It is now 2016 and not only have we survived another winter solstice since December 22nd 2012 but we are presently less than a month away from entering the world of the X-Files again!
The FOX marketing machine is gearing up accordingly. “I Still Want To Believe” is the new tagline, echoing the old and underlying the fact that this is a repeat, “more of the same”. This fine line to walk between repeating the old — cozy, reassuring, nostalgic — and the new — bold, risky, unsettling — is a balance that all continuations must face. The recent Star Wars sequel (only very relatively successful, in my opinion) is the most recent example in the impulse to keep on continuing pop culture franchises.
So far there have been exclusive premieres of the “pilot” episode at select festivals (Monte Carlo, Los Angeles, Italy), we have seen posters, trailers, and a behind the scenes documentary. This is a lot of material for a six-episodes event, and goes a long way to show that FOX really believes in this and wants it to succeed. Also, the amount of images revealed goes very far — fans have been trying to assign each single frame to not only individual episodes but also chronologically within episodes — and key plot points have been revealed by the promotional campaign disregarding Carter’s previous obsession with secrecy and spoilers control. This is a very modern way to promote entertainment — the social networks buzz must be fed continuously and at all costs — but could prove counter-productive. Already, there is very little one cannot find on the first episode and many story details on the other five by searching the internet.
However, as a fan, I must admit that it all looks extremely exciting! (Including some worrying aspects on the mytharc, but coming up with theories to fill the gaps/plot holes is what we do for a living here.) It is all calibrated to appeal to those who remember the X-Files from the early seasons, including the radical approach on the Mulder-Scully relationship — which is a mix of a non-risk-taking return to how it used to be in the early days and part of a greater plan to reveal what has happened since 2002 progressively throughout all episodes, especially on the fate of William and their romantic split, using elliptic narration and flashbacks. Hopefully the episodes will actually deliver on the good buzz.
Of course, everything is done to promote the new series, which also means that the old series benefits from this buzz too — some even say that financially the new series is made so as to pump up the value of the old series as well for broadcasting rights for internet streaming services. The one-episode-a-day event that FOX marketing is animating over all its social media (head over to EatTheCorn’s Facebook page for some comments on each mytharc ep) is not only a way to count down to the new series but also a way to bring in new fans.
The most important event however, and quite possibly the ultimate and, well, last possible thing that could ever be done with the “old series” is its release in BluRay. Long anticipated with HD broadcasts in Germany and the USA since 2013, the whole package, including the two films and all bonus material from the DVDs, and a slot for the future new series’ BluRays (I wonder where “season 11” will fit if there is one?) was released on December 8 2015. After being one of the very first TV series that was edited in complete form in the DVD format in 2000, the X-Files has made the jump to the next format.
The challenges to do such a release were many — head over here for an interview with Jim Hardy, CEO of Illuminate, the company behind the transfer — chief among which the fact that every single episode had to be recreated from scratch by scanning the films of the raw unedited dailies. Post-production in the 1990s was done directly on VHS, and creating HD transfers is comparatively easier for shows both before and after that period! We’ll leave the debate on whether original 4:3 aspect ratio or feature-like revisionist 16:9 widescreen was better to the experts — what is out there looks amazingly fresh regardless. However, no release is perfect: the fonts that were used for the XF logo, the opening credits, the cast and crew credits, and the place and time tags are different from the original; some departures from “The Truth Is Out There” tag were not respected; and some other issues. These things are all the more frustrating that they could have easily been respected, and I don’t expect FOX to do a re-release (or a re-scan for 4K for example) any sooner than one or two decades. You can see some DVD to BD comparisons and a detailed list of differences here.
Another important “old series” release could also be very close. The third volume in the X-Files music by La La Land has been postponed from 2015 to early 2016, and I could very well see LLL taking the opportunity to make use of the revival to release it. After two volumes for both X-Files and Millennium, it’s going to be worth the wait — and in the case where LLL lacks inspiration, here is a requests list.
The interest on the X-Files has been rising steadily since IDW started publishing X-Files comic books in mid-2013, and EatTheCorn has been covering closely the storylines developed by Joe Harris. “Season 11” should be drawing to a close with three more issues and what follows next is still unclear, apart from an independent “what if” alternative history issue in April. What is certain though is that IDW will be continuing to publish X-Files comics, with Joe Harris very much involved! What form will these comics take (unique stories, continuing storyline) and what continuity they will follow (alternate universe, pre-revival, post-revival) is not yet revealed.
It’s no wonder that IDW is also expanding its X-Files merchandising line: after the X-Files board game (which should have a couple of extensions in the future) and re-prints of all older comics and novels, a trilogy of X-Files short story collections is coming out, edited by horror writer Jonathan Maberry. The stories mostly take place in the “golden age” of the series, around 1996, but not exclusively. The first volume, “Trust No One“, was released in July 2015 and the second, “The Truth is Out There“, will be released in March 2016. There are some older XF alumni in here: Stefan Petrucha, writer of the (excellent) first 16 issues of the XF Topps comics in 1994-1995, Sarah Stegall, famous XF reviewer of old; Joe Harris and Dean Haglund might participate in a future third volume.
Titan also publishing two X-Files Companion books that seem to consist in collections of already published material, namely articles from the official XF magazine (some of which can be found on EatTheCorn) published by Titan in the 1990s. There will be two volumes: the first “The Agents, the Bureau, and the Syndicate” in January and the second “Monsters & Villains” in March.
I wonder what else we will be seeing in terms of merchandising in the coming weeks and months.
The fandom is also gearing up to the revival. Professional genre expert John K. Muir, who has written on X-Files and all things Chris Carter several times on his blog, also published his book on XF, The X-Files FAQ, featuring reviews and analysis of The X-Files and Carter’s other works. Darren Mooney finished his epic series of reviews of all four Ten Thirteen shows on his site, an incredible amount of text and many amazing insights. The reference site X-Files News has relaunched their website afresh. Retrospective articles in the media abound.
FOX is planning to broadcast the episodes in over 60 countries all around the world within 24 hours of their broadcast in the USA. Barely three weeks remaining for the launch of potentially the first season of the revival.