Television: UFO show that looks square but is oddly hip

Watching the new series of The X-Files (Channel 5, Mondays, 9pm) feels like I’m in an episode of The X-Files. A yeti must have knocked me out with chloroform and flown me back to the 1990s in a UFO. How can I tell? Because the music is Muzak, everyone’s wearing pastels and Fox Mulder still hasn’t tidied his office. Oh, and none of the stars has aged a single day! Spooky. Although that’s not alien DNA keeping David Duchovny so young. By the looks of his face, he’s had a close encounter with a gallon of Botox.

The X-Files told the story of paranormal investigators Fox Mulder and Dana Scully – names that suggest their parents always wanted them to grow up to be rogue FBI agents. The show hit our screens just after the Cold War had ended and people were looking for someone new to fear. We used to worry about other people’s governments; now we worried about our own – or at least, America’s. What were they hiding from us in those giant airplane hangars in Area 51, Nevada? Airplanes? Ha! That’s what they want you to think.

The X-Files was a hit so long as it walked a thin line between the super-scary and the mundane – the early series made certain that you only ever saw an alien’s finger or a vampire’s right fang. Dana insisted that there could be a perfectly logical explanation, although her rationality wore a little thin after 10 years of being abducted, impregnated and dumped by aliens. So too did the agents’ odd habit of never turning a light on when they entered a room; the FBI’s refusal to just sack them; or their reluctance to go to the press.

I’m sure the sale of one photo of a werewolf would have earned Fox and Dana early retirement in the Bahamas. But Mulder seemed content to wander about rainy Washington in sunglasses.

The new series picks up where we left off – in every sense. It makes little beef of the fact that a decade has passed or that a very real conspiracy has been unearthed that’s more deserving of the FBI’s time and money: Islamist terrorism. This revival is witty, fun and strangely hip to how square it looks. But it’s for nostalgia hunters only.