Beloved sci-fi show The X Files, starring Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny as skeptic Dana Scully and believer Fox Mulder, FBI agents dispatched to investigate paranormal activity, is back for an eleventh, controversial series. Episodes often fell in two camps: those that contributed to the knotty, overarching narrative and standalone ‘Monster of the Week’ installments, which gifted us with some indelibly fantastic and inventive characters that have gone down in TV folklore. Here, then, are 10 classic, unforgettable faves that haunt us daily.
Perhaps the most famous ‘Monster of the Week’, bad bastard Eugene Victor Tooms will eat your liver for breakfast and then hibernate for 30 years. He was born in 1873 and was still up to his diabolical tricks in 1994, when Mulder and Scully learned that he feasted on human liver for sustenance and was a sort-of living Stretch Armstrong, slithering through air vents and chimneys at will.
Scariest moment: When Mulder and Scully discovered his hibernation nest made from human bile.
Scientists spot a shadow inside an Oregon volcano that should be way too hot to foster life, so our heroes are sent to investigate. What they discover is team of crazed workers headed up by unhinged inventor Daniel Trepkos, who’s created a robot that can plummet the depths of the volcano. But what’s he found down there? The answer is deliciously gross, making this a classic X File.
Scariest moment: When a gloopy fungus burst through one character’s neck like a jack-in-a-box.
Nothing to do with Taylor Swift, this vampiric tale is widely regarded as one of the series’ best ever. There’s been a murder in small-town Texas and, well, it looks like a vampire done it. There’s an element of camp to the episode, which features an interest set-up in that Mulder and Scully’s memories of various events subtle differ. Speaking about the episode years later, writer Vince Gilligan (who created Breaking Bad) explained: “A lot of ‘Bad Blood’ sprung out of my love for the characters of Mulder and Scully.
Scariest moment: When a dude gets staked in the woods – and the situation is not at all what it seems…
A woman has been murdered and all the clues point towards her husband, Martin Wells, as the culprit, though he claims to have no recollection of the crime. Turns out he’s travelling backwards through time – though naturally no-one believes him. Featuring Agent Doggett (Robert Patrick, who replaced Mulder in seasons eight and nine, this episodes highlights Scully’s character progression as she’s now the least skeptical FBI Agent in the current crime-solving duo.
Scariest moment: When Wells is slashed across the cheeky by a mysterious man with a spider web tattoo.
A sewer, a bad dose of radiation, a humanoid flatworm. Named The Flukeman, this monster is probably The X Files’ most grotesque creation ever. He was created in the Chernobyl explosion and wound up living below the streets of New Jersey, where he would bite his victims, who become infected with parasitic worms. Utterly rancid, this deranged creation turned up again in season 10.
Scariest moment: Literally any scene featuring the Flukeman. Bloody horrible bugger that he is.
While we’re on infamous episodes, who remembers ‘Home’, an X Files installment so scary it was banned? We’ve talked before about this tale of kinky incest brothers and a deformed baby, which is so intense that one crew member said of its combination of gore and gruesome body horror: “awful, even for us”. A deformed baby’s corpse is discovered in a baseball pitch, and it transpires that it’s the unwanted result of incestuous sex between the local residents the Peacock brothers and their dear old mum, who has no arm and leg and is bound to a board underneath a bed.
Scariest moment: When Ma Peacock is unveiled like a prize on a particularly nightmarish gameshow.
The titular character is a man who can re-grow parts of his body when they’ve been lopped of, a handy skill that comes in particularly useful when he is accidentally decapitated. Scully runs tests on the head he left behind and discovers that it’s ridden with cancerous cells; later we learn that that Betts feasts on cancerous tissue in order to regenerate his body parts. The character has loads of cool moments– not least when he’s handcuffed and escapes by lopping off his own thumb.
Scariest moment: When Leonard Betts’ brand new head emerges from a bathtub filled with iodine.
There’s something of a Stephen King element to this tale of small-town horror, which is kicked off by the death of a hitchhiker. Scully and Doggett stumble upon a community that worships a parasitic creature that’s embedded in a person’s spine. Scully is pregnant in this episode and, mirroring this in the most horrific way imaginable, the episode features a good deal of queasy body horror.
Scariest moment: When a man is struck down with a hammer so one of the townsfolk can peel the creature from inside him.
‘Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose’
An episode so good that it won its writer, Darin Morgan, an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. Bruckman is a psychic whose powers are limited to the ability to forecast how someone will die. Mulder seeks Bruckman’s talents when it seems a killer is targeting mediums, a demographic about whom Mulder – in a subversion of his characterisation – is skeptical.
Scariest moment: Clyde has a premonition that sees trash morph into a severed head – and it ain’t pretty.
Doggett remarks that the parallel universe featured in this ‘Monster of the Week’ episode is a little “too Star Trek’, but it’s actually a late classic, coming at a time when the series was generally more focused on its overarching narrative. There’s a killer who can slip between realities to commit murders, a set-up that involves ingenious writing, proving The X Files had it to the very end.
Scariest moment: A man serves his mum a severed tongue in a sandwich (homemade, as it’s still not on the Subway menu).