The X-Files is almost ready to return to our televisions yet again, but in all fairness, audiences don’t really seem as enthusiastic about
this as we did when season ten brought the show back from the dead.
As much as a reunion for Mulder and Scully seemed like a good idea, the pacing and story focus for season ten proved to be a tremendous let-down.
The big problem, by all accounts, is the amount of time that season ten spends worldbuilding, filling in plot gaps, and trying to explain away the past couple of decades of inactivity. All of this got in the way of the more important part of The X-Files – discovering creepy monsters in the classic “freak of the week” procedural formula.
According to Chris Carter, the original creator of The X-Files, all of the backstory and lore that was wrapped up in season ten was essential to getting people behind the idea of the show’s core cast reuniting:
“We [relaunched] from a standing start after not having been on the air for 12 years — there was some reacquainting that had to be achieved. It was like old friends getting back together. We had to shake some of the stiffness out. … I think that we’re all in fighting shape now.”
In retrospect, though, this “reacquainting” didn’t need to be such a big part of the show. A single episode could have done the job.
Take a look, for example, at Sherlock, and a show that took an admittedly much smaller break during which the lead character was “dead”. When Sherlock finally did return, there was a single episode dealing with years of emotional baggage, during which the lead characters continued to solve a bunch of fun mysteries as normal, working through their relationship issues in the background.
This kind of storytelling would have been far more satisfying for The X-Files season ten, as audiences would be provided with all the scary monsters we wanted to see, while also getting hints at the larger drama. Instead, the show focused far to closely on the actual machinations of the conspiracy that had been concocted to explain the revival.
The X-Files is supposed to be about subtle mystery – it would have been far more enjoyable for a lot of the backstory from the past couple of decades to stay secret for longer, as a mystery that we all had to unpack while watching, as Mulder and Scully got on with more traditional adventures.
When Chris Carter promises that all the awkward exposition is out of the way now, it’s hard to believe him. This guy made a conscious decision to feature so heavily on a slow, boring plot for the first season back, and if he wants to, he can do the same thing all over again.
Here’s hoping season eleven doesn’t end up being just as bogged down in tired mythology as season ten.