I watched a brand-new episode of “The X-Files” last night, which is a strange sentence to be typing in 2015. But it's true! I really did. Welcome to the era of the TV revival.
(Note: You can check out a brand-new promo and key art for the series at the bottom of this article.)
Without giving any spoilers, here is what I will tell you: if you were a fan of the old “X-Files,” you're probably going to like the new “X-Files” just fine. The first episode feels familiar, comforting even — like a Friday night circa 1993, eating Doritos on the living room couch. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny slip back into their old rhythms smoothly, easily, winningly. Mulder hasn't lost that sleepy twinkle. Scully is still powerless to resist it.
There are aliens. There are abductions. There are government conspiracies, perhaps even bleaker and more complex than the old ones. The paranoia remains. Mulder and Scully remain. Circling each other still, prodding and then retreating; the endless dance between believer and skeptic, only now with smartphones (not to mention Joel McHale as a Glenn Beck-esque talk-show conspiracy theorist).
Creator Chris Carter was scheduled to attend, but a last-minute emergency precluded him from doing so. In his place, writer and executive-producer Glen Morgan (who was a major creative force on the first few seasons of the original series) stepped in to introduce the episode, which he characterized in somewhat nostalgic terms.
“We approached it very much how it was in the first couple years,” he said. “Without [saying] anything bad about the last couple of seasons…we were really going back to when the show started. It was very important to Chris. We hired Heather MacDougall, who was one of the original editors. And really, you'll see, the original credits are kinda there. And we're really trying to capture the feeling of when we started.”
The original credits weren't kinda there…they were completely there, just as before. Mark Snow's famous score, with its otherworldly whistle. Grainy images of flying saucers. A fresh-faced David Duchovny, staring out at us from a black-and-white government ID, smoldering beneath jet-black hair. Eating Doritos on the living room couch.
“People always ask, 'Is this a reboot? Is this a redux?'” Morgan continued. “For us, it's just a continuation of the story. It just happens to be about eight or ten years after you've last seen these two. When they went off the air, the TV show, in 2002…everyone [thought] 'the government's gonna save us'…but now, 13 years later, everyone hates the government again. It really did seem appropriate that there were new elements that had come into our culture, that we were all being spied on…and things like that, that you will see included in the show.”
Morgan is right that mistrust of the government is even more rampant than it was when the show first started, making the idea of an “X-Files” revival practically a no-brainer. And the first episode pulls off a neat kind of trick, in that just as it uses these present-day concerns as the backdrop to launch a brand-new conspiracy — you better believe the name “Edward Snowden” is uttered in Mulder's opening voiceover — in its look and feel it also functions as a time capsule to a kinder, gentler era (at least through the deceptive gauze of nostalgia).
So why only six episodes? Blame the actors! Or better yet, blame a TV landscape that no longer conforms to the frustrating (comforting?) rigidity of the old paradigm.
“I think everyone asks, 'why six episodes?'” said Morgan. “I think they would've liked to have continued the movies. But this series, this six episodes, really reflects what's happening in the entertainment business, movies and TV. The market sorta went out for that middle budget kinda movie. All of us wanted to continue doing this, but David and Gillian had other things to do. And to do 22 episodes, that was the full year. That's all you could do. So now that things are changing, you can have orders of six, of eight, of ten. So it became kind of doable that David and Gillian could come. It becomes almost the equivalent, shooting time, of a movie.”
“The X-Files” premieres January 24 on FOX. Check out a brand-new promo and one-sheet below.