Characterization, Change, and Season Six
by shannono
(Posted to ATXC on January 13, 1999)

I've been reading comments on ATXC and various lists for the past few months concerning Season Six, but I have refrained from making very many comments of my own. I've mentioned before that I'd rather reserve judgement than rush into something I might later regret. Now, I feel like I'm ready to say a little about not only the season, but also the general tone of the comments I've read.

I won't try to quote from the posts and e-mails I've read since the season began, but I'm sure many of you know what I mean when I say they haven't exactly been positive. Some of the most common complaints are that there's too much comedy and not enough angst; that the dialogue is flat; that the characterizations are screwy; and that Mulder and Scully have been set adrift without the X-files.

Let me say, first, that I agree with much of this. There *were* too many comedic episodes in a row, and they have thus lost their effectiveness. A good, scary, MOTW-type episode was *definitely* needed earlier in the season, either between "Drive" and "Triangle," or between "Triangle" and "Dreamland," to break things up a little. As I said in a previous post, "ToE" would have done nicely, especially since it seemed to fit within the flow much better between "Drive" and "Triangle" than set adrift where it aired, especially since there's no way it took place anywhere near the time it was aired. (Remember the ice storms in Northern Virginia that week? No riding around in convertibles then!)

I also agree that the dialogue, for the most part, hasn't been up to the standards we're used to from the show. The characterizations have had some strange moments (Manic!Scully from "Triangle" comes to mind), and M&S do seem a little lost in spots.

None of these, however, is sufficient reason to write off the show, or the season, or even ANY of the first seven episodes.

I attribute some of these complaints to the fact that we've been spoiled. We've seen so many fantastic episodes from XF that when they have a slightly off episode or stretch of episodes, we're that much tougher on them. And let me state right now that even the worst episodes of "The X-Files" are a step above 99 percent of everything else that's on the air. I'd rather watch "Space" than "Suddenly Susan" any day. Maybe even "Travelers." <g>

But beyond all that, I believe what's kept me from getting very frustrated with this season is that I'm viewing it as a sort of transitional phase. Much as the second half of Season Four was about Scully's cancer, and the middle of Season Five was about Mulder's loss of belief, the beginning of this season has been about the changes in the Mulder/Scully relationship. I saw one comment on the season which referred to it as "foreshadowing." I agree with this assessment, but not entirely for the reason the writer intended. Whether or not an actual romance evolves, the fact remains that circumstances -- particularly the near-kiss in the movie -- have irrevocably changed the way Mulder and Scully respond to each other. And that will change the way they handle the X-files when they get them back.

Now, I don't always agree with the way everything has been handled, but I do agree with the basic premises. Mulder and Scully have acknowledged, however obliquely, their attraction to each other. Mulder has gone a step further, by admitting he loves her (in such a way as to leave his statement open to many different interpretations). Their traditional banter, so often pseudosexual in nature, has become more subtle and taken on an almost courtly nuance. They are beginning to realize the ways in which they hurt or even simply annoy each other, and they've shown attempts at mending those habits. Scully is trying, at least, to be more open, and Mulder is trying to be less self-centered.

In short, they may not have the X-files, but they still have each other -- and they intend on *keeping* each other.

As far as characterization goes: I've read many, many comments from many different people on various lists who dislike the changes these characters have undergone. (In fact, some of these opinions go back several seasons.) And I don't have a problem with that alone. But I do object to those who seem to think any changes *at all* are out of character -- that Mulder and Scully should stay just the way they are and always have been.

That, to put it bluntly, is a big pile of manure. Any writer, or literary critic, or astute reader, should know that unchanging, or "static," characters are boring. What makes good writing, and good storytelling, is change -- "dynamic" characters.

Mulder and Scully HAVE changed through the years. Both are somewhat less standoffish, particularly to each other, and both have had their personal beliefs shaken and altered. Mulder's life focus -- personal and professional -- has shifted, from Samantha to Scully. Scully has regained her faith. Both have lost much of their family, either to death or estrangement. Mulder has gained a sort of surrogate mother in Mrs. Scully. Both have found new friends, in Skinner and the Lone Gunmen. Mulder goes more by the book than he did before, and Scully less. And that's not even to mention all the personal anguish they've endured --  physical, psychologial, emotional, and so on.

If either of them had remained unchanged, it would be completely unrealistic. Nothing is more out of character over the long term than a lack of any change whatsoever.

So what does all this mean? It means that "The X-Files" is not, and never will be, perfect. It means that the show has and will continue to change. And it means that there will be things about those changes that some of us will not like. 

Which leaves all of us as viewers (and writers) with a choice: Give up and quit watching, or accept the changes in whatever way we can. Some have given up. But I think most of us enjoy the show enough to give the changes a fair chance before writing off the whole show.

And remember: If you don't like the way the show handles things -- you can always write your own version!



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