The X-Files and the Science of Alien Conspiracy
My thougths on the authors’ recent retcon of their own mythos
By MARTIN REZNY
So I have started watching the rebooted The X-Files and even though I’m still enjoying the return of a classic as a long time fan, the new direction of the myth arc has left me troubled. If you haven’t watched the first episode of the tenth season yet, you should do so before reading any further. After you watch the rest of The X-Files first, that is, because there’s very little left unspoiled in the opening episode, possibly in multiple meanings of the word.
Have you watched it? Are you sure? Good. Apparently, it’s been a human conspiracy the whole time. With the 9/11 and the Bilderberg Group and everything. The immediate response that came to my mind while watching the excessive and blunt exposition of this, with Mulder finally joining the ranks of people listing things that can’t melt steel beams, was to ask “Seriously? That’s the best twist you were able to come up with?”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an American, so I don’t have the instant emotional overreaction to that traumatic event which would make me unable to calmly consider and discuss all of the theoretical possibilities that would still be consistent with some of the inconsistent witness accounts and expert opinions. My issue with this artistic choice is that it’s dumb, apart from being offensive to a whole lot of people. Let’s talk a little bit about conspiracies.
As someone who has studied media and political science at a university, and even wrote a thesis on the then emerging genre of conspiracy documentaries, I can tell you there are ways to deconstruct a conspiracy theory, which are even more useful to know when you’re constructing one, especially if your intention is to make it very believable and hard to debunk. Generally, it’s about making connections between coincidences, showing who gained.
The believability of these connections rests largely on your ability to present them using specific details, which, when selected just right, seem consistently suspicious, forming a pattern that looks non-random. The attention to detail and focused scope are key, because if you resort to sweeping generalizations that involve huge numbers of people colluding and keeping the conspiracy a secret, it will fall apart under any scrutiny. And The X-Files have done just that.
At the beginning of The X-Files myth arc, it was glorious. The conspiracy was conducted by a handful of people, maybe involving a secret agency or two (and not nearly everyone in them), and every presented fact was always questioned as a possible misdirection. Even so, such “reveals” were few and far between. Now it’s all yelled out, and likely at face value. The most genius part though was something else, unique to The X-Files. The conspiracy was alien.
It’s one thing to try to figure out a human conspiracy, it’s something else if you’re trying to understand an alien one. We are humans, we understand what motivates us, especially if it’s something as basic as greed or lust for power. That’s old news, that’s boring, all the more in an unrealistic setting. But an alien mind can think in a truly alien way, and the magic of The X-Files, at least to me, lied heavily in how it lets the viewer fill in the terrifying blanks.
It used to be all answers that only begged more questions. Aliens conduct experiments on humans, but what for? Government may be helping them, or fighting them, but is that voluntarily, or begrudgingly? Does that mean that the aliens are ultimately benevolent, or malevolent? What could a spacefaring race literal light years ahead of us even possibly want of us? The new retcon may tie the human loose ends, but throws alien agency under the bus.
You know, the UFO phenomenon has so much potential for television, you just have to play the game of trying to come up with intriguing hypotheses for why and how something like it could be happening and simultaneously not be easily provable. Men in Black had the memory erasing device, The X-Files had the governmental cover up, and I would personally like to see more Fringe-like scientific, reality-warping take on it. Sadly, The X-Files may have given up.
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