The X-Files: How To Keep Your Fandom Alive
The end is never the end on The X-Files, but this might really be the end of the franchise. How can fans get their X-Files fix now?
The X-Files has an uncertain future. Chris Carter would like to continue the series. David Duchovny has said as much. Gillian Anderson, on the other hand, has not minced words: She won’t be returning to play Dana Scully. Fox has been quiet about the status of the series meaning that, barring a miracle, The X-Files are closed.
The fans, for who so long were unable to keep the spirit of the series alive even after its initial cancellation, are beginning to cope with the idea that “new X-Files” is no more. The popular fansite X-Files News said it will be scaling back on publishing in an emotional letter. My site, The X-Files Lexicon, has been resuming it’s old school analysis of the show, but due to real-life issues, it’s been a challenge to maintain steady production on the site. There are some valid reasons to raise the question: Where can fans go now?
Now that The X-Files season 11 is over and out on Blu-ray, and the show is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the pilot, it seemed apt to continue this series of articles that address the fandom for The X-Files. We have explored fan sites and fan-created books that were published for charity or reference, the fervency of Millennium fandom, and the personal importance of The X-Files to fans. The series and its followers created modern internet fandom, and when the series returned in 2016, it became a perfect case study in how we watch television socially.
If this is the end, will the fans continue to cherish the past as passionately as they have for 25 years? Or will they move on? Considering the mixed to negative reactions to this final season, will fans remain committed to exploring the impact and meaning of the series for future generations? That answer may be complex, but it may be less complicated when you consider all of the positive fan activity since the revival was first announced in 2015. Let’s look into those remaining aspects, and the points of view from directly involved in the show…
A Heathly X-Files Podcast Community
There’s a great deal of podcast activity diving into the world of The X-Files. The X-Files Truth Podcast gives fans the regularly scheduled programming they want.
As its lead host Agent Shadow explains, “I was inspired to create X-Files Truth because the podcast I was previously on [Reopening The X-Files] wasn’t putting out episodes on a regular basis and I felt passionately that The X-Files deserved a podcast with a regular schedule.” His points are enforced by his podcast partner, Agent Stone: “My [our] role in the XF Universe is to continue to support and introduce The X-Files to fans old and new alike. To present The X-Files in a way not done before, especially in the new media age — Twitter, Facebook, audio podcast, website, etc. The X-Files community is still thriving over two decades later and we present not just an episode overview, but a look behind the scenes… and go in-depth and beyond what The X-Files is and means to us and to others all over the world.”
Another podcast, The K-Files was created to carry on the legacy of the show.
“I was inspired to create my podcast, The K-Files to share everything about the show that originally sparked my imagination and to carry the legacy of the show onward from the old fandom into this new chapter in the show’s history,” says creator Katie Moeller. “What’s great about The X-Files is the curiosity it invokes in audiences.”
She sees her role modestly: “For my part in The X-Files fandom, I hope to perpetuate the show’s cultural legacy and bridge the gap between the massively interactive fandom in which I participated as an adolescent and the new one arising in anticipation of the miniseries.”
Katie also characterizes a good reason why fans focus so much attention on details of the show – to understand. “The true beauty of The X-Files is in all the minutiae: the tagline of an episode translated into Navajo or interpreting Mulder’s temptation dreams in “Amor Fati.” I want to ensure every decoded message and behind the scenes detail from the original run of the show is remembered in this new era.”
The most talked about example of an X-Files podcast comes from Silicon Valley and The Big Sick actor Kumail Nanjiani. His The X-Files Files Podcast goes deep into his love for the series, which he began watching as a young man in Pakistan, and features notable guests from the franchise.
The origins of his podcast began while he had some downtime between movies, Kumail interviewed with Den of Geek at the 2016 Event Series Premiere red carpet, which was covered over at The X-Files Lexicon.
“I was supposed to act in a movie and the movie didn’t happen, and I had two months off that I wasn’t supposed to have off, so I was like “what am I going to do?” I was like “oh, I haven’t seen The X-Files in a little bit, I’ll just re-watch them all and I’ll do a podcast about it, and it just kind of felt like it came at a time where people were really wanting to talk about The X-Files again, so it became fairly popular quickly,” Nanjiani says.
He adds: “It didn’t start off as ‘oh, this is going to be a big thing I am going to do’, I just did it because I wanted to talk about The X-Files for a few years, and it just kind of went from there.”
While chatting with Kumail, it was interesting find out just how aware he was of the community. “Yes, I am aware of some of the other podcasts, and I am aware of The X-Files Lexicon and X-Files News, and I am very aware of The X-Files fandom and what’s been really touching to me is people saying ‘hey, you’re like a representative of the fandom,’ and it’s a lot of expectation, but I feel very happy that people sort of think of me that way.”
In our Den of Geek X-Files cover story, Nanjiani spoke about his experience being a guest star in season 10 and his impromptu interview with Duchovny and Anderson for an episode of the podcast.
One of the most recent and successful podcasts is The X-Cast Podcast, created by AJ Black with assistance by his colleague Carl Sweeney. Not only has this podcast focused on breakdowns of every X-Files episode, it has managed to secure a range of talent to interview, from show talent to key players in the fandom.
Black explains: “The X-Cast came about once the 2016 revival was announced. Late in 2015 I realized I wanted to talk to people about the show I have loved since I was a teenager. I had already been podcasting about movies so the two ideas came together and, voila, The X-Cast was born.”
Black also noted the feeling of his podcast filling a void for the fandom. “I would say because there aren’t honestly many X-Files podcasts out there going in depth on themes, production, and characterization, like we do. There are some awesome shows (I particularly like Not Another X-Files Podcast Podcast) but I think we’ve got our own style. The fact Kumail Nanjiani got too busy writing Oscar-nominated films to carry his on also undoubtedly helped us a bit too!”
The podcast has been effective at reaching out to the community. “I think we’ve managed to create a welcoming atmosphere that caters for most aspects of the fandom, if not all,” Sweeney says. “For instance, some of our contributors are avid shippers, while others are diehard mythology enthusiasts. I believe this variety helps us offer a rounded perspective on things.”
The X-Files Fans Get Involved
For fans hoping to revisit the series on disc or the streaming platform of their choice, we’d recommend the new book Monsters of the Week: The Complete Critical Companion to The X-Files by Todd VanDerWerff and Zack Handlen. It’s the ideal blending of a deep knowledge of the series and its fandom and whip-smart television criticism. We published two excerpts from the book, one from a fresh season 11 concept episode and one from the classic nightmare-fuel “Home.”
Aside from books, The X-Files remains alive in the video game world. There’s the recent X-Files game from IDW for example, which is a conventional storytelling party game, and there is the new Deep State App, where’s its creators at Creative Mobile OU, reached out to X-Files fans for input on the content. Players are assigned the role of a rookie agent who is assigned to work with Agent Dale. The game first started development in 2016, ideas continued to evolve when it was officially announced in the fall of 2017 to mixed reviews upon its launch.
Other examples of the cross-connection between fans and the industry could be found with filmmaker Julie Ng, who helmed the extras and documentary content for the 2016 Event Series DVD / Blu-ray, and is still involved this season as the Director and producer. Julie is a long time fan and seems to understand the sensibility of what holds fans interests.
As a Documentary filmmaker with an interest in television’s legacy, she applies an equal high standard for all projects she is involved with.
“There has never been anything in my life that I have been as massive a fan of than X-Files and that there would never be a project on Earth that I felt more suited for,” she says. “Not every movie really needs such in-depth treatment, but The X-Files has a fandom that craves it – I am one of those people who always wanted that.”
She pitched to produce the special features for the revival with a specific approach. It helped that she had worked on Fox titles before, and had worked with producers Glen Morgan and James Wong, and some of the key crew in the past.
“That trust goes a very long way, as who likes having a chick with a camera hanging about all the time to document your decisions?” Ng says. “Access is the key for quality, in-depth pieces. Me being a fan had very little to do with my day to day exchanges, because it was not something I advertised about myself on set. That was more a personal thing for me, and it helps peripherally. My XF BTS documentaries are my love letter not only to this series but to the people involved with it, who have been heroes, mentors and friends to me for 25 years.”
Her interaction with fans in 2015 helped to give her an insight into that demographic: “I only discovered Tumblr during post-production of Season 10. One thing I’ve recently come to appreciate is what a high percentage of X-Philes are actually women. I honestly don’t know where the dudes hang out – on Reddit? But it certainly feels like the most active online are young, smart females. I also got to meet and know some fans after my involvement with the show, which is new to me since high school days — I’m years away from the olden days of my online XF friends on IRC and alt.tv.x-files, so that’s been cool too.”
Another company that ventured into offering X-Files product was the record label La La Land Records, which released a two-disc CD of Mark Snow’s music from Chris Carter’s Millennium in a limited edition, and this was followed by a duel issue of music from The Lone Gunman spinoff and Harsh Realm with a limited edition set of printings, these reissues started in 2008. The label then took on a greater project by releasing a box set of highlights from The X-Files, Volume One which featured music high points from various episode in 2011, this limited edition did so well, that another box set was produced, the Volume two box set, which rounded out more favorites from various episodes in 2012. Volume three and four are the most recent editions.
The two most recent issues have been an extended release from Mark Snow’s score for The X-Files: Fight The Future feature from 1998, and a just released Volume two of music from Millennium. Mike Joffe, the project executive producer of several of these titles, characterized the labels concern about taking the gamble: “Millennium was the first Mark Snow project we did. We were not sure how it would be received because, let’s be honest, we’re talking about a show that had been off the air for almost a decade. As it happened, we had very strong sales on the first volume of Millennium, which encouraged us to begin developing the other projects. We tested the waters with Millennium and we were hoping it would be well received so we could try something more ambitious with The X-Files. We were happily surprised to discover as time passed that there was still a demand for more Millennium music. In the seven years between Volume 1 and Volume 2, we frequently got requests from fans who were eager for a second volume.”
In 2018, a third CD box set had been released and a fourth CD box set is in the works.
“I think there was also a growing section of the fans that became invested in the characters on the show, especially Mulder and Scully and whether they would get together and if so, would they be able to find some peace in the middle of the developing mythology of the show,” Mike says. “I’d like to think the fandom has grown and evolved over time as we’re talking about a show that ran for nine seasons. That’s nine years of television and nine years of new content, where each season offered opportunities for new fans to discover the show and get involved with the fandom. And when the show was off the air, The X-Files was one of the first shows to appear on DVD with each season in its entirety, allowing more new fans to binge watch each season without having to suffer through the commercials and the other torments older fans remember, such as the long stretch between seasons after the show would leave us with a great cliffhanger to chew on.”
The Creatives Paying Respect To The Fandom
When Chris Carter was asked about the evolution of the fandom, and if it has grown more sophisticated, he was circumscript: “Well, it’s hard for me to say, I guess it has because of social media – in terms of systemic sophistication. I hear the drum beat loud and clear. It takes, for me, experiences like Comic Con in 2013 where I got a direct hit from the fans for their desire to see this show, either back on the big screen or the small screen. It’s that direct experience that is most impressive.”
Executive producer James Wong credits the show with getting his feature film career off the ground. “We were being approached to write features because of the work we’d done on the The X-Files. For directing that was a direct correlation between the episode that I directed and the opportunity to direct Final Destination. So, yes, that was very helpful. As far as the rest of it. The X-Files is a very iconic show, everybody knew of it and it was a big hit and so I think in almost every way, my career was impacted and bettered because of it.”
In contrast, Darin Morgan offered a different perspective regarding his past involvement and other career correlations, with his succinct humor: “Outside of THE X-FILES, nobody knows or cares who the hell I am. When I work on other shows, they make me clean the toilets.”
But then again, Darin was generous about the fans reaction to his work. “I’d like to think the people who have expressed admiration for my episodes have done so simply because they appreciate good stories with interesting characters, that their heads don’t explode when an episode deviates in style from the rest of its series, and who understand that just because something is presented in a comical — if not, downright “silly” — manner, it doesn’t mean that thing isn’t also attempting to say something serious. Whereas those who have expressed disdain for my episodes are obviously Russian bots.”
Wong has mirrored the feeling of many involved with The X-Files that the fandom is unique: “ I always felt the fans of The X-Files were really intelligent and their comments were really incisive. I think I’ve told this story before, in the beginning that started with the news groups and internet, and The X-Files fans were the ones who pointed us in the direction of doing “Beyond The Sea’ earlier, I think, than we thought we would do – switching the roles between Mulder and Scully, from believer to non-believer in that episode.”
Wong continued: “They always had something they could contribute, and when you read them, they really talked deeply about the ideas in the show, there’s obviously people who are into the relationship between Mulder and Scully, that’s important as well, but I really think that, as a whole, they really talked about the ideas and the philosophies and what The X-Files brought into the world. They were really intelligent about it.”
So, what’s next for The X-Files?
There are a wide range of fan sites that exist today. Fun and creative sites such as the fun X-Files Monster of the Week parodies, and fan fiction archives like Gossamer. New websites and Facebook groups continue to crop up on a regular basis. What happens now that we have reached the season eleven finale with the fandom is hard to really guess. The new seasons came about in part due to younger generations of fans that discovered the series, but the recent activity with the 2018 X-Fest demonstrates that fan run conventions will likely continue, aside from the higher profile pop culture events like San Diego Comic-Con or WonderCon.
Can interest in the series remain? Fans are still talking about the original Star Trek and The Twilight Zone from the ’60s. There’s no doubt that The X-Files can still resonate to new generations. There are many reasons why this fandom has remained so dedicated and focused. People sensed there was something of substance to The X-Files and Millennium. The themes of The X-Files – once you get past the Aliens, Mutants, Ghosts, Anomalous Activity, and Government conspiracy – dealt with faith, dedication, love, hate, and hope. The show always looked for the light within the darkness in a harsh world. It spoke to people who felt like outsiders, or felt disenfranchised in some manner, and that truth means something different to each individual. As long as the truth is out there, so will be the fans.
Matt Allair is a writer, freelance filmmaker, musician, from San Francisco, and the webmaster of The X-Files Lexicon