Even if you’re not a fan of the show, you’ve heard of The X-Files and know the names Mulder and Scully.
Though the first episode aired 25 years ago, the show, and the fandom are still going strong. Many fans want to believe, like Mulder. Some are skeptical like Scully. Either way, they are drawn in by the show’s expert writing and the compelling dynamic between Scully and Mulder. Their relationship has been the inspiration for future characters in many shows and movies, and it has even spawned numerous parodies.
Despite its vast appeal, The X-Files isn’t afraid to delve into dark matters. Mulder and Scully often face pure evil and are required to do some dark tasks in the name of truth. The show has dealt with everything from demon cats to government conspiracies. Some land better than others, but most fans can agree that the darkness of the show keeps it popular. Without it, the show’s handling of the supernatural would seem to be making fun of its audience and characters rather than embracing them.
Even the most diehard fans still miss hidden secrets and clues within the series. Though it was one of the first to develop a strong online fan community, not everyone is as involved in The X-Files fandom as some. And even those who know nearly every detail of the show can still find revelations in the secrets of the show. See what you can find in the following dark secrets about The X-Files.
28 Nobody Dies In The X-Files
Shows like Game of Thrones often throw away major characters in big climaxes at the end of each season. The X-Files is no exception. Many characters have died, and their actors have been given a special note from Chris Carter, the show’s creator and creative head, in their final scripts. On the scripts with their character’s death, Carter adds a post-it note saying “nobody dies in The X-Files.”
This has been true in more ways than one. More than one character has returned from the dead. And, even behind the scenes, The X-Files immortalizes loyal fans and friends. The character Leyla Harrison was even named after a devoted fan of the series and fan fiction writer who had passed away from cancer. The character’s attention to detail and interest in Mulder and Scully is based on the real Leyla Harrison and other X-Files fans.
27 Scully Was Modeled After Another FBI Agent
Agent Scully broke through traditional gender roles in media when the show began by portraying a skeptical, no-nonsense female scientist. She was so well received among young women, that there was actually an increase in women entering STEM fields after the show began. This was dubbed The Scully Effect. However, Agent Scully was not the first FBI agent of her type.
Much of the inspiration for Scully comes from Jodi Foster’s portrayal of Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. The similarities between the two characters are clear. Gillian Anderson was even approached to play Clarice in the movie Hannibal, but her role went to Julianne Moore. However, Anderson did portray a character in the show Hannibal. She played Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, an original character created for the show.
26 Pamela Anderson Was Almost Agent Scully
Gillian Anderson is inseparable from Agent Scully at this point. Her stunning performance—despite the fact that she had only been on camera once before filming the pilot—is a large part of The X-Files’s massive success. However, not everyone felt that she was the best fit for the role. Though show creator and creative lead Chris Carter felt she was perfect for the role, studio executives disagreed.
The studio was convinced that the show would fail without a beautiful lead woman. Many would argue that Anderson is a beautiful leading lady, but the executives wanted someone blonder and more buxom. At one point, Pamela Anderson was even attached to the role. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Anderson playing the straight-laced Agent Scully, but it’s especially hard to imagine Pamela Anderson as the skeptical FBI agent.
25 Fox Sued Fox
Despite the popularity of The X-Files, the price at which the syndication rights were sold is an issue of hot debate. Some say that the rights were sold well below a fair price point, while others say that the actors simply wanted more money. Either way, the situation ended with David Duchovny suing Fox and Chris Carter.
Duchovny claims that the show was sold underpriced to keep him from getting money from the syndication. This prevented him, he argued, from millions of dollars he felt was rightfully his as per his contract. He claims that Carter was aware of the bad deal and kept quiet anyway. He even left the show, though he claims it was for unrelated reasons. However, Duchovny did eventually return, and he even mended his relationship with Carter. Fox ended up losing the battle and paying out twenty million dollars.
24 The Smoking Man Was Inspired By Real Villains
Every actor has their inspiration. Whether it’s from personal experience, other actors, or famous figures, performers draw on what they know and see to perform their characters. Some actors have to go to a very dark place to get into the heads of their characters. The Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files is no exception. Though he started as an extra, William B. Davis had to find inspiration for his evil, scheming character.
In interviews, Davis has admitted that his largest inspirations for the character are Hitler and Saddam Hussein. This makes sense, considering the involvements in secret dealings and government. Moreover, there’s no denying that both figures are some of the most well-known villains in history. Davis used these inspirations and his incredible talent to take The Smoking Man literally from the background to the forefront of the series.
23 An Episode Was Banned From Re-Airing
With the availability of streaming services and DVD collections of television series, banned episodes don’t remain banned for long. One of the most infamous episodes of the show “Home,” is now available in various mediums to fans who weren’t able to see the episode the only time it was aired on television. After its only showing, outcry from viewers caused the network to pull the episode from syndication.
It’s clear why people are upset by “Home.” The episode begins with a very graphic scene, and the rest of the episode lives up to, if not outpaces, the first scene. Both the plot and special effects are enough to make even seasoned horror fans uncomfortable and squeamish. Though the series has never shied away from graphic content, “Home” clearly struck a chord with viewers.
22 Anderson Snubbed The X-Files During Her Emmy Win
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny both received accolades for their performances on the sci-fi series. Both Anderson and Duchovny earned Emmys for their roles, in the same year, no less! Anderson’s name was announced before Duchovny’s, and when she went up to receive her award, she thanked Helen Mirren, who presented the award, and her family.
However, some noticed that she did not mention the cast or crew of The X-Files. When Duchovny accepted his award, he thanked everyone who worked on the show, and even mentioned Anderson by name. The press, at the time, criticized her speech, saying that she had slighted them due to behind-the-scenes conflict. However, Anderson was notably upset backstage at the awards that she had forgotten to thank the others on the show. She also took out an ad in the L.A. Times thanking the Duchovny and the others on the show.
21 The Show Was Inspired By Real Alien Abduction
The X-Files is one of the most notable science fiction shows in television history. However, a clear part of science fiction is the word “fiction.” Still, the show is often inspired by real life events. Even the premise of the show was drawn from real life. Chris Carter, who, at the time, worked for Disney, read that over three million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens.
Carter later said that abduction was “tantamount to a religious experience.” With so many people believing in alien contact in their own lives, Carter was inspired. Also, Carter considers himself a child of Watergate, conspiracy, and government suspicion. With inspirations all around him, Carter pitched The X-Files, a show about the supernatural occurrences that the government tries to hide.
20 It Was The First Show To Get A TV-MA Rating
As discussed previously, “Home” is one heck of an episode. The graphic nature of the plot and visual effects caused the episode to be pulled from syndication, though it is still available through collections of the show. The X-Files invented many commonplace terms and tropes for television, including monster-of-the-week and “shipping.” However, what many don’t know is that this particular episode received the first TV-MA rating.
This rating is now common among popular shows like Game of Thrones. At the time, however, viewers knew that something big was about to happen. The rating was not due to bedroom content, like some other shows, but rather just to warn viewers of the graphic nature of the episode ahead. “Home” is explicit in its descriptions and portrayal of abuse, and this warranted a new rating.
19 Duchovny And Anderson Are Their Characters’ Opposites In Real Life
Mulder is a dreamer and believer in the supernatural. In the show’s mythos, he often ends up being correct, at least about the fact that supernatural beings and conspiracies exist. Meanwhile, Scully is the skeptic. She believes in science and explainable phenomena. The supernatural don’t have a place in her belief system because she believes in what she knows. Despite this, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are the opposites of their respective characters.
Anderson and Duchovny have both admitted in interviews that Anderson is the believer and Duchovny is the skeptic. Though she plays one of the best-known skeptics in television history, Anderson herself believes in the supernatural. Duchovny takes the opposite approach. Though his character believes, he has yet to see proof of aliens or other unexplained events.
18 Scully Really Ate The Cricket
Actors often have to do pretty gross things to portray their characters. However, there are usually less disgusting substitutions. Bodily fluids are replaced with corn syrup, and critters are replaced with fake stand-ins. This is also the case in The X-Files. In one scene, the script dictated that Scully pretend to eat a live cricket. So, Gillian Anderson popped a live cricket into her mouth.
Anderson apparently acted before the crew was able to stop her, and, at the end of the take, she spit the cricket out. What’s especially odd is that there was a candy replacement cricket for her to put into her mouth. Still, she cited seeing others eating live crickets during performances as reason enough to try for herself. Like Scully, however, she did not actually eat the cricket.
17 Anderson Was Unhappy About How The Show Established Scully And Mulder’s Relationship
Chris Carter was determined early on in the series to establish the platonic relationship between Mulder and Scully. To set the tone for the rest of the show, he wanted to get the two characters into a romantic situation where nothing would occur. In order to do this, an episode early in the series features Scully worried that she’s been infected. She shows the marks on her torso to Mulder, who assures her that they’re merely bug bites.
Anderson wasn’t happy that Scully was being featured in her underwear at the beginning of the show. Carter, who usually advocates for Anderson’s vision for Scully, however, found this part to be essential to establishing the relationship between the duo. Though Anderson wasn’t happy about the decision, the scene remained in the show.
16 The X-Files Helped To Create Breaking Bad
A lot of famous people were in The X-Files at one point or another. The show has had so many episodes that there’s plenty of room for actors to play bit or, even recurring, roles. One of those characters was played by Bryan Cranston. Before he was Heisenberg, Cranston played a man who had to keep moving in the episode “Drive.” Two years later, he would star in Malcolm in the Middle, which would become his best-known role until Breaking Bad.
Interestingly, Breaking Bad got its start from The X-Files. Though the show isn’t a spin-off of the science fiction series, many of the actors from Breaking Bad appeared on The X-Files, including Cranston, Aaron Paul, and Dean Norris. Also, Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad was a writer on The X-Files. He even wrote the episode Cranston stars in.
15 Some Episodes Are Based On Real Government Programs
The scenarios on The X-Files seem fantastic, but sometimes, the truth can be just as strange as fiction. Many of the episodes draw their inspiration from real life. Some characters are based on real people, and the entire premise of the show is based around the beliefs that millions hold. And some of the episodes are even based on real government programs.
The episode “Drive” and the two part episode “Nisei” and “731” are an example of this. “Drive” was based on Project HAARP and Project ELF. One dealt with manipulating electromagnetic radiation and the other with long wavelengths. “Nisei” and “731” were inspired by Unit 731, a Japanese biological and chemical warfare experimentation unit. This unit was active in World War II and carried out some of the worst war crimes in history. The members of this unit, when being tried, were given immunity in exchange for their research.
14 Mulder Shares His Phone Number
Even though everyone knows Jenny’s phone number, shows and movies aim to avoid having characters use real phone numbers. Instead, characters will use a number starting with 555. The phone numbers 555-0100 through 555-0199 are reserved for fictional use. Mulder goes all the way to the end of the fictional numbers list with his phone number: 555-0199.
Because there is a limited amount of phone numbers that can be used for fictional purposes, there is some overlap. Fans looking for Fox Mulder may accidentally find that they are calling The Burnhams from American Beauty, for instance. They might also dial Al Pacino’s character, Lowell Bergman, in The Insider. Either party would be confused about receiving calls about alien abductions or demons for sure, though Bergman would likely be interested in the conspiracies.
13 Anderson Was Almost Fired From The Show
It’s no secret that the network envisioned someone more feminine for Scully. Instead of the brainy Gillian Anderson, they wanted someone better known and with more appeal to a male audience. In spite of this Chris Carter cast Anderson in the role. However, when she became pregnant at the end of season two, the network saw their opportunity.
Using the star’s pregnancy as an excuse, the network encouraged Carter to write her out of the show. However, Carter elected to keep Anderson in the role. Instead, he wrote into the script that she was abducted by aliens. This actually became the catalyst for the show’s sprawling mythology. Rather than focus on the plots of individual episodes, the show began to expand the larger arc and the conspiracy.
12 The Man Had A Lot
Cigarettes are so central to his character that it’s even in his name. Although they are the most identifiable parts of the character, William B. Davis had actually quit decades before appearing on the show. However, to bring authenticity to his character, he wouldhave real ones while filming.
This had unintended consequences for Davis. Though he did not have any off-set, he felt himself becoming addicted to nicotine once again. In an attempt to stave off his addiction, he switched to herbal ones during takes. He then went on to use his fame to assist The Canadian Cancer Society in its anti-smoking campaign. Between his stance against the act and his involvement with The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Davis truly is his character’s opposite.
11 Season 11 Is Scully’s Final Season
The X-Files is a vast show with plenty of mythology. In the plot of the show, the conspiracies and supernatural events have continued with or without Scully and Mulder. However, it is undeniable that the two characters are integral parts of the show, so it’s a startling moment to audiences when one of the iconic duo leaves.
This is, unfortunately, the plan for the latest season of the show. When season eleven aired its first episode, Gillian Anderson announced that it would be her last season as Agent Scully. The show has done without the pair before for varying lengths of time, but, so far both of the stars have returned, even years later. It’s unclear how the show will deal with Scully’s departure, even with the most recent revelation for her character.
10 The Lone Gunmen Predicted September 2001
Various events in American history have changed the course of media. Even the popularity of certain genres can be affected during wartime. The popularity of The X-Files was steady throughout the events of the late 90s and early 2000s, however. Even now, in the eleventh season of the show, fans are loyal and the show maintains its popularity. The spin-off The Lone Gunmen, however, was not nearly as successful.
Rather than focus on supernatural events, The Lone Gunmen focused more on government conspiracy. In fact, the first episode dealt with airplanes almost flying into The World Trade Center. The show aired in 2001, a mere six months before the September 11th attacks. However, the show’s cancellation was not the result of foreshadowing the attack. The show was canceled in June of the same year due to declining ratings.
9 Anderson And Duchovny Ignore The Mythology
The mythology in The X-Files is what draws in many fans. Though the monster-of-the-week episodes are fun, the mythology ties the show together. The conspiracies and supernatural events that continue to affect Mulder and Scully tie the show together and develop their relationship as well as the world. According to interviews and Q&As, however, the cast is not as invested in the mythology of the show.
During a convention, a fan asked Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny if they followed the mythology of the show. Both Duchovny and Anderson answered that they did not because “it’s made up as we go.” Rather than having a plan that spans multiple years and seasons, it seems that Chris Carter and the other writers on the show simply write mythology that suits them at the time.
8 Anderson Was Told To Make Mulder The Main Character
Though The X-Files has two stars, originally, the network intended for Fox Mulder to be the star of the show. Though Scully was the female lead and Chris Carter intended for the audience to take on Scully’s perspective, the intention was still for the show to be able Mulder. However, the show would not have been as successful without giving its female costar equal footing in the show.
Anderson was not happy with this arrangement. After only a few episodes, she demanded that they walk side-by-side to symbolize the equality in the show. It didn’t make sense that Mulder is the main character in a show that’s as much about the relationship and characterization of Mulder and Scully that it is about aliens and the supernatural. Though Anderson had her issues with the network, eventually, she got her way. For the rest of the series, Mulder and Scully walked side-by-side.
7 Jodi Foster Stars In An Episode With Similarities To Her Own Life
Jodi Foster played the iconic Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, a character that Scully is heavily based on. As stated previously, there is some crossover with Scully and Starling, as Gillian Anderson played a character in the television show Hannibal. The connection goes even further: Foster lent her voice to The X-Files to play a talking tattoo.
Even more odd is the fact that Foster’s episode has many parallels to the real-life events perpetrated by John Hinckley. Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in March of 1981. This was apparently the result of an unhealthy obsession with Foster. In the episode, Foster persuades Ed Jerse to do unspeakable acts. This is very similar to Hinckley’s obsession with Foster driving him to do similar acts.
6 Scully’s Boyfriend Was Cut From The Show
One of the most compelling parts of The X-Files is the will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic between the two lead characters. The romantic tension is clear in each episode, and it is central to the relationship between the two characters. Chris Carter even claims that they fell in love with one another in the first episode, though the two will never be together.
However, the original plan was for Scully to have a boyfriend. The pilot episode was filmed with a boyfriend character to complicate Scully’s feelings for Mulder. However, Carter felt this inhibited the dynamic and was unhappy with that plotline. As a result, the character and all his footage was cut from the episode before it aired. Scully and Mulder were both single yet unattainable to one another.
5 The FBI Badges Are Erroneous
Eagle eye fans will notice that something is off with Mulder and Scully’s FBI badges. The badges say that the agents work for the FBI: The Department of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Justice. However, FBI stands for “Federal Bureau of Investigation” and the correct term is “The Department of Justice.” So why the mix-up?
It turns out that this isn’t simply due to a typo. This purposeful misidentification is to make it clear that the badges are props rather than actual FBI badges. Even though it would be used for fiction, forging a fake FBI badge is still illegal. To make sure their production is up to a legal standard, the props department creates erroneous FBI badges for the characters.
4 Natalija Nogulich Was Replaced Shortly Before Her Episode Aired
Though many actors are immensely talented, some just fail to click with their co-stars. This can derail an entire show or movie. Especially with a show like The X-Files, where so much of the appeal depends on the relationships of the characters and what’s left unspoken, the characters must mesh well together.
Unfortunately for Natalija Nogulich, best known for playing Vice-Admiral Alynna Nechayev on Star Trek, she did not have the needed chemistry with her co-stars to play X. Before the episode aired, her footage was cut and she was replaced. Steven Williams went on to play Mulder’s mysterious informant. With such a big change to the character, it seems that the change was caused by a need for a different type of character rather than a bad performance by Nogulich. The deleted footage was added into the special features of the season 2 DVD set.
3 Final Destination Was Supposed To Be Set In The X-Files
The influence on science fiction (and even television and storytelling) from The X-Files is clear. The show has been a huge success that’s changed how people think about science fiction, television, and even fandom. What’s interesting is how direct of an effect the show has had on other franchises. In addition to Breaking Bad, the show was also the catalyst for creating Final Destination.
When writer Jeffrey Reddick was searching for a TV script, he wrote a spec script about The X-Files. However, a friend from another production agency encouraged him to make it into a feature-length film. Reddick never submitted the script to The X-Files team. Instead, he wrote Final Destination. The series has since turned into multiple films, as well as comics, books, and plenty of merchandise.
2 Duchovny And Anderson Didn’t Get Along At First
There is no X-Files show without Mulder and Scully. The two characters were what drew many fans into the show, and their performances have won accolades and awards. Despite the amount of time Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny spent with one another on and off camera, it seems that it took them quite a while to get along. Though they spent the better part of a decade together, it was not as smooth-sailing as Mulder and Scully’s relationship.
The two actors are good friends now, however. When asked about their initial dislike of one another, they cite the show’s location as a large factor. Anderson speculates that the bad weather and time spent fixing her hair’s reaction to the humidity in between shots led to some animosity. When the show relocated to L.A., the actors buried the hatchet, and are now almost as close in real life as they are on screen.
1 The CIA Released Real X-Files For The Show’s Return
It’s been established that The X-Files takes inspiration from the real world. However, in 2016, in conjunction with the series’ long-awaited tenth season, the CIA released a few x-files of their own for public perusal. They even noted that skeptics and believers alike would find them interesting, specifically mentioning Agent Fox Mulder by name.
The agency has always denied having information about legitimate UFOs, but the documents show that, while none were proven, not all were disproven. They even realized a list of instructions on Twitter about what to do in the event of a UFO sighting. These instructions included taking pictures (with the ground present, if possible), consulting with experts, and discourage false reporting. Most commented that, though the files are released, the agency sided with Scully’s skepticism rather than Mulder’s belief.