“The X-Files” has unnerved and engrossed watchers for years, justly earning its title as the longest-running science-fiction television series in U.S. history. What started out as a cult classic evolved into an integral part of pop culture, putting both David Duchovny (Fox Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully) on a fast track to stardom. For all of those who were steadfast fans from the start, and for those who like the skeptical Dana Scully needed more time to believe but eventually came around, Monsters of the Week: The Complete Critical Companion to the X-Files (Abrams) is a must-read this October.

Celebrating the show’s 25th anniversary, television critics Zack Handlen and Todd Vanderwerff have provided us with a comprehensive review and analysis on just how this show ascended to extraterrestrial heights, including commentary on every episode of the series and both of the feature films. Among some of the highlights of this guide are interviews with both the show’s actors and writers, little-known nuggets of information surrounding episodes, and an honest perspective on what was done masterfully and what could have been improved on regarding thematic and production levels.

The book is broken up so each chapter takes on a season, with a captivating illustration at the opening of each by Patrick Leger. Many dedicated fans or “X-Philes” will consider this purchase well worth its weight in gold for the foreword alone, written by the show’s creator, Chris Carter. Carter contributes his essential voice to this tome by discussing the importance of the original Vancouver setting for filming and the timeliness in today’s society of this paranormal show.

How can a show about unearthly discoveries be timely? Within each far-reach obstacle the show’s heroes tackle, an undercurrent of truth and relatability remains in situations and characters for people to grasp onto and take comfort from. Fake news and conspiracies, we’ve got them too. A relationship that progresses from two polar ends to one dynamic team, a beautiful and escapist process to watch. The monsters are exciting to uncover, but make no mistake, the heart of the show is human, and captures both imagination and critical thought.

While there is no doubt about the thoroughness with which each episode is intrinsically dissected, Handlen and VanDerWerff also extend their critique to the time period and culture each episode is nestled in. They provide engaging perspectives that dive into why certain themes or issues in the show recurred over others, and how viewers reacted.

Take a nostalgic trip through the dark forests and eerie investigations of Fox and Dana in a way you’ve never experienced before. This guide is the perfect gift for any avid fan or curious newbie to the series. Just in time for a spooky surprise to brighten up someone’s Halloween (or torture someone you love and make them wait until Christmas), Monsters of the Week will let readers relive the thrills and chills of the series, but never disappoint.

Monsters of the Week: The Complete Critical Companion to the X-Files is now available for purchase.

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Zack Handlen is a freelance writer whose work regularly appears online at The A.V. Club. He is also the author of If  You Like Monty Python…(Limelight, 2011). He lives in Portland, Maine.


Todd VanDerWerff is the critic-at-large for Vox and the first TV editor of The A.V. Club His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Salon, and Grantland. He lives in Los Angeles.