HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. — The truth is out there. It’s just harder to find the drama. Or the reason why producers decided to cynically resurrect TheX-Files after more than two decades.
It’s difficult to determine watching the pilot whether the limited series will prove a worthwhile binge. Even though the premiere was shown at the IMAX theatre at the California Science Centre in the shadow of the space shuttle Endeavour and surrounded by stars from the show in a flashy North American debut.
I can tell you that the opener is plodding, tedious and borders on parody. Blowing it up on an IMAX screen just magnifies the flaws in this joyless, melancholic reunion.
Chris Carter’s groundbreaking Vancouver-shot show paired the fire of David Duchovny and ice of Gillian Anderson as a pair of investigators examining alien sightings and the paranormal.
When the FOX show debuted, it tapped into a distrustful generation, examining conspiracy theories that railed against big, secretive government and the erosion of manifest destiny.
But in this day and age of WikiLeaks, of conspiracy theorists gone mainstream, where armed anti-government militia occupy wildlife refuges in Oregon and a plethora of shows aimed at the supernatural, the new X-Files seems dated, even though the stars have aged remarkably well. The six-part series begins Jan 24 on CTV.
“I think there’s an argument to be made that we are more relevant now that there are hundreds of conspiracy sites out there and some of the stuff is pretty chilling about what the possibilities are,” Carter told the Star.
Vancouver, the home of the original show was also part of the X-Files DNA and Carter said returning to shoot the new series was a” really sweet” experience.
“Talk about putting the band back together. This was our chance to have some of the same great crew — we even had Gillian’s old stunt double in there — and it was really amazing to be able to do that,” said Carter. “For me, as you get older, you look for the continuity in your life and this was a chance to reflect on that.”
In terms of continuity, part of the charm of the original X-Files was in the chemistry between the two leads.
Duchovny as Agent Mulder was the believer, playing off Scully’s cool skepticism. But in the pilot, the dialogue between the two, while meant to bring new viewers up to speed, seems more attuned to a Saturday Night Live skit.
“The truth is out there, Scully,” says Mulder for the umpteenth time, echoing the sentiments pasted on the tubs of movie theatre popcorn.
“You so badly want to believe, Mulder,” replies Scully.
And so on.
The X-Files writers’ room was legendary, nurturing the careers of Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) and Howard Gordon (Homeland). It needed their magic.
The new version features a woman (played by Annet Mahendru of The Americans) who says she is being abducted by aliens. This reunites Mulder and Scully with their former boss Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and the hunt is on. But the plot helmed by Carter could have used some Gilligan and Gordon pixie dust.
Carter insists the show isn’t about doing a “victory lap” but a fresh take on a familiar and beloved show. Fox executives told critics here that they would be happy to see the series have another season, dependent on the schedules of the busy stars.
“This is a surreal experience that I’m standing here, 24 years later after I wrote the pilot,” Carter said at the science centre.
Duchovny and Anderson were catapulted into fame by the series. But despite the overwhelming popularity it brought, they both said it took them years to process and embrace what the show had done for their careers.
“It took me a decade to properly appreciate the opportunity that I had and how fortunate I was to play such an iconic character in a show that was iconic itself. I was very lucky and it suddenly hit me some time later,” Anderson said at the Television Critics Association.
“It took a while to recognize it as the gift that it is,” said Duchovny “That’s why we’re so comfortable with coming back now.”