The X-Files is kind of having a moment right now despite the fact that it has been off the air since 2002, and its last movie, the unremarkable X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008), came out 6 years ago. Its creator, Chris Carter, has a new sci-fi show on the way on Amazon Prime, Gillian Anderson is so in demand that at one point earlier this year she was starring in three different TV shows (BBC’s The Fall, NBC’s Hannibal & Crisis), and one of the show’s old writers, Vince Gilligan, just took a victory lap with 5 Emmys (including Best Drama) for the final season of eligibility of his masterful creation Breaking Bad.
So, it seems like a kind of natural time for people to revisit the show or possibly discover it for the first time. To that end, comedian Kumail Nanjiani (Meltdown with Jonah & Kumail, Silicon Valley) made headlines in the geekier corners of the internet (AVClub) this June with the launch of his new podcast The X-Files Files in which he discusses the show’s most notable episodes with the assistance of fellow famous fans as well as some of the actual people who were on the show. For those who don’t really need to re-visit the old episodes, IDW has been publishing a canonical continuation of the show in comic book form, dubbed The X-Files: Season 10, for over a year now. Chris Carter is even contributing to the scripts!
Personally, I’ve never been more than a casual fan of the show. I was converted by the first film back in 1998, and proceeded to then tune in every week to the new episodes in seasons 6 and 7. Around the time Duchovony began his poorly executed exit from the show is when I jumped off the train, and I was astonished at how bad things had gotten when I tuned back in for its truly dreadful series finale at the end of its 9th season. Thanks to Netflix (and having a X-Files superfan as a best friend), I have circled back around in recent years to make my way through the highlights of the earlier seasons, and I have to admit that I was not really blown away by this supposed golden era of the show. All I saw was the needlessly dim lighting, annoyingly ever-present incidental mood music, and a leading man who challenged Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Joel Hodgson for flat, purposefully tired-sounding line delivery. Plus, while initially a strength the believer/skeptic dynamic between Mulder and Scully bordered on self-parody after a while.
Of course, the show seemed to know that, mocking itself in its many rightfully hilarious episodes (season 5’s “Bad Blood” comes to mind). I had always been drawn to the funnier episodes back when I watched seasons 6 and 7 first-run, and the realization that the show didn’t always have to take itself so seriously forced me to re-evaluate its earlier seasons over the past couple of months. I am now halfway through the third season, watching many of the episodes for the first time, and my earlier criticisms might have been a bit unfair. Actually, I’d say they’re still accurate, but once you adjust to the lighting, music, and Duchovony’s line delivery the show offers many rewards, so much so that it turns out Supernatural lifted many of its plots straight from the X-Files (just subtracting all the stuff about aliens.)
Considering all of this, I was especially interested when WhatCulture recently published a list of 10 insane X-Files episodes that went unmade, culled from many rejected scripts and episodes ideas that have been made available or discussed in interviews over the years. This particular entry on the list jumped out at me:
Believe it or not, The X-Files often took real news stories and gave them a supernatural spin. One such event was the tragic fate of TWA Flight 800, a domestic airliner which exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on the approach to New York in July of 1996. All 230 passengers were killed, making it the third-deadliest aviation accident in US history. Sounds like a good case for Mulder and Scully, thought Jeffrey Reddick!
Of course, just having them investigate a plane crash would not also be pretty un-X-Files, but probably not their jurisdiction. We know most of the things Dana and Fox get up to aren’t actually the job of the FBI, but still. How do you make it weird? “I read this story about a woman who was on vacation and her mom called her and said ‘Don’t take the flight tomorrow, I have a really bad feeling about it’,” remembers Reddick. “She switched flights and the plane that she would have been on crashed. I thought, that’s creepy – what if she was supposed to die on that flight?” Sounds familiar, huh? That’s because, after the idea was rejected by Chris Carter, X-Files writers Glen Morgan and James Wong took it, and made it into Final Destination.
Wait a minute. So, Morgan and Wong just stole Reddick’s idea? Not cool, guys! Actually, WhatCulture only gives part of the story. According to other sources, Final Destination did indeed star t out as an X-Files spec script by Reddick, but he never actually submitted it to the X-Files, instead convinced by New Line Cinema producer Craig Perry to turn it into a script for a feature film, which he originally called Flight 180. It was then that Morgan and Wong stepped in, re-writing the script on their own, with Wong eventually directing. Reddick was credited for the film’s story as well a co-writing credit for screenplay, and he also received story credit for Final Destination 2.
Either way, it’s not hard to imagine Mulder and Scully investigating a Final Destination scenario, Mulder instantly on board with some supernatural disruption of the natural order putting things out of balance and Scully doing her, “Logic, logic, statistics, statistics, reference to my medical knowledge since I’m a Doctor” thing. However, because that ended up never happening we got a new horror film franchise, currently up to 5 installments.
Additional unused X-Files episode ideas include:
- A convicted criminal, an atheist, who hears the voice of God commanding him to kill a truly evil man
- A desperate family [that] moves three thousand miles to get away from their killer pet – who’s waiting for them at their new house, really pissed
- A zombie episode which was to be written by Stephen King and directed by George Romero
- A straight-forward Christmas Carol re-telling with Scully as Scrooge
- An entire story framed as an Unsolved Mysteries episode, hosted by Robert Stack, with Mulder and Scully played by stand-in actors wearing bad wigs
- A sort of Abraham Lincoln’s ghost in the White House type of thing
- Someone being taken hostage on a circus Tilt-O-Whirl, which once stopped would somehow cause the hostage’s head to explode
What’s your X-Files fan story? Which of these unused ideas sounds the best to you? As a big fan of Unsolved Mysteries, I think an X-Files mash-up with it would have been hilarious, although apparently instead of writing that Vince Gilligant wrote “Bad Blood” so we probably won out in that scenario. What about you? Let us know in the comments.