Over the years, we have enjoyed a litany of tie-in material for The X-Files, principally across the 1990s but again recently thanks to the return of Chris Carter’s iconic series.
Fans will remember Brian Lowry’s essential episode guide books back when the show aired – basic by today’s standard but a touchstone in the pre-online era of limited investigative or behind the scenes information. Ditto Jane Goldman’s two-volume Book of the Unexplained, much more of an expansive ‘coffee table tome’. Aside from the novelisation tie-ins from writers such as Charles Grant & Kevin J. Anderson, these materials expanded our knowledge and enjoyment of the television series, paving the way for the multimedia onslaught of additional material that would appear around shows and movies to come, and following in the footsteps of mega franchises such as Star Wars and Star Trek, who had already been doing it for years.
In the modern 2020s, what can resources such as this offer us? Back in the ‘90s, without access to information or images or contextualisation, such books would inform and enrich our knowledge of the movies and shows we loved. Now, everything in those books is available thanks to a cursory Google search. This forces books such as The Official Archives to be a touch more inventive in how they engage with the property they’re playing with.
Paul Terry is clearly someone who adores The X-Files and knows it well, and such enthusiasm emerges in a book that is part coffee-table resource filled with arcanum and part investigative journal, playfully adding new details and lore to The X-Files mythos.
The X-Files ran from 1993 to 2018 on FOX and featured David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson as intrepid FBI agents Fox Mulder & Dana Scully investigating paranormal crimes and mysteries across the heartland of America…
Fox threw fans of legendary 1990s pop-culture phenomenon The X-Files a curve ball last week by announcing the development of a brand new, spin-off series.
X-Files: Albuquerque, which is currently being worked up for the network (and by extension their overlords, Disney), is planned to be an animated comedy revolving around a collection of “misfit agents who investigate X-Files cases too wacky, ridiculous or downright dopey for Mulder and Scully to bother with.” as described by TV Line’s Michael Ausellio. The project has a ‘script and presentation commitment’ from Fox (translated: if they like the script, they’ll let them make it) and is being developed by Rocky Russo & Jeremy Sosenko, with X-Files creator Chris Carter and his former PA/Season 11 scribe Gabe Rotter overseeing as executive producers. The old and the new joining forces, essentially, for a new chapter in the history of the series.
I say series because The X-Files will, if this does come to fruition, take the first steps to becoming a franchise; not just one singular, iconic series any longer, but rather part of a broader tapestry that could expand beyond the adventures of Fox Mulder & Dana Scully, who with David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson in the roles investigated America’s paranormal secrets between 1993-2002, across two movies, and then between 2016-2018 for what will, almost certainly, be a swan song for the traditional era of that show. Fans don’t want to admit it (I run an X-Files podcast so, trust me, I know), but the original series of The X-Files is done. Anderson doesn’t want to revive Scully again. Season 11 wrote the show into a corner, effectively, and it’s hard to imagine just what else you could do with the middle aged Mulder & Scully now that hasn’t been done.
In other words, this might be the right time for Albuquerque, if you subscribe to the idea The X-Files should even become a franchise at all.
For 25 years, FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully have been shining their flashlights into the shadows, searching for the truth. To celebrate this anniversary, IDW Publishing is launching a new series of The X-Files: Case Files!
Under this banner, faithful fans will see the release of numerous micro-series, featuring stories that explore X-Files of the past and present by top talent from comics and prose!
In “Florida Man…” Scully and Mulder are sent to a small Florida town to investigate a rash of bizarre crimes only to find themselves in the clutches of an alligator-worshipping cult…
The recent history of The X-Files in comic form has been an interesting one, informed in many respects by the revival of the show on FOX over the last three years. The first part of ‘Florida Man’ begins a new phase for IDW’s license of Chris Carter’s series called Case Files – an anthological approach to the adventures of Agents Mulder & Scully investigating the paranormal across America.
Joe Harris until last year had been carrying the torch for The X-Files under IDW, firstly with his originally-canonical ‘Seasons 10 and 11’, which picked up roughly from where second movie I Want to Believe left off, and later his own tie-in ongoing issue set within the continuity of the revival. His approach to The X-Files was frequently arcane, mythic and certainly in the ongoing issues set roughly during Season 10, highly political – indeed this caused his run on the series to draw criticism in certain quarters given how unashamedly anti-President Trump and the alt-right he was in his writing. While politics and The X-Files have always been key bedfellows, many wanted more of a streamlined take on Carter’s show. Case Files may well end up being what they wished for.
If you’re a fan of The X-Files, there’s a very good chance you’ve now seen how it ends. The eleventh season, at any rate. To suggest The X-Files has truly ended with any kind of assurance is to suggest maybe Santa won’t be back next Christmas. By now, and as I’ve discussed previously, The X-Files doesn’t end. It’s always going to be with us, somehow.
What is now interesting is the fallout from the Season 11 finale, ‘My Struggle IV’, and what people are starting to look at as being the continuation of The X-Files. As I stated in a previous piece, we are at a crossroads in terms of where Chris Carter takes his beloved half a century old property. The season finale—which we’ll call it until Carter or anyone else confirms this iteration of the series is over—left Agents Mulder & Scully in the position where they can either pick up their work in some fashion and continue on, or walk away and begin a new life as the family unit millions of ‘shippers’ have always wanted them to be. However, what is interesting in fan circles is not Mulder & Scully’s future, but that of their son William.
The X-Files, one of the most recognised and beloved television properties of the last three decades, lies once again at a fascinating impasse.
‘My Struggle IV’, which I discuss here in depth, was billed as a finale, but it soon became clear Chris Carter only intended Season 11 to serve as a season rather than series finale. Despite Gillian Anderson’s claim this was her last time playing FBI agent Dana Scully, Carter has steadfastly refused to write a true ending for Scully and her erstwhile partner Fox Mulder. What many considered could well be the final time we saw these iconic characters, fates were left unresolved, storylines nebulous, and our two heroes were left staring down at a crossroads of two different paths: domesticity with the chance of a new family, or continuing their work investigating the paranormal. Their choice depends on many factors which lie beyond any decisions made by the two intrepid FBI agents in the show.
How do you end The X-Files? This is a question fans have been asking themselves for quarter of a century, ever since Chris Carter’s show premiered in 1993 on the FOX network and helped define popular culture across the entire decade. My Struggle IV proves, without any shadow of a doubt, that the truth is you don’t. The X-Files is a phenomenon that will never truly come to a close.
Season 11 of The X-Files has been overshadowed, to some degree, by Gillian Anderson’s announcement last October—with several months of shooting left to go—that this was her final go around playing FBI agent Dana Scully, the role she will be immortalised for, as much as David Duchovny will never truly escape her partner, FBI maverick Fox Mulder. Anderson stayed with the original series longer than Duchovny—who jumped ship as a forefront character at the end of the seventh season—so it’s difficult to truly blame her for deciding, after twenty-five years living the part even in the long period she didn’t play her, that Anderson wanted an end for Scully. The revival series, which arrived in 2016 on the trail of a nostalgic comeback tour for various TV shows which were iconic in the days before streaming and cable changed the paradigm of television, was one millions of fans hoped would provide some sense of closure.
The end of the original series, Season 9’s The Truth, came as a disappointment to many fans at the time. Contextualising a mythology many had (falsely) claimed made no sense, and reintroducing the long-absent Mulder, made what fans hoped was a climactic thrill ride for the alien mythology more like a clip show, with an ending that reflected the ‘Pilot’ but left Mulder & Scully in nebulous waters; were they fugitives? Were they out of the FBI? Were the X-Files shut down? What about Agents Doggett & Reyes, who had taken over the department and failed conceptually to replace the dynamic duo we had followed for seven seasons together? Were the aliens still about to invade?
So many questions were left unanswered, far more indeed than ‘My Struggle IV’ has left unanswered – and this latest attempt at a finale is, in all honesty, no real finale at all.
Originally the eighth episode in the ten hour run of The X-Files’ eleventh and almost certainly last season, Nothing Lasts Forever was switched around with last weeks Familiar and you can understand the decision. Karen Nielsen’s script has an undulating sense of finality about it, as if Agents Mulder & Scully know the end of their journey is in sight.
We have, of course, been here before, more than once. Season Five cheekily concluded with The End, Requiem at the end of Season Seven was mooted as being the final episode to segue into a cinematic franchise for the show, before eventually Season Nine’s The Truth brought back an absent David Duchovny and proved to be a hugely divisive (even to this day) mixed bag of a series finale. That was back in the age when a series, certainly in American television, concluded without any real chance of reprisal. British TV has long had a tradition of ending a show and then reviving the property years down the line, but American TV didn’t tend to do it until the advent of streaming services and the full embrace of digital TiVo changed the paradigm of how we digested television. The X-Files itself is proof that while nothing lasts forever, where beloved properties are concerned, we should, to borrow another phrase, never say never again.
Nonetheless, Season Eleven does, at this stage, appear to be the final curtain. Nothing Lasts Forever therefore, should that be the case, will go down in X-Files history as the last ever standalone episode. I’ve discussed the importance of the standalone story versus the ongoing mythology in previous pieces—indeed in last week’s Familiar I touched on the subject—but to fans the difference has more sharply moved into focus with the revival series. Arguably, many felt we simply didn’t have enough episodes where Mulder & Scully investigated strange goings on across the American landscape, and episodes such as Plus One, Familiar and Nothing Lasts Forever have worked hard to remedy that.
Familiar goes the furthest to position itself akin to a historical episode of the original run of the series, but Nothing Lasts Forever stands out as a stranger brew than anything else the entire revival run over both seasons has yet given us.
There is something familiar and unfamiliar about Familiar, one of the last truly stand-alone ‘monster of the week’ tales The X-Files will likely ever do.
Anyone who has followed Chris Carter’s series from its inception will be aware that his show was divided between the ‘standalones’ and the ‘mythology’ episodes. At the time, back in the 90’s, fans lived for the mythology, the ongoing story of Fox Mulder & Dana Scully against the conspiracy to cover up the existence of alien life, and far darker deeds beyond. Time and distance however, for many, have seen the standalone tales grow in currency; in a world now built on the kind of serialised storytelling The X-Files flirted with, while still keeping to a model ripe for syndication, fans have craved from the revival season a truly stand-alone story. One where Mulder & Scully arrive in a small town, investigate some weird deaths, and find themselves embroiled in the strange and spooky. It’s taken almost two revival seasons, but Familiar gets us there.
Oddly enough now, however, what once was considered a standard, typical X-File, has become essentially the aberration. If you look at how experimental both revival seasons have been, from comedy episodes or Hitchcockian espionage homages, down to episodes like last week’s Followers which pushed the envelope the furthest the show has gone in a long time, Familiar stands out because it’s now unfamiliar. Benjamin Van Allen’s story is almost a throwback, a relic of the original series The X-Files was built on, and were it not for certain fairly indirect but potent allegorical references to modern-day political Americana, you could position Familiar in one of the early seasons of the show. It might sit quite well nearby Die Hand Die Verletzt, perhaps its most intrinsic bedfellow.
For that reason, alone, it feels uniquely old-fashioned.
The X-Files has always been interested in technology, right from the word go, and Rm9sbg93zxjz (which we will henceforth refer to as its translation, Followers) feels like the ultimate, final (if this is to be the last season) encapsulation of our pervasive anxiety around surrendering our world to artificial intelligence. More than any other X-File that concerns AI, it serves as a potent cautionary tale.
Much has been made about how the second revival season of Chris Carter’s seminal series owes a debt to Charlie Brooker’s modern science-fiction anthology show Black Mirror. Followers, honestly, could have been an episode of Brooker’s series, a show which absolutely owes a debt to the stylistics and conceptual ideas put in place over the last quarter-century by The X-Files.
Carter’s show has, in many ways, come full circle in many aspects across Season 11, and Followers truly embraces and explores our combination of social media, applications which track our movements and allow us quick and easy access to everything from dining to transport to home appliances, and the accursed addiction to the ‘black mirrors’ of our ‘smart’ technology. It suggests, as many cautionary tales about modern technology do, that this obsession may be far from a good thing.
One of the major criticisms of the previous season of The X-Files, the six-part revival series after many years of uncertainty about the show’s future, is that we didn’t see nearly enough of Mitch Pileggi and his character, Assistant Director Walter Skinner. It was a more than valid concern in regards to a character (and actor) who have been, without question, one of the key reasons Chris Carter’s series became such a pop-cultural success. Kitten is a clear, unashamed attempt to redress that balance, squaring the focus entirely on Skinner, his past and his present.
The fact it disappoints, therefore, is not only a touch unexpected, but more than a little frustrating.
The character of Skinner has been with The X-Files since late in the show’s first season, debuting in Tooms which aired early in 1994. Fitting the template of Agents Mulder & Scully’s boss, a template Carter had struggled to fill across the first season with a succession of potential, internal antagonists who came briefly and went, Skinner represented not just the FBI, but a bulwark of old-fashioned masculinity in a show with a female scientist and nerdy conspiracy theorist as leads.
Skinner is the equivalent of a small-town Sherriff in an American Western; a compromised man having to tolerate the lawless thugs who run his streets wild while proving sympathetic to the lawmakers and townsfolk he’s there to serve. Skinner described himself once by declaring to Mulder that “I stand right on the line that you keep crossing” and this contextualises his function, since essentially Season Two premiere Little Green Men, for the entire run of the series.