Mr. Mulder, “they” have been here for a long, long time.

The Spoony One | May 16 2009 | 

The X-Files

Normally I hate series reboots. You only have to look as far as the Knight Rider revamp before you seriously consider turning the television off and finding something to read. Something very, very long to read. I even hated the Battlestar Galactica reboot, and that’s considered to be one of the most successful reimaginings of a shitty sci-fi franchise ever. Star Trek was pretty good, but was there really enough wrong with the original series to warrant its complete invalidation with some “red matter singularity time travel” hand-waving?

Then again, rebooting is just about the only thing that keeps the comics industry (barely) rolling. When a series get too convoluted, dark, confusing, hard to follow, or just too damn embarrassing, they set the existing franchise on fire and rebuild it from Issue #1. Hey, it works, and it’s actually pretty exciting to discover a series and its characters all over again, and most readers appreciate when writers are willing to take a crappy storyline behind the wood shed and beat it to death with a shovel. You just have to hope that once the reboot is done, they don’t fuck it up worse than before (like they did with the Ultimates).

That’s why the X-Files is perfect for a reboot. I don’t think anyone was entirely happy with the way the series conspiracy unfolded. It was entirely too convoluted and yet completely predictable. It took too long to develop and was ineptly executed, and in the end, none of it made much sense, and one wonders why the aliens bothered collaborating with these shady, cigarette-smoking goons when they could have just kill-o-zapped the nation Independence Day-style.

I think my main problem with it was that the conspiracy was exactly what everyone predicted it would be: saucer men from Mars plotting a major invasion of the planet, with a shady cabal of shadow cabinets collaborating to conceal the truth from the public and position themselves so that they’re spared from the wrath of their new alien overlords. Yeah, there was a little more too it than that– something to do with a deadly virus, a sentient oil, and Big Brother secretly working against the aliens– but still, to me, it was paint-by-numbers. There weren’t any surprises. If you thought it was aliens in flying saucers and evil Men in Black suppressing the truth, you pretty much had it pegged from episode #1.

I’ve always believed that the true secrets behind the X-Files should be far more terrifying than some naked gray bug-eyed bastards who want to abduct cattle and implant shit in the nasal cavities of deranged morons nobody would ever believe. Any kind of alien life that’s been able to make the concept of interstellar space travel a routine, trivial thing has concerns far beyond anything a planet full of spastic monkeys might offer. They would no more negotiate with us than you would negotiate with an anthill in your driveway. They could wipe us out without even noticing they’d done it. If they noticed humanity at all, it would be only as irritants or playthings, and if they did decide to exterminate us, there would be no hope of some Macintosh-borne computer virus or sass-talking Fresh Princes saving us, no deadly allergy to water or susceptibility to the common cold. Aliens like that squeeze more interesting things into the bathroom mirror than humanity.

“Here we go,” you say, “you’re just going Lovecraftian on us, like that’s not predictable.” Well, maybe, but you say that like it’s a bad thing, when really, the concept of the X-Files is just about perfect for a modern-day Mythos investigation show. And in many ways, the central concepts of the Cthulhu Mythos do wonders for expanding the possibilities of the show’s breadth and depth. All of a sudden, you have an alien conspiracy stretching back beyond the dawn of man, with ancient civilizations who worshipped these entities as gods, wretched and glorious hallucinatory dreamscapes, lost continents, and tons of mad cultists and Illuminati, each with agendas eons in the making.

I’m not saying it’s Cthulhu, and I’m not asking to see Mulder and Scully in a running gunfight on the streets of Innsmouth with a pack of shoggoths hot on their heels.

Actually, that sounds pretty cool.

But anyway, I’m just suggesting a fundamental change in tone. Here’s the setup: Fox Mulder witnessed what he believed to be the alien abduction of his sister, and that trauma has put him on a crusade to uncover the truth that he believes is being concealed by the government. But that’s not what he saw. It’s what he wants to believe.

What he doesn’t know is that his parents are fanatical high sorcerers of a cult of some alien god (like Azathoth) who would routinely offer animal sacrifices and hold orgies and festivals of body mutilation in His honor. Both Fox and Samantha were brainwashed at a very young age to be blindly faithful worshipers and participants in these sick, depraved rites. On one night of special celestial significance, the parents chose Samantha as a virgin offering to be the unholy receptacle of one of their god’s insane, protean gibbering spawn.

None had actually seen an aspect of their god before that night, and they were not prepared for what they saw. The ultradimensional, tentacled horror that emerged from the summoning portal ravaged and devoured Samantha and half the cult in its slathering hunger before Fox’s parents broke the circle and expelled the thing, leaving them naked and terrified in a smoking charnel, ankle-deep in steaming blood and bones. Fox’s brain, unable to process the sickness he’d just witnessed, simply shut down and repressed the horrific events, rationalizing it into the most logical thing he could: a standard alien abduction scenario like you see all the time on TV. All he remembers is a shrieking, piercing nose (and yet, almost like music), his sister screaming, and a bright light. It’s left a hole in his memory that he’s trying desperately to fill, but doing so might very well either drive him to insanity, or worse, unearth the brainwashed fanatic that he used to be, the deranged personality that madness had shocked beneath the surface.

Mulder joined the FBI to investigate the paranormal, unaware of what his parents have been hiding from him. He thinks that the government is suppressing the truth to conceal some kind of hidden agenda, or some kind of shadow government working to achieve secret global domination. But really, the government is trying to maintain the status quo. They know the truth. They know that the Old Ones (or whatever they are) are here, are sleeping, and when they awaken, everything humanity knows will end. The date is preordained, and their fate is inevitable. The government is hiding the truth because knowing the truth would drive the world to anarchy and millennial madness. Society, knowing its days were truly numbered, would tear itself apart.

Mulder and Scully are doing a lot of good in the world, stopping cults and their summonings, rooting out supernatural horrors lurking in the shadows and gutters, but they’re just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. People like Mulder and the Lone Gunmen have spent their whole lives hounding the government, blaming some elaborate conspiracy for hiding alien and occult influence in everything from the design of the great pyramids in Giza, to El Chupacabra, to MK-ULTRA, to the assassination of JFK. Hell, the government encourages that kind of fanaticism. A mundane, human conspiracy is something people can understand, something people can universally hate or dismiss as paranoia. Better to believe in that than to know the actual truth.

So, yes, the government is lying, creating a fantasy and killing to protect it. But it’s the kind of fantasy the world needs. When Mulder finally realizes what’s going on, that he’s been chasing red herrings, is he really going to feel any better? If by some miracle his sister is still alive, once he gets the faintest clue as to what’s taken her, will he really want to find her? Will the truth really set him free? I doubt it. There’s a wing in Arkham full of people who eventually all reach the same point that Mulder will.