[Screenshots] Home Décor (Evolving Post)

A place where we can admire the evolving state of Mulder and Scully’s (and friends’) home furnishings over the years.  Just a sampling of images to start, but this post will continue to be updated as time allows.

1×01 – Deep Throat

A rare glimpse into Mulder’s kitchen.  It looks like he’s cooking a can of Campbell’s Soup.

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1×12 – Beyond the Sea

And here’s Scully’s kitchen as she packs up some leftovers after dinner with her parents.

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And a little of Scully’s Christmas decorating in the background here.

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1×15 – Young at Heart

Several shots of Scully’s apartment in this episode.  Here she patrols the premises on high alert.

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I think we all need to talk about this terrifying cat thing on Scully’s wall.

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It’s almost like people sitting down having a normal conversation… about weird salamander hands.

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And a nice shot of her kitchen in the morning.

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4×20 – Small Potatoes

Scully’s kitchen in Small Potatoes.

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7×07 – Orison

We get to see a lot of Scully’s apartment in Orison and since there’s some running from room-to-room, it may be a good episode to get a better understanding of the layout (at least as it stands in Season 7).

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Orison also gives us some nice shots of Mulder’s apartment, as well.

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Mulder has a bike hanging in the corner of his bedroom.

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7×17 – all things

A couple nice shots of Scully’s apartment, but it’s really Mulder’s bedroom that steals the show here.

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Now for Mulder’s apartment…

 

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10×05 – Founder’s Mutation

Our first look at Scully’s new living quarters after moving out of the Unremarkable House.  Is it an apartment?  A house?  A rented out hotel room?  It’s not really clear, as we really only see a bedroom with a desk, the drawer of which contains a single photo of William and no sign of any other lived-in clutter.  There’s also a floor lamp somewhere to the left.

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The episode’s promo picture from this scene actually provides a slightly better view of the overall layout compared to the tighter shots featured in the final episode.

 

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10×04 – Babylon

A brief shot of Scully’s bedroom from Babylon shows the room in some cooler tones with some potentially re-arranged furniture (or whatever that is in the foreground).  What is that white thing on the bed in both episodes?  Could it be Scully’s silky pajamas?

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11×07 – Rm9sbG93ZXJz

Rm9sbG9ZXJz gives us the only look at Scully’s residence in Season 11, but we get to see quite a bit of it. Also plenty of great interior and exterior shots of the Unremarkable House on top of that.

Nice wide shot of the ground floor from this angle.

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Scully’s bathroom.

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Scully’s kitchen.

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[Memorabilia] Palisades – The X-Files PALz Figures – Series 2

“A television cult phenomenon began in 1993 with the creation of The X-Files.  FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder and Special Agent Dana Scully encountered mutants, vampires, aliens, madmen and government conspirators to investigate unexplained phenomena contained in what the FBI labeled the “X-Files”, cases that defied traditional explanation. These all-new Series 2 X-Files PALz action figures feature great well-loved characters and some incredible fan favorites from the creepy and compelling series, and prove once again that “The Truth is Out There.”

— PALz Series 2 Case

In this post we’re taking a look at the second set of The X-Files PALz block figures.  For the first set and general history of the PALz line, check out The X-Files PALz Figures – Series 1.

12 of the 14 figures in The X-Files PALz Series 2 set. Not pictured are the variants of Skinner in his trench coat and Scully in her autopsy gear.

The second and final set of The X-Files PALz figures arrived about nine months after the first, in November of 2005.  During this time, the decision was made to switch from the nicely designed blister packs of Series 1 to blind packaging for Series 2.  While blind packaged figures are common in North America now, this was an unpopular decision among fans back in 2005 who didn’t want to spend a fortune buying random characters in order to complete the set.  In addition to the blind packaging, the chances of acquiring a chase figure had also grown slimmer.  Whereas the three chase figures in Series 1 were limited to 1 per case of 24, the six chase figures in Series 2 were limited to either 1 in 32 or 1 in 64.

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Packaging for The X-Files PALz Series 2 blind packaged box.  Like Series 1, the box features the credits on the package.  The Series 2 boxes also provided the rarity of each figure.  The figure and accessories were held within a clear plastic bag inside.

But perhaps the blind packaging did have one silver lining:  It forced you to open the figures up and play with them!  The Series 1 packaging was perhaps a little too nice.  They looked great on display in the package, so why ruin that by taking them out?  But at the same time, the point of the figures was to pose them and play with them and make use of all of those neat little accessories, and blind packaging by its very nature forces the customer to open it just to see what’s inside.

While both series seem to have received a relatively small production run, figures from Series 2 tend to appear even less frequently than Series 1 in the aftermarket, leading me to believe that this series may have been even more limited than the first.  Either that, or perhaps spread a little more thin, as this series contained 14 different figures compared to the 11 from Series 1.  Like Series 1, the base set contained eight different figures, but here we have six chase figures instead of three, with four of them being variants of figures in the base set, and two being entirely new figures (Alex Krycek and Marita Covorubius).

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Box containing 16 blind-packaged figures.  Due to the rarity of the chase figures, it is extremely unlikely, if not impossible, that one would be able to obtain a full set of 14 figures from a single box of 16, as the chase figures were limited to either 1 in 32 or 1 in 64.

The individual packaging divides the second series into two categories, separating the standard and chase figures by rarity.  They’re listed as follows:

X-Files PALz Series Two

1:8 Mulder – FBI Field Jacket
1:8 Scully – FBI Field Jacket
1:8 Assistant Director Skinner
1:8 Newborn “Attack” Alien
1:8 George Peacock
1:8 Eugene Victor Tooms
1:16 Cigarette Smoking Man
1:16 X

X-Files PALz Limited Edition Chase Figures

1:32 Special Agent Fox Mulder “Reynard Muldrake” (Mulder in suit with trench coat)
1:32 Cigarette Smoking Man “Raul Bloodworth” (CSM with briefcase [no trench coat])
1:64 Walter Skinner “Field Operations” (Skinner in trench coat)
1:64 Special Agent Dana Scully “Quantico Forensic Training” (Scully in scrubs)
1:64 Alex Krycek “Comrade Artzen” (a misspelling of Krycek’s alias “Comrade Arntzen”)
1:64 Marita Covarrubias “United Nations SRSG”

Overall, of the 14 Series 2 figures, 10 are unique characters, and the only characters repeated from Series 1 are the new versions of Mulder and Scully.  As far as variety of characters, this would put the PALz Series 2 set just behind the recently released set of The X-Files Titan vinyl figures, which contains 12 unique characters in its base set (the four chase figures are all variants of existing characters), though the combined Series 1 and 2 PALz end up beating it with 16 unique characters between the two.

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A sampling of the PALz Series 2 accessories.

One of the highlights of the PALz figures are the various show-specific accessories.  Each figure comes with its very own little paper X-File based on an episode of the show, usually one that in some way relates to that particular character.  There are also the standard sort of accessories that we’ve seen other figures come with such as guns, FBI badges, flashlights, and cell phones, but the PALz line isn’t afraid to tap into the details of each episode for some more unique (and occasionally disturbing) items.  Tooms comes with an extra set of stretchy arms and a roadkill snack, and CSM comes with an alternate hand holding a cigarette and a pack of Morley’s.  Mulder’s iconic sunflower seeds and “I Want to Believe” poster are there, as is the classic photo of Fox and Samantha Mulder as kids.  The Alien comes with an alternate chest plate that can fit over any character’s torso, just in case you need to simulate its “birth.”  Scully comes with an amusingly bizarre PALz version of the x-ray film of her brain tumor from “Momento Mori,” and George Peacock comes with a bloody ax, pitchfork, and baseball bat, as well as a little block figure version of a deformed dead baby.  Uh…  Let’s just not mention that last one to LEGO when trying to defend The X-Files from getting shot down for not being a family-friendly property…

Krycek and Skinner PALz
Krycek taunts Skinner with nanobots, his fake left hand hanging at his side. Skinner is not amused.

Despite their small size, the PALz line of figures is pretty well articulated and fairly poseable.  Their arms and legs have a decent range of motion, and they can bend at the knees and elbows and rotate the hands and feet.  The blocky heads can rotate and tilt slightly, and the hair/ear pieces are removable.  They can technically be moved a bit at the waist, though that is often limited by longer shirts and jackets.  Like most block figures, the pieces can come apart and are interchangeable between figures.

Mulder and CSM PALz
“Hey, look, I found this thing in a lamp. Now, what were you talking to my mom about?”

On the downside, however, the flexibility of these figures seem to come at the cost of fragility.  While they’re certainly meant to be played around with and put in fun poses, they can really only be recommended for adult collectors, as they just won’t hold up to rigorous play.  The arm and leg joints in particular tend to come apart very easily, which is fine if you want to swap some body parts, but they often come off too easily when just trying to pose a figure.  Also, now that it’s been more than a decade since their original release, it’s become clear that some of the plastics used are prone to discoloration over time.  So far, this generally seems most noticeable with some of lighter colors, such as the hands.

Mulder and Scully PALz
Um, Scully, you might want to get that alien artifact away from Mulder, or we might have to deal with more awful “brain disease” plotlines.

So, now that Palisades is no more and the proposed third series of X-Files PALz figures never saw the light of day, is this the end of The X-Files block figures?  The demand was obviously there after the X-Files Revival was announced in early 2015 when Brent Waller, designer of the excellent Ghostbusters LEGO set, proposed a set of X-Files LEGOs, complete with Mulder and Scully’s basement office, to  LEGO Ideas.  The proposed set was very popular with both X-Files and LEGO fans and was widely reported on in collector’s circles, however it was ultimately rejected by LEGO due to the show’s mature themes (damn it, Home…  we still love you, though).  While unofficial, custom versions of the LEGO Mulder and Scully figures can be ordered at a premium, it sadly doesn’t appear that we’ll be getting official versions anytime soon.

Peacock and Tooms PALz
“Hey, George, I think you’ve got a little something on your shirt. Want a bite of my liver?”

But fortunately LEGO’s lack of interest was not the end.  As I mentioned in the PALz Series 1 review, the PALz figures were originally a derivative of Art Asylum’s Minimates line, and now it seems that we’ve come full circle, with Art Asylum picking up the license and putting out figures for both the 2016 limited series as well as a set of figures for the classic series.  So far the range of figures is nowhere near the variety seen in the two PALz sets, but these will be the first new figures released specifically based on Mulder and Scully’s Season 10 look, so it’s still an exciting prospect.

X and Marita PALz
Currently the only available figures of the informants Mr. X and Marita Covarrubias. I realized after taking this picture that Marita’s scarf is on backwards. Oops. Also, her coat is removable, however, the plastic has stiffened with age and no longer comes off easily!

So, that brings us to the end of the road for the X-Files PALz line.  As mentioned earlier, these figures can be hard to come by these days and can be quite pricey when they do appear for sale.  With that said, if anyone has the Scully and Skinner chase figures and would like to contribute photos for this review, please feel free to leave a message in the comments section or contact me on Twitter!  And hopefully we’ll be able to check out just how the PALz figures stack up against the new Minimates in an upcoming review…

Information was compiled from my own memory and 2005 email receipts, as well as old retailer and eBay listings (especially the super-informative Corndog Collectibles) and message board posts.

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[Art] Happy New Year!

Millennium Kiss

 

This sketch is dedicated to the #XFRewatchCrew on Twitter.  Your passion, humor, and comradery have helped me through some of the more challenging aspects of 2015, and it’s been fun getting to know you all through your tweets.  We have so much X-Files goodness to look forward to in 2016, and I’m excited to watch the new episodes along with you!  Happy New Year of New X-Files!

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[Art] First Person Shooter

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Guys, I really hate First Person Shooter.  Like, it’s one of the only episodes that actually makes me angry.  I find it offensive as a game developer, a woman, and an X-Phile.  That said, I’m still amused by their ridiculous game outfits and had way too much fun drawing this picture back in the day.

Moral of the story:  This episode is awful, but Scully is a badass, and Mulder has nice arms.

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[Memorabilia] Palisades – The X-Files PALz Figures – Series 1

In 2005, the now-defunct Palisades Toys released two series of The X-Files “PALz” mini figures.  The PALz figures were articulated block figures similar to the Minimates line, which the PALz figures were originally a derivative of, separating into its own line once a licensing deal between Palisades and Art Asylum fell apart.  (Interestingly enough, ten years later, Art Asylum finally plans to release The X-Files Minimates in a few months to correspond with the 2016 X-Files limited series.)  Three series of the X-Files PALz figures were said to be designed, however, only two were released before Palisades went under.  Despite that, the two series that  were released still represent the most variety of any of the X-Files toy lines to date, with a combined 16 characters represented, spanning mythology and MOTW alike.

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The major difference between the two series that were released was the way they were packaged.  The first series was released on nicely-designed blister cards, whereas the second series was released as blind-packaged boxes — a decision that greatly upset collectors at the time, especially in North America where blind-packaged figures weren’t as common or popular as they were in some other markets, such as Japan.

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PALz Series 1 vs. Series 2 packaging.

The figures were available from specialty retailers both in stores (Sam Goody, Suncoast, Media Play) and online (Entertainment Earth, ToyWiz).  The blister packaging of Series 1 seemed to be a bit more popular with North American retailers, so this series may be slightly more common.

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Front and back of Series 1 packaging. Full credits for the figures’ production team are listed on the back of the box, which is pretty cool.

Despite their simple, playful look, adult collectors were definitely the target audience for this line.  It was released a few years after the series ended and didn’t shy away from some of the darker elements of the show.  Palisades was a favorite among collectors due to their dedication to attention to detail in their licenses and reception to feedback from their fanbase.  This attention to detail was reflected in the characters selected, from MOTW fan-favorites to recurring secondary characters often ignored in merchandising such as Frohike and Deep Throat, and the accessories included, such as Donnie Pfaster’s creepy lock of hair and shampoo bottle and the Flukeman’s porta potty.

PALz Series 1 Scully and Mulder figures
Each figure came with a number of relevant accessories. Pictured here are the standard versions of the Scully and Mulder figures. They both come with their badge, gun, cell phone, and a flashlight. Scully also comes with a computer, and Mulder comes with a copy of Jose Chung’s From Outer Space. Each figure also comes with an X-File. Here, Scully has her own X-File, and Mulder’s X-File is based on the episode Anasazi.

At the time, the prices of the PALz line were considered a little on the high end for mini figures (with a suggested retail price of US $6.99 each), though they were still the more affordable choice compared to the contemporary line of X-Files 12″ figures being released by Sideshow Collectibles, which featured more realistic detail at a much larger scale and went for $40.00 and up.

With the history out of the way, let’s focus on Series 1.

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Series 1 base set, excluding the 3 chase variants.

 

Series 1 was released around April 2005 and featured 11 different figures:  8 standard, 3 chase variants.  In this series, the chase figures were all variations of characters featured in the standard set of 8 rather than a mix of variants and new characters, as we would later see in Series 2.   A case of Series 1 contained 24 figures in the following quantities:

– Special Agent Fox Mulder (x3)
– Special Agent Dana Scully (x3)
– Flukeman (x3)
– The Conundrum (x3)
– Gray Alien (x3)
– Donnie Pfaster (x2)
– Melvin Frohike (x2)
– Deep Throat (x2)
– Mulder Repaint Chase “Special Agent Fox Mulder (Man in Black Variant)” (x1)
– Scully Repaint Chase “Special Agent Dana Scully (Captive)” (x1)
– Demon Pfaster “Donnie Pfaster (Face of Evil)” (x1)

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Series 1 Chase Variants of Mulder, Scully, and Donnie Pfaster.  Demon Pfaster comes with a lock of red hair instead of blonde, so that’s really fucking creepy.

 

In addition to the 11 figures released at retail, there were also a couple of variants available only at specific shows.  At San Diego Comic Con 2005, a packaging variant of The Conundrum was released that included just the figure without any of the accessories.  It was packaged in a plastic bag with a cardboard hanger that featured a blank space where it could be autographed by The Enigma, the actor and inspiration for The Conundrum on The X-Files.  A photo of The Enigma himself is also featured on this packaging, as opposed to the render of the figure that’s displayed on the standard retail packaging.  It is also marked with the official SDCC Exclusive logo.

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Standard version of The Conundrum figure (left) next to the SDCC 2005 Exclusive version (right).

But the very first X-Files PALz were actually a promotion for the line at New York Toy Fair 2005, which likely predated the commercial release by a couple of months.  These prototype-esque figures featured all-black, unpainted versions of Mulder and Scully along with a gun accessory and were available at the Palisades booth at the show.  They’re shown below along with a small flier advertising the upcoming toy line.

2005 New York Toy Fair Exclusive Mulder & Scully figures with card advertising the upcoming X-Files line of PALz figures.

 

And that’s a wrap for Series 1!  Stay tuned for Series 2, where we’ll investigate even more characters, more variants, and more disturbing accessories hidden within those unassuming blind boxes.

 

Information was compiled from my own memory and 2005 email receipts, as well as old retailer and eBay listings (especially the super-informative Corndog Collectibles) and message board posts.

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[Books] The X-Files: Trust No One Anthology – Mini Reviews – Part 3

Here’s the final collection of mini-reviews for the X-Files short story anthology, Trust No One.  I reviewed stories 1-5 in Part 1 and stories 5-10 in Part 2.  The book can be purchased on Amazon.com as a standard paperback, Kindle book, or audio book.

Again, we’ll start with the summaries, and then the full reviews can be found below.  Let’s finish this!

Stories 11 – 15

11.  Clair de Lune

Caught in a blizzard while escorting an extradited prisoner from Canada to the US, Mulder and Scully are warned that keeping the prisoner in their company could have deadly consequences.

12.  It’s All in the Eyes

Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate two murders on Halloween that appear to have been committed by a animatronic doll.

13.  The House on Hickory Hill

Mulder and Scully join the investigation into the kidnapping of a teenage girl from a supposedly haunted house when a ransom note is found signed in the blood of the long-dead former occupant.

14.  Time and Tide

After three teens go missing, Mulder and Scully are drawn to a strange pair of windows in the side of a cliff, one of which appears to transport anyone who climbs out of it into another time.

15.  Statues 

In Death Valley, a desperate man crashes his car and appears to turn to solid stone in front of a number of witnesses, leading Mulder and Scully on a search for their own real-life Medusa.

Now onto the reviews!

Mini-Reviews

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11. Clair de Lune by David Benton and W.D. Gagliani

Note: This story was dedicated to the memory of Charles L. Grant who wrote the 1990s X-Files novels Goblins and Whirlwind and passed away in 2006. A sweet and fitting tribute.

This was one of the shorter stories, but it throws us right into the action as Mulder and Scully try their luck driving across the Canadian border after their flight back to the US is canceled. This seems to be a good place in the book for a nice claustrophobic story as Mulder and Scully are trapped in a snowstorm with a man who may or may not be a werewolf. I enjoyed the quick pace and the banter between Mulder and Scully, though some of the dialogue did seem to be worded a little awkwardly. I also had a hard time imagining Mulder especially, being so unsympathetic toward the prisoner when he believed that he could have been afflicted with such a condition, though to be fair, we don’t really get to see any of their interaction before we see him annoying the hell out of them with his screaming and mumbling on their car ride. This is another story that takes advantage of the print medium to depict things that are maybe a little gorier than what could have been shown on TV.

And now for our infamous timeframe nitpicks! The timeframe given at the start of the story is October of 1994, which would place it either during or just before Scully’s abduction, depending on if you go with the original or retconned timeline. Either way, though, Mulder and Scully wouldn’t have technically been partners during this time (this is also placed about a week before the date given to the first story in the book, where Mulder and Scully were not officially partners). That said, the timeframe seems to be placed rather arbitrarily. A late Season 1 episode is referenced, but other than that, this story could probably take place at any other point in the series where Mulder and Scully are reporting to Skinner.

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12. It’s All in the Eyes by Heather Graham

Okay, I have to admit, I had a hard time with this one. This is the first story in this collection that I just flat out didn’t like. Usually if I’m reading X-Files fanfic, the moment I see “Fox” and “Dana” being thrown around haphazardly, I’m out. Close the browser tab, time to move on. But I paid for these stories, damn it. And I’ve already committed to these reviews at this point, so I suffered through it. For you. I do it all for you.

The story begins, so imaginatively, the night before Halloween. A horror prop apparently comes to life and attacks a store clerk, and some people die. Oh, and the only thing in the vicinity of this store full of fancy Halloween decorations is, conveniently, an old church and graveyard. Dead bodies everywhere. Most of them were already dead, but whatever. Don’t worry, the “crime scene people” will take care of it, I’m sure.

I just couldn’t get into the writing. It felt… generic. The descriptions of the characters and setting lacked detail and everything felt very vague, as if to let the imagination fall back on tired cliches. The dialogue tended to be clunky and unnatural. Too many long sentences filled with unnecessary words that normal people don’t use in casual conversation. And the hyphens, my god. Hyphens everywhere. It’s a stylistic choice, I know, but it wasn’t working for me. All in all, the writing seemed like it was intended for a much younger audience than the rest of the book. The obvious seemed over-explained, but anything that could have used a bit of an explanation didn’t seem worth the effort. Too much telling, not enough showing.

In these reviews, I’ve tended to stay away from giving away the ending to most of these stories, as not to spoil them completely. But this one, I don’t even care. Weird snake-eyed alien slug things that control people? I think? And a portal… to… I don’t know, Hell, maybe? Their alien slug spaceship? I dunno, but they sure were evil, I guess?

And let’s talk about Mulder and Scully, or “Fox” and “Dana” as they’re so liberally referred to in the text. And you know what, I can do the occasional “Fox” and “Dana.” Those are their names, after all. But the moment you have Scully actually refer to Mulder as “Fox,” you just lose all credibility. And yeah, Mulder does call Scully by her first name occasionally, but three times in such a short story for no particular reason seemed a bit much. But these seemed like very surface-level depictions of Mulder and Scully that just didn’t ring true to the characters. Beside the awkward dialogue and random usage of first names, they seemed like flat and undeveloped characters, as if someone had heard the premise of the show and figured, “Okay, Mulder is supposed to believe everything he hears and Scully is supposed to deny it. But they’re such great partners!” The text tells us how good they are together, but it doesn’t really do anything to show it in a meaningful way. The story is missing anything like the cute, quirky moments we saw between them in Dusk or the heartfelt devotion that Scully demonstrated while looking for Mulder in Loving the Alien. It just feels shallow.

Oh, and we haven’t talked about the timeline yet! The year assigned to this story is 2009, making it one of the two stories in this collection to take place after the end of the series (and after I Want To Believe). With the other post-series story, Dusk, internal date issues aside, I felt that it worked because it otherwise lined up with IDW’s Season 10 comics’ continuity, in which Mulder and Scully rejoined the FBI sometime around 2013 after being prompted by a revived alien threat and concern for William’s safety. In this story, however, we get no explanation for why Mulder and Scully are back in the FBI in 2009. But with the history of these timestamps sometimes seemingly being assigned to stories at random, was 2009 even the intended setting for this story? There really doesn’t seem to be much to indicate a year, other than Mulder and Scully *may* be more than just partners here, though the exact state of their relationship isn’t explicitly mentioned. If you were to tell me that this story took place in late Season 7, I’d probably buy it more than 2009. Maybe the author heard that Mulder and Scully ended up together but didn’t bother to watch the last couple of seasons or second movie? I don’t know. Also, Scully apparently doesn’t believe in aliens here. By the end of the series, Scully most definitely believed in aliens. If she didn’t buy that these weird slug things were aliens, that’s cool. Knowing the history of aliens on The X-Files, I don’t really buy it, either. But the concept of an alien being that can take over someone’s body should be familiar to even a mid-series Scully, let alone Scully in 2009, if this actually is 2009.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. I think I could have forgiven most of these nitpicks on their own, but it ended up being a lot of little things that I found distracting enough to detract from my enjoyment. I’m trying to find some positives in here, and while the story didn’t really work at all for me, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will feel the same way. There were a couple of nice lines here and there, I suppose, and probably some nice imagery in the beginning for those who really like Halloween decorations. And while the Mulder/Scully interaction fell flat for me, maybe it would work for some of the less picky shippers out there.

When I first picked up this book, this was the kind of story I was worried we might get, and honestly, I’m so grateful that we got 11 mostly very solid, well-written, well-characterized stories before we got to this one. As it stands, though, this one dud isn’t enough to prevent me from recommending the rest of the book. Moving on!

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13. The House on Hickory Hill by Max Allan Collins

I remember hearing that Max Allan Collins’ novelization of I Want to Believe received some mixed reviews (unrelated to the mixed opinions fans may have on the movie itself), but never having read that adaptation, I can’t really comment either way. I feel that Collins’ contribution to Trust No One, however, is a very solid entry and one of the meatier stories in the book. Mulder and Scully are in character, their dialog feels appropriate, and we’ve got some fun banter between them. This is another story centered around a potentially haunted house, but I personally enjoyed it a bit more than Paranormal Quest. While I had my suspicions about the true antagonist in this one early on, it didn’t feel quite as predictable as the earlier story, and I felt that everything really started clicking in place for me around the same time as it did for Mulder and Scully. The mystery takes its time to unravel and remains unsettling throughout. Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It may not be the most “fun” story in this book, but it had some nice moments between our agents, and it was a strong, dark mystery casefile.

Timeline nitpicks! (I should have just made this a standard section of each review.) I don’t recall if a specific year was given in the story for when the main action takes place, but the original murder in the house took place in 1979, so the 1997 date given at the beginning of the story would seem to be appropriate given this story’s timeline. The December 29th date, however, does contradict the show’s timeline, as Scully and Mulder should still be in San Diego during the events of the episode Emily, and none of that story arc plays any part in this. Of course, that doesn’t even really matter, because that initial date stamp directly contradicts the VERY FIRST LINE in the story, which clearly states that this story takes place in mid-November. Seriously, it’s stated like six words into the story. I’d really like to have a word with the editors.

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14. Time and Tide by Gayle Lynds and John C. Sheldon

I really wasn’t crazy about the characterizations in this one. Scully was almost unrecognizable. She attempted no scientific explanation for what was going on, barely challenged Mulder, and seemed to buy into the weirdness of the situation without question. Mulder’s insistence at the end that they make up a cover story also seemed extremely out of character for him, and for Scully to some degree, too. You would think that they would want to further investigate this phenomenon and try to figure out what caused it despite the danger that posed. It seems that they would owe that much to Gorman, who, by the way, didn’t seem to be bothered nearly enough by what had happened to him. I’m honestly not sure why Gorman seemed to be taking orders from Mulder in the first place. Their dialogue, while not particularly painful, generally seemed to be rather bland.

The one thing this story has going for it is the danger and mystery of the situation, and it was enough to keep me engaged, but there wasn’t really any kind of satisfactory pay-off. We never really find out what the main antagonist is, why it does what it does, why it has its particular weakness, what’s up with the time travel, or why the one window in the bunker is the gateway to it. It was an idea that had a lot of potential, but it seemed to get a bit convoluted. I don’t need to have everything explained, but the whole thing just felt underdeveloped. The X-Files rarely just has weird stuff going on for the sake of having weird stuff going on. Mulder “figures it out,” but without Scully bringing her science into it to give it some semblance of credibility, it just feels kind of hollow.

And not to disappoint, here’s this story’s timestamp mess: The date given at the beginning is January 12, 2000, which doesn’t even remotely match anything in the text. The story centers around three kids graduating from high school, and it’s clearly stated to be summer, so definitely not January. At one point Scully estimates that the date roughly 40 years in the future would be 2035, making this story take place closer to 1995 than 2000. Also, in the story it mentions that Scully has never been to Maine before, which would absolutely be untrue in 2000 (hi, Chinga), but could possibly have been true in 1995.

Anyway, not a horrible story, but it didn’t really come together at the end. I got really excited when I saw we would be dealing with time travel and was pretty disappointed by how it was executed. I really wanted to like this one, but the poor characterizations and convoluted, unresolved story elements significantly took away from a story that started out with a ton of potential.

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15. Statues by Kevin J. Anderson 

After a couple of shaky stories in this last set, the book ends on a high note with Kevin J. Anderson’s contribution. Anyone familiar with Anderson’s X-Files novels from the 90’s should have a pretty good idea of what to expect. The X-File is rock solid (I’m sorry), and Mulder and Scully are perfectly in character. The leading timestamp places this story in 1995, though really it could take place anytime during the majority of Mulder and Scully’s partnership.

The two agents stick together for this one, investigating as a team rather than splitting off on their own. We’ve got some fun banter here with plenty of inappropriate quips from Mulder. The pacing is of the standard MOTW variety, and it definitely feels like it could have been an episode of the show. Mulder and Scully find themselves in real danger at the end, leaving the reader wondering how they’re going to make it out alive. All in all, it’s a well-written, solid casefile, and a strong story to go out on.

 

The Verdict…

So, now that we’ve gotten through all 15 stories, was it worth it? In spite of a couple of duds and the baffling timestamp situation, the answer is still yes, without a doubt. The vast majority of stories were engaging and demonstrated expert knowledge of the show and its characters. It was really just “It’s All in the Eyes” and “Time and Tide” where Mulder and Scully felt jarringly unlike themselves, and those stories are probably the weakest because of it (again, a harsh blow to the otherwise fascinating premise of “Time and Tide”). For the most part, though, each story seemed like it would feel at home as an episode of the TV show (though some stories take advantage of the lack of television censorship with the occasional strong language and excessive gore), and I generally got the feeling that this was a collection written by fans for fans.

Since the stories are all stand-alone casefiles, even casual fans looking for a good collection of mystery stories should be able to jump right in without feeling out of place, though there are still a ton of specific references that the more hardcore fans should appreciate. We get nods to Samantha’s abduction, Scully’s cancer, Duane Barry, Skinner’s experiences in Vietnam, Mulder’s pre-X-Files smoking habit, as well as a handful of other references, though the stories themselves are mostly self-contained and don’t veer too far into the show’s ongoing mythology.

Is this collection going to satisfy your average fanfic addict? That’s probably going to be a matter of taste. If you just like a good casefile that’s paced out similarly to an episode of the show, then this will probably hit the spot. But a lot of fanfic readers are looking for the kind of stuff that wouldn’t have been aired, and you’re not going to find anything here that’s really outside the basic premise of the show. No novel-length epics, no smut, no crazy AU stuff, nothing that takes place completely outside of the characters’ lives as FBI agents. That said, despite focusing on casefiles, the stories we’re presented with here do have some nice variety. We have two stories starring Skinner, a story set during Krycek and Mulder’s brief partnership pre-Duane Barry, a story from the perspective of another FBI agent working alongside Mulder and Scully, a first-person story from Scully’s point of view, a story about Mulder and Scully escorting a prisoner over the
Canadian border, Mulder and Scully working overseas, a pre-X-Files Mulder working with Arthur Dales, and a story set in 2015, presumably within the IDW X-Files: Season 10 continuity. The contributing authors may vary in style, but all are competent writers and storytellers, so while the stories might not hold a candle to some of the cream-of-the-crop fanfic recommendations, you’re probably in for a more consistent experience than blindly picking through a general fanfic archive.

While I’ve enjoyed the vast majority of the stories in this collection, my favorites remain the two stand-outs from my first set of reviews: The 2015-set “Dusk” for its humor (and bonus points for the rare glimpse of Mulder and Scully working together as a functioning couple, even if it’s mostly in the background), and the introspective Scully-centric “Loving the Alien,” for its heart.

Overall, I was pretty satisfied with this collection.  The weakest point was probably the editing, but the stories all generally felt like they could have been episodes of the show.  In the next volume, I’d like to see the authors branch out a little more and tackle some other characters and time periods that didn’t get much focus this time around.  In any event, I’m excited to see what a new batch of authors can bring to the table.

The next volume, The X-Files: The Truth is Out There, is currently slated for a February 10, 2016 release and can be preordered on Amazon.

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