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From Season 10 to Season 11

The unofficially designated X-Files season 11 — or rather, as it is officially known for contractual and budgetary reasons, “Event Series 2” — was announced on April 20 2017 as the “next chapter” in the adventures of Mulder and Scully! But as the season kicks off, the question on everybody’s mind is: is it the “last chapter”?

Photo(shop) art!

The chronology of two years of negotiations

The revival did exceptionally well in terms of ratings for Fox, it ended up being Fox’s second-highest hit for the 2015-2016 season. There was a downwards slide in the second half of the short run that can be attributed to a usual drop after the premiere, but also to nostalgia wearing off, to the episodes being perceived as less good than expected, or to lukewarm professional reviews (and there was not the usual audience increase for the finale). The episodes “My Struggle” and “Babylon“, both by Carter, were even sent by Fox for Emmy Awards consideration.

Overall, the revival received a very mitigated reception by professional reviewers and amongst the fandom, if it is possible to express an objective view of such a diverse bunch, ranging from being absolutely enamored to absolute rejection. The revival found its way in many critics’ year-end “worst of 2016” lists, with the singular exception of Darin Morgan’s episode. Many voices were raised to remove Carter as a showrunner — an incredibly harsh criticism, but one that shows the level of strong feelings surrounding the revival. As often happens, Duchovny was the first from the people behind the series to reflect upon it with something else than formatted public relations praise (interview: Duchovny says he had mixed feelings).

Yet for a series with such a ratings success, the renewal process was unexpectedly long: two years! For the previous revival series it only lasted five months (presumably November 2014 to March 2015).

Among the first promotional behind the scenes photos posted by @GillianA

The January premiere and February finale did not directly result in a renewal; already in May it was not expected to return for the 2016-2017 season (May); over the summer, Fox said that everyone had been approached (June) and floated around the figure of 10 episodes (August); Anderson said that actually she hadn’t been approached yet (to be fair, in an interview that was conducted earlier than when it was published, in June); the start of production is continuously pushed back from early spring 2017 (Carter, October) to October 2017 (Carter, October); in November 2016, right after the US elections, the negotiations seemed to stop completely, with Anderson saying “Probably not. I think it is finished.” See also science advisor/Carter friend Anne Simon tweets (“Glitch caused negotiations to stop. Last heard it was “definite maybe”.” “s11 looked very positive for long time.Then day after election, heard about problems.” “Probably no one wants to offend, in hopes that resumption is possible. My guess.“). More episodes were not announced for the 2017-2018 season at the January 2017 TCA (negotiations for season 10 were announced in the 2015 TCA). What seemed like a sure thing is now only “a bet” (Duchovny, February 2017) and new episodes were more likely to happen for the 2018-2019 season, 3 years after season 10.

The April 20 2017 announcement with a mid-season 2017-2018 air date came as a surprise after a news blackout that lasted several months, two full years after the announcement of season 10 on March 25 2015! The January 3 premiere was announced on November 15, which is a short advance notice and a premiere date oddly close to New Year’s Day — perhaps to prevent an awkward press tour involving Anderson or too many questions around the premiere episode My Struggle III.

Event Series 2 / Season 11 Behind The Camera

Behind the camera, a similar crew as season 10 — Chris Carter, Glen Morgan, James Wong, Darin Morgan — with some additions, most of which were already Ten Thirteen alumni. The first half of the season will be similar to season 10 (Carter mythology, Glen M stand-alone, Carter stand-alone, Darin M comedy, Wong stand-alone/mythology mix); the second half sees the addition of episodes written by Gabe Rotter (Carter’s assistant since XF season 9), Kristen Cloke (XF/MM actor and Glen’s wife!) & Shannon Hamblin, Karen Nielsen (script coordination since season 10), Benjamin Van Allen (Carter’s assistant since The After), information is incomplete as of this date on these (Morgan & Wong might be involved in several); and Carter’s season finale. In directing, season 11 sees the addition of Kevin Hooks, Carol Banker and Holly Dale.

“Event Series 2”

For season 10, the crew planned, wrote, pre-produced, shot and post-produced 6 episodes by around October (when “My Struggle” was shown in Cannes); shooting was June-September, a little over two weeks per episode: s10 actually happened on a very quick schedule! Season 11 might have benefited from some preparatory pre-production work, however the schedule is similarly tight and typical of network television: April to January to produce 10 episodes, with shooting over July-December (again a little over two weeks per episode), and a premiere on January 3 2018, with post-production of the last episodes overlapping with the airing of the first episodes.

Contrary to season 10, the shooting managed to keep many things secret, to the point where even the most ardent spoiler-seekers have no clue as to the content of most episodes!

Towards an ending?

The official word was that everyone was willing to do more and that it’s just a matter of getting the scheduling right. The main blocking point seemed to be the number of episodes. 6 was too few and that the 1990s season format of 24 episodes is too much. But:

Fox will be willing to continue doing these forever if the audience is there, and XF had a higher audience than the wave of Fox revivals over 2016-2017 like 24: Legacy, Heroes Reborn or Prison Break. It is interesting that Fox was willing to wait for everyone to agree and has not pushed (yet?) for alternatives that don’t involve one or more of the three key players. Alternatives (shooting in London to accommodate Anderson, ensemble show diluting the two leads’ presence, back-door pilot for next-gen series…) might be under consideration, but for now the drawing power of The X-Files is considered by everyone to be Anderson and Duchovny with Carter as orchestra conductor. It is unknown what effect the recent purchase of (most of) Fox by Disney will have on XF; some top-level restructuring/reshuffling is likely to happen, and it is important to note that Dana Walden and Gary Newman (CEOs of Fox TV production and broadcasting since July 2014, previously CEOs of Fox TV production), are in good terms with Carter and were key in launching negotiations for the revival in 2014-2015.

Chris Carter, Dana Walden, Gary Newman, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, Season 10 LA premiere

Carter would be fine with anything, probably; his other projects have not had success and he seems willing to channel all his creativity in the brand he will be remembered for. Returning X-Files to television was probably not in his mind as recently as 2013 (see SDCC coverage); he still hasn’t abandoned the idea of doing a third X-Files feature film, although he must know the decision-making people and process of Fox TV and Fox Film are two quite separate things.

Duchovny might have been the initial driving force behind the 2016 revival; he seems to be fine with a format of limited runs every few years (a concept he apparently introduced to Anderson during Kumail Nanjiani’s podcast!).

Anderson vehemently repeated she is not willing to do more episodes and repeatedly described s11 as her last. For both revival seasons, she expected they would give fans closure and close the book for good. This could be just means of pressuring Fox (for the 2016 revival Fox started by offering her again half the pay that Duchovny would get while she is no longer a beginner actor like in 1993), however there seem to be broader issues. In interviews Anderson is much more praising of her other roles and does not particularly seem to be looking forward to return to Scully.

And so for half the duo, this is the last season ever of The X-Files while at the same time the creator wants us to believe we live in an odd time where The X-Files is once more on-going series on television right now, with no end in sight, and which, as any other series, runs the risk of getting cancelled due to low ratings. As the premiere approached, positions became clearer.

Carter: I’m always thinking that this could be it. I don’t know what the future holds. While I try to do my best, and we did well the last time out, this time out could be different. For me, The X-Files can go on, indefinitely. It’s really how long Mulder and Scully, and David and Gillian want to do the show. […] For me, The X-Files is Mulder and Scully. I think if it were without Scully, I wouldn’t do it. That’s not my X-Files.

Anderson: Resolution is good.

Duchovny: Unless Chris came to Gillian and me with an idea for an actual end to the show — which would preclude doing any more movies or any more television (versions) — and the three of us decided, ‘That’s fantastic, that’s really the way to end it,’ everything we do (with the franchise) naturally is going to be somewhat open-ended. I had hoped for the last six episodes to be successful, and whether that meant we were going to do more, I didn’t know. I don’t know how truthfully we could ever end this without ‘killing’ me or Gillian.

Early word was that the season 11 finale would be a cliffhanger; it might be an open-ended ending after all. We will know in the future whether discussions during the making of season 11 influenced how Carter wrote, and also edited the season 11 finale. We might also know more about the show’s future (or lack thereof), by the time the finale airs. A situation not unlike seasons 7 and 8; each series finale is different and The X-Files has had many already!

What is certain is that seasons 10+11 consist in a single entity, and that there has not been anything planned beyond that, which would posit the season 11 finale as a potentially better place to end than My Struggle II.

Carter: The four struggle episodes were all pieces of a whole and [Season 11 Episode 10 completes the whole.

Season 11 kicks off today with 11X01: My Struggle III. Stay tuned for EatTheCorn coverage of the season!

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One Response to “From Season 10 to Season 11”

  1. Ana Bastow (@Astrogea) says:

    Great summary. Can’t wait to read your review of MY Struggle 3. Struggle with a vengeance :p