As Fox gears up to reissue their classic 90’s series, “The X-Files,” in miniseries form, the curiosity is building. The new series’ success will likely depend upon the quality of Chris Carter’s new vision and the ability of his writing and directorial staff to adapt the show and its beloved characters to the passage of time and contemporary culture. In the long run, revisiting a series that endeared an entire generation to “truth” seeking could be dangerous to the mythos of the show. If they follow in their own footsteps, without making the show seem like a rehash, this renewed “X-Files” might just keep our spines tingling and our chair-backs untouched once again.
Any return to the FBI’s oft-maligned paranormal investigation team will face stiff competition—not only from other shows, but from itself. Before lapsing into relative mediocrity during the last couple of seasons, “The X-Files” was undoubtedly the premier horror-sci-fi show on television. Since their files were closed, at least temporarily, shows like “Fringe,” “Lost,” and “Supernatural” have tried to up the weirdo quotient, but few have come anywhere near the successful level of the show. Rather, each modern paranormal drama has found greater success in specialization. “Fringe” worked best as a sci-fi thriller. “Supernatural,” which at times has arguably exceeded its vaunted predecessor, is undeniably excellent at being witty-meets-scary. But few shows could switch from funny to freaky to “monster of the week” and still maintain an engrossing story arc like Chris Carter’s little thriller that could.
An archetypal (and successful) episode of the “X-Files” was one that managed to combine creepy settings, vaguely believable yet outrageous paranormal events, and wrap up the show in a vague fashion that left the good guys (at least the main characters) alive but befuddled along with the viewers. Shows like “Pusher,” about an assassin who’s gained telepathic abilities due to a tumor and uses his ability to cause his victims to commit suicide, or “Home,” an inbred hillbilly thriller that could show the “Wrong Turn” franchise a thing or two, created a veil of plausibility that sucked us into the short-term story line without distracting us from the agents’ overarching quest.
Similar to their “motw” formula, the show also used humor sparingly to keep the fans off-guard and create fine standalone episodes. When poorly handled, especially in later seasons, some comedic-leaning episodes face-planted. But when the formula worked, the resulting shows could induce laughter and shock. During the earlier seasons there were several offerings that combined smart, scary, and amusing seamlessly. Episodes like “Die Hand Die Verletzt,” where our astute agents investigate a series of mysterious teenage deaths in a small town—with a quirky high school named Crowley High (wink wink) and a clutch of satanic teachers—or “Bad Blood” with its trailer park antics and Mulder’s disputed take on reality. Both episodes were great television that kept fans smiling and scratching their heads.
The new six episode series, which airs on January 24th 2016, will be written and directed by Chris Carter. The updated miniseries will also bring back some of the classic writers and directors from the show, including brothers Darin and Glen Morgan and James Wong (of “Saw” fame). The update will also feature, according to Carter, a broad story arc, humorous and serious “monster of the week” stories, and may (or may not) offer a satisfying conclusion to the long-winded series–depending on whether additional find are in the picture.
While the show itself won’t be a wormhole into the past, it will be curious to see what our favorite characters—including Mulder, Scully, The Smoking Man, Agent Skinner, and the Lone Gunmen—are up to in the present day. The real question is, will this “X-Files” update be lively enough to recapture both the glory of the original series and harvest a new crop of viewers who already wear the square-framed glasses of pop culture skeptics? Capturing the imaginations of a generation born of nostalgia and cynicism might be the most intangible Truth this miniseries faces.