X-Files’ Creator Tells Us What to Expect From the Show’s Return
In 1993, Chris Carter promised conspiracy-minded television audiences that the truth was out there. In the near-quarter-century since then, scientists have uncovered evidence that there’s water on Mars, grown a flower in space, and once again decided that there’s a Planet Nine. Yet we’re no closer to knowing whether aliens are indeed the little green men we’ve often pictured, if they’ve got more of the big-eyed Whitley Streiber vibe, or if they exist at all. But that hasn’t stopped Fox Mulder and Dana Scully—or Carter himself—from diving back into the paranormal waters from whence they came.
Premiering this Sunday on Fox, The X-Files is back for a tenth season. Though the show concluded its original run in 2002, for many viewers, it lost much of its luster following the seventh season in 2000, when (with apologies to Robert Patrick) John Doggett became the new Mulder and the show’s sexual tension disappeared like Eugene Tooms in a ventilation shaft—which shouldn’t have surprised Carter, who calls Mulder and Scully’s relationship “the heart and soul of the show.” (And we don’t have to discuss the two movies, which never managed to capture the long-arc energy of the show.)
In the days before The X-Files’ return, we spoke with Carter to get a bead on what to expect from the six-episode run.
1. The X-Files wasn’t originally thought of as Sci-Fi.
“I actually resisted the ‘science fiction’ label in the beginning, because the show is actually based in science. If it weren’t for Scully, I think the show could be just kind of loopy. So the science and the accuracy of the science is all-important to the success of the storytelling. I think Steven Spielberg called Close Encounters of the Third Kind “speculative science” and I would say The X-Files, for me, has always fit more into that category.”
2. You can never let your love of a conspiracy trump the facts.
“I’ve got a brother who’s a scientist. He’s a professor at MIT, and so I went to him for a lot of technical stuff. A lot of the things that are in the pilot came directly from him. I had written something about time and space, and he corrected me on my terminology. Before Google, we had a full-time researcher doing research on the science. We wanted to get it right because I always said that it’s only as scary as it is believable, so we hewed to that.”
3. Not everyone at Fox was sold on Mulder and Scully.
“During auditions I had written notes right next David and Gillian’s names, ‘These people are right for the role, let’s test them right away,’ but there were other people in the voting panel who weren’t as enthusiastic as I. In the pilot episode, I got a note that there ‘wasn’t enough sexual tension.’ They were respectful of one another and protective of one another and that was going create a chemistry beyond what I would call ‘easy intimacy,’ and that’s what happened… No one was doing that on TV at the time. Moonlighting did it to an extent, but when those characters got together it was a misstep, so I prolonged the tension as long as possible and as long it felt natural until the point where it looked like Mulder and Scully had gotten together and actually consummated the relationship and had a child. We played with that idea, but we never saw them together in any kind of sexual intimacy onscreen; we just alluded to it.”
4. Carter got the gang back together—mostly.
“The first thing I did was reach out to the people who really put us on the map, including some of the original writers, like Glen Morgan and Jim Wong. They were a team when we were originally on the air and wrote some of the best episodes ever. Then Glen’s brother, Darin, did four of the most beloved comedy X-Files episodes. I reached out to all of them and they were all interested in coming aboard. I reached out to Vince Gilligan, who went on to do Breaking Bad, but he was busy with Better Call Saul. I reached out to Frank Spotnitz, who was so important to the show through eight of its nine seasons; he was busy with his show, The Man in the High Castle. That’s when I realized I was going to do three of them and these other three writers were going to do the other three and that’s as far as that got.”
5. …but you can’t just pick up where you left off.
“We didn’t want to play Mulder and Scully younger than they really are. I think that would have been cheesy. We want to be honest with the passage of time, and honest to what would have happened in the course of their lives in the interim. So that was a challenge, but it also makes for interesting storytelling—it excited us that we could tell stories where Mulder and Scully are split up again. I think it irritated the ‘Shippers,’ who I hear are still angry at me for splitting them up. The challenge, of course, is to maintain a tone and a quality that you had and expand the bridge of a time from what is 13 or 14 years.”
6. Just because there are only six episodes this time doesn’t mean it’s limited.
“To me, one of the most amazing things about the show was that you could tell a mythology episode, a saga episode, a monster-of-the-week episode, and then a comic episode in succession—and the show would stretch right back into shape and you could tell another mythology episode. With this new series of six episodes, we’ve kind of gone back with that mix and that same atmosphere. We gave them what they have come to expect with the show, but we didn’t want make this an exercise in nostalgia. We didn’t want to come back and do a victory lap. We wanted to do something fresh and original, and I think that’s what we’ve done.”
7. There’s a whole new generation of X-Files fans ready for its return.
“The success of The X-Files surprises me to this day. I pinch myself—truly I do. It’s weird that the show has taken on this life and now I’m basically holding onto it by the tail. What blows me away now is when kids come up to me and say that they like the show, and they weren’t even born yet when the show was on.”
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