Con*gregate, a sci-fi con in High Point, North Carolina, is coming up in two weeks. One of the panels I’ll be moderating is “Fan Expectations to Media Adaptations and Tie-ins,” i.e. do fans have the right, or just think they have the right, to vocalize their approval or disapproval? This panel is designed specifically for audience participation so I expect my moderating skills will be put to the test. Fans feel strongly about their treasured stories but are they (we) the custodians of the mythos?
This panel is made all the more interesting with the six-series return of The X-Files tentatively titled The X-Files Revival, due to premiere January 24, 2016 on Fox.
The X-Files ran for nine seasons, from 1993 to 2002, and achieved a phenomenal fan base. Toward the end, though, even the addition of Robert Patrick and more screen time for The Lone Gunman could not rescue the last two seasons, which seemed overwhelmed by its own mythos.
Not only will Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny reprise their roles as Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, but also Mitch Pileggi as Skinner and William B. Davis as the Smoking Man. The show also has most of the original producers, cinematographer, composer, and casting director. It’s like we all got abducted and returned to find the show is still running in its twenty-second season. (Seriously, how do we know we weren’t?)
So what are fan expectations when a beloved show returns with its lead characters and its lead creator, Chris Carter?
fan : noun : \’fan\ : 1. an enthusiastic devotee; 2. an ardent admirer or enthusiast.
Even with very little information about the new series, fans are already complaining. For instance, they say Anderson’s hair isn’t red enough for Scully. (This is a little fussy, but fans do have some rights.)
Media isn’t one-sided. The golden key for a creator is to tell a story that will create a fan base. It is a symbiotic relationship. The creator desires the fan and when Browncoats, Trekies, Carol Corps, or Whovians form, it is a sign the creator has succeeded. But woe, henceforth, the life of the creator is ever under the microscope as each subsequent creation will be judged harshly and the creator eviscerated if the fans are unhappy.
Why would the fan do this to the giver of future cosplay and fan-fiction?
Each fan has a unique experience with their mythos. It is defined by the when, where, what, why, and how of everything in that fan’s life at that exact moment. Neither the creator nor the fan have a hand in this because it is the organic substance that gives life to fandom. This also makes fandom emotional, which makes the mythos personal.
After thirteen years, only the most deeply emotional memories from the original series will bubble to the top for The X-Files fan base, and a lot of those from season one when the experience was new and unique. (For example, I remember how totally creeped out I was about the idea of a humanoid that could crawl through vents [“Squeeze,” Season 1, episode 3] in order to enter your home to kill you.) Compare fan comments about “Revival” to see where, in the original, the fan had seminal moments. Also, you might watch Carter’s suggested episodes* before January 24.
It’s impossible to recreate that original experience so, even though we may want a season one we also want something new. Where have Mulder and Scully been and what have they been up to?
“Mulder’s not in a great place,” says Duchovny, looking shabby in gray tee, shoes without shoelaces, and much stubble. “He’s wearing bad jeans, so you can just extrapolate from my wardrobe. He’s in a dark, dark place.” – Jeff Jensen, “The X-Files returns: EW has the exclusive first look and stories from the set,” June 25, 2015, EW
Just like the gesture Netflix made giving us more Arrested Development, I hope X-Philes will appreciate that the creators of The X-Files are fans as well and it’s not their intention to ruin our best memories from the 90s.
“We’re not going to reboot any of the old favorites, although it was something we all thought about,” says Carter. “These are all brand new stories. We hope to scare you in brand new ways.” – Jeff Jensen, “The X-Files returns: EW has the exclusive first look and stories from the set,” June 25, 2015, EW
I’ll Give You a Topic
What would you love to see in The X-Files Revival?
What is your most passionate fan memory?
Is it possible for that memory to be destroyed by new additions to the mythos?
*The entire series of The X-Files is available on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.
Season 1, episode 1, “Pilot“
Season 1, episode 2, “Deep Throat”
Season 1, episode 13, “Beyond the Sea”
Season 1, episode 24, “The Erlenmeyer Flask”
Season 2, episode 2, “The Host”
Season 3, episode 4, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”
Season 4, episode 14, “Memento Mori”
Season 5, episode 5, “The Post Modern Prometheus”
Season 5, episode 12, “Bad Blood”
Season 6, episode 18, “Milagro“