The strange expanded world of the X-Files

While the X-Files (1993-2001, 2016, 2018) seems like a dated relic of the ’90s today, just a couple of decades ago it was one of the largest television phenomenons to emerge from the era. Chris Carter, Mark Snow, and the myriad of actors attached to this scifi-horror-conspiracy series were given a mighty cache for future projects. Some squandered theirs, while others took full advantage.

Knowing that his alien mutant baby couldn’t live forever, Carter quickly got to work on a number of other projects — many of which were at least tangentially set in the same world. Call it the “Xfilesverse,” if you will.

Today we’re going to look at four other TV shows that were kissing cousins to Mulder, Scully, Skinner, and the rest.

Millennium (1996-1999)

Probably the best remembered of the bunch is Chris Carter’s Millennium. Taking the dark themes of The X-Files (which already could be a gloomy show at times) and going even further into that territory was Millennium.

Millennium starred Aliens’ Lance Henriksen as Frank Black, a former FBI agent who has the strange ability to see through the eyes of killers. He and his talents are recruited by the shadowy Millennium Group, which is an organization attempting to avert (or so we hope) the coming apocalypse.

As I said, it was a very bleak show with a whole lot of gory bits, thanks to the initial focus on serial killers. But over time, as with the X-Files, the mythology of Millennium started to overshadow its killer-of-the-week episodes. The show did decently — largely thanks to Henriksen and supporting characters played by LOST’s Terry O’Quinn and CCH Pounder — but has only risen in estimation since it went off the air.

This show has a very strong case to be made as existing in the X-Files universe, with some character crossovers, shared references, and a sort of “final” Millennium episode taking place in X-Files’ seventh season.

The Lone Gunmen (2001)

During X-Files’ run, one of the breakout guest stars was not one, but three rather kooky conspiracy nuts that made Mulder seem sane in comparison. The Lone Gunmen, as they preferred to be called, were white hat journalists out to expose the truth… with a heavy dose of comedy.

The trio got their shot at a genuine spin-off in 2001, as The Lone Gunmen went on the air with the support of creator Chris Carter and another main theme by Mark Snow. But ratings were bad, suggesting that the characters didn’t have the heft to carry their own show. So the series was canceled and the Gunmen went back to guest-starring in The X-Files as usual.

Strange Luck (1995-1996)

Seriously, Fox created and canceled so many series during the 1990s and 2000s that so many of these smaller shows are in danger of being forgotten forever. But Strange Luck sticks with me, probably because I had a bit of a man crush on D.B. Sweeney in the ’90s and watched this one diligently.

Sweeney stars as Chance Harper, a photographer who has — as the title suggests — the strangest of luck. It’s not always bad or good luck, but certainly a lot of weird stuff tends to happen when he’s in the vincinity. The 17-episode season gave Chance a lot of opportunities to try to help people out when all of that luck turned bad.

The one and only connection to the X-Files came in an episode where Chance’s brother advises him to contact Fox Mulder of the FBI if he needed help. This wasn’t because Strange Luck was a Carter show (it wasn’t), but because Carter gave that permission with the possibility of a future crossover that never came to be.

Harsh Realm (1999)

We’ll wrap things up with another Carter joint, this one being 1999’s Harsh Realm. This nine-episode season followed a group of people in a virtual world trying to overthrow a brutal dictator in a virtual post-apocalyptic USA. It was incredibly odd, but kind of cool, and had a couple of small X-Files connections. These included Scully doing the narration for an in-universe video and some other X-Files universe actors (O’Quinn, Henrickson, Mark Rolston) showing up for alternative roles.


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