After nine seasons, two movies and a hiatus of almost fourteen years, The X-Files (Mondays, 9/8C) are back with six new episodes (four now).
On Friday, Chris Carter spoke with a group of journalist/bloggers to talk about why now is the right time for the show to return, what the deal is with a broken up Mulder and Scully and getting the band back together.
Hi, Chris. Thanks for talking to us. Really appreciate it. Great to talk to you again.
Chris Carter: You’re welcome.
First, I just want to say I’ve been a huge fan of the show from the beginning. I really loved the first three episodes that they let us watch. My first question kind of is a part from the old series, a part from the new series. It kind of goes with both. I was wondering if you could talk about the decision, originally, to have Scully give up William and how that’s going to affect them this season? I mean, other than obviously we saw their little thought sequence, or whatever, but I know it sounds like maybe he calls him, we’re hoping. Can you talk about that a bit?
Chris: Yes. If you remember, they gave up William to protect him. They were afraid that with his whereabouts known, meaning that either one of them would have him, that they would be better to give him up and not know his whereabouts so they couldn’t be tortured into giving him up. So, obviously, William is all important, not to just them, but to others and he will play an important part in not just the episode you saw that aired as Episode 2, but also in Episode 4. But I think he’s always, even though he’s not in the show, per sé, he is an absent presence.
As a follow up, I know when The X-Files first aired, obviously, it was hugely popular on the internet, but there was not exactly social media then. Can you talk about how you think that’s going to affect the new show and if you have any plans with social media, specifically, to engage the fans?
Chris: Personally, I have an Instagram account that I think I’ve posted two photos to. I’m not a social media person but I appreciate how much social media plays a part in the interaction between fans and the interaction between fans and producers.
When I went to a marketing meeting with Fox before we shot the show, or during the shooting of the show, I was amazed to see that there were 50 people in the room and I’d say a good amount of them were there because they conduct marketing via social media, so the show is marketed very actively on social media platforms. I think that the second screen experience will help the show. I think that the show will, I think, rise, or I should say, its popularity will be enhanced by what I think is the beauty of social media.
I have only seen the first episode of the new batch and I loved it. I’m a longtime fan. I’ll date myself, I’m 45, so I spent my 20s with your show, so I’m so glad that you guys are back. I wanted to ask, what I really liked about the premier was that it was a 2016 perspective on 90s perceptions and it sort of flipped the script on what Mulder thought he knew about what was going on. Can you talk a little bit about where the basis for sort of turning everything on its ear came from and exploring that? Will we spend all six exploring that?
Chris: In a way, all six explore it because they are told in a contemporary context. They turn the mythology not necessarily on its head, but the mythology takes a big right hand turn and that plays most actively in the first and last episodes. But I think that technology, and it’s really technology is what you’re talking about, besides what I would call a very strong undercurrent of distrust for government, authority, and for the picture we’re being sold.
But the show is, I think, owes to people like Alex Jones, people like Glenn Beck, and all the conspiracy sites that I look at on the internet, that I digest every day. I get a lot of stuff in my mailbox every day from these sites. I’ve also been—I’ve gone to conventions. I’m actively up on this stuff and I’m actually surprised sometimes how many journalists are unaware of these, as I say, very strong undercurrents.
Got you. Well, thank you. Picking up these characters after such a long stretch, was there any one thing that was easiest or hardest to pick back up about writing for Mulder and Scully again?
Chris: No. As you see, they’re no longer together. They’re not under the same roof, I should say, so that provided an interesting point of departure dramatically and I think that it made the characters interesting to explore because that’s how they began their lives together. Their lives changed. They were a couple and now they’re apart, so as we’ve lived our lives, they have lived theirs. That’s the way we’re playing it.
I’m a fan of the show, as well, so I am happy that’s it back. I wanted to talk to you about the first episode is really important because it’s the first time we see these characters after a while. I just wanted to know, what were your thoughts when you were putting it together and how did you decide what the first episode would look like?
Chris: Well, it took a lot of consideration because I had to think about the characters and their relationships. I had to think about the character in a contemporary context, so much has changed (audio disruption) technologically, geopolitically, so I had to put a contemporary context both personally and professionally.
I also had to be mindful that the reason we’re back is because of the hardcore fans but, also, there is another audience out there that I think everyone wants to—doesn’t want to ignore as a possible new audience (audio disruption) with more viewers there’s a chance for more X-Files. So we had to be mindful that we couldn’t just (audio disruption) intention to upgrade (audio disruption).
Then the next question I had for you was in your initial meetings with Fox, when they were talking about bringing the series back, were there any bullet points, or specifics, that they wanted to have you hit in bringing it back?
Chris: No, nothing. They were very respectful that the producers know what they’re doing and what we’re doing. That said, they were very specific about where they wanted to do it, which was Vancouver, which was music to my ears. So I was happy to hear that. Of course, when they called me they said David and Gillian wanted to do it. I wouldn’t have done without David and Gillian. I think there’s this idea that I own the show and I don’t. I’m one of the, I would say, a stakeholder in this show but Fox can do anything they darn well please.
I will echo everyone’s sentiments that I was a huge fan of the original and I will top them by telling you that I once came home to my minister in my parents’ house because I was 16 when the show came out and my mother misunderstood what the phrase “cult following” meant when the show started and brought my minister in to talk to me. So that’s my back story.
Chris: I hope your minister sat down and enjoyed himself.
He had a good laugh when he realized what had happened. I’m curious to know, I know that you’ve mentioned you have a third movie that you’ve written but now that you’ve done the six-episode arc and kind of have seen how that looks, a) if that’s still the movie you would put out at this point and b) would you rather keep doing these kinds of shorter, episodic versions?
Chris: I like doing the television show because it gives me a chance to tell a lot of interesting X-Files stories. I probably wouldn’t want to do the third movie that I wrote. I think I would have to rethink it. I might use some elements of it. I can tell you that if and when we do a third movie, I wouldn’t do it if it were not the proper budget and the proper release date. I feel we didn’t have either in the last movie, so I’d be looking to do something more like the first movie.
Just out of curiosity, are there any plots or characters from the original series that you would have liked, or the movies, that you would have liked to have brought back this round that either you couldn’t just because of the episode period or because of conflicts?
Chris: You know, I can’t think of anything specifically. There’s an episode that I’ve wanted to do for about 20 years and one day I actually may do it, but it didn’t work out in this series. You know, when you only have six, you have to be very selective of the kinds of stories you tell and they’ve got to work not just individually but kind of work together as a whole and so I think that’s why you’re seeing the episodes that you’re seeing now.
I wanted to ask, you talked a little bit about the Scully/Mulder relationship and where it stands in the beginning. I just was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how it will evolve over these three episodes and if we will see them getting closer to where we had last left them?
Chris: So, it was my thinking and our thinking, the producers, that Mulder and Scully would have had a very hard time living under the same roof based on their personalities and their passions. I see Mulder now as probably, because he’s got Google and the internet and search engines, he probably spends a lot of time sitting at home in front of his computer in his underwear.
I didn’t imagine that would sit well with Scully who is a serious scientist and doctor, so I think it would spell, I believe it would spell a bump in the road for them, which is why you find them not together. But I think you’ll see, through the course of these six episodes, that they begin to be drawn closer together through not just their investigations but through, I would call it, a deep love for one another.
Okay, good. You talked about William and I was so happy with the second episode, which I found so poignant, when they kind of both envisioned the futures they could have had with their son. I was just wondering, I don’t even know if you can answer this, but have we perhaps seen William, even if we don’t know we’ve seen him, will we see him, kind of thing?
Chris: Well, I mean, you’ve already seen that you see him as they imagine him.
Right, but I meant will we see present day?
Chris: He does not appear again in the series, but he is important to the arc of the stories going forward.
When you think about the activity of the fandom for The X-Files in the 90s, and within the past 13 years, and, for example, the petition efforts for Fox to bring back another movie, do you think the current fandom has gotten more sophisticated? Has it evolved?
Chris: Are you talking about the current fandom?
Well, yes, within the past 13 years, the activity of the fandom, like the petition efforts to bring back another movie. Do you feel it’s gotten more sophisticated? Has the fandom evolved?
Chris: Well, it’s hard for me to say because I don’t—in term of its systematic sophistication, I guess it has because of social media. I still hear the drumbeat loud and clear. I would [indiscernible] it takes, for me, experiences like Comic-Com 2013 where I got a direct hit from the fans for their desire to see this show, either back on the big screen or back on the small screen. It’s that direct experience that is most impressive to me.
Have the executives at Fox hinted that they are open to developing any non-X-Files projects that you’ve worked on or developed, like the possibility of a Millennium revival or show like Unique or The After being produced for Fox?
Chris: Right now we’re so focused on this that there are no talks about doing anything else. I can tell you, there is a constant drumbeat to bring back Millennium and I’m just always so taken by that, also that hardcore group of fans out there who would like to see it back. I have ideas how it might come back but, it’s really, once again, it’s a Fox show. They own it. It’s really up to them whether or not they would ever want to go down that road.
But, you know, I also think Harsh Realm would deserve another chance. I’m not sure if The Lone Gunmen would ever see the light of day, but Unique would be a show I would love to see done, if not at Fox, someplace else.
I wanted to ask you, you have a lot of the great writers from the show, James Wong, Darin Morgan, Glen Morgan, all back for this event. I wanted to know what it was like getting the band back together, like giving them that call or that email asking them that they wanted to come back. What was that experience like?
Chris: You know, it’s funny. I don’t remember specifically calling them and asking them. It kind of happened—Glen and I share an agent, so it kind of happened through our agent and then the same agent told me that Jim was interested. Glen told me that Darin was interested. The band kind of folded back together in the most natural way. Everyone had good ideas. Jim and I are tennis players. We played tennis one day, sat down and talked about his episode, but Glen and Darin both had very worked-out ideas when we first met in Glen’s backyard way back in the spring of last year. So the band came back together as if no time had passed at all.
I want to know, can you tell us anything about the role The Lone Gunmen are playing in this six-episode series?
Chris: I would only spoil it for you if I told you, but I can tell you that they come back in a way that you will absolutely never expect. If I gave you 100 guesses, right now, you’d never get it.
I was wondering if you could talk about any differences that you can think of between the first time that you worked with your show through Fox and now?
Chris: You know, when you first get up and running, everyone is very nervous because you’re spending millions of dollars. Everyone is prepared for you to be a big failure. They’re prepared for you to waste all their money so everyone, there’s a tremendous amount of nervousness. This time out, there was a tremendous amount of respect. Fox was very hands-off in almost all respects. That’s not to say they didn’t have notes, they didn’t have ideas, they didn’t have suggestions, they didn’t have good direction…
They have done a fantastic job marketing this show, but it’s funny that we came back to do six episodes which, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t seem like very many. I can tell you that I’ve worked as hard on these six episodes as I ever worked on this show and my involvement with Fox was as—even though, as I said, it was respectful, it was as collaborative as I’ve ever experienced.
With these six episodes, is there any thinking that if it’s successful, that you’ll be bringing it back for more?
Chris: You know, I think everyone had a very good experience. I think everyone’s happy with the way it worked out. I think, now, it’s waiting to see if we build it, will the audience come? I hope they will. It’s seems as if there is a viewership out there but, you know, we live in a different world now where the viewership is fractured. Fox has fewer viewers. They are able to market, do on-air promotions, reaches fewer people. Everyone’s got to get the word out there in order to get the ratings that will promote more episodes.
I guess, for a bit of background, what made 2016 the right time, both culturally and logistically, to bring this world, and these characters, back to television for you?
Chris: The question kind of answers itself. Anyone who’s picked up a newspaper recently, or gone on the internet, knows that we live in an era of tremendous amount of suspicion and distrust of not only our government leaders, but world government. So that’s an interesting time to tell an X-Files story.
When we went off the air in 2002, there could not have been more trust in government and institutions and we allowed a lot of our rights and liberties to be abridged in the name of security. I think that we’ve all witnessed now the abuse of that trust and The X-Files wants to point a very bright light at some of those dark corners that have developed.
It’s almost as if modern society was screaming out for Fox Mulder to come back. One quick follow up, when you were crafting this six-episode revival, did a lot of effort go into making it both something that longtime fans could enjoy and appreciate and something that would be accessible to folks who might have missed out on the first pass of The X-Files.
Chris: Yes, it was important to us to actually be mindful that there’s an audience out there that we know, they know the show. They know it better than I do, to be honest, and this series is for them. But if there are to be more of these episodes, we have to be inclusive of a casual viewing audience, people who may have seen it, may have known about it in the past, but we also—I have to tell you that I’ve had a number of times kids say to me that they loved the show and I look at them and I realize that they weren’t even born when the show was on. Maybe some of them were not even born when the show went off the air, so we’ve got another audience out there that we need to make sure that we don’t forsake going forward.
I apologize in advance if this seems a little bit of a silly question, but for those who are new to the franchise, will there be kind of an overview, or a catch-up? Then, just to go ahead with the follow up, will you be including Easter eggs within the six episodes?
Chris: [Indiscernible] the first episode begins with an elaborate catch-up.
It’s not something that will insult hardcore fans. I think it’s done in an interesting way and it certainly ends provocatively so, yes, there will be, I think, an easy handle to grasp for casual viewers and newcomers alike. Ask me the second part of the question again.
Will you be including Easter eggs in the upcoming run?
Chris: There are Easter eggs and, you know, when you do a show that has been off the air for 14 years, it’s funny that even with—you do unintended Easter eggs. There are specific ones and then there are the unintentional ones that come just because the show has to be self-referential in order to tell these stories. I would say, yes, intentionally and unintentionally, we do.
I wanted to ask about the mythology of the series. I was curious if the alien colonization of Earth, do you see that as the lynchpin of the entire mythology or do you see it more as an always far-off backdrop?
Chris: I see it as now part and parcel of a conspiracy that has actually mushroomed and so you—it’s not as if we are saying what Mulder once believed can be thrown out the window. It’s now what Mulder once believed is a fraction of what looks like a much larger picture that had been kept from him.
I also wanted to geek out a little bit and ask you a very specific question. I apologize if it’s a little too specific. There’s this concept that you guys had introduced in the original series that always caught my fancy and I don’t know if it’s something that you were interested in bringing back, or reviving, or going into more, and that’s the idea that Mulder is this kind of prophesized savior of mankind.
Chris: Yes. It’s interesting. He’s got a heroic quality. He’s the most unlikely hero, but he does have a kind of heroic quality, in that sense, and the mythology that developed around him gave him a kind of savior-like quality. That said, I would never label him a savior, but I would label him an agent of change.
My question for you is about the etymology of the titles of the new episodes. The first and last episodes of the series are called “My Struggle.” Is that meant to call to mind Hitler’s autobiography of the same name or, perhaps, the Knausgaard series of novels?
Chris: The Knausgaard series of novels, which I found amazing. I really look at Mulder’s life as becoming very tedious and very confined and very—I think he’s been struggling with some depression. I saw the Knausgaard title as really, for me, indicative of how I was looking at Mulder’s life and how he may be looking at his own life.
Okay. Excellent. So a follow-up question, kind of thematically related. Do you personally think the existence of extraterrestrial life is a comfortable notion or is it scarier to you—is it scarier to you that there may be aliens out there or that there may not be?
Chris: It’s scarier to me that there are aliens out there because I think once that would become a reality, and I’m talking about the kind of aliens that we’ve come to either [indiscernible] fascinate us or terrify us, which is a somewhat humanized or humanoid life form. I think that it would throw mankind into a panic both biologically, psychologically, philosophically, spiritually. I think that it would be—it would change the world as we know it immediately and overnight and I think that is a rather harrowing idea.
Thanks so much, Chris. Thanks for the great show.
Chris: You’re welcome. Thank you.
Chris Carter photo by Beth Dubber/Courtesy of FOX