The Return of THE X-FILES: Conspiracy Galore – But Where Have All the Aliens Gone…?

Posted: February 3, 2016 in (All Things) CULTURE, And Now... The Weird Stuff, TELEVISION
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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The arrival of the new mini-series of The X-Files, which will feed the nostalgia needs of millions of long-time fans of the series (myself included), has also been met by some scepticism from a few conspiracy enthusiasts who are viewing the return of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully as a CIA or ‘Illuminati’-backed enterprise to ‘soft break’ key information about real-world secret conspiracies…

Yet a few others, more naturally, claim the series is simply doing what it did in the past: revealing essentially true, real-world information via the ‘safe’ conduit of television fiction. I’d like to think there are also just as many people seeing it as just as TV series; just as fiction designed to entertain, albeit with some real-world facts and information also put to creative use.

The fact that the return of the classic series has evoked two similar-yet-very-different responses from the on-line conspiracy-enthusiasts community just shows that we live in a different climate in 2016 as compared to the series’ hey-day in the mid-to-late nineties. When I first heard about the new mini-series about year ago, I immediately wondered how a new round of Mulder and Scully shows would work in this contemporary landscape, both in terms of gritty, post-24  TV dramas and in terms of the preponderance of on-line conspiracy theory lore.

The X-Files  in fact hit its stride just as the Internet was spreading too; but although there were plenty of UFO-related websites and forums and conspiracy theory sites around even at that time, it was still a fairly niche thing back then and nothing like as widespread as it is now. And moreover, where The X-Files originally both tapped into and helped popularise a growing interest in UFOs, aliens and the supernatural, since 9/11 the majority of conspiracy-related material has shifted massively away from those areas and into more bread-and-butter (and more divisive) subjects involving mass surveillance, intelligence agencies, Geo-politics, terrorism, secret societies and mass societal issues.

There are already people suggesting the new series is somehow being pushed by shady, secret organisations, while others are saying the show is actually essentially still an anti-establishment enterprise carefully exposing important information. In reality – and Chris Carter has said this himself – the information in the new stories is mostly probably based on existing information and ideas that can be found all over the web, just as many of the concepts in the original X-Files  shows were inspired by existing parapsychological research and case studies and existing conspiracy-theory literature. The genius of The X-Files in its original run was that it helped bring those subjects and ideas to a more mainstream audience. It doesn’t need to do that anymore, however.

 
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In essence, what were once conspiracy theories have in many cases simply become a fact of the modern world, and what was once regarded as the ‘geeky’ realm of the ‘tinfoil hat’ brigade has now instead crossed over into the mainstream in a way that even Chris Carter probably couldn’t have anticipated back in the nineties.

Chris Carter, however, appears to be fully appreciative of that fact; and the new mini-series seems to be entirely attuned to that shift in which 1 in 3 Americans now believes 9/11 was an inside job. Still, it remains to be seen whether it’s a blessing or a curse for the new shows to try to flourish in a climate where the distinction between real-world conspiracy fact and conspiracy fiction is so blurred and where the Internet means that so much related information and theorising is already out there.

However, with The X-Files, the line between reality and fiction has always been pretty blurred at times. This is best illustrated by the now legendary Lone Gunmen  episode that seemed to pretty much predict 9/11 with eerie prescience.

And truthfully, one of my favorite old episodes of The X-Files  was precisely the kind of story that blurred the line between fact and fiction; specifically an episode called “Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man”, in which Mulder and Scully’s arch-enemy the ‘Cancer Man’ is revealed to have been the real shooter in the assassinations of both John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Interestingly, Gillian Anderson has recently suggested that the cancellation of The X-Files  years ago was a case of the FOX Network being unwilling to continue airing the series after 9/11 and the Patriot Act changed the climate in America drastically. In other words, ‘The Truth is Out There’ was not a slogan the Establishment in America wanted to still have in currency from 9/11 onward.

In a way, I tend to think what would be better is for the new series to not try to navigate or ride the contemporary, often right-wing, conspiracy theory landscape, but to instead retain the flavour of the early seasons: a return primarily to the paranormal, Ufology and in general the weirder things in life. This would be particularly useful right now, because popular interest in such subjects – which peaked massively during The X-Files  nineties’ hey-day – seems to have diminished a lot in recent years, giving way to a more sectarian, aggressive school of conspiracy-theory material that the earlier Fox Mulder probably wouldn’t approve of.

There seems to be little chance of that though. The opening episode already features a character thought to be an Alex Jones type ‘web-series’ host, with everything from the 9/11 false-flag, oil companies and planned genocide by the financial elite being discussed; but for nostalgists, there’s still also talk of the Roswell Incident, alien technology and free energy based on electro-magnetic fields.

From what spoilers I’ve been exposed to concerning the opening episode (which hasn’t aired yet here in the UK), it seems – rather annoyingly – that Fox Mulder has decided the aliens aren’t real and were never there, and that actually an evil organisation (the ‘Illuminati’ archetype in all but name) has been conducting a massive hoax the whole time, fabricating the entire alien/UFO/abduction phenomenon to confuse people while they carried out their own entirely human plot to overthrow the government and seize power. That sounds already like an awful and excessive ret-conning of essentially 10 seasons worth of stories: it undermines so much of the existing series that it is in danger of rendering it all irrelevant (which, in legacy terms, is suicide; even though, in fairness, this idea was actually hinted at once or twice in old episodes). Besides that, we actually SAW aliens in numerous old X-Files episodes, so unless Mulder and Scully were interacting with human actors in alien make-up the whole time, this new revamp really wouldn’t make sense.

 
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On the other hand, The X-Files  was always about twists and turns and sleights-of-hand and it’s possible this is a triple-bluff and that Chris Carter is simply playing games with the audience. Which wouldn’t be entirely unsurprising.

For the sake of the existing and substantial X-Files canon, I would hope it’s a case of the latter. Chris Carter has suggested he is taking influence from various contemporary conspiracy-theory purveyors and on-line content and trying to capture the contemporary climate; but that isn’t necessarily a great idea, as there is so much confused, conflicting and also spurious – not to mention highly biased and sectarian – information out there that you could end up in an undecipherable mess. At its best moments, The X-Files was crafting out its own ideas, using real-world source-information only as a springboard and not as a Bible.

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But it all remains to be seen. In the meantime, even if it’s primarily just my nostalgia coming to the fore, I’m glad The X-Files is back. You can never go too wrong with Mulder and Scully. Even though its quality peaked in and around the third and fourth seasons, I followed that series faithfully right through to the ninth year, even after David Duchovny had departed (and I was even one of the three people worldwide who bothered to watch the second spin-off movie in the cinema a few years ago).

By a happy coincidence, when The X-Files first came on the air, I had just finished reading Colin Wilson’s mammoth book The Supernatural  as a young teenager – a book that sparked my life-long interest in the paranormal and the mysterious side of life. I was thus perfectly primed for the groundbreaking weirdness that was to follow in the form of The X-Files – in which both hemispheres of the well-balanced, inquiring intellect were personified: Mulder as the questing seeker of hidden knowledge and Scully as the rational sceptic.

I may be slightly more jaded about such things now as the adult-in-a-kid’s-body I’ve vaguely grown into; but I hope Chris Carter isn’t, because the more fantastical side of The X-Files  was probably more endearing than what became a frustratingly convoluted and confused arc about the Illuminati-style secret society controlling the world. The core spirit of The X-Files  was best embodied in Mulder himself once saying; “When convention and science offer us no answers, might we not finally turn to the fantastic as a plausibility?” In regard to the new series potentially sweeping the rug out from beneath the old series, I tend to remember him also once complaining, “Why is it that every time I think I know the answers, someone goes and changes the questions?”

By the way, although it’s very old now, I still recommend Colin Wilson’s book ‘The Supernatural’ to anyone who wants a comprehensive, accessible and crucially *plausible* and sober introduction to the vast arena of real-world paranormal or parapsychological research and study. For a sceptic, that book really is a game-changer and a paradigm-shifter. Much like The X-Files itself went on to be.

 

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Comments
  1. joekano76 says:

    Reblogged this on TheFlippinTruth and commented:
    William Cooper did a similar about turn when it came to aliens, so perhaps the series is mirroring that.

    Liked by 1 person

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