The X-Files

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It would be hard to find someone working on the show who isn't an 'X-Files' fan…'Supernatural' does owe a real creative debt of gratitude to the show; I think the whole current generation of genre shows does.

Sera Gamble, Source

The X-Files was a sci-fi series that aired for nine seasons on the Fox network from 1993 to 2002, with a six-episode tenth season in 2016, and a ten-episode season in 2018. The show focused on FBI agents Mulder and Scully who investigated strange unsolved cases. Scully was a doctor and the rational thinker of the pair; Mulder was a profiler, and the intuitive one. While Scully was a scientist and a skeptic - at least at first - Mulder believed in the existence of aliens, who he thought were responsible for the abduction of his sister when they were children.

Like Supernatural the show combined a 'monster of the week' format with an overarching 'myth arc' that dealt with a global conspiracy to hide the presence of aliens on Earth. Mulder and Scully were one of the greatest examples of unresolved sexual tension on TV, until it wasn’t unresolved anymore.

The X-Files, like Supernatural, was filmed in Vancouver for its first five seasons, after which it moved filming to Los Angeles. There were two X-Files movies, and a spin-off series called The Lone Gunmen.

The X-Files tapped into the American zeitgeist at the end of the 20th century – a mistrust of governments and institutions, and a desire to believe in something greater. Notably the last season was the one that aired after 9-11, as the mood and concerns of the American people shifted considerably. It was also one of the first shows to have a very strong online fandom presence.

Unusually for a sci-fi show, The X-Files not only won critical acclaim, it won awards, including three Primetime Emmys and five Golden Globes.

The earliest online mention of Supernatural in September 2004 described the show as Route 66 meets The X Files and later hilariously as new X-Files meets the OC (Source).

Kripke saw X-Files fans as an untapped audience for the show. As Supernatural was on the bubble in the middle of season two, Kripke said in an interview with TV Guide: "I wish we had a million to a half-million more viewers," he admitted. "I think those X-Files fans are out there. We're just struggling to get the word out that there's an X-Files-quality show on the CW.

Supernatural has acknowledged the influence of The X-Files right from the "Pilot" episode when Dean introduced himself and Sam to a group of FBI agents as Agents Mulder and Scully. It continued with references to the show, and many actors have appeared on both shows.

In the season six episode "Clap Your Hands If You Believe...," the opening credits to the episode are an homage to The X-Files, using similar music and images. The final text “The Truth is in There” is a twist on The X-Files catchphrase “The Truth Is Out There.”

When the episode, "Clap Your Hands If You Believe...," was in the planning stages, "we decided to do an alien abduction as the teaser, and we immediately thought to do the (X-Files) title sequence," Gamble said.

A number of key production people have been involved in both productions, most notably:

  • Kim Manners – Kim directed and produced 132 episodes of The X-Files series, working on the series from 1995 to 2002.
  • David Nutter – Directed the first two episodes of Supernatural directed fifteen episodes of The X-Files.
  • Angela Will has been the production accountant for all of Supernatural’s run, and was also the accountant for the entire series of The X-Files.
  • John Shiban - Was a writer and producer for the first two seasons of Supernatural started as staff writer in the third season of The X-Files, becoming a story editor, writer and producer.
  • Kevin Parks the assistant director on Supernatural worked on the first season of The X-Files.
  • Producer Vladimir Stefoff worked on both shows.

Like Supernatural, The X-Files was also filmed in Vancouver. Many actors have appeared on both shows, including:

See Weren't You On X-Files? for a complete list of actors appearing on both shows.

The X-Files references in episodes

1.01 Pilot

When introduces himself to FBI agents, Dean refers to them as "Agents Mulder and Scully."

1.15 The Benders

This episode has similar themes to the The X-Files episode "Home," which features a secluded family that has a long tradition of inbreeding and violence toward anyone who comes close to its members. Both episodes play on the same themes: a strong (and perverted) sense of family and a vision of horror that isn't brought by demons or creatures, but humans. Home is often said to be the scariest and most disturbing X-Files episode. X-Files alumni John Shiban wrote The Benders. Kim Manners directed "Home."

2.07 The Usual Suspects

Dean calls Sam "Scully," to which he replies:

Sam: I'm not Scully, you're Scully.

Dean: No, I'm Mulder. You're a red-headed woman.

2.14 Born Under a Bad Sign

This episode begins in a very similar way to The X-Files episode "Demons", which was directed by Kim Manners. Both episodes begin with two characters (Sam and Mulder) waking up in motel rooms, covered in someone else's blood (they both say the line "I don't think it's my blood") with no memory of how they got there, or what happened. They both find themselves in possession of cars that aren't theirs, and they realize that they both may have committed murder.

2.15 Tall Tales

The cinematography in the scenes depicting the alien abduction of the frat boy are highly reminiscent of The X-Files. John Shiban, the writer of this episode, also wrote for The X-Files.

3.11 Mystery Spot

Dean says "Sounds pretty X-Files to me." Coincidentally the episode was directed by Kim Manners who also directed the The X-Files's time loop episode, "Monday."

4.01 Lazarus Rising

The devastation around Dean’s grave is reminiscent of the Tunguska Event, thought to be caused by a meteorite in Siberia in 1908. It has been widely referenced in literature and TV, including an episode of The X-Files.

4.05 Monster Movie

Jamie: So, you guys are like Mulder and Scully or something, and the X-Files are real?
Dean: No, "The X-Files" is a TV show. This is real.

4.08 Wishful Thinking

Dean: Or it's a Bigfoot. You know, and he's some kind of alcoholo-porno addict. Kind of like a deep-woods Duchovny.

A reference to the extracurricular activities of actor and X-Files star David Duchovny.

4.11 Family Remains

In an interview with SciFi Magazine, Kripke said "You know we want to make an episode like the X-Files' "Home." Let's make an episode that the network will air once and then people will complain so much they'll never air it again." The episode didn't quite achieve that – murderous incestuous siblings just don't have the shock value they used to.

The role of the housekeeper in this episode, Mrs. Curry, was played by Karin Konoval who also played the mother of the incestuous family in that X-Files episode.

4.19 Jump the Shark

There was an X-Files episode called "Jump the Shark" - the 15th episode of the last season. The title of these episodes is a reference to the colloquialism, "jumping the shark," refers to the point at which a show resorts to dramatic plot changes, novelty casting or similar devices in a desperate attempt to reinvigorate the show, while ironically signaling that the show has probably passed its use-by-date. The term comes from an episode of Happy Days in which The Fonz actually jumped over a tank of sharks on water skis.

In a TV Guide interview Eric Kripke said of the episode title:

"When we were breaking the story about the third Winchester brother, we knew the fans would scream that we had jumped the shark. Of course, adding a new sibling or relative to an established series is a classic and cherished shark jump, Cousin Oliver being the patron saint of the practice. Anyway, it became clear that we should beat the fans to the punch and title the episode, 'Jump the Shark.' Though rejected titles included: 'When Leo Joined Growing Pains,' or 'The Raven Symone Episode.'
"For fans who are worried that we are truly jumping the shark... watch the episode, decide for yourself. Personally, I don't think we're gassing up the motorcycle quite yet, but you tell me. And stay tuned for next season, when the boys take trips to London and Hawaii (haunted Tiki dolls!) and Sam and Ruby get married. And Ted McGinley joins the cast as the thoughtful (but hot!) college professor."

The use of the title by creator Chris Carter was more bitter than Kripke's - while he said the title was tongue-in-cheek although acknowledging it referred to shows that were past their prime and stating that it was their "way of lowering the boom on anybody who thought it (was)". He further stated that the series was "good" until the end, even after the departure of David Duchovny as Fox Mulder. Source

5.02 Good God, Y'All

Guy: So, uh, you think that all this comes from outer space?
Dean: This isn't "X-Files," pal.

5.11 Sam, Interrupted

Psychiatric patient: Yeah, and it was an alien, like on X-Files.

6.09 Clap Your Hands If You Believe...

Besides the opening montage and the theme of aliens, other possible X-Files references include:

7.07 The Mentalists

Melanie Golden says to Dean: So "The X-Files" is real, or you just stopped talking like an FBI agent?

7.12 Time After Time

Nicholas Lea who plays Eliot Ness played Krycek on The X-Files.

In Fandom

The X-Files has appeared as a universe to Crossover with Supernatural stories.