Articles and interviews

The X-Files Redux

Written by Sarah Stegall (11/2015)
Page Editor:  A.M. D.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. If Watergate drove the sensibility of the first X-Files series, for Chris Carter the second round is being driven by 9/11. Specifically, the reaction to it. “We’re being spied on now, we’re being lied to – all things that, for me, go back to a time when I grew up, which was right around Watergate. I think we’re in similar and actually much more dire times right now.”1 Carter infused The X-Files with cynicism about government corruption, seeded it with suspicion of authority, and seasoned it with a generous dash of paranoia about government spying. All of that seems quaintly old-hat now, in an era of NSA email diversion, government spy drones, and SuperPAC scandals. It may be that we need The X-Files even more than before.


The X-Files returned to Vancouver for shooting last summer. Insiders onset say that the atmosphere was like a college reunion. “It feels like we never stopped doing this,” Gillian Anderson said.2 At the same time, she says it’s strange to be back: “This is a lot of flashbacks, a lot of deja vu, a lot of remembering dynamics.”3 The show will dive right into a recap of the first 200+ episodes, then segue right into the modern case that finally reunites Mulder and Scully. But not too quickly: “It’s setting groundwork,” Anderson says. “Slow, intense and functional!”4


Day one opened in June with a shoot for the first new X-Files episode, called “My Struggle.” Chris Carter has written and directed this revival episode. David Duchovny, getting back into character after thirteen years, said, “It was kind of great that first day, because it was like OK, this is how this guy speaks, this is the world we are in, let’s get in shape for it.”5 There’s a lot to do in this episode, and those who have viewed it at New York Comic-Con assure us that it is packed with exposition – what the duo have been up to all these years, what brings Mulder back, what happened to the Syndicate. Nor will the episode be strictly a trip to the past; Carter will be addressing his current concerns about government overreach, concentration camps, government surveillance, and other dark stories we can find in our daily headlines. More ominous, however, are hints that this will be a game-changing story, one which throws into doubt all we thought we knew about the “mythology” behind the show. This is going to actually make watching the show more difficult for long-time fans, who have decades tied up in understanding the complicated and not terribly coherent mythology of X-Files 1.0. If Carter decides to muddy those waters, I foresee a blizzard of Tweets and blogs to follow, as fans try to figure out where the new information fits in with the old.

Episode Two, called “Home Again,” has been written and directed by Glen Morgan, no longer teamed with long-time partner James Wong. Morgan’s episode will pick up several months after “My Struggle.” Vancouver insiders called it one of the most violent X-Files episodes ever, although it is said to not be a sequel to Morgan and Wong’s infamous “Home” episode. This story will also bring back Scully’s mom, played by actress Sheila Larkin.

Episode Three is written by X-Files alum Darin Morgan, who wrote the only script to win an Emmy for the show. His weird sense of humor always fit The X-Files perfectly, and this story will apparently return to a theme he explored in “Humbug”: shapeshifters. “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” sounds like an old Universal Studios monster-of-the-week show. This one will include a brief appearance by X-Phile Kumail Nanjiani, whose X-Files Files podcast has been discussing and analyzing individual episodes for years.

Episode Four, “Babylon,” was described by writer and director Chris Carter as unlike anything that has ever been done in the show and is a ripped-from-the-headlines kind of episode. That covers a lot of ground but suggests that it is not a mythology episode but a monster-of-the-week episode.

Episode Five, “Founders Mutation,” has been written and directed by James Wong, former writing partner of Glen Morgan. As one of the team that infused the most feeling into the Mulder-Scully relationship, it was great to hear him tell a fan during a lull in filming that, “I’m really happy about this one. There’s lots of emotional stuff in there.”

Episode Six, the final one for this run, is “My Struggle II,” written and directed by Chris Carter. He has called it a book-end and said it will tie in to Episode One as a mythology arc. Or a new version of the mythology arc. Shooting this final episode involved more than 200 extras in a tense chase scene, with Scully at the wheel of an SUV threading through traffic in downtown Washington, D.C.

Fox has been releasing trailers, teasers, and promotions of all kinds over the past few months, which is an amusing contrast to its first release of the show. Back in 1993, studio insiders were convinced that The X-Files would fail, and it didn’t get much promotion. But they didn’t count on the Internet, which amplified word-of-mouth beyond all previous experience, boosting the show into orbit. This time around, Fox is taking no chances. The network has added an X-Files page, www.fox.com/the-x-files, which includes links to every trailer and promotional poster so far released. While it’s slick and pretty and well designed, I do miss the early, hand-made promotions of early fans: the Duchovny/Anderson fansites, alt.tv.x-files, even the Delphi forums where 1013 insiders read fan conversations. The first series production offices kept to the established Hollywood practice of no contact between actors and fans; most fan mail was ignored, but the Internet allowed actors, writers, and producers to do an end run around studio rules. Today, Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, Mitch Pileggi, and other actors have their own, independent Twitter feeds. There’s a whole library out there of X-Files criticism, background, analysis, and artwork. Far from the early days, when fans had to diligently search for any scrap of information about this quirky show on an upstart network, the Internet is deluged with YouTube videos and articles on every gossip site in English.

And yet.

We’re not jaded yet. After thirteen years, the newest trailer for The X-Files raised goosebumps of anticipation. It’s still there – the lighting, the music, the sense of something going on just out of sight, in the shadows. The sense that we may not know everything that’s going on, but Mulder and Scully are right there with us, sussing it all out. The posters evoke that same murky sense of dread – an alien (maybe?) hand splayed against a wall, an eye whose pupil is an X of black oil. There’s a lot more money behind these promotions than in 1993, and it’s a good thing. The X-Files is not just a nostalgia trip for gray-haired millennials but an introduction to a whole new generation who have grown up after 9/11 in an atmosphere of constant paranoia and mistrust. This should be cake to them.

The first iteration of The X-Files left many fans unsatisfied with the mythology, the super-soldiers, and other loose ends that never got tied up. It doesn’t look as though many of those questions will be answered in the coming episodes, but that, in the truest tradition of the show, more questions will be asked. What happened to baby William? What happened to the super-soldiers? How does Mulder get back into the FBI? We might get some answers to those questions. But as to whether we are, or have been, “watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s,” as H. G. Wells put it, or have been scammed by one of the longest-running government cover-ups in history, will probably remain a question long after the credits roll on episode 10x6 of The X-Files.

1 Jeff Jensen, “The New-Files, Declassified,” Entertainment Weekly, July 3, 2015.
2 Jensen, “New-Files.”
3 Michael Slezak, “Gillian Anderson Teases X-Files Revival,” Tvline, June 17, 2005, http://tvline.com/2015/06/17/gillian-anderson-x-files-revival-spoilers-scully/.
4 Slezak, “Anderson.”
5 Nerdist podcast.

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The X-Files Redux
Interview with James Wong
Interview with John Kenneth Muir, part 1
Interview with John Kenneth Muir, part 2
Interview with Garfield Whitman
The X-Files series premiere report
Recap of Exclusive 'My Struggle' Screening Event
Interview with Jerry Hardin
Report from Dragon Con 2015 X-Files Anthology Panel
Interview with Mike Joffe
Interview with Thierry J. Couturier
Interview with Vince Gilligan
Chris Carter talks about 'The After'
Interview with Sarah Stegall
Interview with Jeff Charbonneau
Interview with William B. Davis
Interview with Alex Gansa
Interview with Glen Morgan
Interview with Mark Snow
Interview with Amy Donaldson
Report from LAX-Files book signing
Interview with Erica Fraga
Interview with Howard Gordon (2011)
Report from Vancouver TV Forum
Interview with Gabe Rotter
Interview with Robert Shearman
Report from 'Believe Again' event
Report from X-Con 2009
Interview with Jana Fain
Interview with R.W. Goodwin
In Tribute to Kim Manners
Interview with Matt Hurwitz
Pemberton Set Report
Paley Festival Interviews
Interview with John S. Bartley
Report from Wondercon 2008
Interview with Howard Gordon
Q&A with Chris Carter
Interview with Doug Hutchison
Interview with Frank Spotnitz
Brief Mark Snow Interview
X-Files locations, part2
Reflections: The X-Files in view a decade later
Is Full Disclosure Advisable?
Possible Origins of the Triangle episode?
Those Grotesque Cravings
Season Nine Boycott is at the very least premature
Let's Give X-Files 'Lite' a Chance
The X-Files, the Media and the Blame
In Defense of the Mythology
One of a Kind
Underneath
A Day in the Life of Mark Snow