I’m not going to lie, undertaking the task of reviewing the new mini-series of The X-Files was a daunting ask. The show in its hey-day was a formative part of my teenage years, an obsession that has always lingered even long after the show finished. But I want to give it a go, I want to see how objective I can be about something that I’m so ferociously passionate and occasionally blinded about.
I know that many Australian fans were disappointed and upset that Channel Ten opted to delay the telecast by 6 days. Choosing to do this didn’t win them any brownie points with me but regardless I’ll still watch the episode again when it’s aired, even though I know the ads will annoy me. What will be most interesting to see though is how well, nostalgia aside, the show holds up and can it match some of the competing dramas we already have fighting for our viewing on the small screen? **Note there are some spoilers ahead**
“My Struggle” begins a little clunkily with a long-winded monologue of voice-over exposition thanks to Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) going on about conspiracy theories surrounding government cover ups of UFO sightings. The story itself doesn’t seem to centre on a fixed narrative, though the major focus is on Sveta (Annet Mahendru) a woman who claims she’s an alien abductee with alien DNA. But flitting in and out of this is Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) a conspiracy theorist with his own high ratings TV show determined to use his platform to blow the lid on the UFO conspiracies and Government coverups. O’Malley is convinced that Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) can bring their “expertise” to his claims and lo our two much older, and much more cynical protagonists end up back in the thick of it.
The fact that the episode doesn’t seem to fix on a particular problem or issue nor reveal what its motivation is until more than halfway into the episode is a little frustrating. The X-Files used to have some fantastic mysterious cold open scenes but this feels like a cold opening that lasts halfway into the episode. The pacing of the episode also feels far too rushed with only a couple of moments where we get to take a breath. And honestly what is the deal with that random date scenario between Scully and O’Malley? And why is Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) still only an Assistant Director? Surely he’d be the Director by now? And there is of course some of the obvious narrative beats at play here; Mulder thinks he’s on to something, Scully worries about him, Mulder thinks he has proof, Scully doesn’t believe him, shady parties come in and sweep it all away, Mulder and Scully end up frustrated but determined to keep trucking on.
Having show creator Chris Carter write and direct the episode is a fair good explanation as to why this feels a little convoluted, messy and sometimes wishy-washy. He always had a reputation for muddying his own waters when it came to mythology episodes. And the episode has a few of its own plotholes but I don’t really want to call them that just yet because this mythology episode connects with Episode 6 in the miniseries titled “My Struggle II” so there is still potential for some things to be revealed and for us to get some more answers.
That being said there is plenty here for fans of the show to enjoy and will tweak at those nostalgic heart strings. Time has not been kind to Mulder and Scully’s relationship and it’s now all kinds of awkward and strained. This may break some shipper hearts out there but as we all know, it’s the adversities they face that bring them together and by the end of the episode our pair are back to practically ending each other’s sentences. What was good to see was how they tackled the issue of time passing, both Mulder and Scully are world weary, Mulder so much so he’s basically become a hermit watching the world via his laptop, Scully focusing her energy on paediatric surgery. Both have moved on with their lives and left the X-Files behind.
But oddly it’s dialogue between old fan favourite AD Skinner saying to Mulder “Then do something about it” that lights the fire in Mulder and our hearts again, reminding us that what the X Files always stood for was that desire to find the truth and reveal it. One of the other great things about the revival is the advancement in visual effects, both physical and digital. Back in the show’s hey-day the effects were pretty state of the art, especially for TV but they do look a little dated on a rewatch. But now there are some truly beautiful sequences in this episode that incorporate both digital and physical set builds that make these things look pretty damn realistic. And surprisingly the flashback sequences aren’t a nuisance but are clever tie-ins to the conspiracy the pair are investigating.
The music courtesy of original score provider Mark Snow also makes a welcome moody return. The fact that they even used the original opening credit sequence with one tiny update on the “X” was also amazing. Then of course there’s the closing scene which will leave fans of the show both excited and puzzled at the return of the Cigarette Smoking Man (aka CSM aka CGB Spender played by William B Davis), since in the season 9 finale we saw him get blown up by some unmarked helicopters. But as has been said before on The X-Files, just because you die, doesn’t mean you’re actually dead.
All in all this initial first episode is a bit hit and miss, and it can leave old school fans a little confused and completely new viewers utterly perplexed. But I feel like we should give it the benefit of the doubt, firstly because this is really more of a two-part episode with potential answers to come, and secondly it’s at least more intriguing than that ridiculous “super soldier” myth-arc they had in seasons 8 and 9. The Mulder and Scully we’ve grown to love are still there too, as well as all the other things that made the show so good, like new spiffy visual effects and a great musical score. Maybe if we’re lucky having a couple of episodes from the other writers in between the book-end mythology ones will give The X-Files revival a little more oomph.
Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The X Files Season 10 mini-series Episode 1 will air in Australia on Channel Ten tonight at 8:30pm(ish). Episode 2 “Founders Mutation” will air in Australia on Channel Ten, Monday 1st February at 9:00pm