Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On The X-Files Revival...

By now you've heard the news: The X-Files are returning to Fox for a limited series. David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Chris Carter have signed up. Best of all, the City of Vancouver has been enlisted as the shooting venue for the episodes.

Longtime readers know how badly I wished the series never left Vancouver, with its moody atmospherics and deep pool of talent. The series lost something vital when it left Canada after Season Five, and that may have a lot to do with losing executive producer RW "Bob" Goodwin, the man on the floor who made the magic happen.

I was watching some episodes in Season Eight (read my epic post on the season here), specifically the episodes I had given the lowest ratings to. And it surprised me how well they've aged and how obvious the effort to recapture the magic of Vancouver was.

I was just telling my wife how I seemed to tune in with Season Seven at the time (aside from crapfests like 'First Person Shooter' and 'Fight Club'), how some of the mystical themes seemed to synch up with my life at the time. But I feel that it's aged quite badly, that all the comedy and high concept may have been novel at the time but now it just seems like they were squandering the show's hard-earned mystique. It's actually my least favorite season now.

Of course, disenchantment had happened the season before, a season I definitely did not appreciate at the time. But I didn't know then that the producers were struggling to keep their star engaged in those seasons, even after he unilaterally forced the entire operation to move to Los Angeles.

But aside from some of the really broad comedies ('Rain King', 'Aqua Mala', 'How the Ghosts Stole Christmas') and the paint-by-numbers eps ('The Beginning', 'Alpha') I think there's a lot of high-quality work in Season Six, even if the show seemed hellbent on running away from itself (it certainly seems to be the favorite of a lot of fans online).

As I've said, Season Eight is by far my favorite season of the LA years and the truest reflection of what the show might have been had there not been so much creative interference coming from outside the writers' room (hence the record nine Carter/Spotnitz Mythology episodes)

But it's the Vancouver era where the magic really lies (particularly seasons Two, Three and Five). Even the weaker episodes (and there are no shortage of those) retain a certain charm because the machine was so well-tuned, so efficient at telling compelling stories.

I'm of mixed feelings about this reboot, not because I don't have faith that the people involved can't still do excellent work, but because of my alienation from the world it is reincarnating into. No matter what goes on screen there will endless bitching on the Internet. I am going to do my best to tune the negativity out, as I've tried to do since, oh, Season Two (I'm still totally mystified by the bitching about the second XF movie, which to me was a classic 1994-vintage standalone, replete with a host of familiar 1013 faces).

But part of me wants it to remain an indelible part of another age, a better age. An age when everything didn't seem so totally fucked-up. It's the same impulse you get when an old band reunites. Part of you wants them to remain as a totem of another time, not this time. As much as I want to see some new material, I don't know if I want The X-Files to be a part of 2015.

Or I only want to see The X-Files if it exists to defy 2015, with its superficiality, narcissism and Balkanization. Certainly the show is more relevant than ever but it will also be reaching an audience to whom "conspiracy" is a four-letter word, thanks to incessant media conditioning. I've already seen Millennials bitching about The X-Files' distrust of government and corporate power. Sigh.

But maybe The X-Files will strike a nerve once more and make it cool again to question authority. Stranger things have happened.

UPDATE: Excellent interview with Chris Carter where he takes some of his critics head on.