Where the X-Files Went Wrong

ArticlesNick PeronComment

This coming January, 20th Century Fox is bringing back the X-Files after last years six-episode run. While this was wildly acclaimed by fans as a whole we can all agree that it was much too short. It was also, I hate to say it, sorely lacking and took the path of least resistance to make for easier storytelling.This upcoming 10 episodes are set to wrap up the cliffhanger at the end of episode 6.

For the uninitiated, when it first started, the X-Files was dominating television. However, as the show progressed it stretched it's primary plot -- that of alien colonization of Earth -- to the point where it seemed like the writers didn't even know where it was going. The series was canceled in 2001, which the writers blame on 9/11 and the fact that people didn't want to watch shows about a conspiratorial government. Sure guys, it had nothing to do with terrible writing and a plot that was going nowhere.

Here are five things that they missed the boat on that I hope they correct when they get around to that next season:

1) All Shouldn't Have Been Forgiven:

 The first thing we should never forgive was this piece of shit movie.

The first thing we should never forgive was this piece of shit movie.

The Problem: This has always been a sticking point with me and I think it was the biggest failing of the X-Files. In the episode "The Truth", the final of the original 9 season series, Agent Mulder is arrested and put through a private military tribunal where he basically has no hope of escape. There he (sort of) explains the entire alien conspiracy. When it turns out that he's not getting out of this military gulag, Mulder is busted out by Scully, Agent Reyes, and Agent Doggett. When last seen, Mulder and Scully are fugitives of the United States government still on a quest to find the truth. This episode didn't resolve the issue with the alien invasion, only stating that they were planning to take over the world in 2012. Then there was some awful pablum about how if they believe in God, they can beat the aliens. This, I believe, was leaving it open for a feature film. Which brings us to our first point...

How They Screwed it Up: Even before the new mini-series, Chris Carter made the dismally bad X-Files: I Want to Believe feature film. Instead of doing what the fans craved -- a resolution to the series finally with a full-blown alien invasion -- they opted to recycle an old "Monster of the Week" episode, and not a very original one. They also had it set after the series ended. When the FBI needs Mulder's help solving a bunch of mysterious disappearances, A.D. Skinner tells Mulder that if he comes back "all will be forgiven". It's a toss away line until you realize that Skinner has no such authority since Mulder and Scully are wanted by the US military, not the FBI. This is even more troublesome when Mulder and Scully are hired back in the first episode of the mini-series. 

How They Can Fix This: While Mulder and Scully are welcomed back into the FBI fold, focus on how they are still wanted by the military and are brought before a military tribunal to account for the 14 years they had been on the run (basically) would be a more satisfying resolution to that debacle. With the obvious resolution to the plot involving the Cigarette Smoking Man's to depopulate most of the world, saving everyone on Earth is the Hail Mary pass they could use to get off the hook. "Yes we're wanted fugitives your honor, but we just saved the whole fucking world!"

2) Get Alien Colonization Back on Point:

 Mulder being haunted by the Ghost of Plot-Points Past.

Mulder being haunted by the Ghost of Plot-Points Past.

The Problem: The X-Files was never really clear on what the aliens wanted as writers were all over the map with the premise. At first, they were abducting people to experiment on. Then, these aliens were also black oil that could possess people, because that's cheaper to produce than people in silly alien costumes. Then they added alien bounty hunters that were trying to stop an alien invasion. If that's not over the top enough for you, we then learn the aliens were working with the government to create a slave race of alien-human hybrids. Something that involved bees and clones and polio vaccines. Anyway, suddenly, the aliens took a back seat and the US government was using the hybrid process to create super soldiers that could only be killed by the special magic metal. Oh, then there was the date of colonization being the year 2012. What the fuck was going on? While the above paragraph appears vague to the uninformed, they literally strung 9 seasons along on bread crumbs and didn't really do much to fill in the blanks.

How They Screwed This Up: Needless to say there was a lot going on and it was all tossed out the window within the first episode in one sentence. In the first episode of the new series, Mulder meets a man who was involved in the conspiracy since 1947. When Mulder exchanges information with him the man says Mulder spent far too much wasted time chasing "aliens lighting themselves on fire and other such nonsense". Mulder pretty much accepts this saying he was part of an "elaborate deception." 

How to Fix It: Basically they threw out 9 years of mythos building to try and do something smaller scale, which is disappointing. They created this rich conspiracy and strange alien encounters as some masterful hoax created by terrestrial conspirators. Fixing this is simple: The X-Files has a history of informants who intentionally misdirect Mulder and he constantly falls for it. To put this stuff all back on the game board all they have to do is repeat the same process. It makes Mulder seem like an even bigger dupe than ever, but it would work. Also, why forestall an alien invasion? Well if you look back to the first X-Files film, the aliens were planning colonization since at least the ice age. A simple explanation would be that of all the people in human history, only Fox Mulder got close enough to expose their plans. When we see Mulder again in 2016 he's a man in his late 50's who is unsure of himself and not a lot of life ahead of him. Perhaps the aliens are forestalling colonization of the planet Earth because they're waiting for the one threat to become irrelevant, or even better yet, dead from old age. This has been a plot centuries in the making, what's a few more decades?

3.) Where's Agent Doggett?

 Call out to John, Sarah.

Call out to John, Sarah.

The Problem: The last two seasons of the original X-Files saw the departure of David Duchovny from the series and he was replaced by Robert Patrick who took on the role of Agent Doggett. At the time fans really hated the character, simply because he wasn't what was familiar. However going back and re-watching all those episodes that feature Patrick in the lead, they were interesting in that they created a role reversal: With Scully now believing in the conspiracy, you needed a new skeptic around to keep her grounded. Doggett wasn't as staunch a critic as Dana was, but he was that "sober second" that the show needed to maintain some semblance of the original dynamic. He got involved in the conspiracy, and he quickly became a relevant, likable character, despite the typical knee-jerk asshattery from fans. Before the show was originally canceled, Doggett and Reyes were going to be replacements for Mulder and Scully when both Duchovny and Gillian Anderson left the show.

How They Screwed It Up: Simply put, zero mention of Agent Doggett. You have Agent Reyes appearing in the final episode of this last season, but not a single mention of her good friend and partner at the FBI? I can understand that Robert Patrick might not have been available to make an appearance, but you could have at least gotten into what happened to the character. What happened to him in the 14 years after the X-Files were closed? 

How to Fix It: Toss us a bone here and at least bring mention to what happened to him. Even an off-camera resolution about what happened to him. If Robert Patrick isn't coming back in any way, shape, or form, at least come up with a good yarn about how his connection to the X-Files led to his demise. Agent Reyes went to go work for the Smoking Man, Doggett wouldn't have let her do that so maybe he was eliminated to put her in a position that she did. Pretty open and shut solution here.

4.) A Final Resolution to the Conspiracy:

 Remember when this was a threat once upon a time?

Remember when this was a threat once upon a time?

The Problem: As I said above, the alien conspiracy storyline has 9 years of continuity to it and the writers had to jump in a number of different directions to stretch it out as long as possible. It went from invasion to colonization, to being about making super-soldiers, to now being about reverse engineering alien technology for weapons.

How They Screwed It Up: Length of time and not being able to bow out gracefully. The final episode of season 9 was a two-hour clip show that was supposed to explain the entire alien conspiracy and lead up to (what they hoped) would have been a second movie resolving the plot. That finale didn't explain anything very well, and then they made I Want to Believe, which as I said above, was a festering pile of shit that nobody wanted. An attempt at a third movie fell flat. Now that the show is back on TV, they're changing gears on the conspiracy all over again, and that's the problem.

How to Fix It: Simply put, give fans what they want: a final resolution. Go out with a bang. A massive alien invasion that is thwarted thanks to the work of Mulder and Scully. I'm not talking a huge Independence Day style conflict, but something that fits the tone of the series. It's getting tired and you lost 14 years of time playing footsies with the studio. Get it done. Mostly because...

5.) Find a New Conspiracy and a New Cast:

 You don't have to be an  Einstein  to come to this conclusion. (Get it? Hello? Is this thing on?)

You don't have to be an Einstein to come to this conclusion. (Get it? Hello? Is this thing on?)

The Problem: As I said, the alien conspiracy has been drawn out too long and it's taken over 25 years to get to this point. The main cast of the show is also not getting any younger, and other obligations are making doing further seasons harder. Rebooting the series is just a dumb idea. 

How This is a REAL Concern: The one thing that struck me about this new series is how old Duchovny and Anderson look. Seeing them as spry FBI agents (and Duchovny doing his all stunts no less) back in the 90s make them look even more haggard and useless now. They've aged, they look old and tired, worn out even. I'm not going to buy the fact that they can pull off half the things they managed in earlier seasons. 

How to Fix This: With the introduction of Agents Miller and Einstein, it looks like at least in terms of replacing Mulder and Scully, they appear to be working on this. Which is a good thing. Duchovny and Anderson are now very busy actors and want to do other things. Nostalgia is great, but this was a show they did when they were relative unknowns. It's time to pass the torch. Also in resolving the alien conspiracy, you get the closure that longtime fans want, Mulder and Scully reaching their ultimate goal: the truth. Aliens are not the be-all-end-all conspiracy out there, and putting new FBI agents into the X-Files with different motivations you could span another 10 seasons doing a long-running conspiracy on something else, peppered with the usual "monster of the week episodes". It can be a new starting off point for a new generation of fans and old fans can choose to bow out if they don't want to keep on following the journey.