A new season of The X-Files premieres tonight. For real though: How do you even begin to plot out a new season of The X-Files in 2018? Are Mulder and Scully just going to sit around queasily scrolling Twitter like the rest of us?
The X-Files premiered in 1993, an era which looks downright sunny in comparison to our current moment. But the show’s whole deal was always about suggesting there was something not-right waiting in the shadows and hey, turns out they weren’t wrong! Alien takeover conspiracy managed by government bureaucrats, gutting of the social safety net by career politicians masquerading as truth-telling oracles of the almighty free market—six of one, half dozen of the other. But how is The X-Files—which was based on the idea there were nefarious secrets lurking in our cultural peripheral vision—supposed to work when it’s all out in the open? Donald Trump is starting to make the Lone Gunmen look chill and normal, and the news cycle is so bonkers that the New York Times can drop a piece about a secretive Pentagon UFO program, making tantalizing reference to mysterious ALIEN ALLOYS, and everybody just shrugs and goes back to worrying about the nukes. The Cigarette Smoking Man now gives me Mad Men-style feelings of problematic nostalgia!
Show creator Chris Carter talked to Ad Week about the revival and its relationship to the news, but it sounds like maybe he doesn’t 100 percent have a handle on the specific vibe of the current moment any more than the rest of us:
Fox would have liked to have these episodes last year, but the delay feels like a blessing in disguise given current events and the current political climate. Was there a time during the original run where the show seemed so of the moment as it does now?
This is a much more pronounced moment than we’ve had since 1993 in terms of the politics, society, and technology, and certainly we wanted to talk about that. The show has always been of its time and political, and I think that we’ve seen such an amazing reversal, of the news in particular, where it used to be that we were a show that dealt in conspiracies and were looking for the truth. Now people seem to be looking for conspiracies, and the truth be dammed.
Seriously though: What’s it gonna be, Mulder and Scully chasing leads from private Facebook groups? Constantly exchanging loving looks of mutual horror and dread as they reencounter old enemies, newly emboldened? Maybe they’ll just quit their quest for the truth and get really into organic gardening (Scully) and baking from Mary Berry recipes (Mulder). That would be nice.
The Ad Week Q&A continued:
The UFO news is probably great for the show, but are you also wishing it had happened a couple of months ago so you could have written it into the new episodes?
Well, we’ve been writing this in the show since 1993. We’ve always felt there was a new Project Bluebook out there, which is the thing that is cited, the secret UFO studies in the late ’40s, early ’50s, that there was something like that, and we now have validation. I guess for me, it’s semi-sweet, because we’ve been doing this for so long. But the funny thing is, I read a piece in the New York Times, and I think serious outlets are now covering this as news, because there is ample evidence, certainly in the revelation that the Pentagon had a secret program to investigate these … but I still feel, even in the reportage, that it’s being treated like tabloid news.
Or it’s more that we’ve slipped into a parallel universe created and mediated by The National Enquirer. Apparently, at some point, Mulder says that, “the world has been too crazy even for my conspiratorial powers.” To really connect with the zeitgeist, you’d have to make a TV show where Mulder has actual power and influence, even if it’s just via bonkers tweetstorms, and Scully has gotten very, very deep into premium skincare.
At least they added a couple of female writers and directors this time.