‘The X-Files’ Premiere Recap: Lost in Space

X-Files revival review
Courtesy of Fox

Spoiler alert: This recap contains plot details for the first episode of “The X-Files.”

Containing virtually none of the wit, tension or style that made the original series so special, Sunday’s premiere of “The X-Files” reboot opens with a three-minute-long monologue (the first of several scattered throughout this talky hour) that reintroduces the show’s basic premise.

Accompanying David Duchovny’s groggy voice-over are images of memorable mutants from the past, including the hideous flukeman, an inbred Peacock brother, the diabolical Eugene Tooms and the brain-sucking Rob Roberts.

From there, we see found-footage of flying saucers and alien autopsies, prehistoric cave paintings, Biblical drawings and vintage clips of President Gerald Ford, all while former agent Fox Mulder drones on about Roswell and various other UFO sightings.

“But we must ask ourselves,” he intones sleepily, “are they really a hoax?”

Despite this less-than-gripping prologue, it’s nice to see the return of the show’s original credit sequence, along with Mark Snow’s iconic theme music.

Jumping back in time to 1947, the episode — titled “My Struggle” — intros a recurring flashback set in New Mexico, where a young army doctor is transported by bus to a UFO crash site, accompanied by a government agent. There, he discovers an injured alien crawling away from the wreckage. Before the doctor can intervene, the agent shoots the extraterrestrial, killing it.

Back in the present, we catch up with former agent Dana Scully, who’s assisting surgeons at the appropriately named Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital in Washington, D.C. An urgent call from fan-favorite Walter Skinner, Assistant Director of the FBI, interrupts her while she’s scrubbing in. Seems that Skinner is looking for Mulder, who’s gone underground.

“Why doesn’t he just call me?” Mulder asks when Scully reaches him by phone.

“He doesn’t know how to reach you, Mulder,” she answers. “I barely know how myself.”

This comes as news, since the last time we saw the couple (in the 2008 film “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”) they were living together. Throughout the episode, oblique references to their breakup are made, but no concrete reasons are given. The gist seems to be that Scully left him, unable to deal with his singleminded obsessions.

Skinner’s purpose in wanting to speak with Mulder makes very little sense. Apparently, a slick TV conspiracy theorist named Tad O’Malley (think Glenn Beck meets Bill O’Reilly) is desperate to reach the former X-Files agents, and Skinner is… what? Just passing along the info?

Mulder’s never heard of O’Malley, who’s shown on a website ranting about false flag operations, second amendment rights and the UFO crash at Roswell, but the chance to see Scully again is hard for him to resist.

Scully and Mulder meet in downtown D.C., and for some reason the idea that Mulder arrives in an Uber is treated like a joke. The two former lovers make uncomfortable small talk until O’Malley’s limo pulls up.

“That’s quite an entrance you make there,” Scully remarks, though literally all O’Malley did was step out of a vehicle and introduce himself. Fearing low flying aircraft that can secretly record conversations, the paranoid O’Malley beckons Scully and Mulder into his limo, and off they drive.

And here’s where we’re treated to another momentum-killing monologue, this time from O’Malley proving his conspiracy credentials to Mulder.

“I’m rattling some pretty big cages in the intelligence community, but I’m prepared to go all in,” O’Malley says. “I’m prepared to blow open maybe the most evil conspiracy the world has ever known!”

How’s that for scintillating dialogue?

The limo arrives at a small house in Low Moor, Virginia, where we meet a young woman named Sveta, who claims to have been abducted by UFOs and implanted with alien embryos.

All this baby talk clearly brings back painful memories for Scully, whose own children, Emily and William, both had suspiciously extraterrestrial origins.

While Scully tests Sveta’s DNA for proof of alien contact, O’Malley takes Mulder to a secret hanger in the middle of nowhere to see an ARV (Alien Replica Vehicle). Though it looks like a standard Stealth Jet, the sleek aircraft floats silently using “Zero Point Energy” stolen from crashed UFOs. It also has the ability to turn invisible and vanish.

Unfortunately, this special effect isn’t nearly as cool as the invisible elephant from the classic 1995 “X-Files” episode titled “Fearful Symmetry,” or the invisible alien from the 1993 episode “Fallen Angel.”

At the hospital, O’Malley interrupts Scully, who’s busy testing her own blood. What’s the purpose of his visit? “I just wanted to see you again,” he tells her, flirtatiously.

While O’Malley hits on Scully, Mulder arrives unannounced at Sveta’s home and questions her about the abductions she’s experienced. Within seconds, she confesses that it wasn’t aliens who abducted her, but humans in ARV ships.

For some reason, this seemingly routine info rocks Mulder’s entire world. He quickly calls Scully, who’s now absurdly shown sipping champagne in the back of O’Malley’s limo. Fast mover, that O’Malley.

“We’ve been misled!” Mulder tells Scully. “Sveta is the key to everything!”

Excuse me, but did we miss something? How does hearing one woman claim to have been abducted by men in ARVs suddenly negate years worth of evidence to the contrary? And what makes her the “key” to anything?

Feeling betrayed for whatever reason, Mulder meets with Skinner at the FBI, where he discovers that all of his old files are missing. Well, duh! It’s been 13 years, dude! Did you really think they’d be where you left them? The fact that the office ceiling is still littered with dozens of pencils is some kind of miracle.

Meanwhile, Scully gets the blood tests back and seems shocked at the results.

Later that night, Mulder meets with a mysterious old man who he’s clearly had contact with before (though we’ve never seen him on the earlier series). This is the doctor from the 1947 flashbacks. The old man confirms that Mulder has been misled the whole time, but why he doesn’t just come right out and tell Mulder everything, instead of merely saying “You’re nearly there, you’re close,” makes zero sense.

Eventually, Mulder, Scully and O’Malley meet with Sveta at her home, at which point the already dull episode comes to a complete halt as O’Malley launches into an interminable monologue that drags on for nearly five minutes. This hopelessly muddled rant manages to include the economic conditions of the Cold War, the Manhattan Project, weather wars, George W. Bush, the Tuskegee airmen, FEMA prison camps, the corporate takeover of agriculture, the Patriot Act, waterboarding, the militarization of police forces and the use of fast food to “dull and sicken” the population, in the hopes of taking over the world.

Did you get all that?

Thankfully, Scully announces that Sveta’s blood tests came back negative for alien DNA, bringing an end to this painfully protracted scene.

The next day, Scully watches on TV as Sveta announces to the press that O’Malley wanted her to lie about being abducted by aliens, thus ruining his reputation. Who knew he had one to ruin?

Fearing for her safety, Mulder races over to Sveta’s house and discovers that she’s gone, while at the same time a team of soldiers arrive at the secret aircraft hanger and blow up the ARV.

With the evidence seemingly destroyed and O’Malley’s website taken down, Scully and Mulder meet in secret and decide to pursue the truth, no matter the cost.

Sveta’s storyline concludes with her fleeing car being blown up by a UFO at night.

The episode ends (not a moment too soon), with the last-second reappearance of the Cigarette Smoking Man, the memorable villain from the original series. Judging from the burns covering his hand and face, it appears as though he survived the rocket attack that seemingly killed him in the 2002 finale.

“We have a small problem,” he croaks to someone on the phone. “They’ve reopened the X-files.”

Hopefully, whatever comes next will be more interesting than this disappointing hour of television.

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  1. Jainity says:

    As much as I loved the new episodes, I must agree with everything written here.

  2. Yeti says:

    So many of the “bombshells” that stirred up Muldar is the type of conspiracy stuff that is literally on every conspiracy website for the past 15 years, if not longer – even if Muldar were out of the loop this goes back to Behold a Pale Horse stuff, the writer of which was referenced in the first movie – so thanks for this recap, I felt like I was on crazy pills when he kept saying Sveta was “the key” I’m like the hell did I miss?! Good to know I’m not the only one who felt this wasn’t in keeping with Muldar’s character in any way, or anyone who has wifi and and is interested in ufos and conspiracy

  3. Robert Moehle says:

    I liked the original X-Files enough to watch the whole series four times when it got to Netflix. So even though the first episode seemed more like a rather extended flashback you can’t keep us who liked the original series for hoping …

  4. Blackwood says:

    Less a review than a longwinded synopsis with the occasional snarky remark. Criticism is not what it used to be.

  5. Nantheman says:

    The episode read like something an amatuerish fan fiction author would concoct – – minus a steamy love scene. There simply much, too much wrong with this entire episode to list here. Suffice to name the most egregious sins; being dull, boring, uninspired. Nothing dark, visionary or soul-chilling. No quirky humor or sexual tension. Characters plod through an execrable plot as tired and faded versions of themselves reading high-school writer’s level dialogue. Poor old Duchovny in particular looking like he didn’t smell very nice, with Jillian Anderson more blondish than smoldering red-head…again, a faded version of a once fiery character, faded versions of the people formerly known as Mulder and Scully. The writer’s attempt to ingratiate themselves by playing partisan politics went over like a lead balloon; we have Colbert and Maher to score political points; keep it out of my science fiction, thank you. The episode bombed just as heavily as the vehicles they incinerated in the episode; it was a big yawn that not even shots of the liver fluke could revive. Shame.

  6. JohnMarcjhand says:

    The episode was, literally, a hot mess. Muddled and nonsensical, even withing the context of the ‘suspended disbelief’ that fans of the X-Files (me included) assume, going in. Mulder in particular seems particularly unhinged and hysterical while Scully looks merely bored. Of particular interest was the return of the CSM, after we all saw him literally burnt down to his bones in “The Truth”…Not a promising start, to be sure

  7. Greg tukalski says:

    Who wrote this article? You are an idiot. The show was amazing. Shut the hell up. How is the show you are writing? Oh you’re not writing one? Cause you suck.

  8. CeeJay says:

    If you think Tad O’Malley is a combination of Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, you have no idea what is going on in the world today.

    • Well, considering that the show literally name-check’s Bill O’Reilly in the limousine scene, and that the Fox Network literally confirmed that the character is “loosely based on” Glenn Beck, I’d say you’re 100% wrong.

  9. Since they pretty much blew the lid off and let the cat out of the bag for everything with yesterday’s X-Files premiere, the Council has asked me to make the following announcement:

    If you care diligently for the alien embryos implanted within you, your position will be great in the new administration of this planet. [End of message; further instructions to follow in due course.]

  10. Ed Chang says:

    The show was excellent and recaptured the fire. The pattern of misleading bad press reviews is due to the same bizarre insider agreements which gave Star Wars The Force Awakens such positive reviews.

  11. I completely disagree with this review. I found the episode compelling, it was a brilliant reboot for the series, touching the past and going in a new direction. The dynamic of Scully and Mulder and their chemistry still works, even as exes. And I don’t know that Sveta was killed in the explosion; I think she might have been pulled into the craft before that. You need someone to paint the landscape and the O’Malley character is quirky and intriguing enough to flesh that out. And the overall sense is that the groundwork has been laid for the following five episodes. Brilliant.

  12. I was hoping for the plot and characters to have evolved, moved on — on to more profound, maybe deeper mysteries or else address SERIOUSLY, issues like 9/11. Instead, we were given all the same drivel that plagued the first series, particularly near its end. What a disappointment.

  13. Andy Howe says:

    Agree with review. The episode was a letdown. I expected more. Still plan to watch the remaining episodes, but I hope it gets better. Mitch gets third star billing, but he was hardly even in the show; mentioned repeatedly but just the one scene that frankly seemed gratuitous just so he would appear. It’s got to get better; doesn’t it?

  14. Dave says:

    I thought the episode was great. Both Skully and Mulder had gone their separate ways, and had put the X-Files behind them. Plus, they had found, but lost, love which bears on one in a negative way. Then comes along this conspiracy guy wanting to pull them together again. I can see why they would not seem enthused, that’s the way they were supposed to be. As for the conspiracy nut, that’s what he was, a nut. X-Files was always based on wild conspiracies with them never finding the answers to prove them right or wrong. With this episode we now have a new slant on these conspiracy theories, and the possibility of some of them tying together and being legitimate. As usual they keep you guessing. I liked the idea that they included current conspiracies, and events that seem to tie into what has been happening in the past. I also like the actual revelation of aliens and technology instead of constant dark secrets which to me are what was boring. In the end Skully and Mulder decide to come out of retirement and reopen the X-Files.

    • Gitmo Chimp says:

      They treated her horribly from the age of 12 without her knowledge ,!until the age of 32 when they used her for so many horrific experience without her understanding why. It took her 20 years to find the truth, it was all for world power,,,, All for her Oil fields and reservoir that was owned by past Presidents and Senators. They get the Riches while she remains forever captive in Guatanimo Bay. Born in the “Middle East”. Why don’t they name all of the other presidents that were involved

  15. Adam says:

    I think the fundamental problem is that this show is no longer unique. How many government conspiracy/alien invasion/monster of the week shows have been made since the X-Files went off the air? These new episodes are for the hardcore longtime fans and not anyone else really.

  16. rhubarb says:

    the ufo’s over washington dc was in1952 not 1957 as stated in the show.

    • Thierry Clicot says:

      Damn right!

      I heard 1957 too, and since I am an alien hybrid, born just a few *DAYS* after our ship’s visits to D.C. in late July 1952—-I was SHOCKED that they could make such a glaring faux pas!!!!

      The script supers will be on the first flights out, when we start “Serving Man”

  17. Penn Smith says:

    I completely agree. And, pardon me, I’m a shipper and I’m sick and tired of sequels breaking people up. These were two that belonged together. I liked the way it ended. That was it. Write something new and go on. What is this a total death of the imagination?

    • They were broken up to ramp up the UST. The second movie was a failure…

      I liked the episode. The overwrought exposition is just what happens in season openers of TXF. Felt like coming home. I can’t wait for the truth to be revealed and the government to cover it up again in time for the next season (which we’ll get, hopefully.)

  18. fredfitch says:

    A genuine triple threat.

    Bad writing, bad acting, and bad direction.

    Also no purpose for existing in the first place.

    • Gitmo Chimp says:

      don’t search too hard for the truth because they are never going to reveal it,they captured her when she was 12 years old over the Phoenix skies. 32 years later she finds out she stuck at Guantánamo Bay in a prisoner camp call it a concentration camp, still not knowing why they have been with her her whole life. Provided her with a lot of knowledge which they want to call weapons and turn around and call her a terrorist in the Middle East she didn’t ask to be born in the Middle East and she is not a terrorist that to them as her knowledge, ,and finding out that she sitting on the worlds biggest natural gas helium and water reserves, being more than halfway through life I’m sure she’ll never get the riches the government took it all and that’s her captive in the Middle East,just some info for you in case you missed an episode I’m sure that’s never going to come out though

  19. only one thing: they are back. Liked the first episode, not the best but good to have them, I’ve watched too many shows to fill the “hole” this show left, this coulnd’t be better.

  20. Mahrey says:

    I think what was missing was Mulder’s obsession. In the series, he was consumed, immersed in the case, in the cover-up, in the search for truth. He seemed uninterested tonight.

    Here’s what I didn’t miss: mumbled dialog. They articulated tonight!

    I don’t think the reviewer watched the original series. I used to scream in frustration at all the things that ‘didn’t make sense’. That’s X-Files.

    Cigarette-Smoking Man made it back! Good to see him. As they say, no one ever really dies in X-Files.

    And I agree, this show was not as clever as the shows of the series. But it was so good to see it, anyway.

  21. Beckstle says:

    Sounds like Carter has the same problem he did with seasons 7, 8 and 9. He never wanted to deal with the fact that the characters had become more of the draw than the possibility of aliens and government involvement, so he tried to freeze the relationship between Mulder and Scully and ramp up the alien and government conspiracies theories. Sounds like he’s done the same thing here. It’s just six episodes, so I doubt die-hards will mind much. The draw is more about watching Anderson and Duchovny in those iconic roles – not the plot.

  22. Debra says:

    Good to see Scully and Mulder again…as well as the Cigarette Smoking Man. :) Can’t wait for the rest of the episodes.

  23. Alichat says:

    I agree the episode could have been better. Some of the dialogue was weird, and their interactions stiff and uncomfortable. But I am willing to keep watching. Couple of things….besides the spelling issues others have already pointed out……the old man (Rance Howard) was someone Mulder met 10 years ago. Mulder says as much in their conversation. So, they met after he left the FBI, which is why he didn’t appear in the previous 9 seasons. Also, the long monologue of conspiracies, which was mostly rattled off by Mulder, happened in Mulder’s house, not Sveta’s.

  24. NYCC says:

    Psst: A hanger holds shirts. A hangar holds planes.

  25. Rita says:

    I liked it. I wish it could have opened with 2 Hrs. tonight though. And…what happens after the first 6 weeks? Is that it? Done, over, gone forever? Or…is it going to be like “24”? I hate it when this happens. We love these shows. We get teased, & they take them away. Please don’t leave us up in the air anymore, FOX. Two shows that never should’ve left us to begin with. Keifer Sutherland & ” 24″, & David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson, in “X-Files”. I plan on continuing to watch.

  26. Carlos Danger says:

    I enjoyed seeing them again. Hopefully, some humor will creep back. I enjoyed seeing them again glad the smoking man is back. I thought the writing was good, mood was good, acting was good. Mulder was a bit over the top however, and a little to bit to quick to believe he’s been fooled, then not fooled, then fooled again.

    My main problem is that I basically had gotten tired of the conspiracy plots. I liked the one off weird episodes the best. I actually liked the Tobert Patrick episodes because they seemed to get back to that. I hope that isn’t all we get, but I am afraid it will be, given the short run.

    As far as the plot holes, and seemingly unnecessary meetings, a lot of the old episodes had that. It kept you guessing a little bit. Sometimes they were explained, mostly not. Few held up to close scrutiny, but could give you the heeber-jeebers nonetheless.

    I will watch them all.

    I just watched the entire first season. 24 episodes, unheard of now. They looked like babies. Nearly every episode was good to excellent.

    Great show, that I think ended too soon.

  27. Bill says:

    Did you want some cheese with that whine?

    Your criticism would be appropriate for an X-Files fan board, but against a limited series that has to draw in “regular” viewers? Not so much.

  28. Jen says:

    It’s champagne not champaign.

  29. NYCC says:

    Holy cow, your spelling is terrible.

  30. Me says:

    It is 14 yrs later and they have 6 episodes to cover. OF COURSE it is going to be exposition. You know this.

  31. hannaheliza says:

    I liked the pacing and I liked the show. When people say Chris Carter is out of touch, I suspect they are old timers, and themselves, out of touch with what younger viewers will actually respond to. I bet it will be a huge success! Congrats on a great comeback.

    • Thierry Clicot says:

      Well, 14 years isn’t quite enough to be a “generational-Old-Timer”, and I suspect that CC is trying to play JUST AS MUCH to us “fogies” as to the 15 year-olds that were hybridized in a vacuum chamber at Ganymede Station, before being shipped back to our planetary surface to be raised…

      And, just because We-Who-Are-Elder had to use VHS to record TXFs back in the day, doesn’t mean we haven’t joined this century! I have a Fibre 150mbps ISP, several i-Somethings, some Android gear, and even a “Cloud” account!!

      The thing us “oldies” will not countenance is making Mulder look like an old drunk, having him narrate a GLARING MISTAKE (that Mulder would have NEVER made–1957 for the 1952 DC UFOs), and dragging out and almost wasting an entire 0.1666666… of the series that we get to see!

      So THERE!!!! :}-

  32. I loved it. This is awesome. The dialogue from O’Malley hints at what is to come; weather wars, fast food poisoning, chemtrails, etc,…

    Both Dana and Fox look good. I hope the next episodes expand on other phenomena people are already exposing on the internet.

  33. The Voice Recognition Man says:

    Champaign?

  34. James says:

    You hit the nail on the head, but u forgot about that ridiculous exchange between mulder and skully on the porch in which they spew nonsense if they would only say what they really mean. I’m still hopeful this will lead to something better but rather shocked at the underwhelming writing — especially since I loved both movies and the series.

  35. Michaelmas says:

    I found the first episode underwhelming but it was nice to see the band back together again. Something to keep in mind is that this really played like a pilot episode for a revived series. It wasn’t necessary and compressing four episodes of info into one seems a bit much.

    The episode was also amazingly choppy as if long bits were excised to make this fit into a 45 minute episode. I’m not saying it would be better longer though.

    If this wasn’t a season that is only six episodes long, it wouldn’t be a problem.

    Carter seems to have lost his touch and he seemed to lose it right around 2008 after the last movie they made.

  36. Nanny Mo says:

    Scully was as pretty as ever. Mulder looked like he’d been hit by a truck and the pacing of the show was so slow that I felt like I’d seen grilled cheese sandwiches melting that was more exciting. In short it was awful! But I’ll see if part 2 of the “pilot” picks up steam. Boy, I hope so or it’s X for the X-ed files.

    • Thierry Clicot says:

      Kind of reminds me of the let-down after seeing the two “Movies”…So much potential wasted, so many millions squandered…

      I *hope* it gets better than this–CC had 14+ years to come up with a BLOCKBUSTER restart… so far it’s mostly busted-blocks….

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