How An X-Files Script Started A Successful Horror Franchise

Across nine seasons and 202 episodes (with more soon to come), The X-Files certainly covered more than its share of uniquely creepy concepts. However, it seems that one concept in particular that was showcased in an unused scrip would be diverted from its intended terminus, instead winding up on the big screen as the hugely successful horror film Final Destination.

In a piece over at Bloody Disgusting, Final Destination franchise creator Jeffrey Reddick unveiled a fascinating historical piece in an unused spec script he wrote back in the mid-1990s for The X-Files called “Flight 180” that would eventually evolve into the screenplay for the original Final Destination film that came out in 2000. Essentially containing the eventual film’s basic premise of an unseen killer kismet, Reddick’s unsolicited spec script differed mostly in its integration of the concept in a way that was personally close to Mulder and Scully. According to Reddick:

I decided to use the basic concept of people cheating Death as the catalyst. But when you write a spec for a series, you want to follow the framework of the show and go deeper. So, I had Scully’s brother have the premonition, which made the story more personal. I won’t spoil the rest, but for the spec script, the concept isn’t front and center, it’s more about Scully, Mulder and her relationship with her brother. But when I decided to write it as a feature [Final Destination], I made the story all about the concept. And tweaked it.

While The X-Files invested in long-term storylines that developed the evolving story arcs of Mulder and Scully, for the most part it was also a monster/phenomena-of-the-week procedural of sorts. Yet, it seems that Reddick’s original film-franchise-inspiring script looked to utilize the show’s supernatural manifestations to make a more intimate impact on main characters than a typical “case” episode. That may have rendered it a bit ambitious and transformative for a spec script by a writer trying to get his foot in the door. Yet, it seems that the concept itself was fruitful enough, and by 1997, it would manifest as the original draft for Flight 180, which would be fully realized over at New Line when released in 2000 as Final Destination.

Of course, the mere title of the script, “Flight 180,” immediately reveals just how much of the original spec script was kept throughout the entirety of its evolution into the Final Destination series. It was the name of the original film’s ill-fated Volée Airlines flight that would see the visionary premonitions of Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) cheating death with a handful of passengers who were removed from the plane before it would resume its fatally explosive trip. The survivors would spend the remainder of the film attempting to escape the ubiquitously vindictive unseen force of death as one increasingly unlikely cataclysm after another looks to cash in on their existential warrants.

The script in question is marked on the cover as being written in 1994, but based on some exchanges in the BD article comments, that date is in question. However, by unveiling it, Reddick also seems intent on putting an emphatic end to one long-held myth that has plagued him, implying that Final Destination was tastelessly inspired by the tragic 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800. While doing that, it also provides some fascinating insight into the creative process, demonstrating how the sails of an aspiring writer’s simple idea managed to catch wind from a completely different direction. One that would take course with FIVE Final Destination films that collectively grossed $665 million at the box-office. It’s certainly quite the culmination for a scrapped TV script.