The answer is a resounding "yes"! The reasons why are many and varied but can be boiled down into four arguments, not including "because it is so awesome and you are missing out if you don't" – although that is true as well.
Reason 1: The X-Files is a groundbreaking show that changed the way we watch TV.
The X-Files (1993 – 2002) set the stage for later powerhouses such as Lost (2004-2010), Breaking Bad (2008-2013) and 24 (2001-2010), as well as less watched but excellent genre shows like Fringe (2008-2013), Hannibal (2013-2015) and Falling Skies (2011 - 2015). The X-Files pioneered a sophisticated approach of episodic storytelling, requiring viewers to follow complex plots and character journeys from week to week. If we look at what comprised the TV landscape in the early 1990s, we find a lot of procedurals and medical dramas, such as LA Law (1986-1994), Law & Order (1990-2010), China Beach (1988-1991), and ER (1994-2009). Even shows like Quantum Leap (1989 – 1993) were fairly self-contained episodes. Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), too, had clean episodes, with the crew facing a different dilemma each week. Essentially, the casual viewer could tune in and more or less know what is going on and enjoy the action. This was the networks' goal when choosing programming.
While an episode of The X-Files does stand alone well, and monster-of-the-week investigation episodes very well (such episodes are among the most beloved), the series also features an overarching mythology involving a shadow government conspiracy and alien life. Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), in his quest for the truth and in response to a childhood trauma involving what he believes to be his sister's abduction by aliens, is targeted by the conspirators as a force able to blow the lid off a decades-old operation of secrets. Therefore, both he and Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully (who was originally assigned to the X-Files division to debunk his work, since she is both a scientist and medical doctor) are repeatedly placed in jeopardy. Viewers in the 90s were not watching casually but obsessively, wondering just what the heck was going on and unsure where each episode would take them. For every answer they got, more questions arose. Fans hunted for clues, debated alien theories and generally watched The X-Files in a way TV had not been watched before; you really couldn't miss an episode or you'd miss a piece of the puzzle. We are familiar with this now, of course, but in 1993, it was new territory.
The X-Files also had another advantage – it hit airwaves just as the Internet became a household fixture. This connected genre fandom in a way they had never been able to connect, through message boards and chat rooms, which made viewers able to spontaneously share theories and debate which episodes were the best. This didn't just take place over convention weekends or at viewing parties but became a part of daily life. Log on, discuss Mulder and Scully, shriek about that gross mutant, bemoan the loss of evidence of extraterrestrials. I can still hear that sweet dial-up noise!
By bringing back The X-Files, they (Fox execs, the production team, etc.) are attempting to revive a cultural juggernaut and, yes, capitalize on the nostalgia trend. But 2016’s Season 10 of The X-Files has also garnered new fans via Netflix and tumblr. The scary mutants and haunting soundtrack still do the job, and we can marvel at the size of Mulder's cell phone and Scully's shoulderpads while still finding them eminently relatable and their quest worthy of watching and re-watching, nearly 25 years after the first episode. It is important to return to the start to appreciate what the series accomplished and how it influenced the modern televisual storytelling we know and love today.
Still from the original run of The X-Files
Reason 2: Mulder and Scully's partnership is an epic modern love story.
To start with Season 10 would be to miss the years of gradual development of the subtle yet powerful romance that underlies The X-Files. Any pay-off in their relationship cannot be appreciated without investing the time in their slow-burning, epic human connection.
If I had to rank my favorite television characters, Mulder and Scully are second only to Captain Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001). Never to be listed separately, Mulder and Scully come as a pair – you can't have one without the other (even though Fox thought you could at one point, as Mulder was not present in much of Season 8 and almost all of Season 9 – not anyone's favorite seasons, from what I can tell…but I suppose you should still watch them. Watch it all). Much online space, in the form of fanfiction, music videos, photo archives and tumblr gifs, is dedicated to the romance between Mulder and Scully. (If anyone disagrees that a romance exists, I will fight you.) Although the physical moments – five kisses over 202 episodes and 2 movies – are not constant and overt like in most shows, there are many romantic moments over the course of the series.
Mulder is alone in his quest until Scully is assigned to him, as I said, to debunk the fantastical nature of the cases he is investigating and generally give the Bureau a reason to shut down the X-Files. But instead of looking down on him and the often obsessive nature of his odd, unpopular beliefs, she treats him with respect, and her scientific skepticism becomes an asset to their work – even if she doesn't believe in the mythical. Similarly, Mulder is respectful of Scully’s need to back everything up with evidence – even if he doesn't think she will be able to. This is not to say that they don't argue, disagree or become exasperated with one another at times. They are human and fallible, provoking myriad emotions in one another and the viewer.
Mulder and Scully in the original run of The X-Files
As the years and seasons progress, they grow closer and closer. They often assert that they don't trust anyone aside from the other. Each loses family members and suffers trauma as a result of the answers they are chasing. They face abduction, kidnapping, threats of rape and bodily harm at the hands of serial killers, as well as the looming threat that the shadow government could have them assassinated for all they've discovered and seen. In between dangerous moments, viewers can see them building their relationship, one meaningful glance and gentle touch at a time. There aren't the grand romantic gestures or cheesy make-out scenes that romantic television and film are known for – this is an understated, intellectual love story and, judging by the enthusiasm of fans, it is very effective. Besides, you can't end almost a decade of intense drama and relationship-building with a shot of Mulder and Scully in bed (as the 2002 finale did) and try to tell me they aren't madly, deeply in love.
While most of Season 9 was pretty dire, we did get this little gem of a voiceover from Scully in the episode “TrustNo1”: "Chance meeting your perfect other, your perfect opposite - your protector and endangerer. Chance embarking with this other on the greatest of journeys - a search for truths fugitive and imponderable… you will learn the truth is not found in science, or on some unseen plane, but by looking into your own heart." That was written by series creator Chris Carter, who is notoriously resistant to the idea that he created an epic love story. I think he doth protest too much.
Reason 3: You will be very, very lost otherwise.
There is also a strong logistical argument for catching up on the first nine seasons, simply so that you can follow what’s happening. The centerpiece of the "revival" series – which is labeled Season 10 because it is not so much a revival or reboot as a continuation – is William. If you don't know who William is, you are in big trouble. I'm going to tell you who he is, but you really need to watch.
Scully thought her ability to have children was taken from her when she was abducted, but she and Mulder do conceive a child together the good ol' fashioned way – and they name him William, which was both of their fathers' name. At the end of the original series, they give up that child for his own safety, and, after Mulder is put on trial in a way that makes my attorney husband purple with rage over abuse of the legal system, they go on the run from all the forces conspiring to end them. In a mirror of an intimate scene from the pilot, wherein Mulder shares his personal journey with Scully in an anonymous hotel room on their first case together, they end by talking in bed about what they've lost, gained and gone through in nine years.
Scully and Mulder in Season 10 of The X-Files
Reason 4: Get in the spirit, and appreciate what it’s all about.
If you skip those nine seasons, you’re missing a lot of labyrinthine plots and fun, wacky details which make up much of the show’s texture. There is black oil and its infectious effects. There are rebel aliens with their faces all sealed up. There are a jillion abductions – both Scully and Mulder are taken at various points, along with so many others. There are just plain evil men, standing in corners and smoking cigarettes while guiding the pieces on the chessboard. There are alien bounty hunters. There are super-soldiers. There's a bunch of nonsense right at the end about rocks and magnetite that made me so desperate for a Mulder-Scully scene that I was about to give up my firstborn, too. And that is just the mythology.
To capture the true spirit of the show, you need to go back and sit on stakeouts with Mulder and Scully, eat the sunflower seeds, drink the root beer, perfectly sharpen pencils and throw them into the ceiling out of sheer boredom, and do battle with flukemen, mutants, telekinetics, mothmen, a lot of bugs, psychics, OCD vampires, the immortal, all kinds of murderers and your own inner demons. You need to make friends with government informants, gruff supervisors and a trio of the best nerds you'll ever find. You need to laugh at Mulder's bad ties and sarcastic one-liners, and embrace the solace of starlight. You need to know the evolution of Scully's cancer, what the name Emily means to her and all about her Apollo 11 keychain. You need to know and love the significance of “Walking in Memphis,” the SS Queen Anne and an alien craft on the African coast. All of these small things add up to one phenomenal story.
Wouldn't you rather be in the know?
For more details to catch up on, head on over to my blog to check out the episodes I deemed essential for an expert rewatch.