I think everyone has something from their childhood which represents the Big Bad. What do I mean by the Big Bad? I mean something you found so utterly terrifying as a child that even now, to come across it sends a primordial shudder down your spine. Yet, you know in your heart of hearts, if you had come across this Big Bad in your adult years it categorically would not have been scary. For some, it could be a strange character from an advert, a picture in a book, an episode of Goosebumps or Doctor Who. For me, it was The X-Files.
Or, more specifically, The X-Files theme tune. If you want the definition of creepy summed up by a piece of music, just watch the opening title sequence of The X-Files; it’s like something out of a fever dream.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this show, though the love does out-way the hate – why else would it make the list of my 25 favourite things? Really, the hate stems from my abject terror of the opening titles. The X-Files began airing around the time I was born and my parents became avid fans, so when I was all tucked up in bed, ready to drift off to sleep, my parents would watch The X-Files downstairs in the living room. But here’s the catch – my father has had hearing problems for years, and as live in a detached house, we tend to have the volume turned up high on the TV. So, you can picture the scene – a young girl of only about three or four lies comfortably in bed, waiting to be swept off to the land of nod, when one of the most frightening and atmospheric theme tunes in television history comes floating up the stairs and through the open door of her bedroom. There were most certainly tears before bedtime.
I count myself lucky that one of the most scarring things from my childhood was a spooky bit of music – there are far worse things in life – but The X-Files has always had a powerful influence on me.
It has only been in recent years that I have been able to put my fears aside and watch the 90s sci-fi drama in all its glory. For me, The X-Files is all about one person, and that person is the magnificent doctor turned FBI agent, Dana Scully. Scully is something of an icon to me – though she starts out as Fox Mulder’s sceptical foil, she develops into a complex and nuanced character, which is in no small part due to Gillian Anderson’s brilliant performance. Scully, for me, is the heart of the show, much more so than Mulder. She is the lens through which the audience can view this scary and alarming world of aliens and cigarette smoking villains, conspiracies and ghouls. Being such a narrative device as a character can often be a thankless task for an actor, but Anderson brings a multi-faceted performance to the role of Dana Scully. She is a woman of action, but she is not without her flaws and faults.
While there are many elements of The X-Files I dislike – including the abduction of Scully and her resulting cancer and fertility dramas, which all felt a bit exploitative – it is still an iconic piece of television. It began for me as a nightmare inducing piece of music, but it has since become much more than that. For me, it represents the best of the strong but flawed female characters of the 1990s, and I think that’s a good enough reason to give it a watch.