X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

From Season 10 to Season 11

The unofficially designated X-Files season 11 — or rather, as it is officially known for contractual and budgetary reasons, “Event Series 2” — was announced on April 20 2017 as the “next chapter” in the adventures of Mulder and Scully! But as the season kicks off, the question on everybody’s mind is: is it the “last chapter”?

Photo(shop) art!

The chronology of two years of negotiations

The revival did exceptionally well in terms of ratings for Fox, it ended up being Fox’s second-highest hit for the 2015-2016 season. There was a downwards slide in the second half of the short run that can be attributed to a usual drop after the premiere, but also to nostalgia wearing off, to the episodes being perceived as less good than expected, or to lukewarm professional reviews (and there was not the usual audience increase for the finale). The episodes “My Struggle” and “Babylon“, both by Carter, were even sent by Fox for Emmy Awards consideration.

Overall, the revival received a very mitigated reception by professional reviewers and amongst the fandom, if it is possible to express an objective view of such a diverse bunch, ranging from being absolutely enamored to absolute rejection. The revival found its way in many critics’ year-end “worst of 2016” lists, with the singular exception of Darin Morgan’s episode. Many voices were raised to remove Carter as a showrunner — an incredibly harsh criticism, but one that shows the level of strong feelings surrounding the revival. As often happens, Duchovny was the first from the people behind the series to reflect upon it with something else than formatted public relations praise (interview: Duchovny says he had mixed feelings).

Yet for a series with such a ratings success, the renewal process was unexpectedly long: two years! For the previous revival series it only lasted five months (presumably November 2014 to March 2015).

Among the first promotional behind the scenes photos posted by @GillianA

The January premiere and February finale did not directly result in a renewal; already in May it was not expected to return for the 2016-2017 season (May); over the summer, Fox said that everyone had been approached (June) and floated around the figure of 10 episodes (August); Anderson said that actually she hadn’t been approached yet (to be fair, in an interview that was conducted earlier than when it was published, in June); the start of production is continuously pushed back from early spring 2017 (Carter, October) to October 2017 (Carter, October); in November 2016, right after the US elections, the negotiations seemed to stop completely, with Anderson saying “Probably not. I think it is finished.” See also science advisor/Carter friend Anne Simon tweets (“Glitch caused negotiations to stop. Last heard it was “definite maybe”.” “s11 looked very positive for long time.Then day after election, heard about problems.” “Probably no one wants to offend, in hopes that resumption is possible. My guess.“). More episodes were not announced for the 2017-2018 season at the January 2017 TCA (negotiations for season 10 were announced in the 2015 TCA). What seemed like a sure thing is now only “a bet” (Duchovny, February 2017) and new episodes were more likely to happen for the 2018-2019 season, 3 years after season 10.

The April 20 2017 announcement with a mid-season 2017-2018 air date came as a surprise after a news blackout that lasted several months, two full years after the announcement of season 10 on March 25 2015! The January 3 premiere was announced on November 15, which is a short advance notice and a premiere date oddly close to New Year’s Day — perhaps to prevent an awkward press tour involving Anderson or too many questions around the premiere episode My Struggle III.

Event Series 2 / Season 11 Behind The Camera

Behind the camera, a similar crew as season 10 — Chris Carter, Glen Morgan, James Wong, Darin Morgan — with some additions, most of which were already Ten Thirteen alumni. The first half of the season will be similar to season 10 (Carter mythology, Glen M stand-alone, Carter stand-alone, Darin M comedy, Wong stand-alone/mythology mix); the second half sees the addition of episodes written by Gabe Rotter (Carter’s assistant since XF season 9), Kristen Cloke (XF/MM actor and Glen’s wife!) & Shannon Hamblin, Karen Nielsen (script coordination since season 10), Benjamin Van Allen (Carter’s assistant since The After), information is incomplete as of this date on these (Morgan & Wong might be involved in several); and Carter’s season finale. In directing, season 11 sees the addition of Kevin Hooks, Carol Banker and Holly Dale.

“Event Series 2”

For season 10, the crew planned, wrote, pre-produced, shot and post-produced 6 episodes by around October (when “My Struggle” was shown in Cannes); shooting was June-September, a little over two weeks per episode: s10 actually happened on a very quick schedule! Season 11 might have benefited from some preparatory pre-production work, however the schedule is similarly tight and typical of network television: April to January to produce 10 episodes, with shooting over July-December (again a little over two weeks per episode), and a premiere on January 3 2018, with post-production of the last episodes overlapping with the airing of the first episodes.

Contrary to season 10, the shooting managed to keep many things secret, to the point where even the most ardent spoiler-seekers have no clue as to the content of most episodes!

Towards an ending?

The official word was that everyone was willing to do more and that it’s just a matter of getting the scheduling right. The main blocking point seemed to be the number of episodes. 6 was too few and that the 1990s season format of 24 episodes is too much. But:

Fox will be willing to continue doing these forever if the audience is there, and XF had a higher audience than the wave of Fox revivals over 2016-2017 like 24: Legacy, Heroes Reborn or Prison Break. It is interesting that Fox was willing to wait for everyone to agree and has not pushed (yet?) for alternatives that don’t involve one or more of the three key players. Alternatives (shooting in London to accommodate Anderson, ensemble show diluting the two leads’ presence, back-door pilot for next-gen series…) might be under consideration, but for now the drawing power of The X-Files is considered by everyone to be Anderson and Duchovny with Carter as orchestra conductor. It is unknown what effect the recent purchase of (most of) Fox by Disney will have on XF; some top-level restructuring/reshuffling is likely to happen, and it is important to note that Dana Walden and Gary Newman (CEOs of Fox TV production and broadcasting since July 2014, previously CEOs of Fox TV production), are in good terms with Carter and were key in launching negotiations for the revival in 2014-2015.

Chris Carter, Dana Walden, Gary Newman, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, Season 10 LA premiere

Carter would be fine with anything, probably; his other projects have not had success and he seems willing to channel all his creativity in the brand he will be remembered for. Returning X-Files to television was probably not in his mind as recently as 2013 (see SDCC coverage); he still hasn’t abandoned the idea of doing a third X-Files feature film, although he must know the decision-making people and process of Fox TV and Fox Film are two quite separate things.

Duchovny might have been the initial driving force behind the 2016 revival; he seems to be fine with a format of limited runs every few years (a concept he apparently introduced to Anderson during Kumail Nanjiani’s podcast!).

Anderson vehemently repeated she is not willing to do more episodes and repeatedly described s11 as her last. For both revival seasons, she expected they would give fans closure and close the book for good. This could be just means of pressuring Fox (for the 2016 revival Fox started by offering her again half the pay that Duchovny would get while she is no longer a beginner actor like in 1993), however there seem to be broader issues. In interviews Anderson is much more praising of her other roles and does not particularly seem to be looking forward to return to Scully.

And so for half the duo, this is the last season ever of The X-Files while at the same time the creator wants us to believe we live in an odd time where The X-Files is once more on-going series on television right now, with no end in sight, and which, as any other series, runs the risk of getting cancelled due to low ratings. As the premiere approached, positions became clearer.

Carter: I’m always thinking that this could be it. I don’t know what the future holds. While I try to do my best, and we did well the last time out, this time out could be different. For me, The X-Files can go on, indefinitely. It’s really how long Mulder and Scully, and David and Gillian want to do the show. […] For me, The X-Files is Mulder and Scully. I think if it were without Scully, I wouldn’t do it. That’s not my X-Files.

Anderson: Resolution is good.

Duchovny: Unless Chris came to Gillian and me with an idea for an actual end to the show — which would preclude doing any more movies or any more television (versions) — and the three of us decided, ‘That’s fantastic, that’s really the way to end it,’ everything we do (with the franchise) naturally is going to be somewhat open-ended. I had hoped for the last six episodes to be successful, and whether that meant we were going to do more, I didn’t know. I don’t know how truthfully we could ever end this without ‘killing’ me or Gillian.

Early word was that the season 11 finale would be a cliffhanger; it might be an open-ended ending after all. We will know in the future whether discussions during the making of season 11 influenced how Carter wrote, and also edited the season 11 finale. We might also know more about the show’s future (or lack thereof), by the time the finale airs. A situation not unlike seasons 7 and 8; each series finale is different and The X-Files has had many already!

What is certain is that seasons 10+11 consist in a single entity, and that there has not been anything planned beyond that, which would posit the season 11 finale as a potentially better place to end than My Struggle II.

Carter: The four struggle episodes were all pieces of a whole and [Season 11 Episode 10 completes the whole.

Season 11 kicks off today with 11X01: My Struggle III. Stay tuned for EatTheCorn coverage of the season!

Some Complementary Season 10 Mythology Elements

Season 11 is less than a month away! Its two-and-a-half mythology episodes promise to be very dense: a lot of plot to go through, a lot of returning and new characters, William, flashbacks, the ungrateful task of attempting to reconcile this new mythology direction with what we considered to be “the truth” in seasons 1-9… and conclude in a cliffhanger for season 12! Season 10’s mythology’s lukewarm reception motivated FOX to downplay the mythology this season, however the new mythology doesn’t sound more welcoming to new fans and still has to convince old fans. Since My Struggle II aired, fans have been trying to connect the dots in the hope that the mythology would make sense, once more — theorizing is a typical x-phile occupation.


Follow and comment the #46DaysOfMythX (FB, t) as we count down to season 11 by reviewing the “classic series” Case Files — and finish transferring material from the old version of EatTheCorn to this modern version!

A shout out to the incredibly ambitious X-Cast Podwatch project, with one hundred 20-minute podcasts covering two episodes at a time released daily (or even more than daily)!


We analyzed in detail the complementary mythology elements in the book “The Real Science Behind The X-Files” by virologist, X-Files science advisor and Chris Carter friend Dr. Anne Simon here.

Carter’s other science advisor, for the second film onwards, is Dr. Margaret Fearon, a medical doctor and microbiologist, and Simon’s friend; the sick boy Christian Fearon in I Want To Believe is named after her.

Simon & Fearon contributed with ideas and suggestions to Chris Carter when writing the season 10 mythology episodes. For their work, they were credited for co-writing the season finale My Struggle II! On February 22 2016, Anne Simon hosted a viewing party for the finale in the University of Maryland, where she works.

What follows is commentary on the behind the scenes info and bits of information that she revealed during the Q&A session that night — long before season 11 was a reality and long before Carter put fingers to laptop to write the My Struggle III script!

The making of My Struggle II

  • About The X-Files returning after so many years, Simon says: “I heard Chris many times saying he would never do it again. I never thought it would come back.
  • Carter asked Simon: “I want you to come up with a way to kill everybody off – everybody except the chosen few“, among whom Scully. Simon: “I was really surprised when he asked me to kill everybody off. Because then who would be the audience? And how would you get out of it?
  • This is the third time she’s been asked something like that in the series [I suppose the other two refer to bees carrying smallpox in 4X21: Zero Sum, and the Black Oil virus itself in Fight the Future]
  • In the beginning there was a misunderstanding: Simon had Scully be the victim. But Carter said no, that alien DNA has “got to be the key“.
  • Simon had the idea of the threat not being an alien virus again, but something that would remove the immune system. She came up with a mechanism to lose one’s ADA gene. Carter was very happy with the idea and kept asking “write a lot more“, “I want more science“. The use of actual science is one of the distinguishing marks of The X-Files.
  • Anne Simon and Margaret Fearon together came up with involving Crisp-Cas9: to have the smallpox vaccine with a second virus that would deliver the DNA that would then deactivate ADA gene. [Simon certainly remembers her own contribution in making the smallpox vaccine a tagging device in 4X01: Herrenvolk; we still don’t know how this new use of the smallpox vaccine articulates with what we learnt before, and why the conspiracy would know how to use this virus from at least the 1970s but then focus on using the Black Oil virus.]
  • How is this activated? Carter wanted it to be chemtrails and aluminum [following recent conspiracy theories]. Simon thought it could be the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is rising; Carter didn’t like that idea. [The trigger remains unexplained.]
  • Margaret Fearon came up with the symptoms observed in the first victims, and using anthrax as an example.
  • Simon was helping with My Struggle II at the same time Carter was shooting Babylon. Every day there were pages going back and forth with corrections and suggestions, it was a difficult time for Carter. [This is the actual script; we do not know how far ahead the story was conceived.]
  • Simon says that My Struggle IItakes place 6 weeks after the first episode” [as mentioned in the dialogue]. In My Struggle Ithere are some hints that something is going wrong. So it’s really taking quite a while before thew immune system is starting to go down“, it is “very gradual” [but this connection between the two episodes is never made explicit in the scenarios].

Gillian Anderson calls William, the presumed pilot of the UFO/ARV!

What could come next

  • Carter cut the final 10 pages of the My Struggle II scenario to create that cliffhanger. [We could then say that season 10 and season 11 mythology were conceived as a single story arc, if not in the details then at least in story directions.]
  • Simon knows what happens after “that close encounter” at the end of My Struggle II. [This would mean that the occupants of that craft could be alien, and that the arrival of the UFO/ARV was not something that was added after the first draft in order to create a cliffhanger for next season.]
  • Simon and Fearon had mapped out the science for the next episode [My Struggle III] already.
  • With Scully’s vaccine, we all have alien DNA now. Simon: “could this be what they wanted all along? Maybe this is their plan.” [This gives credence to the theory that the Spartan virus is a ploy and the real objective is to have people vaccinated with Scully’s cure, which will prove to be a biological Trojan horse of some kind. The alternative would be that there are several kinds of aliens, and those would be benevolent towards humans.]
  • About producing the vaccine with Scully’s extra nucleotides on an industrial scale for the whole world: “The idea is that then they would be able to synthesize this. But initially it would require Scully’s blood. That was all worked out. Chris was asking about that, but how long would it take… So where are the last 10 pages?” [Does that mean that a general cure for the entire world’s population is what we will see in My Struggle III and only necessitates 10 pages? This is asking a lot of suspension of disbelief! Scully would presumably get some slight help from the CDC and the WHO — perhaps even from the occupants of that UFO/ARV as well?]
  • Simon wrote more material: “I had a dream kind of thing, where you go back and the Cigarette-Smoking Man takes his first puff, he was really young, I thought it was good. And Chris said no, you cannot do a back in time thing, because he was doing it with Monica and I didn’t realize he was planning on that.” [But then My Struggle III seems to be all about flashbacks to a young CSM! Perhaps Carter kept Simon’s ideas for My Struggle III.]
  • And finally, about My Struggle II and the coherence of the mythology: “I hope people can see how this episode fits in with the mythology. I think it explains a lot. What was the conspiracy? This is the conspiracy. Now, did Chris know that this was the conspiracy? Obviously not because I told him what the conspiracy was — but he knew there was a conspiracy, he just didn’t know what it was.” When she sent ideas, Carter was happy: “Chris could see that it fit what had been done before.” [My Struggle I & II present lots of problems of continuity with earlier episodes: the purpose of the Syndicate, the absence of Colonist aliens, the absence of Black Oil in greys, the credulity of Mulder, the absence of Supersoldiers, the chronology of the Syndicate using the smallpox vaccine to introduce this Spartan virus since the 1970s while spending decades afterwards to find a way to use the Black Oil virus as the trigger of the Apocalypse instead and developing hybrids immune to it, the inconsistency of the CSM’s behavior if he manipulated everybody from 1947, and more. Some of these problems depend on future twists in My Struggle III and so forth, but it is likely that is will not be possible to reconcile everything.]

An otherwise useless zoom-in into Scully’s eye echoing the closing shot of the episode

Would the original conclusion that Simon is referring to actually take place right after what we saw in My Struggle II? How could we switch from a UFO/ARV suddenly appearing and menacing Scully to Scully saving everyone by mass-producing her vaccine, thus cancelling that particular Apocalypse? — until…”could this be what they wanted all along?

Recent season 11 promotional material seems to confirm a theory that started as hearsay mentioned by Jonathan Maberry all the way back to October 2016: that starting from the zoom-in in the first scene in the X-Files office until the zoom-in in the last shot, My Struggle II would be a sort of vision of the future that Scully had. This could be a premonitory dream, a vision given to her by somebody who has psychic powers (spiritual beings, aliens, William?), or a vision projected on her by someone via her implanted chip, which can be tele-operated (e.g. to call her to a specific place, as in 5X13: Patient X) — perhaps so that she would know of the future and act to prevent it. This is not the retconning of Millennium end of season 2 to beginning of season 3 (the viral Apocalypse was actually a local event with low death toll), but it is a way out.

My Struggle I cut scene

The DVD/BluRay (released in June 2016) included some excellent making of documentaries by Julie Ng, whose love for the series shows on every frame! — some additional anecdotes that did not make it in the final edit of the documentaries can be found here and here (originally a feature for X-Files News, it has disappeared there?).

“Our lives are at danger now.” echoes Deep Throat’s “Your lives may be in danger” from 1X01: Deep Throat in the same way the Old Man’s “You’re nearly there. You’re close.” echoed Deep Throat’s “Don’t give up on this one. Trust me. You’ve never been closer.” from 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask!

This included a cut scene for My Struggle I. In it, Mulder is waiting to meet the Old informant a second time in the same spot. Instead, he meets who pretends to be the informant’s daughter, who tells Mulder that her father was dead — presumably killed by the conspiracy because he was feeding Mulder with presumably true information. My Struggle I was a very dense episode and this short scene was cut for no other reason than for time; we can thus consider this information as canon (until proven otherwise).

This scene explains why we do not see the Old informant in My Struggle II, something that would have made narrative sense given the important impact of his information on Mulder’s beliefs, and given the informant’s promise of revealing more secrets to Mulder in the future. Instead, this character was of one-time use: Carter introduced him, he told Mulder what he needed to say, served his purpose, and was written out, all of which in the same episode. (Sadly, the actor portraying him, Rance Howard, passed away just days ago, on November 25 2017, making the return of this character impossible without a recast.)

This is one more example of the issues Carter’s recent scripts have with pacing, and Carter’s tendency in most of his post-season 5 mythology episodes to have characters tell the plot and not have Mulder and Scully actually investigate to uncover the truth.


Carter took a bold leap into the unknown by choosing to do a cliffhanger without a guaranteed season 11, which, with two years’ negotiations versus five months for season 10, nearly didn’t happen. Nevertheless, he created an X-Files cliffhanger like no other where everything — characters’ fates, humanity’s survival, the very meaning of the narrative of the mythology that makes the fabric of the show — is up in the air, and got people talking. We will know shortly how, and if, it all comes together!

Mythology elements of The Real Science Behind The X-Files

Dr. Anne Simon is a researcher in virology and professor in the University of Maryland. She also has in her curriculum the no less respectable title of science advisor for The X-Files! Anne Simon got involved in the show from the very first season, 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask, through a family connection — her mother’s best friend is Chris Carter’s wife and writer Dori Pierson — and has remained involved to this day, even earning a writing credit on the show’s last episode to have aired to date, 10X6: My Struggle II. She is also the daughter of screenwriter Mayo Simon, who wrote several science-themed or science fiction features (Marooned, Phase IV).

In 1999, Simon wrote “Monsters, Mutants and Missing Links: The Real Science Behind The X-Files“, a book that mixed episode stories with her own scientific knowledge and participation in the making of the series. Simon’s contribution in the series as a scientist elevates this particular book above the usual “the science of…” tie-in books that get released to ride on a pop culture phenomenon’s success. The book makes for a great read for the science amateur and informed X-Files fan, it invites the reader to enter the mindset of a scientific researcher questioning everything and attempting to reconcile facts in order to come up with theories — a quintessentially x-philian activity. The X-Files, after all, tried to balance Mulder’s encyclopedic knowledge of paranormal phenomena with Scully’s no less encyclopedic knowledge of medicine and more.

The US cover

The book covers seasons 1-5 as well as Fight the Future and the first episode of the sixth season. It would be interesting for Anne Simon to do a second edition of this book, with additional chapters not only covering seasons 6-9 (and importantly, as will be seen below, the revival) but also offering an updated view on the science: medical sciences and biology in particular are very lively fields that have seen great advancements over the past 15 years. Scientific truth is an ever-expanding, ever-shifting landscape!

By her own account, Simon only helped Carter with the science of the mythology episodes, the only stand-alone exception being 5X06: Post-Modern Prometheus, also a Carter episode. The science in other X-Files episodes must have been the writers’ own work or Ten Thirteen’s in-house researcher. Thus, the book’s science can be broken down into three types:

  • The book attempts to provide a scientific background for the phenomenon seen in an X-Files investigation. These are more akin to more or less wild sessions of theorizing and of attempting to put science where scientific accuracy might not have been the writers’ concern. For example, finding a biological basis for Virgil Incanto’s need for fat matter (from 3X06: 2Shy).
  • Scully (mostly) and Mulder explicitly reference a scientific concept in an episode, and the book offers further background to that concept. If the concept made it into the script, then it’s likely that the writers used this concept as the basis for their script, or at least they were aware of it and wrote it in in order to strengthen the scientific accuracy of the script. For example, the Chupacabra fungus launches a discussion of how fungi and enzymes work (from 4X11: El Mundo Gira).
  • A third category is Simon’s own contributions, which are first-hand accounts of what research was done to give these episodes scientific verisimilitude and what were the writers’ (well, Carter’s) intentions by including some elements of the research and not others. For example, identifying alien DNA with the two extra nucleotides (from 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask).

Anne Simon circa 1999

Sometimes, the additional research that didn’t make it into the final script and the behind-the-scenes discussions Simon had with Carter provide interesting insights into the script-writing process and valuable information about the mythology that cannot be found elsewhere. This mythology information could be described as “secondary” canon information: although not in the episodes themselves, it is certain it was in Simon’s and Carter’s minds and intentions when the episodes were being written and this extra information does not contradict the episodes. I used this extra information for EatTheCorn’s Mytharc Primer. This will be the focus of this article.

Are all of these elements below things we were to ponder on purpose as part of the larger mysteries of the mythology, or are they fan theories extrapolated from trying to inject too much science into a scripted piece of entertainment?

Mythology elements

The DNA to create an alien is already existing in humans and the Black Oil/Purity virus switches on this junk DNA

Quote:

Chris Carter, the movie’s scriptwriter, originally wanted to connect the black oily slime and the lizard-like entity in the following way: the black slime carries a virus, which is infectious when the slime enters a person; in the warmth of a person’s body, the virus develops into the monstrous creature..
Very imaginative, yes.
Minutely possible within the framework of biology, no.
After reading the movie script in early 1997, I hoped that Chris would change his mind. Having a special place in my heart for viruses, I discussed with him why a virus couldn’t possibly develop into anything. Viruses are, after all, just a bag of genes. A bag of genes that turns into a lizard with large black eyes and long pointed nails wouldn’t fit even my expanded definition of an extraterrestrial virus. I explored with Chris an idea for tinkering with his scenario. What if the black slime virus is responsible for the development of the creature but is not the progenitor of the creature? The virus, carried into a human by the black slime, could invade a cell in the person’s body and cause the cell to lose its identity. The cell could then be enticed by the virus to enter a new developmental pathway. That cell, together with its descendent cells, would regenerate into the hideous alien monster. I was thrilled that Chris liked the changes, since I wasn’t enthusiastic about the ribbing I would have taken from my fellow virologists if viruses changed into lizard-like aliens on the big screen — with me credited as science advisor.

The concern for scientific realism here is remarkable. A virus is a simple strand of DNA, much, much shorter than the DNA of a single-celled organism let alone of a complex multi-cellular organism like humans or grey aliens. For a virus to turn a human into an alien monster, it would have to carry much more information than a simple virus; so much so that it would not be categorized as a virus at all! The solution Simon found was to have the virus just be an activator of genes that are normally inactive in humans.

It would be have been simple to ignore that and just handwave the science away and make the virus do what viruses can’t do, but Carter was more than willing to incorporate this into his script.

Victim of (a strain of) Purity

Implications: human origins

This has large implications. If the information to create an alien were already present in human DNA, how did it get there? What happens if random genetic mutations switch part of that DNA on but not all of it? Gibson Praise and the Biogenesis trilogy storylines are the results of this idea. Super-human abilities such as mind-reading are the result of select genes in the so-called junk DNA being switched on (5X20: The End, 6X01: The Beginning). The alien DNA was put there by design because we are creations of aliens (6X22: Biogenesis). It would make sense then that the Ships with inscriptions on them containing a transcript of human DNA on them would belong to that same alien race that created us (7X03: The Sixth Extinction): Purity.

Implications: Black Oil virus origin

The Black Oil virus can thus be understood as a biological tool to transform a human into an alien. Could that mean that the Black Oil virus itself is manufactured, a tool of biological warfare on humans? The Purity aliens then would, in their natural form, be humanoid greys, the end result of the Black Oil virus’s life cycle. The Black Oil virus and its derivatives (see the creation of the Supersoldiers) would just be a tool for the Purity aliens to spread.

Extending this concept further, the Black Oil virus arbiters the mixture of active human genes and active alien genes in an organism, i.e. determines how much of an alien/human hybrid that organism is. Could that mean that hybridization experiments that result in our well-known green-blooded hybrids consist in finding out which genes to switch on and off? In the study of 5X14: The Red and the Black I theorized that the green blood in Alien Bounty Hunters and Faceless Rebels would mean that this race was created by Purity using some Purity genetic material in the same way humanity was, and that the green blood in alien/human hybrids is proof of that: could it be that this race of Shapeshifters actually be the result of earlier genetic experiments on humans?

Scully is not buying that viruses can think

Implications: virus vs. sentient organism

And so Carter and Simon thus went out of their way to present the Black Oil as a virus, behaving like a real virus. In most episodes we see it, the Black Oil infects people like a normal virus and at most put them into a coma (depending on things like temperature conditions, exposure of the host to a vaccine, potential weakness of the Black Oil strain). What doesn’t jive well with this is that the Black Oil, at times, behaves as if it has sentience: once it is inside a host, at times, it makes the host behave as if he is controlled by an intelligence other than his own. A simple virus would be very far from having the complexity necessary to do this. At best it could influence the behavior of the host in a specific way, like the worms wrapped around the brain in 1X07: Ice made the host violent. Could this be anything else than artistic license?

To be fair, the only times when the Black Oil virus shows real intelligence all by itself is in 3X15: Piper Maru / 3X16: Apocrypha, when for example it drives Krycek to negotiate with the CSM in order for it to reach its UFO — and the writers might not have yet settled their minds about what this black fluid was or that the “black cancer” they introduced in 4X09: Tunguska was the same entity. The other instance is in 8X16: Vienen, where the infected try to get more people infected. Interestingly, it is only in these two instances of the Black Oil that we see the host emit a flash of radioactivity to protect and attack, as if this were a different entity altogether. In both these instances, it could be that the Black Oil merely manipulates the brain to usher the host to rejoin with more of its kind, and the host uses the resources at its disposal — the host’s intelligence, memories, capabilities — to achieve that. This would not be unlike what some real parasites do when they control the host to their own benefit, for instance by ingesting more food or by moving to a safe place for the parasite to mature (see these or this lovely example).

How the Black Oil operates inside the Alien Bounty Hunters would be a different issue entirely.

The Black Oil/Purity virus doesn’t have extra nucleotides: is it terrestrial or extra-terrestrial?

Quote:

In ‘The Beginning’, the opening episode of the sixth season, Mulder’s convinced that there is a connection between Gibson and the virus involved in activating the development of the lizard-like creature. Unfortunately, hard evidence is lacking. Gibson is gone and the creatures have vanished. Muider’s only piece of evidence is a trace amount of the virus that he believes is extraterrestrial. Mulder is crushed when Scully cannot support scientifically the alien nature of the virus. After running tests, Scully reveals that the virus, although of an unknown species, has the same four nucleotides in its DNA and the same 20 amino acids in its proteins as earthly viruses. She therefore concludes that Mulder is mistaken. The virus comes from Earth.

Here Simon just summarizes how 6X01: The Beginning unfolds, but doesn’t counter Scully’s argument. Throughout the book, the Black Oil virus is casually referred to as alien and there is no question that aliens are here to colonize. There is just this catch: the Black Oil virus doesn’t contain the two extra nucleotides that was the most convincing proof of alien biology! Simon explains in detail her idea of two extra nucleotides to the usual four found in all earthly organisms, and how Carter integrated this idea in his script for 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask involving alien gene therapy on humans (i.e. inserting bits of alien DNA in the DNA of living humans). Surely, this is the best evidence Scully should have to make her believe in aliens. By Fight the Future and 6X01: The Beginning, Mulder believes the Black Oil virus and the clawed creature it spawns to be alien, but Scully’s analyses do not show something out of the ordinary apart from the fact that humans share a large part of their genome with it.

Southern blot DNA test in 5X02: Redux

Does that scientific result insinuate that the Black Oil is, in fact, terrestrial in origin and the entity with extra nucleotides is the only thing that is alien? The extra nucleotides are encountered in 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask and 5X02: Redux (and again in 10X6: My Struggle II; and since it is inside Scully, presumably it is what the Lone Gunmen analyze in 2X08: One Breath). What this would imply for the overall mythology is unclear. The Syndicate obtained the alien fetus with the extra nucleotides DNA from a deal with the aliens (6X12: One Son), the same aliens that are identified with the Black Oil/Purity colonization effort in many instances. Are the extra nucleotides necessary only in the mature grey form of the alien but not in the virus and first “clawed alien” forms? Is the Black Oil race in fact also seeking protection from the extra nucleotides race and conducting hybridization experiments as well? Did the Black Oil race originally evolve on Earth before leaving and now returning once more?

Gibson Praise’s DNA test in 6X01: The Beginning

This raises more questions than it answers, and unless it is building up to a future revelation about multiple races I will categorize it as an oversight on behalf of Carter for now.

The Syndicate’s endgame was the depopulation of the planet

Quote:

As Kurtzweil explains to Mulder in the X-Files movie, the corn is for production; the virus is the product; and the bees are for transportation. A deadly sting that the conspirators thought would depopulate the world but instead will repopulate it with virus-induced alien life-forms.
And that’s all the buzz on bees, corn and viruses.

Although there were talks of plagues and viruses and Apocalyptic warnings, the Syndicate’s purpose as it was exposed in Fight the Future and again in 6X11: Two Fathers / 6X12: One Son and 9X19/20: The Truth was to spread the Black Oil virus and see the world be taken over by the alien colonists, with the Syndicate members themselves surviving as immune hybrids. Indeed, if the Black Oil virus didn’t do anything else but put people in a coma or kill them why term it “colonization”? Why would the aliens collaborate with the Syndicate if they didn’t get something in return? In Fight the Future the Syndicate discovers the Black Oil triggers a gestation of a “clawed” alien. Well-Manicured Man: “This isn’t Colonization, this is spontaneous repopulation!” “We believed the virus would simply control us, that mass infection would make us a slave race. Imagine our surprise when they began to gestate.” We thus discover that the aliens perceive colonization as using the human population to reproduce themselves and increase their numbers, at humanity’s expense (and extinction).

The Well-Manicured Man spills the beans (that he knows about) to Mulder

Simon’s sentence could have been a shorthand — what effectively happens whether humans become hosts to Purity for life or humans die giving birth to the clawed alien form is that humans as such decrease in numbers. The mention of “depopulation” in Simon’s text is not backed up by anything in the series’ canon and would not mean much more — right until depopulation was presented as the (a?) conspiracy’s endgame in 10X6: My Struggle II. It could be then that the conspiracy’s initial objective was depopulation and choosing who would survive. Then came along the colonist aliens who offered the conspiracy with a means to achieve this objective: a potent pathogen, the Black Oil virus. In 1973, the conspiracy became the Syndicate by agreeing to share the spoils with the aliens in a post-depopulation colonized Earth. The Syndicate might have believed that the Black Oil virus would make humans into slaves that they, as new world leaders, would control jointly with the aliens. When the Syndicate discovered the aliens’ true purpose, the agreement was off and what remained of the Syndicate returned to the original plans of depopulation we see in season 10, using the Spartan virus injected into the population before 1973 along with the smallpox vaccinations.

Scully’s cancer was not cured, it only went into remission thanks to chip

Quote:

In the summer of 1997, I discussed with Chris some cool new treatments for curing Scully’s cancer. Scully’s health was getting progressively worse, until she lay near death in the sequel to the episode ‘Redux’, called ‘Redux I’. Chris decided to have Scully ‘cured’ when a synthetic chip was placed at the base of her neck. While watching the episode, I groaned. I knew what would happen the next day when I faced the 500 rabid X-Files fans in my Introduction to Biology class. Hands flew up as soon as I entered the room. ‘How could a computer chip in the neck cure cancer, Dr Simon?’ I was asked repeatedly. When I talked to Chris later that week, he said ‘It’s not a cure! It’s only remission!’ I remain hopeful that some new neat medical technology will prevail in the end.

The Redux trilogy ended in an excellent way synthesizing the core themes of the X-Files. Scully’s cancer disappeared, and it could have been due to her prayers being answered by God, or due to the conventional treatment she underwent, or due to the chip that was put into her again, a symbol of unconventional science and perhaps of the existence of aliens.

Studying Scully’s very first implant

That it would be just a remission instead of a cure makes some pseudoscientific sense. Scully’s cancer was caused by the experiments done on her during her abduction (radiation exposure to trigger hyper-ovulation? contact with alien genetic material?). A cancer is certain cells losing their constraints and duplicating endlessly growing into an unwanted tumor. The chip put inside Scully during her abduction put shackles on these cells and stopped their spread. The removal of the chip in season 3 caused the spread to begin anew; the addition of a similar chip in season 5 stopped it. Scully only has to remove the chip and her cancer could return; or, the chip could be reprogrammed to kill her by permitting the cancer to grow. Carter’s quote above could be both an acknowledgment that the chip did not magically cure her cancer, and a tease for a potential future development — one story thread that has not yet been pulled back to the fore.

Some additional short tidbits that have their significance

Dr. Anne Carpenter

In 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask, Dr. Anne Carpenter’s name comes from Anne Simon’s first name and not legendary director John Carpenter, but after Anne Simon’s husband name.

Magnetite

Magnetite is mentioned extensively in the description of the (real) Mars meteorite that might have contained fossilized bacteria, which served as inspiration for 4X09: Tunguska. Magnetite is of course a widely common iron compound found on Earth and elsewhere and there is nothing particular about it, however magnetite’s importance as the aliens’ weak spot introduced in season 9 does make this research relevant. One theory would be that the presence of magnetite in the Mars meteorites is what weakened the Black Oil’s potency and allowed the research into a vaccine to proceed faster in Russia compared to other, more potent Black Oil strains, like the ones in Fight the Future and 6X01: The Beginning.

Black vermiforms

Foum Tataouine

Discussing Mars meteorites, Simon also mentions the Tatahouine meteorite, which was analyzed in the wake of the potential bacteria find in the ALH84001 meteorite from Antarctica. That meteorite fell in the Foum Tataouine/Tatahouine/Tatawin region of Tunisia in 1931. This is the same place where we find Conrad Strughold at the end of Fight the Future. It is possible the Syndicate installed GMO corn fields above findings of Black Oil, some of which might have landed on Earth with meteorites.

S.E.P.

In Scully’s and Pendrell’s analysis of smallpox vaccination tags in 4X01: Herrenvolk, the aminoacid sequence that appears onscreen is not random: it is that of the cowpox virus, as could be expected from a smallpox vaccination!

Look what Pendrell found inside Scully

The chimera organism

The chimera organism in 5X02: Redux that develops under Scully’s microscope and could be alien is actually footage of a proteus urchin!

Alien urchin

Genetically modified plants

Fight the Future and colonization in general is based on genetically modified corn that carries the DNA from the Black Oil virus, which is passed on to bees when the bees come into contact with the corn’s pollen: the transfer of genes from one organism to the other is something that is observed in nature with Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which transfers its genes into plant cells and has been used to insert specific genes and thus create genetically modified plants.

Black Oil worms

The Black Oil coalescing into worms was inspired by dictyostelium slugs. It looks like the Black Oil behaves intelligently, for example when it forms worms that “attack” a host in Fight the Future. There is however a real nature counterpart to such behavior, as odd as it seems. One could imagine the Black Oil virus organizing itself and the hydrocarbons in the oil it is bathing in order to behave like a multi-cellular organism looking to infect a host, in a broadly similar way to the ‘dicti‘ organism.

Dictyostelium discoideum life cycle

ADA enzyme & gene

There is mention of the severe immunodeficiency syndrome caused by a faulty gene producing the ADA enzyme. Years later, Simon would use that knowledge to come up with the mechanism with which the conspiracy would depopulate the planet with the ADA-removing Spartan virus, in 10X6: My Struggle II.

Southern blot

Simon is well aware that the Southern blot test conducted by Scully in 5X02: Redux was done way too quickly because the narrative of the episode demanded it, and it has become a bit of a recurring joke that she has received criticism for this. (To accelerate the test, more heat is needed, thus the mention of a “blazing hot probe”: little did she suspect that FOX censorship might take issue with that expression!) I wonder how the same people would react to 10X6: My Struggle II and its extremely quickly produced alien DNA vaccine.

Annex: Book contents

An overview of all the information in the book’s six chapters:

1: Hidden and Hungry
Episodes: The Host ; Ice; Darkness Falls; Firewalker; El Mundo Gira; F. Emasculata
Described: extremophiles; pathogens; antibiotics; hypothalamus & hormones; flukes & worms; hermaphrodites; reviving extinct species; spores; silicon-based life; fungi & enzymes; immune system; parasites & outbreaks

2: Visitors from the Void
Episodes: The Erlenmeyer Flask; Tunguska; Piper Maru; Ice; Gethsemane/Redux
Described: bacteria; microscopes; DNA, RNA & nucleotides; virus replication; Human Genome Project; ALH84001 Mars meteorite, PAHs, carbonates & magnetite; dicti slugs; Tunguska event; life in space & panspermia; ammonia-based life; chimeric organisms; Piltdown Man hoax; RFLP DNA test; mitosis & somatic development

3: Mutants and Monsters
Episodes: Post-Modern Prometheus; Home; Small Potatoes; 2Shy; Leonard Betts; Fight the Future; The End/The Beginning
Described: fruit flies; genetic engineering; DNA mutations; epidemics & mutant gene spread in human population; birth defects & genetic disorders; chromosomes, autosomes, sex chromosomes; dominant & recessive genes; extra chromosomes & chromosome inactivation; inbreeding; PCR DNA test; enzymes, proteases, lipids & digestion; regenerating limbs & repression by the immune system; cancer, proto-oncogenes, p53 gene & mutation suppression; bacteria redirecting the identity of cells & viruses activating genes; junk DNA; God module

4: Releasing the Genetic Genie
Episodes: Eve; Memento Mori; The Erlenmeyer Flask; Redux; Zero Sum; Herrenvolk; Fight the Future
Described: cloning; genetic engineering; chemotherapy & radiation treatment for cancer; gene therapy; Southern blot test; cloning & extra chromosomes; reproduction by cloning; forensic entomology; smallpox, immunization with cowpox, Smallpox Eradication Program; immunohistochemical staining & protein amino-acid sequence “tagging”; adding genes to plants & Agrobacterium tumefaciens

5: Seeking the Fountain of Youth
Episodes: Young at Heart; Dod Kalm; Roland; Synchrony; Our Town
Described: immortality & cell life ageing theory; HeLa cells; Hayflick cell division limit; human experimentation & consent forms; ‘wear and tear’ ageing theory, progeria, Werner’s syndrome, helicase enzyme; gene therapy; telomeres; cancer & telomerase enzyme; free radical ageing theory; antioxidants; male/female longevity, hormones & metabolism; cryonics; cells freezing process & ischemia; cryopreservants; vitrification; nanotechnology; brain diseases, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; prions; cannibalism & kuru disease; ‘mad cow’ disease

6: Fooling with Mother Nature
Episodes: War of the Coprophages; The Jersey Devil; Blood; The Pine Bluff Variant; Quagmire
Described: environmental problems; invasive species; species extinction from loss of habitat; mutations, global warming & Hsp90 protein; insect sterilization for pest control; man-made insecticides, DDT, environmental oestrogens & link to cancer; artificial chemicals & health problems; animal & human pheromones; adrenaline; biological warfare & US & USSR programs; flesh eating bacteria, Streptococcus, anthrax; terrorist groups with biological agents (Aum Shinrikyo & nerve gas sarin, domestic terrorism in 1998); amphibians extinction; Endangered Species Act; coelacanth; chytrid fungi

XF comics end: #14-17 review

Once more after his Season 11 was reduced from a two-year arc to just 8 issues because of the unexpected live revival of the series, Joe Harris has been cut short. For reasons still unclear (but likely related to cost-cutting measures on behalf of IDW and decreasing sales for the XF comics title), IDW has decided to scrap Harris’s plans for a two-year story and stop the current comics series with #17. Had Season 11 continued, it would have approximately spanned the sum of the issues Season 11 and this “ongoing” series ended up consisting in, and we would be now discussing the end of Season 11!

Despite these constraints, Harris manages to provide a compelling story in #14-17 “Resistance” and goes out with a bang. Earlier reviews at EatTheCorn: #1-9; #10-13.

THEY have taken over!

The world has changed a lot since this title started in March 2016, when Donald Trump took office as President of the USA, and his photo started dominating Skinner’s office. It is impossible to ignore it.

National Security Councils and constant news updates on imminent nuclear war with North Korea, an empty Oval Office and a President off playing golf: it has been absolutely chilling reading these nearly-prescient issues all the while these same events have been unfolding in the real world.

When a general who stands up for the corruption of democratic values says “I have advised five presidents on national security matters without any regard for party affiliation or personal viewpoints“, how one could not think of ex-FBI director Comey testifying? When a corrupt Admiral Harkin (a reference to ex-Admiral Grand Moff Tarkin?) reverses the accusation of conspiracy and turns those who would stand for democracy into traitors (“There is a conspiracy at work against this nation and its leadership, forces intent on undermining our efforts to transform this country are out there.“), how one could not think of fake news and misdirection? Skinner’s line reaches a documentary-like level of realism: “The news media hasn’t been shy with some of the colorful ways they describe the situation in Washington these days. Sometimes I think they have no idea how tame they’re still being.

The evil alien conspiracy is no longer hiding in the shadows, difficultly discovered by the efforts of valiant honest FBI agents: it is now right in our faces, it has taken power, it is the one making the decisions in public, it is in the White House! Now is not the time for The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the times call for a more direct kind of political science fiction. Joe Harris is anti-Trump and could not be more explicit, using the medium of The X-Files in a very partisan way, something never seen before for this series and losing tons of subtlety along the way — but how could he not be given the uncommon circumstances? Firas summarizes the situation: “This Cabal is operating with a mandate only they recognize now…gods above, watch over us all.” It will be interesting to see if and how the Carter-led X-Files tackle such controversial themes next year.

The Strughold connection

It is interesting that in this context, even the enemies of old can become potential allies. The old conspiracy/Syndicate, which in this comics and continuity survives as Firas Ben-Brahim-Strughold, had less-than-honorable plans for world domination, but has found a new and powerful opponent that has taken him by storm (akin to how outsider Trump overtook both GOP and the country by surprise?). Firas operates from his base in Peters Mountain, Virginia, which must be an acquisition
of what used to be the secret government’s base in Mount Weather Complex in 9X19/20: The Truth (same exterior looks, itself shot at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Clorado).

In an unexpected but expertly hinted at turn of events, Firas Ben-Brahim, introduced in the Come Back Haunted arc (#6-9), is revealed to be Conrad Strughold’s son. Strughold was the leader of the Syndicate, only seen and referenced in the movie Fight the Future in 1998 and vanished since (albeit obliquely referenced by a Tunisia connection in 6X10: S.R. 819 and 7X22: Requiem). Joe Harris resurrecting that most dangling of dangling threads is a testament to the attention to continuity and constant effort at quality that he has given to the X-Files comics since the beginning over four years ago.

Firas was thus the secret child of Conrad Strughold and a Tunisian “washwoman”, illegitimately begotten in those GMO corn crop fields in Foum Tataouine (that we saw at the end of FTF); Conrad must have had a liking for his progeny as he got passage for the mother and young Firas to Europe in 1982 and could have kept an eye on Firas from afar in the same way the Cigarette-Smoking Man was following his son(-apparent) Fox Mulder. Grown up Firas has taken a liking to his role and plays with his alter ego Mulder: “We are the children of visionaries. We are the heirs to a conspiracy, agent Mulder, the likes of which the world had never seen bef[ore].” “It’s awful, I think you’d agree, that which fathers sometimes do to make men out of their sons.” This revelation and this parallel with Mulder might have been more fleshed out had Harris had more issues to develop his story.

This self-aggrandizement goes so far as for Firas to request from the Old Ones some recognition and a ‘seat in the table’ in their plans for world domination. Ultimately, Firas appears to be absorbed willingly by the Old Ones and loses his bodily shell in this transcendental process; his personality contacts Mulder psychically one last time before moving on to wherever this faction of the Old Ones went. After so much teasing throughout the first issues of this arc, the level of ambiguity of what happens at the end is a bit frustrating. Again, this is a story that could have been told more smoothly or been continued had Harris been given more issues.

In addition to their ascendance, Firas and Mulder also share a liking to agent Scully! The Firas/Scully sexual tension is explicit since the Came Back Haunted arc and is reinforced here, complete with Scully wearing a black dress similar to that she was wearing while dining with the CSM in 7X15: En Ami, with Mulder hardly hiding his jealousy, and with Scully being dismissive and focusing on “the work”. The cessation/pause in the Mulder-Scully relationship established by Carter in the live revival gave Harris the freedom and the direction to play such games, as this is similar to the ambiguity around Scully and Tad O’Malley in Carter’s My Struggle I & II; given the comics follow Carter’s lead in characterization, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, however one hopes future live and comics developments be less soap operatic.

The Old Ones’ Endgame

With these closing issues, Harris connects his new mythology back to the very first issue of this comics run. We first met the Old Ones in issue #1 Active Shooter and Mulder had a very close encounter in #6-9 Came Back Haunted. Their resemblance to the Black Oil/Purity is made explicit here: Firas tells Mulder & Scully “You’ve known about the phenomena the “Old Ones” can be more properly likened to for over twenty years now. You knew its relative as Purity — the fabled “Black Oil” — which possessed human beings in order for the alien sentience to get where, and what, it wanted.

Like the alien Supersoldiers infiltrating the highest levels of government in seasons 8-9, the Old Ones have been infecting people and getting closer to power, manipulating policy decisions to their own gain and bullying anyone that doesn’t follow their new rule. They are the allegory Harris chose for the new Trump administration.

However, there are many sides to this game as well. An Old Ones-possessed Firas tells Mulder: “There is a conflict between those, like us, who would reach the holes in the sky and those who no longer wish to return through them. They hide within your government.” Later, the Old Ones (or an ascended Firas?) tell Mulder: “For millennia Old Ones have sought to leave this place. But not all of us wish to go.” Although one of them tells Scully “We do not care for control or for power, for us there are only the holes in the sky“, its faction was vying for control within the US government. So it is all left a bit ambiguous and hazy as to what faction was attempting what — however surely both factions didn’t seem to have humanity’s best intentions in mind.

And thus, certain Old Ones manipulate events so as to reach an underwater spaceship in the Sea of Japan and leave Earth (creating a hole in the sky) — nearly creating a nuclear conflict between North Korea and the USA in the process: another example of Harris cleverly using real-world events to propose an alternative X-Files-y version of history.

Certain other Old Ones apparently have other elusive plans but that do involve a conspiracy for controlling human destinies as well: an arch-enemy for another day. Firas hoped to reveal the “bad faction” Old One’s conspiracy inside the government; he is outpaced by the power in place, in the form of Attorney General Jeff Sessions himself (!), accompanied by the two Men In Black from 3X20: José Chung’s From Outer Space (!!), there to brainwash or blackmail Skinner into obedience. The comics series leaves Skinner in his classic seasons 1-6 role of ambiguous ally. Mulder and Scully are left to collect what weak evidence they have, ever the heroes doing the never-ending good fight, and only have each other. In the same issue #17 we get both some friendly camaraderie with a punch in the shoulder and some love declarations in which only the word “love” is missing — and a forehead kiss straight from Fight the Future.


In short, what one could expect from The X-Files. The ending is nothing groundbreaking, being a return to status quo of the inescapable “golden age” of the series (around seasons 2-5), but is fitting enough: the adventures of these characters never end. It is certainly less of a conclusion compared to the resolution in the last issue of Season 11 but more of an open-ended final arc. It is a good enough ending to a 17 issues series that hit quite a few bumps in the road, and overall the stories and the fan reception for this series have been lesser than what they had been for Seasons 10 and 11. Perhaps it is due to a general loss of interest in these tie-ins ever since the 2016 live revival de-canonized the comics and made it clear that “canon” is only to be found in the live incarnation of this franchise.

And so after four exciting years, the excellent Seasons 10 and 11 and several dozens of comics issues starting in June 2013, Joe Harris’s run on The X-Files does end, though! For penciller Matthew Dow Smith and colorist Jordie Bellaire, perhaps it’s not the end yet. Apart from the young adult series “Origins” and a two-issue special “JFK Disclosure”, IDW’s plans for any more future X-Files for 2018, if any, should be revealed soon.

X-Files music: Event Series release + more to come

After their impressive multi-CD box sets with music from all Ten Thirteen shows, The X-Files in particular, soundtracks specialists La La Land Records released a set with music from the recent season 10 of The X-Files — or, as it is officially known, “The X-Files Event Series“.

lll_eventseries

The 2-CD set with music by Mark Snow was released on April 25 2017, just over a year after the series aired. Soundtracks for each season of television series have become common practice over the past ten years, so this should not come as a surprise. However, given how scarce Mark Snow XF material was until LLL started focusing on the franchise, it is some event!

2 CDs with a total running time of XXX just for 6 episodes means that this release is close to being a complete score — compare with 12 CDs for 89 episodes covered by the “original series” box sets, there’s a lot more material per episode here. Here is the track list:

Disc One

MY STRUGGLE

1. Prologue (2:59)
2. THE X-FILES Main Title (Season 9) (0:36)
3. Ride to Roswell (2:09)
4. Call to Mulder (1:49)
5. Sveta (4:31)
6. Sveta Exam (1:47)
7. Alien Replica Vehicle/Element 115 (3:09)
8. Lab Labors (2:16)
9. Sveta’s Story (3:17)
10. Mulder’s Office (1:58)
11. Deep Throat (2:35)
12. Home Fire (1:55)
13. Conspiracy Montage (5:14)
14. Sveta Confesses (1:48)
15. Parking Garage (2:26)
16. Sveta Gets Zapped (1:18)
17. Smoking Man (0:44)

FOUNDER’S MUTATION

18. Insecure Insecurity (2:30)
19. Hand Message (3:33)
20. Pull the Thread/Semi-Alien Boy (10:04)
21. Capsules (5:01)
22. Aquaiescent (1:46)
23. A Mother Never Forgets (2:23)
24. The Farm House/Catching Kyle (3:32)
25. The Real Molly (2:46)
26. Mulder’s Memories (2:47)

Disc One Total Time: 75:55
Disc Two

HOME AGAIN

1. City Shower Services (1:15)
2. No Prints/The Call (2:17)
3. Extubation (0:37)
4. Remorse (1:41)
5. Sub-Urban (3:05)
6. Tulku (3:33)
7. More Remorse (2:20)

BABYLON

8. Prayer (1:13)
9. Einstein/Miller (2:01)
10. Mugwump (5:02)
11. Evacuation (3:25)
12. Ummu (2:48)
13. Motel (1:35)
14. Walk With Me (1:24)

MY STRUGGLE II

15. Recap (1:31)
16. Scully’s Story (2:27)
17. Fed Ford/Alien American DNA (4:35)
18. Vaccine Alienation/One-Class Infection (2:27)
19. Smokin’ God (6:58)
20. The Spartan Virus (7:48)
21. Crispr Cas9 (6:33)
22. William Is Out There (4:32)
23. THE X-FILES End Credits (New Orbit) (0:35)
24. I Made This/20th Century Fox Fanfare*(0:08)

MULDER AND SCULLY MEET THE WERE-MONSTER

25. Bonus Track: Suite (4:32)


Disc Two Total Time: 79.14
Total Set Running Time: 154.69

The music in the aired episodes is notoriously absent: it is there, but the audio mix has the music sound track usually turned low and the unusual amount of dialogue left very little space for the music to shine (and the episodes to breathe — one major drawback for season 10). This left me disappointed at Mark Snow, but my misgivings were wrong.

A mix of old and new

The music in this set is nothing short of excellent! Mark Snow shines by writing music that feels both modern and in continuation with his soundtrack for the ‘original series’. This is very much intentional: the series might not have been perfect but its clear intention was to try to be modern while attempting to recall the classic, early seasons of the show.

The tone of the music harkens back especially to the early seasons of the show, seasons 3-4 especially, rather than the comedic seasons 6-7 or the horns melodies-heavy seasons 8-9. There are some specific audio libraries that Snow dug up from some twenty years ago and reused them here: that very same paranoid piano melody from E.B.E. (in Founder’s Mutation: A Mother Never Forgets), those pensive horns like in Quagmire, these piano melodies on top of bass synth moods like in Little Green Men, these awe-filling choirs like in All Souls, that unsettling undulating drone like in Colony, even melancholic violins like in Millennium (in Home Again), there is plenty here that feels like home. Even the comedic cues sound like Small Potatoes or Bad Blood.

This is all mixed with the music style explored by Snow in the soundtrack for I Want To Believe: splicing his trademark synthesizer orchestral-like sound together with elements of electronic music. There is a lot of old-school Mark Snow synthesizer mixed with electronic pulsating rhythms and tempo beats here, similar to IWTB tracks A Higher Conscious or Mountain Montage/The Plow.

Six Episodes

Here is the breakdown of the set per episode:

10X1: My Struggle39:55
10X2: Founder's Mutation34:22
10X3: Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster04:32
10X4: Home Again14:48
10X5: Babylon17:28
10X6: My Struggle II36:51

Mark Snow establishes a soundscape for the two My Struggle episodes, reprising some of the music of the first in the second, in particular the music for the teaser (which we might get a third time in the new season?); the sense of rising tension and world-spanning stakes as My Struggle II develops is very palpable and really is X-Files at its most blockbustery massiveness.

Founder’s Mutation alternates between action-oriented music, horror and warmer tones in the William dreams. The music for Home Again, like the episode, is an odd mix between horror music like in Home, and the warmer music of the “relationship” scenes of I Want To Believe. Home Again ending includes a soft rendering of the X-Files main theme; thankfully, Mark Snow didn’t overdo it by quoting that melody too much (unlike the show’s taglines in the dialogue!).

Very unexpectedly, even the music for Babylon was a pleasant surprise — outside of the short comedic cues of which I was never a big fan of (including a quote of Beethoven’s Letter for Elise)– what is there makes one think of a tense, dark episode. Were-Monster gets just a medley, and it is true that its music was not that memorable.

The set wraps up with Snow’s remix of the main theme, with heavy use of electronics, used in the end titles. The opening titles used the original mix of the iconic original theme.

All of this makes me look forward to Mark Snow’s score for the upcoming season.

 


 

Volume 4 and beyond

We are still waiting for Volume 4 of La La Land’s music for the original X-Files, after Volume 3 was released in 2013.

The massive list with requests for cues has been updated — music from 147 episodes!

What was covered in Volume 3 was removed, more requests were added (cues gathered at FSM or sent to EatTheCorn).

The latest news from LLL is that they are indeed considering a Volume 4 given the sales of previous volumes, however indications are that this would be the last volume. The focus is expected to be on episodes not covered in previous volumes, however requests for important cues that were skipped the first time around are so recurring that I hope LLL might reconsider.

Another idea that has been floated by LLL is that of complete episodic soundtracks: the complete score of episodes instead of episode selections, with one CD containing perhaps 2 episodes. This has been attempted before with, for instance, the episodic scores to Babylon 5; the limited edition would be fewer than the 3000 units for the Volumes releases. This approach would make sense once the “best of” Volume 4 will be out, given the amount of material out there and the dedicated fanbase of Snow’s music.

Volume 3 was an odd mix of selected cues and complete episodic soundtracks where precious time could have been saved for short cues that are considered of higher priority. Volume 3 featured a peculiar selection of music, with some excellent material from the first couple of seasons that many had asked for (Deep Throat, GenderBender, 3) but also spending comparatively a lot of CD space on episodes for which a selection would have sufficed (Small Potatoes) or that were not on anyone’s list (El Mundo Gira, Trust No 1) or giving select episodes the complete soundtrack treatment. For example Drive was covered in its entirety with 32 min (only missing: two very short cues that are actually samples of the released cues), and Field Trip and Essence were also very close to complete.

Despite these quips, LLL has been issuing high quality box sets with material that was only the stuff of dreams a few years ago, so the fact that LLL does have plans for more releases to come can only be good news!

 

The X-Files: Cold Cases review & podcast

The X-Files: Cold Cases was released on July 18 2017. It is an audio drama adaptation of the first half of the Season 10” comics of Joe Harris (2013-2014). Not an audio book reading of prose, but an audio drama, featuring a cast of actors and audio effects that make it as if it were an audio recording of a theatre play or the sound track of a movie. Like the radio dramas popular up to the 1950s-1060s (the most famous of which would be Orson Welles’ 1938 adaptation of H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, which genuinely generated panic that an alien invasion was going on!). There had been a previous attempt at doing X-Files audio dramas, by Broken Sea Audio Productions in 2009-2010, however it was unofficial and did not feature anyone from the original cast.


Hear Carl Sweeney and myself discuss X-Files, EatTheCorn and Cold Cases
in (quite fittingly!) an audio format, in The X-Cast podcast: here!


Cold Cases was produced by Amazon’s Audible, adapted by Dirk Maggs (also interviewed by the X-Cast here), directed by William Dufris, and featuring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund and Tom Braidwood from the original series. Chris Carter gets a “written by” credit, although we know his involvement with the comics was very minimal; Joe Harris’s involvement in this was non-existent, as Audible must have just gotten the license to exploit X-Files products directly by the owner, FOX, and not by IDW comics (with some odd results, such as Harris not being invited on-stage at the Cold Cases panel in the San Diego Comic Con).

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It totals about 4 hours in length, broken down into chapters, each being a story arc from the comics that spanned from one to five issues. Here is the story, along with the detailed series of “Lowdown” articles analyzing each issue as it was coming out here at EatTheCorn — and thus there are no spoilers for future issues in each Lowdown:

  • Episode 1: Believers (1:10:13): Lowdown #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
  • Episode 2: Hosts (00:37:55): Lowdown #6 #7
  • Episode 3: Being for the Benefit of Mr. X (00:24:56): Lowdown #8
  • Episode 4: More Musings of the Cigarette-Smoking Man (00:23:21): Lowdown #10
  • Episode 5: Pilgrims (01:27:53): Lowdown #11 #12 #13 #14 #15

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Some remarks on Cold Cases:

The story: This is a page-per-page adaptation of the comics, surprisingly very faithful to the source material. There is plenty I loved, as my Lowdowns show, and although not perfect in many aspects this is a superior continuation to the one we got in the 2016 Event Series. However, experiencing 15 months’ worth of comics issues along with the awarding re-reading sessions and analysis that came with it adapted into a condensed 4 hours is very odd; I would say the medium does not invite one to ponder the meticulous mysteries in Harris’s new mythology and explore the connections with past mythology. That being said, it is difficult to imagine how one would receive this audio drama if he/she wouldn’t have read the comics; my imagination is certainly shaped by what I saw on the printed/tablet page.

Canonicity: Cold Cases follows the post-I Want To Believe “Season 10/Season 11” comics continuity of the Joe Harris comics that started in 2013, when there was no certainty that there would be more (live) X-Files, and are thus at complete odds with the continuity established by the 2016 Event Series (itself unofficially dubbed “season 10”). There is no attempt to reconcile continuities. As pointed out by others as well, it’s unfortunate and an odd starting point for an audio adaptation, but one has to deal with it.

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Differences with the comics: Some things are added in the audio that are good (better links and flow between episodes, things missing from the Event Series like FBI training for reinstatement, a particular rape scene in #13 was removed, some reordering in the scenes so as not to have much back and forth in the timeline) and some are…less good (some of the obligatory exposition, like some of the Lone Gunmen not remembering Scully had a child, more ambiguity as to who William’s father is, the CSM constantly being called “Spender” and all the Elders like Well-Manicured Man being called that in-universe, a very talky Mr. X…).

On the audio drama itself: There’s some excellent stuff here: W.B.Davis’ and Pileggi’s performances in particular are top-notch; there was extensive work on the sound design and sound effects (particularly Hosts; but the voices of all the shapeshifters and Black Oil-possessed people do sound silly); there’s even some moody background music, although you have to pump the volume up (and not using Mark Snow’s music is a missed opportunity); and although nearly all actors did their recordings separate the editing is well done. And then there’s some…less good stuff: Duchovny in particular was not into this, and Anderson is at times into it and at times not; as a result, some scenes that are supposed to have urgency fall flat (the climax to Pilgrims, for instance); and not all of the original cast is back and for substantial roles (Krycek, X, Deep Throat) this takes you out of the story.

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Overall: It’s an interesting product, but one can’t shake the feeling that it’s a marketing product, a tie-in to a tie-in merchandise. The choice to adapt these comics in particular with very little changes is odd, though. There was no attempt to reconcile these comics with the live series continuity; there was no attempt to rewrite parts of it so that the Season 10+11 story would be a more cohesive whole (given that the Season 11 comics were cut short and several threads were left hanging, e.g. Krycek and the Acolytes); there was no attempt to flesh out the scenes between Mulder and Scully and give more material to Anderson and Duchovny given this unique opportunity (Joe Harris is a big, big fan of the mythology characters and of Mulder but his scenes where Mulder and Scully interacted were lacking in depth and feeling).

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Next: Cold Cases will continue with Stolen Lives, to be released on October 3 2017, which will cover the second half of Harris’s Season 10 (#16-25 and also #9: Chitter, which was skipped in Cold Cases). The recordings for both halves were done together around Autumn 2016, however Audible is releasing these separately. In order to wrap up the story, they would have to go back to recording and adapt the Season 11 comics, which ends the story in a satisfactory way. Given that Cold Cases became an Audible best seller in the first days of its release (!), that might just happen!