If there’s one thing that can programmed, categorized or easily referenced, it’s feelings. There is a methodology to the madness for today’s ranking of minor recurring characters, and since I used Excel to quantify the methodology and stack the rankings, no one can argue with the outcome. In other news, I’m making Excel spreadsheets about X-Files. Please send help.
Characters must appear in 5 episodes or fewer, not including photographs, clones, shape-shifters, flashbacks to other episodes, or flashbacks starring different actors. Hallucinations are acceptable.
Fear factor – How terrifying was this minor character?
Quality of episodes – Because a bad character can be redeemed by a good episode. This did not end up being as unambiguous as I thought it would be, as several recurring characters from famously great episodes were brought back seasons later to take a dramaturgical dump on their legacy.
Importance to mytharc – For the sake of argument, mytharc includes seasons 1 – 9, so you get equal credit whether you were an architect of government conspiracy, or a stupid psychic baby.
Driver of ‘shippy moments – Almost everyone can earn full points in this category. Were you a side character in an especially ‘shippy episode? Did you say something that implied Mulder and Scully were romantically involved? Did Mulder and Scully gaze meaningfully at each other while you were talking?
Sex appeal – This is pretty straightforward, I think. Though I will add that you do not know awkward until you’re sitting next to someone on a plane with your laptop open, ranking the sex appeal of a Pomeranian.
Gets on my goddamn nerves – The scale for this category runs 0 to -5. I thought it was a nice, objective way to capture the indescribable essence of a character who should have been written out of existence.
And without any further ado…
Top Five Recurring Characters (5 episodes or fewer)
5. Donnie Pfaster (“Irresistible,” “Orison”)
Being abjectly terrifying will take you far in this competition, as our 5th place minor recurring character can attest. Donnie Pfaster overcomes complete irrelevance to the mytharc and a creep factor that renders him nauseatingly unattractive by virtue of his a) terrifying disregard for human life and b) ability to drive Scully into Mulder’s arms, albeit crying with post-traumatic anxiety.
His Quality of Episode ranking could have been higher, were it not for the middle-of-the-road MOTW “Orison,” where the skin-crawling creepiness of of someone with such banal, suburban origins is ret-conned into him being the actual devil or something.
Bonus head-to-head round:
Worst ulterior motive for picking up a prostitute: Donnie Pfaster (to cut off her hair and fingernails) vs. Virgil Incanto (“2Shy,” to drink her fat).
4. Robert Patrick Modell (“Pusher,” “Kitsunegari”)
Another creeper with no importance to the mytharc who drives moments of ‘ship (omg you guys remember when Mulder is going into the building and he’s got the camera on and he gives Scully his gun and they HOLD HANDS FOR A SECOND OMG) and whose full score for episode quality is diminished slightly by his follow-up episode, in this case the fact that “Kitsunegari” is basically the “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” of Robert Patrick Modell episodes. You like brain cancer patients with psychokinetic powers? We’ve got two. You like Mulder being forced to point a gun at Scully? Let’s see it again.
How, then, did our man RPM manage to outrank Donnie “Putting the Romance in ‘Necromance’ Pfaster? By a slight edge in sex appeal. No one’s getting full points here, but at least Modell looks like a normal person who’s not watching you from a windowless van. For the sake of science, I pulled two more recent pictures of their respective actors from the internet; it’s closer, but I stand by my choice. Also it seems in these pictures like they’re both looking at their kid coming home from a fishing trip with a line full of trout. Or hooker nails.
3. Melissa Scully (“One Breath,” “The Blessing Way,” “Paper Clip”)
Melissa Scully decided to stay in character and make it to the top 5 list without the help of negativity — she got the lowest score on the Fear Factor category. But to make up for that, she gets full points for episode quality and for driving ‘shippy moments, including Mulder’s bedside vigil as Scully lies in a never-explained coma that she recovers from in a way that is never explained.
Moving away from the Excel sheet for a little bit, I’m glad Melissa Scully made it up this high. She offered insight into yet another one of Mulder’s blind spots — positivity — and unlike Scully, she’s not so awed by his passion or his distractingly good looks that she refrains from pointing out what a moody tool he is sometimes. I know Sweeps Week used to be a thing, but still there’s a chance that the show was overzealous in killing any and all friends, family and former acquaintances of Mulder & Scully in the first couple seasons. Charlie Scully probably knew that on some level, which is why he always mailed in his Christmas presents.
2. Emily Sim (“Christmas Carol,” “Emily,” “All Souls”)
Emily isn’t scary either — though I see from the old teasers that Fox tried to pose her existence as something scary, like what if you had a kid and you’d NEVER BEEN PREGNANT. Most people in that eerie position have probably not had their partners discover their frozen ova in a government facility, but television is a weird place.
Anyone who does the math on Emily’s other attributes — an important but not crucial part of the mytharc, great episodes, causing Mulder and Scully to ooze with emotional support for each other as though it were the green goo coming out of Emily’s neck — will realize that Emily the 4-year-old had to score pretty high on sex appeal. Anticipating this awkwardness, I implemented a rule that all offspring of Mulder and/or Scully get full points for sex appeal because no combination of those genes could lead to anything less. Yes, this means that the stupid baby gets full points, too.
1. Billy Miles (“Pilot,” “Requiem,” “Deadalive,” “Essence,” “Existence”)
This one surprised me, but I guess that’s why a data-driven approach is key. Whereas I find Billy Miles mildly annoying — and in fact, he’s the only character in the top 5 who got any points in the “Gets on my goddamn nerves” category — the numbers tell me that I’m apparently #1 Billy Miles Superfan 4ever.
What drove Billy to the top of the list was his solid performance on all fronts, outstanding in none but reasonable in all. Pretty key to the mytharc, kinda terrifying when he’s slicing open elevators with his bare hands, not a bad looking guy after a quick skin-shedding shower. He did get full points for his dedication to the ‘shipper cause, both for starring in the episode where the magic started (S: Mulder, are these alien marks?? M: No, they’re mosquito bites. S: Oh thank god. Hold me.) and for leading by example when it comes to recovering from the alien virus, thus freeing up Mulder to continue existing, which is a fairly crucial prerequisite for any long-term relationship with Scully.
Well, that was fun. But what happens when I switch things up and sort the Excel file in descending order?! Next time: I cast swift and severe judgment on the worst recurring minor characters.