With the new miniseries of “The X-Files” a little more than six months away, Fox has launched a social media campaign letting fans know that if they watched an episode a day starting last Tuesday, they could watch all 201 in time for the Jan. 24 premiere. The series, which ran from 1993 to 2002, starred David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI agents investigating paranormal happenings, much to the dismay of government agencies that worked to hide the existence of extraterrestrial life.
I have yet to partake in this “201 Days of ‘The X-Files,’ ” probably much to the relief of my friends and family. I would just be repeating myself: In 2008, I binged all the episodes in anticipation of the second “X-Files” movie, “The X-Files: I Want to Believe,” which picked up after the series’ 2002 finale.
Thinking I could create an information graphic for the newspaper I worked for at the time, I took notes on each episode. I had recently watched all the “Indiana Jones” movies so that I could make an infographic and felt compelled to continue on pop culture projects. With a notebook at my side for all 201 episodes, I tallied whether it was a standalone “monster of the week” episode or part of the series’ bigger mythology. I marked down which recurring characters appeared: the Lone Gunmen, Deep Throat, X, and, of course, Cancer Man (who was also known by the more PC moniker of Cigarette Smoking Man). I noted whether the opening credits ended with the normal message (“The truth is out there”) or a custom message unique to the mythology episodes.
And I did this all in a much shorter time than Fox is allowing fans. Two-hundred-one days? Please. I did it in about 60. That works out to about three or four episodes a day, though I usually watched a minimum of six.
To accommodate this strict regimen, I’d bring DVDs to work so I could squeeze an episode in during my lunch break. When I flew to visit family, I had to go a few days without watching, so I had my boss borrow a portable DVD player so I could watch on the plane without completely interrupting my pace. I realized that stocking up on frozen pizzas at the grocery store was more efficient than ordering delivery, because I didn’t have to pause to open the door to talk to delivery people. That way, I could turn a nine-episode Saturday into a bender of 10 or 11!
My existence was a spartan one, consisting only of sleep, work, and “The X-Files.” Any social interaction I had was tinged with the mythological universe into which I had hurled myself. There was no topic or conversation I could not tie to the show.
“Our bill comes to $42. Y’ know, that’s Mulder’s apartment number. He lives in Apartment 42.”
“I’m sorry to hear about your dog. Y’ know, when Scully’s dog died, she was pretty upset. But part of that was because the dog was killed by a lake monster.”
“My condolences on the loss of your father. Y’ know, when Mulder’s dad died, he was heartbroken. He was also a prime suspect, because he had been drugged with an LSD-substance and was acting crazy.”
I am thankful to all my friends and family who didn’t shoot me. (Y’ know, Scully once shot Mulder in the shoulder, and . . . eh, never mind.)
I started this binge in late May 2008, about two months before the July 25 release of “The X-Files: I Want to Believe.” It became clear to me early on that it was going to be difficult to watch all the episodes, create a graphic, and edit it in time to be ready for the paper. But I was already hooked, and I continued the effort anyway. Just as Fox Mulder kept slogging on a fruitless quest he knew would bring him no closer to happiness, I kept popping those DVDs into the player and filling pages of notes. Mulder disappeared at the end of season seven (when Duchovny left the show), but I refused to stop until I had seen the closing credits of the 201st episode.
I finally got to that last episode — “The Truth,” a two-parter — in the wee hours of July 26, just hours after “I Want to Believe” had been released in theaters nationwide. I slept for a few hours before going to see the movie with some friends. The movie provided closure to the previous two months of binge-watching, and I left that theater feeling free to resume a life that didn’t revolve around conspiracy theories and aliens. But with relief came sadness that this ridiculous quest had come to an end.
To those of you hoping to watch the show before the new miniseries, good luck. Years later, I still maintain that seasons two through four of “The X-Files” are among some of the best hours of television I’ve ever watched, even though I have since been spoiled by “Orange Is the New Black,” “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad,” and “House of Cards.”
I am not planning on bingeing the series again this time around, but I make no promises. As Mulder and Scully learned early on, it’s safest to “trust no one.”