4/366 – Finding The Truth (Still) Out There In The X-Files Comeback
Part of what’s cool about a New Year isn’t just the goals people set, or the fact that it’s about everyone trying new or crazy things (I wish my friend who wants to take up skydiving all the luck in the world and hope they remember to pull the parachute cord on time), or even how people may change their outlook and way of living. I mean, sure, those things are all worth it, they’re game-changers, and they have their value, but they’re decidedly lofty. Lofty isn’t what I’m shooting for today to meet my post-a-day goal.
Sometimes, what’s cool about a time of a year happens to be simple. And today, what’s cool about young and baby-faced 2016 just happens to be the fact that we’re twenty days from the return of the X-Files.
Part of why I turned out with the geeky tastes that I did was most definitely a steady diet of science fiction growing up. Coincidentally, this science fiction feeding came in an unintentional manner. To know about this, we’ll have to take a trip back down memory lane and go back to the time of the 80s and 90s, the peak of the kingdom of the VCR and the VHS format.
A couple decades ago, there wasn’t such a thing as DVR or Hulu or Netflix or On Demand. The only way to catch a show you couldn’t watch live was to record it on VHS tapes for watching later. These six-hour long beauties could capture any amount of TV footage for you and as long as you remembered how much tape you had left or what timeslot you’d programmed it for you’d typically be golden.
My dad, who works third shift to this day, couldn’t really watch most of the shows he wanted to watch right away, so he’d program the VCR to tape what he wanted to see. I, dutiful child that I was, was to watch that the tapes didn’t run out, swap them if needed, and rewind them to the appropriate place after finishing for my dad to watch later.
VHS and VCRs weren’t quite exact, time-wise – or rather, they were exact to when you’d timed them. If a show went longer or shorter, you would sometimes have to give the program a few extra minutes. That meant that if you went a little too far over, you caught the next show to broadcast. It was during these rewindings of this “extra” footage that I caught shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Sliders, and of course, the X-Files – shows whose first introductory minutes would influence a lot of what appeals to me on TV today.
Now don’t get me wrong – I liked watching the Enterprise and its crew go on fantastical adventures or the folks from Sliders shift between parallel universes, but the reason X-Files in particular was intriguing to me was because it was set in the “real world” – sure, a real world that had aliens, unusual beings, and some pretty mind-boggling events – but the real world nonetheless. There’s a certain sense of interest you can feel for a TV series when it takes the world you live in and it paints a picture or an image over it that makes you think or wonder, as if with a little tweak or change here or there, something unexplained could turn into something completely off the charts.
This was also ultimately why X-Files’ “monster of the week” format didn’t particularly bother me like it might have some others. Things like a parasitic twin that could attach themselves to new people or devil substitute teachers or hallucinogenic fungi were always coupled with a story that was set in a world not very much different from ours. The investigations that Mulder and Scully went on were investigations of unsolved mysteries that had spice to them. It was a spice that, were it not added, could have easily been a normal everyday case the FBI solved with completely explainable circumstances, individuals, and events. If anything, The X-Files made me wonder if the episodes that were written were in part inspired by normal, albeit slightly unusual cases from the FBI’s casework.
All of this doesn’t even take into account the overall story and conspiracy/mythology The X-Files set out to tell or how its two primary characters, the believer Mulder and the skeptic Scully, carried that story through the years. Sure, there were some hit and miss moments and the exclusion of either Mulder or Scully was pretty noticeable, but from a general standpoint, I’d say many TV series that came after The X-Files tried and didn’t quite duplicate the polarizing dynamic and chemistry that David Duchovny’s Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Scully had with one another and with the story proper. The best part was that it wasn’t always the believer or the skeptic that won out consistently. Both Mulder and Scully had their own validations of their side of things throughout the series’ long history, and they delivered, for its time, a unique TV recipe on the classic “different parts of a whole make up a greater team” message that I found mostly enjoyable during the series’ initial run.
Like many classic and cherished food recipes, it might be this television recipe of Mulder and Scully, along with supporting (and apparently also ageless) characters like Skinner and even the Cancer Man, that is missed and thus ripe for making again, for a comeback to TV to happen now. Sure, there’ve been movies, but the movie experience, with its typically one-time experience and cinema theater setting, is entirely different than enjoying a favorite TV show from week to week from the comfort of one’s home.
There’s always the chance that a comeback of a much-beloved series ends with what will amount to a lot of hype and a much larger amount of disappointment and unmet expectations, but I have a bit of optimism about The X-Files.
After all, there’s no better duo to see whether or not the truth is still out there.