Just when you thought the American government couldn’t conspire to hide the alien-based truth any longer it turns out you were wrong and there are still a load more extraterrestrial twists to be uncovered. And so, over a decade after it ended The X-Files has been rebooted for six new episodes. A friend of mine was so excited about this that they rewatched the old episodes (all 200 of them) last year in order to prepare themselves for the new season. I can safely say they completely wasted their time. Spoilers, but no aliens, ensue.
And that was one of the biggest problems – there weren’t any aliens. Ok, so there were multiple flying saucers and we even saw a little grey man get shot but it turns out all that stuff that went on in those previous 200 odd episodes was just a cover up: a well-orchestrated government conspiracy to hide the advancement of the military-industrial complex (that has been using super, fuel-efficient alien technology for over fifty years) behind a smokescreen of alien invasion. Yup, all that stuff about aliens invading earth was just a cover-up to let rich, businessmen get away with making loads of money (it even turns out that the aliens came to earth to try and help us solve our problems but the nasty government men just shot and experimented on them instead). Hence, my friend not needing to rewatch all the old series as they were basically all invalidated. “I couldn’t call,” explains Mulder, “because this is going to sound crazy.” But I don’t think crazy is the right word, I think perhaps boring or cliché. Admittedly, it was a valiant effort by series creator Chris Carter to try to summarise the entirety of globalised, militarised, consumer capitalism in a few pithy sentences involving alien conspiracies but this could also be seen as a desperate attempt to make an old series appear modern and relevant.
But it wasn’t modern and relevant because the new episode was just like the old ones. Mulder, being the guy, takes the lead and does all the actiony stuff whilst Scully stands around looking like a harried, female stereotype. “I’m just the messenger,” she says at one point, admitting to her own nature as a convenient plot device for yet another white, male’s hero’s quest, except this time he’s middle-aged and a bit wrinklier (although, mysteriously, Gillian Anderson has appeared to reverse-aged – now that’s a real conspiracy). Meanwhile, Mulder and Scully spend a lot of time looking almost-meaningfully at one another but they’ve been doing this for so long that they’re dead behind the eyes now. As for the other characters, basically just bland cardboard cut-outs that occasionally spouted some relevant exposition.
I also ended up watching a bit of a later episode about some lizard person that shoots blood out of its eyes and can morph into a human. It was as the token, hackneyed trans sex worker spoke her few lines that I realised this series really is stuck in the 90s (a white, cis, male 90s that is). If The X-Files wants to get with the 21st century it could do with killing off its leads and introducing an interesting array of new characters who don’t plod around making the same mistakes and revealing the same prejudices that they did for the last 200 episodes. Oh, and as my friend rightly asked, why does Scully not have a desk? She works just as hard as Mulder, probably for half the pay (indeed Anderson was frequently paid less than Duchovny for her acting abilities), yet he’s the one that gets to sit on a fancy swivel chair at a desk with enough room for two. I think she might want to go find her truth elsewhere.