Re-visiting the X-FILES was a lot like going back to my childhood. I was one of those kids that slavishly watched the original series week in, week out. I grew up alongside Mulder and Scully; I bought the books and series guides and searched out every scrap of knowledge on the show. The early days of X-FILES was a halcyon, pre-internet time, and X-FILES was one of the first SF shows to develop a modern fan community. That community has remained active, and although it’s been over a decade since the since was last on the small screen, the concept has been revisited in book, comic and cinema.
When I heard that X-FILES was coming back, I was pretty excited. Whilst this wasn’t to be a full release, a six episode mini-series is better than none. In the UK, we’re behind on viewing of the series, so this discussion is based on the first episode only. I sat down to watch the show with a delicious sense of apprehension…
First, the good.
It was great to see Mulder and Scully back on screen together. Their lives have quite clearly moved on; with Scully (Gillian Anderson) having gone back to medicine, and Mulder (David Duchovny) becoming a semi-recluse. Time’s certainly been kinder to Scully, whereas Mulder doesn’t really seem to have changed much in the last decade and a half, but the chemistry is still there.
The flashpoint that brings the two (former) agents back together is conspiracy theorist Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), who immediately gives the series a modern injection. It’s been twenty-two years since the series first aired, and fourteen years since it last did so, and I thought that O’Malley helped to bring the show into the present. Though the episode had a nicely nostalgic vibe to it, and it felt very X-FILES, at the same time the writers clearly wanted to move things on from the last story arc: references to global surveillance, 9/11 and the shifting emphasis on domestic terrorism worked for me.
Now, the bad…
X-FILES wasn’t perfect, unfortunately. The plot of the first episode felt a little disjointed. There were perhaps a few too many revelations along the way, and Mulder’s character was far too easily drawn into O’Malley’s conspiracy-theory ranting. I get that he wants to believe, but he was almost immediately sucked into two competing theories (both that aliens were invading, then almost immediately that it was all a big government conspiracy). There was a clear wish by the writers that we were never sure whether Mulder was really being spun a lie: whether Sveta was telling Mulder the truth about her alien abduction experience. This was undermined, for me, by the interspersed flashback scenes of UFO crashes – it was obvious that if aliens had visited Earth, then Sveta was telling the truth.
But all that said, and on balance, I couldn’t help enjoy the show. This is still the X-FILES, and that we have another series at all is really something. X-FILES is back, and that’s pretty damned great.
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