After a long break spent out of the spotlight, X-Files creator Chris Carter is back in business in a major way. His apocalyptic Amazon pilot The After got picked up for a full season — whether it deserved to be or not — and now comes word that he’s got a second television project in the works. It’s right in his conspiratorial, alien-cluttered wheelhouse, however: he’s developing a series for AMC that will focus on the notoriously secretive Area 51 military base.
The Verge reports that Carter’s Area 51 series will be based on Annie Jacobsen’s book, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base. Aside from confirming that the show is indeed in development, AMC wasn’t willing to reveal any of its secrets just yet. All they would say is that it’s “a contemporary conspiracy thriller revealing the true story behind the infamous Area 51, America’s most mysterious military installation.” Let’s just hope that the show’s mythology proves to less byzantine than the X-Files became over the years. I’ve had my fill of being deceived, inveigled, and obfuscated.
Here’s the official description of the book from Amazon:
It is the most famous military installation in the world. And it doesn’t exist. Located a mere seventy-five miles outside of Las Vegas in Nevada’s desert, the base has never been acknowledged by the U.S. government — but Area 51 has captivated imaginations for decades.
Myths and hypotheses about Area 51 have long abounded, thanks to the intense secrecy enveloping it. Some claim it is home to aliens, underground tunnel systems, and nuclear facilities. Others believe that the lunar landing itself was filmed there. The prevalence of these rumors stems from the fact that no credible insider has ever divulged the truth about his time inside the base. Until now.
Annie Jacobsen had exclusive access to nineteen men who served the base proudly and secretly for decades and are now aged 75-92, and unprecedented access to fifty-five additional military and intelligence personnel, scientists, pilots, and engineers linked to the secret base, thirty-two of whom lived and worked there for extended periods. In Area 51, Jacobsen shows us what has really gone on in the Nevada desert, from testing nuclear weapons to building super-secret, supersonic jets to pursuing the War on Terror.
This is the first book based on interviews with eye witnesses to Area 51 history, which makes it the seminal work on the subject. Filled with formerly classified information that has never been accurately decoded for the public, Area 51 weaves the mysterious activities of the top-secret base into a gripping narrative, showing that facts are often more fantastic than fiction, especially when the distinction is almost impossible to make.
So it sounds like this show will be a bit less fantastical than X-Files, more of a straight-up dramatic thriller about one of this country’s biggest question marks. Area 51 certainly doesn’t need little grey men to make it an interesting subject, and I’ll definitely be intrigued to see Carter exploring the real-world side of many of the themes and subjects that he ventured through with The X-Files.
I’m also assuming the series will be a period piece — or rather, will unfold or cover multiple decades. After all, you can’t really tell the history of the place without going back a ways. I wonder if it will begin in a specific year and then gradually move forward as the show progresses, or if it will instead unfold non-linearly, touching on multiple different time periods of the base’s history within any given season. Either way, this will be one to keep an eye on.
And I hate to add this proviso, but my eye will be remaining skeptical for the time being. Carter’s The After pilot was a mess, packed full of cliched characters and clunky, overly expository dialogue. I’m genuinely surprised that Amazon gave it the go-ahead. That being said, I’d love to see Carter get back on his game and give us a show — or a pair of shows — that can get us just as hooked as The X-Files did back in the day. As of right now I’m dubious as to whether The After has what it takes, but maybe Area 51 will be just what the Mulder ordered.
Here’s author Annie Jacobsen talking about her book on The Daily Show.