So many news within two weeks! The After cancelled, the confirmation that IDW/Joe Harris will be making a Season 11 in comics after Season 10 wraps, the first sign of FOX finally expressing interest for bringing back The X-Files in some form — while Frank Black returns in comics form this week!
The After: much ado about nothing
The After, Chris Carter’s new series on Amazon, has been cancelled before it got off the ground. After the pilot aired last February, Amazon ordered a full 8-episode season in March, and the last comment we heard was in July with Carter mentioning Dante’s Inferno as an inspiration. It was to be expected, as there was absolutely no news around it and no new episodes were being produced to meet the “airing” date of the season that was expected to be spring 2015. On January 5, the only comment that accompanied the cancellation from Amazon was that:
“We have decided to not move forward with ‘The After,’ We would like to thank Chris Carter, the phenomenal cast, crew and producers for all their efforts.”
An extremely short comment. Surely a lot went on behind the scenes. So The After gets cancelled in the general indifference of the potential audience Amazon could have been counting on, the X-Files/Millennium fanbase, and of the public and critics at large. And I think it’s very unlikely that another network or producer would pick up The After and continuing it. By comparison, the other show from Georgeville TV, the same production company as The After, Sense8, has kept the buzz going and is developing to one of the most interesting series for me for 2015.
Coincidentally, and funnily enough, Spotnitz’s own project, a TV series adaptation of Philip K Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle“, aired its pilot at Amazon as part of this year’s pilot season, to huge critical acclaim — and it shows that the budget must be several times what that of The After was, Amazon is really putting a lot of weight behind this project! Being also a PKD fan I find the whole enterprise very interesting but also very risky: I don’t see how this could hold for more than a season’s worth of story.
Carter is still attached to the development of “Area 51” at AMC, a project in development since 2012, but no news there either since last March. Which is not to say that the project won’t happen eventually, such beasts have long development times.
This is a hard blow to Carter. An update from him would be more than welcome, it will be interesting to hear his own point of view on what happened on The After and how he would spin it, how this will affect him after also having another show not being picked up (Unique) and having a movie aborted at near completion (Fencewalker). I had my own very mixed opinion of The After pilot, however I found it good news that Carter would be back with something new and creative, after an extended break that’s been going on for over a decade — if you don’t count the intermission of IWTB that ended up with him at a state of exhaustion. In terms of credibility and pull for new projects in the harsh realm that is the movie & TV industry, Carter is now at a vary delicate position. It would be foolish to think that a third X-Files theatrical movie or a Millennium project by Carter would be an easy sell on Fox, even if Carter were to put all his energy to make it happen (which he hasn’t been doing). Actually, anything by Carter now would be a hard sell. I could even imagine him going back to his voluntary retirement! — but I hope he still has things left unsaid in him.
So what now?
Sequel or no sequel?
Carter has always had a theatrical movie in his mind, he has had that vision of XF as a movie franchise since 1998 and he repeated that in the 20th anniversary panel at San Diego Comic Con in 2013 (covered on EatTheCorn). Movie or nothing. It’s been two years now after the self-imposed date the XF mythology was looking at for its endgame. With chances of an ending of the XF on the big screen slimmer than ever, there have been signs that things have been changing in Carter’s mind. In the summer of 2014 Carter had “conversations” with FOX, and in December Carter and Spotnitz were discussing the future of the franchise.
I don’t live for a sequel or continuation and I most often dislike the trend of making endless sequels for sequels’ sake — however, independently of my likes or dislikes, for such a popular franchise a continuation or reboot is quite likely somewhere down the road. For years, Spotnitz has been saying that the economic case for FOX doing something — anything — with the X-Files brand name is there, it is just a matter of time. Evidently the legal suit precedents between Carter and FOX and the very mitigated success of IWTB did not help. Perhaps FOX didn’t want to entrust Carter with a full feature film and Carter didn’t want to change his stance; perhaps things are changing now at FOX; perhaps both parties have been waiting patiently for the whole thing to mature and make a revival of a classic.
Pop culture is cyclical and as the youth of yesterday becomes the trend-setters of today, what was old becomes new again, which explains the revival of design and music and pop culture franchises from the 1980s lately (Tron, Terminator, Mad Max, Star Wars, now Jurassic Park). We are now getting to the point where 1990s things will be the thing studios draw upon. It’s already happening, with one of the most exciting news of recent: the resurrection of Twin Peaks 25 years after it ended with a “third season”! And this is not your typical revival, for this is supported by the show’s original creators Mark Frost and David Lynch — something of a first in the history of television.
Television and the entertainment industry is not what it used to be twenty or ten years ago, and what might have been considered “second rate” back then is now hot. Event mini-series with season-long arcs are now a new popular format (American Horror Story, True Detective, the independent seasons of House of Cards, the 24 event). For a new XF, I’ve long supported the idea of aiming at a made-for-TV movie or direct-to-DVD movie or a limited run TV mini-series as a more accessible and realistic venue for such an endeavor, and perhaps that’s where things are headed.
The X-Files: The Revival
Speaking at the annual Television Critics Association Winter press tour at Pasadena, FOX co-chairs mentioned among many, many other things, that they’d had conversations and that they’re hopeful that X-Files would be back. They probably had no idea of what would follow. After the presentation journalists asked for more details on X-Files and in the hours and day that followed an incredible number of media outlets worldwide — even TIME and CNN! — did an article that took it nearly as granted that the X-Files was returning!
What was actually said?
During the panel (from live-tweets):
Gary Newman says “we’re hopeful” about bringing back #XFiles
Gary Newman: We’ve had conversations about #XFiles
After the panel (here and here):
Newman: “What I can say is that if this happens, it’ll be with David and Gillian reprising their roles. Chris is interest, both David and Gillian are interested. Scheduling is very difficult. David has his show, Gillian is doing something in the UK. I really don’t know how fast it can happen, but there are ongoing conversation happening.”
Walden: “You know who we’re dealing with, do you think I can elaborate???” [joke on Carter!] “Gary and I both worked through the entire run of the X-Files. It was a great experience, we’ve maintained great relationships with creator Chris Carter, Gillian, and David. We’re very hopeful. It’s hard because they’re actors who are very busy. Chris has a lot going on. So it’s about finishing those conversations.” [FOX] “would not move forward without Chris.”
So no actual mention of reboot, and it’s very clear the original stars and the creator (not to mention co-owner!) are involved: technically, that’s called a revival — although many journalists added to the confusion already existing among media lingo by mentioning a reboot.
So what ushered this?
- Carter: The passage of time and perhaps his frustration with his new projects might have played a role for Carter to re. Surely the early discussions with FOX started before The After was cancelled, however Carter must have known about things going astray on The After for a several months and the cancellation might have accelerated things.
- FOX: with the passage of time, old executives who might have had grudges against Carter (especially around the time his series were getting cancelled, that of Harsh Realm in particular was bitter on Carter; and during the years he had a lawsuit with FOX) are leaving and are replaced by people who have worked with or appreciate Carter. Those who announced the revival, Dana Walden and Gary Newman, are “very friendly” with Carter and grew in the business together; as recently appointed co-chairmen of Fox Television Group and CEOs they plan to rebuild the ailing FOX and steer it into new territory.
- Precedents: the success of the 24: Live Another Day miniseries event, the announcement of the Twin Peaks revival
- Buzz during and after the 2013 San Diego Comic Con
- Buzz during 2014 and more recently: Kumail Nanjiani’s X-Files Files podcast, Gillian Anderson on the Nerdist podcast
How is this different from previous endless rumors and replies to nagging questions?
- This is FOX talking. The last reaction from FOX is a few months after the release of IWTB, saying that they were waiting to hear from Carter.
- It has been confirmed by both parties, FOX and Carter, that discussions are happening.
- The media coverage and buzz this passing mention of preliminary conversations has generated shows to FOX there is huge interest out there. They even asked William B Davis about it!
Anderson had, a few days before only, generated some buzz thanks to a Nerdist podcast that launched the twitter trend #XFiles2015. And a few days later Duchovny weighted in saying he’s “more than happy and excited to bring it back“, and “that it will happen sooner rather than later now. We’ll see what form, how many [episodes]. Certainly I can’t nor would I be interested in doing a full season. It will be in some kind of limited form. We’re all old, we don’t have the energy for a full season.” So the interest is definitely there.
All in all, nothing is set in stone, but something will be happening! How, when?
- With writing, pre-production, shooting, post-production ahead of us, we are looking at some time in 2016 — 8 years after IWTB!
- Carter will be involved. There have been many voices even within hardcore XF fans against him, but it’s his property and he has specific ideas about this. If there’s a reboot later that’s another story. But, apart from long-time collaborator and seasons 8-9 mythology co-creator Spotnitz, I’d hardly expect anybody else from the old writing team to be involved. It will either be entirely Carter/Spotnitz, or them plus a newcomer — especially if a reboot is in the minds of FOX.- Short seasons are more and more the norm: the writing is tight, the shooting schedule is short for the actors, the marketing is focused. Let’s expect a 6-12 episode season.
- XF3 would always have been about the alien colonization mythology. But even with a mini-series, the shortened length wouldn’t allow for a back-and-forth between independent episodes and mythology episodes. I expect a single story, cut in parts.
- It would make good sense for Fox to hold on to the remastered series in HD and use the release of a BluRay boxset as promotional material for the new event/series if/when that happens.
- Schedules have to be aligned — a burdensome development could come up if the stars are contractually tied to a specific network and can’t appear in many networks simultaneously.- Given the pop culture importance of the brand name, it’s easy to imagine Fox wanting to produce more than a one-off event and thinking ahead about continuing the franchise. It’s possible that this event would serve as both a farewell to the old characters and as an introduction to a younger group of characters that could be used in a re-launch of the series: the “old” stars are perfectly capable of holding their own, but at or approaching their fifties the most likely option is that they would form only part of the cast which would include younger actors as well. So this could be the last Mulder & Scully X-Files we see — with a reboot down the road.
The comics: bridge or alternate universe?
Meanwhile, the comics Season 10 is continuing and actually coming to an end — earlier than I expected — with #25, expected for June 2015, and with the last collected volume (Vol.5), expected for September-October 2015. However, it’s already more or less officially confirmed that after a break there will be a Season 11! With about 10,000 (physical) issues sold each month and in the Top 10 of IDW’s sales, the X-Files is a success for IDW, along with good reviews and the low production costs associated with comic books. Hence all the side publications: we’ve already had a Lone Gunmen spin-off, an origin story, an Annual and a Christmas special, and reprints of all the older Topps comics, and there’s a table board game, a short story (prose) collection and a Millennium arc to hit stores in 2015 — and potentially more coming, as editor Denton J. Tipton has said that despite a break between XF seasons there will be XF-related material coming out every month. And it’s quite obvious by now that all this is done with just Carter’s permission but essentially without any of his creative input. If it starts around the end of this year, another 25-issue season would take us well into 2017.
X-Files — and Millennium? — comics still have a long future.
However, with the new developments of an on-screen XF revival, where do these comics fit into the picture? Carter was supportive but ambiguous (how odd?!) on whether he thought of them as canon. There are three options:
- Comics ignored: As excellent as they are, it’s hard to think that FOX executives and the creative team would “constrain” themselves with comics — they might not even constrain themselves with the live series, resulting in inconsistencies! — and there’s been a recent precedent with a much longer lived Extended Universe, with the “de-canonization” of nearly everything Star Wars since the 1980s! So the comics would continue, sadly as an alternate universe.
- Comics taken into account: Carter and Harris agree on the comics orientation and make the events of the comics nicely dovetail into the revival event, like season 5 and FTF. Great! Although, how the schedules of the comics publication (with Season 11!) and the revival align would be a challenge.
- Comics are neutral: Comics and revival follow their own lives, with the revival event airing during the Season 11 publication, but they end up not contradicting each other. Joe Harris is free to complexify his mythology as long as it doesn’t touch upon whatever the revival will touch upon, and fans have to fanwank events in a chronological order.
- Comics are the source: A fourth option is that the mini-series becomes a live adaptation or is partly inspired by the comics — unlikely, but who knows? Joe Harris is also involved in feature film-making!
Even if you are bitter from the later seasons and/or IWTB… there are some exiting times ahead!
PS: I wrote most of this article days after The After was cancelled; I only had to change few things to include the FOX announcement! The XF revival has been preparing in the background throughout 2014!…