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Mythology elements of The Real Science Behind The X-Files

Dr. Anne Simon is a researcher in virology and professor in the University of Maryland. She also has in her curriculum the no less respectable title of science advisor for The X-Files! Anne Simon got involved in the show from the very first season, 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask, through a family connection — her mother’s best friend is Chris Carter’s wife and writer Dori Pierson — and has remained involved to this day, even earning a writing credit on the show’s last episode to have aired to date, 10X6: My Struggle II. She is also the daughter of screenwriter Mayo Simon, who wrote several science-themed or science fiction features (Marooned, Phase IV).

In 1999, Simon wrote “Monsters, Mutants and Missing Links: The Real Science Behind The X-Files“, a book that mixed episode stories with her own scientific knowledge and participation in the making of the series. Simon’s contribution in the series as a scientist elevates this particular book above the usual “the science of…” tie-in books that get released to ride on a pop culture phenomenon’s success. The book makes for a great read for the science amateur and informed X-Files fan, it invites the reader to enter the mindset of a scientific researcher questioning everything and attempting to reconcile facts in order to come up with theories — a quintessentially x-philian activity. The X-Files, after all, tried to balance Mulder’s encyclopedic knowledge of paranormal phenomena with Scully’s no less encyclopedic knowledge of medicine and more.

The US cover

The book covers seasons 1-5 as well as Fight the Future and the first episode of the sixth season. It would be interesting for Anne Simon to do a second edition of this book, with additional chapters not only covering seasons 6-9 (and importantly, as will be seen below, the revival) but also offering an updated view on the science: medical sciences and biology in particular are very lively fields that have seen great advancements over the past 15 years. Scientific truth is an ever-expanding, ever-shifting landscape!

By her own account, Simon only helped Carter with the science of the mythology episodes, the only stand-alone exception being 5X06: Post-Modern Prometheus, also a Carter episode. The science in other X-Files episodes must have been the writers’ own work or Ten Thirteen’s in-house researcher. Thus, the book’s science can be broken down into three types:

  • The book attempts to provide a scientific background for the phenomenon seen in an X-Files investigation. These are more akin to more or less wild sessions of theorizing and of attempting to put science where scientific accuracy might not have been the writers’ concern. For example, finding a biological basis for Virgil Incanto’s need for fat matter (from 3X06: 2Shy).
  • Scully (mostly) and Mulder explicitly reference a scientific concept in an episode, and the book offers further background to that concept. If the concept made it into the script, then it’s likely that the writers used this concept as the basis for their script, or at least they were aware of it and wrote it in in order to strengthen the scientific accuracy of the script. For example, the Chupacabra fungus launches a discussion of how fungi and enzymes work (from 4X11: El Mundo Gira).
  • A third category is Simon’s own contributions, which are first-hand accounts of what research was done to give these episodes scientific verisimilitude and what were the writers’ (well, Carter’s) intentions by including some elements of the research and not others. For example, identifying alien DNA with the two extra nucleotides (from 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask).

Anne Simon circa 1999

Sometimes, the additional research that didn’t make it into the final script and the behind-the-scenes discussions Simon had with Carter provide interesting insights into the script-writing process and valuable information about the mythology that cannot be found elsewhere. This mythology information could be described as “secondary” canon information: although not in the episodes themselves, it is certain it was in Simon’s and Carter’s minds and intentions when the episodes were being written and this extra information does not contradict the episodes. I used this extra information for EatTheCorn’s Mytharc Primer. This will be the focus of this article.

Are all of these elements below things we were to ponder on purpose as part of the larger mysteries of the mythology, or are they fan theories extrapolated from trying to inject too much science into a scripted piece of entertainment?

Mythology elements

The DNA to create an alien is already existing in humans and the Black Oil/Purity virus switches on this junk DNA

Quote:

Chris Carter, the movie’s scriptwriter, originally wanted to connect the black oily slime and the lizard-like entity in the following way: the black slime carries a virus, which is infectious when the slime enters a person; in the warmth of a person’s body, the virus develops into the monstrous creature..
Very imaginative, yes.
Minutely possible within the framework of biology, no.
After reading the movie script in early 1997, I hoped that Chris would change his mind. Having a special place in my heart for viruses, I discussed with him why a virus couldn’t possibly develop into anything. Viruses are, after all, just a bag of genes. A bag of genes that turns into a lizard with large black eyes and long pointed nails wouldn’t fit even my expanded definition of an extraterrestrial virus. I explored with Chris an idea for tinkering with his scenario. What if the black slime virus is responsible for the development of the creature but is not the progenitor of the creature? The virus, carried into a human by the black slime, could invade a cell in the person’s body and cause the cell to lose its identity. The cell could then be enticed by the virus to enter a new developmental pathway. That cell, together with its descendent cells, would regenerate into the hideous alien monster. I was thrilled that Chris liked the changes, since I wasn’t enthusiastic about the ribbing I would have taken from my fellow virologists if viruses changed into lizard-like aliens on the big screen — with me credited as science advisor.

The concern for scientific realism here is remarkable. A virus is a simple strand of DNA, much, much shorter than the DNA of a single-celled organism let alone of a complex multi-cellular organism like humans or grey aliens. For a virus to turn a human into an alien monster, it would have to carry much more information than a simple virus; so much so that it would not be categorized as a virus at all! The solution Simon found was to have the virus just be an activator of genes that are normally inactive in humans.

It would be have been simple to ignore that and just handwave the science away and make the virus do what viruses can’t do, but Carter was more than willing to incorporate this into his script.

Victim of (a strain of) Purity

Implications: human origins

This has large implications. If the information to create an alien were already present in human DNA, how did it get there? What happens if random genetic mutations switch part of that DNA on but not all of it? Gibson Praise and the Biogenesis trilogy storylines are the results of this idea. Super-human abilities such as mind-reading are the result of select genes in the so-called junk DNA being switched on (5X20: The End, 6X01: The Beginning). The alien DNA was put there by design because we are creations of aliens (6X22: Biogenesis). It would make sense then that the Ships with inscriptions on them containing a transcript of human DNA on them would belong to that same alien race that created us (7X03: The Sixth Extinction): Purity.

Implications: Black Oil virus origin

The Black Oil virus can thus be understood as a biological tool to transform a human into an alien. Could that mean that the Black Oil virus itself is manufactured, a tool of biological warfare on humans? The Purity aliens then would, in their natural form, be humanoid greys, the end result of the Black Oil virus’s life cycle. The Black Oil virus and its derivatives (see the creation of the Supersoldiers) would just be a tool for the Purity aliens to spread.

Extending this concept further, the Black Oil virus arbiters the mixture of active human genes and active alien genes in an organism, i.e. determines how much of an alien/human hybrid that organism is. Could that mean that hybridization experiments that result in our well-known green-blooded hybrids consist in finding out which genes to switch on and off? In the study of 5X14: The Red and the Black I theorized that the green blood in Alien Bounty Hunters and Faceless Rebels would mean that this race was created by Purity using some Purity genetic material in the same way humanity was, and that the green blood in alien/human hybrids is proof of that: could it be that this race of Shapeshifters actually be the result of earlier genetic experiments on humans?

Scully is not buying that viruses can think

Implications: virus vs. sentient organism

And so Carter and Simon thus went out of their way to present the Black Oil as a virus, behaving like a real virus. In most episodes we see it, the Black Oil infects people like a normal virus and at most put them into a coma (depending on things like temperature conditions, exposure of the host to a vaccine, potential weakness of the Black Oil strain). What doesn’t jive well with this is that the Black Oil, at times, behaves as if it has sentience: once it is inside a host, at times, it makes the host behave as if he is controlled by an intelligence other than his own. A simple virus would be very far from having the complexity necessary to do this. At best it could influence the behavior of the host in a specific way, like the worms wrapped around the brain in 1X07: Ice made the host violent. Could this be anything else than artistic license?

To be fair, the only times when the Black Oil virus shows real intelligence all by itself is in 3X15: Piper Maru / 3X16: Apocrypha, when for example it drives Krycek to negotiate with the CSM in order for it to reach its UFO — and the writers might not have yet settled their minds about what this black fluid was or that the “black cancer” they introduced in 4X09: Tunguska was the same entity. The other instance is in 8X16: Vienen, where the infected try to get more people infected. Interestingly, it is only in these two instances of the Black Oil that we see the host emit a flash of radioactivity to protect and attack, as if this were a different entity altogether. In both these instances, it could be that the Black Oil merely manipulates the brain to usher the host to rejoin with more of its kind, and the host uses the resources at its disposal — the host’s intelligence, memories, capabilities — to achieve that. This would not be unlike what some real parasites do when they control the host to their own benefit, for instance by ingesting more food or by moving to a safe place for the parasite to mature (see these or this lovely example).

How the Black Oil operates inside the Alien Bounty Hunters would be a different issue entirely.

The Black Oil/Purity virus doesn’t have extra nucleotides: is it terrestrial or extra-terrestrial?

Quote:

In ‘The Beginning’, the opening episode of the sixth season, Mulder’s convinced that there is a connection between Gibson and the virus involved in activating the development of the lizard-like creature. Unfortunately, hard evidence is lacking. Gibson is gone and the creatures have vanished. Muider’s only piece of evidence is a trace amount of the virus that he believes is extraterrestrial. Mulder is crushed when Scully cannot support scientifically the alien nature of the virus. After running tests, Scully reveals that the virus, although of an unknown species, has the same four nucleotides in its DNA and the same 20 amino acids in its proteins as earthly viruses. She therefore concludes that Mulder is mistaken. The virus comes from Earth.

Here Simon just summarizes how 6X01: The Beginning unfolds, but doesn’t counter Scully’s argument. Throughout the book, the Black Oil virus is casually referred to as alien and there is no question that aliens are here to colonize. There is just this catch: the Black Oil virus doesn’t contain the two extra nucleotides that was the most convincing proof of alien biology! Simon explains in detail her idea of two extra nucleotides to the usual four found in all earthly organisms, and how Carter integrated this idea in his script for 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask involving alien gene therapy on humans (i.e. inserting bits of alien DNA in the DNA of living humans). Surely, this is the best evidence Scully should have to make her believe in aliens. By Fight the Future and 6X01: The Beginning, Mulder believes the Black Oil virus and the clawed creature it spawns to be alien, but Scully’s analyses do not show something out of the ordinary apart from the fact that humans share a large part of their genome with it.

Southern blot DNA test in 5X02: Redux

Does that scientific result insinuate that the Black Oil is, in fact, terrestrial in origin and the entity with extra nucleotides is the only thing that is alien? The extra nucleotides are encountered in 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask and 5X02: Redux (and again in 10X6: My Struggle II; and since it is inside Scully, presumably it is what the Lone Gunmen analyze in 2X08: One Breath). What this would imply for the overall mythology is unclear. The Syndicate obtained the alien fetus with the extra nucleotides DNA from a deal with the aliens (6X12: One Son), the same aliens that are identified with the Black Oil/Purity colonization effort in many instances. Are the extra nucleotides necessary only in the mature grey form of the alien but not in the virus and first “clawed alien” forms? Is the Black Oil race in fact also seeking protection from the extra nucleotides race and conducting hybridization experiments as well? Did the Black Oil race originally evolve on Earth before leaving and now returning once more?

Gibson Praise’s DNA test in 6X01: The Beginning

This raises more questions than it answers, and unless it is building up to a future revelation about multiple races I will categorize it as an oversight on behalf of Carter for now.

The Syndicate’s endgame was the depopulation of the planet

Quote:

As Kurtzweil explains to Mulder in the X-Files movie, the corn is for production; the virus is the product; and the bees are for transportation. A deadly sting that the conspirators thought would depopulate the world but instead will repopulate it with virus-induced alien life-forms.
And that’s all the buzz on bees, corn and viruses.

Although there were talks of plagues and viruses and Apocalyptic warnings, the Syndicate’s purpose as it was exposed in Fight the Future and again in 6X11: Two Fathers / 6X12: One Son and 9X19/20: The Truth was to spread the Black Oil virus and see the world be taken over by the alien colonists, with the Syndicate members themselves surviving as immune hybrids. Indeed, if the Black Oil virus didn’t do anything else but put people in a coma or kill them why term it “colonization”? Why would the aliens collaborate with the Syndicate if they didn’t get something in return? In Fight the Future the Syndicate discovers the Black Oil triggers a gestation of a “clawed” alien. Well-Manicured Man: “This isn’t Colonization, this is spontaneous repopulation!” “We believed the virus would simply control us, that mass infection would make us a slave race. Imagine our surprise when they began to gestate.” We thus discover that the aliens perceive colonization as using the human population to reproduce themselves and increase their numbers, at humanity’s expense (and extinction).

The Well-Manicured Man spills the beans (that he knows about) to Mulder

Simon’s sentence could have been a shorthand — what effectively happens whether humans become hosts to Purity for life or humans die giving birth to the clawed alien form is that humans as such decrease in numbers. The mention of “depopulation” in Simon’s text is not backed up by anything in the series’ canon and would not mean much more — right until depopulation was presented as the (a?) conspiracy’s endgame in 10X6: My Struggle II. It could be then that the conspiracy’s initial objective was depopulation and choosing who would survive. Then came along the colonist aliens who offered the conspiracy with a means to achieve this objective: a potent pathogen, the Black Oil virus. In 1973, the conspiracy became the Syndicate by agreeing to share the spoils with the aliens in a post-depopulation colonized Earth. The Syndicate might have believed that the Black Oil virus would make humans into slaves that they, as new world leaders, would control jointly with the aliens. When the Syndicate discovered the aliens’ true purpose, the agreement was off and what remained of the Syndicate returned to the original plans of depopulation we see in season 10, using the Spartan virus injected into the population before 1973 along with the smallpox vaccinations.

Scully’s cancer was not cured, it only went into remission thanks to chip

Quote:

In the summer of 1997, I discussed with Chris some cool new treatments for curing Scully’s cancer. Scully’s health was getting progressively worse, until she lay near death in the sequel to the episode ‘Redux’, called ‘Redux I’. Chris decided to have Scully ‘cured’ when a synthetic chip was placed at the base of her neck. While watching the episode, I groaned. I knew what would happen the next day when I faced the 500 rabid X-Files fans in my Introduction to Biology class. Hands flew up as soon as I entered the room. ‘How could a computer chip in the neck cure cancer, Dr Simon?’ I was asked repeatedly. When I talked to Chris later that week, he said ‘It’s not a cure! It’s only remission!’ I remain hopeful that some new neat medical technology will prevail in the end.

The Redux trilogy ended in an excellent way synthesizing the core themes of the X-Files. Scully’s cancer disappeared, and it could have been due to her prayers being answered by God, or due to the conventional treatment she underwent, or due to the chip that was put into her again, a symbol of unconventional science and perhaps of the existence of aliens.

Studying Scully’s very first implant

That it would be just a remission instead of a cure makes some pseudoscientific sense. Scully’s cancer was caused by the experiments done on her during her abduction (radiation exposure to trigger hyper-ovulation? contact with alien genetic material?). A cancer is certain cells losing their constraints and duplicating endlessly growing into an unwanted tumor. The chip put inside Scully during her abduction put shackles on these cells and stopped their spread. The removal of the chip in season 3 caused the spread to begin anew; the addition of a similar chip in season 5 stopped it. Scully only has to remove the chip and her cancer could return; or, the chip could be reprogrammed to kill her by permitting the cancer to grow. Carter’s quote above could be both an acknowledgment that the chip did not magically cure her cancer, and a tease for a potential future development — one story thread that has not yet been pulled back to the fore.

Some additional short tidbits that have their significance

Dr. Anne Carpenter

In 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask, Dr. Anne Carpenter’s name comes from Anne Simon’s first name and not legendary director John Carpenter, but after Anne Simon’s husband name.

Magnetite

Magnetite is mentioned extensively in the description of the (real) Mars meteorite that might have contained fossilized bacteria, which served as inspiration for 4X09: Tunguska. Magnetite is of course a widely common iron compound found on Earth and elsewhere and there is nothing particular about it, however magnetite’s importance as the aliens’ weak spot introduced in season 9 does make this research relevant. One theory would be that the presence of magnetite in the Mars meteorites is what weakened the Black Oil’s potency and allowed the research into a vaccine to proceed faster in Russia compared to other, more potent Black Oil strains, like the ones in Fight the Future and 6X01: The Beginning.

Black vermiforms

Foum Tataouine

Discussing Mars meteorites, Simon also mentions the Tatahouine meteorite, which was analyzed in the wake of the potential bacteria find in the ALH84001 meteorite from Antarctica. That meteorite fell in the Foum Tataouine/Tatahouine/Tatawin region of Tunisia in 1931. This is the same place where we find Conrad Strughold at the end of Fight the Future. It is possible the Syndicate installed GMO corn fields above findings of Black Oil, some of which might have landed on Earth with meteorites.

S.E.P.

In Scully’s and Pendrell’s analysis of smallpox vaccination tags in 4X01: Herrenvolk, the aminoacid sequence that appears onscreen is not random: it is that of the cowpox virus, as could be expected from a smallpox vaccination!

Look what Pendrell found inside Scully

The chimera organism

The chimera organism in 5X02: Redux that develops under Scully’s microscope and could be alien is actually footage of a proteus urchin!

Alien urchin

Genetically modified plants

Fight the Future and colonization in general is based on genetically modified corn that carries the DNA from the Black Oil virus, which is passed on to bees when the bees come into contact with the corn’s pollen: the transfer of genes from one organism to the other is something that is observed in nature with Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which transfers its genes into plant cells and has been used to insert specific genes and thus create genetically modified plants.

Black Oil worms

The Black Oil coalescing into worms was inspired by dictyostelium slugs. It looks like the Black Oil behaves intelligently, for example when it forms worms that “attack” a host in Fight the Future. There is however a real nature counterpart to such behavior, as odd as it seems. One could imagine the Black Oil virus organizing itself and the hydrocarbons in the oil it is bathing in order to behave like a multi-cellular organism looking to infect a host, in a broadly similar way to the ‘dicti‘ organism.

Dictyostelium discoideum life cycle

ADA enzyme & gene

There is mention of the severe immunodeficiency syndrome caused by a faulty gene producing the ADA enzyme. Years later, Simon would use that knowledge to come up with the mechanism with which the conspiracy would depopulate the planet with the ADA-removing Spartan virus, in 10X6: My Struggle II.

Southern blot

Simon is well aware that the Southern blot test conducted by Scully in 5X02: Redux was done way too quickly because the narrative of the episode demanded it, and it has become a bit of a recurring joke that she has received criticism for this. (To accelerate the test, more heat is needed, thus the mention of a “blazing hot probe”: little did she suspect that FOX censorship might take issue with that expression!) I wonder how the same people would react to 10X6: My Struggle II and its extremely quickly produced alien DNA vaccine.

Annex: Book contents

An overview of all the information in the book’s six chapters:

1: Hidden and Hungry
Episodes: The Host ; Ice; Darkness Falls; Firewalker; El Mundo Gira; F. Emasculata
Described: extremophiles; pathogens; antibiotics; hypothalamus & hormones; flukes & worms; hermaphrodites; reviving extinct species; spores; silicon-based life; fungi & enzymes; immune system; parasites & outbreaks

2: Visitors from the Void
Episodes: The Erlenmeyer Flask; Tunguska; Piper Maru; Ice; Gethsemane/Redux
Described: bacteria; microscopes; DNA, RNA & nucleotides; virus replication; Human Genome Project; ALH84001 Mars meteorite, PAHs, carbonates & magnetite; dicti slugs; Tunguska event; life in space & panspermia; ammonia-based life; chimeric organisms; Piltdown Man hoax; RFLP DNA test; mitosis & somatic development

3: Mutants and Monsters
Episodes: Post-Modern Prometheus; Home; Small Potatoes; 2Shy; Leonard Betts; Fight the Future; The End/The Beginning
Described: fruit flies; genetic engineering; DNA mutations; epidemics & mutant gene spread in human population; birth defects & genetic disorders; chromosomes, autosomes, sex chromosomes; dominant & recessive genes; extra chromosomes & chromosome inactivation; inbreeding; PCR DNA test; enzymes, proteases, lipids & digestion; regenerating limbs & repression by the immune system; cancer, proto-oncogenes, p53 gene & mutation suppression; bacteria redirecting the identity of cells & viruses activating genes; junk DNA; God module

4: Releasing the Genetic Genie
Episodes: Eve; Memento Mori; The Erlenmeyer Flask; Redux; Zero Sum; Herrenvolk; Fight the Future
Described: cloning; genetic engineering; chemotherapy & radiation treatment for cancer; gene therapy; Southern blot test; cloning & extra chromosomes; reproduction by cloning; forensic entomology; smallpox, immunization with cowpox, Smallpox Eradication Program; immunohistochemical staining & protein amino-acid sequence “tagging”; adding genes to plants & Agrobacterium tumefaciens

5: Seeking the Fountain of Youth
Episodes: Young at Heart; Dod Kalm; Roland; Synchrony; Our Town
Described: immortality & cell life ageing theory; HeLa cells; Hayflick cell division limit; human experimentation & consent forms; ‘wear and tear’ ageing theory, progeria, Werner’s syndrome, helicase enzyme; gene therapy; telomeres; cancer & telomerase enzyme; free radical ageing theory; antioxidants; male/female longevity, hormones & metabolism; cryonics; cells freezing process & ischemia; cryopreservants; vitrification; nanotechnology; brain diseases, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; prions; cannibalism & kuru disease; ‘mad cow’ disease

6: Fooling with Mother Nature
Episodes: War of the Coprophages; The Jersey Devil; Blood; The Pine Bluff Variant; Quagmire
Described: environmental problems; invasive species; species extinction from loss of habitat; mutations, global warming & Hsp90 protein; insect sterilization for pest control; man-made insecticides, DDT, environmental oestrogens & link to cancer; artificial chemicals & health problems; animal & human pheromones; adrenaline; biological warfare & US & USSR programs; flesh eating bacteria, Streptococcus, anthrax; terrorist groups with biological agents (Aum Shinrikyo & nerve gas sarin, domestic terrorism in 1998); amphibians extinction; Endangered Species Act; coelacanth; chytrid fungi

Story and Visual Influences on The X-Files: Updated

With less than a week to go for new X-Files (!)…

After more than 3 years after its launch, the massive list of influences on The X-Files — films, TV shows, scenes, cinema techniques, works of literature — has been updated! The list is complete with image “proof” and comparisons, and links to IMDb or Wikipedia for your “to (re)watch” or “to (re)read” lists.

As always, suggestions for further enriching the list are welcome!

Grand total: 205 references…

We’re going to the movies!

Introduction | Season 1 | Season 2 | Season 3 | Season 4 | Season 5 | Season 6 | Season 7 | Season 8 | Season 9 | Movies

The Obsessions of Chris Carter

When The X-Files return next week (!), we are going to re-enter the world of Chris Carter. Throughout all his works — The X-Files and its two theatrical movies, Millennium, Harsh Realm, The Lone Gunmen, The After — certain common themes, threads, ways to tell a story, leitmotivs come up again and again, making his work recognizable and giving it a unique voice. Among these recurring themes is history and memory, loss, religion, trust, family.

Next week Carter not only returns with the cast from the original series, along with key writers Glen Morgan, James Wong and Darin Morgan. It’s also such key people, some of which have been with Carter since 1993, as: composer Mark Snow and sound editor Thierry J. Couturier; visual effects supervisor Mat Beck; casting director Rick Millikan; production designer Mark S. Freeborn; production assistant Gabe Rotter. Carter also returns to Vancouver, where The X-Files established its identity in its first 5 seasons and returned to to shoot I Want To Believe. It really is a family.

To delve deeper into this, EatTheCorn proposes below an article that looks at these “obsessions” of Carter’s, written in 2006 by Séverine Barthes — a long time ago, but these very interesting arguments are developed here in an elegant way. Read it after the jump.

XF crew 1994-1995

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Notes beyond the world’s ending

> December 22, 2012

Well, if the scenery above is not the image you have outside your window, then something went wrong in the colonization plans. Somebody somehow prevented it; and if it was Mulder and Scully who did it we don’t know — yet!

Indeed, before we were given the date of Saturday December 22nd 2012 in 9X19/20: The Truth (2002), we were told it would be on a holiday in Fight the Future, it would be 15 years after 5X13: Patient X (early 1998), that “the date is set” (3X24: Talitha Cumi), that a new beginning was 18 years after 2X10: Red Museum (1994). This landmark date has been a long time coming. How full of possibilities did these ten years separating the end of the series and that announced date seem, back then!

Like so many things in the X-Files it was there in the series before it became widely known and a factoid of everyday popular culture. The X-Files was pre-empted in the big screen in popularizing the “end of the world” with the presumed end of the Mayan calendar by the disaster movie 2012 (2009) and in recent days it’s been the subject of endless eschatological occult warnings, de-dramatizing scientific articles, viral internet jokes and opportunistic merchandising with a “best before” date. It was also pre-empted by a novel by someone who could have served as an inspiration for X-Files scenarios, Whitley Strieber (author of Communion on close encounters with aliens, 1987) and his inter-dimensional invasion novel 2012: The War for Souls (2007). To all this we have to add a long list of invasion or apocalyptic films, most action- or horror-based, some of so-so quality, that have come out since the series ended ten years ago: Signs (2002), War of the Worlds (2005), 28 Weeks Later (2007), I Am Legend (2007), The Invasion (2007), The Happening (2008), The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), Blindness (2008), Battleship (2012)… Even Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skulls (2008) and Prometheus (2012), despite their lame scripts, could be said to contain X-Files-like mythology elements! In this crowded pop culture environment, what place is there for a potential X-Files 3 that would wrap up the alien invasion mythology?

At its heart, the X-Files mythology is a syncretism of various conspiracy theories of the New World Order family and eschatological theories linked with spiritual and alien influence on human matters. Political scientist Michael Barkun said in his book A Culture of Conspiracy (2004):

“Prior to the early 1990s, New World Order conspiracism was limited to two subcultures, primarily the militantly antigovernment right, and secondarily Christian fundamentalists concerned with end-time emergence of the Antichrist.” (p. 179)

Interestingly, Chris Carter’s The X-Files (1993-2002) illustrates and beckons to the first group of subcultures, while his Millennium (1996-1999) illustrates and beckons to the second group. The X-Files’ stories of conspiracies “against the American people” from within the American government, “Government denies knowledge”, the NWO-like Syndicate that pulls all the strings, the loss of individual freedom against anything that has to do with arcane governmental doings: all these are ideas that are expressed in a way outside of the conventional bipartisan criticism of government, a point of view right from the US conspiratorial underground — and Millennium would delve deeply into this in its third season (going as far as using one of the most popular of US’s conspiracy theorists, Art Bell, as himself). On the other hand, Millennium’s mottos “wait, worry, who cares?”, its frequent Bible quotes, its use of Christian terminology such as good, evil, light, darkness, sin, redemption, Christian devilish and angelic imagery, its progressive use of apocalyptic themes: all these are popular worldviews in many Bible-frenzied groups that are so typically American.

In the 1990s these ideas were confined to the far right or conservative underground, and Carter’s two series were but one factor that brought them much closer to the everyday political landscape.

Of course these ideas do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of the creator Chris Carter, at least not entirely. Whether the X-Files and Millennium defend a conservative or a progressive point of view is a large debate — and beside the point. All of the above plus the two series’ distinctive weight it gives to nuclear relationships (platonic romanticism; the ideal family) points to the former; Carter’s defining moment being the Watergate scandal and other facts point to the latter. Barkun again says:

“Conspiracism is, first and foremost, an explanation of politics. It purports to locate and identify the true loci of power and thereby illuminate previously hidden decision making. The conspirators, often referred to as a shadow government, operate a concealed political system behind the visible one, whose functionaries are either ciphers or puppets.” (p. 178).

And what a simplistic explanation of politics it is! Other works of fiction that adopt a different, more complex worldview are hailed for their quality but penalised for their intellectualism (see The Wire; in particular this scene from season 5, episode 8, 25:29, turning into ridicule the pop culture obsession with serial killers while larger and more lethal societal problems are given less weight in the things we spend our brain time on). Regardless, conspiracies just make for good drama-filled entertainment. Even if certain themes of the two series do speak to eternal inner struggles of the individual, like the believer/skeptic dichotomy or the protection of one’s offspring, their actual stories should not be taken at face value. A third film could continue the story/parable and spin it in new ways.

Still, Ten Thirteen shows were notable for bringing a high degree of realism in their fantastic stories. We are led to believe that somewhere in our world, these supernatural events do exist, and that Mulder and Scully and Frank Black are fighting the good fight, protecting us from evil. But if that realism is to be kept intact, the world the series depict must not radically differ from our own. If the alien invasion or the millennial apocalypse comes, disbelief settles in. If the invasion or the apocalypse is prevented, it must not be done so in a way that is too open or too public, like an all-out war or a presidential assassination or a massively deadly viral outbreak. What then are the possible outcomes of a third X-Files film? A silent revolution that manages to destroy the aliens, or a covert skirmish that manages to postpone the invasion. Both solutions leave the possibility open for a movie taking place after December 22 2012, something that’s been bothering fans as if it were an unmovable deadline.

There’s something to be said about the resolution, or rather the lack of resolution of Ten Thirteen’s two major series!

A “closure” on the colonization storyline would be a classic case of the “good guys” against the “bad guys” and who would win in the end. In this view, the series would have been “the mystery” unfolding, and “X-Files 3” would be “the action” capping everything off. The X-Files rarely was about the leading characters taking action in the grander scheme of things: they were merely observers and, though their personal lives were greatly affected by the surrounding mythology, they were passive receivers of developments that were beyond their hands’ reach. (At least during the first 7 seasons, after which the focus became radically different: the leading characters would act, would be the world savers, would produce messianic offspring.)

Quite similarly, Millennium featured a very personal story of a man and his family against another mythology centered around evil. For the better part of 3 seasons, Frank led his personal battle against that evil, under its many forms, but never hoped to eradicate it or not even protect everyone from it. Like in the X-Files’ mythology, the leads’ actions were nearly inconsequential on the greater battle between Good and Evil (with capital G and E’s). Frank suffered losses (Catherine), enjoyed small victories (resisting Al Pepper for example), saved a few, failed to save some others. But at its heart, the show was about a state of being; it never was about definite victories or failures. It was more interested in exploring the fact that Frank was worried (“Wait, Worry, Who Cares?”) than explaining whatever it was that worried Frank — something that could be changed to fit that week’s particular episode. Similarly, Mulder and Scully’s investigations brought forth dark deeds that asked for the world to stop and meditate on how power can corrupt. Neither shows were interested in making triumphant heroes out of the lead characters in a way other than heroes of moral superiority, heroes of ideas, not of revolutionary accomplishments. And ultimately, both shows introduce very interesting characters and plots and both serve to illustrate larger themes: both are tools, not ends, both are secondary to say something that is more than entertainment.

Thus, the closure in the respective storylines could only be partial, or bittersweet, or ambiguous. This is at the risk of sparking sequelitis in their fandoms: the continuous “we want to know what [insert character] did next…” problem, the problem of not saying that enough is enough. Sequelitis is the surest way to turn a lively universe into a badly perceived profit-seeking franchise, and that’s what happened with the X-Files with at least its last two seasons. But such a fine balance Chris Carter has walked since the beginning. “Who will win, Owls or Roosters, or Legion or ‘Samiel’?” is like “Will the colonization happen or will humans survive?”: essential questions created by the shows’ mythologies but questions Carter has till now chosen not to answer.

Does Carter want to bring his story to a simplistic heroic victory or a repetitive postponement of the deadline? A third X-Files promises to be the resolution, the final confrontation, the climax — while the show’s fabric has been based on a lack of clear-cut endings. This is why I anticipate a postponement of the colonization rather than a pure calling off, should there be an X-Files 3. The X-Files world cannot exist without dark forces looming above. Similarly, when Carter has mentioned a return to Frank Black, concepts like the “Millennium feel” are mentioned rather than “Frank Black vs The Group, Part IV”.

What is left, then, is a story of a secret fight against an alien conspiracy, with a touch of paranormal, necessarily stripped to a bare minimum of all of the intricate complications of the X-Files’ mythology. A warm setting would counterweight the winter setting of I Want To Believe; New Mexico or Mexico perhaps, to build on the Native American (Anasazi, Navajo) and Mayan references in the X-Files’ mythology (plus the state of New Mexico offers significant tax incentives to film production, the reason why Breaking Bad is filmed there!). A Village of the Damned-like (or 4X01: Herrenvolk-like) generation of abnormal children could be a starting point for the intrigue, thereby tying in with 12+ year old William. An underground league of resistance (like the hybrid clones in 4X15: Memento Mori…or the aforementioned children, there’s a plot twist!) that Mulder and Scully would stumble upon would provide the “broad impact manpower” necessary to provide a solution to a global invasion scenario, a solution which would most likely have to be biological and not military in order to respect the plausible realism explained above. This necessity for realism would also reduce the need for a blockbuster-level movie budget. After Mulder saving Scully (XF1) and Scully saving Mulder (XF2), in this one they would have to work together and save each other — and more. And surely, what would make it stand out from the rest of the action/horror invasion/apocalyptic movies would be that characteristic moody atmosphere with lazy silent shots bathed in Mark Snow’s ambient music, a look and feel inspired on Carter by 1970s political conspiracy thrillers such as All the President’s Men (1974) or Three Days of the Condor (1975). It would certainly need to appeal to a larger group than certain parts of the X-Files fans, whose campaigning has been quite vocal but of dubious aesthetics.

There would also have to be a layer over or under it all, conveying a certain message or theme, in order to make it more than mere entertainment. For me that message in I Want To Believe was spiritual solitude and decaying institutions, a move away from the NWO-inspired conspiracism of the show’s mythology into a more religious, or moral, ground. In this unending crisis of our times, possibilities abound to enclose a conspiratorial message in a third movie that would simultaneously strike a vibe with how our current times are experienced and making the X-Files relevant again, a conspiracy that needn’t be similar in nature to the NWO-like Syndicate; perhaps one extending the misdeeds beyond government to the private sector as well. A new backbone to strengthen a fandom which is fragmented, to say the least!

This is not exactly the profile of an action-packed summer box office hit, but given the performance of I Want To Believe (all expenses accounted for, it was barely profitable) and the X-Files’ distance in time from the media spotlight (ten years since the series ended, fourteen since its peak), can we hope for something more than a mid-budget flick? Would more be even necessary? Would Carter accept anything less than a theatrical release? Actually, sometimes it feels like the unlikelihood of an X-Files feature film is linked to the desire for it to be a theatrical feature, which is inherently more expensive. As if Carter and the X-Files wanted to “graduate” from TV to the big screen, while top-rate directors do not stop at the opportunity of doing the opposite (the Martin Scorcese-directed pilot of Boardwalk Empire reportedly cost $ 18 million) and many recognize that the 1970s kind of inventivity that existed in movies has now shifted to television. In a shifting environment for movie-making, the X-Files could take advantage of new means of release, distribution and funding, such as an exclusive television event, direct-to-video with special theatrical screenings, Japanese-inspired V-Cinema, Video On Demand pre-orders, iTunes premiere or YouTube premiere, funding from multiple sources (see 2012’s Cloud Atlas), international sale bundled with an HD remastering of the entire series, the economies on special effects and on-location shooting using full-greenscreen (see Starz’s Spartacus or SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, which reportedly cost $ 2 million). For comparison, Fight the Future reportedly cost $ 66 million ($ 93 million, inflation-adjusted) and I Want To Believe $ 30 milion. The marketing move to have the X-Files released on BluRay starting with next year, as hinted, on the occasion of the show’s 20th anniversary, could be a nice way to gauge interest before the movie. Stranger things have happened (see 2005’s Serenity, based on a FOX series of only half a season, or Star Trek‘s resurrection in 1979 after ten years off the air)!

Whatever happens, the film could only hope to be successful commercially if it is fully supported by the studio — unlike with I Want To Believe, which FOX didn’t seem to know how to market exactly (action, horror, romance), nor did it seem to particularly want to. Carter returning to the media spotlight with another project (the proposed The After series, for example) would benefit, not hinder, the odds for a return to the X-Files. Carter’s chances at directing it, however, might be fewer, given the second film’s history.

Actually, if there is a third X-Files, FOX’s interest might lie in the long-term profitability of the franchise: a continuation and a reboot should be considered as something that might really happen, especially now with the X-Files-like Fringe (2008-2013) now ending, with Duchovny and Anderson potentially acting opposite a couple of “next generation” younger actors. If an X-Files 3 is announced tomorrow, it’s unrealistic to expect a release before 2014. If they want to make it coincide with the full release of the series in HD (counting 2-3 BluRay seasons per year starting from September 2013), that’s end of 2016.

The passage of time has been very kind with Carter and Spotnitz’s I Want To Believe, mainly thanks to its production design and overall themes, and it’s possible to consider it in a good light despite its many shortcomings — which to me boil down to a tight schedule due to the 2007 writers’ strike and thus the impossibility of rewrites, and some aspects of Carter’s directing (including the counter-productive and ultimately needless efforts to maintain secrecy on the set). It could even do as a closing chapter for these characters, since the mythology became so much convoluted and absurd in the last two seasons that it might as well be left alone, or massively simplified, or expertly by-passed. My own time is spent on more important things, such as those Carter seems to have espoused recently, as evidenced by “Statements on green production” in I Want To Believe‘s bonuses.

Still, a third X-Files film or a return to Frank Black would be some gift! Actually it needn’t be “just” a resolution of the colonization storyline: the beauty of Carter’s universes is such that it’s interesting to explore them many times over, with a series of films as Carter had initially envisioned. Works of such a character as those established by Ten Thirteen are rare to find.

> One man alone cannot fight the future
> Don’t give up
> _

La La Land Records : The X-Files Volume 1

See also on EatTheCorn:


The wait has been long since the release of The Truth and the Light released in September, 1996!

During the promotion of I Want To Believe (2008) and its excellent sountrack, Mark Snow (in a June 24, 2008 interview) and Frank Spotnitz (in a June 25, 2008 reply to fanmail regarding that interview) announced that this long-awaited dream of fans, another release with Snow’s music for XF, was in the works, and that it might be released as soon as the end of 2008.

In February 2009, in an interview with BeyondTheSea.it, Mark Snow revealed that La La Land Records was the one working on the set, and that the set would contain 4 CDs; he offered a spring 2009 release date. La La Land kicked off their collaboration with Mark Snow by releasing a 2-CD set with music from Milennium in November 2009 and continued with a 1-CD release of music from Harsh Realm and The Lone Gunmen on August 17, 2010.

In March 2010, La La Land released on the FilmScoreMonthly boards a preliminary list of episodes on which they were focusing their selection on. This selection contained 68 episodes. Of these, 35 did make it into the Volume 1 box set, meaning that 5 more were added that were not in the shortlist, and 33 from that shortlist did not make it in Volume 1.

On March 27, 2011, Mark Snow (via X-Files News) and La La Land (via Facebook) finally announced that the box set would be released on May 10, 2011. Over the last days leading up to the release, La La Land teased awaiting fans by releasing a few random track titles per day! Also, video editor Lyle released a video trailer for the box set and redirected thexfilesmusic.com to the LLL website.

On May 3, 2011, a La La Land press release on the box set broke the news that this would be entitled “Volume One”, with Volume Two expected to be released in 2012!

Press Release:


Coming Tuesday, May 10 at 1pm PST La-La Land Records is proud to announce its latest releases:

THE X-FILES VOLUME ONE
SOCOM 4

You read that right – this is the first Volume of music we plan to release from this landmark television series. VOLUME TWO is already in the works and is scheduled to be released in 2012.

THE X-FILES VOLUME ONE – 4 CD SET
Music by Mark Snow
LLLCD 1170
Limited Edition of 3000 units
Retail price: $49.98
Produced by Mark Snow, James Nelson and MV Gerhard
Mastered by James Nelson, Digital Outland
Liner Notes by Randall D. Larson
Art Direction by Mark Banning

La-La Land Records is honored to announce THE X-FILES VOLUME ONE. This 4 disc set features over 5 hours of some of the creepiest, most elegant AND suspenseful action music composed from this now classic television show. After working on this project for more than two years, Mark Snow, James Nelson and the rest of the gang at La-La Land have come up with, what we believe to be, the absolute BEST musical moments from show. Housed in an attractive reinforced black cardboard slipcase, this collection of music from all 9 Seasons of the hit television show is a must have keepsake for any fan of the series! The 40 page booklet includes in depth liner notes by Randall D. Larson, detailing the history of the series, its music and its mystery. Comments from composer Mark Snow give the listener a deeper insight into his craft.

As an added bonus, composer Mark Snow was kind enough to sign the first 400 or so units purchased directly through the La-La Land website at no additional charge!

Artwork, sound clips and more details to follow.


On May 10, 2011, “The X-Files Volume One” was finally released.

La La Land description:


LA-LA LAND RECORDS PRESENTS
NEW RELEASES: Tues, 1pm (PST) MAY 10, 2011

THE X-FILES: VOL. ONE: LIMITED EDITION (4CD-SET) LLLCD 1170
Music by Mark Snow
Limited Edition of 3000 Units

STARTS SHIPPING MAY 10th
RETAIL PRICE $49.98

ORDER “THE X-FILES: VOL. ONE: LIMITED EDITION (4CD-BOX SET)” MAY 10th at www.lalalandrecords.com and get the composer, Mark Snow’s autograph at no additional charge. Autographs are while supplies last and are not guaranteed.

La-La Land Records is proud to present THE X-FILES: VOL ONE, a limited edition 4-CD BOX SET chronicling the best musical moments from Chris Carter’s classic sci-fi FOX television series starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Acclaimed composer Mark Snow (MILLENNIUM, SMALLVILLE, GHOST WHISPERER, STARSKY AND HUTCH) created nine seasons of thrilling and mesmerizing score for this legendary show, expertly and elegantly weaving a complex musical tapestry of paranormal mystery, suspense, terror, hope and love that became as vital to the series’ enduring success as its writing, cast, cinematography and editing. Music selections from 40 episodes that span the show’s nine seasons are presented on four discs and complemented by a 40-page booklet – all of it housed within an attractive reinforced cardboard slipcase. Produced by Mark Snow, James Nelson and MV Gerhard and mastered by James Nelson, this limited edition of 3000 units features more than 5 hours of amazing score. Film music writer Randall D. Larson contributes in-depth liner notes, with new comments by the composer, and detailed track-by-track analysis. A must-have release for soundtrack enthusiasts and a meaningful keepsake for all fans of this beloved series.


Autographed copies were gone approximately 45 minutes after 1pm PST!

Some additional information given by LLL’s MV Gerhard here and there:

Track titles were not invented for the set: the original “Cue Sheet titles” were used.

Some tracks (1.16, 3.5, 3.15, 3.21, 4.13) “were edited down for two reasons: CONTENT and LENGTH. Under Mr. Snow’s direction 5 cues have edits to address creative/timing issues that he though he was important to the overall listening experience of the album. And we agree.

Regarding the delays compared to the original projected release date of end of 2008: “Artwork approval was not an issue… it was getting the 4 discs packed with the absolute best material as we could. This is Mr. Snow’s baby… his STAR WARS if you will. He, more than any one else, has been wanting to get this out there from the get-go. He wanted to ensure that the best material and the best listening experience was created, but at the same time designing it in such a fashion that us geeks would enjoy as well. It took a lot of finessing… tracks got cut, whole episodes swapped out… thus the reason for the delay

Some statistics:


Episodes
Tracks
Length
Season 1 5/24
13
29:02
Season 2
4/25
14
42:33
Season 3
4/24
7
27:42
Season 4
4/24
9
38:27
Season 5
4/20
5
30:48
Season 6
6/22
15
46:55
Season 7
6/22
10
29:07
Season 8
3/21
4
9:58
Season 9
4/20
8
36:05
Miscellaneous

9
10:41
Total
40/202
94
301:18
Mythology
22/72
41
147:29
Stand-Alones
18/130
44
143:08

Considering that Jose Chung’s From Outer Space, Dreamland I & II and Jump the Shark are stand-alones.

Full tracklist follows.

Episode
#
Track Name
Time

1.01 Main Title (Season 1) 0:48
Season 1
1X79: Pilot 1.02 Scully To DC / Scully Meets Mulder 1:21
1.03
The Close Encounter 2:16
1.04
Scully & FBI Goon 0:35
1X02: Squeeze 1.05
FBI Secret Vaults 1:14
1.06 Hidden Away 1:38
1.07 Slimed 0:41
1.08 Cuffed And Tubbed 2:16
1X09: Fallen Angel 1.09 On The Waterfront/Suspended Max 6:11
1X22: Roland 1.10 Sweeper 1:47
1.11 Out The Window 1:29
1.12 Ramblin’ Roland 2:05
1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask 1.13
Green Goo Chase 2:12
1.14 The Wells Brain 5:17
Season 2
2X01: Little Green Men 1.15 Dead Man’s Thoughts 2:00
1.16 Fish Food 3:15
2X02: The Host 1.17 Two Miles Off Jersey 2:45
1.18 Honey Wagon 2:03
1.19 Guillotined 3:54
2X08: One Breath 1.20 The Return 1:59
1.21 Uniforms 3:18
1.22 Players 3:33
1.23 Trust Your Pistol 0:58
1.24 Reanimation 1:32
1.25 Guardian Angel 1:13
2X25: Anasazi 1.26
The Mourn 3:20
1.27 Mercy Wound 4:08
1.28 Anasazi 8:35

1.29 End Credit (Extended #1) 0:35


Disc 1 of 4
72:58

2.01
Main Title (short)
0:37
Season 3
3X09: Nisei
2.02
Choo Choo Sushi
4:09
2.03
Rail Song
6:42
3X10: 731
2.04
Graves
2:55
2.05
Derailed
1:53
3X15: Piper Maru
2.06
Back In The Hood
4:51
3X20: Jose Chung’s From Outer Space 2.07
Harold & Chrissy
2:27
2.08
Closure
4:45
Season 4
4X05: The Field Where I Died
2.09
Dim Memories
1:05
2.10
Jonestown Cocktail
6:23
4X07: Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man
2.11
Extra-Ordinary Men
2:09
2.12
A Place In History
6:04
4X08: Paper Hearts
2.13
Respect
1:37
2.14
El Camino
6:39
2.15
Watergate Heart
2:28
4X12: Kaddish
2.16
Hanging Boy
2:47
2.17
Spirit Wedding
9:15

2.18
End Credit (Extended Remix) 2:11


Disc 2 of 4
79:00

3.01
Main Title (Remix – Short)
0:37
Season 5
5X06: The Post-Modern Prometheus
3.02
JJ’s Diner
1:50
3.03
Post-Modern Posse
9:20
5X05: Christmas Carol
3.04
Mother Genes
3:53
5X07: Emily
3.05
Little Box Of Sand
7:37
5X20: The End
3.06
Closure
8:08
Season 6
6X03: Triangle
3.07
Quest For Swath
8:50
6X04: Dreamland
3.08
Roadblock
1:05
3.09
Home Sweet Home
2:14
3.10
The Imposter 6:31
6X05: Dreamland II
3.11
A Brief History Of Fox 1:27
3.12
Number 42
1:56
6X06: How the Ghosts Stole Christmas
3.13
House Organ/Irrational Fear
4:40
3.14
Bricks
0:39
3.15
Piano On The Tack
1:28
3.16
Fair Warning
3:03
3.17
Star Crossed Bullets
3:05
3.18
A Gift
1:45
6X11: Two Fathers
3.19
The Patriarch
2:23
3.20
A Mother’s Abduction
3:02
6X12: One Son
3.21
Train Tune
4:47

3.22
End Credit (Extended #2) 1:31


Disc 3 of 4
79:51

4.01
Main Title (7th Season)
0:48
Season 7
7X06: The Goldberg Variation
4.02
Five Cards
3:09
7X01: The Sixth Extinction
4.03
Sea Of Blood
5:57
7X02: Amor Fati
4.04
The Martyr
1:28
7X04: Millennium
4.05
The Smell Of Zombies
4:58
4.06
The End Of The Crusade
2:15
7X17: all things
4.07
Waterson
3:13
7X18: Hollywood A.D.
4.08
Sniper Zombies
3:41
4.09
Dancing Bones
2:18
4.10
Hollywood
1:04
4.11
The Kiss
1:04
Season 8
8X01: Within
4.12
Scully’s Serenade
1:37
8X02: Without
4.13
Hide & Seek
2:03
8X14: This Is Not Happening
4.14
Starspeak 2:57
4.15
Hidden Truths/Big Happening
3:21
Season 9
9X15: Jump the Shark
4.16
Triangle
0:41
4.17
Weird Organs
2:01
4.18
Lone Gunmen Requiem
8:13
9X17: Release
4.19
The Tip
2:33
4.20
A Synopsis & Release
5:38
9X19: The Truth
4.21
Mount Weather
6:32
9X20: The Truth II
4.22
Scary Story/For Whom The Smoke Blows
7:26
4.23
The Truth Is Inside
3:01

4.24
Main Title (remix)
3:25

4.25
I Made This/20th Century Fox Fanfare 0:09


Disc 4 of 4
79:38


Total set
311:27