We are into nostalgia these days. Maybe because, in truth, a lot of good TV came out a while ago. Perhaps because the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes mean we aren’t getting much new stuff. Or maybe just because we like anniversaries, in general. Either way, today is the 30th anniversary of The X-Files premiere, and it feels like a good time to look back to a show that changed so much …and never quite understood what it had done.
That’s the kicker, really. It’s hard to separate the show from its nonsensical mythology or creator who only ever cared about said nonsensical mythology at the expense of the things in the show that actually worked — and people were invested in. And that’s without even going into how said creator and a lot of the male writers in this show took away its female lead’s agency over and over for the sake of drama, introducing demeaning storylines that they tried to sell as edgy but were only ever insulting.
But thirty years later, and with some separation from even the horrible revival seasons, it’s easier to just focus on the good.
On a show that basically introduced the concept of shipping to the world, one that really became part of the conversation because of two actors with brilliant chemistry — even when they didn’t get along — and two characters who were always more than the stereotype they supposedly represented.
A show that, when it was good, did both absurd comedy and heartbreaking drama to perfection. One that was always better than the sum of its parts, despite the numerous storytelling blunders. One that first showed a lot of us that deep friendship can turn into love, that it’s okay to look for alternative answers and also, that yes, fanfic is sometimes better than what you’re seeing on TV.
If you feel like celebrating today, do yourself a favor, and don’t do it by re-watching the whole show. Choose self-care, and skip any episode that has to do with Samantha Mulder, the Cigarette Smoking Man, or the Syndicate — or just watch the Mulder and Scully moments in those hours. That’s what this show deserves to be remembered for.
Happy 30th anniversary, The X-Files. We will try to remember you for Mulder and Scully, and not for the things Chris Carter, to this day, wants us to care about.