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After almost 14 years, “The X-Files” is returning to television. A new six-episode miniseries finds Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) once again in the midst of government conspiracies and unexplainable phenomena, flashlights in hands as they search for the truth. The highly anticipated series debuts in a two-night event, with the first episode (titled “My Struggle”) premiering on Sunday, January 24, and the second episode (“Founder’s Mutation”) arriving the next night.
In addition to series leads Duchovny and Anderson, series creator Chris Carter spearheaded the miniseries, writing and directing three of the six episodes. Ahead of the show’s return this Sunday, Carter spoke with members of the press about the iconic show’s new episodes.
The discussion kicked off with a question about the decision to have Scully give up her son, William, and how it will affect her this season. “If you remember they gave up William to protect him,” said Carter. “They were afraid that with his whereabouts known they couldn’t take care of him, so they gave him up. William was important not just to them but to others, and he will play an important part not just in episode two, but also in episode four. I think he’s always, even though he’s not in the show per se, he’s an absent presence.”
Carter then addressed how social media might affect the show. “Personally, I have an Instagram that I think I’ve posted two photos to, so I’m not a social media person. But I appreciate how much social media plays a part between fans and fans and producers. I went to a marketing meeting with Fox during the shooting of the show and I was amazed to see there were fifty people in the room. A good amount of them were there because they do marketing via social media, so the show is marketed avidly on social media platforms. I think the second screen experience will help the show. I think the show’s popularity will be enhanced by the beauty of social media.”
Carter addressed the basis for exploring Mulder’s new perspective now that he’s in the year 2016, saying that the “contemporary context turned the mythology not on its head, but it takes a right hand turn. That plays actively in the first and last episode. Technology, it guides what I would call a very strong undercurrent of distrust of government authority. The show owes to people like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck and all the conspiracy sites I look at on the internet, that I digest every day.”
Carter talked about picking up again with Mulder and Scully, saying that their separation provided an “interesting point of departure dramatically, because they began their lives together [as separate]. As we’ve lived our lives, they’ve lived theirs, and that’s how we’re playing it.”
The importance of the first episode and seeing these characters for the first time in years would look like came up next. Carter said he had to think of the characters and their contemporary context, saying he had to “put them in a contemporary context both personally and professionally.” He said that in addition to the hardcore fans, there’s another fanbase that he didn’t want to ignore — a new audience. “More viewers means more ‘X-Files’ so we couldn’t leave the casual viewer in the dark.”
Carter was asked if Fox had any bullet points that the network wanted him to hit in the return, and he said that the network was respectful of what the producers did. They did say they wanted to shoot the show in Vancouver, where half of the original series was filmed. “They said David and Gillian wanted to do it and I wouldn’t have done it without David and Gillian. There’s a perspective that I own the show and I really don’t. I’m a stake holder in the show, but Fox can do anything they damn well please [with the show].”
Carter was asked if this six-episode show has affected the third “X-Files” film script that he’s written. “I like doing the television show because it gives me a chance to tell a lot of interesting X-Files stories. I couldn’t do the third movie that I wrote. If and when we do a third movie, I wouldn’t do it without a proper budget or release date, and I feel we didn’t have either with the last movie. I want to do something more like the first one.”
Carter said he couldn’t think of any characters that he wanted to bring back but wasn’t able to this time around; there is an episode idea that he has wanted to do for 20 years, though, that he didn’t get a chance to do this time.
Mulder and Scully’s relationship came up next, with Carter saying that it was his and the producers’ thinking that they’d “have a hard time living under the same roof because of their personalities and passions. I see Mulder now, that he has Google, he probably sits at home in his underwear a lot. I don’t think that’d sit well with Scully, who’s a scientist and doctor, and it’d be a bump in the road for them. I think you’ll see through the course of these six episodes that they are drawn closer together, not just through their investigations but through a deep love for one another.” When asked if we’ll see present day William in the show, Carter said that we won’t, but he is important to the show’s arc as it moves forward.
Carter weighed in on the state of fandom and how they’ve changed over the past decade, saying that “I still hear the drumbeat loud and clear. Things like Comic Con 2013 where I got a direct hit from the fans for their desire to see the show either back on the big screen or small screen, so it’s that direct experience that is most impressive to me.”
The show features many returning writers, like James Wong, Darin Morgan and Glen Morgan. “Glen and I share an agent, so it kinda happened through our agent, and the same agent told me Jim was interested and Jim told me Darin was interested. The band came back together in a natural way. Jim and I play tennis, so we sat down one day [after tennis] and talked about his episode. But Glen and Darin had very set ideas when we met way back in the spring of last year.”
Carter also spoke about the Lone Gunmen, who will have a role in the show, but their role has yet to be revealed — on purpose. “The Lone Gunmen come back in a way you will absolutely never expect. If I gave you 100 guesses you could never get it.”
Carter talked about the respect Fox has shown in this process, and said that he worked as hard on this as he ever did on the original series. His relationship with Fox this time around was more “collaborative than I ever experienced.” On the topic of the show coming back for more, Carter said that everyone is “happy with the experience and how it turned out, and now we’re waiting to see if the audience will come. It seems like there’s a viewership out there, but we live in a different world now where the world is fractured. Fox has fewer viewers, everyone has to get the word out there to get the ratings that will lead to more episodes.”
When asked why 2016 felt like the right time to bring the “X-Files” back, Carter said: “Anyone who has picked up a newspaper recently or been on the internet knows we live in an era with a lot of suspicion and mistrust of our leaders and world government. That’s an interesting time to tell an ‘X-Files’ story. When we went off the air in 2002, there couldn’t have been more trust in the government. The ‘X-Files’ wants to point a very bright light at some of those dark corners.”
Carter spoke about the next generation of “X-Files” fans, saying, “I’ve had a number of times, kids say to me that they love the show and I look at them and realize they weren’t even born when the show was on; some were not born when the show went off the air. We got another audience that we make sure we don’t forsake going forward.” On that subject, Carter said the first episode begins with an “elaborate” catch-up of what happened in the series before.
Longtime “X-Files” fans should keep an eye out, too. “There are Easter eggs,” said Carter. “When you do a show that’s been off the air for 14 years, you do unintended Easter eggs. There are specific ones, and there are unintentional ones that comes because the show has to be self-referential in order to tell these stories.”
Carter said that the original alien colonization plot has become part of a larger conspiracy that has “mushroomed.” Carter added, “Part of what Mulder once believed is now part of a larger picture that’s been kept from him.”
The first and last episodes of the season are titled “My Struggle,” which is a reference to the novels by Karl Ove Knausgaard. “I look at Mulder’s life as becoming very tedious,” said Carter. “I think he’s been struggling with depression. I saw the Knausgaard titles as, really, for me, indicative of how Mulder was looking at his own life.
Wrapping things up, Carter was asked which he found more scary a prospect — that there is alien life out there, or that we’re truly alone in the universe. “It’s scarier to me to think that there are aliens out there,” said Carter. “And I’m talking about the kind that have come to fascinate or terrify us, the somewhat humanoid life forms. I think that it would throw mankind into a panic, both biologically, psychologically, spiritually — I think it would change the world as we know it over night and that is a rather harrowing idea.”
“The X-Files” returns to television this Sunday, January 24 at 10 PM ET.