Thus began the return of ‘The X Files’ to our (British!) screens, after a fourteen year absence (barring the film). For me, it was a cause for celebration. ‘The X Files’ is one of my favourite TV shows. It was an enthralling mix of conspiracy theories, paranoia, aliens, horror, humour, and a will they/won’t they relationship between the two main characters. Mulder and Scully were heroes of my childhood. So I eagerly tuned in, with my nostalgia goggles set to ‘stun,’ to Channel 5 on Monday night…
Of course, like all long-running shows, it ran out of steam towards the end. The show became engrossed in its own mythology and struggled to escape it. Everything became contrived and repetitive. However, with this short ‘event’ series revival, I hoped that ‘The X Files’ would be given a definitive conclusion, rather than the lackadaisical finale we were given at the end of Season 9 (let’s forget the second film!). Unfortunately, the questionably titled ‘My Struggle’ (will they call it ‘Mein Kampf’ in Germany?!?!?) stuttered and stumbled to provide a reason for its existence. And I’m not sure it did provide a reason….
“They’re controlling the past to control the future”
After Mulder’s brief summary of what ‘The X Files’ is all about, for beginners and experienced X-Philes, the opening credits hit the screens. A wave of nostalgia flooded over me! Mark Snow’s haunting soundtrack, the clips of lightning, UFOs, and ghosts, a young Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny…it brought my right back to my childhood! The only alteration to the credits from the classic ones was the addition of Mitch Pileggi’s name. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and I prepared myself to love this episode. However, by the end, I simply shrugged and thought: ‘that was disappointing.’
After the credits, we see a UFO crash landing. It’s a good thing that we were given absolute proof of the existence of aliens throughout ‘My Struggle’, rather than trawl through the same attempts to find aliens that Mudler and Scully endured in the original X-Files. The CGI was pretty dodgy, both for the UFO crash landing and the subsequent alien being shot to death by the military, but that’s a small qualm. It seemed like things were getting off to a good start, until Mulder and Scully interacted…They looked barely interested in proceedings, or the boring exposition that came out of their mouths. There were a few touching moments between the two, and a few moments where they shared the same chemistry of the Mulder and Scully of old, but overall they seemed like they couldn’t care less about the story or their characters. That was but one of the problems this episode suffered from.
“They’ve re-opened the X-files…”
I could not have cared less for the story, either. Well, the part of the story where they retconned the entire mythology of ‘The X Files’ to paint ‘men’ as the over-arching bad guys. It’s now Mulder’s theory that nameless ‘men’ used the technology of the UFO found at the Roswell crash to subjugate the human race. These ‘men’ use ‘alien abductions’ to cover up their actions. However, Mulder accepts this theory after incredibly little proof, mind! At least he thought about things for more than a few minutes back in the day. Now he just blindly believes the words of an Alex Jones-eqsue conspiracy theorist called Ted O’Malley. Come on, Mulder has seen aliens and UFOs! He fought alien bounty hunters on submarines! Why would he simply ignore all of the evidence to the contrary? Evidence that he has witnessed?
From that point on, I gradually lost interest in ‘My Struggle.’ Coincidentally, Mulder’s new found belief did make Scully’s scepticism appear more valid than it often did. If only Gillian Anderson could muster some enthusiasm for everything! The only part that really stuck in my mind was when Mulder and Malley ran down their new ‘conspiracy theory.’ As an avid fan (but not believer!) of conspiracy theories, I smiled at the various references to FEMA prison camps, all-encompassing surveillance, 9/11 as a false flag event, the Patriot Act, etc! It started out as another boring act of exposition from Mulder, but as it got going and the exchange swapped between Mulder and Malley, it became rather riveting! Also, Mulder’s aside to Skinner earlier on in the episode that since 9/11, we sacrificed privacy for the sake of safety, but have been exposed to even more danger, felt all too true.
“It’s old news”
However, those small glimmers of the old ‘X-Files’ aside, ‘My Struggle’ tried to rely on nostalgia, rather than any inherent quality, to justify its existence. By turning the mythology on its axis, the story still left plenty of unanswered questions, and more new ones. All they’ve done is update it for the post 9/11 scene, where our privacy is constantly under threat in the name of security. The world of the early 90s was ripe for a programme like ‘The X-Files.’ Properly done, it could also be a programme for our times. However, it tried to do too much in too little time, and paradoxically felt rushed and pedestrian at the same time. If I wasn’t an X-Phile before this episode, I certainly wouldn’t want to tune in next time. But I’m sure I will, next Monday night…
VERDICT: 3/10: ‘The X-Files’ revival fell at its first hurdle. It neither justified its existence or gave sufficient reason for new and old viewers to tune in next time.