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Review: X-Files Returns To Television


Fox TV's classic science fiction series "The X-Files" returns on Sunday with the first new episodes in 13 years. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says the revival may leave fans wishing the network just aired the best reruns from the old show.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: When it comes to Fox's new version of "The X-Files," my attitude is a lot like one of the show's best-known mottos, I want to believe. I want to believe that gobbledygook history about UFO sightings that David Duchovny spouts as disillusioned, now former FBI agent Fox Mulder.


DAVID DUCHOVNY: (As Fox Mulder) In 1947, Kenneth Arnold saw nine unidentified craft out the window of his small plane, followed by the historic crash at Roswell and its legendary cover up.

DEGGANS: I want to believe there's a special chemistry between Mulder and Gillian Anderson's Dana Scully, even when the two former partners have their 10,000th argument about a cockamamie theory that Mulder believes and Scully doubts.


GILLIAN ANDERSON: (As Dana Scully) I have seen this before. You're on fire, believing that you're onto some truth that you can save the world.

DUCHOVNY: (As Fox Mulder) This will finally be their undoing.

ANDERSON: (As Dana Scully) It'll be your undoing, Mulder.

DUCHOVNY: (As Fox Mulder) This is my life. This is everything. This is everything I believe in.

ANDERSON: (As Dana Scully) You want to believe.

DEGGANS: But there's a limit to how much you can believe, even when the conspiracy is detailed as the one behind this revival of "The X-Files." If you don't know the show's history or you need a reminder, Mulder's convenient habit of talking to himself makes it easy for the first episode to catch you up.


DUCHOVNY: (As Fox Mulder) Since my sister disappeared when I was 12 years old in what I believe was an alien abduction, my obsession took me to the FBI, where I investigated paranormal science cases through the auspices of a unit known as the X-Files.

DEGGANS: Fans know that in the classic series, Scully, a skeptical physician and scientist, was paired with Mulder by superiors who hope to derail his theories of alien sightings, but she wound up immersed in them. As the first episode of the new series opens, Mulder and Scully are no longer partners, but there's obvious recent history between them, which I can't reveal because, you know, spoilers. Their former boss at the FBI asked them to meet with a character to chase down new information about aliens. Just like the old days, Mulder suspects his former boss is working with the government to keep him from the truth. Assistant director Skinner quickly sets him straight.


MITCH PILEGGI: (As Walter Skinner) There hasn't been a day since you left that I haven't reached my phone to call you, Mulder, wishing that you were still down here. Since 9/11, this country's taken a big turn in a very strange direction.

DUCHOVNY: (As Fox Mulder) Well, they police us, they spy on us, tell us that makes us safer. We've never been in more danger.

DEGGANS: The show has lots of clunky ominous lines like that, which mostly make Mulder sound like a candidate for the tinfoil hat brigade. What works here are the stars. Duchovny and Anderson slide into their old roles like they never left them. They finally seem at ease with being Mulder and Scully in a way that wasn't true toward the end of the series original run. But even though I only saw three of the six new episodes in this limited series, I saw enough to know that these new stories come up short. The plots feel overstuffed and a bit too self-important. Nostalgia and the thrill of seeing old characters return may help longtime fans overlook these problems, but I fear new viewers will leave these episodes convinced all the fuss over "The X-Files" was overblown the first place, and that would be a regrettable thing to believe. I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.
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