After the ‘War on Terror’: Is ‘The X-Files’ punching above its weight?

The long awaited tenth season of ‘the X-Files’ has arrived, but can it stand out in a world where many see elections as bought by the Wealthy? Tyler McNally examines.

After a fourteen year hiatus, FBI Special Agents Mulder & Scully are back and investigating the inexplicable. Even though the long awaited tenth season is set to be a mini series, it hasn’t impacted creator Chris Carter’s ability to create gripping drama and compelling story, but as the world changed after 9/11, can ‘the X-Files‘ maintain the allure it had before 2002?

I was a bit of a fan of the show, it was a source of constant wonder and intrigue that had me hooked in my teens. By the time the show stopped airing in May 2002, it had gone from being a cult show to becoming a piece of popular culture. After the boom in conspiracy theories after 9/11, it’s no surprise that the show’s main story arch of government elements conspiring with others to control humanity, cemented its place in popular culture as the world moved beyond the Cold War, into an era yet to be defined by perpetual war, mass surveillance and corporate dominance.


David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson reprise their roles as Special Agents Mulder & Scully

At first glance, the show looks like it hasn’t skipped a beat since 2002 with many of the old stalwarts returning to reprise their roles in the series and just to show that it has kept up with the times, there are references to 9/11, the NSA and Edward Snowden. It even begins with a disheveled Mulder slumped over a laptop that has sticky tape over the webcam, clearly no opportunity wasted as writers try to fit the dark and mysterious world of ‘the X-Files’ into the confines of our modern world.

And this is where things start to unravel, the new series starts with a story about alien abduction and UFOs, a classic storyline which runs into a ditch when the story develops to the point of humans creating Alien Replica Vehicles (ARVS.) This doesn’t inspire any fear or intrigue when the US Military is armed to the teeth with Predator Drones and domestic use of weaponised drones is allowed in states like North Dakota. These stories captivated people who lived in the period after the Cold War, when there wasn’t a clear ‘Big Bad’ and there was a space for a narrative of the paranormal and alien, a space that crossed political ideologies and held no allegiances, a space that is now occupied by a seemingly never ending list of anti intellectual conspiracy theories that have taken hold of a far larger social base than ever before, particularly after the financial crash of 2008 and the growth of social media.

You would be forgiven for thinking that this large base would be fertile ground for a series like ‘the X-Files‘, with its honest procedural method and scepticism minus ridicule. It probably will continue to attract a large audience, but the popularised notion of faceless elites controlling global finance or poisoning our air with ‘chemtrails’ leave the show in a difficult position. The Smoking Man is back as the main antagonist for the series, the Mr Rabbit of the 90s, he was menacing, devious and now looks like someone lifted from the slew of Bond villains who were discontinued when the Cold War ended. As ‘Utopia‘ nailed the idea of the 21st Century ‘Big Bad,’ it feels like ‘the X-Files‘ is playing catch up.

It will be interesting to see how the show deals with the realities of the new era it finds itself in. Now, information is more accessible than ever before for a growing number of people with the development of the internet. The same development of the internet that has triggered a crisis of profitability in the media, leading to huge cuts in Investigative Journalism, as publications struggle with lower budgets and shorter time-scales to prepare material. Meaning simply that information is readily available but often under scrutinised, either because there isn’t enough time to scrutinise it professionally, or publications fear a drop in advertising or sales. Since the last episode of ‘the X-Files‘ in 2002, there have been countless scandals, MP expenses, the NSA Prism programme, Wikileaks to name but a few and nothing has changed, whistle blowers end up seeking asylum in countries ruled by leaders that would make The Smoking Man turn green with envy.

Frankie Boyle

Negativity aside, it remains to be seen how the rest of this mini series will play out. I remain hopeful that Carter and the writers have created a string of episodes that, may not be as thrilling or sleuth-like in a world where the NSA can see all your ‘dick pics,’ as previous episodes but are entertaining as the first episode nonetheless. David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson do a great job of resurrecting the classic chemistry between Special Agents Mulder & Scully and fans are sure to enjoy the nostalgia of seeing them in action again.

Tyler is the Editor of The Last Round, you can follow him on Twitter