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SFX Magazine: File Challenge

SFX Magazine
File Challenge

[typed by Mim]

This spring, things looked grim for the XF. After 7 top-rated seasons, behind the scenes strife threatened its future. With one star ready to walk and the creator / producer caught between disinterest and a lawsuit, it appeared as if the FBI agents Mulder and Scully had investigated their last XF.

The season closer ended in a nod to its beginning, returning to characters and settings from the pilot episode. At the denouement, as we all know by now, Mulder was abducted by the aliens he had been chasing for so long, and Scully and Skinner finally had incontrovertible proof that Mulder’s crazy theories had been right all along. But creator CC had one more cliff-hanger trick up his sleeve, just in case the series was renewed: in the show’s final moments it was revealed that Scully – supposedly unable to have children due to alien tampering – was pregnant! But how? And with whose baby? And would we ever find out?

That final question weighed most heavily on the studio chiefs and producers’ minds as filming ended this Spring. Deadpan series star DD had tired of life as equally deadpan FBI agent Mulder on the XF, and despite the fact that his film career consisted of a handful of flop features, he wanted more. Or out. Or both. Last year, DD bought a lawsuit against 20th century Fox for cheating him out of syndicated rerun profits. His argument was that Fox had sold rerun rights to its sister cable network FX, for less than other networks would have bought them for. He also sued CC for conspiring with Fox for the deal, and then covering it up.

Although CC had initially waffled about doing an 8th season of the XF himself, the spectacular failure of his third series, Harsh Realm (which followed the cancellation of his second series, Millennium) prodded him to approach another season with more relish. CC told the press that “Fox had asked me very late in the season last year to do the show and I said to them ‘I really do not want to do this as a matter of commerce.’ I wanted it to be a great season of the XF. I want the event of Mulder’s disappearance to be an important event. I want the possibility that the show could go on. I wanted it to go on for all the right reasons.”

Meanwhile GA, the distaff members of the onscreen duo had already signed for the 8th season, a substantially smaller paycheck than DD was getting. But rather than making immediate waves, Anderson bided her time as negotiations progressed.

With only one day to go before the Fall schedule was to be announced in late May, Fox and CC settled their lawsuit with DD on May 17th for an untold sum (reportedly $20-30m), and the actor agreed to do a limited number of episodes in S8 (6 complete and 5 cameos, out of 20). “He’s looking for a place to invest his money right now,” CC joked whilst speaking to fans at the San Diego Comic Con. He later told reporters that, “whilst we weren’t able to speak a lot last year because of the lawsuit there has been, I think, a lot of repair of something that was damaged.”

Left with a partnerless Scully in the episodes DD was not going to appear in, CC and his staff invented a new FBI agent who would come in to investigate the XF – and the mystery of Mulder’s abduction…Agent John Doggett.

In July after a quick run through of some of Hollywood’s hot – and available for a TV series – actors such as Bruce Campbell, Hart Bochner, Gary Cole, DB Sweeny, and Lou Diamond Phillips, CC and Fox announced that the new agent would be played by RP, best known for his role in Terminator 2. “We saw terrific actors for the part,” CC told reporters. “We had written the part and conceived of a part that was very much an insider of the FBI. He’s part of the fraternity. Mulder had always been an outsider, a consummate outsider. We wanted somebody who was blue-collar, a former cop, a man’s man. And RP came in and blew us away. He just embodied this character – everything from the timbre of his voice to the presence of his intensity. Because he’s going to be on screen with Scully a lot, I saw them as worthy adversaries and worthy partners.”

RP signed for 2 seasons which means that Fox had to renegotiate with GA for a 9th season. She was perfectly amenable to the plan…provided her paycheck went up to the same amount as DD’s (reportedly $200-300m per episode). With all the contracts signed and lawsuit resolved, CC and co went into overdrive to prepare not only for the 8th season of XF, but also TLG. But big questions loomed ahead. No US science fiction series in TV history had ever gone beyond 7 seasons. With its already waning ratings, could the XF still compete in the market? Would the fans be interested in an essentially Mulder-less series? Could GA and RP capture the same kind of chemistry between their characters as GA and DD had?

Playing spin-control, CC made a rare public speaking – and autographing – appearance at the San Diego Comic Con to reassure fans that they were in for renewed energy and more scares. He then spoke solo in the annual Television Critics Association tour, where journalists who weren’t quite as steeped in the show’s mythology still wanted to know if the XF was still worth all the fuss its co-star had caused behind the scenes…and whether RP could replace DD effectively.

“I had to write the season finale Requiem not knowing whether or not we’d be back,” admits CC. “It set up an interesting problem for me in coming back now and doing an 8th year. I have the opportunity to be able to explore things that I wasn’t going to be able to do. There was a point last season where it was kind of distressing. Right around Xmas time I came into Frank Spotnitz’s office and I said ‘I’ve got this great idea,’ and he looked at me and said ‘We’ve only got ten more episodes to go.’ There’s still a lot of things I want to explore.”

CC describes RP’s agent Doggett as “a member of the FBI fraternity. He’s one of the guys. He’s one of the hardcore. He’s on his way up the ladder. He’s a do-gooder in one sense, but he’s his own man. What he represents to Scully and Skinner is a threat to the XF, because it is a basement operation. In coming to look for Mulder, he’s a threat because he is a part of the system. He’s attacking the XF. He isn’t working as Scully’s partner, but at some point they will come to a point where they can agree to disagree.”

“He’s a person who’s doubting by nature,” CC continues, “and he really is one of those people who needs to see it, touch it, smell it, taste it, feel it, in order to believe it. And that’s going to be the character. He was a former NY police detective, and he was in the US marine corps, and that’s where we’re working from. ”

Scully, meanwhile, has gone through changes of her own. “Agent Scully, over 7 years, has seen a tremendous amount of things, and it’s eroded her scepticism,” says CC. “Even though she’s a scientist, she’s a reluctant believer now. To find Mulder she has to accept the fact that he may have been abducted. So it leads us to a new era of the XF. She’s a scientist,” CC explains. “In her heart she’s a scientist, so she has to come at things scientifically as any smart person would do…I think that it makes the character interesting. She’s torn and she’s always been torn. The great thing about Scully is that she wears a cross around her neck. She has a religious bent. She has beliefs and those beliefs were always in conflict with her science anyway. So she has been a character who has been both torn in her belief and in her personal approach to life.”

Beyond that complicated dichotomy, Scully’s mysterious pregnancy will continue to play a major role in the series – as well as hinting that a certain person with the initials FM is the father. In last season’s GA-written-and-directed- episode all things, CC says that “we hinted at a relationship with Mulder. We’re going to go back and explore that. And it’s a very interesting thing to play with for her character, too. She’s a very lonely person, and now she’s even lonelier without Mulder.”

Still he admits that all the pieces to the pregnancy puzzle haven’t been put on the table just yet. “We’re going to explore what happened earlier. Whilst it may seem like you missed something – and you did – you will not miss it at the end.”

MP’s character of Skinner has also come to the forefront of the series due to his involvement in Mulder’s abduction. CC admits that he has gotten a tremendous amount of fan mail pressurising him to utilise Skinner more. “We’re trying to figure out ways to do that,” he protests. “It’s really just being true to the characters and true to the stories how we do that. The character of Skinner is really important to the show because he has seen something now and has seen something even Scully hasn’t seen.”

Because the XF has been swirling in conspiracies – governmental an alien – since its inception, numerous secondary characters have gained a foothold with fans. WBD’s CSM, the sole surviving leader of the main conspiracy was last shown being pushed down a staircase in his wheelchair. When asked if we’d see CSM again CC asks with a grin “dead or alive?”

CSM’s assassins, Krycek and Marita are slated to bedevil Scully yet again, and Doggett may not know what’s hit him. “You’ll see more of Krycek,” says CC. “He’s coming back. We’ve got to get Mulder back before we can have any M/K interaction. The mythology lives on. And even though there are certain things that have been resolved there are still things to explore. As you saw in the season finale, Krycek is still very much alive. So is Covarrubias, and because Laurie Holden sent me a nice letter at the end of the year, I’ll probably give her as much screen time as I can,” he says, smiling.

So what can fans look forward to in the rejuvenated XF during its 8th season? “This year we’ll really go back to our roots, which is scary stories,” promises CC. “We always inject humour into the show. It just won’t be slapsticky slap-happy episodes,” he says, referring to the spate of comedic episodes in the last two seasons. And he notes that the new blood will help things greatly. “Mulder and Scully are the reason – GA and DD are the reason – for the show’s great success. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t threaten the paradigm, you can’t threaten the model, you can’t threaten the relationship.”

Later this year CC promises a clearer explanation of the aliens and the government’s interaction with them. We really hinted at an Are 51-like base in ‘Deep Throat.’ You saw Mulder escape into it in ‘Dreamland.’ I don’t know if we’ll go back to that base particularly, but we may actually explore that area because we are now back into UFO and alien territory with the abduction of Mulder.” As to the aliens, the series creator notes that “there are several alien races. There’s the Greys, and then there are the faceless aliens, and then there’s the Bounty Hunter who is a renegade who left the faceless crew. Those are all things that are going to be explored this year because I know people have questions about that.”

And fans shouldn’t rule out a return appearance of the dour Frank Black, the star of CC’s three-seasons series Millennium, which crossed over with the XF last year. “I hope t bring back Frank Black. I love the character, and I love working with Lance, so the big treat last year was being able to bring him back and doing it in an episode where M&S actually get to consummate their relationship with a kiss. After 7 years you’ve got to admit that it’s pretty good for two characters who’ve had such sexual tension. It’s the world’s longest foreplay.”

Looking further into the future, CC does plan to do more XF movies. “There are plans, but they’re all in my head. I think the TV series will hopefully become a movie series. Right now what we’re doing is telling stories that hopefully will lead to that. I think the XF could probably go on forever if it was in the right hands.”

Meanwhile, CC has S8 to keep on track. “We want to keep the show good, we want to prove to ourselves that we are not resting. We want to prove to ourselves that after 161 episodes we can continue to be imaginative. It’s a real challenge.”

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One Response to “SFX Magazine: File Challenge”

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