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The truth is right here: what The X-Files must do to find its way

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in The X-Files.
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in The X-Files. Photograph: Fox

Well, that’s it. Once this season of The X-Files is over, Dana Scully is no more. Gillian Anderson has decided that it’s finally time to retire a character who has loomed over her career since 1993, when she was but the wee age of 24. “I’ve done this now for decades,” she said on a recent press tour, “and it’s time for me to hang up Scully’s hat.” Scully’s frustrating lack of an actual hat notwithstanding, after 25 years chasing ghouls, aliens and Giovanni Ribisi, you have to agree that both Anderson and Scully probably deserve a bit of a sit down.

X-Files creator Chris Carter, however, believes there are more truths out there, waiting to be disinterred. He has suggested that the show could continue without Anderson. He’s right; it could. The series spluttered along without David Duchovny for a while, towards the trumpet-end of its original run. Without Anderson, Fox Mulder could embark upon investigations into the icky with a fresh-faced new partner – last season’s introduction, Agent Liz Einstein, perhaps. She is a red-headed FBI agent, medical doctor and sceptic. Which definitely sounds oddly familiar. With the sceptic/believer dynamic restored, X-Files Version 1.5 could work out fine. But this isn’t the direction the show should take. It needs to be bold. If Anderson leaves, the only way to ensure any longevity is to rip the whole thing up and start again. At the risk of using a dirty word, The X-Files is in dire need of a reboot.

The X-Files: should we say goodbye to Mulder and Scully?
The X-Files: should we say goodbye to Mulder and Scully? Photograph: Fox

The current series – on Channel 5 – is, sadly, proof of this. One of the many problems it has is that it is forced to wade through 25 years of turgid backstory before we can get to the scary “monster of the week” episodes that people actually want to see. This series couldn’t just dive straight into ghosts and Flukeworm Men and cool things like that. First it had to deal with Mulder and Scully’s long-lost child, who is also magic or psychic or something; the Cigarette Smoking Man’s plan to end the world; and the fact the aliens are no longer coming to settle on Earth because of important alien reasons. It also had to deal with the fact the Smoking Man is in fact the father of Mulder and Scully’s child, as well as being Mulder’s father, so the child who Mulder thinks of as his son is actually his brother, which sort of makes Scully his mother-in-law. There’s more. There was also the return of Monica Reyes; The Lone Gunman being dead; Deep Throat’s grave; and The X-Files’ closure and re-opening, all the while trying for the life of you to remember why Mulder and Scully are being such utter meany-pants douchebags to Skinner. It’s baffling.

Then, after all this lumpen mythological housekeeping, the show has to somehow shoehorn Mulder and Scully back into the very same jobs they held a quarter of a century ago: namely, hanging around in an FBI basement solving exciting ghost-crimes. This whole restore-to-defaults process is both brain-frazzling and insultingly daft. Worst of all, it is as boring as a dentist’s waiting-room magazine shelf. Just get to the stretchy men who ooze out of peoples’ plumbing already. Nobody cares about Mulder’s bloody sister any more.

Keeping Mulder around after Anderson’s departure would keep the current stupid, boring, outdated mythology alive, when it should have gone the way of Old Yeller at the turn of the millennium. Getting rid of them both – allowing the show to begin anew – would mean Chris Carter could come up with a new conspiracy. I’m a huge fan of Duchovny and Anderson, but the show would be better off without both. In the long term, a clean slate is the only thing that makes sense.

There is certainly a gap in the market for a new X-Files, now that “monster of the week” shows like Fringe and Sleepy Hollow have come to a close. New monsters. A new post-truth conspiracy. A new start. Two young, wet-behind-the-ears FBI whippersnappers chasing and being chased by all manner of foul beasties week on week, all the while being sucked into a mottled conspiracy involving lots of running and superb explosions? Yes please. The X-Files should make the difficult, correct choice.

  • The X Files continues on Channel 5 at 9pm on Mondays
This article titled "The truth is right here: what The X-Files must do to find its way" was written by Luke Holland, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 13 February 2018 01.18pm

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