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Non-Review Review: The X-Files – I Want to Believe

This January, to prepare for the release of the new six-part season of The X-Files, we’re wrapping up our coverage of the show, particularly handling the various odds and ends between the show’s last episode and the launch of the revival.

The plan was always to transition The X-Files from television to film, but fans change.

Following the success of The X-Files: Fight the Future, there had been some mumblings about the possibility of releasing a film in the summer of 2000. Given that The X-Files was a cultural property rooted in the nineties, it seemed like a big screen adventure would have been the perfect way to bring Mulder and Scully into the twenty-first century. After all, the original plan was that the show would retire in its seventh season. (The network even had a bespoke successor selected in Chris Carter’s Harsh Realm.)

Gotta have faith...

Gotta have faith…

However, this was not to be. It turned out that Fight the Future represented the cultural peak of The X-Files, the moment of maximum pop culture saturation. Almost immediately upon the production team’s move to California at the start of the sixth season, the show’s rating began their slow (and then not so slow) decline. The seventh season was itself hampered by behind-the-scenes drama, with David Duchovny suing Chris Carter and Fox over syndication. At the same time, Fox’s “worst season ever” meant that the broadcast could not afford to cancel The X-Files.

So, understandably, the sequel to Fight the Future was postponed and put on the long-finger. As the show came to an end in its ninth season, the subject of a second X-Files feature film arose again. Still, there was a debate to be had about whether the world really wanted a second X-Files film. While the sixth and seventh seasons had slowly eroded the show’s popularity and appeal, the ninth completely collapsed it; through the combination of bad storytelling decisions and the broader shift in the political mood, The X-Files felt like a spent cultural force.

"Platonic", eh?

“Platonic”, eh?

Ultimately, that was not to be either. The production history of The X-Files: I Want to Believe often recalls the mythology at the heart of The X-Files, with the project constantly shifting and changing as outside forces intervene. I Want to Believe arrived in cinemas in July 2008, a full decade after Fight the Future and more than six years after the broadcast of The Truth. The finished product is radically different from what anybody might have imagined in the immediate aftermath of Fight the Future, its design often surreal and awkward.

If I Want to Believe would have been a strange choice for an X-Files film release in July 2000, it seemed downright perverse in July 2008.

The truth is out there. Way out there.

The truth is out there. Way out there.

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The X-Files – Alpha (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

After a couple of misfires in the first few seasons, The X-Files had most steered clear of “classic” monsters. The first season had struggled with werewolves and ghosts and cryptozoology in Shapes and Shadows and The Jersey Devil respectively. 3 had been the show’s first “true” vampire episode, and had ended up as a bit of a mess. Perhaps it indicated that The X-Files was not a show that did “traditional” monsters particularly well; or maybe it was just a sign that the creative team were still figuring out how to make the show.

There was some evidence that the show might have been getting better at this sort of thing. In the fourth season, Elegy had been a (mostly) effective traditional ghost story. In the fifth season, Bad Blood had demonstrated that it was possible to make a good episode of The X-Files about vampires. Perhaps it was time to try another werewolf story. After all, the budget on The X-Files was bigger than it had ever been. There would likely be no better time to tell a classic werewolf story. Sadly, Alpha is anything but a classic werewolf story.

Hungry like the wolf...

Hungry like the wolf…

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The X-Files – Revelations (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Religion, eh?

In the mid-nineties, religion was a very difficult subject to navigate on network television. The so-called “culture wars” were in full swing at the middle of the decade, with religious values serving as a particularly brutal battleground. Religion is a very thorny and contentious subject. As recently as 2012, more than 40% of polled Americans stated they would not vote for an atheist candidate in a presidential election. Pete Stark would admit to being an atheist in 2007, becoming the first self-identified atheist in the United States Congress.

Mulder's got a taste for adventure...

Mulder’s got a taste for adventure…

As a result, it is very difficult to have a meaningful and thoughtful conversation about it. “There’s a man that I work with – a friend – and usually I’m able to discuss these things with him… but not this,” Scully confesses at the end of the episode. While undoubtedly a comment on Mulder’s stubborn refusal to engage with Scully on the topic, it also feels like a commentary on the awkwardness of any public discussion about religious beliefs or values, which was prone to become highly charged and contentious.

The conventional wisdom was that you didn’t talk about religion at the dinner table. It wasn’t much easier on television. This puts Revelations in a very awkward position.

A bloody business...

A bloody business…

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Non-Review Review: X-Files – I Want to Believe

The title just about says it all. I want to believe in The X-Files. I want to believe in Mulder and Scully. I want to believe in Chris Carter. But I’m looking for proof. Proof that the franchise that held the entire world’s attention for a few minutes in the mid- to late-nineties still has some life in it. Proof that a ridiculous complicated and illogical and poorly written final few seasons on the air had not sucked the marrow entirely from the bones of a once unique pop cultural entity. So, what does the movie give me? Not concrete proof, but a little hint of faith. The film is not as bad as the final two years of the show. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it isn’t as good as the first five.

"X" doesn't mark the spot...

"X" doesn't mark the spot...

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