Fox’s revival of its former flagship is a surprisingly sentimental return to the program’s former glory.
An obvious trend has become increasingly more common in movies and television: the attempt to cultivate nostalgia by resurrecting old concepts and adapting them for the audience of today. This is accomplished in a number of ways, with varying results. The most common practice, it seems, is the “reboot,” a new beginning for a storyline that discards all of the previous continuity. (A prime example of this can be found in the Spider-Man films, where already a third actor has been cast as the web-slinging superhero with a brand-new storyline in the works.) Another tactic is to bring the idea back to life and either continue it where the previous storyline left off, or to simply explain the time in between the past and current storylines. The desired effect is to have the fans of the original storyline jump back in as if they never lef,t as well as making the production accessible for new fans to join in without the need to go back and watch the original (much like the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens which was critically acclaimed and was widely celebrated by fans both old and new). Recently, on broadcast television many networks have been resurrecting old television series in order to draw in a wider demographic of viewers. Some of these shows have completely missed the mark, like NBC’s Heroes Reborn; but other shows like Fox’s The X-Files have been a surprisingly sentimental return to their former glory.
Now, bear in mind the X-Files return on January 24th was far from perfect. The show’s creator, Chris Carter, attempted to join the show’s previously established backstory with a new contemporary conspiracy for 2016. In this regard, he succeeded. In the pilot episode titled “My Struggle,” a prominent television personality with a large fan base, Tad O’Malley, prompts former FBI investigators Fox Mulder and Dana Scully to come out of retirement and investigate an alien conspiracy that O’Malley intends to reveal to the world. Watching Mulder and Scully reprise their roles as the typical odd couple reminded me that they work so well together because of their awkward chemistry toward each other. At times it seems like Scully is ready to pull her hair out after hearing yet another crazy alien conspiracy, but there are other moments where they just look at each other without saying a word, and it is clear that they have deep affection for one another. All of this translated well throughout the episode.
After meeting O’Malley, Mulder and Scully are curious enough to allow him to introduce them to Sveta, a young woman who claims to have been abducted by aliens and used as a surrogate for human-alien hybrid babies. Apparently this had been going on her entire life. Mulder quickly becomes interested with Sveta’s story and assumes that she is the key to proving his ongoing alien conspiracy. Scully is predictably more skeptical of the woman’s story and she suggests that Sveta go with her to run some blood tests in case there is alien DNA still in her body. Meanwhile, O’Malley takes Mulder to a secret aircraft hangar, where he shows him an experimental alien technology aircraft that was created by human scientists. This is where the entire core concept of the series gets turned on its head. Mulder questions Sveta again and this time she reveals that it wasn’t aliens who abducted her, but humans using alien technology. Mulder comes to the realization that all of his previous paranormal encounters were nothing more than an elaborate government conspiracy to deceive people into thinking that the Earth may or may not have been visited by aliens. The truth is that not only have aliens visited the Earth, but that a secret “Illuminati” group has been posing as the aliens for decades and abducting people for their own experiments. This revelation, albeit an amazing new direction for the series, vaguely felt like a slap in the face to the previous nine seasons. Yet it was still exciting to see a new thread added to the tapestry of conspiracies that Chris Carter has created. My excitement was quickly snuffed out when the story took another turn, as is customary with most episodes of The X-Files.
Before they are able to tell the world about the conspiracy to end all conspiracies, the secret “Illuminati” group is able to deploy their task force and destroy all of the evidence that Mulder and Scully had just discovered. This is a sobering moment in the episode that really shows the lack of depth The X-Files has past a dramatic revelation in every episode. Much like the classic Scooby-Doo cartoon, after the gang catches the ghost and reveals that it was really the old man in the lighthouse, the show is then able to begin again in the next episode with a similar premise every time. This format is both the greatest thing about the series and perhaps the most annoying. The audience can never fully get attached to a mystery because there will always be something to prevent Mulder and Scully from ever coming to a definitive conclusion.
Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but this episode, despite its flaws, is still just as entertaining to watch as the original episodes still are. I have my doubts that new viewers who haven’t previously watched the series’ original run will be able to connect with the material as much as a loyal fan would. The episode was rated TV-14 L V and with the exception of the scenes where the secret task force destroyed the all of alien evidence as well as the people nearby, there was very little violence or offensive language. This new season of The X-Files has only been scheduled to have six episodes, which probably means that this is the last hoorah for Agents Mulder and Scully. The shorter season may also mean that this is the Fox network’s way of testing the waters and seeing if this classic sci-fi series still has an audience. One thing is clear, Chris Carter has made it obvious that he still has plenty of sci-fi storylines left in the tank.