“The X-Files” hasn’t aged well


courtesy Fox

The show has recaptured its nostalgia but not its originality in the Fox reboot.

“The X-Files,” FOX’s seminal sci-fi hit, returned for its 10th season with its first batch of new episodes since it went off the air in 2002. As should be expected after a 14 year break, “The X-Files” finds itself stepping into a bold new world. This world is filled with modern concerns about technology and personal security, a fact the show makes us aware of by its first mention of the name “Edward Snowden.”

Creator Chris Carter reiterated this at the show’s premiere at MIPCOM in Cannes last October.

“It’s a perfect time to come back with ‘The X-Files’ considering global politics,” Carter said. “We’re trying to be honest with the changes dealing with digital technology: the capability of spying. Clearly we’re being spied on in the U.S.—or at least spying on you—and there seems to be no shame in it.”

While Carter sees our country’s current fervor over privacy as a fertile and welcoming atmosphere for his show, he may have been a bit overzealous. After nine seasons and two feature films (the last one released in 2008), Carter battered his show’s once gripping mythology into overwrought, confused paranoia pandering. As “The X-Files” enters its 10th season, it feels like just that: a show that’s been on the air for 10 seasons.

Opening with an episode entitled “My Struggle,” the show finds its two leads Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) broken up and no longer in the FBI. But they soon find themselves drawn back into the conspiracy that plagued them for so many years as an ultra conservative talk show host (Joel McHale) calls on them to help investigate the case of a woman who claims to have been abducted by aliens several times.

What follows is a convoluted storyline about aliens (but probably the government) abducting innocent people and harvesting them with what appear to be alien embryos (but are probably government experiments). This season’s purpose is clearly to tap into the current television trend of 90s nostalgia, Carter is successful with this approach. This storyline would have felt fresh in 1995, but after nine seasons and countless X-File knockoffs, it just doesn’t seem to be saying anything new.

While the show’s mythology may have grown old, Anderson and Duchovny are as strong as they’ve ever been. They step back into their iconic roles with impressive ease, even when the scripts force them to spit stilted, over-expository dialogue throughout its first hour. They’re also able to maintain chemistry, consistently cited as one of the show’s greatest strengths, that is as electric as it was when the show first aired.

Though the first episode busies itself with expanding the show’s overarching mythology, the second episode, “Founder’s Mutation,” presents Mulder and Scully with a self-contained case. In it, they investigate a series of genetic mutations in children that are possibly the work of the Department of Defense. It won’t rank among the show’s best standalone hours, but the episode, written by series veteran James Wong, does everything an episode of “The X-Files” should do in 2016. It’s unsettling, smart and just slightly unbelievable.

Title: “The X-Files”
Season debut: Jan. 24, 2016
Network: FOX
Rating: ★★★☆☆