'You okay, Mulder?'
'Yeah, it's alright, my ass broke the fall.'
Title: The Goldberg Variation
Season: Seven (1999)
Written by: Jeffrey Bell
Directed by: Thomas J Wright
Okay, if I'm being really honest here then The Goldberg Variation isn't one of the 18 key X-Files episodes, or even one of the greatest... it's probably not even in the top one hundred. But if its inclusion here is more swayed by the fact that I needed an episode to fit the track 'Casino Boogie' than any intrinsic value, it must still be acknowledged that it's a fun, jaunty episode in its own right.
In fact, in capturing 'key episodes' then The Goldberg Variation serves its purpose as an illustration of how season seven, David Duchovny's final full season, was still able to produce solid television on a consistent basis. It doesn't warrant inclusion in the same way X-Cops from the same season does, but it has a detailed, intricate plot and some nice musings on the nature of luck and the interconnectedness of all things. The equally clever and vaguely casino-based The Amazing Maleeni could also have got the nod.
One notable thing about season seven is that it's stronger than the somewhat bland sixth season, even if it still falls within the weaker second half of the series' lifespan. Out of 22 episodes only half a dozen are below par, and usually by virtue of being dull rather than especially terrible. However, there's also a notable increase in the number of overtly silly episodes, with even William Gibson and Tom Maddox writing a fun-but-way-outside-the-show's-remit virtual reality script. Before a mythology finale the season ends with a trio of comedy episodes where Duchovny writes an indulgent but diverting Hollywood pastiche, an OTT doppleganger tale and a story of a real life genie. It's fun if inessential stuff, but episodes like The Goldberg Variation straddled the line between extreme comedy and more serious cases.