X-Files' New Season: What's Getting an Update, What's Staying the Same

Amanda McGrath
X-Files, Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny
Ed Araquel/FOX

THE X-FILES: L-R: Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully and David Duchovny as Fox Mulder. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). The thrilling, six-episode event series, helmed by creator/executive producer Chris Carter and starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI Agents FOX MULDER and DANA SCULLY, marks the momentous return of the Emmy Award- and Golden Globe-winning pop culture phenomenon, which remains one of the longest-running sci-fi series in network television history. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Expect familiar faces, a bigger mythology and a rough patch for Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) when The X-Files makes its return in January.

Fans got a first look at the premiere of the upcoming six-episode season at New York Comic Con, followed by a panel featuring creator Chris Carter, actors Duchovny and Mitch Pileggi (Walter Skinner), and X-Files Files podcast host (and Silicon Valley star) Kumail Nanjiani, who served as moderator and superfan. Here's what we learned from the episode, the panel, and post-screening interviews:

Old favorites are still the same
"I hadn't been Mulder in years ... I was searching for that Mulder flow," Duchovny said of readjusting to his character. But he and Anderson (who wasn't at Comic Con but kicked off the screening with a video message for fans) hit all the same notes on screen. "Putting the suit on and the glasses ... it was awesome as always," said Pileggi. And Carter confirmed that The Lone Gunmen would be back.

So is the opening title sequence
Prepare for nostalgia, as the spooky theme song and visuals of the opening credits is unchanged.

But Mulder and Scully aren't together
Well, at least not in the first episode. "[They're] not living under same roof, and that was a conscious thing," Carter said. "We wanted to be true to the passage of time, so we're playing it in real time and Mulder and Scully have had their difficulties."

There are new faces in the mix
Joel McHale is Tad O'Malley, a paranoia-sowing TV personality who wants the duo to join his crusade against conspiracies (and might be putting the moves on Scully.) Annet Mahendru's Sveta has a tale of alien abductions and secrets that may or may not be true.

It's not all fan service (but, well, kind of)
"I wanted to do something fresh and new," Carter told us. "I didn't want this to be a victory lap, I wanted it to be something original." But that doesn't mean too big a departure from the show's roots. "Even though we try to make it accessible to new viewers, the reason we are back, simply, is for the hardcore fans," he said.

The show wants to tap into our current political climate
In the 13 years since the series ended, we've had the Patriot Act, NSA surveillance and Edward Snowden, not to mention the cultural shifts that come with social media. "It's a perfect time to be telling X-Files stories," Carter said. "We live in a time where the government is suspect now, so that plays into what we're doing. It revitalizes the show," Carter said.

"Everything with government snooping and all the surveillance stuff... I think the show's really going to resonate now," Nanjiani said in an interview after the panel. "I think it's always scarier when it's not some outside threat, it's some internal threat. And I think The X-Files always sort of worked in that paranoid sphere."

The technology gets some minor updates
Skinner texts! Mulder watches off-brand YouTube!

Mythology will 'bookend' one-off episodes
The show always balanced its monster-of-the-week episodes with a larger mythology, and that will be the case for the miniseries as well. The premiere sets up major new elements in the X-Files overarching lore and the finale will focus on that bigger story, while the four episodes in between will be more stand-alone mysteries.

The show won't follow the comics
The X-Files got a 10th season in comic book form in 2013, but Carter says the show won't follow the same path. "We know what each other is doing, that doesn't mean we're doing the same thing," he said.

The movie's flop won't be repeated
2008's The X Files: I Want to Believe was a flop, but the team took it as a lesson learned. "We did a little movie in '08," Carter explained. "If you're going to do an X Files movie, you've got to do a big movie, not a little one."

So … do they believe?

Pileggi: "I absolutely believe there's extraterrestrial life."
Duchovny: "I'm a Belieber."
Carter: "I want to believe"

The X-Files returns January 24 on Fox.

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