The X-Files Revisited

The mid-Season Six two parter Two Fathers/One Son all but ended the six year central mystery of the show involving the alien conspiracy plotline. Despite the fact that the series finale was titled The Truth at the end of Season Nine, the whole truth was basically told in these two episodes (more on Season Nine later).

I am going to try to summarize what we learned in just these two episodes in as few words as possible:

In 1947 an alien ship crashed in Roswell—the first time the U.S. government became aware of the aliens. They salvaged an alien fetus. A group within the State Department formed to address this problem, and they spent twenty-five years collecting information on the alien’s plans. Bill Mulder and C.G.B. Spender (Smoking Man) were part of this group. By 1973, the group had learned that the aliens intended to colonize the Earth and by infecting humanity with a virus that would transform the species into a slave race (they learned only at the very end that people would become not slaves but host bodies for gestating aliens). The only true survivors would be those immune to the virus—alien-human hybrid clones.

The group realized—or were told—that the aliens needed their help to create the hybrids. The group voted on the following course of action: each member will give the aliens a family member, who will be one part lab rat, and one part collateral. The family member will be used as test subjects to create an alien-human hybrid, which will allow the family and the member of the secret group to be injected with the hybrid genes, thus ensuring their survival. The fact that the family members will still be alive, with the hope of being rejoined with their family after colonization in a presumably non-slave status, is the motivation for the members of the group to continue working on the project. What the group would get in return is the alien fetus, and the alien Colonist’s support in creating an alien-human hybrid that would allow themselves, their family, and perhaps countless others to survive colonization.

Bill Mulder was opposed to helping the Colonists. He proposed that the group chose to make a vaccine that will stop colonization. The group compromised with Mulder. They would agree to help the aliens create a hybrid—including giving up their family members (Smoking Man’s wife Cassandra Spender and Mulder’s daughter Samantha)—but stall the project until they could create a vaccine that would save everyone.

Fox Mulder describes the choice his father and the other’s faced: “stand and fight, or bow to the will of a fearsome enemy. Or to surrender—to yield and collaborate. To save themselves and stay their enemy’s hand. Men who believed that victory was the absence of defeat and survival the ultimate ideology… No matter what the sacrifice.”

On November 27, 1973, the family members were abducted by the Colonists. From that day on, the group became the Syndicate, and according to Smoking Man, they “no longer cleaved to any government agency.”

Twenty-five years later, the Syndicate’s doctors succeeded in creating a successful alien-human hybrid: Cassandra Spender. The project is over. Colonization can begin. The Syndicate members—now known as Elders—can be reunited with their families. But a rebel alien force has interceded. They are not going to allow the Colonists to commit genocide just to reclaim the Earth for themselves. The Rebels destroy Cassandra, kill all the members of the Syndicate—except Smokey—and steal the Roswell fetus. According to Krycek: “The Rebels are going to win.”

That is all there is (I don’t think the later season added much to this story—but I have yet to see Season 8 and 9). My first impression, after my recent re-watch, is that this is a great science fiction story. Where else has the tantalizing but threadbare myth of the summer picnicker abducted by UFOs been dramatized to its fullest potential and most logical global conclusion? The perverse but very humane twist of turning the evil government conspirator “black hats” into reasonable human beings who make choices that maybe we all would have made is something the modern blockbuster usually tries and fails at (especially recent Trek films). Suddenly all of Smoking Man’s kills, even of Bill Mulder—the hero’s father—seem understandable, if not almost acceptable. The spinoff that The X-Files most called for was not Millennium or Lone Gunman, but the story of how those men of the post-WWII generation discovered the alien plot, decided to hide it from their own government, then had hubris enough that they thought they could play poker with an interstellar superpower and actually win. Smoking Man: “You can’t think these choices were made lightly. They were the most painful decisions of our lives. Watching our families’ faces…” That would be a great show.

Now, what does this mean for the upcoming new episodes?

First, I find in increasingly unlikely that that the six new episodes will deal exclusively with aliens. But there is the potential that they could dispense with the entire alien storyline by claiming, as Krycek predicted, that the Rebels won. The Colonist aliens don’t have to be punched out by Mulder and Scully like Will Smith in Independence Day. We can just be left to assume that the Rebels punched them out a million light years away. Over and done.

Also, in the 90s the UFO myth had a lot more cultural purchase than it does today. The mystery of it was enticing. We could more easily imagine that maybe that couple was abducted on the deserted road in the middle of the night. Today, when that couple and everyone else has a camera in their pocket, do we think that way anymore? Carl Sagan wrote about the UFO myth being culturally and historically specific to the 20th Century. Fifteen years into the 21st Century, I feel confident we are going to move on to other myths. And this still dovetails nicely with the X-Files mythology because according to the story, the abduction project stopped around 1999, when above episodes aired.

Finally, The X-Files was always ripe with social commentary, and the alien story was only ever a small part of that. (One big piece of commentary I never got until recently: There was a lot of significance in the 1990s in depicting a group of old white men from the post-WWII years making momentous decisions that affected the fate of all humanity, and the rightness or wrongness of their decisions.) I wonder what Chris Carter has in store for us when his new episodes air in 2016. The world is much weirder than some of Mulder’s X-Files, many of which now seem downright old fashioned. Can this show that prized its cultural commentary be updated, or will it play like a vintage throwback to a simpler time?

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