The Truth is Definitely Still Out There
There wasn’t anything I liked more my Freshman/Sophomore year of high school than The X-Files. I loved the horror/sci-fi mysteriousness of the show, I thought Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully was smart and sexy, and I liked to fool myself into thinking that I looked a lot like David Duchovny as he played Fox Mulder. The show would eventually become a smash hit racking up nine seasons and a feature length film (Fight the Future) in its initial run, followed up by the not so-great but also not that terrible second feature I Want to Believe in 2008.
I Want to Believe was met with tepid box-office returns, and generally unfavorable responses from critics. I still recall a review on one of the always trustworthy (sarcasm intended) geek sites in which I Want to Believe, and The X-Files in general, were written off as dinosaurs in comparison to the supposedly superior mysteries of Lost. It’s funny what hindsight and a few years can do to half-baked ideas.
Lost’s final season turned out to be one of the biggest turds the television industry has ever produced (it’s purgatory, get it?), and now The X-Files is set for another comeback, and it certainly seems this one is going to be more welcome than the last. So what has changed in the almost eight year interim since I Want to Believe?
As big of an X-Files fan as I am, even I will acknowledge that nostalgia is probably the main thing that has encouraged FOX to order a new series of the show. Anything pop culture related that was released in the 90s seems to be making a comeback, be it due to streaming services or merchandise, and The X-Files is certainly a product of the 90s. Time heals all wounds, and most fans of the show have long forgiven the problems the later seasons of the series suffered, along with its sometimes shaky mythology. The X-Files, much like Twin Peaks before it (returning in 2017!), is now seen as being way ahead of its time in long-term storytelling, as well as being one the first true genre mega-hits. If The X-Files didn’t exist, genre television would probably look a great deal different than it does.
One of the other big reasons that this is a great time for an X-Files return is the conspiracy culture that exists now. The original run of The X-Files mostly predates the wider accessibility of the internet. The show benefited a great deal from the first wave of internet expansion, but by the time the show went off the air in 2002, most homes still only had dial-up internet. Flash-forward fourteen years and we are truly living in a different world, and in this interconnected, heavily monitored space, conspiracy theories are rampant. It seems like the perfect world for Fox Mulder to work in, not to mention that it opens up so many new ideas and plot points for the show’s creator Chris Carter and the rest of the creative team (James Wong, Darin Morgan, Glen Morgan, Anne Simon, and Margaret Fearon). What once seemed like out-there plot lines are now pretty standard internet rumors. This certainly seems to signal good things for the future of The X-Files.
Of course, this could all end up being a bust. Although I Want to Believe wasn’t the disaster that a lot of people claim, it also wasn’t very good. This probably had a lot to do with the rush to get it done before the writer’s strike of 2008, but the whole tone of the film was weird. At the time I thought, and still kind of do, that the film’s main error was not following up on the show’s mythology. I think fans of the show wanted a continuation and not a “monster of the week” format for a new movie. This turned off a lot of true fans, which of course helped to turn off casual ones.
Most critics like to pretend that the mythology of The X-Files was not up to the standards of shows from today’s “golden age” of television, but if that’s true it is not really the fault of the show. Longform narrative shows didn’t really exist, for the most part, on network television in the 90s. The X-Files helped to change that, but it also suffered from lack of planning. In this age of vanity cable television shows such as Game of Thrones, it’s easy to forget that productions have changed a lot and that television is taken a lot more seriously now, for better and worse.
No matter what, I am excited for the new series of The X-Files. The characters of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are still two of my favorite characters in any medium, and I have faith that Chris Carter and company will deliver this time around. The timing is better and it just feels right. The truth is still out there, I still want to believe, and I’ll always trust no one.
Until next time…