X Factor: 13 Things About TV's Eeriest Show

There's something spooky going on here. Not since David Lynch's surreal Twin Peaks (1989-1992) had us searching for Laura Palmer's killer has a television show moved so many people into a hallucinogenic state of mania. Not since Watergate have so many people found themselves seeking the ever-elusive "truth."Welcome to The X-Files, a shadow-filled, creepy little show in which FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) find themselves battling monsters, mutants, aliens--and the government that employs them.The popularity of The X-Files has grown steadily since its September 1993 network debut. The first season found the show swimming in the dredges of ratings hell--finishing 102 out of 118 shows. By the end of the second season, though, both critical acclaim and fans' word of mouth had jump-started The X-Files from cult-status into Nielsen nirvana; it finished 64th out 141 shows. Now, deep into its third season, The X-Files is Fox's No. 1 show and a consistent winner in its Friday night time slot.The hype surrounding The X-Files has grown proportionally with its ratings. Duchnovy and Anderson have graced numerous magazine covers and made the late-night talk show rounds. The two appeared in character on a recent episode of Muppets Tonight and both will be animated--and spoofed--in an episode of The Simpsons next fall.Add to that two books for devoted X-Philes (as fans prefer to be known) The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files and The Unofficial X-Files Companion; an X-Files movie and syndication of the show, both planned for 1997; the March 26 release of three X-Filesvideotapes (CBS/Fox Video, $14.95), each containing two uncut episodes; X-Files conventions where devoted fans nitpick the show with the avidity of Trekkies; a soundtrack, Songs in the Key of X, (March 26, Warner Bros., $14.99) featuring music inspired by the series from the likes of Nick Cave and Frank Black; and even an X-Files comic book.But the biggest--and best--marketing device the show has going for it doesn't have anything to do with merchandising; rather, it comes from the vast community of online X-Philes who spend hours discussing the show with the investigative zeal of the special agents themselves.With no less than 100 Web sites, along with countless commercial service forums devoted to the subject, fans have assembled a huge well of X-File trivia. Every aspect of the show, from dialogue and clothing to set locale and props, is dissected in a relentless search for clues to the show's many mysteries. It's a gripping otherworld fit for Scully and Mulder.X-Philes aren't immune to their show's faults. They know the plots don't always make total sense, and they complain when plot devices don't work. Nevertheless, fans tune in religiously--not only to be scared silly by an odd assortment of featured creatures, but to both solve the ongoing puzzle of Mulder's early UFO experiences and the government's attempt to stop him from learning more, and to revel in the simmering sexual tension between the two protagonists. (There are entire forums online devoted to the "M/S" relationship.)Networking through the Internet, they ponder each character's role and search for clues written between the script's lines. They tape every episode, then watch and rewatch, finger steadily poised above the VCR remote's rewind button.One fan got so into her hobby she felt compelled to post this observation: "Anyone ever notice that when Gillian blinks, her left eye (screen right) closes before her other eye?"(We've confirmed this as being true, and just in case you were wondering, Duchovny blinks in sync).Sound crazy? Maybe, but such attention to detail is necessary; very little that occurs on each weekly episodes appears by accident. Chris Carter, the creator/writer/producer of The X-Files, has said in interviews that he maps out each segment with feverish detail, leaving scarce room for improvisation or random doings. Every action, word and prop does mean something and has been put there to lead you toward answers. (Such obsessive attention to detail on the part of online fans sometimes pays off: In "Little Green Men," the names of three members of the David Duchovny Estrogen Brigade (as his Internet fan club is known) are shown onscreen in an airline flight roster.)Will Mulder ever untangle the web of lies surrounding his family's involvement with aliens and the government? Will Scully ever determine her own family's history or find out the truth about her own alien abduction? Will the two ever acknowledge their tacit attraction for one another, or will they continue to avoid it?It's a sci-fi soap opera, a supernatural whodunnit, so with a little help from the X-Philes, we've compiled an X-File on The X-Files: 13 clues and observations we think are integral to the bigger picture. Just remember, the truth is out there.1. The Devil Inside: Many X-Files segments feature references to demonology, occult lore and symbolism. From obvious examples such as the "Jersey Devil" episode built upon the mythology of the Leeds Devil (an 18th-century folk tale centering on the 13th child of a New Jersey woman) to more subtle indications, like the use of "666" in street addresses or the substitution of the letters BEL--a demon god in the Old Testament--for BFI, a major waste-removal contractor, on garbage Dumpsters.2. Seedy Behavior: Mulder has a penchant for snacking on unshelled sunflower seeds. In a recent episode, an autopsy performed on a killer cat's victim revealed an intestine full of sunflower seeds. "A man with good taste," comments Mulder.3. Skin on Skin: Mulder has a pornography fetish. Several episodes feature sly references to his predilection to skin flicks and girlie magazines. In "Jersey Devil," Mulder is seen looking at the centerfold in HankyPanky; another episode has him perusing Celebrity Skin, and in yet another show, we see him watching a porno film in the dark. Appropriately enough, in "Clyde Bruckman's Last Response," a psychic predicts that Mulder will die of autoerotic asphyxiation (strangulation while masturbating).4. Dog Days: Scully's Pomeranian was given to her by an elderly psychic, who in turn, acquired it from his next-door neighbor after her death. The pooch, as yet unnamed, ate its original owner's remains.5. Numbers Game: Mulder lives in apartment number 42, Scully lives in apartment 402.6. Numbers Game II: Whenever Mulder calls Scully to tell her something important, the time shown on Scully's clock usually reads "11:21." This is the date of producer Chris Carter's wife's birthday, November 21. Carter's production company, Ten Thirteen, is named after his own October 13 birth date.7. Single Gun Theory: Mulder and Scully both carry a Smith & Wesson 1076. These guns are no longer manufactured.8. True Believers: Of the three "Lone Gunmen," the trio of computer nerds who publish a newsletter on government conspiracies and sometimes aid Mulder, Frohike's the one with a serious crush on Scully. (His first impression of her: "She's hot.") There's also a fourth Lone Gunmen, The Thinker, an expert hacker who has, so far, appeared in only one episode.9. Paranoia Will Destroy Ya: Mulder's computer password is TRUSTNO1.10. A Room of Her Own: After nearly three seasons, Scully still hasn't been shown working in her own office; instead, we've seen her use a laptop computer or conduct business from her basement autopsy lab.11. It's a Drag: The first X-File was opened by J. Edgar Hoover in 1946.12. Conspiring Minds Think Alike: In "Little Green Men," the episode where Mulder and Scully are taken off the X-Files cases and assigned grunt work, the two meet in the basement of the Watergate Hotel to discuss strategies for solving their dilemma. Likewise, the government informant who helped them out the first two seasons was nicknamed "Deep Throat."13. Knicks Tricks: Mulder is a New York Knicks fan. In the "Beyond the Sea" episode, he fools phony psychic Luther Lee Boggs with a piece of his Knicks T-shirt. Then, in "Clyde Bruckman's Last Response," the tables are turned on him after he gives a piece of cloth to another psychic to help him locate a killer. The psychic identifies the cloth as a piece of Mulder's "favorite Knicks T-shirt." But it's not.

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