“Mulder, I know you’re not going to like this, but I think the aliens in this story are not the villains, they’re the victims.” The line, from a season four episode of the worldwide hit The X-Files, sums up one of the many ways in which the little green men of the FOX series functioned as metaphors for many of the 1990s issues that the show tackled. Ideas of foreigners — and Others who could infiltrate our world and threaten it easily — were central to the David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson sci-fi show. Yes, Agents Mulder and Scully rarely ventured outside of the United States, but the complicated plot lines and secret conspiracies that littered every episode knew no national boundaries. That seemed to work very well for the show which was a global hit during its run with its two standalone films actually making more money abroad than they ever did in the United States.
Ahead of The X-Files‘ return to television, we’re counting down the handful of episodes that had Mulder and Scully dealing with everything from the chupacabra to Ecuadorian jaguar spirits, and from migrant workers and to Haitian refugees.
The brand new six-episode miniseries of The X-Files premieres on Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) on Fox.
“Little Green Men” (September 16, 1994)
The opener episode for the show’s second season earned the sci-fi show its highest ratings yet and was the first episode to actually show extraterrestrials. Following the fallout from the first season ender which had seen the closure of the X-Files, Mulder and Scully find their way to Arecibo, Puerto Rico where an abandoned observatory is said to be receiving communication from alien intelligence. After talking to a man (Texan actor Mike Gomez) who claims to have seen an alien creature, Mulder is intent on gathering evidence that will, once and for all, prove his various conspiracy theories.
“Fresh Bones” (February 3, 1995)
A perfect example of the show’s attempts at using local folklore to bolster its own sci-fi inclinations, “Fresh Bones” is set in an INS compound processing Haitian refugees. After a mysterious suicide is reported at the site, Mulder and Scully investigate the possibility that Haitian voodoo rituals may have something to do with it. Brazilian-American actor Daniel Benzali plays Colonel Wharton who may be mistreating the refugees and earning their wrath and gets his comeuppance by episode’s end which still leaves much of the supernatural twists of the story unresolved.
“F. Emasculata” (April 28, 1995)
The most striking episodes of the Chris Carter series worked hard at tying in real-life fears and anxieties to bear on slightly fictionalized and exaggerated scenarios. That is the case with “F. Emasculata” which opens in the rainforest of Costa Rica where an entomologist comes across a boar carcass full of purple pustules, the result of an insect that eventually kills him. The episode then follows Scully and Mulder investigating a virus outbreak in a prison which ties the dead entomologist to a pharmaceutical company that may have been using prisoners as guinea pigs to find out potential uses for the bizarre Costa Rican insect.
“Teso Dos Bichos” (March 8, 1996)
One of the most reviled episodes of the series’ run, “Teso Dos Bichos” was best summed up by Entertainment Weekly in their review: “No es bueno!” The episode opens in the Ecuadorian highlands where a spat between two archeologists over the decision to remove the urn of a female shaman — much to the complaints of the local tribespeople — leads to a jaguar spirit killing spree that follows when the urn arrives at a Boston museum. The rest of the episode features feral cats, roaming rodents, and more animal attacks that Mulder ascribes to the Ecuadorian tribespeople whose mystical artifacts had been removed and sent abroad. And yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds. No wonder director Kim Manners all but hated working on the episode.
“El Mundo Gira” (January 12, 1997)
Given the show’s penchant for exploring well-known myths around the world for its “Monster-of-the-week” storylines, it was only a matter of time before Mulder and Scully would come face to face with el chupacabra. An ambitious episode that attempted to tie the famed folk creature with the Mexican migrant worker communities in California, the episode has the FBI agents working alongside a Mexican-American INS agent played by Rubén Blades as they investigate a series of bizarre deaths. The episode follows Eladio Buente (played by Breaking Bad actor Raymond Cruz, wholly uncomfortable speaking Spanish throughout the episode) who gossip says is the chupacabra and who is also involved in an over-the-top, telenovela-style love triangle with his brother’s girl. It’s not quite as groan-inducing as it sounds; at least it features Puerto Rican actress Lillian Hurst in a pivotal role.
“John Doe” (January 13, 2002)
Written by executive producer Vince Gilligan (who would later create Breaking Bad), “John Doe” is set mostly in a Mexican town across the border from California where Agent Doggett (Robert Patrick) finds himself with no memory of having arrived at an abandoned warehouse. The plot thickens once Scully and Agent Reyes (Annabeth Gish) find out where Doggett is and realize he’s embroiled in a case involving Caballero (played by Argentine actor Zitto Kazann) a “memory vampire” who also happens to be the leader of a drug cartel. You can tell that the show had finally moved its shooting from Vancouver to California as the Mexican exteriors finally look more authentic, though the choice to have Albuquerque native Gish portray Mexican-born Reyes remains baffling to this day.