Getting Back Together with the X: Reactions to the X-Files Miniseries – Prologue

thexfiles

Almost 14 years after it ended its original run, The X-Files is returning to the small screen with a six-episode miniseries this winter. To welcome it back, Jeff (of Slazenger1) and I will be writing responses to each episode. Here’s the hook: Jeff is a pretty hardcore X-Files fan and I haven’t seen a single episode of the show. How we’ll respond is anyone’s guess, but as always: The Truth is Out There.

This post covers our personal relationship with the series thus far and our expectations for the miniseries.

********************

Jeff
I was in elementary school when The X-Files premiered, and was probably a bit too young to watch it, understand it, or really know anything about it at all. I remember seeing the original broadcast of Season 1 episode “The Jersey Devil” when I spent the night at a friend’s house and his dad was watching it. I don’t think I watched another episode until I came to the series on my own, late in Season 4. I’m pretty sure the episode was “Unrequited” because I specifically remember being intrigued by promos advertising an invisible assassin. I also remember the Fox “next time on” promos for the rest of the season counting down the number of episodes remaining until what turned out to be a pretty great season finale, “Gethsemane.” From that point, I was hooked.

I recorded late-night rebroadcasts of old episodes so I could try to catch up on the ones I missed. The VHS tape sets were available at the time, but were quite expensive. Of course, I would later shell out $60-80 a season to get the collector’s sets on DVD, so I’ve definitely paid my dues. I also remember having a special issue of Cinescape magazine (I think) that was devoted to the show and had an episode guide of the first 4 seasons (or was it 5, I don’t remember exactly). Eventually, I was able to catch up on all of the old ones and follow along with the new ones through the end of the series.

I don’t want to go too deep into the show, or my love for it, because Patches is coming in cold and probably won’t know half of what I’m saying. Also, it’s still nice of me to avoid spoiling anything, even if the miniseries does. To put it briefly, The X-Files is probably my favorite network TV drama. Sure, there’s still a ton I haven’t seen, but I can safely say it’s near the top of non-HBO, AMC or FX shows that I’ve watched. That’s a pretty big deal. I love how the show helped to pave the way for serialized storytelling while still balancing out the long-term arc (which would eventually collapse under its own weight) with creative, scary, clever, mysterious, self-referential and sometimes hilarious one-off, “monster of the week” episodes. It’s not a unique opinion, but this is where the show truly shined for me. Among my favorites are obviously the episodes written by Darin Morgan and Vince Gilligan, the gimmick episodes like “X-Cops,” “The Post-Modern Prometheus” and “Triangle,” and the streak of “comedy” episodes, many of which appear in my beloved, sunny Season 6.

But now I’m getting a little too deep, and I’m sure I’ll have time to reminisce about the past while responding to the brand new episodes we’re about to get. I’ll tell you how I feel about this revival a little later, but first: what, if any, relationship do you have with The X-Files, Patches? Have you ever seen an episode? Have you ever been interested in watching it, or had it recommended to you, before we came up with this idea to watch the miniseries together?

Patches
So, uh, X-Files, huh?

My relationship with The X-Files is not difficult to describe since it is virtually non-existent. Despite its incredible reputation, I’ve never watched The X-Files, nor has it ever been particularly high on my “To Watch” List. I don’t think anyone other than you has recommended it to me either.

Its initial run ended around my junior year of high school and I didn’t really get into television until after college. I watched The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Homicide: Life on the Street, and Law & Order when they were on, but I did not have any passion for the art form you know? In college, I marathoned DS9, Homicide, and Stargate SG-1, got caught up on 24, and discovered Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, and Babylon 5. The ironic thing is that The X-Files is probably right in my wheelhouse. Look at those shows I listed above. It’s all sci-fi, investigation, and conspiracy. That’s The X-Files, right? When folks like you recommended watching The X-Files, there were always other shows I wanted to watch more and frankly, 200+ episodes is intimidating as hell.

I have seen a handful of episodes of The X-Files, but I only remember one. It was in black and white, was super Frankensteiny, and a quick Google search says it was entitled “The Post-Modern Prometheus.” I remember nothing about it other than that I liked it for who knows what reason.

In fact, here is the complete list of things I know about The X-Files:

1) Mulder and Scully work for for the FBI or something.
2) They eventually want to bone, but don’t. Maybe they do later.
3) There’s aliens. Or maybe there’s not aliens.
4) Conspiracy. C-O-N-SPIRACY.
5) There’s a guy who probably has lung cancer at this point and he may or may not be at the middle of #4. Later, he became a CEO and did some time-traveling stuff.
6) A gang of computer nerds.
7) Colonel Steven Caldwell.
8) 200+ episodes is really impressive.
9) Iconic title music.
10) THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.

With such an empty background, I don’t have much for expectations. Really, my biggest hope is that the miniseries is fairly representative of the full series, so I can use it to decide if I want to ever watch the rest. Other than that, I can hopefully do two things. First, be an outside observer and sounding board for you as we riff on this popular, critical, and nostalgic favorite. Second, have no clue what I’m talking about and ask lots of stupid questions. In fact, the stupid questions are what I’m looking forward to most.

First, a not-so-stupid question. I’m a blank slate, but you’ve spent a significant fraction of your life watching this show. What are your expectations? What are you hoping for from the revival?

Jeff
Your list is great, and pretty much all correct. I get where 202 episodes (and 2 movies) can be intimidating, but it’s really not much more than TNG or DS9. Plus, you’ve already made it through every Stargate, something I haven’t even decided to tackle…yet. Regardless, I’m glad you’re such a blank slate, as it works in favor of whatever this little experiment turns out to be. Also, “The Post-Modern Prometheus” is wonderful, despite featuring a cover of Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis,” which is one song I firmly believe should simply never be covered. If that’s the one episode you have the best memory of, you couldn’t have done too much better.

You’re right about me spending a lot of time watching the show. Watching the entire series and the movies equates to a little over 6 straight days. That doesn’t seem like much, but I’ve seen the entire series at least 4 times, and I’ve seen random episodes here and there as well, so I’ve probably spent a month of my life watching the show. Again, that doesn’t seem like much, but that’s how the math works out (don’t ask me to show my work). With that much investment, you can bet I have some expectations.

Or perhaps I should say apprehensions.

If 24: Live Another Day is any indication–based on my personal feelings for that revival–I’m not entirely optimistic. As much as I (or particularly you, Patches) might champion Season 7 of 24, you can’t argue that the last few seasons of that show in general were not nearly as good as the rest. The same goes for The X-Files. It flamed out in the wake of the conspiracy arc devouring itself, the sometime loss of David Duchovny, and the ravages of being a long-running non-procedural show. The presence of standalone episodes meant that even the final season wasn’t without its bright spots, but the magic was mostly gone and the 2-hour series finale was kind of a letdown. And that wasn’t even the last time we saw Mulder and Scully.

I Want To Believe came out in 2008 and I was so much of a fan that I requested that my best man make arrangements to see the midnight premiere of it as part of my bachelor celebration. Doing something nerdy like this is definitely in my wheelhouse, but the fact that the movie was pretty terrible just made it seem worse. It’s the bad taste left by that movie, and the endgame of the series that makes me worry for the miniseries. How can six episodes do any kind of justice to the conspiracy stories in the show’s “mytharc,” especially when 3-4 episodes are supposed to be standalones? I’d love to get some kind of closure on that, but we’re so far removed from the series that I had made peace with the fact that I wouldn’t. The new mythology episodes might just feel like episode-length, purple-prose-y Chris Carter-penned monologues that happened every so often in the original series. That’s kind of what I’m expecting, to be honest.

If anything gives me hope, it’s the fact that brothers Darin Morgan and Glen Morgan, as well as Glen’s writing partner James Wong are back to write and direct some of the episodes. The former wrote two episodes that would probably make my personal top 10 of the series, and the latter two wrote the episode “Home” which is by turns hilarious, horrific and is in a league of its own as far as network TV goes (at least in 1996). There’s a catch to this too, however. First, Glen’s new episode is called “Home Again,” and by all reports is a revisit to the previous episode, “Home.” I just worry that it (and other episodes) are going to be super full of fan service. I also have worries about Darin Morgan’s episode not living up to the expectations of his 4-for-4 writing work in the original series. Yes, he’s written for other shows since then, but I haven’t watched them. I’d hate to see him tarnish the streak.

Clearly I’m too precious about a show that I actively admit lost a lot of steam by the end. I guess I just worry about not leaving well enough alone. Still, even if all six of these new episodes are clunkers, that’s a relatively small drop in the bucket for the series. Plus, it’s got to be better than I Want To Believe, right? I want to believe so anyway. Maybe that’s my hope for the revival, that it’s solid X-Files. Even if it doesn’t knock ‘em out of the park, as long as I’m not cringing and rolling my eyes, it’s a win.

Why can’t I just be happy one of my favorite shows is back? I can. Dammit, I will. Until–er, unless–the miniseries proves otherwise. After all, we live in a world where Mad Max: Fury Road may be better than the other three movies that are the reason it exists. Where Creed is being called the best Rocky movie since the original. Where The Force Awakens is reclaiming the magic of the original Star Wars trilogy, but with great new characters. So here’s to resurrection, something both Mulder and Scully are familiar with. This is going to be fun, and it might even be awesome.

Patches
Here’s hoping, buddy! I, for one, am not concerned. If I learned anything from 24: Live Another Day, it’s that television shows that we love cannot possibly frustrate or disappoint us when they return from extended layoffs.

As long as it’s watchable, I’ll consider it a worthwhile project. Will it be? The truth is out there…

Did I do that right?

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