.
  • The Topic of Cancer: Scully almost died of alien-induced cancer. Other abductees were not as lucky.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Mulder loves munching on sunflower seeds.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Scully always wears a small gold cross necklace. When she's abducted near the beginning of season 2, it's torn off, and Mulder wears it himself for the three months she's missing. It shows up a few more times when they're separated as a symbol of their bond: Mulder finds it again when he's tracking down Scully in the first movie, and she gave it to him to wear before he went off alone and got himself abducted at the end of season 7.
    • In Season 10, Scully begins to wear a necklace made from an old quarter that her mother was wearing when she died.
  • True Love Is Exceptional
  • Tuckerization: Many character names, some of them are listed in the Shout Out sub-page. For starters, Mulder is the maiden name of Carter's mom, and Scully and Doggett come from Dodgers broadcasters, Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett.
  • Turn Coat: It's a show about conspiracies, so there are lots of these.

    U-Z 
  • "Uh-Oh" Eyes: The monsters' eyes sometimes indicated the level of their evil.
  • Ultraterrestrials: A key part of the Myth Arcthe "aliens" are Earth's original native inhabitants, who've returned from a leave of absence.
  • Undying Loyalty: Mulder and Scully's loyalty to each other transcends time, space, and apparent death, among other things.
  • Unguided Lab Tour: Comes up a couple of times, though they usually aren't so much secret labs as academic or government labs doing secret things.
  • The Un-Reveal
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Guess who? (The term originated in online X-Files fandom.)
  • The Virus: Turned Up to Eleven at the end of Season 10.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Various baddies, but the most prominent example is the Alien Bounty Hunter, a recurring antagonist. He's an extraterrestrial assassin and can look like anyone.
  • Wait Here: Any time Mulder drops one of these on Scully, you can rest assured that the Monster of the Week or other paranormal phenomenon is about to make an appearance and poor Mulder will have nobody around to verify his account. It doesn't always result in one of them being taken hostage but often does.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Warden Brodeur from "The List" is a corrupt jerk who abuses his authority, has prisoners beaten daily to "maintain order", and has two prisoners beaten to death out of petty spite.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Syndicate.
  • Wham Episode: The show was quite fond of these.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Nobody knows the fate of agent Doggett after he helps Mulder and Scully escape at the end of season 9.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Even disregarding the rather questionable justification for the bad guys not simply offing Mulder as they've done with so many other people (that Mulder would become a martyr), they don't even seem to try to discredit him that much.
  • Who's Your Daddy?: A major plot point in season 8.
  • World of Snark: Everyone is a Deadpan Snarker, especially Mulder, Scully, and Skinner.
  • Written-In Absence: Scully's abduction — an event that would go on to shape the entire Myth Arc, as well as Mulder and Scully's relationship and Character Development throughout the rest of the show — was written in simply to get Gillian Anderson out of the way while she was heavily pregnant in Real Life.
  • "X" Makes Anything Cool
    • "The X-Files" sound way better than "the U-Files". They might have been called that for "unsolved" but weren't thanks to the filing system at the FBI in the '50s.
    Clerk Bahnsen: It's in an X-file.
    Agent Dales: An "X-file"?
    Clerk Bahnsen: Yes, unsolved cases. I file them under "X".
    Agent Dales: Why don't you file them under "U" for "unsolved"?
    Clerk Bahnsen: That's what I did until I ran out of room. Plenty of room in the "X"s.
  • You Are Already Checked In: In the episode "Synchrony", Mulder is helping a scientist whose much older future self has travelled back in time to prevent his past self from causing the terrible future he came from (though the scientist is understandably very sceptical about the whole story). When Mulder and the scientist go to investigate the laboratory the scientist works at, the scientist checks in at security via a hand-print scanner, and the guard tells him that he has already logged in some time ago. The scientist is of course confused by this, but Mulder quickly puts two and two together and realizes the man's future self is already in the building.

Trust no one.
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The X-Files S01 E12

Cecil Lively decides to lighten up Mulder's mood... by bringing the house down with flames.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

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Main / PlayingWithFire

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