One of the great things about fantasy and science fiction is that it gives us the opportunity to entertain ideas we don’t actually believe in and follow them through to their natural conclusions as if we did. We may not really believe that time travel is possible, but Doctor Who builds on the idea that it is. We may not really believe that humans will ever build faster-than-light spacecraft, but Star Trek builds on the idea that we will. And so on.
The natural ancestor to science fiction and fantasy is mythology, in the sense that we read it as stories that presuppose the accuracy of a foreign worldview we don’t actually accept. It gives us a way to look at a world that operates under the dominion of other people’s gods, threatened by other people’s monsters, solved with other people’s virtues. And there’s a lot in mythology that would be considered science fiction in isolation. Take Greek mythology’s Zeus, for example: an immortal shapeshifter who throws lightning bolts and rules over an invisible race of beings we’ve never met. For those of us who are not actual followers of the ancient Greek religion, that’s a sci-fi concept.
One of the great things about The X-Files (and the series that inspired it, Kolchak: The Night Stalker) is that it starts by assuming the reality of fringe or paranormal threats that people actually believe in—alien abduction, government conspiracies, the Antichrist, ghosts, and so on—and looks fancifully at what they might be like, and how they might be survived, in the real world. This is important because the way these topics are framed makes it hard for us to entertain them; we either believe in them to the point where we can’t, or we disbelieve in them to the point where we can’t. So I think The X-Files sometimes did an awful lot of good for the Fortean community by exploring paranormal phenomena in a way that acknowledges, but separates them from, the debate over whether they’re “real” or “fake,” exploring them instead on the level of science fiction, fantasy, and mythology.
And now comes word that Carter, Anderson, and Duchovny are bringing the series back for another run. Assuming this isn’t just to cap off the unfinished and possibly-unfinishable colonization story arc, they’re going to mine the Fortean world for new paranormal topics to explore. After 203 episodes and two feature-length movies, how many good ones are left?
Quite a few, actually. I have some specific suggestions, but I’m going to give you the mic first. Share your best future X-Files episode ideas in the comments below.