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Cinescape: Chris Carter on Season 5 DVD set

Chris Carter on Season 5 DVD set
Arnold T. Blumberg and Anthony C. Ferrante

The X-Files creator Chris Carter is currently toiling with his team on the conclusion of the cult series turned pop culture phenomenon, but he had a few spare moments to look back on the season that provided the mythology connection between the TV show and its feature film debut: Season 5, now arriving on DVD.

“It was the season where not only did we have to do the season perfectly, but we had to finish the movie, and it was working backwards and forwards at the same time,” says Carter of Season 5, which was shot after production wrapped on the X-Files film but took place chronologically before the story seen in the movie. All of the mythology plot threads of Season 5 therefore had to lead naturally into the beginning of the film, but were written and shot long after the movie was in the can.

“If we screwed up on any one thing, it would affect everything else,” says Carter. “If we screwed up on the movie, it was going to affect the series. If we screwed up on the series, it was going to damage the movie. It was a house of cards that we needed to stack oh so carefully. And we succeeded.”

They succeeded so well, according to Carter, that last minute tinkering on the movie to fix any inconsistencies just before its release was not even necessary.

“It all worked,” says Carter. “It was one big, beautiful plan. But there are episodes in Season 5 that didn’t have anything to do with the movie – ‘Bad Blood,’ ‘Kill Switch,’ ‘Unusual Suspects’ – that added to the storytelling franchise of the series and made it an enjoyable year.”

While some of those episodes also finally lightened up on an otherwise very dire mood, it was not the lightest it would get.

“Not like Season 6,” says Carter. “Season 6 was the lightest one we ever did. This had enough elements of self-parody to make it a traditional X-Files season. That started happening with Darin Morgan’s ‘Humbug’ in Season 3. So it became an X-Files tradition, and I think that Season 5, in that way, is a regular year.”

As with all of the previous X-Files DVD season box sets, the Season 5 set will boast some intriguing extras for fans. Carter suggests that those extras might increase in number as the sets enter the later seasons.

“Those first few years, nobody knew to make these arrangements to save stuff,” says Carter. “A lot of this was lost because it’s expensive to store. A lot of things were not preserved. Now the mood of preservation is what’s fueling the increasing number of special features. A lot of other people are involved in doing that, and they’d be best to tell you. But I can tell you now that nothing is not thought of in terms of its DVD potential.”

Carter admits there are not many extensive scenes cut from episodes for inclusion on the DVDs, although some bits and pieces do get trimmed from time to time.

“Rarely are there entire scenes cut,” says Carter. “Mostly things inside scenes. We have it down to almost a science. Every once in a while it will happen. Like the episode we’re working on right now, [which] was 17 minutes too long, and it’s all got to go. Usually [the episodes are] six or seven minutes [too] long, which means you have to go in and trim a little bit, but occasionally entire scenes have to be lifted.”

Now that the entire series is coming to an end, Carter has the rare opportunity to look back not only on individual seasons, but also on the whole of his creation. It’s a task he finds a bit difficult.

“I have been working so hard and my perspective is the perspective from behind my desk here at my computer. A lot of this is lost on me. So maybe I’ll have a chance someday to get some perspective on it. But right now it’s the focus of my life. In a weird way I am a slave to it. Now this will be a little bit of a jail break.”

For Carter, he admits “this has been a decade of my life,” but it is one decade genre fans are definitely grateful for. Not only did it create a franchise comparable to Star Trek in its scope, but it also pushed future genre shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dark Angel to push the limits of what could be done on a television budget, while still having the scope and rich story structure TV had lacked prior to X-Files.

“It took me a year to get it off the ground, so it’s been a decade,” adds Carter. “I’ve been doing the same thing for a long time. Even though I got to do some other things during that time, The X-Files was the child that got all of the attention. It’s not scary at all. It’ll be a relief not to have production deadlines chasing me each and every day of my life, though I’m sure I’ll get back into that at some point.”

Carter believes he’ll miss the fun of creating new stories for these characters the most.

“What’s sad is that I liked writing The X-Files and I love telling stories in this format,” Carter notes. “Luckily, we’re doing a movie and that will satisfy that craving.”

While the final year of the show has taken a lot of heat from fans and critics, Carter is quick to defend Season 9, its characters and its stories.

“It’s been inventive and original this year. We’re telling stories we wouldn’t have told otherwise. I’m sorry that this season will be our last for these characters, Doggett and Reyes, because they are a joy to write for.”

He does admit, however, that Season 9 presented its share of unexpected challenges.

“I thought this year was going to be a piece of cake because there wasn’t anything else vying for attention, but it’s never easy,” he admits. “This has been one of the hardest years for me in terms of workload. I wrote or rewrote seven of the first 11 episodes, and that’s a grind. And I had come back late. I had gone on a vacation and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to come back this year, so I got a late start. It’s like I’ve never gotten ahead.”

Coming into the home stretch, the last few episodes will supposedly tie up some long-standing dangling mythology plot threads. David Duchovny, otherwise known as the show’s former lead character, Fox Mulder, will even return to direct one of the last installments.

“The David Duchovny directed episode comes up on the 28th of this month,” says Carter. “[It’s] a big mythology episode. It’s about the baby and the return of Mulder. It’s a question about whether you see him or not.”

Whether we see Mulder then, we’re certain to see him in the big finale. Duchovny’s return in the final two hours of the series will at least please fans who want one last look at Mulder before the TV screen goes dark, but some fans believe last season’s conclusion, with the long-awaited romantic reunion of Scully, Mulder and baby, was a more perfect ending. Carter agrees in some respects.

“That was an ending,” he observes. “This, in a weird way, is a culmination. So I think this functions as a more satisfying end to the series than when we ended with Gillian and David kissing. That had a certain amount of satisfaction too, but it didn’t do anything to address the larger themes. That’s what this episode should do.”

Carter also reveals that there was never a contingency plan if Duchovny chose not to return.

“I always planned on having him,” he says. “It couldn’t have been done properly without him. So we’re fortunate to have him. So it’s beside the point to discuss what would happen if we didn’t have him, because I don’t know if we could have done it.”

Following the end of the series, the second X-Files film will be on its way. Long rumored to be a self-contained, non-mythology story, it will most likely reunite Mulder and Scully just like in the old days.

“I can tell you that if we filmed it in the summer of 2003, you wouldn’t see it before 2004,” he says. “So there’s a little bit of a wait.”

But will Doggett and Reyes turn up as well?

“That was never the plan, but on The X-Files, anything can happen, and maybe there’s a novel way to do it.”

Carter even has plans to jump right back in and develop another series while one year remains on his Fox network contract. He’s willing to say only that it’s “something totally different.” But for those who felt that The X-Files lost its way in Season 9, Carter believes they’re missing something that made the entire series such a long-lasting success.

“Even in its ninth season, The X-Files is original and inventive,” says Carter. “I’d like to believe that’s the hallmark of the show. I think we’re doing great work this year. Robert and Annabeth are hitting their marks and they’re growing as characters. I think the show is [now] under-appreciated.”

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