A recent issue of “Entertainment Weekly” featured a cover story about a reboot of “The X-Files” with the series’ original stars, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.
The news fills me with a mix of excitement and dread.
I was a late-comer to “The X-Files” in the 1990s, but once I was introduced to the series, I plunged into it like a scalpel in an alien autopsy.
As a kid, pre-“X-Files,” I had a particular fascination for all things unexplained.
I devoured books on UFOs and articles on Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, alien abductions, etc.
I was a big fan of the late Leonard Nimoy’s series “In Search of…” that explored the mysteries of the world.
“The X-Files,” with its combination of creepy, paranoid, funny and inventive plot twists, coupled with the witty repartee between Mulder and Scully, made for a great escape for one hour a week on Sunday nights.
I hesitate though to think about a reboot.
In many ways, “The X-Files” was a product of its time:
There were deepening divisions and a growing distrust about Washington, an uncertainty about the world as the school shootings in Columbine and the stand-off in Waco, Texas, dominated headlines and as the U.S. sought to redefine itself in the world after the end of the Cold War.
Somehow the show tapped into those uncertainties by presenting story lines that challenged your beliefs about the “known world” and your confidence in institutions like the government and schools.
Viewers could take a perverse pleasure in “The X-Files” as a safe outlet for these anxieties.
“The X-Files” was also just good, fun television.
The young Mulder as the believer in things mysterious and Scully as his skeptical science-grounded partner made for a terrific contrast and interplay of ideas.
Add a dose of simmering sexual tension (when will they ever get it on?!), conspiracy-laden plot lines (hello Cigarette-Smoking Man!) and some loveable but smart goofballs (The Lone Gunmen), and you had the equivalent of television potato chips: You kept coming back for more.
Part of the fun for me was getting on the phone with a friend immediately after an episode and trying to unravel what had just happened.
So, yes count me as a big fan.
But…the movies were an affront to all that the TV series had built. And, not to engage in ageism, but part of the appeal of the original was having the baby-faced (bordering on naïve), Scully and Mulder teaming up to uncover the truth.
I think Duchovny and Anderson have only matured in their acting chops, but will a series about mid-to-late career FBI agents investigating the paranormal in a modern age of Google, smartphones and social media be as engaging as the original, which was technologically in the Stone Age?
At a time of NSA spying and a pervasive cynicism about government, the kinds of bogeymen that were the signature of “The X-Files” would likely be overshadowed by real-life world events.
As excited as I would be by a reboot, and as much as I want to believe in it, it might just be best to X-out a reprise of this excellent TV series.