A lot of the time, the opening credits of TV shows are throwaway montages of moments set to theme songs that serve as trailers for what the shows are about. A sizzle reel of saccharin that can be comforting but ultimately forgettable.
However, they can also be as iconic, memorable and important as the shows they introduce.
When done right, they serve as a prelude that transports us from the comfort of our living rooms into the worlds on our television.
The Overlook’s Perfect Preludes series shines a light on the sequences that are conduits through which we can escape our mundane existence and exist in our favourite fictional worlds.
Today, we focus on an intro that made us want to believe…
The X Files
An eerie, rippling piano reverberates in our ears as a flashlight quickly passes over a foggy screen. As it speeds over, we catch a fleeting glimpse of the title of the show. A brief glance of our entrance into this mysterious underworld. A sneak peek into the world of classified information.
We are about to see the truths that lie within the X files.
We quickly cut to an FBI photo interpretation that shows a silhouette pointing towards a flying saucer hanging in the late evening sky.
The main melodic movement of the theme coincides with the camera zooming in on the image of the saucer in a piece of staccato jumpy editing. It is as though an FBI agent is enlarging the image on a computer for us, showing us the truth.
As if to cement this point, the image that follows is a hand slowly moving over some indecipherable blueprint. We have been pointed towards the truth, and now we are being shown the inner workings.
Next, a moving, glowing molecule takes centre stage before morphing into a contorted screaming human face.
A warning that this classified information may be dangerous and unsettling to us.
The words “Paranormal Activity” then fade into the screen over two otherworldly pods that are seeping foam. The X files are not only showing us unsettling parts of human nature, but they are highlighting the scary and downright weird elements of the paranormal world we live in.
Aliens. Check. Genetic experiments. Check. Paranormal activity. Check. The opening credits has so far alluded that the X files contain the holy triumvirate of conspiracy theories.
Weird stuff firmly established, now it is time to meet the FBI agent who is going to show us that said weird stuff is true and all around us.
Step forward, Agent Fox Mulder.
An FBI ID tag introduces us to the first of our protagonists.
Spooky Mulder will be the heartbeat of the show. His dry wit, open-mindedness and staunch belief that there really is something out there in the ether, reflects everything that the show is about.
He is the one that will guide us through the X files and show us the truth.
Fox Mulder fades away into a hallway with an almost-invisible figure walking down it.
The words “Government Denies Knowledge” fade into the walls above this faceless figure.
This phrase fading over clear evidence of the paranormal chimes a theme that will ring throughout the entire show: government cover-ups.
And so steps in our second protagonist, Dana Scully.
An ex-doctor who is here to balance out Mulder’s complete belief, Scully will serve as the skeptic eye that questions the truth of the X files, drawing factual conclusions based on science.
She is the Ying to Spooky Mulder’s Yang, and the odd couple pairing of these two protagonists will drive the series forward into a world of governmental obfuscation, alien encounters and covert conspiracy.
We are then shown a snapshot of the pair entering a room with their guns drawn that cements their relationship. They are partners investigating the world of the weird.
The screen turns white, then a bright white figure falls into view and down towards the outline of a hand with a distinct red mark on the index finger.
This image signals our final descent into the world on our screens. The strange imprint of the hand serves as an uncanny visual metaphor for the strangeness in the human condition. Like this figure, we are falling into the mysterious world at the heart of humanity.
An eye engulfs the screen and blinks. Beside it is the name of the creator: Chris Carter.
Our eyes have been opened to the strange possibilities of the world before us.
We are also looking at the eye of the creator of the world we are about to enter, and the message he wants to convey is loud and clear with the image that follows.
The truth is out there in the skies. Along with Agent Mulder and Agent Scully, Carter wants to point us towards it.
He wants us to believe.