We’ve been engaged in a rewatching of The X-Files here at Stately Beat Manor for the last few months and wow, does it hold up. Not only does it hold up, but it totally points the way forward to today’s golden age of television with superior acting, writing and production that strove to look different and not homogeneous. As great as a show like The Rockford Files or Cheers was, they were based on a template of how a TV show should act and move. The X-Files made its own template and changed the way everything would be done afterwards. Although Twin Peaks may have been the first show that truly broke the mold, it was also a victim of its own success. Chris Carter—and his crew of future show runners including Vince Gilligan—was able to stand out while keeping an audience on the always panicky fledgling Fox Network.
Aside from a few shoulder pads here and there and the lack of cel phones, The X-Files is as fresh and immediate as the day it aired. Many of the real life dangers it wove into conspiracies are just as threatening now; many of the mysteries just as unsolved. The writing is brilliant (okay we’re only up to season three) and the characters of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are new archetypes of the internet world to come. Dialed in, sometimes detached by the sheer flood of information, armed with information along with a gun.
The X-Files grew up with the internet, with rabid fan groups on usenet, and the birth of serious “shipping” that not only matched the obvious ones—Scully and Mudler— but alternates like Krycek and Mulder. The Lone Gunmen—three oddballs who knew how to surf on UNIX— were the first internet nerds, and the show adopted as its signature color the acid green of the flashing cursors of the first home computer screen.
As for Scully and Mulder, while it was obvious that someday they would hook up, they also stood for the most egalitarian duo in pop culture since…The African Queen? Each with quirks and backstory, Mulder revelled in his weirdness and Scully, instead of running away from her giant trenchcoat and perfect red lipstick, made it the sign of a competent, inquisitive FBI agent who could take care of herself and those around her in scores of crazy situations.
The X-Files is truly in the Halloween and the TV hall of fame.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.