“Last twenty minutes as far as we can tell. It’s highly targeted, sir. Apparently the focus is cold cases, all from a department we’ve shut down…”
“What department are we talking about here?”
“I’m on my way.”
From 1993 to the present day Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully have been part of popular culture. Dominating the small screen in the mid-nineties The X-Files continued through nine television seasons and two feature films, the enduring popularity of the characters encouraging Fox to reopen the titular case files in 2016 with a tenth season with an eleventh currently in pre-production.
Prior to their onscreen return, the beloved agents were brought back to the FBI in comic book form by writer Joe Harris working with Chris Carter and IDW Publishing in 2013, and it is these stories that Audible have now chosen to transform into a full cast audio drama. With the experienced audio direction of Dirk Maggs at the helm and original cast members returning to their iconic roles, Audible have done something wonderful and recreated a familiar world in a new medium.
The X-Files: Cold Cases reunites David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson to reprise their roles as Mulder and Scully but they do not come alone, as also featured are the wonderful Mitch Pileggi as now FBI Deputy Director Skinner and William B Davis as the ever present and unsettling Cigarette Smoking Man.
Another return which the recent television season promised and did not fully deliver, a drug induced hallucination insufficient to satisfy, is the resurrection of fan favourites The Lone Gunmen played by Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood and Dean Haglund as Byers, Frohike and Langly respectively. Also present but on this occasion without their original performers are Special Agents John Doggett and Monica Reyes, their new voices uncredited.
Following on from the success of Alien: River of Pain, director Dirk Maggs (Douglas Adams’ The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere) continues his reputation for recreating atmospheric worlds through audio and returns listeners to the world of The X-Files in a style true to the show despite the shift in presentation.
Based on the well regarded season ten comic series published by between 2013 and 2015 when the idea of the show being revived was not seen as likely, these stories take place after the movie 2005’s I Want to Believe, dealing with Mulder and Scully’s return to the X-Files in what at the time was regarded as canon which has now been rewritten by Carter for the screen, creating continuity issues of the type which any long-term comic reader has learned to accept.
Best viewed as separate to the new television episodes that is a good thing. Rather than trying to fit in with the chaotic events of the six episode series Cold Cases is a solid standalone return story and is therefore much stronger than had it been obliged to observe a respectful distance to as not to contradict the unknown that is still to come allowing it to instead do things the series did not seem to have the courage to do such as the resurrection of The Lone Gunman.
Opening with a hack into the FBI databases targeted on one specific area, the now long closed X-Files division, fearing their new identities have been compromised Deputy Director Skinner visits his former agents now under the protected identities of Mister and Doctor Blake, however he is not the only person – or thing – converging on the former investigators, and so begins what feels like a greatest hits of The X-Files.
From Flukemen to shapeshifting bounty hunters, old friends to old enemies, the listener gets something clearly written with love of all things X, the scripting of the characters natural and familiar from Scully’s informed scepticism regarding her partner’s outlandish theories to Mulder still being a smart ass.
“Whoever wanted a peek at those old dust bunnies is welcome to them. Maybe the FBI should consider crowdsourcing our cold cases. You might make some headway for once.”
Split into several episodes, the first two deal with the immediate events of the hack and those seeking out Mulder and Scully and feel like a “mythology” story, dealing with elements of the conspiracy and alien hybrids, culminating with the reopening of the X-Files.
This is followed by a classic “monster of the week” adventure revisiting one of the early favourite creatures which fuelled nightmares, the Flukeman, a mutated humanoid flukeworm creature which disturbed many a child and adult in the nineties. Exploring the origin of the Flukeman this works as an effective companion piece to The Host, Chris Carter’s original episode first broadcast in September 1994. Mixing mythology and monster stories means there is something to appeal to fans of each style of story.
“The man you’re presently imitating means more to me and to my son than you will ever know. But if you do not stop watching me with his eyes I’m gonna blow them out of your God damn head!”
Having played them onscreen so recently the actors seem comfortable back in their familiar roles and it is wonderful to hear Mulder and Scully out investigating again, while Maggs’ creates an atmospheric drama which transports the listener right into the scenes, be it autopsy, chase or gunfight.
As Big Finish Productions have shown with Doctor Who there is a huge demand by fans for the continuation of stories involving their favourite characters in audio drama format, and Audible have risen to the challenge with their Alien dramas and have now surpassed themselves by bringing The X-Files to life in superb quality, and with the department now reopened have just announced Mulder and Scully will be back in Stolen Lives.
“That old poster?”
“That’s going straight back on the wall, partner.”
“I want to believe?”
“But with one important amendment…magic marker, please.”