The revival of The X-Files was surprising for a number of reasons – the fact it was made at all is perhaps at the top of that list. It was a gamble that ultimately paid off, despite the enormous logistical hill waiting to be climbed to bring a long-dormant television series back into primetime. Viewers everywhere still wanted to believe, and the show was a ratings hit for FOX worldwide. As everyone has no doubt already surmised, those ratings – in conjunction with the massive cliffhanger that descended on the audience like an unidentified flying object on a Midwestern farmer – mean the door is wide open for another six-week (or more) engagement with agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.
FOX is evidently game to continue whispering sweet conspiratorial nothings into the ears of its viewership, while series creator Chris Carter also seems confident the adventures of the FBI’s spookiest agents are far from over. While nothing has been officially announced, such eagerness on behalf of the network and the man pulling the strings of so many fictional string-pullers bodes well for those who enjoyed the revival and want more. Such certainty also means it’s an opportune time to put together a wish list of things the series can include, change, or avoid, in order to make (the inevitable) season 11 a marked improvement over what was an entertaining, but largely uneven season 10.
Here’s what we would like to see in The X-Files season 11:
Let Mythology Episodes Usher in the Season’s End
One of the reasons season 10 felt as uneven as it did was due in part to the order of the episodes. The season began with a heavy, expository-laden hour that set up a massive “conspiracy of men” and also slightly tweaked the X-Files mythology to better reflect the concerns of the present. The way ‘My Struggle‘ was structured and the role it played in establishing – or reestablishing –Mulder and Scully’s personal circumstances meant it had to come first; otherwise the rest of the season wouldn’t make sense.
Necessity may have dictated the season’s beginnings, but it also made the transition from rickety, conspiracy-minded episode to a workmanlike monster-of-the-week installment about psychic children feel almost like two episodes from entirely different shows. The same is true of the transition from ‘Babylon‘ to ‘My Struggle II‘. Not only did the threat of the Spartan virus not have enough time to properly incubate, but the changeover from Mulder line dancing his achy breaky heart out to him avoiding Scully’s calls and generally looking like a piece of well-chewed meat was the second jarring example of why bookending the season with vaguely serialized mythology episodes was maybe not the right choice.
If season 11 does happen, one of the advantages it will have over season 10 will be the opportunity to rejigger the placement of core mythology episodes, and to hopefully create a more balanced season overall. Sure, the cliffhanger from ‘My Struggle II’ will have to be resolved first, but that will present Carter and the rest of The X-Files writers the perfect opportunity to make the transition from hard-core mythology episode to an everyday X-Files investigation (and vice-versa) a smoother one for the series and its audience.
Bring In More Writers (to help Carter)
Speaking of Chris Carter and his writers, The X-Files season 10 brought back series writing staples James Wong, and Glen and Darin Morgan. That was a stellar returning line-up, considering the series hadn’t been on the air since 2002. For season 11, it would be to the series’ distinct advantage to try and get more of the old gang back to pen future memorable episodes and take the burden of producing scripts and running the show off Carter’s shoulders.
The revival’s episodes written and directed by Carter were the three weakest offerings of the six-episode event. With two of the other three episodes being good-but-not great installments, the success-to-meh ratio leaves some room for improvement. Why not, then, call in some of the heavy hitters who cut their teeth in The X-Files writers’ room before going on to run their own successful shows? With a deep bench that once included the likes of Frank Spotniz, Howard Gordon, Alex Ganza, and, of course, Vince Gilligan, surely one of them can be persuaded to chip in a script, right?
As reassuring as it is to see The X-Files back in the hands of the creative team that knows it so well (i.e., the Morgans and James Wong), it would also be a real treat to see what other creators and notable TV writers have cooking away in the dark recesses of their brains. While the list is a long one, a quick rundown (no matter how far-fetched) of dream pinch hitters might include Bryan Fuller, Joss Whedon, Dan Harmon, Aaron Sorkin, Shawn Ryan, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields (The Americans), Elwood Reid (The Bridge), Kyle Killen (Awake) … the list goes on.
More Darin Morgan, Please
Another way to alleviate some of the pressure on Carter would be to shake an extra episode out of the guy who crafted the revival’s most memorable and downright entertaining hour, ‘Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster‘. That is, of course, writer and director Darin Morgan, who has achieved a certain level of television-writer deification for crafting out-of-the-box episodes, like ‘Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose’ and ‘Jose Chung’s From Outer Space‘.
Morgan’s season 10 offering may have been repurposed from an unproduced Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode, but it turned out to be a great fit for The X-Files, too. It doesn’t really matter what Morgan’s doing, he seems to find a way to inject offbeat, darkly comical insight into episodes that still feel wholly part of the universe Carter created. Moreover, both Anderson and Duchovny are at their best when they have a chance to be funny and laugh at themselves, as they so often do in Darin Morgan-penned episodes.
After The X-Files, Morgan proved he had the right stuff when he made an episode of the interminably bleak serial killer series Millennium into a humorous affair, bringing back Charles Nelson Reilly for ‘Jose Chung’s Doomsday Defense‘. Perhaps Morgan could find a way to revive another of Carter’s ’90s TV shows and have an X-Files/Millennium crossover episode that featured the return of Lance Henriksen’s Frank Black.
Bring on More Guest Stars
Kumail Nanjiani and Rhys Darby’s roles in ‘Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster’ were the ideal sort of guest appearances for the series. They both played an important part in the episode, but the hour wasn’t too showy about the fact that recognizable guest stars had been placed in supporting roles. In the past, The X-Files has played host to plenty of before-they-were-famous appearances from actors, like Seth Green, Jack Black, Ryan Reynolds, Giovanni Ribisi, Lucy Liu, and Shia LaBeouf – not to mention Breaking Bad alums Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and Dean Norris.
While those appearances are notable now, given the brevity of the revival season(s), there is something appealing about bringing on a familiar actor or performer who can spice up an episode by virtue of his or her appearance – something akin the abovementioned guest stars, or, say the unforgettable appearances of Jesse Ventura, Alex Trebek, or Michael McKean.
Make Season 11 a Seven or Eight-Episode Event
A six-episode season was a good test run, a proof of concept that a shorter event series could work. And while it certainly brought FOX the ratings the network was hoping for, the truncated season (in addition to the somewhat wonky arrangement of the episodes) fell short of being completely satisfying. Two episodes were clearly not enough for the new mythology to really take hold and develop into something special. Meanwhile, the four monster-of-the-week installments never managed to hit more than one out of the park.
Extending the season by one or two episodes would be ideal. It would give the mythology room to breathe and not have to cram in 200 episodes of backstory and a revisionist conspiracy into two hours. Additionally, there would be another chance for the one-off episodes to turn in something special. More isn’t always better, but in the case of The X-Files, it might be. Besides, if season 11 does get ordered, wouldn’t that just prove the point?
Don’t Let William Be the Poochie of The X-Files Universe
At the risk of causing countless ’90s kids’ heads to explode, let’s recall the lesson learned from ‘The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show’ and apply it to The X-Files. The season 8 episode of The Simpsons lampooned the tendency for long-running shows to introduce “hip” or “relevant” characters to the ongoing narrative as a way of enticing new (and more importantly, younger) viewers to tune in and help revitalize the sagging ratings of the show in question.
With so much of the revival’s emphasis put on Mulder and Scully’s son William, and the cliffhanger’s heavy hint that he will be a part of at least one future X-Files episode (unless Scully receives some stem cells via mysterious courier), there is cause for concern that the now-teenaged child could end up the sort of superfluous TV character nobody wants to see. The concern is further amplified by the current horrendous state of teen characters on TV dramas (outside of, say, American Crime and The Americans), wherein they act entirely unlike actual teenagers and exist only to cause needless drama and conflict for the protagonists (see: 24, Homeland seasons 1-3, and Tyrant).
Give Mulder Tad O’Malley’s Job
There is absolutely no reason for Fox Mulder to still be – much less want to be – employed by the FBI. Mulder was never really about being an FBI agent anyway. He was only in it for access to government information and having his travel expenses paid for by Joe and Jane Taxpayer. His quest was the Truth and nothing but the Truth; it had less to do with the law, so why does he still have to be an FBI agent when all the series really needs is Scully with a badge and a healthy dose of skepticism?
This would give Mulder’s crusade an actual audience of true believers (now that the Lone Gunmen are gone) and it would inevitably alter the dynamic between him and Scully in interesting ways. It would also give the series a reason to take place in 2016 beyond the belief the “Truth is still out there,” while making Mulder a potentially greater threat than ever, now that he has the eyes and ears of the American public (and presumably anyone with an Internet connection). People love conspiracies and those who help uncover them (this show wouldn’t exist if they didn’t) because they hint at some greater sense of order, or the idea that at least someone somewhere has it all figured out. If that rings true in the real world, wouldn’t it be fascinating to explore the ramifications of something similar in The X-Files Universe?
Putting Mulder at the center of the Internet conspiracy hype machine would give his crusade an intriguing update, but it would also give the series a new, stimulating reason to carry on in the present day. After all, the greatest purveyor of conspiracy and myth going today is the Internet itself, so it makes sense that Mulder would gravitate towards that.
Deadpool and The X-Files both fall under the Fox umbrella. Both properties exist in ‘X’-friendly universes. Might as well, right?
(*Yes, this is a joke and an excuse to Photoshop Deadpool into an image with Mulder and Scully.)
The X-Files season 10 was a mixed bag, but its return was something to celebrate nonetheless. If season 11 is going to happen (and by all accounts, it will), this wish list serves as the things that would not only be interesting to see, but also might make the show’s (second) return even better than before.
Screen Rant will have news for you regarding the return of The X-Files as it is made available.