Spoilers for The X-Files premiere episode, and mild spoilers for the second episode
The conclusion of Sunday night’s premiere X-Files reboot episode, My Struggle, saw so many conspiracy theories tied together in a messy package that it made me roll my eyes. There was mass government surveillance, chemtrails, alien fetal implantation, FEMA prison camps, false flag operations, the militarization of local police, the obesity epidemic and conspicuous consumerism, which were all presented as part of a mass conspiracy by a mysterious cabal to control the populace.
With so many conspiracy theories crammed into one, and especially with Joel McHale’s ridiculous Alex Jones-like conservative talk show host character, it came across as a kind of send up of the conspiracy culture. Scully is the straightwoman to this nonsense, and when she spoke out and called the mass conspiracy theories borderline treason I was reminded of all that’s good about the X-Files. It presents scary, creepy, supernatural and unbelievable events and then encourages us to doubt them. We never really know what’s true.
In a new interview with The Daily Beast, series creator Chris Carter addresses the inevitable criticism that he crammed too many conspiracies into the show. He also explains why now is the time for the X-Files to come back: Americans are doubting our government again after going through 9/11 and a couple of wars. I get the impression that Carter’s own belief system is not near as radical as Mulder’s or as pragmatic as Scully’s. He’s somewhere in between, and he skirts that with these two characters, the skeptic and the believer.
“I didn’t just throw everything but the kitchen sink in, you know,” [Chris Carter] says. “I really went through and chose the things that have some kernel of truth or, if not, some element of fear in them for everyone. It’s not just done carelessly, and it also does not necessarily represent my or the other producers’ point of view.”
In that way, he says, he shares Dana Scully’s philosophy. “I’m a skeptic by nature,” he says. “With this New World Order and with aliens and also the paranormal, you’ve got to prove it to me. That poster in Mulder’s office that says ‘I Want to Believe’ is pretty much my point of view. I wanna believe this stuff, but without proof or evidence, I’m reluctant.
“The show is really Scully’s show in the sense that science, real science, is the anchor,” he adds. “And if it weren’t for Scully, Mulder would just be a kook.”
“So many of the rights and liberties that we gave up willingly have been abused,” he says. “The government admits it’s spying on us—presumably for our own good, but this is a frightening thing. A lot of people my age recognize that there is a lot of potential for abuse. People give up their privacy so willingly now, believing that if you’ve got nothing to hide, why not, but without understanding that that could also lead you down the path to injustice, that what you say today could be used against you tomorrow. What you buy today could be used against you tomorrow.”
To Carter, the xenophobia and destructive rhetoric trumpeted by high-profile presidential candidates is a grim foreshadowing of the abuses of power inherent in Tad O’Malley’s vision of the future.
“When you get presidential candidates saying ‘just bomb the shit out of them’ or ‘don’t allow this group of people into the United States,’” Carter says, alluding to Donald Trump’s proposed anti-Muslim mandate, “it just suggests a kind of wholesale intolerance that could trickle down or filter down into all kinds of policy. So I think that whether we want to admit it or not, there is a sort of—not the Internet version, not the conspiracy site version—but there is a sort of possibility of a New World Order.”
I think there are definite privacy and security concerns for US citizens especially, but when it’s sensationalized so much and turned into some kind of unbelievable huge conspiracy it’s hard to take it seriously. Still, this is a show about aliens and we want to see aliens and creepiness and it delivers. I want it to be more humorous and light, but those episodes were few and far between in the original and supposedly that’s coming in episode three.
The second episode, which aired last night, was a capsule episode which felt particularly genuine to the original show. I don’t think they properly explained how Scully and Mulder were working together again so quickly but they definitely got back in the groove again. There were also “what might have been” dream montages from Scully and Mulder featuring their child, whom they gave up for adoption as an infant to protect him. (I never particularly liked that story arc and it felt like they had to close up loose ends.) The rest of the show was classic overwrought X-Files, but whether that stands the test of time or not is up to interpretation. I kind of loved it.
Anderson told The Daily Beast that she’s open to doing more episodes if the demand is there. Carter has a similar sentiment and said that “If the [show] does well now, I’m certain [Fox] would want more.” It feels so familiar to me and I would watch it every week as it is now, but I’m a very specific demographic.