Long before The Walking Dead attacked basic cable ratings. Long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe made superheroes super fun. And long before LOST‘s flashbacks, flash forwards and sideways storytelling, sci-fi was complicated and cool. The X-Files made conspiracies, science fiction and Geek Culture mainstream and took it into the Top 20 of the TV ratings rat race in the ’90s. The spotlight shone brightly for the TV series as it collected awards and spun off two feature films (we’ll just forget The Lone Gunmen ever happened). But nostalgia can be a dangerous thing.
After four incredible seasons, the show dropped in quality as its stars hoped to move onto feature films and lost all credibility for the remaining five years before its inevitable conclusion… and then last year’s limited event series happened. Returning to a critically acclaimed property years past its prime can inevitably diminish a legacy, when it crashes and burns. In hopes of cashing in, FOX brought back The X-Files and overall, the ratings were incredible… but such as fool’s gold, you have to look under the surface in order to find the true value of the TV show.
Fox Mulder. Dana Scully. Both were great characters. Both had incredible story arcs throughout the years (surrounded by some very, very bad ones). At first, I was ecstatic that my favorite characters would return for more adventures (and possibly jumpstart their movie franchise). But after last year’s lousy limited event series, all hope has faded that Season 11 will fare any better, airing next year. Recent news has revealed that production begins this summer for another abbreviated season, as 10 more episodes will be filmed, but what happened to Chris Carter’s career? His writing and directing style feels ancient and plodding, almost like all his originality was left in the ’90s. Since the series’ soundstage doors originally closed, along came Wayward Pines and Stranger Things, among others, which improved upon Carter’s original, spooky formula. Perhaps his return to the franchise was in response to the newcomer series’ success. Unfortunately, he failed to bring anything new to the show, recreating the failing storylines from the previous last three seasons, which were ultimately ignored by hardcore X-Philes.
Granted, not everyone returned to the series’ writers room last year. With Vince Gilligan filming Better Call Saul this summer, he’s no longer an option to return. What about Frank Spotnitz? Last year, he was filming Season 1 of The Man in the High Castle at the same time the reboot was being filmed (at one point the two series were only a block away from each other during filming in Vancouver). Maybe he can alter his schedule this time around. Howard Gordon? Previously a producer of 24, 24: Live Another Day and 24: Legacy, he and Alex Gansa have been occupied with their TV series, Homeland, so they’re probably out, too. That leaves all the pressure in the world for Glen Morgan and James Wong, whose episodes were the only ones to write home about last year. Throughout different seasons, Morgan and Wong have created some of the most memorable episodes, but it’s Darin Morgan (Glen’s brother) who had the lone standout episode throughout the event series.
It’s become clear that Chris Carter was the reason the “event” season felt like a letdown. The three episodes written and directed by him felt outdated and had terrible story mechanics. All the others were more successful. What’s wrong with bringing in guest writers and directors that have previously worked with Carter throughout the series’ run? Can’t be any worse that what happened last year. Someone at FOX needs to reconsider his control of the series, or it’ll crash and burn, once more, the second time around.
There’s plenty of paranoia and still some unsolved mysteries to discover within The X-Files Universe, but the fan service (along with last year’s ridiculous cliffhanger) have got to be retconned — along with multiple plot holes — for this fan to be excited for Season 11. I’m dying for my all-time favorite TV show to return to relevance once more, I just don’t see it happening anytime soon. A change in leadership is necessary for the show, otherwise, Carter’s back to his “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Sadly, the series has been broken for a long time, now. He must have been hiding within a UFO in outer space, afraid to admit it.
Until then, let’s get Back to Frank Black!