It would be hard to find someone working on the show who isn't an 'X-Files' fan…'Supernatural' does owe a real creative debt of gratitude to the show; I think the whole current generation of genre shows does.
The X-Files was a sci-fi series that aired for nine seasons on the Fox network from 1993 to 2002. The show focused on FBI agents Mulder and Scully who investigated strange unsolved cases. Scully was a doctor and the rational thinker of the pair, Mulder was a profiler, and the intuitive one. While Scully was a scientist and a skeptic - at least at first - Mulder believed in the existence of aliens, who he thought were responsible for the abduction of his sister when they were children.
Like Supernatural the show combined a 'monster of the week' format with an overarching mytharc that dealt with a global conspiracy to hide the presence of aliens on Earth. Mulder and Scully were one of the greatest examples of unresolved sexual tension on TV. Well except until it wasn’t unresolved anymore.
The X-Files like Supernatural was filmed in Vancouver for its first six seasons, after which it moved filming to Los Angeles. There were two X-Files movies, and a spin-off series called The Lone Gunman.
The X-Files tapped into the American zeitgeist at the end of the 20th century – a mistrust of governments and institutions, and a desire to believe in something greater. Notably the last season was the one that aired after 9-11, as the mood and concerns of the American people shifted considerably. It was also one of the first shows to have a very strong online fandom presence.
Unusually for a sci-fi show, The X-Files not only won critical acclaim, it won awards including three Primetime Emmys and five Golden Globes.
Kripke saw X-Files fans as an untapped audience for the show. As Supernatural was on the bubble in the middle of season two, Kripke said in an interview with TV Guide: "I wish we had a million to a half-million more viewers," he admitted. "I think those X-Files fans are out there. We're just struggling to get the word out that there's an X-Files-quality show on the CW.
Supernatural has acknowledged the influence of The X-Files right from the "Pilot" episode when Dean introduced himself and Sam to a group of FBI agents as Agents Mulder and Scully. It continued with references to the show, and many actors have appeared on both shows.
In the season six episode "Clap Your Hands If You Believe...," the opening credits to the episode are an homage to the The X-Files, using similar music and images. The final text “The Truth is in There” is a twist on The X-Files catchphrase “The Truth Is Out There.”
When the episode, "Clap Your Hands If You Believe...," was in the planning stages, "we decided to do an alien abduction as the teaser, and we immediately thought to do the (X-Files) title sequence," Gamble said.
- Compare Supernatural title sequence for "Clap Your Hands If You Want To Believe..." and The X-Files opening credits
A number of key production people have been involved in both productions, most notably:
- Kim Manners – Kim directed and produced 132 episodes of The X-Files series, working on the series from 1995 to 2002.
- David Nutter – Directed the first two episodes of Supernatural directed fifteen episodes of The X-Files.
- Angela Will has been the production accountant for all of Supernatural’s run, and was also the accountant for the entire series of The X-Files.
- John Shiban - Was a writer and producer for the first two seasons of Supernatural started as staff writer in the third season of The X-Files, becoming a story editor, writer and producer.
- Kevin Parks the assistant director on Supernatural worked on the first season of The X-Files.
- Producer Vladimir Stefoff worked on both shows.
Like Supernatural, The X-Files was also filmed in Vancouver. Many actors have appeared on both shows, including:
- Mitch Pileggi (Samuel Campbell) played Mulder and Scully’s boss, Walter Skinner.
- William B. Davis was the infamous Cigarette Smoking Man in The X-Files, and appeared in 1.11 Scarecrow.
- Steven Williams (Rufus Turner) was Mr. X in The X-Files.
- Jim Beaver (Bobby Singer), Mark Sheppard (Crowley), Chad Lindberg (Ash), Frederic Lehne (Azazel), Katharine Isabelle (Ava Wilson), Nicki Aycox (Meg!Demon), and Ty Olssen (Eli) all appeared in episodes of The X-Files.
- Ken Kramer, who plays Mr. Cooper the carnival owner in 2.02 Everybody Loves a Clown, appeared in three The X-Files episodes as different characters.
- Nicholas Lea who plays Eliot Ness played Krycek on The X-Files in 7.12 Time After Time.
- Ty Olsson who plays Benny appeared in the episode Kitsunegari as an orderly.
See Weren't You On X-Files? for a complete list of actors appearing on both shows.
The X-Files references in episodes
Dean introduced himself and Sam to a group of FBI agents as Agents Mulder and Scully.
This episode has similar themes to the The X-Files episode "Home," which features a secluded family that has a long tradition of inbreeding and violence toward anyone who comes close to its members. Both episodes play on the same themes: a strong (and perverted) sense of family and a vision of horror that isn't brought by demons or creatures, but humans. Home is often said to be the scariest and most disturbing X-Files episode. X-Files alumni John Shiban wrote The Benders. Kim Manners directed "Home."
Dean calls Sam "Scully," to which he replies:
Sam: I'm not Scully, you're Scully.
Dean: No, I'm Mulder. You're a red-headed woman.
The cinematography in the scenes depicting the alien abduction of the frat boy are highly reminiscent of The X-Files. John Shiban, the writer of this episode, also wrote for The X-Files.
Dean said "Sounds pretty X-Files to me." Coincidentally the episode was directed by Kim Manners who also directed the The X-Files's time loop episode, "Monday."
The devastation around Dean’s grave is reminiscent of the Tunguska Event, thought to be caused by a meteorite in Siberia in 1908. It has been widely referenced in literature and TV, including an episode of The X-Files.
Jamie: So, you guys are like Mulder and Scully or something, and the X-Files are real?
Dean: No, "The X-Files" is a TV show. This is real.
- Dean: Or it's a Bigfoot. You know, and he's some kind of alcoholo-porno addict. Kind of like a deep- woods Duchovny.
A reference to the extracurricular activities of actor and X-Files star David Duchovny.
In an interview with SciFi Magazine, Kripke said "You know we want to make an episode like the X-Files' "Home." Let's make an episode that the network will air once and then people will complain so much they'll never air it again." The episode didn't quite achieve that – murderous incestuous siblings just don't have the shock value they used to.
The role of the housekeeper in this episode, Mrs. Curry, was played by Karin Konoval who also played the mother of the incestuous family in that X-Files episode.
There was an X-Files episode called "Jump the Shark" - the 15th episode of the last season. The title of these episodes is a reference to the colloquialism, "jumping the shark," refers to the point at which a show resorts to dramatic plot changes, novelty casting or similar devices in a desperate attempt to reinvigorate the show, while ironically signaling that the show has probably passed its use-by-date. The term comes from an episode of Happy Days in which The Fonz actually jumped over a tank of sharks on water skis.
- "When we were breaking the story about the third Winchester brother, we knew the fans would scream that we had jumped the shark. Of course, adding a new sibling or relative to an established series is a classic and cherished shark jump, Cousin Oliver being the patron saint of the practice. Anyway, it became clear that we should beat the fans to the punch and title the episode, 'Jump the Shark.' Though rejected titles included: 'When Leo Joined Growing Pains,' or 'The Raven Symone Episode.'
- "For fans who are worried that we are truly jumping the shark... watch the episode, decide for yourself. Personally, I don't think we're gassing up the motorcycle quite yet, but you tell me. And stay tuned for next season, when the boys take trips to London and Hawaii (haunted Tiki dolls!) and Sam and Ruby get married. And Ted McGinley joins the cast as the thoughtful (but hot!) college professor."
The use of the title by creator Chris Carter was more bitter than Kripke's - while he said the title was tongue-in-cheek although acknowledging it referred to shows that were past their prime and stating that it was their "way of lowering the boom on anybody who thought it (was)". He further stated that the series was "good" until the end, even after the departure of David Duchovny as Fox Mulder. Source
- Guy: So, uh, you think that all this comes from outer space?
- Dean: This isn't "X-Files," pal.
- Psychiatric patient: Yeah, and it was an alien, like on X-Files.
Besides the opening montage and the theme of aliens, other possible X-Files references include:
- Dean's exclamation "Fight the Fairies" is reminiscent of the first X-Files feature film, The X-Files: Fight the Future.
- Sam spilled salt, and the Leprechaun started to count each grain. In The X-Files season five episode 5X12 "Bad Blood", Mulder spilled sunflower seeds to stop the vampire - in this episode, vampires must stoop to count each grain.
- The cornfield chase is similar to that in The X-Files: Fight the Future, which is an homage to North by Northwest.
Melanie Golden says to Dean: So "The X-Files" is real, or you just stopped talking like an FBI agent?
The X-Files has appeared as a universe to Crossover with Supernatural stories.