All nine seasons of The X-Files are available on DVD. There are also four Mythology sets of 14-16 episodes that focus on different aspects of the ongoing conspiracy storylines. But chances are, you don't have time to watch all 202 episodes as a refresher before checking out The X-Files: I Want to Believe. So don't be fooled by the promises of The X-Files: Revelations, a two-disc, eight-episode set that claims to be the "essential guide to the X-Files movie."
It's not. It's eight really good episodes -- but not good enough that this could even plausibly be called a "best of The X-Files" set. I suppose "essential guide to the X-Files movie" is more marketable than "eight pretty sweet episodes" or "eight episodes that might convince a newcomer to buy nine seasons' worth of DVDs."
The eight pretty sweet episodes are, in the main, monster-of-the-week episodes that provide a nice sample of the varied style and tone of the series -- but only of the first six seasons (i.e. no Doggett or Reyes). They also encompass sixteen different haircuts for Mulder and Scully.
The episodes are:
• Pilot -- Dana Scully gets assigned to rein in Fox "Spooky" Mulder, a talented FBI agent with a career-derailing interest in the paranormal.
• Beyond The Sea -- Scully's the believer and Mulder's the skeptic in a case involving a death-row prisoner who claims to channel the victims of an at-large serial killer
• The Host -- Chernobyl radiation transforms a common parasite into the disgusting, vicious, sewer-dwelling Flukeman, which, once captured, is amusingly transported to custody by a single U.S. marshal (spoiler alert: Flukeman escapes!)
• Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose -- Emmy-winning (for writing and for guest star Peter Boyle) episode featuring a reluctant psychic who can see how people will die (but wishes he couldn't).
• Memento Mori -- Scully has cancer, and whines about it in letters to Mulder. Features The Lone Gunmen helping Mulder look for a cure
• Post-Modern Prometheus -- A black-and-white, comic-book style comedic Frankenstein re-telling that was written for Roseanne Barr and Cher (who ended up not being available). Guest-stars John O'Hurley (Peterman from Seinfeld -- he was available)
• Bad Blood -- A comedic he said/she said vampire tale guest-starring Luke Wilson as either a suave small-town sheriff or a buck-toothed rube (depending on whether you ask Scully or Mulder). Gillian Anderson's favorite, and perhaps mine.
• Milagro -- A slightly meta episode about a writer's obsession (which has deadly results!) with Dana Scully.
I can't wait to see the movie, if only to confirm my assertion that there's no way watching "The Host" -- as creepily enjoyable as that episode is -- is in any way crucial to understand the movie, especially given creator Chris Carter saying in interviews that the movie is aimed at X-Files fans and newbies alike. Will there be subtle references in the movie to classic episodes? Undoubtedly. I won't be surprised if, in I Want to Believe, Mulder tests a psychic's authenticity with a scrap of his New York Knicks t-shirt. But "essential"? Fans are going to catch those references anyway, having watched and rewatched those episodes over and over again since the series went off the air six years ago. Newcomers to the show will, I'm betting, be told whatever they need to know in (hopefully not-too-clunky) exposition.
Audio commentary: None. Each episode instead features an introduction (of about ninety seconds) from creator Chris Carter and producer Frank Spotznitz, explaining why these episodes were chosen, none of which refer to the new movie. If this DVD is essential to enjoy the new movie, and not just mislabeled for marketing purposes, I'm relatively certain the introductions would explain why. They don't. They're not.
WonderCon Panel: About half an hour of Carter, Spotznitz, Anderson and David Duchovny answering questions from fans at a comic book convention in between Beatlemania-esque squeals from the crowd. Obviously, there's very little information given about the new movie, and much if not all of the panel can be found on YouTube.
Trailers: One for the movie, one for the series. C'est tout. There's also a brief introduction to this two-disc collection from Spotznitz, who says the episodes are meant to give an idea of the breadth of the series. New movie? Not mentioned.
Coupon: Eight dollars and fifty cents off one admission (good only in the U.S.). So take that money off the cost of the DVD and decide if it's worth the ten bucks or so for a nice collection of good-to-great episodes. It's not a bad deal, especially -- well, let's say "only" -- if you don't have the series on DVD already. But if you'd rather spend that ten bucks on popcorn and Whoppers, you'll be able to follow along just fine.