“The X-Files” has always been set in our present, but right now its future looks incredibly uncertain.
The logic, as it’s been laid out in numerous reports over the last few months (beginning as early as last October), has been pretty simple:
Star Gillian Anderson says (many times) she is done playing Agent Dana Scully after this season.
Creator Chris Carter says that to him, “The X-Files” is the story of Mulder and Scully, as played by David Duchovny and Anderson. As Carter said during a recent Reddit AMA, “the idea of doing the show without [Anderson] isn’t something I’ve ever had to consider.”
Ergo, logic holds that unless Fox decides to proceed without Carter (something they’ve shown no interest in doing), this would be the last season of “The X-Files.” At least, that’s how Fox Television Group CEO Dana Walden put it on stage at the Television Critics Association press tour Thursday: “It seems like if those are the circumstances, there won’t be any more ‘X-Files.'”
That said, whether “The X-Files” might ever come back isn’t set in stone — and if the thought of it never returning terrifies you, here are a few reasons to let go of that worry.
1) We’ve Heard This Before
Following Thursday’s TCA panel, Fox’s Gary Newman told reporters that on the Fox side, there hasn’t yet been “a single conversation” about the show continuing beyond Season 11 (or “Chapter 2 of the Event Series,” if you want to go along with Fox’s label for the series on the press site).
In addition, he mentioned that while Anderson and Carter have both made their statements on the future of the show, “You could’ve asked [Carter], [Duchovny], and Gillian [Anderson] at various times since the show originally premiered whether they would do more, and some days you’d get a ‘yes’, some days you’d get a ‘no.’ I would not exclude the possibility that there would be more… But It’s too early to even speculate.”
As Newman mentioned, stories about the “X-Files” team’s interest in coming back to the franchise have waxed and waned over the 15 years since the show’s initial end in 2002. Actually, if you count Duchovny’s decision to “leave” the show at the end of Season 7, then return for limited appearances in Seasons 8 and 9, the saga of the three principals remaining involved has been going on for decades.
2) The Show Doesn’t Really Fit With the Modern TV Landscape
It’s a testament to both the quality of the show’s earlier years and an indicator of how television is changed that at its height in the mid-90s, “The X-Files” wasn’t just a popular hit but a major awards player. That included winning five Golden Globes (including Best Drama, Best Actor, and Best Actress in 1996) and three Emmys (including a trophy for Gillian Anderson in 1997).
And today, “The X-Files” still feels like a prestige TV drama…a prestige TV drama made in 1997. When IndieWire reviewed the first five episodes of the season, we observed that while Episode 1, “My Struggle III” was not great (our grade for the individual episode was a C-). However, the following four episodes did a nice job of spotlighting Duchovny and Anderson’s on-screen chemistry and the fun of the show’s most common and popular storytelling format: Smart people investigating weird crimes every week, a format that worked well 20 years ago and still on a week-by-week basis works reasonably well now.
Carter has always been very clear, with the show’s current reincarnation, about wanting to produce a show that resembles the original series, even emphasizing the hiring of original writers and directors to work on the new installments. And while it’s true that Season 11 does feel in keeping with that, that also means that it simply isn’t in alignment with current industry tastes — making it a delightful throwback, but not a series that stands up against the revolutionary storytelling happening across hundreds of shows today.
After 218 episodes and two movies (the large majority of which do feature Mulder and Scully together, solving supernatural crime), that might honestly be enough.
(Though, hey, if you’re craving an additional fix, you can also hear Anderson and Duchovny perform new audio plays courtesy of Audible.)
3) No Media Property Really Ever Stays Dead These Days
This one might be a stretch, but the fact remains that with the currently looming acquisition of 20th Century Fox TV by Disney, the executives who always insisted that there was no “X-Files” without Chris Carter and his stars may no longer be in control of this particular piece of intellectual property in two years.
The number of story worlds that will be under the control of the Mouse House should that deal go through are pretty enormous, and already questions have begun to loom about what might happen to future Disney properties like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Planet of the Apes.” In this new media landscape, would it be possible to see “Star Wars”-esque reboots with new creators? There are no firm answers on this one yet. But if you talked to any “X-Files” fan in the summer of 2002, or after “I Want to Believe” came out, they were Scully-levels of skeptical as to seeing more.
That said, should we live in fear of “The X-Files: The Next Generation”? [Well, presuming you weren’t already, following the Season 10 introduction of two young partners working at the FBI, eager believer Agent Miller (Robbie Amell) and skeptical redhead Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose).] Perhaps, though while it could be a bastardization of the original, there’s a whole new generation of “Star Wars” fans right now that aren’t just in love with Luke, Leia, and Han, but also Rey, Finn, and Poe.
Ultimately, Anderson and Carter’s most recent statements could be the final word on what’s to come, but it’s always important to remember that the show’s tagline doesn’t promise that the truth is here. And “The X-Files” will likely always, now and forever, keep us guessing.
“The X-Files” Season 11 is currently airing Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox.