As the revived X-Files approaches its release date, I’ve decided to do what everyone else is doing — watch the whole darn thing from the beginning, to remind myself how it was. It’s become my new homework background; I swear at my XML while Mulder and Scully argue. I’m quite enjoying at least one of these things (I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which one).
As I re-immerse myself in the show, I find that I am also trying to re-immerse myself in the feeling I had back in the beginning, a kind of heady obsession with the seductiveness of knowledge. When The X-Files first came on the air, I was just beginning graduate school. I remember not watching the first few episodes, and then binging to catch up when repeats became available (I came to the show late in the first season, somewhere around “Darkness Falls” ). I just couldn’t look away from it once it caught my attention, and its stories became an important part of how I related to my world (as all of the best stories do).
At the time, my fascination with the show paralleled my experience of scholarship as a process of unearthing mysteries; there was an urgency about my philosophical work back then that I don’t think I’ve really felt much since, a feeling that just around this corner or behind that door, something important was waiting. This is what it felt like (for me, anyway) to believe The Truth Is Out There (and why it was so perfect that it should always stay out there and never come tamely home to be known), and it was a vitally important part of my educational life. I dug around in the dusty labyrinth of the university’s main library stacks as if there were just this one thing, this little clue, waiting to be found on a back shelf or on some microfilmed newspaper record. The alluring possibility that things otherwise unrelated to each other might turn out to be connected in some secret and marvelous way made it all seem exciting rather than just stressful and strange.
I keep hoping (even though I know better than to hope for these things — Kierkegaard surely understood the soul of fandom) that the revived series, all ‘shipper complaints and plot points and details aside, will help wake up that feeling again, get the ol’ eros of knowledge going, that sort of thing. If it does that, then I will count myself happy (but not satisfied — satisfaction would miss the point entirely). All I want from the revived show is this: that I can perhaps feel again that The Truth Is Out There — and then recapture the joy of looking for it and never quite finding it.