Mindy Newell: The Truth Is Out There

For nine years, from 1993 through 2002, Friday was the night to stay home or at the least to make sure your favorite television recorder was programmed correctly.

I’m talking about The X-Files, created by Chris Carter and which starred then relatively unknown actors David Duchovny as FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder, an Oxford-trained behavioral psychologist, and Gillian Anderson as FBI Special Agent Dana Scully, an M.D. specializing in forensic medicine. Together they investigated the so-called “X-Files” of the FBI: cases that involved crimes on the margins of “normal,” paranormal activities, and UFO goings-on.

It became the Fox (no pun intended) network’s highest rated show and won numerous awards over its original lifetimes, including 16 Emmy Awards, five Golden Globes, and a Peabody Award over its run; it also received nominations and wins from the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild the Screen Actors Guild, the Television Critics Association, and the Saturn Awards.

A straight line can be drawn, I think, from the classic Kolchak: The Night Stalker to X-Files. But Carl Kolchak was an investigative reporter who always seemed to accidentally get involved in “out-there” stories on his beat for a Chicago newspaper; but the FBI agents purposely sought them out.

Mulder, who at the age of ten experienced what he believed to be an alien abduction – what the “authorities” said was an “ordinary” kidnapping and/or disappearance – of his younger sister Samantha, was the staunch believer. Scully, assigned to essentially spy on Mulder (who was looked upon, at best, as a brilliant eccentric who needed to be tolerated, and, at worst, as “Spooky by superiors who believed he was a danger to the FBI’s reputation) was the “cool-headed, scientifically-aimed” skeptic of the duo. Over the course of the series’ run, it soon became apparent why there were elements in the FBI and the government who wanted to get rid of Mulder: a “black ops” organization, in order to save themselves, was cooperating with aliens to first subjugate and then wipe out the human race. This storyline became the continuing mythology and underpinning of the X-Files, as the agents’ worked together in a desperate bid to bring this underground conspiracy into the light of day.

Last week, Fox announced a new X-Files six-parter starring Duchovny and Anderson, so I started watching The X-Files again on Amazon Prime– I’m still on Season 1 – and I’m remembering why I was hooked. The show’s acting, stories, music, and cinematography all combine into an eeriness that’s impossible to ignore and stays with you even in the light of day.

Another important thing I’ve realized is just how much of a “glass ceiling” smasher Anderson’s Dana Scully was in her individuality, her intelligence and competence, her ass-kicking, and her way with a gun. It’s easy to see that the character laid the groundwork for her television sisters such as Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes, Homeland), Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub, 24), Fiona Glenanne (Gabriel Anwar, Burn Notice), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles, Torchwood), and Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv, Fringe).

The show gave birth to two movies: 1998’s The X-Files: Fight the Future, which though appeared in theatres while the show was still on television and continued season 5’s ending, with season 6 beginning where the movie left off. It was also conceived by Mr. Carter to be able to attract audiences not familiar with the overall mythos and characters of X-Files and stand on its own as a complete story in itself. Ten years later, 2008’s The X-Files: I Want to Believe was an individual science fiction thriller in which both Mulder and Scully are no longer associated with the FBI; Mulder, in fact, is a fugitive from the organization living underground, and Scully is a doctor on staff at a hospital – though she secretly lives with Mulder.

Fans have clamored for years for a third movie, to tie up loose ends left in the 2002 final season.

Last week the Fox network answered them – sort of. They announced The X-Files is returning to television screens for a limited six-episode run. But will it live up to 13 years of hopes, wish, and frustrated dreams?

Trust No One.

But – whoo-hoo! oh, yeah! – it could be great!

I Want to Believe.