I Still Miss The X-Files

September 14, 2023120 min

Because of the internet I know where I was on the night of October 7th, 1994. I had just gotten home from work at a retail chain that no longer exists, and as habit when I entered my room at my parents house I turned on the TV. It was tuned to the Fox Network and I watched the opening of a show where a guy dies in a fire in his apartment and when the firefighters arrive, the man is dead and there is no  sign of fire. Interesting. I watch a little more and eventually I see Tony Todd, the Candyman himself as a killer who hasn’t slept since Vietnam due to a government experiment. The episode of this new-to-me show The X-Files was titled “Sleepless” and had FBI agent Mulder (first name later to be discovered as Fox) investigating cases of the paranormal with his parter Dana Scully. All I needed was to see that some genius and his team, that being show creator Chirs Carter and company blend government conspiracies with a Nightmare on Elm Street scenario and I was all in.

Back when the show appeared on its Friday night slot I made sure if I was out watching a movie I’d program my VCR (a skill I had acquired early on to be sure I never missed the after school cartoons in the 80’s) to record any episode I could not see live. From there I witnessed Scully being abducted by aliens, but possibly by her own government, Mulder and Scully vs. the devil, an invisible elephant rampage, more deep alien conspiracies, and a hilarious gore-fest in one of the best episodes “Humbug” which involved the murdering of sideshow performers. Needless to say, this show was made for me as I was the kid in school who tried to start a UFO club that nobody joined. I was Mulder shouting to the heavens with a badge and a gun that the fix is in, of course minus the badge and gun. As I was consistently surprised every week at the unique nature of this show, once the 2nd season ended I was pleased that the late-night reruns of the 1st season allowed me to see the hit and miss beginnings of Mulder and Scully’s investigations into the paranormal.

I rarely missed an episode and nearly lost my mind a summer night in 1996 when our block lost power during the 3rd season finale, thankfully I caught the episode from a friend who also recorded the series. My UFO club was alive after all, and it was global, and collectively we all wanted to believe. Once the show became a phenomena, I devoured everything I could find with that riddled “X” logo: magazines, articles, YA novels, scripts from the show, and this new thing called a blog on the eerily suspicious “inter-web”. A tool that interestingly enough seemed to serve both sides of the X-Files coin, it gave voice to both the believers as well as the debunkers. And as with most successes, the show only improved as there were less and less episodes that didn’t hit their mark, which is a feat in of itself with the episodic nature of the series. An A-Team of talent came aboard as writers on the show, men and women who would go on to both write and create some of the great shows most people know today such as 24, Homeland, Man in the High Castle, Numb3rs, EntourageSmallville, Supernatural, Firefly, Castle, Angel, and yeah, there’s more, Alias, Lost, C.S.I.‘s and the list goes on. The most prominent of which was the success of writer on the show Vince Gillian. Who went on to create two shows that actually rival The X-Files as one of the greatest shows of all time: Breaking Bad and it’s spin-off Better Call Saul.

Like a lot of beloved shows, the audience never wants it to end and neither do the creators, even though Chris Carter and co. stepped away to create shows like Harsh Realm, the X-Files spin-off The Lone Gunmen, and the excellent series Millennium, they always came back to the X-Files. Even though the show saw things like the abduction of Mulder and the much needed break for Scully, they brought on John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) to try to hold the line till the return of our favorite agents. Only when they did eventually return, you could see the toll it was taking creatively. The overall conspiracy went from aliens to super soldiers and Mulder and Scully’s baby being the boy who would either save of destroy the world, in essence, it all became too big.

In the middle of all this there was The X-Files: Fight the Future, the 1998 film that bridged seasons 5 and 6. There was an attempt to pull in people who haven’t seen the show and the film stuck to the formula, there was a case to be solved, an apparent conspiracy, creepy aliens, a coming apocalypse, and events unfolded in such a way that Mulder sees the UFO and Scully doesn’t. In the end it only really worked for the fans of the series. But I still remember sitting in a crowded theater and seeing the trailer that took me totally by surprise, remember there was no internet, no warning that this was coming-

I’ve re-watched the film directed by show regular Rob Bowman who didn’t go on to a huge film career, but did direct the underrated Reign of Fire (check it out when you can, Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale crush in it that one, and…dragons). As a movie Fight the Future does hold up, and I can’t imagine anyone seeing this and not at least being curious enough to catch an episode or two of the series. However you almost have to have the knowledge of the show to follow the storyline in any meaningful way. They only milked the movie in the series when they would go into what became known as the mythology episodes, the ones that related to the global conspiracy to hide the existence of extraterrestrials from the public. Other than that the show still nailed it on a large portions of their stand-alones, or “monster-of-the-week” episodes. They also brought in famous authors to write episodes, people like Stephen King and William Gibson. By this time writer Vince Gilligan was nailing everything he touched, from the best vampires on TV, his Groundhog Day episode titled “Monday”, the magician one, “X-Cops” (my personal favorite), the genie episode, to the Brady Bunch episode (trust me, as a fan of the show it worked) he was the one ready to break free. Creator Chris Carter did his best to work his way out of the corner he painted himself into in regards to the super-soldier/alien hybrid storylines but by then there was very little to remember about the final season of the show, or what we thought was to be the final season.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe a film that was made six years after the show had ended was intended to be the polar opposite of Fight the Future where that would be considered a mythology episode I Want to Believe was more in the vein of monster-of-the-week. Essentially it was a Dr. Frankenstein story that wasn’t very memorable. It also showed something we wanted, but at the same time didn’t want, and that was to see Mulder and Scully as a couple. He is still a believer and she is still a scientist, but there was no sexual tension, and no passion for the material and formula they helped to develop all those years on TV. The whole thing reeks of sadness for a time long gone. This however didn’t stop Carter who for some reason decided to bring Mulder and Scully into the modern age with a surprise 10th limited season of The X-Files. They were back and bringing most of the band back, but would it be the same?

Airing in January of 2016, 8 years after we saw Mulder and Scully on any screen, and 14 years after the last episode aired, the mythology continued, and it was as convoluted as ever. As far as the stand alone episodes of the 6-episode series the only one stand out, which was the Darin Morgan episode “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” a great twist on a creature transformation co-staring Kumail Nanjiani a comedian and host of a fun podcast that sparked the public interest in The X-Files when it was sure to be a distant memory in the annals of television. “The X-Files Files” podcast is awesome, you should seek it out. As far as this truncated season, the only way I have been able to describe it is, awkward. Even though Fox and Dana have smart phones and drive better cars, the interactions, and reactions to being back in the thick of paranormal mysteries feels completely out of place. The dialogue is flat, the stories are ‘meh’ and it didn’t leave me wanting more, but we got it anyway.

Season 11 which added 4 more episodes to make it an even 10 with Glen Morgan, James Wong, and Carter taking another crack at furthering and possibly ending the series. There are a couple of episodes that gave glimpses of what the show was, conspiracies, monsters, ghosts in the machines, leading to a Black Mirror rip-off. Again. Awkward. You feel it every episode, people don’t talk like people, there is also no unique way of speaking it just comes out like instructions to building furniture with sprinkles of Mulder-casims. Now I hate saying these things about a show that I boast as my favorite series of all time. I mean Chris Carter wrote some dynamite episodes of this show, but he also wrote “My Struggle IV” the finale of season 11 which is basically a 43 minute chase scene that culminates in Mulder a mere fifteen feet from his son as he chases him “Scooby Doo” style through a many doored warehouse. All of which wraps up with people just flat out getting shot. With and without monologues. And as far as the grand conspiracy which involved aliens, a mankind eliminating virus, and a moon base, all swept under the preverbal rug.  Once again the only thing noteworthy this entire season was the Darin Morgan episode “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” and interesting examination of memory and nostalgia, something every fan like me can completely relate to. It also ended up being one of the best X-Files episodes ever.

So now that it’s all over aside from anthology novels and Audible dramas which I fully intend to give a listen to as it has the majority of the cast lending their voice talents to, what is left? Of course no matter where the series ended up, there is no denying the excellence that it was and still is upon revisiting on which ever streaming service it happens to be on. Those classic episodes are still there and still hold together up to a point. I like any fan was just hoping it didn’t have to end, and if it did end it would be more memorable than it was. There has been rumblings of a re-vapmed, updated version of The X-Files for a few years now, there is even a rumor swirling around that Ryan Coogler (Black Panther) may want to showrun a new series. So the possibility for more X-Files is still out there, or that just may be me… wanting to believe.

One comment

  • Gin Hunt

    February 12, 2024 at 9:02 PM

    I am one of those unapologetic X Files fans who has never stopped loving the show and its characters. I adore watching it over and over again but must admit that the “newer” stuff doesnt seem quite the same. That said, I never give up hope and support every chance tgey take to get it right again. Nothing before or since, touches X Files. However, I can never get enough of that show and will continue to give every episode and every movie, the chance it so richly deserves. They are still the best TV duo ever!

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