WASHINGTON, January 23, 2016 – That legendary 1990s TV phenomenon known as “The X-Files” returns to network TV on Sunday January 24 and Monday January 25 airing on Fox affiliates at 10 p.m. EST. This two-episode reboot for the new 6-part miniseries promises to take the show in an entirely different direction, while blending the “X-Files” mythology with individually-contained episodes as in the original series format. (The remaining 4 episodes will air in the Monday 10 p.m. time slot.)
In the new series reboot, agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder (Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny), a bit older and perhaps a bit wiser, reluctantly resume their grim and frustrating search “the truth.” More than ever in 2016, that search will pit them against a fictional Federal government that increasingly rules its unwitting subjects (aka, American citizens) through stealth, mythic narratives, political repression, secret science and crony capitalism, courtesy of Ike’s “military industrial complex.” And perhaps as well through the magic of secretly discovered alien science.
(Not to worry. It could never happen here.)
The original “X-Files” (1993-2002), plus two so-so “X-Files” movies (1998 and 2008) enthralled an earlier generation of TV viewers, offering something that at the time seemed startlingly new and different. Riffing off the 1960s and ‘70s obsessions with Roswell space aliens and monster-of-the-week shows like “The Twilight Zone,” “The Outer Limits” and that culty one-season wonder, “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” (with a hat tip to 1950s and ‘60s sci-fi B-movies), “The X-Files” took the ball and ran with it.
The show ingeniously blended contemporary paranoia, fear of the unknown, fear of UFOs and fear of conspiracy into a sinuous, ongoing plot that turned the show into a cliffhanging, never-ending serial. Its quirky and attractive young leads didn’t hurt either.
Read also: Some musings on ‘The X-Files,’ old and new
An almost instant cult hit, this frequently creepy and well-plotted show proved a major force in transforming the still-fledgling Fox Network into a serious network contender in a TV universe that, up to then, had been dominated by the three major networks, NBC, ABC and CBS. The pull of the series was so powerful for its fans that it lasted for a phenomenal 9-season run. Episodes can still be seen today in various formats.
Fast-forwarding to 2016, first episode of the newly rebooted “X-Files” devotes a fair bit of time to a serious but generally well-articulated recap of Scully and Mulder’s past 14 years. We quickly learn that in the years since the original series’ last episode aired, the FBI’s X-Files unit had been closed down, leading Scully and Mulder to go their separate ways. We also confirm what we always suspected about this pair. Despite once having been an item at one point, they have split. Unkempt and aimless, Mulder leads the life of a depressive, obsessed loner while Scully is back in medical practice. (Official Fox series trailer below.)
But in the 2016 series opener, first Mulder and then Scully are drawn back into the alien dilemma in a most-unusual way when Tad O’Malley (cable TV comic Joel McHale in a serious role)—an anti-government Libertarian talk show host whose Internet-based TV show has become a cult hit—approaches Mulder and urges him to get involved once again with his X-Files-based research, promising him that the work will take him in a direction that most conspiracy theorist could only love.
A clearly Liberal Mulder is put off by O’Malley’s reputation and politics. But he eventually gets back in the game when O’Malley offers him persuasive evidence that he’d been systematically misled by mysterious government forces when conducting his original X-Files research. Conveniently, Mulder’s old FBI boss wants him to return to his old FBI job as well, persuading Mulder to persuade a highly skeptical Scully to throw in with him again as well.
We’ve preview the this initial episode of the new “X-Files,” and can confidently give it a (nearly) two thumbs up, even though this first installment has to take the time to engage new viewers not yet familiar with the show’s original mythology.
That somewhat elaborate set up chews through most of Episode 1. Yet it does so with reasonable efficiency, punctuated by just enough spectacular violence to prevent impatient viewers from flipping the channel.
While the team’s 1990s research generally focused on exploring alien phenomena the government tried to conceal from the general public, the rebooted series broadly hints that Scully and Mulder’s new research path is likely to do a 180. Is the government, in fact, now practicing deception and secret violence on a massive scale, deploying alien technologies first encountered at Roswell in order to move against its own citizens?
It takes a while to develop these new threads. But, given the earlier series’ legacy, it’s a key to rebooting for a new viewership, much in the same way that films and TV have been re-defining and contemporizing ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s DC and Marvel superheroes to better relate to contemporary viewers and fans.
One can readily imagine another angle that must have appealed to both Fox and series creator Chris Carter. As the Age of Obama winds down, American politics is rapidly degenerating into hyper-partisan chaos, with establishment candidates from both parties increasingly losing ground to non-standard, non-traditional figures who promise revolutionary redemption from our current elitist hell.
None of these developments—including the seemingly shocking but increasingly viable candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders (and renewed “independent” threats from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb)—would normally have been possible without the current, vehement distrust of government by a growing number of average American citizens. They have begun to view their government as an evil, elitist, out-of-control force whose ultimate goal is to dominate and then repress them, all to the advantage of wealthy East and Left Bank faux leftists.
The new “X-Files”—at least in terms of its first episode—seems geared to tap into this growing public sense of fear and paranoia. If so, the timing is perfect, with the early party caucuses and primaries of Election 2016 just a few weeks away. And or those either suspicious or convinced that their government is really out to get them, take all their money and derail their once-cherished dreams, the paranoid threads taken up by the new “X-Files” plot line could be just the thing.
Better yet for series producers, the “X-Files” reboot will be here and gone before the 2016 primary season has concluded. That would leave potential 2017 scripts to be penned after this November’s national election, keeping the “X-Files” narrative in line with current political developments.
So… Do you want to believe? Tune in January 24 and find out.
(Below: Promo and background video for new “X-Files” miniseries on Fox.)