How The X-Files Inspired The Final Destination Series

Released at the precipice of the 21st century, the first "Final Destination" film is totally indicative of what the following decade of mainstream horror films would come to offer: Gory kills, edgy cynicism, and not to mention a weirdly prescient fear of fiery plane tragedies. Interestingly enough, the film that started the death-obsessed franchise was first conjured as a spec script for the beloved Fox series "The X-Files." Perhaps this is unsurprising, considering "Final Destination" co-writers Glen Morgan and James Wong (who also directed the film) penned several "X-Files" episodes — including "Home," one of the best (and most grisly) episodes the series ever aired.

Yet the trajectory from TV spec script to successful feature film is more interesting than one might imagine, rife with creative trial-and-error and chocolate syrup galore.

The Backstory

Originally looking to finagle his way into getting a TV agent, writer Jeffrey Reddick penned a spec script titled "Flight 180," which he planned to pitch for "The X-Files." He got the idea after reading a People magazine article about a mother who had a premonition that her daughter's plane would crash. He told Bloody Disgusting:

 "I was actually flying home to Kentucky and I read this story about a woman who was on vacation in Hawaii and her mom called her and said 'Don't take the flight tomorrow, I have a really bad feeling about it. She switched flights and the plane that she would have been on crashed. I thought, that's creepy- what if she was supposed to die on that flight?"

However, it seems "Flight 180" wasn't fated to land on "The X-Files," and maybe this ended up being for the better. After receiving a helpful hint from a colleague at New Line Cinemas (where Reddick interned during college and worked for over a decade afterward), the writer decided to test the waters for expanding the script into a full-fledged feature. After Reddick wrote a treatment and an entirely new script, New Line began shopping around for directors, and the script happened to pass through the hands of "X-Files" writers James Wong and Glen Morgan. The pair decided that they could adapt the script into a film, choosing to revamp certain elements of the premise. They ultimately settled on an omniscient, formless killer and clever Rube Goldberg kills. Now titled "Final Destination," the film became Wong's directorial debut and gave the X-Files writing duo the space to work outside of the confines of network television. And boy, were they thinking big.

"We want to do for planes and air travel what Jaws did for sharks and swimming," Wong said in an early interview for the film. Unfortunately for "Final Destination" (and American foreign policy in general), the occurrence of 9/11 just a year and a half after the film's release would swiftly take the title of "causer of mass flight-related hysteria" for decades to come. But doesn't that just add to the eerie premonition of it all?

Here's The Gist of The X-Files Spec Script

In the original TV spec script, passengers board the eponymous "Flight 180" at Newark Airport en route to Boston. The camera pans around, featuring soon-to-be relevant individuals engaging in inconspicuous pre-takeoff scenarios: One couple argues over an act of infidelity; A flirtatious college co-ed listens to ear-splitting music over headphones; Elderly spouses make quips over a crossword puzzle. But one passenger in particular is incongruous with the rest, an outwardly anxious young man whose face shines with sweat. In an attempt to ease his nerves, he rushes off to the bathroom — but as the plane takes off, it erupts into a ball of fire, incinerating everyone on board.

Suddenly, the man wakes up in his assigned seat. Though he can still feel heat from the flames on his face, it's clear that what he just experienced was a premonition. He urges everyone to evacuate the plane, but instead the flight attendants kick him off to prevent panic. A few passengers do heed his warning and follow him out — and as such, are spared when the plane indeed does explode upon takeoff.

When all of the survivors begin dying one by one in the weeks following the accident, agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are brought on the case. Yet this "X-File" quickly proves personal, as the man who experienced the premonition is none other than Scully's brother Charles, and New Jersey police's primary suspect on who has been committing the post-crash murders. As Scully and Mulder race against time to save the survivors-turned-victims, they also attempt to prove Charles' innocence — and uncover several government conspiracies along the way.

What Changed in Final Destination

Of course, the "X-Files" mythology is completely removed from the original "Final Destination" script by Reddick, but it's worth noting how intricately the writer originally tethered his idea into the series' existing lore. Several elements from the thirteenth episode of the show's first season, "Beyond the Sea" (which is worth noting was also written by Wong and Morgan) are woven into the spec script, namely Scully's own premonition involving her father's death. This means had the episode aired, it would have been a unique vehicle for expanding "The X-Files" early mythos.

In Reddick's subsequent film script, there's a palpably heightened sense of sinister morbidness. There still remains the threat of a flesh and blood killer picking off survivors one by one, but with a distinct twist: Each victim appears to have died by suicide. Ostensibly a commentary on the very real phenomenon of survivor's guilt, it's understandable why Wong and Morgan took this idea and crafted the killer into an unseeable, intangible entity which relishes in making its victims die in freak accidents. Along with adding a touch of levity to what is essentially a non-stop festival of carnage, it made the film a nail-biting thriller as opposed to a somber spectacle of horror.

I'm Obsessed, Where Can I Read More?

If you're now desperate to go down the rabbit hole of "Final Destination" from its inception as an "X-Files" spec script to its final feature film version, below are all of the links that will effectively scratch this itch — and also motivate you to binge the "Final Destination" franchise and "The X Files" one more time.

"The X Files" spec script "Flight 180" by Jeffrey Reddick

"Flight 180" film treatment by Reddick

"Final Destination (Flight 180)" film script by Reddick

"Final Destination" script by Glen Morgan and James Wong