Arts

The X-Files re-opened

The era-defining sci-fi show returns with a six-part miniseries at the end of January (February on Channel 5 for us Brits). So, asks Debra-Jane Appelby, is it a fan-inspired resurgence or more cynical Hollywood remaking?

"So you never had the cal about that remake of The Red Shoe Diaries, then?" Agents Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) return to TV for a new batch of mysteries.

“So you never had the call about a remake of The Red Shoe Diaries, then?” Agents Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) return to TV for a new batch of mysteries. Photo: 20th Century Fox Television.

We’ve had the new/old Star Wars Episode VII sequel/reboot/remake and the Man from U.N.C.L.E remake and another upcoming Star Trek movie. Oh and Mad Max, Point Break and Westworld. Even old ITV series The Equalizer is getting the Denzel Washington treatment.

What does feel right about this reopening of the X-Files, 14 years since the last of the movie spin-offs, is that it is back on TV. The traditional route for a waning TV franchise is to hit the big screen, but in this new ‘Golden Age’, it makes more sense to bring it home, especially as the two big-screen outings ostensibly failed to trigger a box office-smashing franchise.

(Although, some might say – and by some I mean me – that we have had a remake/reboot of The X-Files already. It was called Fringe and was another FBI-driven sci-fi series which brought back the weekly thriller filled with government conspiracies and ‘monster of the week’ science paranoia. Fringe’s overarching storyline involved parallel worlds and time travel as opposed to alien abductions and hybrids but the inspiration was obvious. I loved it for all the things it brought to the game but also for wearing this influence on its sleeve because I also loved X-Files. At least up until Mulder left.)

This new miniseries is both ‘all new’ and a continuation. The first couple of episodes will dip into the old ‘secret cabal conspiring to take over the world by breeding a new superhuman/alien hybrid’ (spoilers) mythos that previously took us from the abduction of Fox’s sister, through Scully’s baby to the first of the movies.

We’ll meet characters old and new, including assistant director Walter Skinner (hopefully promoted by now) and everyone’s favourite villain in the shadows, ‘the cigarette smoking man’. It’s even been said that the offline, analogue, ‘Anonymous’ of the 90s, the Lone Gunmen will get their own episode.

“How cool TV has become for Hollywood A-listers means the original was ripe to come back. That old excuse of not wanting to demean a film career by appearing on mere television has flipped massively with the likes of True Detective.”

For the rest of the series Mulder and Scully will solve ‘monster of the week’ cases while mulling over life, love and being older. That’s what creator Chris Carter said in an interview anyway. Presumably, this means things like long intense scenes where they pore over their workplace pension schemes, talk mortgages while on stakeouts and have to pause a car chase to nip to the loo in the services. (I’m the same age as Scully now and any car journey is basically an intricate plan of bladder-relieving toilet breaks.)

We have new characters too. Community’s Joel McHale is to be introduced as Tad O’Malley, an Alex Jones meets Bill O’Reilly style right-wing conspiracy theory talk show guy, here to represent what the post-9/11, post-Wikileaks, NSA surveillance, always-on, broadband, drone-driven world we live in now is really like under the covers.

How cool TV has become for Hollywood A-listers means the original was ripe to come back. That old excuse of not wanting to demean a film career by appearing on mere television has flipped massively with the likes of True Detective.

The original X-Files launched the career of many a writer, producer and show runner including James Wong (American Horror Story), Howard Gordon (24 and Homeland), Frank Spotnitz (Man in the High Castle) and, of course, Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad fame.

Despite being groundbreaking and influential in many ways, bringing sci-fi back to earth in the 90s with its low-key, moody, Twilight Zone style, it is one of those shows which has been conspicuous by its absence from our repeat schedules; until recently DVD was the only way to binge on the series. However, thanks to the wonders of streaming services, every episode is now available on Amazon Prime (and I may or may not be already well into season two while writing).

With filming again taking place in Vancouver, everything is set to bring back this iconic series with all the bells and whistles it can muster. Creator Chris Carter feels it may lead to a third film or more six part mini-series each year, a Game of Thrones style quality-over-quantity move which is the philosophy that has me the most excited.

Like the new Star Wars, the return of The X-Files is blending the need for nostalgia with the desire to find a new generation of fans. Maybe not all of the current trend of reboots and remakes are all bad. I am looking forward to Dad’s Army.

@dj_appelby

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Written by Debra-Jane Appelby

Loud, Yorkshire, opinionated, techno-geek, trans-woman comedian with a fondness for excessive culinary pleasures and too little exercise.