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The Truth is Still Out There: A Review of the Mythology of the X-Files

The X-Files Season 11 poster

This evening, at 8/7central, The X-Files will return with its eleventh season. Over the 25 (!) years and soon to be 11 seasons that The X-Files has existed, the mythology has become somewhat of a twisted, winding, writhing mess. A bit like the honeysuckle vine on my pergola. Don’t get me wrong, I love The X-Files mythology, for better or worse and it is nice to show off my obsessive knowledge of this show in a way that is actually beneficial to someone, so, from the Greys to the Black Oil, the goal of this article is to give everyone for whom it’s been a while (and also for those who’ve just watched, because it’s still pretty hard to follow) a brief review of the mythology, especially as we gear up to (finally) revisit the elusive William, Mulder and Scully’s miracle son.


The Colonists:

grey_aliens_are_welcomedAlso known as the Greys and on rare occasion, Reticulans. As seen in the first movie, Fight the Future, they are birthed from human abdominal cavities as a result of the Purity Virus, which is also called Black Oil. They begin life as large, vicious creatures and none can withstand extreme cold. All Colonists are seemingly shape shifters. Their goal is to eradicate humanity, or subjugate it, depending on who is explaining things. They work with the Shadow Government, also known as the Syndicate or the Consortium.


Hybrids are, as far as we know, anyone who was experimented on who is human but with Active Alien DNA. This comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, considering that some more advanced Hybrids have special abilities, while others do not. Some examples include Samantha Mulder, Gibson Praise and Cassandra Spender. Before the premiere of Season 10, this was also assumed to include Mulder and William. As of Season 10, it still seems likely that William is or was (though his powers were ‘eradicated’ by a shot of magnetite from his probable Uncle, Jeffrey Spender, the son of the Smoking Man. Due to the events of the Season 10 finale, it is now unlikely that Mulder is a Hybrid, but rather it is Scully who appears to have had her DNA altered. How that happened if anyone’s guess.

Bounty Hunters:

alien_bounty_hunter The particular race of the Bounty Hunters is unspecified, but it is likely that they are a subset or lower class of Greys. Both types have toxic green blood and are capable of shape shifting. They exist in two distinct groups, Bounty Hunters, who are subjugated by the Greys and Rebels, who fight against the Colonists. As their facial orifices absorb the Black Oil in the same way that a human’s might, Rebels have theirs sealed shut. Their vulnerability lies at the back of their necks where a precisely placed alien Stiletto can kill them, and anyone or anything unfortunate enough to be in the near vicinity. The Bounty Hunter pictured to the right is the most common face chosen. A common rebel face is that of Jeremiah Smith, the healer. 


Supersoldiers like Billy Miles or Knowle Rohrer, an antagonist in the 8th and 9th season, are essentially Human replicants rebuilt into aliens by the Colonists and as such, they have red blood. The only way to tell a human from a Supersoldier is the protruding spinal spikes at the back of their neck. The process required the incubation of the virus, which can keep people who are near death alive as they are rebuilt. They are extremely susceptible to Magnetite, which deconstructs them violently. They cannot be killed any other way, simply reforming from the three spinal segments containing the spikes. Mulder almost became a Supersoldier, but, by removing him from life support, which caused his temperature to drop, the virus was killed off, proving that in its smallest form, all alien life from the Greys is apparently unable to exist below a certain temperature. 

Black Oil:

black oil in eyes

Black Oil is actually a misnomer, as it isn’t oil at all. It lives deep underground and earned its name because it is often discovered when drilling for oil or in places where Oil is thought to be. We t is also found in meteorite. It is actually an Alien infectious life force, which is also called Purity by the Consortium. It is sentient and carries Alien DNA and is most commonly spread through bees. When Mulder and Krycek were in Russia, they were test subjects for the Black Oil to create a possible vaccine.  This is likely the earliest state of being for the Greys and similar assorted Aliens.

**EDIT: According to the AMA with Chris Carter yesterday, the virus will be touched on in Season 11.**

Where does Season 10 leave us? What’s likely to be important in Season 11? The X-Files has always been good at giving us things, and then, by the end of the arc, the audience is never really certain as to what the true facts are. This is, of course, because we basically follow the story through Mulder and Scully to a certain degree. Obviously, we know that the alien conspiracy is real long before Mulder and Scully do (sometimes) but the reality of many things remain murky to us. Some would call this a strength and others would say it is a weakness. Both can agree that it is frustrating. Season 10, as rocky as it was, gave us a few things to think about that require at least some memory of what happened in the past.

Mulder finally got to remember seeing a UFO, which is nice, considering the first time he saw one was in Season 1, the poor man. We now know with utter certainty that Roswell happened. We know that the experimentation done on Scully by the Consortium altered her DNA, and that, somewhere along the line, Mulder’s was either unaltered or his active Alien DNA shut off by some means or another. (As evidenced by Amor Fati and the Sixth Extinction Arcs, Mulder was a hybrid.)  We also learned that the only humans who would die were those whose DNA was unaltered to include active Alien DNA. CGB Spender (Smoking Man, Cancerman) is back, after having died two? three? times now. And, last but not least, William is important (again).

THE X-FILES: Guest star William B. Davis. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Are some of these things nearly incompatible with what we understood from seasons 1-9? Yes, practically, but, when your mythology looks like Chris Carter’s, I’m not shocked that it gets confusing. He can’t even keep it straight, though he pretends to. Those things aside, I want to talk about Spender and William. Obviously these two are important plot points going forward, as William is the only one who might be able to save Mulder. But let’s start with Spender.

Spender has been a thorn in the side of Mulder and Scully for a long time. Mulder’s probable Biological father has been pushed down the stairs, had cancer and been exploded and burned to death by a missile launched from an unmarked Helicopter in Season 9. And he’s not dead! Or is he? It seems, from the gratuitous footage, behind the scenes, featurettes and trailers released for season 11 that some elements from the absolutely exemplary IDW “The X-Files Season 10” comics (which were completed before the television Season 10 was brought to life) are being brought into the latest season. This is mainly evidenced from the inclusion of Langley and potentially a certain Arlington cemetery. (If you’re interested you can check out the second issue for more insight. I highly recommend doing so. That being said, if David and Gillian would have consented to a full 24 episode season, I would have wanted the comics to have been done live action. They ARE The X-Files.) I use this as evidence, mainly because, in the comics, it is explained that Spender being alive is actually due to the fact that, like the many Samanthas that Mulder ran into, Spender is a clone. I think that this makes perfect sense for the show as well, and is likely the answer to the question of his presence, though I doubt we’ll see it answered on screen.

**EDIT: As of the Reddit AMA, Carter says that CSM has “technology” that enabled him to survive being burned alive. I’m skeptical. You don’t have flames coming out your eyeballs and live to tell about it.**

On to William. He’s always been the big question. First is was:Who’s the daddy?” Mulder. Then it was:but how?” Chris Carter would probably like us to think in vitro but anyone with eyes or sense in their brain knows that, as the lovely Gillian Anderson put it recently:


(David of course, believes that Mulder and Scully are married now, which tells me that the stars of the show and its creator are on very different pages in this book).

So the next question of course becomes, “What is up with William?”

The events of William’s conception aside, it’s actually his birth and the aftermath that is far more interesting. Monica takes Scully to a ghost town to have a child but they are pursued by an alien cult who want to ‘witness’ his birth because they think that he is something special. It has to do with fathers and sons (either William or Mulder must die) and all that stuff, but apparently he isn’t what they thought – until he is? The infamous ‘artifact’ which sent Mulder nearly insane and physically unresponsive due to anomalous brain activity and remote viewing capabilities flies out of Scully’s desk drawer and hovers over William’s crib. He moves his mobile by himself too. Yes, William is a very special baby. He even gets kidnapped once, while being watched over by the Lone Gunmen. Enter the disfigured and unrecognizable Jeffrey Spender, who leads Scully, Doggett and Monica on to believe he might be Mulder to get at William. He injects William with a dosage of Magnetite and the powers disappear. Scully, in a fit of mischaracterization, gives up her child via closed adoption to the Van de Kamp family. Cue massive angst for the Mulder/Scully household in “The Truth”, “I Want to Believe” and in Season 10.

Is William the child of some alien prophecy? Will he have recovered his abilities? Can he save Mulder? Can he save the world? Who knows. Apparently he is going to be one of the main focuses of Season 11, so, even if it pains you physically to watch Season 9, you might want to get on that, if only to recall in more detail what’s going on.

The Truth is Still Out There and tonight, I’ll be watching with all of you as we move yet another step closer to finding it.

Tune in every Thursday morning for an immediate analysis of each new X-Files episode as they air. 

Written by Eileen G. Mykkels


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  1. Season 11 episode 1 left me feeling history was being contradicted in a few areas in comparison to the Audio book series cold cases and stolen lives… CGB Spender / cigarette smoking man is a clone among a few others points. Wish they would keep the history straight.

    • Well the comics exist as alternate canon. So the tv show can do whatever it wants. I prefer the direction that the comics took but sadly it’s not to be.

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