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Thanks to the folks at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Iíve had the opportunity to sample disc one and disc seven of THE X-FILES SEASON ONE GIFT PACK ($150). I have been a fan of THE X-FILES since its first season and have been eagerly anticipating the series release on DVD. For the small percentage of individuals unfamiliar with the television show that has become something of a cultural phenomenon, THE X-FILES follows the adventures of two FBI agents who investigate unsolved cases that usually involve the paranormal. The bureau has dubbed these unsolved cases The X-Files.

THE X-FILES stars David Duchovny as Special Agent Fox Mulder, an Oxford educated psychologist who distinguished himself in the violent crimes section and thought to be one of the best analysts with the FBI. While Mulderís fascination with the occult earned him the nickname of "spooky," his superiors do indulge his investigations into The X-Files because the cases are still active, although they remain outside the FBI mainstream. Gillian Anderson portrays Special Agent Dana Scully, a medical doctor who was recruited by the FBI and assigned as Agent Mulderís partner. Initially, Scully was assigned to Mulder to debunk his work on The X-Files, but as the series continues, her dispassionate scientific eye lends a certain level of credence to Mulderís work, although the partners rarely draw the same conclusions from the cases they investigate. In a nutshell, Mulder is the believer and Scully is the skeptic.

Disc one of THE X-FILES SEASON ONE GIFT PACK is a dual layered single sided DVD that includes the first four episodes of the series, including the pilot. The Pilot episode of THE X-FILES introduces the characters of Mulder and Scully, as well as setting up the basic premise of the series. Mulder and Scullyís first investigation as partners takes them to Oregon, where they investigate the deaths of several high school students, which Mulder believes may be related to alien abductions. In Deep Throat, a shadowy government figure (Jerry Hardin) tries to dissuade Mulder from investigating the case of an Air Force pilot who exhibits strange symptoms after testing an experimental aircraft, which Mulder thinks incorporates recovered alien technology. At first, Squeeze would appear to follow Mulder and Scully onto a straightforward FBI investigation involving a series of gruesome serial killings. However, Mulder quickly uncovers a series of similar killings dating back to the beginning of the century. Further evidence seems to indicate that a single individual whose bizarre physical nature has allowed him to commit these crimes, while continually eluding the authorities. In Conduit, Mulder and Scully investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl who may have been abducted by aliens. However, the strange abilities of the girlís younger brother prove to be the most fascinating aspect of the investigation.

Since my preview did not include the other twenty episodes contained on disc two through disc six, the best I can do is provide an episode listing for each of the remaining DVDs. Disc two should contain The Jersey Devil, Shadows, Ghost in the Machine and Ice. Disc three should contain Space, Fallen Angel, Eve and Fire. Disc four should contain Beyond the Sea, Gender Bender, Lazarus and Young At Heart. Disc five should contain E.B.E., Miracle Man, Shapes and Darkness Falls. Disc six should contain Tooms, Born Again, Roland and The Erlenmeyer Flask.

From what Iíve seen 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a rather impressive job with their release of THE X-FILES SEASON ONE GIFT PACK. Image quality is generally quite good for all the episodes, although the Pilot episode appears a little darker and a little bit weaker than the other three. The episodes are presented in the standard 4:3 television format, but they look better than they do on broadcast, with a usually clean and sharply defined image. Sure, there are occasional shots that appear a tad soft, but the DVD is still superior to what one usually sees on television. Colors are strong and there is no evidence of chroma noise of bleeding. Blacks are accurately rendered, which is important since much of this show takes place in the dark. Shadow detail is better than I expected for a television show, but not quite as good a theatrical production. The picture boasts very good contrast. Film grain is somewhat noticeable in places, but it is never distracting. Digital compression artifacts are not particularly bothersome, but one will be able to pick them out if they set out to find them.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtrack does decode to standard surround, but there isnít much surround information in the television caliber mix. Most of the sound is locked into the forward soundstage, where there is some good stereo imaging. The sound does have very good frequency range and at times can be impressive for a television production, especially if you are used to listening to this show through your TV speakers. Dialogue reproduction is excellent, with everything being clean and fully intelligible. Additionally, Mark Snowís music sounds eerily wonderful on DVD. A French soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD(s), as are English and French subtitles.

The interactive menus feature a nifty interface that takes advantage of full motion video, animation and sound. Through the menus once can access the episode selection and set up features. Episode selection also includes scene selection within individual episodes. There are some extra features on the individual discs, but the bulk of the supplements are contained on disc seven.

Topping the list of disc sevenís supplements is the 11-minute documentary: The Truth About Season One, which includes interviews with series creator and members of the production team. There are 12 additional interview segments with Chris Carter that were originally featured on the videotape releases of THE X-FILES. These interview segments run several minutes each and were originally designed to be an introduction for each episode. The Behind The Truth segment is comprised of 12 short promos for the syndicated run of THE X-FILES on cable/satellite station FX. TV Spots feature the 10 and 20-second "coming attractions" promos utilized during the original run of season one. Delete Scenes include two scenes from the pilot episode that scrapped the idea of Scully having a boyfriend. There is also a brief special effects clip from the episode Fallen Angel that shows the original photography for the sequence. Disc seven is also DVD-ROM enabled and will allow one to dig deeper into the conspiracy. From my preview, THE X-FILES SEASON ONE GIFT PACK looks like a winner. It has certainly whetted my appetite for the complete set, as well as future seasons of the show. I hope more supplements will crop up in the future; things like audio commentaries from Chris Carter, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson on episodes that they written and/or directed, plus some of the legendary blooper reels would be real cool.

One final note, I think that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done the best thing possible by making television series available on DVD as entire season collections. This is definitely the way it should be done. Now, all they have to do is start working on the BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON ONE GIFT PACK.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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