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c. 1990s

Becoming Mulder and Scully: Behind the scenes of The X-Files

The show mirrored the rise of the internet and growing public fascination with conspiracy theories.

For almost a decade, from 1993 to 2002, The X-Files pitted Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) against, well, yes, aliens who wanted to take over the world, as aliens are wont to do. That 10-year cat-and-mouse game created the longest running U.S. sci-fi show of all time. 

And what was an “X-File”? It was an unsolved FBI case that — helpfully, for plot purposes — involved paranormal phenomena. At least, that was what Mulder believed. Skeptical Scully was not so sure. Therein lay the chemistry between the two. And initially, that chemistry was to remain purely platonic. Though somewhat inevitably, as the show progressed, so did their relationship.

Conspiracy theories

The show’s progression also saw The X-Files move from cult TV status to mainstream cultural force. Mirroring the rise of the nascent internet across the same decade, the show also spoke to the growing public awareness of and fascination with conspiracy theories, as well as the adoption of new age and esoteric beliefs.

Mulder was driven in pursuit of the truth by a belief that his sister Samantha had been abducted by extraterrestrials at the age of 12. Mulder, though, was himself abducted later in the run — a not-so-subtle plot device used to explain away the fact that David Duchovny had sued the show’s network and departed. Creator Chris Carter was at least in part inspired by reports that 3.7 million Americans claim to have been abducted by aliens.

The show was a great ratings and critical success, nominated for 62 Emmys and 12 Golden Globe Awards. And even though the plots of individual episodes may now be forgotten, the show’s theme song lingers on. Its composer’s inspiration? “How Soon Is Now?” by The Smiths.

These pictures show the cast preparing to uncover the unexplained on camera.

Getty Images
Acey Harper / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
Acey Harper / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
Acey Harper / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
Acey Harper / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
Acey Harper / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
Acey Harper / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
Acey Harper / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
Acey Harper / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
Acey Harper / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
Acey Harper / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images

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