Civil Liberties

The X-Files Is Coming Back

As a six-episode "limited series"


The Wrap reports that The X-Files—the second-most-paranoid TV show of the '90s, after Seinfeld—will return as a six-episode "limited series":

"One of them was disguised as a woman, but wasn't pulling it off. Like, her hair was red, but it was a little too red, y'know? And the other one, the tall, lanky one, his face was so blank and expressionless. He didn't even seem human. I think he was a mandroid."

The series' Emmy Award-winning creator and executive producer Chris Carter is returning, alongside stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, who'll reprise their roles as FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, respectively, more than a decade after the show ended in 2002.

"I think of it as a 13-year commercial break," Carter said in a statement. "The good news is the world has only gotten that much stranger, a perfect time to tell these six stories."

Produced by 20th Century Fox Television and Ten Thirteen Productions, production is set to begin this summer. But, Fox has yet to determine an airdate for the limited series.

Speaking as an old fan, I'm happy but wary. The original X-Files was very much a product of the period that came after the Cold War and before the War on Terror, and it isn't always easy to plug a paranoid franchise from one historical moment into the fears of a different time. In the best-case scenario, Carter and company will seize the Zeitgeist again. In the worst-case scenario, we'll get something like AMC's weak attempt to "reimagine" The Prisoner.

I wrote a eulogy for The X-Files after the series was cancelled; an excerpt from that follows after the jump:

At a time when the world's cultures and subcultures traded and blended more freely than ever before, so did its schools of fear. Militiamen, hippies, black nationalists, ufologists—the mythologies of one group flowed freely into another's, even as radically different styles of conspiracism contended. It was the perfect era for a program like The X-Files, which changed its colors from week to week: sometimes a science fiction series, sometimes a supernatural fantasy, sometimes a political thriller, sometimes a self-aware comedy. For a genre show, it had a hard time sticking to one genre.

And for a show whose lead character focused so emphatically on exposing The Truth, it found those truths in a diverse set of places. In its best years—from its debut in 1993 to around 1997—the series found conspiracies in the military, in corporate America, and, of course, in the skies. Its heroes encountered militias and vampires, hackers and disgruntled postal workers, surveillance cameras and the country's most ubiquitous species of shadow government: a neighborhood association and its Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. If a popular anxiety was afoot—justified or unjustified, conspiracist or more broadly paranoid—it turned up in The X-Files. (Sometimes the franchise managed to catch a fear before it entered the larger culture. The debut episode of a short-lived spinoff, The Lone Gunmen, featured a plot to crash a jet into the World Trade Center.)

The '90s were also a time of ironic paranoia, of a surrealist subculture less interested in exposing secret plots than in using conspiracy theories as a joke or a metaphor. This, too, turned up on the show. Several witty episodes, most of them scripted by Darin Morgan, cast doubt on the very notion of a single Truth—or, at least, of a Truth that can be captured in one master narrative.

At the same time, the series attempted to build such a narrative. This proved the show's undoing. The grand conspiracy that once stayed in the background—more an enticing set of hints than anything else—began to intrude more and more, and good storytelling gradually gave way to a plot that seemed less interesting with each new revelation.

You can read the rest of that article here. A more extended discussion of the show is in chapter 11 of my book The United States of Paranoia. And The Lone Gunmen's predictive programming completely coincidental foiling of a 9/11-like plot is below: