The X-files

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

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

next up in our fu­turegaze: the re­turn of the finest con­spir­acy se­ries of them all.

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

There is an idea that Mul­der has suf­fered for his sin­gu­lar pur­suits

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 be­gins in the US on 24 Jan­uary on Fox. UK broad­caster TBC. Look out for more on the show next is­sue.

“I’m get­ting the band back to­gether.”

It’s the strug­gle of pleas­ing old fans and not alien­at­ing new ones, we as­sume.

There’s a dead alien baby in one of those flasks, isn’t there?

Mul­der of­fice gets some new posters.

Com­mu­nity’s Joel McHale plays pun­dit Tad O’Malley.

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