TV Tonight: ‘Lone Gunmen’ return to ‘X-Files’?

Vintage TV series revival a mixed bag so far. Most episodes seem to be hitting the right notes. But we thought the Lone Gunmen were dead?

THE X-FILES: David Duchovny in the "Babylon" episode of THE X-FILES airing Monday, Feb. 15 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

WASHINGTON, February 15, 2015 – Thus far, the Fox Network’s reboot of its cult sci-fi, conspiracy-theorist series “X-Files” has been a fitfully successful mixed bag. According to multiple sources, the new episodes intend to follow the old series episodes, roughly alternating paranoid paranormal episodes with one-off “monster-of-the-week” shows. Up to this point, that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing

The new miniseries got off to a brisk start with fast-paced back-to-back paranormal episodes. Taken together, the new series two-part opener succeeded by deftly retconning FBI paranormal sleuths Mulder and Scully (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson) by moving the target to confront 2016’s post-Edward Snowden era.

Now, instead of trying to uncover space alien info the Feds have been concealing from the public, our heroes must confront a subtle mission shift. Apparently, in 2016, the Feds—making use of their hush-hush experience with alien life forms—seem to be the likely villains behind our current world’s dark, Orwellian creep toward totalitarianism. (Who knew?)

This realigning of the original series’ more or less trademark mission statement takes the business of space aliens and alternative life-forces in a new direction that’s the same as the old one, only different.

THE X-FILES:  David Duchovny in the "Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-monster" episode of THE X-FILES ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Ed Araquel/FOX
THE X-FILES: David Duchovny in the “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-monster” episode of THE X-FILES ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Unfortunately, the new series’ promising start seemed to take a step backwards in its the third new episode—one that returned us to the show’s old “monster of the week format.” But instead of a real monster-of-the-week, what we got in Episode 3 was a parody of these monster shows, entitled “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.” The dismal result, however, turned out to be an awkward, limp-wristed comedy excursion designed to poke fun on the original series’ popular monster episodes.

After encountering a few gory murders involving throat-slashing to the point of decapitation, Scully and Mulder reluctantly come to the tentative conclusion in this episode that they might be dealing with a werewolf. Unfortunately, for both them and the episode, they’re only half-right.

It turns out that a peaceful, werewolf-like space alien was, in fact, attacked by a murderous human, forcing the now human-infected alien to turn into a horrible—wait for it—human being when the moon is full. It’s the human monster that’s responsible for the mayhem, not our previously peaceful lost space alien. That’s a funny, ironic twist. Get it?

The episode’s self-satire was painfully obvious, right down to the intentionally cheesy costume worn by our hapless “alien.” That’s supposedly how he really looks when he’s re-assumed his normal form, which resembles the Creature from the Black Lagoon with werewolf overtones.

In addition to the episode’s lame and directionless plot, Duchovny in particular seemed to be sleepwalking through his unoriginal and amateurish lines. Longtime professional actors know a garbage script when they read one. Some can screw up the courage and the chops to steer such a script close to success. Duchovny just gave up, and it showed.

According to a comment that appeared on Entertainment Weekly online, Darin Morgan, the script writer for this episode, actually rehabbed an old episode he’d written years ago for an unsuccessful revival of the legendary but quickly canceled 1970s TV series “The Night Stalker:”

“And he didn’t even write this for The X-Files–it’s a reworked script from the producer Frank Spotnitz) got canceled so quickly, the episode never got shot.”

Oh, well. Too bad this one didn’t remain in the circular file where it belonged.

Last week’s monster episode was both more plausible and spookier. It was enhanced as well by another unfortunate personal loss for Agent Scully. It’s these personal touches that tend to make long-running series popular, and this one was quite affecting.

“Babylon,” this week’s episode, promises take the retcon route, bringing back a popular trio of recurring original series characters that were killed off near the end of the series. We’re talking about the Lone Gunmen, those crazy conspiracy theorists that weren’t exactly crazy.

They're ba-a-a-ack! The Lone Gunmen are set to make a mysterious reappearance on tonight's "X-Files" episode. (PR image, courtesy Fox Network)
They’re ba-a-a-ack! The Lone Gunmen are set to make a mysterious reappearance on tonight’s “X-Files” episode. (PR image, courtesy Fox Network)

According to ScreenRant, The Lone Gunmen

“…appear as part of what X-Files creator Chris Carter describes as ‘a presumed psychedelic hallucination.’ That same apparent hallucination also sees Special Agent Mulder (David Duchovny) hitting the dance floor for a rather elaborate routine – set to Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart…”

“Mulder and Scully will also meet their younger counterparts in pretty much every sense of the word.”

Sounds like fun, so long as this episode doesn’t go down the wrong track like Episode 3, which was really the Rosetta Stone for bad writing.

This new “X-Files” episode will be airing Monday night, February 15 at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17