"I want to believe."
The X-Files is an American TV series that ran nine seasons (1993-2002) and two movies (Fight the Future in 1998 and I Want to Believe in 2008), and documented the efforts of FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) to uncover "The Truth" about cases that defy rational scientific explanation.
Creator Chris Carter was celebrated for the show's innovative mix of cop-show conventions, paranormal phenomena, government conspiracies, action, wry humor and genuinely scary moments. In the mid to late '90s, the show's high production values and sharp writing helped it reach beyond the usual science-fiction genre fan base to make it one of the most popular and acclaimed shows on television and a bona fide worldwide cultural phenomenon.
Episodes alternate between standalone Monster of the Week episodes and a complex unfolding Myth Arc which deals with the government conspiracy and the various factions of aliens. A quarter to a third of the episodes of each season are part of the Myth Arc, including all season premiers and finales and most multi-part episodes. The final season was supposed to be followed by a series of movies that would eventually resolve the ongoing plot, but the first post-series movie did not touch on the conspiracy plotline and met with lukewarm success.
In January 2016, the series returned as a six-episode miniseries, with Chris Carter as executive producer and writer, and David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Annabeth Gish and Mitch Pileggi all reprising their roles. After of the end of its run, Carter was suggesting more new episodes were likely.
- Agent Mulder
- Agent Scully
- The Chris Carter Effect
- Mulder Moment
- Myth Arc
- Scully Syndrome
- Scully Box
- Unresolved Sexual Tension
- Abducted Little Sister: Samantha Mulder.
- Aborted Arc: During Season 6-7, the Syndicate was destroyed at the hands of the Alien Rebels. At the time, the writers spoke of their plans for a new Syndicate, headed by Alex Krycek and Marita Covarrubias. This plotline was set up in "Requiem" but never resurfaced.
- Adventure Towns
- Alien Abduction: A common theme, although it's usually ambiguous whether extraterrestrials or human conspirators are actually responsible for it.
- Both Scully and Mulder were victims of it, among many others.
- Alien Autopsy
- All Theories Are True
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version has a few ending themes in Japan, including "Love Phantom" by B'z, "Unbalanced" by Maki Oguro, and "True Navigation" by Two-Mix.
- Always Save the Girl: In the very first episode, Mulder said that nothing else mattered to him except finding out the truth about the conspiracy and what happened to his sister. Early seasons of the show got a lot of mileage out of making him choose between pursuing his quest and saving Scully. Around the beginning of Season 5, though, it pretty much ceased to even be an issue—he decided Scully was priority #1 and never looked back (she saves his butt just as often, of course).
- Anchored Ship: For the first five seasons.
- Ancient Astronauts: As explained in the Myth Arc and Fight the Future.
- Anyone Can Die: starting with Deep Throat, and continuing throughout the rest of the show.
- Anyone Got a Light?: In "Three of a Kind", a sixth-season episode, Scully is in a bar in a drug-induced haze, surrounded by men. When one gives her a cigarette and she asks, "Who's got a match?" they all present lit lighters.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: Scully remains a hardcore skeptic long after she's seen shape-shifting aliens, watched Mulder be mind-controlled into things he'd never do on his own, etc. It's somewhat justified, though: later seasons tended to imply that Scully felt she had to take a more skeptical stance than she really believed anymore in order to keep Mulder's wacky ideas grounded.
- Badass Bookworm: An Oxford-educated psychologist and a forensic pathologist with a physics degree fight aliens (and all sorts of other things).
- Berserk Button: Do not come between Mulder and Scully. No, really. It's a bad idea.
- That goes for both of them, by the way.
- Bittersweet Ending: At the end of the show, the Government Conspiracy has taken some hits but is still going strong, and alien colonization of Earth is supposedly inevitable and proceeding on schedule for 2012. Mulder and Scully are on the run from a death sentence...but they're both alive, and they're together, and that means maybe there's hope.
- Black Eyes of Evil: They mean you've been infected with the Black Oil, some kind of alien virus...thing.
- Black Helicopter
- Bland-Name Product: "Morley Cigarettes", the Cigarette Smoking Man's brand of choice—although this isn't the first show on American TV to use Morleys.
- The Blank: The Alien Rebels have no faces, having sealed every orifice on their bodies to prevent infection by the Black Oil.
- Blast Out: The opening to "Kill Switch". A rogue AI sends messages to several Washington D.C. drug dealers telling them that their arch rivals are meeting at this diner. All of them come and set up to wait. The final message is sent to a pair of U.S. Marshals, claiming that a fugitive is there, so they burst in to arrest him and cause a shootout. All to kill one nerdy guy in the middle booth.
- Blessed with Suck / Cursed with Awesome: Tends to be the case whenever the Monster of the Week is human.
- In one episode, Mulder gains the ability to read minds. Too bad it's basically making his brain melt.
- Gibson Praise can also read minds, which leads to pretty much all of the show's recurring bad guys trying to hunt him down and kill him.
- Bloody Murder: Alien-human hybrids with acidic blood.
- Body Horror: All the time, especially in the Myth Arc episodes.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: The Conspiracy has opportunity to kill Mulder, but never does.
- Harlan Ellison was complaining about this as early as the first season, apparently, leading to a scene where the Cigarette Smoking Man explains that killing Mulder would "turn one man's religion into a crusade" (which still comes across as sort of a Hand Wave, as they've killed plenty of dogged investigators before Mulder and The Conspiracy has remained intact).
- In CSM's last appearance, he claims he protected Mulder from assassination so that he would learn The Truth that the alien invasion was coming, and there was nothing he could do to prevent it.
- Breather Episode: The comic relief episodes actually provided some of the more interesting and innovative Filler and served to counterbalance some of the more ridiculous serious episodes as the series went on.
- California Doubling: First the Vancouver version, then the show moved to California.
- Captain's Log: Early seasons had Scully (and sometimes Mulder) writing case reports at the end of many of the Monster of the Week episodes. In the final seasons, after David Duchovny left the show, Scully read her journal entries as letters to the missing Mulder.
- Chekhov MIA: Mulder's sister. She did get used eventually.
- Or a Posthumous Character?
- Chest Burster
- Chickification: While Scully is by no means a common victim (in the first few seasons Mulder finds Scully running to his rescue more than vice versa), it's noticeable that while Mulder tends to get in trouble from jumping into danger alone, Scully tends to get kidnapped and taken into danger.
- Though in Scully's defense, she might be a fully-trained FBI agent with Improbable Aiming Skills, but the woman is also seriously tiny.
- Chilly Reception: Mulder toward Scully initially; later, either of them towards anyone replacing the other (especially between Scully and Fowley).
- Conspiracy Theorist: Loads of 'em, including Mulder and the Lone Gunmen.
- Continuity Lock Out
- Cool Old Guy: Arthur Dales.
- Corrupt Hick
- Cosmic Close Call: One episode has the luckiest man on Earth targeted by several mobsters, and his luck creates this by killing his would-be assassins in increasingly complicated ways. The man had been using his luck to collect enough money to pay for a new liver for his dying neighbor - and the last mobster to die was an organ donor who just happened to be a match.
- Crisis of Faith: Scully started the show as a nonpracticing Catholic. Part of her Character Arc involved her coming to terms with her faith and deciding she could pray and attend church regularly even if she didn't always agree with everything The Church said.
- Cryptid Episode: There are enough cryptid episodes to stuff the Berlin Zoo full with them.
- Damsel in Distress / Dude in Distress: One of the first shows to have both male and female leads carry the Distress Ball more or less equally.
- Darker and Edgier: Seasons 4 and 8.
- Deadly Nosebleed: She doesn't actually die of it, but this is the only visible symptom when Scully has terminal cancer.
- Dead Man's Hand: In "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose", has the titular character playing poker with Agent Scully and holding a full house of aces and eights with the ace of hearts as the fifth card. As one might suspect from the episode name, he dies.
- Deal with the Devil: Skinner makes one with the Smoking Man to save Scully's life in season four. Mulder came close to doing the same, but ultimately didn't because he wouldn't have been able to face her afterward.
- Death By Pragmatism: The Conspiracy, despite their best wishes.
- Deus Angst Machina: The main characters get a disproportionate number of metaphorical Groin Kicks just within the few years in which the show takes place. Mulder has both parents die and is constantly tormented by people who appear to be his sister but aren't, but Scully takes the cake having one parent and her sister die (the sister being at least partly her fault) and the entire abduction plotline.
- Did Not Do the Research: In the episode "Shapes", Mulder and Scully travel to the Trego Indian Reservation. The singing going on during the funeral however is Lakota.
- Died Happily Ever After: The fate of Samantha Mulder.
- Do Not Adjust Your Set
- Duty First, Love Second: Subverted. Several times the show puts Mulder in what looks like a "Friend or Idol?" Decision between saving Scully and his quest for the Truth—but ultimately it's strongly implied that the only reason he's able to achieve any success in his quest is because he has Scully as his partner.
- Elective Mute
- Emerging From the Shadows: A common occurrence.
- The End - or Is It?: Leading to Fridge Horror galore. At the end of many episodes, the things Mulder and Scully investigate are still running rampant and could be doing who knows what.
- Enemy Mine
- Everyone Can See It
- Everything's Worse with Bees: The Government Conspiracy uses bees as a vector for spreading The Virus.
- Exposed Extraterrestrials: Applies to most "Gray" aliens, except in the episode "The Unnatural", where the Gray is wearing a baseball uniform.
- Exposition of Immortality: Mulder and Scully run across a couple of long-lived characters during the series lifetime; the memorable Eugene Tooms evokes this trope best: Mulder is shown photos of Tooms that demonstrate he's not aged since 1933.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Goal: to expose The Truth.
- Fingertip Drug Analysis: Mulder, all...the...time.
- First-Name Basis: Agent Doggett and Agent Reyes always call each other John and Monica, unless other agents are around. This likely comes from their time spent working together on the kidnapping and murder of Doggett's son years prior.
- Foe Yay: Mulder and Krycek, full stop.
- Krycek is something of a Foe Yay whore, really. He has chemistry with practically everyone, but it's most obvious with Mulder.
- "Friend or Idol?" Decision: Mulder has to choose between saving Scully and finding Samantha and/or the truth about the Government Conspiracy several times over the course of the show—most explicitly in "Endgame", but it also comes up more subtly in "Demons", "Redux", "Redux II", "The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati", and "Requiem".
- Gas Leak Coverup: The episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" features Jesse Ventura playing a Man in Black who tries to persuade someone who saw a UFO into questioning his vision and perception and believing he only saw "the planet Venus".
"No other object has been misidentified as a flying saucer more often than the planet Venus."
- Geeky Turn On: Mulder and Scully, many times:
Mulder: Looks like the fuselage of a plane.
- Or the one from "Chinga":
Mulder: Maybe you don't know what you're looking for.
- This one from "War of the Coprophages":
Scully: The very idea of intelligent alien life is not only astronomically improbable but, at its most basic level, downright anti-Darwinian.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The show practically turned this into an art form. A prime example:
Krycek: You're slipping, Mulder. I'm beating you with one arm.
- Or from "The Ghost Who Stole Christmas":
The Ghost: I don't show my hole to just anyone.
- Government Conspiracy
- The Greys: Played a major role in the Myth Arc.
- Healing Hands: Aliens have this ability, as well as several monsters of the week.
- Held Gaze: Mulder and Scully are big on doing this.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Mulder, obviously.
- Hide Your Pregnancy: Season 2 started to shoot as Anderson was pregnant. First was this (Scully is shot mostly seated, wearing jumpsuits, or in "unflattering angles"), then Scully got abducted just to avoid it (see Written-In Absence).
- If Jesus, Then Aliens: Averted. Scully is Catholic and believes in miracles, but is a hardcore skeptic about all other paranormal phenomena; Mulder is agnostic and rather cynical about organized religion but believes in basically everything else.
- It's implied at least once that God is deliberately hiding himself from Mulder's perception as a test of Scully's faith.
- Agent Spender (though he had his sympathetic moments).
- Assistant Director Brad Follmer.
- Assistant Director Kersh is one until the Grand Finale, where he helps break Mulder out of prison.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Present in the very first episode.
- Lampshade Hanging: Whenever an episode recycled a plot previously seen in another show or movie, someone would typically point it out.
- A particularly good one from the season six opener, when recapping what happened in Fight the Future:
"Are you sure this isn't something I saw in Men in Black?"
- Last-Name Basis: How many times have you heard Mulder and Scully referred to as Fox and Dana?
- He even made his parents call him Mulder!
- Well, he claims he did. His mom and dad still call him Fox. And Scully's mother calls him Fox as well. Actually, pretty much everyone he knows who's not in the FBI or the Lone Gunmen seems to call him Fox.
- Hilariously, by the time of the second movie, when they've clearly been living together for years, they're still on a last name basis. Mulder occasionally called Scully "Dana" at emotional moments in the first few seasons, then mostly gave it up, as if the last names had actually become more intimate by that point. Scully never even tried to call him Fox after the first time.
- The Lone Gunmen are also known only by their last names, likely because two of them have Embarrassing First Names.
- Most of the agents at the FBI go by last names; Skinner is always called by his last name even after becoming more of a friend than a superior to Mulder and Scully.
- Averted by Reyes and Doggett, who refer to each other by first name on a regular basis.
- He even made his parents call him Mulder!
- Left Hanging: An especially maddening example, since the show lasted nearly a decade—it's not like they didn't have time to wrap things up.
- Let X Be the Unknown
- Lighter and Softer: Season 6, and most of the comedic episodes in general.
- Light Is Not Good: The classic "aliens have floodlights all over the place" effect.
- Living Emotional Crutch: Both Mulder and Scully become this to each other, verging on Heroic BSOD whenever they're involuntarily separated. This is portrayed as basically a good thing; their relationship ends up helping both of them overcome their personal issues to some degree.
- "London, England" Syndrome: All over the place.
- Longing Look: Mulder and Scully had an astonishing talent for giving each other looks so singular, emotional and full of meaning they made anyone else in the room—or on the other side of the television screen—feel like they were intruding on some absurdly private moment.
- The Man Behind the Man
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Mulder's emotional and intuitive, cries at least once or twice a season, not all that good in a fistfight, has a habit of dropping his gun, and gets rescued by Scully at least as often as he rescues her. Scully's tough, logical, scientific, rarely displays emotion openly, saves Mulder on a regular basis, and has Improbable Aiming Skills. They Fight Crime!
- Maybe Ever After: The television series ends on this note for Mulder and Scully.
- Medical Rape and Impregnate: It's strongly implied this happens to many victims of Alien Abduction. Yes, including Scully. Mulder actually calls the conspirators "medical rapists" at one point.
- Men Don't Cry: Averted. Mulder is much more prone to openly showing emotion than Scully is.
- The Men in Black
- Missing Time: Comes up several times, most prominently happening to Mulder and Scully in the very first episode.
- The Mole: A lot of these.
- Krycek, for all of one episode before he's found out.
- Also, Marita Covarrubias, X's replacement.
- And Fowley.
- And Section Chief Blevins.
- Deep Throat is a Mole in the Syndicate.
- Mulder originally thought Scully was a Mole (and says so outright when he first meets her).
- Monster of the Week
- Mother Nature, Father Science: Very much inverted. Mulder is the emotional, intuitive one who believes in mysticism and the paranormal, while Scully is a stoic, logical scientist (the inversion of conventional gender roles was quite deliberate on the part of the writers).
- The Mountains of Illinois: What happens when you film in Vancouver (and later Los Angeles) but set your stories all over the US, even the flat bits.
- My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Scully's abduction left her infertile. It's a source of Angst for her.
- It's played much more subtly—and with good reason; he'd never be enough of a Jerkass to actually bring it up, considering Scully's infertility—but Mulder is implied to be somewhat wistful about not being in a position to have kids too.
- Mysterious Informant: Several. Deep Throat, X, and Marita are the three main recurring ones.
- No Ending: The series finale, "The Truth", does not actually reveal the truth or really resolve much of anything.
- No Hugging, No Kissing: The show was famous for this early on, but even then it was oddly subverted in a few instances, and by around Season 6 Mulder and Scully had really become awfully, uh, cuddly for platonic friends.
- No Sense of Personal Space: Mulder in regards to Scully, as well as being quite affectionate. She is definitely unnerved by it in the early seasons, but eventually gets used to it.
- Not Love Interest: While it took them seven seasons to get around to making it official, for all intents and purposes Mulder and Scully were best friends/lovers/spouses since day one. It could even be argued that their bond transcended all three of those roles to become something more all-encompassing than most people ever experience. It certainly cannot be denied that they were the most important people in each others' lives almost since the first time Scully walked into Mulder's basement office.
- Not Quite Dead:
- Quite a few monsters of the week are shown to have survived their presumed deaths, from the fluke man in "The Host" to the rogue AI in "Ghost in the Machine", but very few of them ever show up again—which makes one wonder where exactly they went.
- Mulder on more than one occasion.
- Krycek, many times.
- The Cigarette-Smoking Man in Season 5.
- Jeffrey Spender, presumed dead in Season six, but seen again in Season nine.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Practically everyone else in the FBI except for Skinner.
- In particular, Kersh and Follmer.
- Occult Detective
- Odd Couple
- Omniscient Council of Vagueness
- One Steve Limit: Averted—there are at least four fairly important characters named William, three of whom go by the nickname Bill: Mulder's father, Scully's father, Scully's older brother, and Baby William. And it's Mulder's middle name.
- The Only One I Trust: Mulder and Scully towards each other. No wonder they provide the page quote.
- Orifice Invasion: Very common, most memorably in the form of the Black Oil.
- Our Monsters Are Different: Well, most of the time.
- Out-of-Character Moment: Played in-universe; the phenomenon in "Syzygy" causes not only Mulder and Scully to act in ways they normally wouldn't, but also apparently the entire town it's focused around; the normally calm and rational high school principal turns into a ranting fundamentalist nutcase, for example.
- Paranormal Investigation
- Platonic Life Partners: Mulder & Scully for the first five seasons.
- Politically-Incorrect Villain: The Consortium as a whole. The upper levels seem to be composed entirely of older, upper-class white men. They also consistently failed to realize it was Mulder and Scully as partners, not Mulder individually, who might pose a threat to their plans, thinking of Scully only as Mulder's Berserk Button when they could be bothered to notice her existence at all.
- Porn Stash: It's a recurring joke that Mulder has one (unusually for the trope, he makes no real attempt to keep it secret, and Scully doesn't seem to care beyond thinking it's kind of silly).
Mulder: Whatever tape you found in that VCR? It isn't mine.
- The Power of Trust: "Trust no one" is a major Catch Phrase in the show, but it's subtly ironic—one of the show's main themes is actually the importance, in a world of lies and conspiracies, of having someone you can trust absolutely. Mulder and Scully spend so much time saying things like "You're the only one I trust", it became a common fandom joke that they were just using "trust" as a code word for "love".
- Powers That Be
- Redemption Equals Death:
- Agent Spender, who's killed by his own father, the Cigarette Smoking Man, after handing the X-Files back to Mulder.
- Except that the last season episode "William" reveals that he didn't die. Instead, he was subjected to experiments that left him horribly disfigured.
- Also Fowley.
- And the Well-Manicured Man.
- Agent Spender, who's killed by his own father, the Cigarette Smoking Man, after handing the X-Files back to Mulder.
- Relationship Reveal: From late Season 7 on it's hinted increasingly strongly that Mulder and Scully are already romantically involved. By the second movie it's undeniable.
- Relationship Upgrade: Scully and Mulder, but it happened offscreen and it's not clear exactly when. The leading candidate is in Season 7's "All Things", which features Scully evaluating her past choices about life and relationships, leading up to a scene where she's getting dressed in Mulder's bathroom while he's asleep in bed, apparently naked.
- Rewind, Replay, Repeat: Happens frequently, usually when Mulder catches a glimpse of something in the footage that everyone else overlooked.
- Roswell That Ends Well
- Say My Name: The two leads do this an awful lot.
- Science Hero: Both of them, but more so Scully than Mulder.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The Cigarette Smoking Man and Diana Fowley at the end of Season 5.
- Self-Parody: Most of the comedy-based episodes are this, with varying shades of Deconstruction.
- Shapeshifting: The Alien Bounty Hunters and several monsters of the week.
- Ship Tease: A lot for Scully and Mulder, although they were mostly relatively restrained about it until around Season 6.
- Single-Issue Psychology: A lot of Mulder's issues go back to his younger sister's abduction while they were home alone together when he was 12. He actually calls Scully out for assuming everything he does is about his sister in "Oubliette", although in that episode she's entirely correct.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Pretty far over on the cynical side...but not quite as far as it might appear at first. It's a world of dark conspiracies, betrayal and lies, with monsters hiding in every shadow, but there are two people in it who really can trust each other, and that might be enough to make a difference.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: A favorite technique when coupled with the Gory Discretion Shot: something horrible would start to happen, and the camera would pan away, with cheerful incidental music being underscored by the sound of whatever godawful thing was happening. Used memorably in "Never Again" and "Home".
- Spiritual Successor: To Kolchak the Night Stalker. Several X-Files episodes are directly inspired by Kolchak episodes.
- Has its own in Fringe, Torchwood, Lost, Supernatural and several other Paranormal Investigation programs. Fringe in particular so closely resembled X-Files that it was criticized by fans as being a ripoff of the original.
- It also influenced the mood and writing of less obviously related shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which Joss Whedon described as My So-Called Life meets The X-Files), Alias, Bones and Eleventh Hour.
- Staring Kid: Used in the episode "Fearful Symmetry".
- Start to Corpse: Varies, but episodes frequently opened with unfortunate victims dying in mysterious ways, so it was often pretty close to zero.
- Stating the Simple Solution: The First Elder constantly suggests killing Mulder...only to be overruled by the other conspiracy members, who are either feeding him information or manipulating him for their own purposes.
- Strapped to An Operating Table
- Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Just assume the Conspiracy is always spying on everything.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Carefully and consistently averted.
- X was very different from Deep Throat, replacing grandfatherly benevolence with deadly pragmatism.
- Marita, X's replacement, was quite different from either of her predecessors and turned out to be a Mole to boot.
- Doggett and Reyes were very different from Mulder and Scully, replacing the Absolute Believer/Healthy Skeptic dichotomy with Absolute Skeptic/Open-Minded, and replacing Mulder and Scully's Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy with a more conventional gender dynamic. While they become close, they're never as emotionally dependent on each other as Mulder and Scully could be even before they were romantically involved, and they're on a First-Name Basis right from the start.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Very common. You're usually supposed to feel at least some degree of sympathy for the monster, even if Mulder and Scully end up having to kill it.
- Tragic Keepsake: Scully always wears a small gold cross necklace. When she's abducted near the beginning of Season 2, it's torn off, and Mulder wears it himself for the three months she's missing. It shows up a few more times when they're separated as a symbol of their bond: Mulder finds it again when he's tracking down Scully in the first movie, and she apparently gave it to him to wear before he went off alone and got himself abducted at the end of Season 7.
- The last one is pretty much something that shows up in a lot of fanfiction, but didn't actually happen. It's likely assumed because Scully isn't seen wearing her cross in the last scene of "Requiem", when she's in the hospital and it's gone for most of "Within", the first episode of Season 8. However, when she's driving through the desert with Skinner near the end of the episode, it's plainly seen.
- True Love Is Exceptional
- Turncoat: It's a show about conspiracies, so there's lots of these.
- Ultraterrestrials: A key part of the Myth Arc -- the "aliens" are actually Earth's original native inhabitants, who've returned from a leave of absence.
- The Un-Reveal
- Undying Loyalty: Mulder and Scully's loyalty to each other transcends time, space and apparent death, among other things.
- Unguided Lab Tour: Comes up a couple times, though they usually aren't so much secret labs as academic or government labs doing secret things.
- UST: Guess who? (The term UST actually originated in online X-Files fandom. This show, as much as anything else, made UST a virtual requirement for scripted television.)
- The Virus
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Various baddies, but the most prominent example is the Alien Bounty Hunter, a recurring antagonist. He's an extraterrestrial assassin, and can look like anyone.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Syndicate.
- Who's Your Daddy?: A major plot point in Season 8.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Even disregarding the rather questionable justification for the bad guys not simply offing Mulder as they've done with so many other people (that Mulder would become a martyr), they don't even seem to try to discredit him that much.
- Will They or Won't They?: They will, and in the second movie they've been living together for six years.
- World of Snark: Everyone is a Deadpan Snarker, specially Mulder, Scully and Skinner.
- Yoko Oh No: Tea Leoni, whose film career Duchovny tried to support by moving the franchise to Los Angeles, which some fans considered its Jump the Shark moment.
- Not helped by the fact that he only stayed on two seasons more after the move anyway.
Individual episodes of this series provide examples of
- Abnormal Limb Rotation Range: Used as a plot point in one episode.
- Accentuate the Negative: In "One Breath", when Melissa Scully calls Mulder out for doing this while trying to convince him to go to the hospital to see Dana, who is dying:
Melissa Scully: I don't have to be psychic to see that you're in a very dark place. Much darker than where my sister is. Willingly walking deeper into darkness cannot help her at all. Only the light...
- Age Without Youth: "Tithonus".
- A.I. is a Crapshoot: "Ghost in the Machine", "Kill Switch", and "First-Person Shooter".
- Alien Autopsy:
- Played With this one as well as made a Shout-Out to, and a Take That against, the Trope Maker in the episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space." According to Agent Scully's interpretation of events, an autopsy which she performed on an alien and allowed to be video taped became commercially released as Dead Alien: Truth Or Humbug. Embarrassed by it, Scully complains that the video ignores several of her findings, chief among them being that the dead alien was revealed to be a Man in A Rubber Suit.
- A videotaped one features in "Nisei".
- "Gethsemane" sees Mulder observe one. However, an informant who worked for the Department of Defense claims that the subject of the autopsy was not a real alien, but only what "they" wanted Mulder to see.
- All Just a Dream:
- "Triangle". Possibly.
- "The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati".
- Anal Probing: Referenced and Played With often. In "Jose Chung's From Outer Space", for instance, it's Scully's opinion that a young couple whom Mulder believes were abducted by aliens were only engaging in sexual activity before they're old enough to handle it. Mulder, not seeing how this could discredit the girl's interpretation of events as revealed under hypnosis (which resembles the typical Alien Abduction story), asks his partner, "So what if they had sex?" to which Scully responds, "So we know it wasn't an alien that probed her."
- Animated Tattoo: In "Never Again".
- Preacher in "Sleepless".
- Gerry Schnauz in "Unruhe".
- CSM, some of the time.
- Ascended Fangirl: The character Leyla Harrison was introduced as a posthumous tribute to a well-known Fan Fiction writer of the same name.
- A smaller example: fans on the official message-board were listed on the manifest of a crashed aircraft in a later season.
- Author Avatar: In-universe example: the protagonist of the Cigarette Smoking Man's rejected manuscripts, Jack Colquitt.
- Ax Crazy: Darren Peter Oswald in "D.P.O.". It's safe to say that if you associate with him at all, you're putting yourself in SERIOUS peril.
- Cecil L'Ively, Ellen Adderly, and the transformed Ray Pearce also qualify.
- Back to Front: "Redrum" made use of this, but the central character was aware of it. He woke up in prison, not understanding how he got there. He goes to sleep that night, and wakes up the next morning to discover that he is going to trial, for the crime he was incarcerated for "yesterday".
- Before My Time: In "Travelers", Mulder goes to interview a retired FBI agent who investigated X-Files in The Fifties. The agent asks Mulder whether he's heard of the House Un-American Activities Committee, but immediately assumes that he hasn't. Even if he knew nothing about Mulder personally, the topic is covered in high school history classes.
- The Bermuda Triangle: The episode "Triangle" sees Mulder investigate a luxury passenger liner that mysteriously appears on the edge of the Bermuda Triangle. Once on board the ship, Mulder finds himself in the year 1939 as Nazi soldiers are fighting the British crew for control of the ship.
- Better Than Sex: In the episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space", when a Lt. Jack Schaefer is speaking to Agent Mulder, he says, "Have you ever flown a flying saucer? Afterwards, sex seems trite."
- Biting the Hand Humor: In "Nisei", Scully dismisses an Alien Autopsy Video as "even hokier than the one they aired on the FOX network".
- Blood Bath: In the episode "Sanguinarium", Nurse Waite is discovered lying in wait for Dr. Lloyd at his house, submerged in a bathtub filled with blood.
- A Bloody Mess: Mulder did this in the third season episode "Revelations". The look on Scully's face was priceless before he explained that it was fake blood.
- Bottle Episode: Season 6 was getting expensive, so "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" was one of these—it takes place almost entirely in a single house and has only four cast members.
- Brief Accent Imitation: Gillian Anderson pulls out her British at the end of "Fire".
- Brown Note: In "Drive", a secret Navy communication device generates radio waves that vibrate at the same frequency as the human skull, inducing increasing intracranial pressure that literally blows the listener's brains out their ears unless the pressure is relieved surgically.
- Burial At Sea: Scully's father, a Navy captain, is cremated and buried this way in "Beyond the Sea".
- Busman's Holiday: For Scully in the episode "Chinga". Ironic, since the very concept of the X-Files division was developed specifically to avoid a Busman's Holiday every week.
- But You Were There and You and You: Invoked nearly word for word in "Triangle".
- Camera Abuse: In "War of the Coprophages", a cockroach crawls across the screen.
- Candlelit Bath: Scully likes them. Both subverted ("Chinga" - the music builds, we're sure something creepy's going to happen, the phone rings and...it's Mulder, he's bored) and played straight ("Squeeze", "Irresistible").
- Casual Danger Dialog: Mulder has a tendency to do this. "The Pine Bluff Variant" has one of the better examples, when Mulder is undercover trying to infiltrate a domestic terrorist group. He's blindfolded, led into a warehouse, and has his hands strapped to a table.
Mulder: Is this the Pepsi Challenge? How ’bout some, uh, fresh air, boys?
- CAT Trap: "Theef".
- Cell Phone: One of the first shows to have the characters regularly use cell phones in ways important to the story
- Cliffhanger Copout: Near the end of "Gethsemane", the fourth season finale, the audience sees Mulder alone in his apartment, crying with his gun in his hands. We cut away just before hearing his gun go off. The next scene is a flash forward in which Scully has apparently been called to his apartment to identify the body of a white male who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. She identifies it as Mulder. The next season begins by revealing that Scully was lying, the body is not Mulder's, and the whole crying holding his gun thing was not related to anything.
- Specifically, Mulder probably was contemplating suicide -- until he was distracted by evidence that he was being spied on, confronted the spy, ended up shooting him, and concocted a plan with Scully to fake his own death.
- "Close Enough" Timeline: "Dreamland". Everything gets set back to normal and the whole universe goes back to the way it was before the time rip—but Mulder's apartment is still cleaned up and has a waterbed, and Scully still has a dime and penny that were fused together by the warp in space-time, even though the events that caused both scenarios never happened. It could be explained that they weren't in the path of the snap-back. But how would time snap back for the whole universe then?
- A fan theory holds that the time loop in "Monday" later in the same season was triggered by the universe repairing itself and trying to get rid of Mulder's waterbed, the last remaining evidence of the paradox. This makes a surprising amount of sense when you watch the episode—the starting point for each loop is the waterbed springing a leak...
- Combat Stilettos: Scully wears them most of the time, sometimes even when she has no reason to be in work clothes and knew to expect trouble ahead of time.
- Lampshaded in the episode "Hollywood A.D.", when an actress portraying Scully in a movie asks her how it's possible to run in heels that high.
- In "2Shy", she used them as a self-defense weapon by kicking a serial killer in the face.
- Ditto in "Leonard Betts".
- Compelling Voice: Robert Modell, aka "Pusher".
- Continuity Nod: A rather nice one in "Soft Light": A man has inexplicably disappeared from his hotel room. Mulder, Scully, and a young detective search the room for evidence of what might have happened. Having witnessed the events of "Squeeze" and "Tooms", Mulder and Scully naturally check out the heating vent. Cue the detective saying "You don't think anyone could squeeze through there, do you?" and Mulder quipping "You never know".
Scully: I wouldn't change a day. Well, except for that Flukeman thing. I could have lived without that just fine.
- Corrupt Hick: The sheriff in the show's pilot.
- Couldn't Find a Pen: The opening episode of Season 4 had X, Mulder's then-informant writing a message in blood on Mulder's doorstep, having been shot trying to bring information.
- Creepy Child: Approximately one per season.
- Creepy Cockroach: In "War of the Coprophages", cockroaches are the Monster of the Week, and at one point one scurries across the TV screen (as if it's IN YOUR HOUSE!).
- Crossover: Millennium, The Lone Gunmen, and very possibly Homicide: Life on the Street.
- Curse Cut Short:
- "Bad Blood":
Scully: [Shows Mulder his staking victim's very fake vampire teeth]
- Two examples in "Fight Club":
Mulder: (on a cell phone) No [static] Sherlock.
- Mulder also does an "Oh, shi-" in "Triangle" when he realizes he's actually back in time; the camera pans away before he finishes.
- In "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'":
Scully: Well, of course, he didn't actually say "bleeped." He said...
- Dating Service Disaster: "2Shy".
- A Day in the Limelight:
- "Musings Of A Cigarette-Smoking Man" shows him as a somewhat lonely man, married to his job but willing to give it up to be a writer.
- "Unusual Suspects" does feature Mulder, but it's about and stars the Lone Gunmen. "Three of a Kind" is similarly about the Gunmen but has Scully around as a supporting character.
- "Avatar," "Zero Sum" and "S.R. 819" focus on Skinner.
- Dead Baby Comedy: "Je Souhaite".
- Despair Speech: CSM gets one that's played for laughs in "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man".
- Did Not Do the Research: On a regular basis.
- In "Unusual Suspects", Byers says that ARPAnet is a "government network that can be accessed through the internet." ARPAnet was a precursor to the internet. That's like saying the Nintendo 64 is an accessory for the NES.
- The episode "The Jersey Devil" makes the claim that the creature is "An East Coast bigfoot", ignoring every other bit of information about the Devil, from its actual shape to the legend of its creation. Also, it wasn't even set near the Pine Barrens.
- In Season 3's "The Walk", a female U.S. Army captain is shown wearing Infantry ranks. There are no women in the Infantry.
- Of course, why are Infantry soldiers running a military hospital anyway? That's a job for the Medical Service Corps.
- One Monster of the Week from the Scully/Doggett years was a Man-Bat. It's stated in the episode that bats evolved from apes - not that they have a common ancestor but that one evolved directly from the other. Granted, the man who said this was a hermit living in a shack in the middle of nowhere, not exactly a evolutionary biologist.
- The pilot episode mentions that the title of Scully's senior thesis was Einstein's Twin Paradox: A New Interpretation. Now, the twin paradox is the kind of thing an undergrad isn't likely to come up with a "new interpretation" of, and in fact if anyone did it would pretty much revolutionize physics, but let's put that aside for now. Later in the episode, she and Mulder experience Missing Time, and Scully exclaims, "Time can't just disappear! It's a universal invariant!" Literally the entire point of the twin paradox is that time is NOT a universal invariant.
- This could have been a joke, not a standard Did Not Do the Research. Scully is introduced as someone who puts her faith in hard science and loves to debunk things that seemingly defy the laws of physics. Knowing her, her "new interpretation" of the twin paradox would likely be to "prove" that Einstein was wrong and that time is a universal invariant.
- In "All Souls", a Catholic priest repeatedly identifies an entity Scully saw as "a seraphim." Seraphim is plural; the singular is "seraph".
- Really, pretty much every time Scully's religion came up it was clear that the writers had some bizarre ideas about Catholicism.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Scully getting a tattoo in "Never Again" is definitely played this way.
- The Doll Episode: "Chinga", co-written by Stephen King and Chris Carter—but still widely considered a pretty bad episode.
- Double Meaning Title: "Field Trip".
- Dramatic Thunder: Taken to parodic extremes in "The Post-Modern Prometheus".
- Drowning Pit: In "Excelsis Dei".
- Elvis Lives: Mulder claims to believe this, but knowing Mulder he could be making fun of himself.
- Empathic Environment: In "Rain King", a weatherman's unrequited love for a local woman controls the weather.
- Engaging Conversation: Mulder and Scully in "Small Potatoes" and "Chinga".
- Enfant Terrible: The clones in "Eve".
- ET Gave Us Wi-Fi: In "Deep Throat", the experimental aircraft being tested by the military are theorized by Mulder to be reverse-engineered alien technology.
- Even Evil Has Standards: In "Our Town", Walter Chaco, responsible for the murder and cannibalism of at least 87 people, gives a heartfelt speech about how the town can't turn against its own members or they'd become "an abomination."
- Evil Albino: "Teliko".
- Evil Elevator: "Ghost in the Machine" involves an elevator that is part of an office building's sentient computer network. It kills an investigator.
- Expy: Jose Chung is a double expy of Truman Capote and series adviser Jack Cohen.
- Extreme Omnivore: The Conundrum (played by The Enigma), in "Humbug".
- Fairy Tale Motifs: Always played very subtly, but they appear several times.
- The Family That Slays Together: The infamous episode "Home".
- Fiction as Cover-Up: "Jose Chung's From Outer Space".
- Fiery Coverup: In the pilot episode, Mulder's motel room is burned to the ground to destroy evidence of alien abductions in Oregon.
- Friend to Psychos: In "Mind's Eye", Lili Taylor plays a blind woman who has a one-way Psychic Link to a serial killer and cleans up his crime scenes after him.
- Foe Yay: Barnett and Mulder in "Young at Heart". Let's review: Barnett is a Depraved Homosexual mass murderer who literally gets off on the suffering of his victims, is stalking and playing freaky mind games with Mulder...and in the flashback to the trial we see him mouth "I'll. Get. You." to Mulder right before BLOWING HIM A KISS.
- Freaky Friday: "Dreamland", where Mulder and an Area 51 security officer get mind-switched.
- Fully-Absorbed Finale: "Millennium", for Millennium, and "Jump the Shark" for The Lone Gunmen.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Carter wasn't allowed to refer to Donnie Pfaster as a necrophiliac, so the phrase "death fetishist" was used instead.
- Ghost Ship: Multiple instances.
- Give Him a Normal Life: Scully and Mulder eventually have a son -- and the aliens want to abduct him. They give him up for adoption to save him.
- Glove Snap: Mulder accuses Scully of enjoying this. (It's in "Syzygy", an episode where astrology was making everyone uncharacteristically cranky with each other. Or something.)
Mulder: "Go ahead, I know how much you like snapping on the latex."
- Green Aesop: A few times, notably in "Fearful Symmetry," which won an Environmental Media Award.
- The Grotesque: The Great Mutato from "The Post-Modern Promethius".
- Groundhog Day Loop: "Monday".
- Hands-On Approach: Mulder teaching Scully to play baseball in "The Unnatural".
- Hate Plague: "Ice", "Syzygy", "Red Museum", "Wetwired", and "Fight Club".
- Historical In-Joke: CSM takes credit for both the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" and the Bills' run of Super Bowl failures. During a meeting, he's told that Saddam Hussein is on the phone; he says he'll call him back later (note that this is in one of the Unreliable Narrator episodes, though).
- Holding Hands: Mulder and Scully do this as a gesture of solidarity and support, notably in "Little Green Men", "One Breath", "Pusher", and the 1998 movie Fight the Future.
- Hollywood Spelling: Constantly.
- Homage: "The Post-Modern Prometheus" is an homage to old monster movies, especially Frankenstein. It is filmed in black and white and comes complete with a hammy Mad Scientist, a gentle monster, and thunder and lightning whenever somebody says something dramatic.
- Horror Hunger: "Hungry".
- Hot Scientist: Dr. Bambi Berenbaum, from "War of the Coprophages".
- Humanoid Abomination: Greg Pincus. Phyllis Paddock is revealed to be one as well.
- "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Mulder tries this in "Schizogeny" when the villain is finally revealed, only for the Orchard Man to chop her head off.
- I Never Told You My Name: On one episode, a character gives himself away with this trope but he's talking so fast that the audience might not notice until Mulder stops him, saying, "Whoa, whoa, wait a minute here...When did I say my name was 'Agent Mulder'?"
- Infant Immortality: Averted in "The Calusari", "The Walk", and "Home".
- Played straight with Baby William, though, at every turn. The number of times that child should have died, before and after birth, are staggering. But not even a scratch.
- Inverse Law of Fertility: Inverted -- Scully doesn't seem particularly interested in having kids until she finds out her abduction left her infertile, at which point she decides she really wanted to become a mother...and then she inexplicably becomes pregnant.
- It Is Not Your Time:
- Scully in "One Breath".
- Mulder in "The Blessing Way".
- It May Help You on Your Quest: Subverted with the spike weapon Mulder's mother directs him to, which he never successfully uses on an alien.
- The Jersey Devil: Turns out there isn't one, it was just inspired by a tribe of feral humans and their ancestors living in seclusion.
- Joker Jury: In the first part of the series finale, Mulder is captured by U.S. Marines and put before a show tribunal.
- The Ketchup Test: Used by Timothy in "Three of a Kind".
- Kick the Dog: A literal example in "Fire".
- Kill Sat: Used by the A.I. in "Kill Switch".
- Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: In "Triangle", Mulder (apparently) travels back in time to 1939, where he swiftly gets entangled in some World War Two hijinks involving various individuals who just happen to look identical to important people in his own life. Scully's counterpart is a tough-talking undercover OSS agent in a red cocktail dress. Just before he exits the boat, Mulder grabs her for a passionate kiss "in case we never meet again." 1939!Scully, of course, responds somewhat differently.
- Literal Genie
- Literal Surveillance Bug: The robo-roaches from "War of the Coprophages". It's implied that rather than spy gadgets, they're actually space probes sent to explore the Earth by a far-off alien civilization.
- Locked Room Mystery
- Losing Your Head: In "Leonard Betts" and the second movie.
- Mailer Daemon: The fat-sucking vampire from "2Shy".
- Magicians Are Wizards: Subverted in "The Amazing Maleeni".
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
- The killer in "Grotesque" is eventually revealed to be a profiler who looked too long into the abyss of a particular serial killer and turned into him. Whether this is a psychological effect or transferred demonic possession is left up to the viewer.
- The possibly demonic serial killer and necrophiliac Donnie Pfaster from "Irresistible" and "Orison".
- Metal Detector Checkpoint: Scully discovers her neck implant this way.
- Mind Control Conspiracy: In the Lone Gunmen origin story.
- Mirror Routine: "Dreamland".
- The Mirror Shows Your True Self
- Money, Dear Boy: The in-universe reason Jose Chung writes his bestselling novel From Outer Space.
- Motion Blur: "Rush" had a key plot-point where security footage at a high school was found to show a strange blur. Using experimental technology to colorize it, the agents reveal the blur is made up of the school colors, suggesting that it comes from the jacket of one of the (superpowered) students.
- The Movie: Two of them. The first one is part of the show's Myth Arc, the second is basically a long Monster of the Week episode.
- Mundanger: Loads—mass panic in "War of the Coprophages" (subverted in that there really are robotic alien cockroaches involved, but they have nothing to do with the deaths in the episode); serial killers in "Grotesque", "Orison" and "Irresistible"; one really nasty family in "Home"; organized crime in "Hell Money"; a Cannibal Clan in "Our Town"; an alligator in "Quagmire."
- Murder by Cremation: "Hell Money". A gambling ring among Chinese immigrants claims organs as collateral; if you can't pay up (or if you rat), you're disposed of in a crematorium. Alive.
- Neurodiversity Is Supernatural:
- In the episode "Fallen Angel", it's implied that aliens are responsible for Max's epilepsy.
- In "E.B.E.", Mulder suggests that Gulf War syndrome is the result of alien encounters.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: In "F.P.S.", the pair meet a parody of then-gaming celebrity Dennis "Thresh" Fong.
- Not So Stoic: Scully gets several of these moments—the best example is probably "Irresistible", where she finally realizes Mulder won't think any less of her for seeing her break down after a traumatic experience.
- Nubile Savage: "The Jersey Devil".
- Her legs were rather smooth for someone living in the woods of Jersey.
- Or Jersey for that matter.
- Her legs were rather smooth for someone living in the woods of Jersey.
- Obfuscating Disability: "The Amazing Maleeni".
- The Oner: "Triangle" has several, as an homage to Rope.
- Papa Wolf: Howard Graves in "Shadows". Do not mess with his secretary/surrogate daughter even after he's dead.
- The Peeping Tom: "Red Museum" features a man who secretly records everyone living in his building from inside their bathrooms.
- Pinocchio Syndrome: "The Unnatural" has an alien who became a man thanks to his love of baseball.
- Prisoner Exchange: Mulder performs such a trade between Scully and an alien clone he believes is his sister Samantha.
- Prisoner of Zenda Exit: Agent Mulder dives off the Queen Anne after kissing Scully in "Triangle", a Two-Fisted Tales pastiche.
- Psychic-Assisted Suicide: The method of murder in "Pusher", powered by a Compelling Voice.
- Punishment Box: "Trevor" opens with a prisoner being punished by being locked in a small shed...right before a tornado hits.
- Rashomon Style: Played for Laughs in some humorous episodes, most notably "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" and "Bad Blood".
- Reality Writing Book: In one episode, a writer moves in to Scully's apartment building and starts affecting her life with his writing.
- Revenge by Proxy: "The Walk", "Theef", and "Redrum".
- A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside An Enigma: The episode "Patient X" contains a variant on the trope phrasing. Agent Mulder, who has grown skeptical of the existence of extraterrestrials but instead believes the alien conspiracy to be a lie concocted by the military to hide a different and all the more sinister scheme, describes his belief in "a conspiracy wrapped in a plot inside a government agenda."
- Room Full of Zombies: In "Millennium", there's a basement full of zombies.
- Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: "The Goldberg Variations" involved a person who manipulated other people's luck, resulting in rather bizarre ends for them.
- Russian Roulette: The climax of "Pusher".
- Saw Star Wars 27 Times:
- Mulder reveals in the episode "Hollywood A.D." that he's seen Plan 9 from Outer Space forty-two times. He claims that the sheer badness of the film numbs his brain, allowing him to make intuitive leaps and solve problems that have him stumped.
Scully: You've seen this movie 42 times?
- In an earlier episode, the agents ran across a woman who was convinced she'd been impregnated by Luke Skywalker. This becomes even more hilarious when it is revealed she's seen Star Wars 368 times, and was hoping to break 400 by Memorial Day.
- Screaming Birth: Scully at the end of Season 8.
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: Mulder and Scully both have to clarify this to others on several occasions, sometimes more than once to the same person.
Mulder: I do not gaze at Agent Scully.
- Scully also says this of Mulder in the second movie, except with "husband" instead of "boyfriend" -- because he is her boyfriend at that point.
- Chris Carter named Scully for longtime Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully.
- In "Irresistible", a character says something like "Scully. Like that baseball announcer."
- Similarly, Agent Doggett is named for Scully's longtime partner in the booth, Jerry Doggett.
- In one episode, a prostitute who gets murdered is called Holly McClane.
- "War of the Coprophages" has characters referencing Planet of the Apes several times.
- It takes place in the town of Miller's Grove, a twisting of Grover's Mill, where the Martians first land in Orson Welles' radio version of The War of the Worlds.
- "The Beginning" features an ill-fated nuclear power plant employee named Homer.
- A conversation in "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" is a recreation of the briefing scene in Apocalypse Now.
- CSM also talks about how life is like a box of chocolates, although his view of said box is more pessimistic than Forrest Gump's.
- Mulder's apartment number (42) is perfect for a man obsessed with aliens and the search for ultimate truth.
- In one of Doggett's first episodes he's skeptical of a case about someone being able to see through walls, so he comments "Calling Clark Kent."
- The scene in "One Breath" where Mulder goes to the CSM's apartment is basically a re-creation of the scene on The A-Team where Murdock gets onto Stockwell's private jet. They're both faced with the possibility of losing someone they care about (for Mulder it's Scully, for Murdock it's the rest of the team), they both get access to a powerful, manipulative man who is supposed to be untraceable, burst in brandishing a gun, and demand information. Also, both are met with a calm, unfazed response from said powerful men.
- Chris Carter named Scully for longtime Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully.
CSM: Don't try and threaten me, Mulder. I've watched presidents die.
- Compare that to:
Stockwell: Whoever judged you insane, Captain, should have his license lifted.
- Silicon-Based Life: "Firewalker".
- Single-Issue Psychology: In "Fire", Mulder is revealed to have pyrophobia, which goes back to a single traumatic event in his childhood. He faces his fear in that episode and it never comes up again.
- Sinister Minister: Common in the religiously themed episodes.
- Someone to Remember Him By: Scully finds out she's pregnant immediately after Mulder is Put on a Bus.
- Something Completely Different
- Spontaneous Human Combustion: Suggested as an explanation for mysterious deaths in "Fire", "Soft Light", and "Trevor". It always turns out to be something else.
- Stalker with a Crush: Padgett in "Milagro", who's in love with Scully.
- Stepford Suburbia: "Arcadia".
- Sympathetic POV:
- "Hungry" gives this to the Monster of the Week, who is just trying to get by and live with the trouble his power/affliction causes. Mulder and Scully don't appear until the end and then they shoot him.
- "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" gives one to CSM.
- Sympathy for the Devil: The episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man".
- Tag-Along Actor: The episode "Hollywood A.D." did this with a movie director instead of actors following Mulder and Scully on an investigation.
- Tear Your Face Off: One Monster of the Week conducts a ritual that will allow him to change his face by killing hospital patients as sacrifice. In the end, he cuts his face with a scalpel and rips it off, revealing the new one underneath it. Mulder later finds the old one lying on the floor.
- There Is Only One Bed:
- Subverted in "Rain King". Mulder and Scully have to share a hotel room with just one bed. They're kind of annoyed over the hotel assuming they wouldn't mind sharing a room, but no real tension or embarrassment between them comes of it.
- Played just a little straighter in "Arcadia", where they're undercover as a married couple. Mulder has some fun teasing Scully by suggesting that she get in bed with him, but it's still not treated like a big deal.
- They'd Cut You Up
- Third Person Person: Duane Barry's not crazy!
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Apparently, a rip in space-time can cause you to switch bodies with someone near you...Huh?
- Title Drop: In the episode "Travelers", it's explained unsolved cases were filed under "U", until space in the filing cabinets ran out, so they were then put under "X" which had extra room. Thus, the unsolved cases are "X" files.
- Toad Licking: The episode "Quagmire" had a bunch of slackers licking toads to get high.
Snorkel Guy: Dude, what is wrong with you? You made me drop my toad!
- Too Dumb to Live: The Stokes brothers in "Je Souhaite". And how!
- Totally Radical: In "First Person Shooter" and "Kill Switch". Doubly unforgivable as both episodes were written by cyberpunk authors William Gibson and Tom Maddox, who should know better.
- Town with a Dark Secret: Lots of them. Played for humor in "Arcadia".
- Tragic Villain: Rob Roberts in "Hungry".
- Undercover As Lovers: "Arcadia".
- Unreliable Narrator: "Jose Chung's From Outer Space", "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", "Gethsemane", "Bad Blood". There's probably more examples. They really like this one.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" and Agent Manners, who raises the word "bleep" to an art form.
- The Vietnam War: The villains from the episodes "Sleepless" and "Unrequited".
- Skinner is also a Vietnam vet, and his experiences feature in episodes like "One Breath" and "Avatar".
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Eddie Van Blundt from "Small Potatoes".
- Water Source Tampering: In "Anasazi", The Syndicate puts LSD into Mulder's water supply, causing erratic behavior that discredits both him and the case he is currently working on.
- We Have Been Researching Phlebotinum for Years: At various points throughout the Myth Arc.
- Wham! Line: In "Leonard Betts" -- "I'm sorry...but you've got something I need."
- In "Clyde Bruckman's Final Response" -- "How do I die?" "You don't."
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Mulder wears a wedding ring in "Travelers", which is set just a year before the start of the main plot. Of course no reference to him ever being married occurs anywhere else.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: "Tithonus".
- Written-In Absence:
- Scully's abduction—an event that would go on to shape the entire Myth Arc, as well as Mulder and Scully's relationship and Character Development throughout the rest of the show—was written in simply to get Gillian Anderson out of the way while she was heavily pregnant in Real Life.
- There are also several more episodes where either Mulder or Scully are mostly absent while their actors were off doing other things—especially in season five, while they were filming the first movie.
- In "Fearful Symmetry", the Lone Gunmen appeared, but Langley was absent. The real-life reason? Dean Haglund was booked to appear on a Sliders episode ("Fever"), which was filming at the same time.
- Workout Fanservice: In the early seasons, Agent Mulder jogs, runs, or swims in the stadium. The Estrogen Brigade loves his red speedo.
- You Have to Believe Me: Mulder to Scully in "Folie à Deux", leading to this:
Mulder: Scully, you have to believe me. No one on this whole damn planet does or ever will. You're my one in five billion.
- You Look Familiar:
John LockeTerry O'Quinn as a three-peat. First he played Lt. Tillman in "Aubrey", then bomb expert Darius Michaud in Fight the Future, and finally one of the Consortium in "Trust No 1".
- Chris Owens also appeared several times as a young Smoking Man before being cast as Agent Spender. Considering the two characters' relation as father and son, this was likely intentional.
- The trio of stoners in "War of the Coprophages" turn up again in "Quagmire".
- Your Vampires Suck: "Bad Blood".
- Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb: "Rush".
- At least according to Wikipedia, which claims that the term was invented on X-Files internet forums in the nineties.
- An episode coincidentally about past lives.