The X-Files 2016 Preview

Reopen the X-Files! Series supremo Chris Carter tells Tara Bennett about the most unexpected comeback of 2016

Trawl the internet in
2015 and you’ll find
no shortage of stories
to fuel the paranoid:
governments
accessing our personal
data; the drones that
will soon be hovering in our personal space;
conspiracy theorists on overdrive about the
one-percenters ruling the globe. It feels like
the kind of stuff you’d imagine Fox Mulder
poring over in his cramped FBI office on his
neverending quest to prove that the truth is
still out there.
Except Mulder – and his brilliant but ever
sceptical partner Dana Scully – have been off the
conspiracy beat for close to a decade, The X-Files
franchise lying dormant in popular culture.
Gone they may have been but creator/
executive producer Chris Carter assures SFX
that The X-Files was certainly never forgotten.
“I think about The X-Files almost every day,”
Carter admits. “Whenever I pick up the paper,
I see an X-Files story. It’s in my blood. I’ve been
doing this for a third of my life so it’s certainly
a part of me. “
That doesn’t mean Carter didn’t appreciate
the break. Charting the mythology for 202
hours’ worth of episodic stories, plus spin-off
series (The Lone Gunmen, Millennium) and two
movies burned him out on the franchise.
“I took some time off,” Carter says of his low
profile status in recent years. “I think it’s given
me distance and clarity and certainly a
renewed interest in telling X-Files stories.”
Carter found himself unexpectedly blowing
dust off The X-Files this year after the stars and
the schedules aligned with Fox’s intention to
revive the franchise on TV. “When I got a
phone call saying the actors were interested
and would I be interested in coming back for
a short series, my answer was immediately,
‘Yes!’” Carter laughs. “If David and Gillian
were interested, I was interested.”
Carter assembled former series writers
James Wong, Glen Morgan and Darin Morgan
to craft the new series. “We originally intended
to do eight episodes but we got cut to six so we
had to look at things differently. It meant we
couldn’t reach out to some of the people who
helped us before. But to do a short series is
really the way to come back at this time. It’s
now what people are doing and I think it gives
you a chance to focus in an interesting way.”
It’s been eight years since cinematic entry
The X-Files: I Want To Believe, the point at
which Carter says the show’s canon went into
stasis. And while there is a current The X-Files
Season 10 comic series from IDW, of which
Carter is quick to praise its editor Joe Harris, he
qualifies those stories as “excellent fan fiction”.

Carter says the new event series follows
the narrative left suspended when the ninth
season ended in 2002. “We’re continuing
some mythology from that place but we’re also
continuing the storytelling in terms of Mulder
and Scully’s relationship as it relates directly
to what we know about them in the second
movie.” In that film, the duo, who had a
child together, were on rockier ground,
relationship-wise, a continuing theme as
the miniseries opens.
While some fans will be less than thrilled to
learn their power couple is not together, Carter
says continuing to explore how these two
diametrically opposed personalities have
remained in each other’s orbit is true to the
show’s original premise. “They struggled with
their relationship originally,” Carter reiterates.
“Through the second movie, they came
together, which was absolutely natural. But
they found themselves feeling that it couldn’t
work in that way. If Scully holds by her
professional pursuits and Mulder by his,
it would pull them apart.”
That push and pull is even reflected in the
title of the first episode of the revived series,
“My Struggle”. Carter admits a large part of the
narrative came from just “imagining where
Mulder and Scully are, not only in their
relationship but their professional lives.
Mulder lives a hermit life, probably hand to
mouth, maybe even with some help from
Scully. I think there is an idea that Mulder has
suffered for his singular pursuits.”
Meanwhile Scully is no longer an FBI agent
and has returned to her medical career. “She
is a serious person so she takes her career
seriously,” Carter explains. “But I think deep
down she probably, unconsciously, desires a
reason to be pulled back [to Mulder]. For her,
as a scientist, [being a part of the X-Files] was
an amazing experience and a challenge to her.
In the hospital and in medicine, she now has an
opportunity to do both things.
“They have an emotional connection,”
Carter continues. “They share something. In
episode four he takes her hand and it’s a loaded
moment. So I feel it’s given us something new
to explore considering we will have been doing
this for 22 years.”
three’s company
The catalyst for the pair to come back together
turns out to be conservative media pundit Tad
O’Malley, played by Joel McHale. O’Malley is
a younger, more energised and better financed
version of Mulder who comes calling to enlist
Fox’s help in exposing the repeated abduction
experiences of a young woman named Sveta
(Annet Mahendru).
Carter reveals that O’Malley represents
someone who credibly brings Mulder’s life
work into the present. “I think it’s a reflection
of the times we live in,” he says of the
heightened conspiratorial rhetoric that
O’Malley broadcasts to his fervent followers.
“We live in a Citizenfour world,” Carter adds,
referencing the documentary on NSA
whistleblower Edward Snowden. “For years
Mulder has been looking in one direction and
[via O’Malley], he is all of a sudden pulled in
another direction which makes absolute sense
to him. He starts putting the pieces together in
an interesting way. Mulder feels as though he’s
been deceived yet it energises him. He’s been
depressed and it lifts him out of his melancholy.”
Filming of the new episodes took place
from June to September back in the show’s
familiar stomping grounds of Vancouver,
British Columbia, where the early TV seasons
and the second film were produced. Carter
himself wrote and directed episodes one,
four and six and says the first day back on the
set seems to have already attained semi-mythic
status judging by the number of times he’s been
asked about it.
“People want to know what that first day was
like and what that first moment on the set was
like. I have to say it was just a day of hard work
as we hit the ground running. That being said, I
went and visited David in the costume fittings
and that was like old times. And then in hair
and make-up with Gillian as a blonde and all of
a sudden she is a redhead again. With everyone
it was about slowly putting the layers and the
shoes, literally, back on again. They were all
very familiar things to us but across a span of
time this great was its own special thrill.”
back to basics
Carter does admit that getting to direct his
stars again was particularly resonant for him:
“Something that struck me was that David
and Gillian have done so much work since
The X-Files and they bring that wisdom. I think
there was a moment in directing them that we
had to go back and find those bearings again. It
wasn’t hard. They both have clear ideas of the
characters but there is so much water under
the bridge. Finding [the characters] was
comfortable but sometimes there may have
been a mystery or two,” he laughs.
Nostalgia and the prevailing cultural decree
that everything old should be new again are big
reasons why The X-Files is getting the chance
to exist again in its original medium. A
long-time success in the home video market
and now on streaming services that cater to the
binge-watching generation, the show’s return
has been crafted with a mandate to service
both old and new audiences.
“The first episode is a very easy entrance for
almost anyone, especially in that opening
sequence,” Carter says of “My Struggle”. “We
were mindful of the fact that we may have a
new audience, but we were also mindful that
the reason we are back is that we have a
hardcore audience. We didn’t want to beat
them over the head with a prologue that was
insulting to them. So we walked a fine line and
I hope we did it well.”
Back in the day, The X-Files was the show
that created its own category of TV: the hybrid
series that balanced an intense mythology that
played out over episodes throughout the season
and standalones, or “monster of the week”
stories, that were self-contained. Carter says
they continue that model in their new run.
“We looked at the fact that we had six
episodes and we thought what would be best
for the show? What made the show? It was the
combination of mythology and standalone
episodes. It was my idea to bookend the show
with mythology episodes and in between are
episodic stories. However, I think you will find
there is an arc for Mulder and Scully within the
larger arc. There is an honesty to the characters
and where they are, and what they are going
through, that connects the new episodes.”
As to whether these new episodes will make
the show as big a phenomenon among
Millennials as it was for the ’90s generation,
Carter says that’s not something that keeps him
up at night. “My objective is always the same:
to tell great X-Files stories. That in and of itself
is of absolute importance,” he emphasises. “But
we’re living in a media world where the show
is on Netflix. People can find it, and may have
found it. I have people who come up to me that
say they are fans of the show and they weren’t
even born when The X-Files was first on. I do
think there is an opportunity to reach new
people. But we are living with diminished
network ratings so it’s now up to Fox. If I’ve
done my good work, it’s up to Fox to find
people who used to like it, and people who
might like it.”
And what if they do? Does Carter have a taste
for more truth-chasing in the future? “It’s in my
blood,” Carter emphasises again. “The way we
end this series, we leave it open for more
X-Files stories and that’s a clear message.”

The X-Files Unknown
Some dangling plot threads
we’d like to see tied up in
the new series…

Alien ColonisAtion
When the show ended in 2002, we
were led to believe that an alien force
was going to invade and colonise dear
old Earth on 22 December 2012. So when
I Want To Believe hit cinemas in 2008,
you’d have thought they’d have tackled
that terrifying scenario, wouldn’t you?
Naw-huh. So what did happen to those
extra-terrestrial property developers and
their delightful, eyeball-coating Black Oil?

WilliAm
In one of the new series trailers, there’s
a glimpse of a phone screen with the
word “William” on there. For those
who may have forgotten this rather
important (!) plot point, Mulder and Scully
had a son, named for Mulder’s father, who
Scully gave away in season nine. By our
reckoning, the lad would be about 14 now.
Is he the one calling up to say hi? And
given his possibly alien origins (Scully was
sterile until he came along), will he have
any special powers?

supersoldiers
For a while on the show, these guys
were everywhere. Strong, remorseless and
deadly, they went around killing folk for
their alien masters and causing no end of
trouble. So… what happened to them? Are
they still alive? Are they still dangerous?
Have they integrated into society as
personal trainers, maybe?

Samantha Mulder
The search for his sister was Mulder’s
life-long mission, so when her death was
apparently explained away as her being
the victim of a serial killer in season seven,
it was a bit disappointing. However, there
were later hints that Mulder didn’t actually
believe that explanation. So is Mulder still
looking for her? Jayne nelson


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