PREVIEW: The return of The X-Files
If you’re an X-Files fan, you’ll be familiar with one of the series’ most famous episodes, 1995’s “Død Kalm”, in which the alien-bothering duo Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigate a creepy ship off the freezing coast of Norway. They quickly discover that anyone aboard ages at a hugely accelerated rate, and we get a glimpse of the FBI agents as ancient versions of themselves, as the ship’s spooky powers take hold.
This month you’ll be able to enjoy a rebooted version of that phenomenon in real life, as The X-Files makes its returns to screens after an absence of 14 years with a new script, a new storyline, new aliens and the original, much-aged stars back in their career-defining roles. Billed as a six-episode “event series,” the storyline picks up in the current day and we find out what’s happened to our favourite FBI agents in the last decade and a half.
By the end of the original incarnation of The X-Files in 2002, fans were feeling disappointed by dwindling returns as the show’s famous “Mythology” became ever more convoluted, with Mulder and Scully (played by now global stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson respectively) being side lined and the focus shifted to upstart agents Doggett and Reyes. Series creator and writer Chris Carter has clearly been listening to the fans’ relentless feedback since then, and the comeback series has all the makings of classically creepy and gripping X-File antics.
So what do we know about the plot of these six episodes? A surprising amount, thanks to a 21-minute featurette dropped online at the end of last year. Mulder and Scully’s romantic relationship seems to be over, with Fox living alone in the countryside, driven ever wilder by conspiracy theories. Even more harrowing for the pair is that they gave up their baby for adoption, to protect it from government – or alien – retribution.
The first and sixth episodes of the anthology are scheduled to be “Mythology” episodes – which go towards explaining the huge, overarching plot concerning the government’s involvement in covering up extra-terrestrial activity. The remaining four will be classic “Monster of the Week” type episodes, when the pair join forces to tackle some supernatural creature or phenomenon. Long-time fans will be heartened to see the return of favourite characters like the Cigarette Smoking Man and conspiracy theorists The Lone Gunmen (despite them all appearing to die in the 2002 finale) as well as Deputy Director Skinner, Mulder and Scully’s hardnosed boss.
Episode one delves into how the last decade has affected Mulder, whose search for his abducted sister started his obsession with UFOs. Mulder’s no longer a young upstart at the FBI but a middle-aged man, who is beginning to question everything he thought was real, and whether he will ever unearth the truth. In amongst this soul searching the episode finds time to stage a stunning UFO crash at what Carter teases may or may not be Roswell, New Mexico.
It seems quite a timely return for The X-Files. Contained series like True Detective and Fargo have shown that satisfying story arcs can be achieved in single-season runs, and fans’ enthusiasm for the show has never dwindled, despite mediocre reviews of the 2008 spinoff movie “I Want to Believe.”
Star David Duchovny puts the series’ longevity down to its variety. He says in the featurette, “You can possibly make 12 different shows out of this show, it’s a very flexible frame in terms of tonality, in terms of action, in terms of mythology, in terms of subject matter – it can go a lot of different ways.”
Certain things, however, remain immutable. That unforgettable theme song, Mulder and Scully opening creaky doors in a creepy warehouse with nothing but their flashlight beams to protect them, and the back-and-forth banter between the pair that drew legions of fans into the show’s world in the first place are all present and correct.
If new fans embrace the series, we could be enjoying a lot more of Mulder and Scully.
The Fact Files
- At its peak in 1997, The X-Files boasted ratings of over 27 million viewers. And they certainly weren’t all just sci-fi geeks.
- Despite two stand-alone films, nothing was ever really resolved and this revival isn’t likely to offer any Hollywood endings. Returning characters include the Lone Gunmen and FBI Director Walter Skinner, alongside all original talent – writers and producers – expect more than Nineties nostalgia rebooted.
- Watch the 21-minute preview Fox have uploaded on YouTube under X-Files: Reloaded
The X Files, Thursday, January 28, 12am, OSN First