After a 14-year break, The X-Files is back on our TV screens, so it’s a good opportunity for this book to look back at the impact and influence of the nine seasons, that ran from 1993 to 2002.
First things first, The X-Files didn’t just suddenly appear from nowhere, as Muir notes it was produced in a period of what he calls “Pax America”, running from 1990 to 11th September 2001. This was when the Cold War had ended and instead of the external communist threat, there was a persistent fear and distrust of the US government, which was easily inflamed by the growing use and popularity of the Internet.
Certainly, paranormal subjects were nothing new to television; Muir lists such programmes as The Avengers (1961- 1968), which had John Steed, partnered with Emma Peel investigating unusual crimes. Chris Carter, the producer of The X-Files, admits he wanted to create a similar frisson of sexual attraction between the skeptical FBI agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and her believer colleague Fox Mulder (David Duchovny). Then, of course, there was the influence of The Twilight Zone anthology series; The Invaders that carried the theme of one man trying to stop THEM invading and Kolchak: The Night Stalker featuring another lone man fighting against our inability to accept there is more to life than rational science can explain.
It should also be mentioned that The X-Files came a decade after UFO enthusiasts resurrected the Roswell UFO crash case of 1947, and the theme of alien abductions became a hot topic, especially with the publication of horror writer Whitley Strieber’s Communion in 1987. Strieber famously introduced the concept of the alien anal probe, and others like Budd Hopkins and John E. Mack helped introduce the idea that literally millions of people were being abducted every year, as part of an alien hybrid breeding program, which was secretly supported by the US government to gain access to alien technology. In Britain, this helped boost the circulation of such magazines as Fortean Times and the launch of several newsstand UFO and paranormal publications. Into the mix was the fact that the 20th Century was coming to a close and there were many apocalyptic fears in circulation, including the Year 2000 problem (Millennium Bug), which feared computer systems would crash on 01 January 2000, causing death and destruction on a worldwide scale.
Feeding off and incorporating all these elements, The X-Files introduced a complex conspiracy arc to its storyline, that made us wonder and interrogate the monstrous corners of our collective psyche, at a time when we were insecure about our grip on reality.
Muir provides an informative and thoughtful guide to each season, the spin-off films and Chris Carter’s TV programmes that followed on from them. Other delights include an examination of different themes that The X-Files cover, from science and technology, serial killers, teenagers, monsters to Christianity and religion. He also provides a handy guide to the behind the scenes creation of the programme, the main characters and the rip-off shows that have tried to cash-in on its popularity.
THE X-FILES FAQ: ALL THAT’S LEFT TO KNOW ABOUT GLOBAL CONSPIRACY, ALIENS, LAZARUS SPECIES, AND MONSTERS OF THE WEEK / AUTHOR: JOHN KENNETH MUIR / PUBLISHER: APPLAUSE THEATRE & CINEMA BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: NOW