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The X-Files is returning to Fox for six episodes

The X-Files' Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) will be back for six episodes on Fox.
The X-Files' Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) will be back for six episodes on Fox.
20th Century Fox
  1. The X-Files, the 1990s hit sci-fi series about weird paranormal mysteries and an alien conspiracy to take over the Earth, will be returning on the Fox network.
  2. The new series will be a six-episode "event series."
  3. It will reunite series creator Chris Carter with original series stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Duchovny and Anderson will be returning as alien believer Fox Mulder and skeptic Dana Scully, respectively.
  4. There's no news yet on when the program will air. It films this summer.

A return long in the making

The return of The X-Files has been rumored for months now. At the January 2015 Television Critics Association winter press tour, Fox network heads (and co-chairs of the Fox TV Group) Dana Walden and Gary Newman said they hoped a deal could be worked out to bring the program back. Fox had good luck resurrecting another of its old hit shows, 24, as an event series in the summer of 2014.

The X-Files was last seen on the big screen in 2008 — six years after the TV series ended in 2002 — with the summer movie flop The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Though the film reunited Duchovny and Anderson (Duchovny left the show completely for its final season), it did not continue the TV series' ongoing story about the alien conspiracy to take over Earth in the year 2012. As such, many fans regarded it as a disappointment. (Also: the movie wasn't all that good.)

It's not clear whether any of the show's other actors — like Mitch Pileggi as gruff boss Walter Skinner — will be back, but we'd bet on it. There's also no news on whether Carter will be joined by any of the original series' writers or directors.

Also unclear is just what the new event series will be about, but it seems safe to assume at least some of the episodes will deal with the alien conspiracy — and presumably just why it failed to materialize in December 2012, as predicted. It's unclear whether the show will return to the series' old format of stories about the conspiracy interspersed with "monster of the week" episodes that wrap up in a single hour.

"I think of it as a 13-year commercial break," said Carter, as quoted in Deadline. "The good news is the world has only gotten that much stranger, a perfect time to tell these six stories."

What is an event series?

This is also often called a "limited series" by some networks. It's turning out to have two different definitions as TV networks use it to describe a great number of programs they're ordering lately.

Those definitions are:

  1. A traditional miniseries, which tells one story over a set number of installments and concludes that story at its end. Think, for instance, of the upcoming CBS miniseries The Dovekeepers, which the network has called a limited series (though it's inconsistent in its terminology).
  2. A smaller batch of episodes than the usual broadcast network order of 22, featuring one set of characters, with a story that wraps up in some senses, but leaves the opportunity for more stories to come — though those aren't guaranteed. CBS calls its summer show Under the Dome a limited series, almost solely because each season consists of just 13 episodes.

The X-Files would seem to fit the second definition best. It's only coming back for six episodes, but if Anderson and Duchovny want to do more (and the series is a success), then another season will surely be ordered.

The X-Files is just the latest former hit to return as a limited series. NBC is bringing back Heroes, Fox brought back 24, and Showtime has resurrected Twin Peaks.

The last big question, then, is whether Fox Mulder saved us all from alien occupation on that fateful night in December 2012. It's possible, you have to admit.