Another Case For Mulder And Scully
You've heard the news by now: The X-Files is coming back. Cue trumpets, fanfares and every character actor in America hurriedly calling their agent. The response to this news has been overwhelmingly positive, and there's clearly a hunger for new adventures for Mulder and Scully. But even for hardcore, watched-the-pilot-when-it-aired, bought-the-soundtrack album, disappointed-by-Goblins X-nerds who loved the show and are thrilled about its return, there are reasons to be nervous. Like Star Wars before the Disney buyout, The X-Files is a fantastic franchise creatively controlled by one man. And while Chris Carter is a frequently excellent screenwriter, the show's later years were characterised by dodgy storytelling decisions, a ridiculously tangled arc and a legitimately terrible final episode. So here are eight things we think the show needs to do to restore it to its best.
Make It Accessible
This is key. It's 2015. The last episode of this show aired 13 years ago, the last film seven and you probably didn't see that one. Worryingly, there are rumours that the new series is designed to provide closure to dangling plot threads. Not a good idea... This isn't Twin Peaks. That show has very specific characters and events that need to be referenced. The X-Files is different. It has a very open format and doesn't need to return to the convoluted arcs of the past. This new series shouldn't just be aimed at the faithful. It should appeal to those who only dipped in and out of the show before, if at all. To that end...
Enough With The Aliens!
UFOs and aliens are, sadly, tainted in X-Files lore. There's just too much backstory involved there now and 22 December, 2012 (the date that the nasty ETs planned to colonise Earth) has come and gone. Ignore or hand-wave that inconvenient truth away. If that story absolutely needs to be told, tell it in the IDW comics. Likewise, leave the Smoking Man in the past, and avoid Samantha at all costs. One of the few good things that the last film did was give Mulder some emotional closure, so let's just leave that there.
It Needs To Be Scary
At its core, The X-Files is a series of discrete horror movies, with only Mulder and Scully (or later, Doggett and Reyes) linking them. And at its best, it was terrifying. Remember the first time you saw "Squeeze"? Or "Home"? Or "Irresistible"? Do that again, Chris! Give us six hours of scary monsters, super creeps and spooky thrills. That doesn't mean the show has to be entirely episodic there's certainly room for an arc across the series. But one of the great pleasures of The X-Files was its sheer variety. That's what kept it on air for nine years. And unlike a movie, a series can go in many directions: supernatural chiller, body horror, paranoid thriller and more.
Keep It Real
In its prime The X-Files felt current and real. It placed monsters and weirdness in the mundanity of everyday America. So, acknowledge modern horrors (there are plenty of new ones to choose from, after all) and make the tone credible. Great though episodes like "Post Modern Prometheus" and "The Unnatural" were, something that removed from reality may be jarring with just six hours to play with. That said, don't forget the funny. At its best, this show was witty, and Mulder and Scully's sardonic responses to extreme scenarios were always amusing. There's no harm in gently acknowledging the absurdity of the situations they find themselves in.
Respect The Characters
Ditching the arc plot doesn't mean jettisoning everything about the past. Mulder and Scully are rich characters with a lot of layers and years of development behind them. Scully's catholicism, despite her rationality, Mulder's often barely concealed despair, the fact that they've both lost family members on this crusade... these are all things that add humanity to the characters, and make them more than just pop icons. Then there's the relationship. A lot of the show's initial appeal had to do with Duchovny and Anderson's undeniable chemistry and the inevitable will they/won't they quandary. Well, they did. That aspect is played out now and at the end of the last film Mulder and Scully are unequivocally an item. That was hard earned, so keep it as a subtle, but present thread. Not so much that it overwhelms the story (as it arguably did in "I Want To Believe") but a few gentle reminders here and there won't hurt.
Go Back To The FBI
The Bureau is at the heart of The X-Files, but Mulder or Scully no longer work for it. Still, they have a friend there in the form of redoubtable AD Skinner, who it would be a real pleasure to see again. Indeed, if you take the official comics as canon, then he is now Deputy Director. That would surely give him the power needed to bring Mulder and Scully back as freelance consultants.
The Write Stuff
The X-Files's writing team was excellent and it's hard to pick a best writer (though, personally, I will always hold Darin Morgan's four eccentric episodes as the absolute pinnacle of the show: "War Of The Coprophages"? "Humbug"? "Clyde Bruckman", "Jose Chung"... fantastic). It's to be hoped that as well as writing a couple himself, Carter picks up the phone and calls up season two stalwarts Glen Morgan and James Wong. Then there's Vince Gilligan, better known now for creating a little show called Breaking Bad. He penned 30 episodes of the original series, including the brilliant "Pusher" and "Drive" the instalment that introduced him to Bryan Cranston.
Don't Tie Everything Up At The End
David Duchovny has indicated that he has no time or inclination to play this role full-time again, and who can blame him? Likewise, Gillian Anderson's career has gone from strength to strength. Yet they clearly both have affection for these characters. If this season is a success, perhaps we could expect more further down the line. To that end I ask this, Mr Carter, please don't kill Mulder and Scully. Offing lead characters is an easy way to get headlines, but in something like The X-Files, it doesn't make a huge amount of sense. It closes down more opportunities than it creates and besides, we've seen too many supposedly dead characters return in this show for it ever to be 100% credible. Let Fox Mulder and Dana Scully live to shine torches and chase monsters and rudely hang up their phones without saying goodbye another day... And let's see them again in a couple of years. For more on top sci-fi TV shows like The X-Files, subscribe to SFX.