Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Quick Refresher About The X-Files

  • The show began back in 1993 on FOX (not the Not-News channel but the one with The Simpsons on it).
  • The premise was a small office in the FBI investigating strange and unusual cases that would fall under its jurisdiction - murders, kidnappings, cases requiring forensics - but involved the unearthly: aliens and monsters.
  • The show relied on two main characters.  The lead investigator was Fox "Spooky" Mulder, the Believer who eagerly accepted many of the bizarre and unlikely theories each X-File case examined and who had uncovered the office stashed away and ignored by the Bureau as an embarrassment.  The newcomer investigator was Dana Scully, a medical examiner and a Skeptic who dismissed anything that couldn't be rationally explained.
  • The show balanced between following a story Arc - Mulder's quest through the X-Files to find his abducted sister who may have been taken by aliens (or by a government conspiracy) - and a Monster of the Week stand-alone (based on the show's spiritual predecessor Kolchak the Night Stalker).
  • The show came at a time when the cultural touchstones in America were changing.  Generation X - which grew up in the shadows of JFK and Watergate and waves of political and financial scandals - bought into the jaded message that people in power were covering up everything, but also bought into the optimism that there were heroes even within those halls of power trying to bring us The Truth (which was, as the tagline said, Out There).
  • The X-Files also benefited from having two likable actors as the leads: David Duchovny as Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Scully.
  • The X-Files also also benefited from having Mulder and Scully form a trust-based working relationship that bordered on Relationship (aka romance).  It's generally argued (there are a few who claim it came elsewhere) that the show is the origin of the word Relationshipper itself, which became known as 'Shipping.
  • This can't be overstated.  There had been other shows that gained fanbases around 'Shipping - Moonlighting was the prime example before the X-Files, and Star Trek itself had a version (but called Slash, which remained a low-key part of that series' cult fandom) - but with this show it became part of the show's broad appeal.  Fans tuned in to watch the Unresolved Sexual Tension - another phrase this show originated - between Mulder and Scully that played off archetypal narrative tropes usually seen in medieval Courtly Love stories.
  • 'Shipping characters to each other is older than television.  As references, try reading up on the fan reactions to Little Women or Ivanhoe when those novels first came out.
  • Into this milieu, I arrived.  A fan of the show since the first season - I honestly didn't know about it, but had turned on the TV during the second episode involving top secret Air Force UFOs and got hooked because I remain a UFO enthusiast - I picked up on the relationship vibe and regularly joked, referenced, and examined the signs on the Usenet forum
  • In Season Five, I decided to start recapping episodes with some snark, and after a particular comment was made I went for a quiz-based multiple choice Survey method.  I labeled it Senseless 'Shipper Surveys.
  • I posted them first on the Usenet, and then later added them to a bought website domain.  I tended to get good responses and snarky replies.
  • I kept up with it until well into Season Eight.  When Season Nine had Mulder go into hiding and Scully semi-retired to teach at Quantico, the show brought in replacement characters in Doggett and Reyes.  No knock on their actors - Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish - but without the original characters Mulder and Scully and their emotional bonding, the show lost pretty much everybody.  By that point, the alien Arc storyline had become tiresome (and it turned out the show's producer Chris Carter never had a real solution, which pissed off the base) and they pretty much called it quits.
  • The paranoia of the Nineties, meanwhile, gave way to the brutal realities of the new Millennium with the War on Terror, during which such skepticism wasn't palatable on the open market.
  • Interest in keeping up with the X-Files via movies died out, especially when the second movie had nothing to do with the alien Arc and was simply an overrated Monster of the Week plot.
  • However, a comic book series has been ongoing since 2008 by various publishers - currently Wildstorm and/or IDW - with moderate success.
  • Netflix rentals of the episodes has also been generating good numbers.
  • In a lot of ways, the X-Files remains a cultural milestone of the Nineties decade, much as Miami Vice was for the Eighties.
  • Interest in rebooting the series - or having Mulder and Scully return - had picked up in the past year, especially as Hollywood is more and more obsessed with going back and reviving shows that had success and a fanbase.  It helped that the lead actors - Duchovny and Anderson - have remained bankable names.
  • Given the various methods shows are being produced today - straight-to-download streaming, Internet sharing, what have you - and the lessening of the strict episode counts - shows can be produced with less than 22 episodes and now turn a profit - it was well within FOX's ability to order a six-episode series to fit the main leads' existing workload.
  • That means more episodes to write 'Shipper Surveys.
  • That means I needed to bring my Survey archive back from the dead.
  • Say hello to this blog.
  • Tomorrow I will post the pilot episode.

Time to break out this poster, boys and girls.

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