Why I Still Love The X-Files

Photo: Fox
Photo: Fox

Chances are, you’ve had this experience:

You loved something (or someone) deeply, intensely. It was a part of your world, a part of your heart, so much a part of your daily life that you sort of forgot how special it was. You forgot to appreciate it. You forgot to be grateful for it.

And then, one day, it was gone.

Maybe it was a loved one. Someone who was central to your life, gone forever, whom you wished so hard you could see just one more time. Or maybe it was a place. A town that grew and changed, a home you lived in that has since been destroyed.

You thought you’d never see the person, the place, the thing, ever again.

We don’t know what we have until it’s gone.

And usually, that’s how it remains. The loved one who has left — or worse, died — doesn’t come back. The home town is never the same.

The show that you loved came to an end. Over. For good.

The memories live on only in memory.

Thus it was destined to be with The X-Files, a show I loved deeply during its first airing.

At least, that was its destiny … until it returned.

A second chance.

January 24, 2016, was a red-letter date on my calendar. Marked with a giant X: for the return of The X-Files, of course.

Was I excited? Oh, yes. Giddy I was, downright giddy with anticipation. I posted so much on Facebook about the show’s return that friends started mocking me (with love, of course, always with love). “I had no idea you were excited about this,” said one. “Hey Pam, I hear they are airing new episodes of The X-Files starting tonight. I remember you kind of liked the show so I thought I’d let you know,” said another.

So January 24 came along, and at 7 p.m. Pacific I was snuggled up under my new favorite blanket, everything I could possibly need for the next hour within arm’s reach. Ready.

And then of course there was that football thing, some game, it ran over into The X-Files‘ start time. It was unbearable, but it finally ended. The iconic X-Files theme music kicked in, and my heart fluttered. The (more or less) original opening filled the screen, and my grin spread from ear to ear.

I grinned through the whole show, joy in my heart, elation in my soul. The X-Files was back.

When the first episode was over, I posted on Facebook: “That was perfect. So happy.”

There were, of course, the naysayers, the people who watched the show just waiting to hate it. “The first episode is awful,” they said, “the second not much better.”

I ignored them.

Ours is a critical society. We snark and we criticize because it’s easier to hate than to love. I am sure there were people waiting with bated breath, hands at keyboards, ready to pounce. To find the slightest imperfections, the smallest inconsistencies, the littlest confirmations of a pre-decided opinion: the reboot can’t possibly be as good as the original. Prove me wrong. Though of course I won’t let you.

But I don’t believe in living that way.

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

When something you once loved, that you thought was gone forever, comes back, you have to savor every episode, every line, every look, every nod to the past, every moment.

Was it what I expected?

Here’s the thing: Anyone over the age of … well, let’s say twenty-five or thirty, raise your hand if who you are today is who you thought you would be ten years ago. If your life today is what you thought it would be.

I feel pretty confident there are no hands raised. (If you accurately predicted ten years ago what your life would be like today, then hat’s off to you.)

That’s how life goes.

When you’re twenty-five, the number of paths you could take to forty-five is infinite.

When you’re forty-five, the number of paths from twenty-five has been whittled down to one. Everything else you could have done, everything else you could have been, it’s nothing but the might-have-been.

Life takes us places we never expected.

Of all those infinite paths between the end of The X-Files Season 9 and the beginning of Season 10, of all the possible journeys the characters could have taken, the writers had to pick one. It’s not the same as living the journey. Living your path, each tiny choice leads to the next, moment to moment. It makes sense because we witness it as it unfolds.

But reviving a TV show means making all those choices at once. Do The X-Files‘ creators’ and writers’ choices make sense? To some they will, to some they won’t. Was the path they picked the one I would have picked? In the end, it doesn’t actually matter.

Fictional characters though they may be, I love that I can see in today’s Mulder and Scully the weight of their choices since we last saw them. They are not the people they were when we left them, and they shouldn’t be. But who they are is, nonetheless, believable. That tension of love and frustration, that deep commitment balanced by the need to protect their own boundaries, the walls they’ve built up because of or in spite of themselves and their lives. The struggles and the wondering: did I make the right decisions? Should I have taken another path? Everything I believed, everything I’ve fought for, everything I’ve devoted my life to, has it all been worth it? These are questions we all grapple with in our own (real) lives. Much to the credit of the creators, cast, and crew, these same questions feel real in the new X-Files universe.

And as to the fact that Mulder and Scully aren’t together anymore: just as with any of our own relationships, it’s complicated. As David Duchovny said in an interview, there’s not just chemistry between Mulder and Scully now; there’s history, too. Which makes it feel real.

Sure, there are the deviations from the original story, accompanied by unspoken requests from the creators that we play along.

But I saw Cigarette Smoking Man die. Like, not just sort of die, not just maybe die. He was decimated, eviscerated, destroyed in a fiery ball of very hot fiery fire.

You want to bring him back? You want me to ignore the fact that that’s basically impossible?

Okay. I want to believe. For you, Chris Carter, I will believe.

Is The X-Files exactly what it was before? Of course not.

Did Alice Walker not tell us that we can’t step in the same river twice?

Did Julie Andrews not remind us that nothing lasts forever; nothing ever could?

Critics can go on criticizing, tearing apart whatever there is to tear apart, judging mercilessly while occasionally deeming a moment or two worthy of praise.

Me, I’m going to savor.

You’re back. It’s been a long time. Are the things you remember the same things I remember? Are the things that were important to me the same things that were important to you? I know I’ve changed. How have you changed? Will I recognize you? Will you still love me? Will I still love you?

Nothing lasts forever; nothing ever could. The X-Files is back, but soon, too soon, it will be gone again. As I write this, there are only three episodes left; by the time it’s published there might be only two.

I loved it in its original day, and I love it now. Chris Carter, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, and all the others, too many to name, thank you.

Turns out the good shows stick with you, the characters (and the actors who played them, and the people who created it all) stay in your heart.

Even after all this time? 



Also published at my Huffington Post blog.

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  1. I accidentally stumbled upon your blog post. And although I don’t have a custom to write comments I just had to say this. This like I wrote it myself. I did the same ritual as you did and my hart jump with the first sound of the opening theme. I am so happy that they did this for us. If they were willing to film a new episode until the rest of my life, I would watch it. But, I will try not to be ungrateful and to enjoy this six episodes like they are not the last ones. Because, who knows, life is unpredictable, I (STILL) WANT TO BELIEVE!!!

  2. Thank you for this. You so eloquently wrote what I have been unable to express. (My love of XF runs deep and I just have so many feelings about the revival…it will take me forever to sort through.) This is perfect. Thank you.

  3. Couldn’t agree more, with all you said.

  4. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words. Scully and Mulder were such a part of my life and to have them back, even briefly, is so delightful! As you say, none of us are the same years later, but they are still them, still true to their characters and for that, I say thank you!

  5. Thank you, everyone! I am just overwhelmed at the kindness of everyone’s responses to my article. On Twitter and at the Huffington Post site and here on my own site, it’s like 99% positive, and even on Facebook the comments have been almost all positive, which seems rather incredible, given the reputation comments sections have!

    I think of this post as being as much about gratitude and life and the passing of time, as it is about The X-Files. I suppose the older I get, the more introspective I get, and the more aware of my own mortality, my own failings. I become more forgiving of others’ imperfections because I’m so acutely aware of my own, and I become more grateful for people who bring art into the world. A line I wish I’d written into my original post, after the thought that it’s easier to hate than to love, is that it’s easier to destroy than to create. I don’t claim to think that every episode of The X-Files is perfect, but I absolutely love and admire the efforts every time, even in my least favorite episodes. It takes so much courage to put so much time and energy into something and then put it out there into the world. Not everyone can do it, and doing it on a global scale, like The X-Files has, for literally potentially 7 billion people to critique, that’s hard. I am so grateful to people who have that courage.

    Anyway, thank you all again for being so great! I really appreciate your words, so much more than you know. I wish you all the best! And that you find your own truth, because, as we know … the truth is out there.

  6. Every Wednesday night (here in Australia) I’d join my brother and dad on the couch and in unison we’d intone “boop boop boop boop” in between the haunting whistley tune during the open credits. We never missed an episode. Like you I am absorbing every delicious minute of this precious gift we have been given. I was in awe and bliss during the first episode just at the fact they were there! And there was a BRAND NEW X FILES EPISODE!! During episode 2 I thought they really stepped it up. Episode 3 I laughed and thought it was one of the funnest and funniest episodes they’d ever created. And episode 4 was delicious and creepy, but I also felt a little sad when I realised there were only going to be 2 more shows.
    I’ve spent the last 4 or 5 months catching up on all the old episodes (still only half way through season 7!) and reloving them all. Except Tooms. He scared the bejeezus outta me. Those eyes! Those hideous yellow eyes while he licked the paper.
    I’m so glad you wrote this article. I’d hug you! I have read those articles and reviews by naysayers and critics in bewilderment and with some sadness, thinking “No. You don’t get it do you?”
    Thank you for your article! And I’m with you in sending a huge thank you and squishy smooch to Chris, Davo (purrrrr), Gillian (ah Scully! You made me realise how foxy us redheads can be!), Mitch (you sexy bald bugger) and old Smoky William B for coming back and pleasuring our minds and eyeballs again! xox

  7. I agree with everything you said! I am going to be so sad when the 6th show is over!