10 best X-Files parodies, homages and cultural references
This month is the eye of a milestone vortex for The X-Files. It is coming off 20 and 10 years since its first and second movie adaptation in June and July, respectively. Looking ahead, Sept. 10 will mark 25 years since the revolutionary science-fiction drama debuted.
One of Fox’s first shows of its kind to muster a second season, it stuck for nine straight. Sustained popularity spawned the aforementioned theatrical projects, widespread syndication and, within the last two-plus years, a brief reboot.
Four-and-a-half months after the newest episode and one month before the series premiere’s silver anniversary, The X-Files family has two smaller special occasions this week. Both of its top-billed co-stars have a birthday 48 hours apart. David Duchovny (aka Agent Mulder) will turn 58 on Tuesday, Gillian Anderson (Agent Scully) 50 this Thursday.
If the series’ staples have not been generating and savoring its resonance for half of their lives, they have for at least 40 percent. And between all of the parodies, allusions and crossovers of various tones, that impact is self-evident.
On that note, here are your top 10 external X-Files references of all time.
10. Gun Shy
Although Mitch Pileggi is buried among supporting players in this 2000 film, the creative minds work in a reference to his definitive TV project. Packs of Morley cigarettes that exist in the X-Files universe are on prominent display.
9. “The Trial”
Four years in, Duchovny’s second TV vehicle finally relents and humorously alludes to his first. Californication’s Hank Moody answers Karen’s compliments on his suit with, “I look like a (expletive) FBI agent.”
8. “The Strike”
The short-lived Baywatch spinoff, Baywatch Nights, caught unexplained-phenomena fever in its second season. When this 1996 episode centers on the famous Roswell mystery, resisting the urge to emulate the Mulder-Scully chronicles is futile.
7. “Maltaka Files”
Concomitant with The X-Files final season before the reboot, Sheena pursued its own alien suspicion and UFO-oriented storyline.
As hackneyed as evoking the theme and other X-Files aspects was by 2002, what else could the creators have done? You either make the full plunge or you just don’t bother.
If you go with it, you do not play coy. To its credit, Sheena does not.
6. “The X in the File”
Premiering three years after The X-Files curtailed its first run, Bones made several subtle allusions to its dramatic Fox predecessor.
Amidst its fifth season, the series elevates the homages when the investigators visit, where else, New Mexico. There the prospect of inter-planetary activity emerges, and an unmistakable musical score makes a cameo.
5. “Eek Space 9”
The Fox Kids cartoon Eek! Stravaganza thrust innumerable references bound to elude its target age group’s head. When the title character confronts an alien threat, a host of space-adventure allusions is obligatory.
Back on Earth, the 1995 episode ends with a saucer landing in the FBI’s offices. With that, the network brings two primetime parents-only stars on for a 30-second cameo. Anderson and Duchovny make their first of two authentic performances voicing their characters in animated form.
Upon witnessing the crash in her office, Scully runs to Mulder and stresses her hasty conversion. Five years after that quick grown-up joke, the character development comes true on the actual show.
4. “One Week”
The Canadian-born Barenaked Ladies released their international breakout single in 1998. Most of the tune’s bridges pack seemingly random, rapid-fire mentions of past and present movies, novels and TV shows.
Some of the items date back 40-plus years. Another, the Harrison Ford film Frantic, was already a decade old at the time.
But the most prominent contemporary reference packs three lines on The X-Files. The narrator, as if priding himself on a dare, mentions tuning in “with no lights on,” then name drops the recurring “Smoking Man.”
3. “Dick and the Single Girl”
A contemporary sitcom about “real” aliens inhabiting Earth needed to mention The X-Files at some point. In May 1997, 3rd Rock from the Sun got around to it.
This episode’s subplot begins with Harry and Tommy nitpicking the program. Never mind the fact that Scully and Mulder’s storylines stretch the truth of human life as well. The uncle and nephew Solomon are so insistent on bringing more accurate alien references to the small screen, they take their own crack at a script.
Specifically, they intend to pen “A killer X-Files.”
Millennium was another Chris Carter brainchild whose lifespan was enveloped by that of The X-Files.
Late in the first season, protagonist Frank Black is summoned back to his old haunts at the FBI. In the episode’s ninth minute, none other than Scully and Mulder pass by him on a headquarter staircase.
Granted, they are not Anderson’s Scully and Duchovny’s Mulder, but stunt doubles for the stars. With that said, it is just as good, character-wise, and gives some of the cast’s unsung heroes an extra morsel of glory.
Two-and-a-half years after this episode, Frank appears in an appended crossover to give his cancelled saga closure.
1. “The Springfield Files”
Season 8 was the definitive peak of The Simpsons. Among the platinum year’s nonstop gems, it offered an episode-long parodies of NBC’s Frasier, then crossed over with a Fox cohabitant.
Just as the former has David Hyde Pierce voicing Sideshow Bob’s (Kelsey Grammer) brother, the latter crosses over outright. When Homer reports what sure looks like an alien encounter, word streams to Scully and Mulder.
A four-minute self-parody of the paranormal investigators’ live-action exploits ensues, background smoker and all. Fittingly, the last of either guest star’s lines is Mulder/Duchovny’s long-winded speech, punctuated with “The truth is out there.”
Of course, it will still be three years before Scully starts to agree. To that point, she sports a “Homer Is A Dope” T-shirt when the truth of his “alien” comes to light. If this episode was missing anything, it was some skeptic-to-skeptic dialogue between Scully and Lisa.