Amid this era of series revivals, perhaps none is more eagerly awaited by its fans than Fox’s relaunch of The X-Files. The original, which ran from 1993 to 2002, managed to be both a commercial hit and a cult favorite, thanks to its rich mythology, and Fox is putting the series’ substantial goodwill reserve on the line with a six-episode cycle.
Creator Chris Carter says the new episodes make political statements and delve deeply into the conspiracy theories that defined the series. “We did the bold choices, not the easy ones,” he says. “We hope we can make good on people’s expectations.”
The relaunch was hatched in the fall of 2014 when Dana Walden, Fox Television Group cochairman, approached Carter about producing new episodes. Walden made it a much easier decision for Carter by already getting the leads, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, on board. “When I heard they were enthusiastic,” says Carter of Scully and Mulder, “I was all in.”
When the series wrapped in the wake of 9/11, Carter notes how much of the nation was willing to trade privacy for security. He mentions “blatant abuse” of government surveillance, which gives the new episodes fresh conspiracy theories to air. X-Files premiered in a vastly different media landscape, but Fox is giving it a strong chance to connect this time by launching it out of the NFC championship game Jan. 24. Fox entertainment president David Madden describes X-Files as “big event” television.
“Each episode has its own personality,” he says. “One plays like a comedy, others conspiratorial, others are frightening and some are really personal.”
Dust Off Those ‘boots
X-Files joins a healthy roster of series revivals. Last winter, CBS brought back The Odd Couple, which previously aired on ABC. Netflix resurrected Fox’s quirky comedy Arrested Development, and will do the same when Fuller House reunites the Tanner clan. Netflix will also be the home of a reimagined One Day at a Time, produced by Norman Lear and featuring a Hispanic cast. Showtime plans to bring back Twin Peaks in 2017. NBC, for its part, sought to resurrect long-running ’90s football comedy Coach, but scrapped those plans this past fall.
X-Files is somewhat unique among the revivals in that it retains its home network and stars. Mike Bloxham, senior VP at media consultancy Frank N. Magid Associates, says the series has a chance to make a splash. “The X-Files community has been buzzing about this for some time, and the combination of that group’s appetite for the show and the nostalgia of less ardent fans will combine to deliver a pretty healthy audience,” he predicts. “Six episodes also provide plenty to sink the teeth into but still leave the audience wanting more—if the spark is still there between Scully and Mulder.”
In a nod to the current state of television consumption, Bloxham says some fans may choose to DVR the mini-season, then binge all six, provided they can avoid all social media spoilers. “Maybe The X-Files will teach us something about what kind of drama stands up better to the DVR,” he says.
Carter’s TV projects after X-Files wrapped 14 years ago included Fox’s Millennium and The Lone Gunmen and the short-lived Amazon Studios series The After. The X-Files also had multiple feature film spinoffs. Staff writers, including Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) and Frank Spotnitz (The Man in the High Castle), went on to bigger things in television.
Duchovny and Anderson had very limited time to put into the new season, says Carter, giving the shooting a breakneck pace. An illness within Anderson’s family further complicated logistics. “You just never had a chance to catch your breath,” he says.
If their efforts result in a hit, Fox may bring X-Files back yet again. “The idea was floated to me casually [by Walden], but right now it’s speculative,” says Carter. “I’m certain that, if it does well, there will be more serious discussions.”
Pass or fail, Carter says he’s honored that there was enough interest in X-Files to merit a revival. “The show is nearly 25 years old and there’s still an appetite for it,” he says. “It’s surreal to me.”
The television industry's top news stories, analysis and blogs of the day.