Mulder and Scully are back as the first frame posted to the official X-Files Twitter account has shown the world. It seems like, for the first time in a long time, everyone is buzzing about the return of X-Files, which just began shooting a ten episode run in Vancouver this week. While ordinarily, this would incite a binge view of the entire X-Files series to prepare for the new episodes, it's actually elicited an involuntary twitch in my eyelid.
A long time ago, in a day job not so far away, we were working on the then forthcoming Blu-ray release of The X-Files: I Want to Believe (the second feature film released in 2008). 2008 of course was a time when Blu-ray was still building momentum and it seemed like all the studios wanted to do the "new and interactive thing that's never been done before!" It seemed like every project was some overly complicated interactive doohickey. Our mandate from the studio was to work with Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz, as well as finishing the amazing work done by several authors who had published official episode guides for the first seven seasons, to create the ultimate episode guide and timeline that would prove to be a constant and invaluable resource to X-Philes. Dubbed "X-Files: The Complete Timeline", we would create the ultimate canon timeline for fans that also would allow you to easily track and layout running themes like the black oil, cloning, alien encounters, Mulder's sister, and more in the days before "hashtag" had become a common part of the vernacular.
But then if you sit down and think about the sheer scope, it's nine seasons, 202 episodes at 45 minutes each, and writing the synopsis and analysis while scrutinizing every frame to find dates and clues as to what day and time the current events were taking place while also tracking all the running elements took about three hours per episode. Math, math, math... that's roughly 25 days (straight, no breaks, no sleeping) just to get through all the material. We had roughly three weeks. As a point of reference, note fan Dan Goldwasser's website where he said the timeline inspired him to go back and watch the show from the beginning, but didn't think he could do it in a year.
Intrepid X-Philes Jessie Drake, Matt Popham and myself split up the seasons and set to work. There was a string of about eight days where I sat on my couch for all eight days straight, watching, writing, lying down to sleep for an hour here and an hour there (and having some of the most frightening stress-fueled dreams thanks to the subject matter). It was a long-haul where I essentially lived in the world of Mulder and Scully full-time, as did those working on the project with us. It was the ultimate binge watch... once again, before the phrase "binge watch" was even a part of the common language.
Serialized television plays so much better when you watch it back to back. It plays even better when you watch several seasons straight through without subjecting your brain to things like the outside world or common conversation. You're fully immersed in the world and you start to notice each and every tiny detail. So much so that we all circled around several issues with Scully's pregnancy which we were able to finally get a final read from the showrunners on addressing within the context of our text, giving fans definitive answers to some of their questions. Once everything was written, it went through several rounds of notes and checks with the showrunners and super-fans to make sure everything was accurate.
The huge amount of writing finally finished, the project then went into the design process and trying to make all of this work within the then-clunky Blu-ray technology. There was a lot of puzzle-solving and authoring conversations that Jessie and Adam Vadnais had in just trying to make the whole thing work, making sure that photos and clips from the episodes actually played and several other tricky elements that are fairly simple to do on your phone seven years later. Look at the recently released SNL app with 40 years of material, photos and video all on there in the palm of your hand. It's amazing to see the exponential progress of technology just in that short period of time.
When all was said and done, as a long-time fan of the series, who was first in the seats when Fight the Future was released when it was totally uncool to do so... I wanted to burn my X-Files boxset in a ceremonial funeral pyre.
I was fried. I hadn't slept in a little over a month, I had gained about 25-30 pounds of what I quickly dubbed my X-Files weight, and probably in the process had taken a couple years off my life.
Worse, when X-Files: I Want to Believe, which our interactive feature was attached to be a special feature on the Blu-ray for, was released, it was met with a decidedly mixed reaction from hardcore fans and casual fans alike. What we thought would be an incredible resource included was released, only a handful of people noticed. Clicking a "tag" (#hashtagweallgetitnow) was a little confusing to some, completely lost on others. A few of the dedicated DVD/Blu-ray review websites picked up on the feature and called it out as something worth note, which was a very welcome feather in our cap. But a big part of me sits here with a Mulder-like wonder if there's anyone out there that uses the feature as a reference, or if it's far too cumbersome to beat a quick Google or Wikipedia search for whatever answers they seek?
All of this a very circuitous way of getting back to the topic at hand, do I think I could sit and watch the show from start to finish as a primer for the upcoming new six-episodes? My complete X-Files television run boxset has a Post-It still strapped to it this day that reads "Do Not Open Until Doomsday" both as a statement of truth and a reference to a famous Real Ghostbusters cartoon episode. It's been seven years after all. And I think the answer is yes, the show is absolutely fantastic. Yes, even those last couple seasons. And the disadvantage to having plowed through it all so quickly on my last viewing is that it didn't have the time to process and sink in, much in a way that happened when my wife and I went back and re-watched all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation over the span of a couple years. I think it would be great to go back and revisit the show now that some time has passed, and even reference back to the timeline to see how I had interpreted it back then.
Just don't be surprised if that eye starts to twitch.