The X-Files’ revival left many of us cold – if ax X-Files Season 11 goes ahead, how can the show redeem itself?
When official confirmation of a new series hit in 2015, X-Files fans around the world rejoiced.
Mulder and Scully’s first TV run may have gone off the rails before it ended after nine seasons, but countless people still had a special place for the show in their heart. These fans are also incredibly forgiving: the 2008 standalone film, I Want To Believe, was a major disappointment to most of us, but interest still remained despite such a huge misfire.
Why? Maybe because we know The X-Files is, at its core, a fantastic show filled with great characters, black humor, genuine scares, and a sensibility that encourages us to question what we’re told. Not to mention that the series revolutionized television and remains unique, despite so many imitations.
In 2013, IDW released their Season 10 comic-book continuation. This returned the franchise to the high-quality storytelling of its early years, brought Mulder and Scully back to the FBI, and seemed to do away with the second film’s developments altogether. This comic-book wasn’t perfect, but it did a great job of putting the characters in situations we wanted to see again (such as the Flukeman’s return).
The X-Files’ TV revival, though, came at the right time. The series had been away from television for long enough for fans to remember the good times rather than the weak latter years, and there was a chance to take the show back to basics now that the supposed alien invasion of 2012 could be written off as simply never happening. On top of this, television is in a true golden age, with hits like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Breaking Bad keeping the world glued to their small screens.
Fox would have been stupid NOT to bring the show back.
However, after so much anticipation, rumours, and hoping, the end result was pretty divisive. There were definite strong points, but overall, Chris Carter et al made too many mistakes that made some of us question whether the series would have been best left alone after all.
Nevertheless, an X-files season 11 will allegedly still hit screens if schedules allow our stars to return. Is this a good idea? Absolutely – if The X-Files can redeem itself. How can it do this? Let’s look at a few ideas.
Less Conspiracies, More Monsters of the Week
Without a doubt, many of the finest episodes from The X-Files’ history are ‘monster of the week’ tales unrelated to the overall alien-centric arc.
‘Squeeze’. ‘Tooms’. ‘Beyond the Sea’. ‘The Host’. ‘Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space”’. ‘Home’. These are just a few of the great standalone episodes which show The X-Files at its best: quirky; dark; scary; funny; oozing a creepy atmosphere and an otherworldly charm. These are far more accessible to first-time viewers, better-suited to repeat watching, and feel more like self-contained movies than those focusing on the ever-more-convoluted alien conspiracy. (That’s not to say there aren’t any great ‘arc’ episodes because there are plenty from the early years.)
However, given the messy later seasons and the feature-length finale’s inability to satisfy fans with definitive answers, The X-Files revival was the perfect chance to focus on unique standalone stories with a mix of horror, science-fiction, black comedy, and fantasy. By taking the show back to basics, Carter and company could have satisfied fans and created a perfect jumping-on point for newcomers.
Instead, the 10th season made the alien conspiracy even more confusing, suggested it was a cover for a deeper plot, and ended on another baffling cliffhanger that only frustrated the majority of viewers.
If X-Files season 11 does arrive, the creators should try a different approach: answer the immediate questions, resolve the overreaching arc, and get back to doing what The X-Files does best. Put Mulder and Scully back into the FBI, send them on the trail of bizarre, horrific, and surreal cases.
Drop the Self-Referential Humour and Wackiness
Okay, so The X-Files has always had a brilliant ability to follow a scare with a laugh, mainly due to beautiful one-liners. Some of the more ridiculous and bizarre episodes (such as ‘Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space”) are great fun and a far cry from the series at its scariest.
However, while many viewers took a shine to season 10’s ‘Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster’, it left this writer cold. Why? The episode went too far into the realm of parody, exampled best by Mulder having the series’ theme tune as his ringtone. While the premise of a monster becoming a human was a genius spin on the werewolf legend, and writer Darin Morgan has done some great work, this entire episode felt like a real misstep (to me, at least – other opinions are available).
This trend continued in ‘Babylon’, an episode which opens with a horrifying terrorist attack that drew some controversy (understandably so!). Given the shock tactics used in the episode’s opening, the way the tone shifts to the flat-out ludicrous later is incredibly strange.
First of all, the arrival of young counterparts Agents Miller and Einstein (one a dark-haired male who wants to believe, the other a red-headed female skeptic) is neat in theory but fails to cause much excitement. Then, the entire episode is knocked off-kilter by Mulder’s (supposed) magic-mushroom-induced walkabout: we see him dancing, dressed in cowboy garb, and indulging in other assorted weirdness. It’s just too weird, even for this show, and feels like a colossal decline in quality for such a once-great franchise.
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Even in the final episode, which saw a return to seriousness, having a character named Einstein seemed pretty out of place, with otherwise dramatic scenes diluted whenever her name came up.
It’s a mess, and considering season 10 had just six episodes to impress us, it makes you wonder what other ideas the team put aside.
If another series comes along, by all means, keep the well-timed humor and surreal storylines, but reign in the absurdities (and never, ever have that ringtone play again!).
Consider a Straight Reboot For X-Files Season 11
Ready for a controversial idea?
All right. Here goes.
Get rid of the whole ‘I want to believe’ trope. Lose the alien conspiracy.
Instead, move the action to a new city. Have a different pair of leads, rather than simple analogs for Mulder and Scully (sorry Miller and Einstein: time to go). Put two new agents on the trail of new weirdness, pit them against new enemies, even introduce a fresh, less-convoluted arc.
Sure, this wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, but it might just redeem The X-Files . Along with the much-needed focus on more ‘monster of the week’ episodes, with less wackiness and absurdity, and a whole new take on the franchise could be just what we need. TV has changed so much, with so many great new talents and storytelling styles – now is the perfect time for The X-Files to redefine itself.
The X-Files will always be an important show, and there’s no denying it changed the landscape of television forever. However, unless a future series can correct mistakes and justify our continued faith, it may well be in trouble. Fingers crossed that the possible X-Files season 11 is a return to form and not another nail in the coffin.
Featured Images: 20th Century Fox