Arts & Entertainment

'The X-Files' is back: Here are 5 times it predicted the future

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny will reprise their roles as Dana Scully and Fox Mulder in
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny will reprise their roles as Dana Scully and Fox Mulder in "The X-Files" limited series.
Fox Broadcasting/Getty Images

"The X-Files" is coming back as a six-episode limited series on Fox with the original stars, but in some ways it never left.

The cult sci-fi series had a huge impact not just on other pop culture but also on society at large in the 10 seasons it aired, from 1993 to 2002. The show, which starred David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, also managed to highlight certain trends and predict others, both in direct and more indirect ways. Here's a rundown.

1. Anti-vaccine skepticism

Behind much of "The X-Files" was a grand conspiracy between aliens and humans in various positions of power. Part of that plan: A vaccine created by the humans to combat the aliens.

While the vaccine was a positive for the human race, it played off the idea that vaccines could be more than they appeared to be — which has been echoed by the movement of those arguing that vaccines cause autism. (The link between vaccines and autism has been debunked.)

Purity Control

2. 9/11

In the March 2001 debut of the "X-Files" spinoff series "The Lone Gunmen," a storyline ended up having eerie parallels to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center only six months later.

The show's pilot featured a conspiracy to hijack an airliner and crash it into the World Trade Center, blame the disaster on terrorists and then use that to start a war allowing for profiteering.

Across the political spectrum, conspiracy theorists argued for there being more to the Sept. 11 attacks than meets the eye. The government thoroughly laid out the evidence against these conspiracies in the 9/11 Commission Report — though the government's "debunking" anything just tends to fuel further conspiracy theories.

"X-Files" executive producer Frank Spotnitz told fans in 2008 that writers were initially upset that they might have inspired the 9/11 attacks, but were thankful to later learn that the plan was already underway before that episode aired.

The Lone Gunmen

3. The 2012 end of the world

The idea that 2012 would mark the end of the world — based on a misreading of Mayan mythology — existed before "The X-Files," but the show gave it greater prominence.

In the show's world, aliens were set to colonize the Earth on Dec. 22, 2012.

The show also explored a religious movement that said 2012 would bring about "the New Age."

As we all know now, the world did not end in 2012. Scholars largely agreed that the Mayans never meant to imply that 2012 marked the apocalypse.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been the target of numerous conspiracy theories over the years, with more recent ones accusing the federal agency of being empowered to create concentration camps; these theories generally assert a link with President Obama.  

In the first "X-Files" feature film, "Fight the Future," FEMA was used as the purported tool that the president would use to declare a state of emergency and take full power under a new secret government.

In real life, the idea of FEMA concentration camps has been debunked by numerous sources, including the pro debunkers at Snopes.

Fight the Future

5. More conspiracies

The show trafficked in numerous other conspiracy theories — many that often had a grain of truth that was then blown to epic proportions.

The show often noted real-life places such as Area 51 and played up fears of a conspiracy to set up a One World government.

The show often mixed and matched bits of real mythology and fictional conspiracies, putting meat on the bones to create a paranoid show that became a phenomenon and, in turn, helped to spur on the same conspiracy theories from which it drew.

"X-Files" creator Chris Carter, who is behind the upcoming "event series" based on "The X-Files," described the new series in a press release as "these six stories," implying that it will be less about one overarching conspiracy than more tales of the week.

Now to wait and see what the show picks up this time, and what seeds it plants in our minds for the future.

Mike Roe/KPCC

'The X-Files': Mulder and Scully will return in limited Fox series

Everything old really is new again. Even aliens.

Fox announced Tuesday that "The X-Files," which ran on television from 1993 until 2002 and was accompanied by feature films in 1998 and 2008, will be back as a six-episode "event series," with production beginning this summer.

Creator and Executive Producer Chris Carter will be in charge once again, and yes, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) will be, too.

In the statement Fox sent out Tuesday, Carter refers to the show's absence as "a 13-year commercial break" during which "the world has only gotten that much stranger."

This is really, truly just about all we know at this point. When it will air, when it will be set, what will have changed, who else will or won't be in it ... all of this is not clear. The Fox statement does say it will be "thrilling." Also "mind-bending." (Spoiler alert?)

Cue the spoooooooky music.

Linda Holmes/NPR

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This story has been updated.

Are there other things "The X-Files" got right? Or wrong? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter (@KPCC).