According to the Internet, 93% of the world’s population is currently watching the nee X-Files miniseries. Approximately. The other 7%… nobody cares about. I can’t be part of that 7%, so for the past couple of weeks I’ve been doing what I can to jump ship. Something I never thought possible. Getting into The X-Files.
It’s not that I thought it would be bad. Quite the opposite actually. I knew it would be good. It’s about aliens and abductions, and had good enough writing to gain a large following, how can it be bad. But with it’s 9 seasons, spin off show, 3 movies and now miniseries, it is quite the undertaking. And until now, it hasn’t been to culturally relevant. It’s also a very 90’s show. A show I was too young for. That’s what I told myself until a 20 year old told me to watch it. Then I had no excuse. So last week I started season one.
And I’m so glad I did.
Yes, it is hauntingly 90’s, with the poor special effects to go with it, on the cusp of current technologies. But what rubber costumes, shadow tactics and giant cell phones distract from, great writing makes up for.
I went in to the show, after the pilot, expecting them to stick to a strict, abduction centric approach to every episode, and questioning how long they can keep up the sceptic/believer balance of Scully and Mulder. I was pleasantly relieved to discover the introduction of a variety of peculiar concepts for episode stories. And just when they have you getting comfortable with the dynamics and feeling like you’re getting a good understanding of the characters…BAM season finale. The finale speaks to everything that is great about the show, and how TV used to be. It is obvious that there is an overreaching story arc, but it doesn’t rely on every episode to tel the story. This season peppered a few important details throughout, but it never took away from the individual episodes story. This was the only episode devoted to progressing and manipulating the dynamic of the show.
I feel that the 22-25 episode model of storytelling is perfect for this type of show, but mostly fails nowadays. A show like X-Files was able to tell individual tales, where shows now are so focused on story arcs and storylines, that in a 22 episode season, 10 become filler and, as such, boring. With the exception of comedies and crime dramas, where they can still focus on single episode stories, it seems that 6-13 episode season model of British/cable/Netflix is becoming more and more the preferred mode for this binge watching audience.
It is interesting to note how, 23 years later, this show fits into a branch of evolution in storytelling. It is quite obvious how X-Files made way for Fringe, and how it was heavily inspired by The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits. These television anthology shows themselves were built on the backs of radio anthology shows such as Dimension X and X Minus One. It would normally be a difficult jump to connect these radio shows, based on early Sci Fi short fiction, to multifaceted, high brow, weird tales of television, but X-Files reveals a massive stepping stone in that direction.
I definitely associate myself a little more with Mulder, but I really appreciate and enjoy the dichotomy of Scully being a sceptic. I know that was intended to be a parallel of typical stereotypes (I guess where the “men” are supposed to be logical and intelligent, and the “women” foolish and gullible), but their relationship is my marriage. I believe alien life exists, I don’t believe that it reflects our own existence, but I think it is out there. And I want to believe in Bigfoot and werewolves and telepathy. But my wife, she thinks it’s all hullabaloo, and that there is a scientific explanation for everything (except ghosts, there it’s reverse).
That’s it for now, it’s late and I have season 2 to watch now. Thanks for reading. Here’s to escaping the 7%.