How “The X-Files” Stunted My Social Life
Once upon a time (two decades ago, to be more precise), I was an active and athletic young man who played baseball, softball, basketball and sometimes even what we Americans call “soccer” every Friday evening. All the young newspaper employees with whom I worked would meet at the local field and run around like maniacs without fear of the injuries that nowadays so easily cripple us, followed by a group dinner and a beer or two at a local eatery. And then one day, I stopped going to the festive portion of these activities. Instead, I’d rush home after the “running around” part, flick on my TV set and dim the lights. A new TV series had hooked me. It was a weird, new science-fiction/drama called “The X-Files,” and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
My first “X-Files” experience was an episode called “Squeeze,” which featured a creepy, glowing-eyed mutant named Eugene Victor Tooms who stalked his Baltimore-based, human victims, tore out their livers and ate them. As part of his strange biology, Tooms needed to consume five human livers before hibernating for a period of thirty years. Following each thirty-year-sleep, Tooms would awaken hungry and begin the killing cycle all over again. Criminal investigators from each of Tooms’ subsequent feeding periods were left perplexed.
Enter FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder, a member of the Bureau’s X-Files and a believer in the unbelievable, who arrives in Baltimore to investigate (circa 1993). The crafty and aptly named “Fox” begins to piece together the clues to these improbable murders, eventually linking them to an ageless city sanitation worker named Eugene Victor Tooms. It takes Mulder two episodes to catch Tooms … which he does just before the liver-eating mutant can once again safely escape to his hibernation nest (constructed from paper and Tooms’ own bile). After discovering Tooms’ lair, out of which Tooms suddenly emerges and attacks, Mulder is able to squash Tooms in the tooth-like gears of an escalator. Case solved, but my chance at a social life was thereafter wrecked.
Because every ensuing Friday, I’d race home for the show’s nine p.m. start time, and each new episode would introduce me to strange and creepy monsters such as a giant, murderous fluke worm residing in the New Jersey sewers, a vampire preying upon the loneliness (and cellulite) of heavy-set women, and beaucoup aliens. Just as compelling was the show’s cast of quirky regulars, such as Mulder; his partner, the more skeptical and cautious Dana Scully; their gruff but supportive supervisor, Assistant Director Walter Skinner; and a shady and powerful government figure and master manipulator known only as “the Cigarette-Smoking Man,” or “Cancer Man.”
What a scary, funny, fascinating, and extremely addictive show! But all good things must come to an end (fortunately for my social life), and when the show ended after nine seasons (seven and a half with David Duchovny as Agent Mulder), I started exercising again, got married, started raising kids (note: it helped that Fox later switched its television series to Sunday nights).
Still, I missed the show following its cancellation, and nothing (alas, not “Firefly” or “Chuck”) ever came close to matching how much fun and enthralling “The X-Files” had been to watch. Perhaps that’s why I now own the show on DVD (seasons 1 through 6) and every once in a while, I join my equally fascinated son in popping in a disc, dimming the lights, and cuddling up fearfully, as we wait for Mulder and Scully to catch or kill the monster … before it catches or kills them.