Q & A: Online and on record with ‘X-Files’ mastermind
Every week, about 16 million viewers in the United States – and millions more around the world – sit down to watch a couple of FBI agents named Mulder and Scully investigate strange phenomena. As “The X-files” has grown from cult hit to mainstream success, creator Chris Carter has found himself increasingly second-guessed by the show’s fans, possibly because the show raises more questions than it answers. During a recent break in production, Carter talked by phone from his office in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the show is produced.
Q: How closely do you pay attention to what fans say or suggest on the Internet?
A: I pay a lot of attention. This year, which has been a very hectic year just getting the work done, I’ve had less time to go on-line. I depend on my assistant to download stuff for me. It’s been an interesting year for online people. There’s a proprietary tone in the air. They feel it’s their show now, not mine.
Q: There’s been a debate as to whether you were incorporating jokes or ideas based on fan postings on the Internet. Have you done that, and why or why not?
A: We have done that. [Chuckles] There was a lot of talk about how Mulder was always losing his gun. So in the episode “Nisei”, Mulder lost his gun, but was carrying a second gun in his ankle holster, as FBI agents do. He said, “I got tired of losing my gun.” So that was a response to people saying Mulder kept losing his guns too easily. At conventions, I get questions like “Why doesn’t Scully drive more?” My response, jokingly, is ’cause she’s a woman. I’m actually going to respond to that. In Episode 13 (in January), I address that little point as well.
Q: There has been a lot of talk about an “X-Files” feature film. Is that going to happen?
A: It will happen. The plan is to shoot it a year from this coming spring and early summer. I don’t know when it would be put in theaters.
Q: Are you writing a script?
A: I’m writing down ideas currently.
Q: Would it be shot in Vancouver?
A: Chances are it wouldn’t be. I think the feature has to give you things you can’t get on a TV series. We’d want to go on location.
Q: Your production company is called Ten Thirteen . Supposedly you called it that because Oct. 13 is your birthday.
A: That’s right.
Q: Then it’s just coincidence that Ten Thirteen is a perfect anagram for “the Internet”?
A: It’s coincidence. It’s interesting, because here’s this show that kind of grew up with the Internet. Well, actually the Internet is 10 or 20 years old. At least it grew up with the online services.
Q: Someone asked if in the opening credits, when you see a man’s distorted face, is that you?
A: It’s not. It was my idea, but it was an assistant to the people who were doing the main titles. Sometimes it feels like my face after a hard episode.
Q: Is there any sort of “Strange Luck” / “X-Files” crossover in the works? [“Strange Luck” airs before the “The X-files”]
A: No, it hasn’t been discussed. Why?
Q: Because at the end of a recent “Strange Luck”, Chance Harper’s brother said, “If anything happens to me, there’s only one person you can trust, an FBI agent named Mulder.”
A: Oh, yeah. They called and asked if they could do that. I just played basketball with [“Strange Luck” star] D.B. Sweeney the other day. Everybody’s up here. We’re on the same lot.
Q: Executive producers frequently create hit shows, then turn them over to other people and move on to other projects. How long do you see yourself maintaining this level of involvement in the series?
A: For the life of the series.
Q: But are you under pressure from Fox to create another show?
A: I am under pressure from Fox. Contractually, I’m obligated to do that. I’m working on something else for fall of ’96. It’s in development.
Q: So tell me all about it.
A: It’s really in the conceptual stages right now.
Q: There’s a lot of back and forth among fans over whether “The X-Files” has gone too mainstream, lost some of its edge, once it started becoming successful. Do you understand the fans’ concern and is it something you think about?
A: There’s a sense that something has been found, poured over and looked at, and what was opened was a wonderful present, but it has now become everybody’s present. The mainstream numbers that we get now, we’ve gained a certain popularity, and some of the people who found it early feel they’re having to share it. I honestly think it’s a lot of people listening to themselves talk. If anything, I think the show has gotten darker. It’s still as subversive as it once was. I still think it’s a cult show.
Q: As you know, there has been a lot of speculation that Scully is Samantha. [Agent Mulder’s sister, Samantha, was abducted by aliens when she was a child and never seen again, causing Mulder to become obsessed with UFO’s. If she were alive, she would be the same age as his partner, Dana Scully.]
A: [Chuckles] People with too much time on their hands.
Q: Can you tell fans that is definitely not the case?
A: That is not the case.
Q: There’s also speculation that Scully is a lesbian and that’s why there have been only fleeting mentions of past romance for her. Is Scully gay?
A: That is not the case either. I hate to answer anything definitely. But Scully is heterosexual.
Q: While romance is not what drives the show, some fans are very interested: Will we ever see her involved with someone?
A: Stay tuned.
Q: At one point in the Clyde Bruckman episode, he tells Scully she won’t die. Are we ever going to learn what that’s supposed to mean? [One of the best episodes this season featured guest star Peter Boyle as Clyde Bruckman, a psychic insurance salesman who could foresee the way his clients would die.]
A: Ummmm. [Long pause.] I think that was peculiar to that episode. People should not take it perfectly literally.
Q: Is there some sort of unifying theory behind all of the UFO’s, aliens, government cover-ups, Cancerman, Mr. X, etc.? [Many episodes deal with an ongoing story that extraterrestrials have been abducting people around the United States for years, and that the government not only knows this but has been cooperating at some still-undetermined level with the aliens, and is covering all this up. This cover-up involves several shadowy figures with no names, so X-philes make up their own names: Cancerman for example, is a guy who smokes a lot.]
A: Roughly I have an idea about where we’re going. I try not to be too rigid about what that idea is. I don’t want to take the straight path to that point. I know the direction I’m headed, but I don’t necessarily know what paths I’m taking to get there. I like it that way.
Q: But at the end of the series’ run, will we finally learn how it all fit together?
A: I think so.