It was no small thing: 202 episodes, two movies, more than a few monsters and countless aliens.
And now, more than a decade since it ended a historic run, “The X-Files” is coming back to TV. The first of six new episodes will air on Fox at 7 p.m. today.
The brainchild of sun-weathered surfer Chris Carter, “The X-Files” became an unlikely hit after its debut in 1993, slowly turning into the most successful sci-fi show since “The Twilight Zone.”
Its mainstream success landed its stars on the cover of “Rolling Stone,” while its mind-bending, violent storylines served as a precursor for the convoluted world of “Lost” and the twisted drama of “Breaking Bad,” the latter of which was created by Vince Gilligan, an “X-Files” writer.
The show’s catchphrase, “the truth is out there,” had a clever double meaning. It served as a guiding purpose for the show, as F.B.I. agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigated odd mysteries and dense conspiracies, but also pointed toward where the truth ultimately could be found — way out there, among the stars.
Here, we provide a quick guide to the show’s overarching mythology, an overview of its key characters, and a few things to look forward to during its upcoming six-episode run.
The murky world of “The X-Files” focused on a government conspiracy that was by turns eerie and also a little hard to follow. Here are some key points worth knowing before matching back up with Special Agents Mulder and Scully.
Abduction happens: Mulder’s obsessive search for alien life first was motivated by a desire to find his sister, Samantha, who was taken from their house while he was home alone with her. His quest as an adult to discover what happened to her leads him into a shadowy world full of aliens and assassins as he takes over the so-called “X-Files” — unexplained F.B.I. cases.
No really, abduction happens: Scully is partnered with Mulder in an effort by the government to undermine his work, but she quickly becomes sympathetic, if still skeptical, to his worldview. Then she gets abducted as well. After her return, her own abduction helps cement a bond between the two agents.
So many aliens: The series focused on three types of aliens. One was an evil colonizing force bent on world domination — it manifested as a parasitic black oil that took over human hosts. Another type was a rebel alien species capable of shape shifting — these aliens were trying to destroy the black oil aliens. Still a third was a hybrid of alien and human life, created by a shadowy international cabal.
And monsters too: The show was divided into two types of episodes. One focused on aliens and the government, while the other were so-called “monster-of-the-week” adventures. Those episodes found the agents chasing hermaphroditic human-sized sewer worms, teenaged vampires, psychotic hotel bellhop psychics, and cantankerous married ghosts, to name just a few fan favorites.
The key players
Chris Carter populated the world of “The X-Files” with some of television’s most enduring characters. For the new series, as he said, “It was really putting the band back together.” Here are the names everyone should know.
Fox “Spooky” Mulder (David Duchovny): An Oxford graduate and preternaturally gifted criminal profiler, Mulder’s career at the F.B.I. goes off-track as he becomes obsessed with the paranormal. His work uncovers dark factions within the U.S. government and the existence of otherworldly visitors.
Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson): The Watson to Mulder’s Holmes, Scully is teamed with Mulder in an effort by the F.B.I. to undermine his cockamamie theories about supernatural creatures with medical science. Of course, like Watson, she’s usually one step behind her brilliant partner.
Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi): The F.B.I. assistant director who oversees the work of Mulder and Scully starts out as a glowering adversary, but quickly becomes one of the agents’ closest allies.
The Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis): Mulder and Scully’s evil nemesis acts as a dark Machiavellian government agent responsible for both the Kennedy assassination and the continued concealment of alien life. A cockroach of a man, he’s survived cancer, a shooting and a missile strike.
The Lone Gunmen (Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood): These three conspiracy theorists serve as one of Mulder and Scully’s go-to resources, helping the agents hack computers, analyze mysterious substances and provide a little comic relief.
Time to get excited
“The X-Files” mini-series has fans plenty excited, and not only because they’ll get to see flashlight beams swinging through the air again. Here are just three reasons fans are optimistic about the return of Mulder and Scully.
A big split: Mulder and Scully’s relationship was never quite romantic during the series run, creating a nice tension between the two. Then, in the 2008 movie “The X-Files: I Want to Believe,” the pair were together in bed, and many fans were incensed. Apparently, the relationship didn’t last, though, as the new series will reunite the two after a break-up.
The ace in the hole: Darin Morgan wrote just four episodes of “The X-Files,” but they were among the series’ best, introducing the agents to evil cockroaches, a troupe of circus freaks, a foppish sci-fi writer, and an elderly man capable of predicting a person’s death. Now fans will finally get a fifth episode out of Morgan, as he helms a story that may be about a murderous lizard man.
Joel McHale: The cultishly adored star of the sitcom “Community” is a devoted fan of “The X-Files.” Now, he’s becoming part of the cast. In the new series, he’ll play a right wing talk show host whose crackpot distrust of the government may not be so cracked after all.