Last night in the US, the series that helped changed American television towards the path it’s taken returns. The X-Files was the next step in the evolution of American television drama after Twin Peaks (a series also returning next year), and indeed, they share similar DNA but the X-Files enjoyed mainstream success for most of the 1990’s and brought genre television into the fore.
Created by Chris Carter and starring David Duchovny as FBI agent Fox Mulder, and Gillian Anderson as her partner Dana Scully, the pair investigated a variety of phenomena each week. The series itself faded after it’s fifth year as Duchovny grew tired and Anderson clung on for a few last seasons but the entire thing petered out, with only a film (The Truth is Out There) to show for the last decade or so of X-Files action for fans.
Part of the problem with the series originally is the entire alien mythology storyline became exceptionally complex mainly as Carter and his writers were making it up as they were going along, so it got to a point that only the diehard fan knew what was going on. The first episode of the new series decides to do away with that at the start by creating an entirely new mythology off the back of the Roswell Incident which is a great idea. It starts things fresh for old and new viewers but throughout the episode it ends up being so convoluted not to mention begins to reference episodes from the original run that I wondered what was the point of starting fresh in the first place?
So this first episode is a mythology story. It’s meant to draw us back in (and remember, most people gave up on the programme long before it ended so they missed things like Scully having a child, something heavily referenced here) and for the first 15 or so minutes it does. The plot revolves a Fox News type presenter, Tad O’Malley, who is rich, powerful, and far more right wing not to mention more insane than Mulder. He’s primarily there to offer lots, and lots of exposition. There’s also an odd subplot where he’s trying to charm Scully but he’s so plastic, charmless not to mention mental, that it’s just a wasted bit of airtime. In fact the main plot is just head-spinning conspiracy nonsense that links Roswell, 911, alien abductions, Edward Snowden, and anything else that you can imagine.
Over the course of 45 minutes Scully and Mulder get back together, Chief Skinner stands in a doorway looking concerned and serious, not to mention there’s also mysterious men telling Mulder that his exposition is nearly right but he’s not quite there. In short, for all it’s promising start it quickly develops into a typical mythology episode but by the end The X-Files are reopened, and the status quo has been returned, meaning Mulder and Scully are back in the FBI to investigate the weird.
That at least offers the hope things improve in the second episode when the revival moves onto individual stories seperate of the mythology episodes which was the series real strength.I only hope in the next episode Anderson and Duchovny look a wee bit more interested in some of the lines they’re spouting in this first episode that doesn’t really work as a re-introduction. It’s not all terrible. There are good moments especially in the first 15 minutes which is the strongest part but it falls apart too quickly and ends in a rush.
All that said, I’ll be back for the rest of it. The X-Files when it was good was superb, but when it was a bit shite, it stunk. So, not a great start but it is nice to have Mulder and Scully back so better writers than Chris Carter can get to use them again.