A Love Letter to The X-Files
I have never written a love-letter before. I don’t foresee myself writing one anytime soon, but if I had to, if my life absolutely depended on it – Well than consider it done, and consider that white manila-envelope mailed out west care of The X-Files television-series producer, Chris Carter.
The setting was a post-Twin Peaks early 90′s (September 10th, 1993 to be exact) and back when “show-runners” were called “creators.” Chris Carter managed to quietly launch onto the scene, somewhat exploding out-of-nowhere, and almost single-handedly revolutionized the face of television with a breathtakingly brand-new property The X-Files. Appropriately fitting to the era, the series spawned out of that 90′s fear of the “unknown,” and quickly inflated to become a cultural television-watching phenomenon.
Starring then “unknowns” David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as F.B.I. agents investigating the unexplainable cases of the paranormal, the show seamlessly tap-danced between stories concerning the search for the proof of the existence of extraterrestrials on earth, and external to this, exposing “monsters of the week” within standalone episodes on the fringe of the series’ always continuing alien-mythology. With its two-way streamed plot-structures contrasting, yet still running parallel to each-other, The X-Files hustled audiences with its mischievous unpredictability and simultaneously hooked the globe. Outside of effectively reviving genres of horror, Sci-Fi, that Silence of the Lambs-esue type of suspense/thriller, the series’ true brilliance lies with its central-core – the intimate, but platonic, evolving relationship between the The X-Files’ character-leads, Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Using classic themes of melodrama, and surrounding these relationship dynamics with equally classic backdrops of paranoid government-conspiracy serials resulted in one hugely engrossing hour of television for millions of people, and honestly, looking back at this abnormally ambitious recipe now, it’s not hard to understand why.
I don’t come from a religious background, not in the slightest, but I suppose for a while there (first Friday nights and later Sundays) my family and I were utterly converted to silent-nights transfixed under the X. Now even I can admit that the series seems to possibly “jump-the-shark” tonally in its seventh season, and shockingly debase itself into crammed convolution and story-laziness for thankfully just the beginning of its ninth, but still The X-Files‘ protagonists (and all of its characters really) are so well realized, from the writing to the acting, the emotional-hook is always so persistent that I think it is indeed enough to carry casual viewers through the series’ arguably weaker episodes. That being said, on a whole, The X-Files solidifies itself as a 9.5 out of 10 for me. It essentially captivated my complete and undivided attention and imagination while also informing me of my own future tastes in cinema.
Upon moving to Toronto in June of 2009, I reached the tail-end of X-Files binge-watching, and I ultimately concluded my revisit of the series (and its two films) with going into production on my own short, entitled Hokum, a film about an elderly alcoholic conspiracy-theorist on a quest to prove his paranoid alien-related theories to be that of the truth – it’s a plug I know but I’m also just trying to genuinely layout the back story here to why I’m talking about this show so passionately, and why I’m talking about this show in the first place).
So after countless hours spent rehashing Mulder and Scully’s dense paranormal-saga , I went from being a fan of rabid-geekdom to transitioning myself into a full-time, obsessive X-Files lifer. You could say that translates into going from owning V.H.S. tapes/DVDs and action figures to desperately dreaming of U.F.O. encounters and wearing trench-coats in the summer. Unfortunately I, like so many others, became a fan of the show during the height of its cultural-relevance. I still consider The X-Files to be part of the same pop-culture based zeitgeist as Star Wars and Star Trek, but has since plummeted into the non-mainstream depths of obscurity. I volunteer at Toronto’s largest fan-convention, and every year I scour the convention-center for X-Files figures, but they are consistently virtually nowhere to be found, while other Sci-Fi properties can be tracked down without fail, in a heartbeat. The X-Files’ popularity has drastically declined since the 90′s and part of the reason for this, is because the series was already apparently loosing its audience somewhere around its eighth season (I actually think the eighth season is fantastic and a spectacular rebound from the awkward seventh). Increasing convoluted scripting and maybe a mythology that became too shifty for its own good only added to the deterioration of viewer’s interest in the show in general, and then somewhere around 2004/2005, all traces of X-Files resonance seemed long-gone, dead and buried, and quite possibly so – Maybe even horrifically outdated.
Alas, it’s 2013, aliens as a viable, marketable commodity are about as mainstream as Sesame Street’s Elmo. We are part of a society that rightfully questions authority and its government on a minute-to-minute basis, conspiracy-theories are heated, arguably more prevalent today then they have ever been, and the current state of television is all but consumed with pushing ratings-boundaries and depicting the adult, the graphic, and the extreme. Ladies and gentlemen (and Chris Carter himself pointed this out at the 20th-anniversary Comic-Con panel) The X-Files is once again relevant. While I don’t think the show’s significance in terms of innovating television ever truly vanished, its popularity and general invested interest certainly slumped hard. Nevertheless, our current environment is now the perfect climate for a hardcore X-Fillian like myself to advocate for a global revival in X-Files interest everywhere. With the show’s 10th season hitting stores in comic-book form in December, I can now finally shout “the truth is out there” to the heavens and not feel so antiquated.
I’d be writing this article regardless of any possible contemporary resurgence in mainstream significance, but it is indeed nice to know that the franchise can conceivably strike a chord with more audiences today then it could have maybe seven a half years ago. The X-Files also revived the idea of televised-continuation producing at least seven two-parter serial episodes per season. Hearkening back to such classical storytelling techniques, concluding certain episodes with chilling cliffhangers, ultimately leaving story-resolutions open-ended, was just another genius way for the show to keep viewers invested in its bewildering mythos, and engaged in suspense from one week to the next. So in keeping in line with true/authentic X-Files formula here, in my next article, I want to believe I’ll conclude this alien-crazed rant of smitten-lunacy with 10 reasons why you should discover (or re-discover) this infectious series of such iconicism…