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The X-Files – Season 6 (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.

The sixth season of The X-Files is notable for many different reasons. It was the first season after the release of The X-Files: Fight the Future. It was the first season following the move to Los Angeles. It saw the “end” (at least nominally) of the show’s conspiracy mythology in the massive Two Fathers and One Son two-parter. It was the first season to begin closer to the end of the show’s nine-year run than to the beginning. It was also the first season to open past the hundred-episode mark.

That last landmark is important, because it marks the point at which The X-Files could effectively be sold into syndication. One hundred episodes meant that a network could air the show five nights a week for twenty weeks, filling up almost half a year’s worth of broadcasting slots. Reaching the one hundred episode mark meant that a show was a bona fides success, and that anything else was really just gravy on top. The bulk of the work had been done. The X-Files would be a rare prime-time drama to pass two hundred episodes.

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Of course, times have changed. By 2011, the number of episodes required for a syndication deal had slipped from one hundred to a mere eighty-eight, with the goal being four seasons of twenty-two episodes. (This trend happened while The X-Files was on the air, with the show dropping from twenty-four or twenty-five episodes in a season at the start of its run to twenty-two or twenty towards the end.) Even then, streaming has changed the media landscape, making it more possible than ever to syndicate show with shorter runs, like Community.

So syndication beckoned for The X-Files. In fact, syndication would pose no shortage of trouble for the show in the years ahead. During the seventh season, David Duchovny would file a lawsuit against Fox alleging that the company’s syndication policy had cost him financially. After the show went off the air, Carter would find himself embroiled in a similar lawsuit over syndication rights, delaying production of The X-Files: I Want to Believe. There are worse ways to argue that The X-Files was a victim of its own success than to look at the syndication of the show.

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Nevertheless, it was clear that The X-Files had accomplished everything that it could ever want by the start of the sixth season. Chris Carter had his five seasons and a movie. Fox had a show they could syndicate. David Duchovny had forced the production to move to Los Angeles so that he could spend time with his family. Although nobody knew it at the time, the fifth season secured the highest rankings that a season of The X-Files would enjoy in the Nielsen Ratings. So going into the sixth season of The X-Files, there was only one question hanging in the air.

What now?

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