Fox has decided to renew X-Files, a series that aired its last episode over thirteen years ago, with a “six-episode event series” that begins this January. I don’t know what an “event series” is but I’m pretty excited. Of course, there’s a lot of new things to distrust the government about, so one has to wonder: from the burning temperature of jet fuel to the Facebook algorithm, what will the writers decide to focus on? I couldn’t help myself and made a listicle.
Aliens are Still Around, Kinda
I’m gonna go ahead and say that alien abductions don’t quite capture the public imagination like they did in the 90s. The reason for this is probably over-determined, but making an educated guess as to why greyskins levitating someone off their bed and out the window went from terrifying to hackneyed, would help us know what to avoid while making a compelling and interesting alien sub-plot.
Perhaps the uniformity of alien abductions makes them no longer eligible for Quality Television. Maybe it was the very first episode of South Park that signaled that it was a predictable trope. In any case I think the classic bright lights, big eyes sort of alien abduction could make a comeback if it were shot immaculately and had some sort of new spin on it. There needs to be a new and compelling reason for the abductions. You can also reimagine the sequence so that the victim isn’t always walking through the forest or sleeping in bed. I think the V/H/S 2 (2014) alien kidnapping is the way to go here.
UFO sightings are harder to make compelling for many reasons that I’ll get into later but one of the biggest hurdles is that the ability to capture so much has diluted the market in unexplainable events caught on tape. There are tons of “Best UFO Sightings 2013 Compilation” videos but so many of them are well-made but obvious fakes. What would it take to convince Mulder and Scully to investigate one of the hundreds of videos uploaded every year? Perhaps the conspicuous absence of video (nine minutes perhaps) would be more compelling than capturing what looks to be a flying saucer. Proof of aliens won’t be shocking and well-documented alien abductions, it’ll just be creepy holes in the digital record.
Slenderman is the closest the Internet has to a legendary folk creature, so naturally it would make sense that someone open an X File on it. Because Slenderman is from and of the Internet, so much about him is out of focus, glitchy, and full of static. A slenderman episode might be a great opportunity to push the genre and, like the X-Files did many times in its later seasons, bring in a guest director to do a feature episode. Bringing in Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli to do a found footage episode would be pretty fun. It’d have to be as least as good as X-Cops.
Slenderman is also suburban: hanging out in municipal parks, cul-de-sacs, and wherever bored teenagers can film their tallest friend in a suit with a sock on his head. It seems like a really appropriate story line give that the X-Files always played off of the same distinctly 90s paranormal of the mundane that also fueled shows like Unsolved mysteries and Sightings. Imagine an episode where kids are filming a slenderman episode but actually film something unexplainable? They’d bring in the Lone Gunman crew and dissect the video. Fun!
A Trip to a Data Center
“Scully, why is it that we don’t have a problem imagining a haunted Victorian mansion but these clean, modern buildings seem somehow immune to the supernatural?”
“I don’t know Mulder. Maybe because ghosts are manifestations of complex anxieties that don’t have a locatable subje–“
“Look, all ghost hunters agree that paranormal phenomena feed off of electrical energy. The largest server farm east of the Mississippi is practically an all you-can-eat buffet of EM waves. Think of it Scully, they’re probably getting second deserts.”
“I just think there’s a rational explanation for why photos of a dead girl are mistakenly showing up on other people’s profiles.”
Fox Mulder Tries Tinder
This doesn’t have to be the plot of an entire episode. But I think we can get a solid ten minutes of Emmy-nominated air time on this subject.
Capturing Creepy Stuff on Camera is Harder, Not Easier.
I really, really need a scene where Mulder is seen standing in line at a pharmacy, disposable camera in hand, waiting for someone to actually come over to the photo center. Maybe a nice old lady would walk up to him and say something about how she still likes to make photo albums and Mulder will say, “Yeah, this is the only way I can seem to hold onto photos.”
Nearly all photography is now taken on phones and those phones have internet connections. Mulder and Scully don’t have more tools at their disposal for capturing proof. They have less. Not only are we more skeptical of what we see on video, there’s also plenty of opportunities for the government to copy, monitor, and delete any photo available to the network. It would be a shame if they ignored this really complicated and relevant topic with an “I use Tor” throw-away line.
The X-Files had already run out of steam by 2001 but one of the final nails in the coffin was the nationalism immediately after 9/11. Suddenly, stories about government cover-ups and shadowy back-door deals was either in poor taste or too real to be entertaining. Today we might say the same is still true –perhaps even more true than ever before– but maybe that’s exactly why we need Mulder and Scully again.