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I Want to Believe
The X-files... American pop-cultural catalyst of High Strangeness
- Annotated Edition -
- by Jack Heart

On September 10th, 1993 the Fox Network, along with (then) relatively unknown screenwriter Chris Carter, launched what would become one of American television's most influential series... The X-files. The series, pitched as Drama/Sci-Fi/Horror, would delve into multiple facets of the paranormal, such as psi-phenomena, cryptids, conspiracy theory, and especially Ufology & alien abduction. The show struck a nerve with a significant segment of viewers, quickly building a loyal fan base. In the ensuing years, the X-files would become a Pop-Cultural phenomenon, rivaling Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone" in it's impact on the psyche of the American viewing public.

Building upon the paranormal milieu established by such classic television shows as Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Outer Limits, and Rod Serling's "other" foray into the macabre: Night Gallery... the X-files would, in many ways, surpass these earlier shows in it's impact. Due in part to timing and in part to the times... the X-files would become an influential component of the rapidly morphing zeitgeist at the closing of the 20th century. The show's subject matter would act as a lightning rod of "conspiracy thinking" that would, in part, trigger the "High Strangeness" that was to come, at the dawn of the new millennium.

The X-files' original 9 season run, came to an end in 2002. By that time, the American public and American culture had gone through a harrowing metamorphosis, culminating in the horrific 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, the previous year. It bears noting that an X-files spin-off show: The Lone Gunman, had received considerable notoriety (within conspiracy circles) for airing what has been labeled "predictive programming" in it's inaugural episode. Airing on March 4th, 2001...  the plot involves a computer hacker taking control of a Boeing 727 passenger plane and remotely piloting it towards the World Trade Center, with the specific intention of crashing the plane into one of the Twin Towers.

This (albeit dramatic) example, typifies the way in which a fictional television series influenced the viewing public's impression of the machinations of covert, political power. Consequently, the X-files became a very real information stream of possibility, taken very seriously by it's viewership. For some, the weekly episodes of the X-files aligned with an understanding that the truth can be told more effectively in fictional form. For others, the X-files came to represent more than entertainment... it became a gospel of truth... depicting the real story behind the alleged government cover-up and international conspiracy.

For conspiracy minded fans, the X-files came to be viewed as a very real dossier of how governmental entities operated behind the scenes. Although thinly fictionalized, the X-files... in the minds of the faithful... fairly accurately chronicled a so-called shadow government, that came to be known as: the Deep State. To many... brought on by mounting suspicions and real world revelations of covert governmental electronic surveillance... it was becoming increasingly clear that our government may not have our best interests at heart. If domestic spying and secret government sanctioned "black-ops" existed, why not other facets of the X-files storyline?

Beyond Deep State shenanigans, the X-files' paranormal milieu was presented in a sophisticated, realistic manner. Production values were high, the show's writing staff was exceptional and the acting, driven by the palpable chemistry between actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, was superb. Each week's episode was presented with just enough realism to be plausible, if not believable. As the show progressed, certain patterns emerged. Repeating themes, such as "monster of the week" episodes, were interwoven with an overarching storyline that came to be known as the X-files mythology, or Mytharc.

The X-files mytharc developed around a robust, existing conspiracy culture belief in UFO's, extra-terrestrial contact, alien abduction and the Deep State's concerted efforts to suppress the truth of these extraordinary events from the general public. Again, the mytharc was depicted in such a realistic manner, that it helped believers conceptualize what an actual encounter could potentially look/feel like. Reaching back to 1947 and the "Roswell Incident" ...the X-files mytharc wove a tale of, not only the existence of extra-terrestrials, but of reverse-engineered alien artifacts and a vast conspiracy involving alien intelligences and world governments. 

Before delving into the mytharc, here is a quick (likely unnecessary) plot outline...

The X-files follows the quest of FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder, a believer in supernatural phenomena, and Dana Scully, his skeptical partner who was originally assigned to "keep tabs" on Mulder and report back to HQ. The show follows the exploits of Mulder & Scully as they investigate events built around a government conspiracy to hide the truth about alien existence and an emerging doomsday plan.

...Over the course of the initial 9 seasons, a very elaborate storyline developed. Interspersed with stand-alone episodes, comic relief episodes, and the afore-mentioned monster of the week episodes, the X-files mytharc storyline became highly anticipated viewing, that fueled the imaginations (and suspicions) of fans who wanted to believe. With each season, anticipation grew. For your convenience, the specific mytharc episode titles are listed below...

Season 1: ep #1: Pilot, #2: Deep Throat, #10: Fallen Angel, #17: E.B.E. and #24: The Erlenmeyer Flask.

Season 2: ep #1: Little Green Men, #5: Duane Barry, #6: Ascension, #8: One Breath, #10: Red Museum, #16: Colony, #17: End Game and #25: Anasazi.

Season 3: ep #1: The Blessing Way, #2: Paper Clip, #9: Nisei, #10: 731, #15: Piper Maru, #16: Apocrypha and #24: Talitha Cumi.

Season 4: ep #1: Herrenvolk, #7: Musings Of A Cigarette Smoking Man, #8: Tunguska, #9: Terma, #14: Memento Mori, #17: Tempus Fugit, #18: Max, #21: Zero Sum, #23: Demons and #24: Gethsemane.

Season 5: ep #1: Redux, #2: Redux II, #6: Christmas Carol, #7: Emily, #13: Patient X, #14: The Red and the Black, #15: Travelers and #20: The End.

Note:  The feature-length film: The X-Files: Fight the Future, was released n between season 5 and 6.

Season 6: ep #1: The Beginning, #9: S.R. 819, #11: Two Fathers, #12: One Son and #22: Biogenesis.

Season 7: ep #1: The Sixth Extinction, #2: The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati, #10: Sein und Zeit, #11: Closure, #15: En Ami and #22: Requiem.

Season 8: ep #1: Within, #2: Without, #11: The Gift, #13: Per Manum, #14: This Is Not Happening, #15: Deadalive, #16: Three Words, #18: Vienen, #20: Essence and #21: Existence.

Season 9: ep #1: Nothing Important Happened Today, #2: Nothing Important Happened Today II, #6: Trust No 1, #9: Provenance, #10: Providence, #16: William and #20: The Truth.

Note: An extensive, annotated list of all X-files episodes may be found here, courtesy of wikipedia.

An esteemed kindred spirit and scholar of the X-files mythology, author of "Our Gods Wear Spandex" and curator of The Secret Sun weblog... Christopher Knowles, has spent much time and thought in chronicling the esoteric underpinnings of the X-files. His extensive work on the subject demonstrates the deep cultural impact of this show and it's contribution to contemporary cultural High Weirdness. The curious are encouraged to check out his work. A good place to begin, is with The Secret Sun Guide to the X-Files Mythology (Part 1).

In his work, Knowles points out the prophetic nature of the X-files mythology as an Exegesis... it's ancient origins... and how it has increasingly influenced the world view of the X-files' viewing public. Pre-9/11 viewers were presented, in the comfort of their own homes, with a  glimpse of a darker version of our existing reality. Weekly episodes offered a prophetic preview into the Brave Noö World that was to come. With each successive season, the darker view would begin to replace the (previously) existing one. This realization of Prophecy, consciously began for Chris Carter while the series was still in development.

Carter’s research, prior to the series launch, revealed a disturbing shift in the zeitgeist. A Roper Organization survey stated that 3% of the U.S. population believed they had been abducted by aliens. It has been reported that when Carter was directing the “Duane Barry” episode, a temp crew member revealed his brother-in-law believed he had been abducted. Carter’s production ethic was that the show had to be “scientifically plausible.” This meant that a lot of the research was pulled from real UFOlogy archives. Here the line between fact and fiction began to blur.

In those early years, Carter, et al and Ten-Thirteen productions were inspired. As their fan-base grew, the X-files viewership's numbers of like-minded individuals, approached a "critical mass" of High Weirdness. They became a vanguard of strangeness, that began to impact... to infest... the general population. But from whence did Ten-Thirteen's inspiration truly come?

By the close of 2002, the show appeared to have run it's course. Toward the end of the run, Carter and Ten-Thirteen Productions put out several spin-off shows: Millennium, Harsh Realm and the Lone Gunman. All were entertaining, but none achieved the pop-cultural relevance of the X-files. Meanwhile, the American zeitgeist continued to get weirder. In 2008, Carter returned to the big screen with his second feature film: The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Although presented as a "stand-alone" installment of the X-files franchise, I Want to Believe received mixed reviews, with many critics disappointed that it did not further the extra-terrestrial mytharc,

Still, America got weirder. That year saw world economies melt-down in what has since been called the Great Recession. As trillions of dollars evaporated, the television watching citizenry became even more cynical and suspicious of big government and shadowy corporations. High Weirdness in general and Ufology in particular expanded and evolved within the viewing public's consciousness. It seemed as if more and more of the X-files plotlines were coming true. As the new millennium's first decade wore on, rumors of a "X-files III" feature film circulated. There were even rumors of a revived series.

When the X-files made its triumphant return to television in 2016, it honed in on a new extra-terrestrial threat for our Brave Noö World. As they had successfully blurred the line between fiction and reality when the pilot debuted, the X-Files continued to evolve the show's vision. As they had depicted disc shaped craft and/or triangle-shaped craft of apparent extra-terrestrial origin, now they expanded the vision to include ARV’s (Alien Reproduction Vehicles) via reverse engineering. The series continued to draw from real world belief in the phenomenon... as well as the mounting belief in global conspiracies.

Season 10: ep #1: My Struggle, #6: My Struggle II.

Season 11: ep #1: My Struggle III, #5: Ghouli, and #10: My Struggle IV.

In season 10, the X-files are once again reopened, with Scully and Mulder being reinstated to the FBI to resume their investigations. “Roswell was a smokescreen.” suggested the Deep Throat character in season one. It was a comment that would be mirrored by the old man in the episode: “My Struggle I” from season 10. The X-Files played heavily upon a Roswell mythology in the first episode of season 10. They showed the military retrieving wreckage from an unidentified craft, and using intimidation, misdirection, deniability... or direct threats... to hide from the public, the existence of extra-terrestrials or secret, reverse engineered military technologies.

In yet another mytharc narrative revamp, season 10 introduced a character named Tad O'Malley. O'Malley (a thinly veiled allusion to the now-infamous hawker of vitamins and curator of InfoWars... the alt-right conspiracy  theorist: Alex Jones) is a right-wing online webcaster, who reveals to Mulder, not only a reverse engineered craft, but that the alien invasion and colonization were all an elaborate hoax to distract. Season 10's mytharc becomes a "conspiracy of men" who have used extraterrestrial technology on human parties for decades. These events were subsequently made to look like alien abductions.

Of note is episode # 5 Babylon wherein Carter tips his hat to the widely assumed influence that psychedelia has played in the X-files franchise. Although the episode received mixed reviews, the above mentioned Chris Knowles made the following observation: "On paper, Babylon is fascinating, a long-overdue acknowledgement of the powerful influence of hallucinogens and ancient Mystery cults on the show."

And so season 11 hit the airwaves on January 3rd, 2018... Eleven, of course being the synchronistic cosmic trigger number (11:11). Despite the season 10 finale's use of the cliché... "it was all just a dream!" ...season 11 proved to be entertaining and it's mytharc covered some interesting, contemporary Ufology ground. The neo-pop "Break-way Civilization" trope was well covered, as the mytharc continued to evolve. Although the cigarette smoking man was back with a vengeance, the season's highlight came from an unexpected source.

"The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat" (ep #4) was a classic comic relief episode. However, in the span of a single episode, Carter, et al were able to showcase the series' foundational influences, such as the Twilight Zone, recap the entire 11 season run, utilizing an alt/reality (or is it?) member of the x-files, "Reggie Murgatroid" and squeeze in a culminating "close encounter" between the X-files team and a pop-culture-alien, who informs them that the human race is horrible (and some... I assume, are good people) and that planet Earth has been quarantined via a cosmic "Wall" (and Mexico is going to pay for it!)...


The season's (if not the series') pivotal moment however, comes when Mulder meets a new arch-villain, the nefarious Dr. They. In this scene, the (real) real world's current state of affairs is allegorically assessed by Carter, et al (Darren Morgan wrote & Directed) via Dr. They's commentary on our post-conspiracy age. This scene, presented as comedy, clearly articulates Carter's assessment of our contemporary fake-news, post-truth, social-medized world. This scene, poignant in it's immediacy, is offered up by Ten-Thirteen Productions... as a gift... to all the loyal fans of the X-files franchise. 

At the end of the day, the X-files did what all good science fiction should do. It offered up a cautionary tale of where we might be heading in this Brave Noö World of ours. In so doing, it identified and articulated a growing climate of High Weirdness that was incubating in the 1990's, and came to fruition in the 2000's. Initially an interesting little revamp of the Twilight Zone concept in 20th century television, the X-files went on to shape and define the "conspiracy culture" of the 21st century. 

Again, from Knowles: "The X-Files did one thing really well. And that was telling stories that made the paranormal seem normal by taking the subject matter seriously and grafting Carter's laconic sensibility onto episodic television, produced with feature-film production values. The show climbed to the top of the zeitgeist heap with a reliable alchemical formula; the lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry of its young leads, understated procedural drama, and the iridescence of that Vancouver mist."

In it's vision, the X-files has been a catalyst of strangeness in a modern world that is increasingly demonstrating a culturally viral proliferation of High Weirdness. Have we seen the last of the X-files? Will Carter and Ten-Thirteen Productions rise to the occasion, once again? In the words of the diabolical Dr. They (the very personification of: you know what they say), who quoted a recent President of the United States...
Nobody Knows, For Sure...

- Jack Heart


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