Archive for 1993

USA Today: Duchovny’s strange encounter of the Fox kind

USA Today
Duchovny’s strange encounter of the Fox kind
Jefferson Graham

David Duchovny normally spends his time in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Fox’s creepy cult hit The X-Files is filmed.

But this is Christmastime, and Fox likes its stars to get into the holiday spirit. Duchovny was called down to the Fox lot to shoot promotions of him and co-star Gillian Anderson exchanging gifts. On The X-Files, Duchovny plays an FBI agent who investigates paranormal phenomena. He often looks through a telescope in his search for alien beings.

So, on the Fox promo, he’s looking through the scope, but the only out-of-towner he finds is Kris Kringle.

Ah, to work for the Fox network.

Besides the promos, Duchovny also found time to report the morning weather on Fox-owned KTTV in Los Angeles and have breakfast (orange juice and hot cereal) with USA TODAY.

The X-Files has been renewed for the entire season by Fox, despite cellar-dweller ratings. It’s a cult hit that the Twin Peaks and Quantum Leap contingent have discovered; the show just hasn’t made its way to the general audience.

“Anything that’s weird or tinged with sci-fi will be a candidate for a cult show,” says Duchovny, 33. “But this show deserves to be very popular.”

The actor, who is single, was born in New York City and spent many years in school until he decided his only skill was teaching. Rather than pursue that, he began acting – his first role was in Henry Jaglom’s movie New Year’s Day – and came to Hollywood at age 29.

He got small parts in other films such as The Rapture, Chaplin and Kalifornia. He also appeared in three episodes of Twin Peaks, playing a transvestite, and 20 episodes of Showtime’s The Red Shoe Diaries as the host/narrator.

Then Fox sent him a copy of the X script.

“My only concern was, I thought it was too good to be a series. I also didn’t know where the show could go. How do you do a show about UFOs every week?

“What I found was that the subject was unlimited,” he adds. “The show isn’t just about UFOs, but about things that are strange, weird and unexplained.”

Duchovny believes that’s why the show has struck a chord with some people. “We’re a show that’s good, scary and fun. There’s not a lot of scary stuff on TV anymore, and people really like to get scared.”

Duchovny enjoys working in Vancouver. His one beef: The producers should build a motel room set. “Every week we drive around for 45 minutes going to another seedy motel room in a hideous location. Why not just build one and change the sheets every week?”

Working on a show about weird stuff has given Duchovny a better appreciation for the supermarket tabloids. He recalls a recent headline from the Weekly World News about extraterrestrial hamsters who had come to take over the earth. They look just like regular hamsters, says the story, except they have bright green eyes and tattoos on their ears.

This really cracks him up. Especially the part about how the alien hamsters, not realizing we earthlings were so big, were forced back home.

“Before, I would just glance over and notice how much weight Cher lost,” he says. “Now it’s UFO and alien stories. I don’t know which is more important, but that’s where my eyes are going these days.”

Los Angeles Times: Fox’s ‘X-Files’ makes contact with a Friday-night audience

Los Angeles Times
Fox’s ‘X-Files’ makes contact with a Friday-night audience
Joe Rhodes

They are out there, watching, trying to make contact. Chris Carter suspected this even before he created “The X-Files,” his Friday-night Fox drama about a pair of special-assignment FBI agents exploring all manner of unexplained phenomena, everything from alien abductions to abominable snowmen. But now Carter knows for sure. He has spoken to them, received their messages. He has seen them with his very own eyes.

“They are credible, sane, believable people,” Carter is saying, talking about the thousands of X-Filophiles who have latched onto the show in its first few months, many of whom have gone to the trouble to write, call and mention that, oh by the way, they’ve had contact with extraterrestrials themselves. “They wholeheartedly believe they have had these experiences,” says Carter, who has gotten word of a growing “X-File” cult not only from letters and phone calls but also from a flurry of activity on computer-modem bulletin boards. “And who am I to say they haven’t?”

And, what’s more, they’re not alone. According to a 1992 Roper poll, more than 2% of all Americans believe they may have been abducted by aliens and at least 16% believe they’ve had some kind of contact with beings from another realm.

“That’s an amazing amount of people,” says Carter, who knows a hot demographic when he sees one.

“That’s millions of people who believe.” Which may explain why “X-Files” ratings, although low by traditional network standards, are higher than anything the Fox network has ever seen on a Friday night, high enough for the network to order a full season’s worth (22 episodes) of the series in spite of its usual aversion to hourlong dramas and high production costs. (Even though filming in Vancouver is cheaper than L.A., each episode still costs about $900,000.)

Carter, you should know, is no saucerhead. A lifelong Southern Californian who wrote for Surfing magazine before he became a television writer and producer, he didn’t create “The X-Files” to convince American TV watchers that UFOs exist or that the FBI has special secret files jam-packed with proof. “It’s just that I wanted to do something that was scary and suspenseful and smart,” he says.

Carter does his best to keep “X-Files” as hooey-free as possible, not an easy task considering that his main characters (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully) spend a great deal of each show arguing about whether a particular crime has a logical explanation or might have been caused by visitors from outer space.

“The first few episodes,” says Duchovny, whose character tends to look for supernatural causes for everything from unsolved murders to missing socks, “nobody believed me and I was always right.”

That will change. “Sometimes,” says Anderson, “I have a logical theory that is right. And with a lot of the ‘X-Files,’ we don’t know what the real answer is. It’s kind of left up to the audience to decide what they believe.”

None of this was an easy sell. Carter had to persuade a squadron of Fox executives — including Fox owner Rupert Murdoch himself — that the premise had enough possibilities to fill out a long-running series.

The show has already moved from the obvious cases — your aliens, your Bigfoot, your spontaneous human combustion — into more abstract realms, such as the limits of artificial intelligence. Anything, Carter says, that could be construed as “a speculative scientific possibility” is potential fodder for the show. In the early going, that phrase was a problem for some of the network suits, who were a little unsure about what exactly they were agreeing to put on the air. One question Carter was asked at almost every meeting was: “What exactly is an X-File?”

“It’s like obscenity,” Carter told them. “You know it when you see it.’

The production offices and sound stages where most of “The X-Files” is filmed are in a converted brewery on the southwestern edge of downtown Vancouver. Carter’s office, which probably once belonged to a shipping clerk, is depressingly bare. The only thing on the walls is a bulletin board with photos of actors being considered for parts and some curious newspaper clippings.

There is an obit from the New York Times: two biologists, one of them a botanist who was the world’s leading authority on rain forest plants, have died in an airplane crash off the coast of Ecuador. And there’s a tiny item from USA Today about how the Coast Guard in Alaska had traced the source of phony distress calls to misdirected signals from a fax.

“I don’t quite know how I’m going to use those yet,” Carter says. “But I’m intrigued about the idea that this guy who was the repository of this amazing amount of knowledge is suddenly gone. Why did his plane crash?”

So this is where Carter gets his ideas, flying back and forth from Vancouver to L.A., scanning scientific journals, magazines, as many newspapers as he and his staff can absorb. But he hasn’t said how he really feels about this stuff.

“I’m a natural skeptic,” he says when pressed. “I want to believe, though. I think everyone — including me — wants to be driving through the desert some night, bright stars out, and they see something in the sky that they can’t explain.

“Scientists, eminent professors, have said that if we were to find out that there was extraterrestrial life, it would be the biggest discovery ever made by man … And I like the idea of that.”

The Toronto Star: The X-Files: Something Strange and Wonderful – And they’re here, right inside your television set

The Toronto Star
The X-Files: Something Strange and Wonderful – And they’re here, right inside your television set
Mike Antonucci

Perhaps the most interesting new character on television is the enigmatic informant on The X-Files, a strange but marvellous program that intertwines imagination, suspense and sexual tension.

The informant, modelled after the “Deep Throat” who helped unravel Watergate, appears every few episodes to offer guidance to the Fox show’s hero, an FBI agent with a Lone Ranger complex.

The agent pursues unsolved cases that seem to prove the existence of UFOs and paranormal forces. The informant is cryptic, but apparently aware of government coverups. Each has credibility, but each also tests the willingness of viewers to accept concepts such as contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. David Duchovny plays the agent, Fox Mulder. Jerry Hardin, a veteran movie and TV character actor, has the role of the unnamed informant. And Gillian Anderson co-stars as Dana Scully, Mulder’s highly professional partner and potential romantic interest.

The informant is special because he epitomizes the show’s captivating ambiguity. Although he’s extraordinarily mysterious, he symbolizes proof that Mulder is on the right track.

On one level, The X-Files is simply science-fiction, even though creator and executive producer Chris Carter avoids that term. It wouldn’t be too far off to describe the show as an oddly successful cross between Star Trek and Hunter.

But there’s another level that ties the show to “real” examples of people’s fascination with UFOs and the supernatural. The plots are inspired by accounts of unexplained and fantastically described events, plus research that indicates many Americans believe in either aliens or psychic phenomena.

Indeed, Mulder’s obsessive behavior is attributed to a childhood experience that he describes as the abduction of his sister by aliens.

“We’re doing what (Jurassic Park author) Michael Crichton does,” says Carter. “We’re doing stories within the realm of extreme possibility.”

The informant draws in viewers by casting doubt on the trustworthiness of government – hardly a tough sell these days. Mulder constantly finds other agents and officials blocking his investigations while Scully – skeptical and rigorously scientific by training – tags along on one weird encounter after another. There are no definitive answers, not even from the informant.

“It’s very elliptical,” says Hardin, “and I think that’s wonderful. He (the informant) seldom comes directly to the point. He’s always around the corner.”

That description applies to the informant’s arrivals and departures, as well as to his conversation. He can show up out of nowhere and disappear in the blink of an eye. Some viewers have wondered if that’s a hint of alien powers, but Carter says that wasn’t his intent.

Carter is exceedingly coy about his plans for The X-Files, which has an order from Fox for at least 22 episodes this season. But he has already shown he can blend subtle, complicated elements with heart-pounding action. Somehow, he makes each instalment of the show satisfying, even though so many themes are open-ended.

The relationship between Mulder and Scully is particularly promising. So far, it’s a low-voltage attraction. If it gets stronger, it won’t be because that’s the standard TV formula.

“It’s a relationship I’m not seeing on television,” says Carter. “It’s based on mutual respect, not something overtly sexual.”

Nothing is obvious about The X-Files, in fact, except its quality. Thanks to the season-long commitment from Fox, it’s not going to disappear before you have plenty of chances to check it out.

Well, not unless something strange and unexplained happens.

Cyberspace Vanguard Magazine: Within the Realm of Extreme Possibility

[Original article here:]

Copyright 1993, Cyberspace Vanguard Magazine

    |           PO Box 25704, Garfield Hts., OH   44125 USA          |
    |  TJ Goldstein, Editor           Sarah Alexander, Administrator |
    |                 |
     Volume 1                October 26, 1993                 Issue 6


 --!2!--  Within the Realm of Extreme Possibility:  Creator CHRIS CARTER
                                                             on the X-FILES
                                  by TJ Goldstein

     For a show that snuck up on everybody, X-FILES seems to be the sleeper
hit of the year.  Quietly, and with little promotion, it has staked out
its territory on Friday night and seems to be holding on, at least well enough
to convince Fox to pick the show up for a full season..  We spoke to the
creator and producer of the show by phone from Los Angeles shortly before
X-FILES debuted.
     Chris Carter isn't a stranger to producing.  He's done some shows for
Disney, including THE NANNY, a 1/2 hour show he created for the Disney
Channel.  Despite all that, the nervous excitement came through in his voice.
He sounds almost like a kid who has managed to pull the wool over the
exectives' eyes, sneak into the studio, and produce what HE thinks television
should be.
     It's easy to pin him down on what the show IS, but not what it's LIKE.
What it IS is an hour-long series that focuses on two Federal Bureau of
Investigation agents who investigate, as the name suggests, the "X-Files."
These are the files that the FBI has put aside because there simply is no
rational explanation, such as UFO abductions or other "unexplainable
     Fox "Spooky" Mulder is a Believer.  His sister was (he believes) the
victim of a UFO abduction when he was 12, and he has dedicated himself to
studying and hopefully solving the mysterious cases the Bureau doesn't want
to touch.  More than just a crank obsessed with UFO's, Mulder is trained in
psychology and science and merely insists on not discounting possibilities
simply because they don't fit in with preconceived notions of what is
possible and what is not.
     The Bureau, in order to keep an eye on him, sends in Agent Dana
Scully, a physician and devout skeptic.  She is more rational, but though
she rarely believes Mulder on the first try, she does at least have an open
mind -- most of the time.  She's more trusting of due process than Mulder,
and that can get them -- and the people they're trying to help -- into
trouble.  It's not to say that she's bumbling; not at all.  She is
intelligent and extremely competent.  She just doesn't always have as much
skepticism about the known reality as she does about the unknown.
     Naturally, since they are a man and a woman paired together, the first
thing people think is: romance.  Will they end up together on their own
time?  "No, it's a relationship that is much stronger and more passionate.
First of all I would call it a cerebral romance in that these characters
sort of delight in each other's approaches and it isn't the pat or standard
or expected television romance between them.  There is no physicality
between them.  I don't see it in the near future here.  They don't end up
in the sack together.  At least I don't see it happening yet.  I think it's
refreshing.  I mean I was raised on shows like THE AVENGERS which are smart
and the characters were very attractive for those aspects.  They didn't have
to end up in bed together."
     The very creation of the show, in fact, was heavily influenced by Mr.
Carter's childhood television habits.  "I felt there wasn't anything scary
on television.  I loved the show NIGHT STALKER as a kid so when I was signed
to an exclusive contract by 20th Century Fox TV they asked me what I would
like to do -- which is a nice position to be in -- I told them I'd like to do
something like NIGHT STALKER but I didn't want to do something that was
limited to vampires.
     So how did he decide on aliens as a substitute?  "I had the
coincidental experience of spending time with a friend who works as an Ivy
league researcher, and he had shown me the Dr. Mack -- the Harvard psychology
professor -- survey on what he called the alien abduction syndrome.  It
showed that 3% of the American public actually believes they have been
abducted by UFO's.  I thought that was fascinating.  A larger percentage
actually had experienced contact with extraterrestrials or something
      "I found that amazing and I thought, well, aliens have become the new
vampires of sorts.  I thought there was a lot to explore.  I didn't want to
limit myself to just the bad world.  I wanted to explore all paranormal
phenomena and unsolved crimes that involved these or any phenomena."
     So how does the show treat these "phenomena," as the hallucinations of
unstable people, or as something much deeper?  "It makes a strong case for
the alien abduction syndrome.  Someone is suffering from something for
reasons that are logical and believable.  I'm a natural-born skeptic, but
the more research I've done and the more people I've come into contact with
by doing the show, the more they've chipped away at my skepticism.  I'm much
more open-minded and there are certain things I take for granted, if not as my
truth, then as their truth.
     "I should also say that if you throw a rock, you hit 3 people who
actually know more about this stuff than I do.  I'm a relative babe in the
woods compared to a lot of people who have quite an extensive knowledge
about these and other phenomena, but actually I think that serves me.  I
come at it with a very fresh perspective ... do you try and access these
people to try and get more information, or are you going at it from a partly
imaginative point of view?  Sometimes we use an amalgam of information to
create an idea but ... we are doing all this from imagination, so it's
fiction but it's fiction that takes place within the realm of extreme
     When he got his first producing credit six and a half years ago on THE
NANNY, he "didn't know what producing entailed."  Certainly, that had
changed by the time X-FILES came along.  What DOES a producer do?
"Everything.  Producers function as quality control people.  You hire
people to do certain jobs, then you oversee those jobs.  You make creative
decisions, you make decisions of taste, tone and style.  You shape a movie
or TV show by the people you hire both as talent and as technical staff.
     "A person has to earn my trust, generally.  When you hire qualified
people, that is something that happens very soon, but I tend to have very
strong ideas about what it is I want and I try to keep an eye on all areas,
from an actress's makeup to the way a cameraman shoots a certain scene."
     First and foremost, however, Mr. Carter is a writer.  "Yes, I wrote
the pilot episode and now I've written 2 episodes past that, so a writer is
what I am first and foremost.  That's who I am.  I've become a producer by
circumstance but I love it.  Producing is very social, writing is very
     And if he had to pick one?  "I'd have to say in TV I can't pick one
because to be a writer in television the only way to do it is also be a
producer.  It's a producer-driven medium.  It's a writer-driven medium
also, but you have to want to have your stuff done well.  You have to carry
it through to physical production.  Writing screenplays is not like writing
prose.  You're creating a blueprint with dialogue for a visual thing.  So
if you're in TV it serves you best to work in both writing and producing
     "Being a producer in TV makes you a better writer in TV in that you
understand what can and can't be done.  Sometimes I'll read a writer's spec
script and I can tell when he has not produced TV because he will assume
that certan things can be done which can't be done.  That's one of the
things that helps you as a writer by being a producer."
     Being a producer can help the writing as well as the writer.  "As a
writer you've imagined something that's perfect in your mind, and so when
you see it actually take physical shape or electronic shape it can be very
depressing.  It looks to you like a series of compromises ... Your original
concept is degraded from the moment it goes into somebody else's hand.  There
is this whole process.  It's like a bucket brigade; it is handed to a
series of people who do their job.  If they do it well, they can make your
script better, and if they don't do it well it makes it worse.  It's amazing
to me when the process actually creates a magical moment."
     His descriptions evidence the ongoing nature of production, but "each
episode will function as a complete story.  We put information out there
and they learn things that are going to shape our characters.  They're not
going to go backwards once they see something.  They're not going to then
not believe in it later on, so there will be an accumulation of knowledge
and experience but each episode will function as its own open-and-shut
     This is unlike mainstream television where, at the end of an episode,
the world essentially returns to precisely the state it was in before the
opening credits rolled.  I asked him if he's afraid of not being able to
top himself.  "That's a nice thing to do, I'm not afraid of that.  This is
such a wide open field that the fear of having to top yourself is self-
limiting.  If you fear that then you're not going to attempt to do so.  I
have to go sorta boldly into the future here and hope that I can top myself
each week that I can."
     Like Donald Bellisario, the creator of QUANTUM LEAP, Mr. Carter
doesn't feel that his show is "science fiction" per se.  "My buzz phrase
is that the show takes place within the realm of extreme possibility.  I
think it's the same area that Michael Crichton might work in.  The
possibilites into account.  We explore them as if our stories could
actually be happening."  For those of you who look for scientific accuracy,
while there is no science advisor credited, "it's really easy to pick up
the phone and call your brother and get him to give you very technical
advice."  His brother is a physicist.
     So, when you come right down to it, what exactly IS it?  It deals with
alien abduction, but it's not science fiction.  It's scary, but it's not
gory.  It's been compared to everything from NIGHT STALKER to early TWIN
PEAKS.  So how does Chris Carter describe it?  "You know, there's nothing
on TV like it.  I've been asked this question and I'm always at a loss to
compare it to anything because when you start to compare it to anything you
start to do yourself a disservice.  People say it's like that or oh it's
like that.  I just don't think there's anything like it on TV.  I call it a

St Petersburg Times: ‘X-Files’ goes to extreme

St Petersburg Times
X-Files’ goes to extreme
Jennifer L Stevenson

Grade: B+

Tonight at 9 on Fox, WFTS-Ch. 28

David Duchovny has just discovered something terrifying, more disgusting than the paranormal junk he finds every week on the X-Files.

“Have you ever heard of someone who eats just the top of the muffins then leaves the bottom half?” he asks during a phone interview from his set in Vancouver, Canada. “It’s gross.”

He bursts out laughing and his assistant – the evil muffin eater – yells in the background. “You do it, too!”

“I think it’s worse than finding two bodies hanging in the air,” Duchovny declares.

Which is what he has to do right now on the set of Fox’s new suspense series. He’s already discovered a Bigfoot monster, a serial killer who sleeps 30 years between each mass murder and aliens who kill teenagers. As FBI Agent Fox Mulder, Duchovny is always called upon to examine the darndest stuff.

“Pretty much everything is fair game,” Duchovny said Thursday. “It’s really anything extraordinary.”

As glib as Duchovny may be, his character believes in UFOs and paranormal activity His partner (played by Gillian Anderson) is a pragmatist who doesn’t believe in paranormal activities. Although it sounds absurd, the series is a clever, well-produced hour of escapist television every week which fits producer Chris Carter’s motto: “The show takes place in the realm of extreme possibilities.”

Carter refuses to say if he believes in the supernatural, but adds coyly “We can’t prove that it happened, but we can’t prove it didn’t.”

Mauled muffins on a set in Canada may also fall into the realm of extreme possibilities. “Gross!” Duchovny says before going off to discover the next body.

The Buffalo News: Fox’s eerie ‘X-Files’ opens with a touch of Stephen King

The Buffalo News
Fox’s eerie ‘X-Files’ opens with a touch of Stephen King
Alan Pergament

Talk about strange sightings. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw “The X-Files,” the new Fox series (9 p.m. Friday, Channel 29). A quality, suspenseful, adult show on Fox that doesn’t have any sexual titillation? What a concept!

In it, FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) investigates some unexplained cases called “X-Files,” which often involve paranormal phenomena. This true believer is teamed with skeptical agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), a medical doctor who the FBI expects will debunk his theories.

Friday’s fast-moving premiere has elements of “Twin Peaks” and a variety of Stephen King stories. It isn’t so much scary as eerie.

The two agents are sent to a small Oregon town to investigate a series of strange murders of young high school graduates.

The story opens, King-like, in the forest, with one of the victims being chased as the wind howls and a strong light brightens the landscape.

Soon, the female victim is found dead with some mysterious moles on her back, a sign of the strangeness going on.

The agents eventually dig up old graves, visit a mental hospital and pull over the side of the road when a light flashes and time stops for 10 seconds.

Time will fly watching “The X-Files.” You don’t have to believe in UFOs, but it will help.

Duchovny and Anderson have strong chemistry together and his character has a sarcastic sense of humor that gives the show an unexpected element of enjoyment.

When Scully notes that time can’t disappear because it’s a “universal invariance,” Mulder cracks: “Not in this ZIP code.”

Duchovny is used to being in strange ZIP codes. The Richard Gere look-alike was in “Twins Peaks” but you might not remember him. He played a transvestite. So he is used to playing strange.

Which rates higher on the bizarro-meter, this show or “Peaks”?

“Well, when you’re wearing a dress things tend to get pretty bizarre,” said Duchovny in an interview in Los Angeles. “I would say ‘Twin Peaks’ is an interesting show to bring up when talking about this one. Because it has a kind of an offbeat sense of humor, and it’s definitely dealing with bizarre, extraordinary things. Aside from being scared, you’re going to be entertained with this show as well. But you’re not going to see my legs.”

Series creator Chris Carter prefers a comparison to his favorite show as a child, “The Night Stalker.”

“It was this fantastic show and I was scared out of my pants,” said Carter. “And so I said there’s nothing scary on television anymore. Let’s do a scary show.”

Carter said the (idea) for “The X-Files” came from talking to a Yale psychology professor who made him aware of a study in which Americans were asked if they believed in UFOs.

“Believe it or not, they found that 3 percent of Americans believe they’d actually been abducted by UFOs. That means if there are 100 people in this room, there are three of you who have actually been abducted. Please raise your hands.”

Actually, out of 100 TV critics, 10 may have been abducted. But that’s another story.

Carter doesn’t plan to have Fox appear to be right every week.

“They’ll uncover hoaxes,” said Carter. “There will be more traditional FBI cases that involve what seems to be paranormal phenomenon and we’ll have evidence and MOs (methods of operation) that seem otherwordly. But they won’t always be alien abduction.”

He doesn’t want the show classified as science fiction because he feels that reduces the scare factor.

“I’m going a long way to try to make these scientific possibilities . . . that indeed something could happen genetically with someone. Or there could be some experiment gone wrong. Or there could be biologic anomalies that could cause these cases to be paranormal in that way.

“I think that’s much more interesting if it’s believable. I think it’s much more frightening. You could look at Michael Crichton’s ‘Terminal Man’ or his ‘Jurassic Park’ or his ‘Andromeda Strain’ and the most frightening part is that you actually believe that it could happen.”

Naturally, Duchovny was asked if he believed in paranormal phenomenon.

“Personally, I’m the kind of person who needs to be shown something before I believe it,” said Duchovny. “And I haven’t had any personal experience with UFOs. Paranormal activity seems to be all around me. I grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan so I’m used to that.

“It’s hard for me to believe that we’re the only sentient life in this universe. So I think there’s got to be something else out there. I just don’t know why they seem to choose people in North Dakota all the time. So I’m waiting. I’m waiting to be contacted. Now.”

He was kidding. I think.

The Hollywood Reporter: FBC’s “The X-Files” holds some interest despite its labored premise

The Hollywood Reporter
FBC’s “The X-Files” holds some interest despite its labored premise
Miles Beller

As shepherded to us here, we get FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), an Oxford-educated psychologist with a glib tongue who tackles those cases the agency hasn’t been able to crack. These unsolved mysteries are known in the trade as X-files. (At show’s start a notice is posted: “The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts.”)

However, Mulder thinks something more than the usual skulduggery is afoot when it comes to these crimes. In fact, as Mulder sees it, these situations are the results of paranormal events, happenstance having to do with otherworldly things and forces. Why, his own kid sister disappeared one night and was never heard from since. Moreover, as Mulder sees it, the government knows about all this crazy stuff but ain’t talkin’.

As a means of keeping tabs on what Mulder is up to, his superiors at the bureau have partnered him with a Doubting Thomas named Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), a young, cool, crisp M.D. with a bias toward the scientific, someone who doesn’t believe that things go bump in the day or night without plausible explanation.

So into this new series Mulder and Scully go, sparking an undercurrent of attraction, at least as scriptors would have it.

It’s a notion that gets a skeptical workout in “X-Files'” premiere, paired to a story line concentrating on the inexplicable deaths of high-schoolers in an Oregon hamlet tied to some odd occurrences that Mulder suspects are alien abductions. When a suspicious fire destroys nearly all the evidence Mulder and Scully have collected, the spooky gets spookier, causing Scully to wonder if maybe Mulder is onto something.

“Twin Peaks” gone ersatz reality-based, “The Twlight Zone” taking it down home, that’s the direction this series goes. And though the show works with a certain unintended camp kick, at the moment “X” doesn’t mark the spot where viewers can find involving drama by way of Stephen King-esque actions.

San Francisco Chronicle: Tracking the Paranormal

San Francisco Chronicle
Tracking the Paranormal
John Stanley

Strange lights flashing in the night sky, mysterious, alien-like shapes hulking in an eerie forest, an inexplicable force disrupting mechanical devices, motorists disappearing for a few hours and waking up to find their bodies covered with odd punctures . . .

These recurring themes from reported UFO abduction cases have become the stark, sometimes sinister images for the opening two-hour episode of a new Fox series that dramatizes paranormal phenomena, “The X Files,” premiering Friday at 9 p.m. on Channel 2. If there is any one word that Chris Carter, the show’s producer and creator, wants to emphasize it’s “scary.” However, “I don’t mean scary in the horror-genre sense, but scary in the way that speculation pushes beyond scientific credibility to enter a realm of ‘extreme possibility.’ Films like ‘Coma’ and ‘The Andromeda Strain’ have that quality. It’s the idea that shakes up you and your beliefs, not some hideous Frankenstein monster or a hand clasping the heroine’s shoulder.” Even so, it was the hideous vampire monster in “The Night Stalker,” a highly rated TV-movie of 1973 produced by Dan Curtis, that gave Carter his inspiration to create a show like “The X Files.” “When I saw ‘Stalker,’ with Darren McGavin playing that obsessed newspaperman Carl Kolchak, it really shook me up to think there might be a twilight world of bloodsucking creatures. Of course, that’s the spectrum of the supernatural. Today we’re all more interested in modern phenomena, which has a way of really shaking up that segment of our society that’s come to believe in aliens and UFOs.”

Carter was having dinner one night with a Yale psychology professor and researcher. “When I found out he had been a consultant on Dan Curtis’ ‘Intruders,’ a 1992 drama about UFO abductions, he told me that 3 per cent of the public believed in this syndrome. I was astounded. I realized there was a topicality to this theme of the unknown, and ‘X Files’ grew out of that fascination.”

The series depicts two FBI agents — poles apart in their thinking — on the trail of various unsolved mysteries. In upcoming episodes, says Carter, they will track “biological anomalies, chemical anomalies, twists on genetic engineering and other fanciful spin-offs from modern technological advances.”

Maverick agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is a firm believer in the paranormal, often paranoid in his obsessive search to find the answers to baffling phenomena. His partner Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), with a degree in medicine and a bent for seeking answers through scientific logic, is a total skeptic. Each week they are incompatibly thrown together on a new assignment, unaware that their chiefs are part of a top-secret government project using them to further its own clandestine causes.

In real life, the actors are just the opposite in their attitudes about the paranormal. Duchovny, who portrayed the transvestite detective on ‘Twin Peaks’ and whose ‘Kalifornia’ is now playing in movie theaters, has serious doubts about all those UFO reports. “I accept the possibility of life forms in this vast universe of ours,” he says, “but I don’t understand why, if there are aliens, they don’t land in Manhattan instead of always choosing unpopulated areas where maybe three people see them.”

Duchovny doesn’t believe much in conspiracies, either. “It’s unlikely any high-level conspiracy could last for long. The sheer amounts of people keeping the secret would eventually crack open; somebody’s death-bed confession would expose the whole thing.”

Anderson, an award-winning off Broadway actress whose film/TV career is just starting, admits that “I have this tendency to believe the most outrageous things. After all, this is a large universe we live in, and UFO stories tend to follow a pattern that, in my eyes, gives them validity.”

She finds the role of Scully a challenge to play. “She does everything she can to find a scientific answer to the mysteries, which becomes difficult after a while, because her constant exposure to the weirdest things imaginable eventually have an accumulative effect. Even so, that’s when she turns to her science and physics the most. In a way, she’s shielding herself from the unacceptable.”

Carter, whose screen writing career since 1985 has included several TV movies for Disney, tries to see both sides of each “X Files” enigma. “One half of me wants to have something set before me so I can see it with my own eyes. But another side, and we all have it, wants to take a leap of faith, wants to believe in wild things. I’d like to be driving one night through the desert or a lonely forest and suddenly see something that couldn’t possibly be happening, but is. Then I would know these strange things are going on, and I’d finally be a part of it.”

Chicago Sun-Times: It’s FBI vs. UFOs

Chicago Sun-Times
It’s FBI vs. UFOs
Lon Grahnke

X marks the spots where two fictional FBI agents will uncover evidence of extra-terrestrial interlopers and other paranormal phenomena in a Fox drama series, premiering Sept. 10.

“Inspired by actual documented accounts” from various sources, “The X-Files” will offer a tantalizing sitcom alternative from 8 to 9 p.m. Fridays on WFLD-Channel 32. “Television needs a good, scary, weekly show,” said writer-producer Chris Carter, who created “The X-Files” for Fox. “That’s what I want to do. We’re going to be scary and entertaining. “I’m frightened by the unknown. By technology, genetic engineering and their consequences. By things that can take place in the realm of extreme possibility,” said Carter, phoning from his Canadian production office in Vancouver, British Columbia. A former Disney screenwriter, Carter describes himself as a skeptic on the subjects of flying saucers and invaders from Mars.

“The FBI investigators in ‘The X-Files’ are extremely intelligent scientists,” Carter said. “We’re playing it as close to reality as we can. You can find an ‘X-File’ story every day in the newspaper. The agents will reveal hoaxes. They also will encounter things that can’t be explained, where progressive science meets the spirit world.”

David Duchovny from Showtime’s “Red Shoe Diaries” stars as unorthodox agent Fox “Spooky” Mulder, who describes himself as “the FBI’s most unwanted.” An Oxford-educated psychologist known as an expert on serial killers and the occult, Mulder earned a reputation as the best analyst in the bureau’s violent-crimes section – until he started chasing UFOs. “The laws of physics rarely seem to apply” when working on cases from the X-Files, he tells his new partner.

Gillian Anderson as agent Dana Scully is the intellectual equal of Duchovny’s Mulder. A medical doctor with a degree in physics, she was recruited by the FBI to teach at its academy. Now the extremely logical Scully is assigned to work with Mulder and report on his activities. Will she debunk the X-Files project? “We trust you’ll make the proper scientific analysis,” says Scully’s boss, sending her to spy on “Spooky.”

“David and Gillian are very bright,” Carter said. “They truly are the characters. Their relationship is cerebral and subtly sexy. Fox and Dana remind me of John Steed and Emma Peel in ‘The Avengers.’ ”

Although characters are murdered in “The X-Files,” Carter promises to avoid excessive gore. “There is no gunfire in the first six episodes,” he said. “I’m really concerned about violence in our society. There’s too much violence on television. Producers should be responsible, to a point, while telling an exciting story. Like ‘Murder, She Wrote,’ we’ll show the results of violence, not the act.”

Fond memories of ABC’s “The Night Stalker,” a 1974-75 series with Darren McGavin as a reporter tracking vampires and werewolves, gave Carter a “leaping-off point” when he started developing “The X-Files” last year. “That was a good, scary show,” he said. “And it aired on Friday nights, too.”

But “The Night Stalker” vanished after one season. Fox has ordered 13 episodes of “The X-Files.” In its most-unwanted time slot, it could be an ex-series by December.

“I’d rather air right after ‘The Simpsons,’ ” Carter said. “But I know Fox would never put me there.”

Confessions of a Mad Surfer

Confessions of a Mad Surfer

In which we creep into the head of Chris Carter, Creator and Executive Producer of The X-Files, and crawl behind the scenes.

Q. Did you always have in mind a two-person cast, male and female?

A. The Mulder-Scully idea was there from the start. And I wanted to flip the gender types, so that Mulder, the male, would be the believer, the intuitive one, and Scully the skeptic, which is the more traditional male role. It was also important that Scully be Mulder’s equal in rank, intelligence, and ability–because in real life the FBI is a boy’s club–and I didn’t want her to take a back seat. James Wolcott, writing in The New Yorker, says “Their partnership is achieves a rare parity between the sexes,” so I think we succeeded.

Q. Once you got approval to shoot the Pilot episode, what was the hardest part?

A. I think the invasion of Normandy must have been simpler. The first dilemma was creating the whirling vortex of leaves. We needed real leaves, whipping around in a whirlwind, that we had to merge with digital leaves, and then we needed a special light rig that ended up taking about eight hours to construct. Then there was the weather. It rains all the time in Vancouver. But during the shooting, it never, ever rained when we wanted it to–only when we didn’t need it. The graveyard scene was supposed to be shot in the pouring rain. So we turned on the rain birds, and the actors were having trouble with the lines because it was freezing. They were both so amazingly cold that they couldn’t even speak afterwards and we didn’t know if we’d captured the scene. That same night, we had these empty graves that we’d dug up, and in the pitch black several crew members fell in and had to be carted off to the hospital. So it was like a war of attrition trying to get the scene–which ended up one of the better ones in the pilot.

Q. Where did Deep Throat come from–the character I mean.

A. Watergate was like the ‘big bang’ of my moral universe, I was 15 or 16 when it spilled out on the American consciousness and conscience. So the idea of questioning authority, trusting no one, is part of the fiber of my being. Deep Throat, of course, came from the infamous Watergate figure who may or may not have existed–the guy who told Woodward and Bernstein to follow the money. Our Deep Throat emerges from some shadowy level of the government, and leads Mulder and Scully, carefully and selectively. He helps them when they reach a dead end or take a wrong turn, but never gives them too much and he is not 100% on their side.

Q. What about the space ship in the “Deep Throat” episode, is it a model or was it added in post production?

A. The ship was not really there. There was a concert lighting rig, firing off lights in different colors, and we put them together to create a triangle. So that when we shot these sequences, there was real light raining down on Mulder. But the spaceship itself was digitally illustrated, and I think the effect is at once impactful and subtle, which is a trademark of Mat Beck, our special effects producer.

Q. It’s hard to think of a show that pulls off the quantity and quality of special effects that are seen weekly on The X-Files. How did you get those worms in “Ice” to wriggle under the skin so convincingly?

A. Our special effects make-up person, Toby Lindala, was the genius behind the worm. He made body casts of the actors, incredibly realistic fake skins down to every fold, and strung beads on microfilaments so they could be pulled along and expand and contract beneath the fake skin. The dog was shot very close up–it’s actually a milk bottle tightly wrapped with fur. And there are also digital worms; the one that crawls into the dog’s ear is not real. Where I thought we might get into trouble was with the Standards and Practices folks, who function sort of like censors in telling you when you’re over the top on the sex or violence meter. We were sure that we’d gone too far with this worm, pushed the limits of good taste. And we’d let one scene involving the worm run a little long–about four seconds–thinking for sure they’d cut it down. In the end, they let it all stand. So it’s quite creepy, really.

Q. For me, one of the most chilling moments on The X-Files is that scene in “Conduit” when we’re looking down on the little boy’s scrawls of digits, and it suddenly turns into the image of his missing sister.

A. That was the brain child of the writers, Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon. We had the boy writing down information in binary code that he’s getting off the television, and Alex had this idea of having it add up to a giant puzzle. “Conduit” is interesting for another reason, because the ending was not part of the original story, in which Ruby did not return. In the final version she comes back, experiencing symptoms consistent with having experienced weightlessness, but we don’t force any more closure on it than that. Actually, the issue of closure has been an ongoing dialogue with the network, because we’ve always resisted wrapping up each episode with a neat little bow at the end. You can’t do that with The X-Files, because pretending to explain the unexplainable is ridiculous and our audience is too smart for that. “Conduit” helped us define that X-File stories would not have forced plot resolutions, but would conclude with some emotional resolution–in this case we find Mulder in the church at the end with all of the unresolved feelings about his sister’s abduction brought up to the surface. And Scully has her epiphany that her science may not contain all of the answers and she gains new insights into her partner. It’s a moving moment.

Q. One of my favorite characters from the first season is Max Fenig, the UFO enthusiast in “Fallen Angel.” Who is he?

A. We all know this type of guy. Is he a kook–or a Cassandra? It’s an important leap for Mulder and Scully to realize that he might not be crying “The Sky is Falling,” that he might be on to something. Another important element in “Fallen Angel,” was the invisible alien being. I’ve always believed that what you don’t see is scarier than what you do see. And we’ve always wanted to avoid the ‘monster of the week’ syndrome. The translucent force field in “Fallen Angel,” is much more malevolent than something that has a fangs or a fur coat or a waggly tail. This episode also contains an important narrative element. When Scully comes to Mulder and says “They’re going to shut us down,” the idea that the X-Files projects can be terminated from above at any time resonates from that moment forward, a critical part of the narrative tension.

Q. One episode that manages to terrify without special effects is “Eve,” the episode that focused on genetic experimentation by the government.

A. Actually, I think this is a very terrifying episode. And it alludes to what we all know, which is that the government has had the power to conduct bizarre experiments and mess with people’s lives and then spend years covering the whole thing up. From the first moment, the teaser where the little girl is hugging her teddy bear out in the street and the joggers come by and find her daddy slumped in the swing set, drained of blood, we’re on edge. It’s one of the episodes that has no particular special effects, but is a supremely creepy idea, rendered very creepily. And because the ending is somewhat ambiguous, I can imagine following up with a sequel episode in the fourth or fifth season. Since that episode, the girls who play the twins have won a certain notoriety–they even appear at conventions! And as you probably know, the names give to the evil twins–Cindy and Teena–are also names of the wives of Glen Morgan and James Wong, two of our writers and producers, which is typical of the way we like to imbed every episode with asides and sick inside jokes!