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Published on February 4th, 2015 | by Craig Silliphant

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Should The X-Files Return to Television?

With the rumours surrounding the return of The X-Files to television, we ask some questions about the players and how this will come to pass.

I don’t usually pay too much attention to rumours about projects floating around, because so many things can change before whispers come to fruition, leaving projects to languish in production hell.  But the Internet caught a whiff of an interesting rumour involving one of the most groundbreaking TV shows of the last 30 years — The X-Files.  There has always been gossip about getting the band back together for a third X-Files movie, but now we’re starting to hear talk that the FBI’s paranormal investigation unit may be returning to television.

In the 90s, my group of friends and I were huge fans, so much so that we had a weekly X-Files watching night for years (first on Fridays, then Sundays with The Simpsons after it moved).  We’d all get together and watch the episode together, followed by heated discussions of what we’d just seen and where the story would go from there.  In a bucket list moment, I even got to interview William B. Davis, a.k.a. The Cigarette Smoking Man.

The series peaked around season five or so, though it kept running for nine seasons.  I stayed on to the bitter end, though by then, the Coy and Vance of the X-Files, Agents Doggett and Reyes had all but replaced Agents Mulder and Scully. However, the show’s legacy has grown through a new generation picking it up on Netflix and home video, with renewed interest drummed up by podcasts like comedian Kumail Nanjiani’s X-Files Files.  There’s even a season 10 comic book.

It’s no surprise that the show would see resurgence.  While some of the episodes fall flat or appear dated (nice shoulder pads in those 90s suits!), there are a ton of episodes that would still rank among some of the most creative pieces of television in the history of the boob tube.  You had straight ahead monster-of-the-week episodes like ‘Tooms’/’Squeeze,’ the mythology episodes, and weird brilliance like ‘Home,’ ‘The Post-Modern Prometheus,’ or ‘Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.’

The big question, is how would the show take shape?  At this point, it sounds like it will feature David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, which is a good thing. We’ve already had the Coy and Vance years, and the show was always more than its premise — it was about the friendship and trust that develops between Mulder and Scully.  While Doggett and Reyes are sometimes unfairly maligned, no one could argue that the show didn’t suffer badly when Anderson and Duchovny took a backseat.  One could argue that a franchise like Star Trek moved on from its leads with success, so that’s fair. But I’d still rather see Mulder and Scully.

Will Chris Carter still be at the helm?  Most people think of him as the brilliant guy behind The X-Files and perhaps even the too highly underseen spin offs, Millennium or The Lone Gunmen.  However, Carter has quietly been tanking opportunities for new shows, even dating back to the X-Files days with lead balloons like Harsh Realm.  His latest attempt The After, was turfed by Amazon after only filming the pilot.

And it was probably Carter that was responsible for burying the franchise again like a secret alien autopsy video when he took the lead on the last film, X-Files: I Want to Believe in 2008.  Rather than reignite the franchise with an exciting follow up to Fight the Future, he chose to do a weird, moody standalone.  I can see why he made that choice at the time, but it was shortsighted in terms of getting a new generation on board.  What they really should have done was a trilogy that actually wraps up the mythology, where Mulder and Scully would stop the alien colonization in the big finale, sans dancing Ewoks.

On top of all that, there is the question of the writing and directing alumni that made the show what it was under Carter’s direction.  Vince Gilligan’s got his hands full after his Breaking Bad success, and so do teams like Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon with Homeland (a lot of these shows, Breaking Bad especially, deeply show the DNA of the X-Files within them).  I’m sure there’s lots of hot writing talent out there, but they’ll definitely need to have mad genius like Darin Morgan in the mix.

Story-wise, I’m glad to be hearing that they’ll probably roll it out more as a 12-episode (give or take) story arc, rather than going back to the old model of 22 episodes.  That’s just such an ancient way of doing television, and a lot of current shows still using that model suffer with so much damn filler.  It’s also a smart move to guarantee the return of the leads, who aren’t languishing in obscurity since their FBI days; Duchovny has been successful with shows like Californication and Anderson has stayed strong with shows like The Fall and Hannibal.  A shorter production run means they can squeeze it into their schedules, and not have to deal with the grueling, long season conditions that caused them to back away from the show in the first place.  But TV has gotten a lot more sophisticated, thanks in large part to shows like The X-Files, with characters that didn’t have to reset to status quo at the end of each episode.  It’s a great climate to find themselves in to be able to play in that world once more.

More interesting than where the actors and creators are though, is the idea that the world is in a different place than it was in the 90s.  A post-9/11 world and the growth of the Internet aside, The X-Files was created in a time of unrest that hadn’t fully manifested itself, in paranoia about cover-ups and other government shenanigans.  But fast-forward to today, and a lot of these themes have come full circle.  With Facebook privacy concerns, WikiLeaks, and a surveillance state, the truth isn’t really hidden anymore.  It’s right in your face, and in many cases, we don’t care enough to look beyond Dancing with the Stars or 24-hour news cycle as entertainment bullshit to see what’s actually happening in the world.

Maybe I just solved my own conundrum.  Maybe there are still things being buried in plain sight that could be chased down by Agents Mulder and Scully. Maybe we can still be paranoid in Obama’s world.  Maybe it’s the corporations running things instead of the government these days.  Maybe there’s still something to explore there, something for Mulder and Scully to try to bring to the attention of the world.  I, for one, will be happy to catch up with these characters that have meant so much to me.  It seems to me, that even with all the changes in the world, the truth is still out there.

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About the Author

Craig Silliphant

is a D-level celebrity with delusions of grandeur. A writer, critic, creative director, broadcaster, and occasional filmmaker, his thoughts have appeared on radio, television, in print, and on the web. He is a juror on the Polaris Music Prize and the Juno Awards. He loves Saskatoon. He has horrible night terrors and apocalyptic dreams.



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