x-files
A 1996 scene from The X-Files Fox / Getty Images

The X-Files Is Back—Here's Why the Original Was So '90s

Oct 06, 2015

Mulder and Scully are back, but the world has changed. When the first episode of the upcoming revival of The X-Files premieres on Tuesday at an entertainment-industry conference in France (it will air on TV in January), the FBI agents who helped kick start the 1990s paranormal craze will solve crimes in a newly wired world (the trailer does show smartphones, after all).

But no matter how the show is updated for 2016, it will bring a little bit of the 1990s with it. After all, The X-Files helped define the decade. When the show premiered in 1993, it helped precipitate a programming trend that would last for years.

As TIME wrote in 1995, The X-Files and its imitators spoke to a distinctly pre-Y2K interest:

Millennialism produces intriguing impulses in a culture. Around the year 1000, European manuscript artists and poets limned their visions of the Apocalypse. Today's equally important purveyors of world culture--American television producers--are approaching the next millennium with less dismal thoughts. They are offering an onslaught of science-fiction series replete with brilliant techno-fetishists, emoting robots and impassioned parapsychologists.

"As we near the year 2000," explains Fox programming executive Bob Greenblatt, "people are becoming more open to what might lie beyond that magical moment." Greenblatt's employer is responsible for much of the current science-fiction barrage. It has been sparked largely by the astounding success of The X - Files, the hit Fox series that focuses on two FBI agents assigned to investigate cases for which there may be only paranormal explanations. Hailed by critics, the show is one of the network's top rated and has spawned an Internet discussion group 10,000 members strong.

Read more from 1995, here in the TIME Vault: Out of This World

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