Why I still want to believe.
The X-Files revival finale is tonight. I never thought I would say that again in my lifetime. What has made the last six weeks so special is witnessing the outpouring of love, support, and loyalty from the X-Files fandom community. I am definitely not alone in my extreme gratitude for the chance to tag along in the adventures of Mulder and Scully once more. I have been very inspired by other fans tributes to the show so won’t miss this (potentially) last opportunity to share mine.
I first discovered the X-files in December 1998 — almost 20 years ago! That holiday break I happened upon a few re-runs and then rented the recently released ‘Fight The Future’ movie. I watched it three times in 24 hours. I was transfixed. I loved the depth of the plot, the conspiracy, the sci-fi, the action, and of course the legendary camaraderie between our two favorite FBI agents.
But after much reflection the past few months on my decades long affection for this show there are a few specifics that stand out:
1) Work Hard. One of my all time favorite quotes about work comes from The Last Lecture. In response to being asked how he received tenure a year earlier than other professors, Randy Pausch said “call me at my office at 10 o’clock on Friday night and I’ll tell you.” I remember reading that and thinking of X-Files S3E12 ‘War of the Coprophages’ which shows the typical Friday night for Mulder and Scully. He is off looking for UFOs and she is writing a submission for a medical journal. The passion they have for their work is addicting and all consuming. I wanted to be on their team because I knew they would never quit. The message was clear — no matter what you do in life, sacrifice and dedication are requirements for the opportunity to pursue your dreams.
2) Equals. At the time this didn’t seem revolutionary. As this was one of the first “adult” shows I watched I took for granted how the X-Files positioned the relationship between Mulder and Scully. They were very much the others equal in intellectual and physical capability. They both had strong, unwavering beliefs. Literally in almost every episode Scully respectfully dissented against Mulder’s perspective of events. And Mulder’s respect for Scully only grew more for her commitment to her ideals. I learned from the X-Files that it’s ok to have a distinct point of view and feel comfortable voicing it. Even today before some tough work meetings the scene from S4E24 ‘Gethesmane’ of Scully presenting in front of the section chiefs will flash in my mind and inspire my confidence. While I’m not sure if this has been proven, I have also loved reading about the ‘Scully effect’ — an increase in female interest in STEM careers due to their watching the show.
3) The Journey. At the heart of the show is this relentless pursuit of the truth. The truth about the existence of extraterrestrials. The truth of what happened to Mulder’s sister. The truth about anything that cannot be programmed, categorized, or easily referenced. I was always skeptical that we would ever get gratifying answers to these questions. And to some extent, as a viewer, you knew they would never live up to your expectations anway. So in that sense the journey was really the reward. The show was brilliant at posing questions with the subsequent exploration of possible explanations (I’m looking at you S3E20 ‘Jose Chung’s from Outer Space’.) It pushed my thinking on reading between the lines, challenging the status quo, and looking at alternative perspectives. While I will not be dedicating my career to fighting the future of potential alien colonization. I will be leveraging some of these learnings to fighting for a better future of existing Earth inhabitants.
In many ways the last six weeks have felt like a warping of the space-time continuum à la S6E4&5 ‘Dreamland I&II’ that is about to be reversed. Where I have found myself lost in a wave of nostalgia re-watching my favorite episodes. Still being scared to shut my eyes after the likes of ‘Tooms’, ‘Irresistible’, ‘Detour’ and ‘Home’. Getting insane feels from the end of ‘Closure’ and that incredible Moby song. And knowing without a doubt that when watching episodes like ‘Beyond the Sea’, ‘Duane Berry’, ‘Bad Blood’, ‘Post Modern Prometheus’, and ‘Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose’ you are watching some of the finest hours in storytelling of all time.
So with just a few hours left in this reprieve I want to express my sincere thanks to Chris Carter, Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny and everyone involved in the production of this show. I will be eternally grateful for the reminder of just how much I still want to believe.