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Archive for 1997

Cinefantastique: Morgan and Wong Return to The X-Files

Morgan and Wong Return to The X-Files
Paula Vitaris

In January 1995, Glen Morgan and James Wong, excited about the new show they were going to create for Fox, called Space: Above and Beyond, bid farewell to The X-Files. Although their contract called for them to return to the X-Files if Space was not picked up or was cancelled, they anticipated never returning to the show that had brought them a certain amount of fame, thanks to pivotal episodes like “Squeeze,” “Beyond the Sea,” “E.B.E.,” “Little Green Men,” and “One Breath,” and the creation of many characters – including The Lone Gunmen, Skinner, Bill, Margaret and Melissa Scully who instantly wormed their way into fans’ hearts.

Never say “Never Again.” Space: Above and Beyond struggled on for a full season in a dreadful timeslot (7 p.m. on Sunday), enduring numerous pre-emptions and basement-level ratings whenever it did air, until it was finally cancelled in May 1996, Angry at their treatment by the network, Morgan and Wong thought about jumping ship to another network, but struck a bargain instead: they would spend a half season on both The X-Files and Chris Carter’s new show Millennium, in return for 20th Century-Fox producing the pilot of The Notorious, a show they had wanted to do for nearly seven years. They also told Carter they wanted to use cast members from SPACE in their X-Files and Millennium episodes; Carter told them that was fine.

The first order of business for Morgan and Wong was catching up on episodes they had missed. They had been so busy on SPACE that they had not watching anything from The X-Files’ third season, except for the episodes written by Glen’s brother Darin, “It felt a bit like, ‘You can’t go home again; , like we were left behind, “James Wong said. “We were out of it, by the time we came back. It was like, ‘Hey, guys, do you remember who we were?’ and people were almost too busy doing their own thing to take a moment to acknowledge that, I’m exaggerating a bit for effect, but it sort of felt like that when we came back, especially when we went to Vancouver. We wanted to pile on , the work early in the season and help out as much as we could before going into The Notorious. I had thought Darin’s scripts were fabulous. I thought some of those mythology shows were incredible. The production values, were: ‘my god!’ Some shows were disappointing. But you have that every season. The X-Files became a huge success after we left, so they knew what they were doing.”

The pair agreed to write and produce, as consulting producers, four episodes for The X-Files, and two for Millennium (they ended up agreeing to write a third Millennium episode as a favor to Peter Roth, the newly installed network head). Because the schedule called for them to create a year’s worth of work in half a season, they decided to split the writing, to some degree, Morgan felt somewhat uncomfortable with Millennium’s bleak tone, so he worked more on X-Files scripts, while Wong concentrated on Millennium. To make life even more hectic, they signed a deal with Wong’s poker buddy Dean Devlin; and his partner Roland Emmerich (the pair responsible for the M-G-M hit Stargate and Fox’s smash Independence Day) to write the script for a remake of Fantastic Voyage, which would be due the same day in late spring they were scheduled to deliver The Notorious pilot to Fox.

Morgan was also going through some personal changes. His marriage, which had been unhappy for a long time, finally failed, and he became embroiled in divorce and custody proceedings. Morgan’s regrets about the divorce and loss of everyday contact with his children were reflected in his scripts, as far back as SPACE’s “The Angriest Angel,” which revealed that McQueen felt had once been married, to the enraged James Horn, suffering the guilt of a custody battle in Millennium’s “Dead Letters,” to the tormented Ed Jerse of “Never Again;” first seen signing divorce papers in court. Around the same time, Morgan’s friendship with Kristen Cloke, the female lead of Space, had blossomed into romance, and his feeling about that relationship inspired the writing of “The Field Where 1 Died.”

First, though, came “Home,” a slam-in-your-face monster movie that showcased Morgan and Wong’s more devilish tendencies. As Morgan liked to say, if “it’s a Morgan and Wong script, there’s got to be death.”


“I see James Morrison; Rodney Rowland and Morgan Weisser as three big freak brothers,” Glen Morgan told Chris Carter, Carter’s response: “Okay!” Morrison, Rowland and Weisser, of course, were three cast members from Space: Above and Beyond: Morgan and Wong wanted to write about three freak brothers because they had concluded, after their survey of the third season episodes, that The X-Files needed a kick in the pants, something that would be swift and shocking; an old-fashioned horror show. “We wanted to start off with a bang,” noted Wong. Freak brothers would do the trick.

Kristen Cloke suggested the two watch a documentary called Brother’s Keeper, about three mentally, socially and economically deprived brothers who lived in upstate New York — in fact, in the same county Morgan’s own family had lived in when he was a boy — and the legal fall-out after one of the brothers is asphyxiated in bed. Did the other brother deliberately strangle him, or was it an accident? How do you deal with people who are barely self-aware? Morgan and Wong also read a number of books about nature and evolution, including a volume called Dark Nature. “Dark Nature was all about the morality of nature; for instance, when a mother bird throws a baby out of the nest,” Morgan explained. “There are even instances of baby birds throwing themselves out of the nest when they knew they couldn’t make it. The human equivalent would be so horrid.”

He and Wong concocted a story about the Peacock family of peaceable Home, Pennsylvania, a town that takes pride in maintaining its traditional ways. When a dead, horribly deformed newborn is discovered buried in a field next to the ramshackle Peacock farm, Sheriff Andy Taylor (played by Tucker Smallwood, another SPACE cast member), calls in the FBI. Sheriff Taylor’s name, of course, is an homage to Andy Griffith’s popular TV character. The Sheriff Taylor of “Home” also has a deputy named Barney. “We had to do that!” laughed Morgan.. As it turns out, Sheriff Taylor, for all his affability, has something in common with the Peacocks; like them, he will do anything to maintain the status quo, even if it means not poking his nose into situations that require his professional attention.

“Thematically, Sheriff Taylor was doing the same thing that the brothers were doing. They didn’t want things to change,” Morgan said. Scully conducts an examination on the baby, and when the DNA tests come back, she is shocked to find results impossible to believe; they indicate the child had three fathers.

The Peacocks are completely cut off from the community, except as the butt of macabre speculations by the town’s children. “I think we all know a house like the Peacocks’,” Morgan said. “It didn’t have to be a farm like theirs, but everybody always has a house on their street where you didn’t want to go.”

Another source was a story from Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography, which they had wanted to adapt for years into a script. Chaplin relates an incident that took place when, as a 16-year-old performer on tour in the English countryside, his landlord for the week asks him if he would like to meet “Gilbert.”

A half a man with no legs, an oversized, blond, flat-shaped head, a sickening white face, a sunken nose, a large mouth and powerful muscular shoulders and arms, crawled from underneath the dresser. He wore flannel underwear with the legs of the garment cut off to the thighs, from which ten thick, stubby toes stuck out. The grisly creature could have been twenty or forty. He looked up and grinned, showing a set of yellow, widely spaced teeth. “Hey Gilbert, jump!” said the father and the wretched man lowered himself slowly, then shot up by his arms almost to the height of my head. “How do you think he’d fit in with a circus? The human frog!” I was so horrified I could hardly answer. However, I suggested the names of several circuses that he might write to. He insisted on the wretched creature going through further tricks, hopping, climbing and standing on his hands on the arms of a rocking chair. When at last he had finished I pretended to be most enthusiastic and complimented him on his tricks. “Good night, Gilbert,” I said before leaving, and in a hollow voice, and tongue-tied, the poor fellow answered: “Good night.” – Charlie Chaplin My Autobiography’.

Morgan had hoped this tale could be used in his brother Darin Morgan’s first X-Files script, ‘Humbug,” but it didn’t work out. Instead, Gilbert ended up in “Home,” transformed into the limbless, proud Mrs. Peacock, who Mulder and Scully discover living under a dresser in the family’s filthy house. (The Peacock name belonged to a slovenly family that used to live next door to Morgan’s grandparents). Mulder and Scully have entered the house, acting under the suspicion the mother of the dead baby might be held captive there, but the only woman they find is Mrs. Peacock, who they eventually surmise is the mother.

According to James Wong, the Peacock family doesn’t engage in incest, but in inbreeding. “Inbreeding is this weird, freaky thing. People took ‘Home’ as a really perverse, shocking episode, more than we meant it to be. We intended to talk about nature versus civilization. What is the true nature of humans? Can you devolve, become animals? If taken away from the civilizing influence of society, what happens to you? We wanted to show what happens to people when they are outsiders.” Added Morgan: “Inbreeding was something that can occur in nature, unlike incest, which a guy coming in the room at night to his daughter or step-daughter, and saying, ‘We’ve got our special secret.’ This was about inbreeding.”

Fox Standards and Practices balked at the storyline, but finally agreed, with the proviso that the Peacock boys not just be odd-looking, but look like monsters. “They weren’t going to approve people that you could really come across,”

Morgan said. “They liked their idea, because they wanted a monster episode. Also, they didn’t want the Peacocks to talk.” With no dialogue and mounds of prosthetic make-up now required, the roles of the Peacock boys, Morgan and Wong felt, were no longer suitable for Morrison, Rowland and Weisser. “We said, ‘Okay, you guys gotta wait. Just wait.’ And we just went with the whole monster thing,” Morgan said.

The teaser became a bone of contention with the network censors. As lighting flashes and thunder crashes in the middle of the night, a woman gives birth to a baby, which is taken outside and buried alive by three lumpish men. One begins to cry as the grave is dug: The censor was particularly concerned about the crying sound the baby makes.

Post-production producer Paul Rabwin and sound engineer Thierry Couturier came up with a crying baby sound that, according to Morgan, made Rosemary’s baby sound like a cartoon. “It was the most horrifying thing you’d ever heard,” Morgan said. “It was great.” The network censor, a woman named Linda, did not agree. She wanted to hear a mutant baby sound. “Paul and Thierry had this mutant baby that sounded like a squeaky toy. I said, ‘That’s horrible!’ and she goes, ‘That’s the one I want.’ I said, ‘Okay.” But that first one was just so great.”

Of several shocking scenes in ‘Home,” the most shocking is the brutal murder of Sheriff Andy Taylor and his wife Barbara, midway through the episode. While the Taylors prepare for bed on a quiet evening, the Peacocks hop into their car and drive to the Taylor home, to the accompaniment of the Johnny Mathis song, “Wonderful! Wonderful!’

Taylor, who smells danger, considers taking his gun from its locked box, but decides against it. The Peacocks arrive and Taylor is now armed only with a baseball bat, but the Peacocks grab it from him and beat him and his wife to death. The sequence is cut for maximum shock effect, with much lifting and descending of the bat (although you don’t actually see it connect), accompanied by a relentless series of thwacks on the soundtrack. “We asked, how would animals attack?” Wong said. “The answer was, in packs.”

Morgan compared this scene to the famous scene in Psycho, when Janet Leigh is murdered in the shower. “That’s the reason why you spend an act and a half or an act so the audience will go ‘I really like this guy,’ If you like Andy Taylor, just think what it will be like when you get Mulder and Scully in a room with those guys, knowing that these people will kill anybody.” Morgan also wanted to write a scene like the ones in ‘Squeeze,’ like the one where Tooms crams himself down a chimney. “We used extended sequences that took up a lot of time. That’s something I think The X-Files lost in year three. They don’t do that anymore. They just open up a toilet and there’s a rat. So we wrote a long scene where these three big goons go off to kill the sheriff. We wanted to see those guys driving a big old car, with ‘Wonderful, Wonderful’ playing on the radio. I knew I wanted to use that song from the beginning, but we went through about fifty songs and then just settled on that. There’s something about that song that’s really creepy It’s too wonderful. It’s so wonderful, it really bothers me. And I just dropped it in there. (Producers] Kim Manners [who directed ‘Home’] and Rob Bowman would go, ‘The guys should talk,’ I said, ‘No, they don’t talk. They just come out with a club.’ It was all in the script and I said, ‘Here it is, give me bitching shots,’ and they loved that.”

In contrast to the murder and mayhem is a quiet scene between Mulder and Scully, sitting in the sunshine on a park bench, as they react to their examination of the dead baby. Their conversation, about their childhoods and desires for the future, grew out of Morgan and Wong’s looking ahead to where the characters might go in the fourth season and, even into the fifth. “At the beginning of the year, everybody was at the first meeting, and they said, ‘What do we do?’ “Morgan recalled, “and we said, ‘Well, you want to go year five,’ I told them, ‘Right now, Mulder and Scully are together. What we should do is start to sprinkle bits of conversation about the idea that ‘You don’t know me like you think you do,’ like in this scene, where Mulder says, ‘You don’t know me as well as you think. I’d like to retire.’ and Scully says she’d like to be a mother. And Mulder can go, ‘Really?’ It’s to show that you could be with somebody and not know them.”

The network considered the episode shocking enough that two days before it aired, they told Ten Thirteen it would have The X-Files’ first parental advisory. “I thought, ‘What for?’ ” Morgan said. “Then I went, ‘Yeah, absolutely, put it on there!’ More people will watch it. Jim and I were proud to have that. ‘Hey, mom! I got a parental advisory!'”

Reaction to “Home” was vociferous on the internet. The fans were divided down the middle. Some loved it, seeing it as a dark satire on family values; others thought it gratuitous and pointless. “It was much more controversial than we thought it would be,” Wong said. “Some fans were repulsed beyond analyzing the show; they were just kind of sickened by it. They were pretty turned off. Some people loved it. There was a lot of really, really negative reaction.”

“I have really been stung by that whole reaction,” Morgan admitted. “To me, the show must have become so big while we were away. I think a lot of people hadn’t been exposed to what we did when we were first on the show. They were going, ‘Oh my god, what are they doing?’ and we go, ‘But, this is what we always did!’ We had “Squeeze,” or episodes like Chris’ ‘Irresistible,’ these shocking, horrible shows. Act four of ‘Tooms’ I think is on a level with ‘Home,’ so we were going, ‘What is all the ruckus about?’ We figured a lot of people don’t know that earlier stuff, or certain tones that we were going after then.”

Is “Home” a comment on family values? Morgan is equivocal. “I went through a time where I lived at home with my wife and kids, but it wasn’t a good family. I think a family should be together, but it shouldn’t be together at any cost because then it’s not good. It’s kind of a comment, in that I believe in that family values, but it depends on the family. The Peacocks had family values. If there was a comment there, it was that.”

In the grand X-Files tradition of giving the audience something different every week, Morgan and Wong’s next episode, “The Field Where I Died,” was a complete contrast to the outrageous “Home.” The story, about Mulder’s fleeting connection with a doomed young woman, was openly emotional and tragic. The visuals were on the opposite side of the scale from “Home”: director of photography Jon Joffin shot the exteriors in gentle blue, pink and gold pastels, and the interiors in a nostalgic sienna tint. Rob Bowman, in his first collaboration with Morgan and Wong, turned in some of his most lyrical and intimate directing. Mark Snow composed one of his most melodic scores.


“The Field Where I Died” begins when the FBI, acting on a tip from an anonymous source, raids a cult compound in search of illegal weapons. During the raid, Mulder is strangely drawn to a nearby field. He discovers, hidden in an underground bunker, the cult’s leader, Vernon Ephesian, and his six wives on the verge of drinking poison. Mulder finds one of them, a young woman named Melissa Riedel-Ephesian (Kristen Cloke) is oddly familiar to him, although he’s never met her before. The FBI can find no weapons, and Mulder and Scully’s interrogation of the fanatical Ephesian is equally fruitless. They next question Melissa, but the stress of the questions causes the agitated woman to snap. She begins to manifest a number of personalities, including that of a man named Sidney who claims Truman is president, and a small child named Lily. Scully believes Melissa may be suffering from multiple personality disorder; Mulder, disturbed by his feelings about Melissa, offers the theory that she is being invaded by past lives. Then the case takes on a personal twist: another personality; named Sarah, surfaces, to claim that she saw her husband, Sullivan Biddle, die in a Civil War battle fought in the field outside the cult compound, that she recognizes his soul in Mulder, and that they are soulmates bound together forever, even if they meet only briefly in this lifetime: To find out the truth of the situation, and to see if “Sarah” knows of any Civil War era bunkers in which the cult might have hidden weapons, Mulder calls in a hypnosis regression therapist. Both he and Melissa undergo harrowing hypnosis sessions in which they experience a series of past .lives, which lead to moments of truth between Mulder and Scully, as well as between Mulder and Melissa, and Melissa and Vernon Ephesian.

The creation of “The Field Where I Died” was an enjoyable experience for Morgan and Wong; the only problem they ran into was an initial cut of the episode that ran 20 minutes over, requiring them to shorten or eliminate entire scenes. The story had personal meaning for Morgan, and both writers loved working with Rob Bowman for the first time. “Rob is the greatest,” Morgan declared. “I regret not having done more with him earlier. He wanted to know how we wanted every single thing, whether it was an emotional or scientific point. The great thing with Bowman is that he always understands what you’re talking about. It was just Rob and me in the tone meeting for ‘The Field Where I Died,” and I was able to say, ‘I want this episode to feel like the part in Ken Bums’ Civil War documentary where they read the Sullivan Ballou letter.’ And he would immediately get on that phone and say, ‘Get me that CD!’ and he’d listen to that music all that time. You can say to Rob, ‘I want this to feel like this piece of music,’ and he’d go, ‘Okay.’ He works from a very similar place.”

This was also the episode Morgan and Wong planned to write for Kristen Cloke, who had been their leading lady in Space: Above and Beyond. For Morgan, an episode about reincarnation and eternal soulmates was not just a good story for Mulder, but a personal expression of the thoughts and emotions he had experienced during the past year, when his relationship with Cloke grew from friendship into romance (they are now engaged), “I had gone through a failed marriage in which I had really believed,” Morgan revealed. “I had always wanted to believe there is somebody out there for you, and I had been in a situation where that didn’t come true. And I thought, ‘It’s a lie. That person you think is out there for you is a lie.’ But then I met Kristen and I was rejuvenated by that. I really thought. that you can be reborn in this life, not just life after death. I regained faith that there is one person for you, one person who, by being in your life, can motivate you to change the crappy things you were doing before. In this case, it was Kristen. I knew she did a lot of characters and voices, so I wanted to incorporate that.. I wanted to write something for her that challenged her. Also, I wanted to write something for David Duchovny that challenged him.”

Apart from personal considerations, Morgan and Wong wanted to reorient the show’s attitude towards the paranormal, which they felt in the third session had been expressed far too often as something evil or wrong. “The paranormal isn’t about death or evil,” Morgan said. “It’s about wonder.” In line with this approach, he and Wong wanted to avoid writing a conventional villain; instead, the principal conflicts take place between Mulder and Scully or are internal, with both Mulder and Melissa haunted by their pasts, in this life, and perhaps previous lives. Morgan based the character of Vernon Ephesian on David Koresh, a man who many saw as a dangerous crackpot, yet many others found appealing. He and Wong cast Michael Massee, an actor they already knew, and who was also a friend of David Duchovny’s, as Vernon. “He came in, read and was great,” Morgan said. “Michael made Vernon very real. He had the intensity of somebody like Koresh or Charles Manson. He believed in what he was doing. In year three the villains were really just villains. They were nefarious and you knew from the beginning they were the bad guys, and that’s all they ever were. I wanted to write bad guys who were in a gray area, arid that includes even the Peacock brothers in ‘Home.’ In researching Koresh, I thought, ‘Here’s a Jim Jones type of guy.’ I read a book called Why Waco, and what I found interesting were the actions the FBI took and how they tried to muscle Koresh out of the compound. Nobody there really understood the Book of Revelations. If they had, there could have been a peaceful way out of it. Mulder would have understand what this was all. about. At Waco, the negotiators were negotiating as if Koresh were just a hostage-taker.”

Morgan had long wanted to write an episode about reincarnation, a topic he had often discussed with his father, who held a deep interest in reincarnation and had read a great deal about it. A, scene from Patton, one of Morgan’s favorite movies, was another inspiration. “I really love that scene in Patton where George C. Scott, as Patton, is driving with Omar Bradley, and they’re going to check out the battlefield where the Americans have been wiped out, and Patton says, ‘Turn here, turn right,’ and they say, ‘No, General, the battlefield’s up there,’ and he goes, ‘It’s over there,'” Morgan said. “They go to this field that’s all ruins, and George C. Scott starts saying, ‘The Romans came from this direction. The Carthaginians were fierce warriors, but they were not good enough for the Romans.’ And he goes on to describe the whole battle. Then he looks at the others, all choked up and he says, ‘I was there.’ And he recites a poem about reincarnation. It’s such a great scene. It always had an effect on me. And I thought I would like to do a whole piece that had that feel.” The Civil War seemed like the perfect period to draw on. It was a war that had taken place on American soil, and the era had recently experienced a rebirth of popular interest, thanks in good part to Ken Burns’ documentary on the Civil War. Morgan had been fascinated by Burns’ film, and was particularly affected by a letter read in the film from Major Sullivan Ballou to his wife, Sarah, the real life models for the Sullivan Biddle and Sarah Kavanaugh of “The Field Where I Died.” “I’m forbidden to listen to the Sullivan Ballou letter now,” Morgan confessed, “because I just cry like a fool. I think Bowman has my CD of it now. It’s the greatest thing ever written. I really do believe it.”

The teaser to “The Field Where I Died” opens on a scene somewhat reminiscent of the scene in Patton where the general recites a poem. Duchovny’s voice is heard reciting some lines from the Robert Browning poem Paracelsus, while Mulder, unmoving, stands in a field, gazing at the pieces of a photo that has been torn in half. Something has affected him deeply, but the meaning of the teaser does not become apparent until the end of the episode, when the identical scene is repeated. Morgan couldn’t remember whether the scene in Patton directly inspired his use of a poem, but he recalled reading that passage from Paracelsus in a book on reincarnation literature. “That poem struck me as beautiful. It was Jim’s idea to bookend the episode. We wanted the teaser to be enigmatic and cryptic, so we wouldn’t give it all away in the beginning.” What makes this episode an X-file, though, is not the idea of reincarnation per se, but the possibility that Scully’s viewpoint is the correct one, that Melissa is suffering from multiple personality or dissociative personality disorder. Morgan hit on the past lives versus multiple personalities scenario after hearing an observation by Shirley MacLaine – well known for her own interest in past lives phenomena – about Peter Sellers. “I don’t remember the exact wording,” Morgan said, “but MacLaine said Sellers was a great actor, yet disturbed in his personal life because he was invaded by his past lives. I found that pretty interesting. I heard that before I was ever on The X-Files, and I always thought about that. For ‘The Field Where I Died,’ I thought, ‘That’s kind of neat. Is it multiple personality or is Melissa invaded by her past lives?’ It just seemed natural skeptic versus believer stuff. So I had that. Then I needed to get the FBI into the story, so I thought about why would the FBI be called in, and Waco came to mind. So I set Melissa in this compound, and she’s the kind of character who would make Scully say, ‘Her life is messed up.’ Melissa isn’t just messed up; she is the victim of childhood abuse, which bolster’s Scully argument that her personalities are psychological, not paranormal, in origin. Melissa’s background also explains her membership in the cult, and her subservience to Vernon Ephesian, and even why Mulder would be taken by her. “I took a class on cults, communes and alternative lifestyles when I was in college at Loyola, ” Morgan commented. “Cults attracted a certain type of person, someone who was a little directionless, probably had done some drugs in the past, didn’t have much of a family, and was looking for a family situation. They were people who were lost and sad. One reason why I wrote Melissa that way was my notion that if you’re Mulder and you found your soulmate, the love of all your loves, within the body of this unappealing person, what would you do? I don’t know if we totally explored that. I don’t know if Duchovny would agree with me – he knows more about Mulder – but I think Melissa is the type of women that Mulder would be attracted to. Someone like Bambi in ‘The War of the Coprophages’ is good for a joke, but I don’t really see Mulder going after her. There’s something sad about Melissa. There was a secret within her that was important for him to get at. That mirrors his life, and his own search for his sister. He is a character whose whole drive is to help everybody, but he’s so unsuccessful at that, and with helping himself. All he wants is to find one person that he can rescue – but he’s not too good at it.”

The action in “The Field Where I Died” halts in act three, for the back-to-back hypnosis regression scenes. Mulder’s nominal excuse for calling in the therapist is the hope that if they can call up to Sarah, Melissa’s Civil War personality, she may reveal the location of bunkers in the field where the cult may have cached weapons. But there is another motivation driving Mulder; he desperately wants to find out for himself the truth of the situation. When Melissa, speaking as Sarah, offers no concrete information, Mulder volunteers to be hypnotized, hoping he can access the past life that was Sullivan Biddle, who may also know where the bunkers are. Instead, what Mulder digs up is a past weighed down with loss and death. “Early on, when we were first on The X-Files, one of the rules to writing the show was that Mulder would always be three steps ahead of everybody,” Morgan said. “In his interrogations, he’d go to points A, B, C, D – and then he would jump to F. And everybody would go, ‘Who is this nut?’ But the audience would go, ‘Oh I know what he’s up to – wow!’ The way we looked at it, he was always ahead of the crowd. In ‘The Field Where I Died,’ he’s assigned to a case because he knows about the Bible and Ephesian’s claims about the paranormal. And then, all of a sudden, in the middle of an arrest, he follows this girl – Melissa – outside, and he gets this feeling: ‘I’ve been here before.’ So here’s a case where Mulder didn’t go looking for something. It came to him. And he just had to investigate that. He liked the idea of what he thought he would be finding out, and I think he wanted it to be true.” Under hypnosis, Mulder describes a scene of death and destruction from the Warsaw ghetto; in this past life, he is a Jewish woman, Scully is his father, Samantha is his son, and the Cigarette Smoking Man is a Gestapo officer. Next he becomes Sullivan Biddle, already dead in battle, Scully is his sergeant, and Melissa is there, as Sarah. He has no information on the bunkers, all he sees is death. Morgan wrote these scenes to express the overwhelming sense of loss that Mulder has felt his entire life. The scene was shot in extreme close-up, inspired, Morgan said, by his love of Ingmar Bergman’s films. “To spend three quarters of an act, six or seven minutes, in close-up, on television, is wonderful,” he said. “On TV, we’re always cutting back and forth. We’re always blowing stuff up. Jim and I participate in that. Act Four of ‘Home’ couldn’t be more different than act three of ‘The Field Where I Died.’ I’m proud of that. ”

Morgan’s enthusiasm for the scene was not matched by a good number of the show’s fans, who felt the scene was overwrought, both in the writing, and in Duchovny’s performance. “I think both Kristen and David did a great job,” Morgan said. “David just can’t win. If he walks around going, ‘Scully, I’m going here. Oh. Extreme possibilities,’ everyone says, ‘God, that guy just mumbles his way through.’ If he emotes, people don’t want to see that. People can say his acting was bad. I don’t think that it was, but some felt it was obviously ‘acting.’ It’s in a close-up, it’s a long monologue, so it points to acting. But you never hear anybody criticize his acting, one way or the other, when Mulder asks Scully, ‘If you had been told that we had gone through a lifetime together, would it change anything?’ David was fantastic in that scene. But no one ever says it’s great, because it’s hidden by a lot of other things in the overall story and the situation.”

Bowman’s director’s cut ran so long that Morgan and Wong were forced to trim twenty minutes out of the episode, including eliminating one of Melissa’s personalities, a crude loudmouth named Jobee, as well information that supported Scully’s viewpoint, and large sections from Melissa’s and Mulder’s hypnosis sessions. Mulder’s session originally began with his re-experiencing Samantha’s abduction, but Morgan cut it, figuring that if something had to go, that particular sequence was the most likely candidate, since it provided no new information about Mulder.

Morgan felt that the emotional impact of Mulder’s hypnosis session might have been marred by the cutting, since it interfered with the flow of Duchovny’s acting throughout the entire scene. “I called David and I said, ‘I’m cutting it this way.’ I could hear that he was upset. I know what actors go through to prepare, and then to have to sit in a chair for a couple of hours in front of a bunch of grips and gaffers and people that they hang out with everyday, and cry – it’s just like taking off your clothes. And then to find it’s been cut out. I had to come home and tell Kristen, ‘Look, this part is coming out.’ She was upset and David was upset. Jim was off prepping ‘Musings of Cigarette Smoking Man’ or doing something and I was just very alone.’

Another cut Morgan regrets is one that would have given some weight to Scully’s opinions concerning Melissa’s mental state and the unreliability of memories recovered through hypnosis. In the fourth act, Mulder and Scully drive past a sign pointing the way to Sullivan Field, and another sign indicating Kavanaugh Road. Scully tells Mulder that he could have seen the signs previously and subconsciously processed the names. “I wish I’d had an extra 20 seconds to keep that in,” Morgan said, who felt that Scully’s point of view was somewhat shortchanged in the episode. He also felt that if Scully’s side had been emphasized, it could have deflected the criticism that, to go by the teaser to third season’s” Apocrypha,” the Cigarette Smoking Man already was alive the year the Warsaw ghetto was destroyed and his soul could not possibly have occupied the body of a Gestapo officer. “If we’d focused on Scully’s viewpoint more, we could have thrown up the idea that maybe Mulder’s wrong, maybe this is just wishful thinking,” Morgan added. “I know this sounds really bad, but to me the hypnosis scene is more important than a teaser. I was desperate to cut out time, and in favoring emotional content over plot content, I might have blown it.”

Although Mulder’s attention is focused on Melissa in “The Field Where I Died,” his relationship with Scully also comes in for examination. When Mulder suggests to Skinner that Melissa be taken back to the cult compound to see if that will make her, or one of her personalities, reveal the location of hidden weapons, Scully is outraged; she feels that he is denying treatment to a sick woman. Mulder, who understands Vernon’s apocalyptic thinking, responds that they are responsible for the potential loss of fifty lives – the cult members – if Vernon is set free. Once Skinner is gone, Scully tells Mulder that he doesn’t feel responsible for the fifty lives, or even Melissa Riedel; he’s responsible only to himself. This brutally honest line, said Morgan, came out of Scully’s ability to look at an entire situation. “Here are fifty people. It’s like Waco, where you had all those people and cameras and the FBI agents. There’s so much potential danger, and if you had one agent who just wanted to talk to one person, like Mulder wants to talk to Melissa — well, that’s pretty selfish. Somebody had to call him on it, and Scully would be the one to do it.”

Scully’s attitude softens after the hypnosis regression session, where she witnesses first-hand the pain that lies behind Mulder’s obsessive behavior. “I wanted to sum up Mulder and Scully’s entire relationship with that question Mulder asks Scully afterwards, if we had known from the beginning that we had lived all these lives, would it change anything, how would you feel?’ ” Morgan said. “I just wanted to raise that question between the two of them. I’m not sure what the answer is. My feeling is that she is holding on to some scepticism. Her answer in the episode — “I wouldn’t change a day” – might be a little ‘tee-vee.’ ”

If Mulder and Melissa are really soulmates, what does that say about Mulder’s relationship with Scully, his best, and only, friend? Would it preclude Mulder and Scully being soulmates too? “Absolutely not,” Morgan declared. “My dad always said that you went through all these different lives and all these different situations, the goal is to reach perfection. So you had a hell of a lot of situations to go through. Ultimately you would want your lover to be your best friend. But what’s so bad if one of your soulmates is just a great friend? And how interesting, although there’s someone else he feels could be his soulmate, that Mulder and Scully have gone through many lives together. I read a post online asking why Scully was always a man in the past, and I hadn’t thought about that. I wish I had altered that; it was a mistake.”

Near the end of “The Field Where I Died,” Vernon Ephesian and the cultists have returned to their compound, after lack of evidence allows their release from custody. The FBI continues to search the field next to the compound for hidden weapons, and Vernon, believing he has no other recourse, compels his followers to imbibe a cyanide-laced drink, rather than face defeat by a government agency he considers to be “Satan’s Army.” Mulder, who alone realizes the effect so many federal agents close by could have on Ephesian, rushes with Scully back to the compound. He arrives too late. All the cultists are dead, and the camera pulls back to show Mulder walking among the mass of bodies. He is in search of Melissa, who has finally succumbed to Vernon’s will, and drunk the poison. “That’s a great shot Rob did,” Morgan said. “Mark Snow’s music really helped out there, too.” No matter how despairing Mulder is, Morgan said, he would not be tempted, like Melissa, to end his life. “I looked at Melissa as if she decided reincarnation might be true, and that if she had chosen this life, at that point she realized, ‘This is a bad idea. This is a miserable life and I’m not getting much out of it. I’m just going back to heaven and I’ll wait for you.’ She wanted out. But Mulder, as much as he’d love to go to the other side to see what’s there, is a life-affirming character. He’s going to keep on looking. He’s not going to quit. Mulder has questions for this life.”

Reception to “The Field Where I Died” was mixed. A number of criticisms were lobbed at it, but Morgan regards it as a meaningful and affecting piece of work, regretting only that he had to cut twenty minutes that he feels would have made it even stronger. The next Morgan and Wong episode, which Morgan wrote solo and Wong directed, turned out to be a much more frustrating experience.


He’s always been around, the Cigarette Smoking Man. He first showed up in the X-Files pilot, silently smoking and watching from a comer as Section Chief Blevins assigned Dana Scully to work with that oddball agent in the basement, Fox ‘Spooky” Mulder. At the end of the hour he reappeared, stashing away in an enormous Pentagon storage room stolen evidence of alien visitation, He lurked menacingly around the fringes of the first season, saying nothing, until Glen Morgan and James Wong gave him four words, “Of course I do,” at the end of “Tooms.” Since then, the Cigarette Smoking Man has become a major player in the X-Files cosmos; even when you don’t see him, you’re sure he’s behind every cover-up and plot twist in the show. He is America’s favorite TV villain, according to a readers’ poll in TV Guide. Several of the scenes that contributed to the character’s growing popularity appeared in Morgan and Wong scripts; who can forget the barely repressed surprise on his face when Skinner kicks him out of his office in “Little Green Men” or his cold-blooded reaction to the gun a desperate Mulder sticks in his face in “One Breath”? Thanks to scenes like these – and many others, written by Chris Carter and other members of the writing staff – actor William B. Davis is now recognized wherever he goes and finds himself in demand for personal appearances.

You can’t help but be curious about such an enigmatic character, How did he come to devote his life to covering up, well, everything the government wants covered up? The answers to those questions intrigued Morgan and Wong when they returned to the X-Files, and they thought the time had come to do an episode about the life of the Cigarette Smoking Man. Morgan remembered reading a graphic novel called The Biography of Lex Luthor – a history of Superman’s arch-enemy – and he thought writing something similar for the Cigarette Smoking Man would make a great script.

Chris Carter agreed, and Morgan sat down to plot out and write his script. This would be his first solo writing assignment on The X-Files, and James Wong would make his directing debut. Wong had directed a few student films in college and done second unit directing on Space: Above and Beyond, but otherwise had not directed; it was never a burning ambition for him. But he was looking for something new to do when he and Morgan agreed to come back to The X-Files. “I felt, what’s the challenge here?”

Wong said. “I liked directing second unit on Space. It was fun, and I thought maybe as an additional challenge, I could direct an X-Files episode. Doing that on The X-Files was safe, in a way, because it was a show that was really well established, The crew was really good, they knew what they were doing. If I were a complete idiot, I would be bailed out. The X-Files is so well established I couldn’t cause a disaster.”

Although the script was Morgan’s, he and Wong held frequent discussions about the story, and Wong knew the material thoroughly. “Even though Glen wrote it, we talked together about what we wanted to do in the script and what I would do in directing it, what shots we needed,” he said. “It was a wonderful collaboration, and it was great to be able to go in and direct something that I was so familiar with. I thought it would be fun to direct a show without David and Gillian. It was like a clean slate, It wasn’t that I didn’t want to work with them; we thought it would be bit more of a challenge for me, because you don’t even have to direct them as Mulder and Scully; they know so much about their characters. Maybe that’s overstating it a little bit, but that is pretty much what they do. A part of me is sad that I didn’t get to direct David or Gillian. 1 really would have liked to have worked with them, too.”

Morgan decided to structure the episode as an extended flashback, with the Cigarette Smoking Man contemplating his past as he eavesdrops on the supposedly bug-free Lone Gunmen office. He hears a panicky Frohike tell Mulder and Scully he has discovered a magazine story he believes will reveal the identity of “him” – the Cigarette Smoking Man.

As the Cigarette Smoking Man listens in, his attention begins to wander, and his mind roams through the high and low points of his life, remembering his greatest and more painful failure, his inability to make his one real dream, the dream of becoming a writer, come true. He is so locked into his bitterness that at end of the episode, he takes all his frustrations out on the most harmless of human beings, the Lone Gunman Frohike, and shoots him as he steps out into the street.

Except that’s not what happened. This shocking finale did not go down well when the script reached Ten Thirteen. Morgan’s concern had been to re-establish the aura of danger to the Cigarette Smoking Man. He believed, upon watching the third season episodes, that the character had become largely ineffectual. “The Cigarette Smoking Man had become this guy who walks in with a cigarette, says a bunch of nonsense, and then walks out, ” Morgan said. “We thought, ‘Big deal,’ there’s no threat from the Cancer Man, but if he killed Frohike at the end, if the audience saw something that truly made them go, ‘Oh my God!’ they’d remember that even twenty episodes later.”

Chris Carter read the script, discussed it with producer Ken Horton, and summoned Morgan to his office. “They said, ‘We don’t think Frohike should get killed,'” Morgan recalled. “I told Chris, ‘Look, the Cancer Man is becoming a bore. When you get to episode one hundred and he and Mulder have the guns to each other’s heads, I’m not going to worry, because the Cancer Man has never done anything. I’m telling you right now, you’ve got the Cancer Man as a wuss ball. He’s nothing. He’s got to do something dangerous.'” When Carter remained adamantly opposed to killing Frohike, Morgan and Wong conspired to film both the original and the revised endings, believing they could sort it all out later in the editing room and convince Carter otherwise.

Another problem arose when William B. Davis announced he hated the script. “I thought Bill was going to be thrilled to have a show about him,” Wong said. “I had dinner with him, and basically he spent the entire time telling me, ‘This is a terrible script! This is horrible! I can’t do this!’ He didn’t like anything about it. He thought it didn’t make sense, that that he didn’t know who this person was, that it wasn’t him. He hated it.” Davis promptly called Carter to ask if this was the real history of the Cigarette Smoking Man (Carter told him no), and he continued to express his concerns with the script throughout the shoot. And then there were the timeline inconsistencies, which Morgan and Wong didn’t even know about until the episode aired and Morgan logged on and was bombarded with dozens of internet posts complaining that the events of “Musings” couldn’t be for real, because they contradicted the teaser to “Apocrypha.” In the “Apocrypha” teaser, which is set in 1953, a young Cigarette Smoking Man (already smoking), a young Bill Mulder, and a third man, all in civilian dress, question a horribly burned submarine crewman who had encountered an alien in a flashback shown in the previous episode, “Piper Maru.” Morgan’s version proposed an entirely different history, with the young Cigarette Smoking Man and Bill Mulder, both Army officers, first meeting in 1961 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Cigarette Smoking Man doesn’t even smoke, until he takes his first nervous puff late in the first act. Although Morgan and Wong had seen “Apocrypha,” they didn’t remember the events of the teaser. “Okay, we’re sloppy,” Morgan admitted. “But somebody should have told us. They all read the script. It was the same thing that happened to us on ‘Little Green Men when we showed Samantha’s abduction.'” Added Wong: “If somebody had said, ‘Hey, you know, in the third season, this was said and this doesn’t make sense anymore.’ And we would have changed it. But nobody told us that And the internet people go, ‘This doesn’t make sense,’ and now we look like idiots. We have part of the blame obviously; we didn’t know. We didn’t catch it.”

So how real is the story we’re seeing, if it doesn’t jibe with an earlier episode? Taking only the episode itself as evidence, the answer is inconclusive. Not only is the story told in flashback, but the identity of the narrator is uncertain. He could be the Cigarette Smoking Man indulging in arguably unreliable memories, or even sheer fantasy, as if he were writing another story in his head. Or the narrator could be Frohike, giving his interpretation of the magazine story he feels might have been written by the Cigarette Smoking Man. But for Morgan and Wong, the events are really the Cigarette Smoking Man’s history, even if they are related in flashback. “The Cigarette Smoking Man’s flashbacks were my idea, because I indeed wanted the episode to be a memoir,” Morgan said. But the idea that Frohike could be the real narrator was a Carter-imposed addition to the script, to make it seem as if the events of the episode were not real. Carter even changed the name of the script, from “Memoirs of a Cigarette Smoking Man” to “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man.”

“The episode is a parody of conspiracy theories, yet in context of the television show, I would like to think that it happened to him,” Morgan said. “The episode does makes it like it could be Frohike’s or Cancer Man’s imagination, but to me I think it would have been the real thing. It’s just as believable as anything else we’ve seen on the show.” “I approached it as if the events were real,” added Wong. “It was kind of a self-parody, in that we were having a little bit of fun with the show, but I had to approach it like it happened. The script is written in such a way that you can take it for how you want it. It’s not rock solid that yes, this actually happened, but on the other hand, we’re not winking to or nudging the audience. It is ambiguous enough for the audience to go, ‘It could be his overblown memory of who he is or his overblown feeling of how powerful he is or what he’s done in his life” Or it could be Frohike telling who he thinks the Cancer Man is.”

For Morgan, tracing the history of the Cigarette Smoking Man was like tracing the history of the United States during the past 30 years, as seen through the eyes of conspiracy theorists. “The episode is to me, on one hand, a parody on the whole conspiracy buff thing,” Morgan said. “I wanted to find out what could possibly be driving the Cancer Man. When I started researching, reading the stuff about E. Howard Hunt, and his spy novels, I went, ‘God, that’s amazing.’ And it kind of went from there. Kennedy is top of the pyramid.” Morgan also wanted to include the Martin Luther King assassination in his script. “Martin Luther King has been incredibly forgotten about,” he said. “It’s only coming up again recently, with the news stories about James Earl Ray. I had read the William Pepper book, Orders to Kill. Reading the book, and doing the research, and seeing what’s happening now, it seems less likely that James Earl Ray shot King than Oswald shot JFK.”

The first act of “Musings of a CSM” opens in 1961 with the young Cigarette Smoking Man (played by Chris Owens) and young Bill Mulder as Army captains stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Morgan had read about military units based at Fort Bragg that supposedly carried out assassinations at the behest of the CIA, and there is a clear implication that the young Cigarette Smoking Man has already participated in several illicit operations. “I thought that’s where the Cigarette Smoking Man and Bill Mulder would have met,” Morgan said. We also learn that the Cigarette Smoking Man had been raised in an orphanage after the death of his mother and the execution of his father, a Soviet spy. He is summoned to a secret meeting where a major general (Donnelly Rhodes) tells him that even though the Cigarette Smoking Man’s father was a communist spy, he was an “extraordinary man” because he shouldered the responsibility for his existence and his country’s, and the major general knows this quality runs in the family.

The general then speaks disparagingly of the failed Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba, whereupon another man, dressed in civilian clothes, offers the young Cigarette Smoking Man a startling mission, the assassination of President Kennedy. “For men like the Cancer Man, communism was the enemy,” Morgan explained. “Everything America has done in the 20th century has somehow been dealing with the Communist threat, even as far back as World War I. I thought, why would the Cancer Man be against Communism? I’d heard about this really bizarre theory that Hitler’s grandfather was a German Jew, and that a lot of his hatred was really self-hatred. I don’t know that’s true, but what an interesting idea. Therefore, I made Cancer Man’s dad a Communist sympathizer. His incredible control over the world all stems from a very personal source, that his father had let him down as a boy. Then you get into gray areas: is he doing it to fight against his father? Does he believe that his father was the extraordinary man the general said he was?”

The moment where the Cigarette Smoking Man takes the assignment to assassinate Kennedy, said Morgan, is “the pivotal moment in the his life. He knew in his heart knew that he was a crappy writer, and somebody said, ‘You’re an extraordinary man.’ And he believed it, and had to live up to it.” Added Wong: “He was a young man who was led down that road by these powerful figures. He didn’t know his father, which is the reason why he hated him, and he was rebelling against him, and wanted to be part of that group in the office. He was trying to correct everything that was wrong about his father’s past.”

Since “Musings” portrays the Cigarette Smoking Man as the real assassin of Kennedy, Harvey Lee Oswald is shown to be a patsy, a the fall guy set up to be arrested by the police. Morgan drew on the conspiracy literature about Oswald’s whereabouts during the Kennedy shooting, and placed him at the soda machine in the Texas Book Depository when the Cigarette Smoking Man shoots the president. The part of Oswald was written for Morgan Weisser, who had played Nathan West in Space: Above and Beyond. “All I wanted out of that was for Cigarette Smoking Man’s first smoke to be from Oswald’s cigarette,” Morgan said. The Cigarette Smoking Man goes to the movie theater where Oswald hid after the assassination, and as the police arrest Oswald, the Cigarette Smoking Man takes out a pack of cigarettes Oswald had given him and lights up for the first time. “That first cigarette stemmed from his first heinous act, and he sensed there would be more,” Morgan said. “If you believe that Kennedy’s assassination represents this loss of innocence for the country, it’s almost like the country’s first cigarette.”

Finding the right actor to play the young Cigarette Smoking Man was vital. Morgan read a number of actors in Los Angeles, but it was Wong, already up in Vancouver, who auditioned and cast Chris Owens, a Canadian whose previous screen credits include small roles in Cocktail and the TV-movie Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story. “I wanted the actor to resemble Bill Davis, since half of the show was going to be this guy,” Morgan said. “Chris was fantastic. Now there’s a series I’d work on. Chris Owens and the life of the Cancer Man!” Wong had similar words of praise for Owens’ performance. “He was terrific, incredible. We asked him to look at Bill Davis’s work. Chris was the one who really humanized Cancer Man, just in the way he acted when he killed Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Because he was youthful, he was much more vulnerable. There was still a side of him where you could say, ‘He could have turned!’ When he’s older, I don’t know if the Cancer Man can change. But in his youth, when he thought he was doing the right thing, you could see, if he’d taken the other step, he might have been Bill Mulder instead. There’s that possibility in his eyes.”

Bill Mulder, unlike the Cigarette Smoking Man, has a family, and he proudly shows off his photo of his wife and his year-old son Fox. One of the episode’s most telling moments comes when the Cigarette Smoking Man steals Bill’s photo, which he holds onto as the years pass. The photo, said Morgan, has nothing to do with a possibility raised in other episodes of The X-Files that the Cigarette Smoking Man may have had an affair with Mrs. Mulder and that he may be Mulder’s father. It is merely symbolic of the family life the Cigarette Smoking Man would have liked to have, but was denied him. At first Morgan was just going to show the photo in act one, but it resurfaces in act two, when Cigarette Smoking Man looks at it before he leaves to assassinate Martin Luther King. “I thought, what if the Cigarette Smoking Man had that picture in his desk after all these years?'” Morgan said. “When he pulls it out in Memphis and he’s at the brink of shooting what he believes to be an extraordinary man, but here he is, just longing for a family, for this other life. It didn’t mean that Mulder was specifically his son, and Mrs. Mulder his mistress or whatever. He just was reflecting on what life would have been like otherwise. I saw it as ‘The Last Temptation of the Cigarette Smoking Man.’ ” By act two, the young Cigarette Smoking Man has become a leader in the netherworld of secret operations; he’s moved up so fast and so quickly he has no compunction about criticizing J. Edgar Hoover to his face. When the Cigarette Smoking Man hears a speech by Martin Luther King that he perceives as sympathetic to Communism, he determines that King must die, in order to quell civil unrest. He decides to do the job himself. At first the Cigarette Smoking Man was just following orders,” Morgan said. “Now he has power and he has to kill a man whose cause he believes in. He believed that Martin Luther King was an extraordinary man, and because of his respect for King, he himself must pull the trigger.”

The second act is also notable for being filmed in black and white. Morgan and Wong wanted to end the act by cutting to a well-known photo taken in the aftermath of the King assassination which shows some of King’s aides standing on the motel balcony where King was shot and pointing in the direction the bullet had come from. Morgan and Wong would have loved to film an entire episode in black and white, but they knew they’d never get approval, so they chose to shoot just the Martin Luther King act in black and white. “That’s how we saw the Civil Rights era,” Morgan said. “It’s very rare to see a color photograph of Martin Luther King. It would have been really gimmicky if the act had been in color and then, boom, we cut to this black and white image.” “The Kennedy act was an attempt to make the audience relate to the colors in the Zapruder film, which was a Super-8, oversaturated color, especially if you remember Jackie Kennedy’s pink outfit,” Wong commented. “We wanted to evoke that feeling within the whole first act. At one point, we tested scratching the film, to make it look more like the Zapruder film. After looking at a couple of scenes like that, we thought we’d give the audience a headache, so we nixed that idea and just went with oversaturated, blown-out whites and golden, pearly colors. We used smoke, so it had that kind of hazy look. For the Martin Luther King act, the image that is really ingrained in a lot of people’s minds is that famous photo where people are pointing. We decided very early on that because that was the pivotal moment, we would structure the whole act around the look of that. So that’s why we used black and white there.”

The Cigarette Smoking Man reveals a surprising side of himself in the second act: he longs to be a writer, and at night pours his soul into the creation of cheesy pulp stories about an action adventure hero named Jack Colquitt. “Being a writer is just what most people wouldn’t expect him to be,” said Morgan, who was inspired to make the Cigarette Smoking Man an author by reading about Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt, who wrote spy novels that allegedly described true events. “I wanted the Cigarette Smoking to reflect on his life in his writings. I wanted him to have a poetic side.” And, he added, “It allowed for some good inside jokes.” (Jack Colquitt, the name of the Cigarette Smoking Man’s fictional hero, is a character in the Space: Above and Beyond episode “Who Monitors the Birds.”) The writing, said Morgan, is the Cigarette Smoking Man’s true love. Ironically, the Cigarette Smoking Man’s day job is the one he’s successful at, but he cannot perceive the awfulness of his writing, the one thing he loves. “If one of his books had been accepted, been published, the Cancer Man have walked away from his work, no problem. He wanted that so bad. He’s living that line from Thoreau, about leading a life of quiet desperation. How he feels about himself lies in there.” As to why the Cigarette Smoking Man won’t wield his considerable influence to force a publisher into accepting his work, Morgan said, “That would be so easy. It wouldn’t be pure.”

“Musings” leaps forward in the third act to a time shortly before Scully is assigned to work with Mulder. The Cigarette Smoking Man’s face is once again the familiar visage of William B. Davis. This is where the episode begins to take on a parodistic tone: It’s Christmas Eve, the Cigarette Smoking Man is winding up a meeting with a roomful of eager beaver young operatives, reviewing the success of his machinations, like getting the Rodney King trial moved to Simi Valley and preventing the Buffalo Bills from winning the Super Bowl. Before he dismisses his junior conspirators for the holiday break, the Cigarette Smoking Man passes out gifts to each – identical ties – while declining their invitations, telling them he’s going to spend the holiday with “family,” although he’s really just going back to a bare apartment. On his way out of the building, he pauses before a familiar door which bears the nameplate “Fox Mulder.” The clack of a typewriter is clearly heard from behind the door. The Cigarette Smoking Man then moves on. The entire scene is funny and poignant; clearly, the anti-social Cigarette Smoking Man and the loner ~ Mulder, have a great deal in common. “On a professional level, things are going great for the Cigarette Smoking Man,” noted Morgan. “On a personal level, everything is horrible. It’s the kind of scene that takes you back to ‘One Breath,’ where he tells Mulder, ‘I have no wife, I have nothing.’ He has power and notoriety in the covert community, but he wants something else.

Morgan and Wong faced a problem in the third act. The Young Cigarette Smoking Man had killed the nation’s two most important leaders; what could he do in the third act that wouldn’t seem anti-climatic? “We asked ourselves, how do you top that?’ Wong said. “And that’s when we decided to kill an alien. We talked about how Deep Throat had once mentioned, in ‘E.BE.’, that he had killed an alien, and we decided to go back to that.” Deep Throat calls the Cigarette Smoking Man; a living alien has been retrieved from a crashed spaceship. The two old rivals hold a brief conversation, in which the Cigarette Smoking Man tells Deep Throat he never killed anyone, and Deep Throat responds, “Maybe I’m not the liar.”

“I thought the scene was about these two men who have been in this secret life together,” Wong said. “The line where Deep Throat says, ‘Maybe I’m not the liar’ was another change imposed on the script so you could make the leap that perhaps this is all. a dream, or the ramblings of Frohike. ” Deep Throat then shoots the alien, but, as Wong noted, “Basically, the Cigarette Smoking Man made Deep Throat do it.” The Cigarette Smoking Man’s life reaches what he thinks is a turning point, when he receives a letter from an editor at Roman-a-Clef magazine. The editor loves his story and wants to publish it, and the Cigarette Smoking Man is so excited, thinking his real career, his writing career, is about to begin, that he types up a resignation letter. The day the issue comes out with his story, the Cigarette Smoking Man runs to the newsstand to find a copy. “That’s the first scene I thought of for this episode,” Morgan said. “One Sunday morning, Kristen and I were reading magazines at a newsstand and there about 12 people there. Everybody was reading magazines, and the guy comes up to me – just to me – and says, ‘Sir, if you’re going to read it, I’m going to have to ask you to buy it.’ I looked at him, and Kristen started laughing, because that’s the kind of shit that happens to me. I put the magazine down and I said, ‘Come on, we’re never buying a magazine here again.’ We walked away, and she was laughing, because I was so mad that I got picked on. And I said, ‘You know what? That’s it. The Cancer Man, he’s a writer, and when he goes to the newsstand and the guy who’s running it says, ‘You gotta buy it.’ the Cancer Man kills him.” Of course Morgan didn’t quite follow through on that, but the Cigarette Smoking Man is indeed in a murderous mood when he breathlessly opens the new issue of Roman a Clef at the newsstand to find the editor has made drastic changes to his precious story, even altering the ending – a not-so subtle injoke about the changes ordered to Morgan’s script. He ends up on a bench, next to a bum eating the remains of a box of chocolates. The bum offers the furious Cigarette Smoking Man a chocolate, and instead of taking one, the Cigarette Smoking Man finally erupts, damning Forrest Gump, his homespun philosophies, and life in general, in a scathingly bitter and funny monologue.

“I liked Forrest Gump a lot better than I thought I would,” Morgan said. “I really liked Tom Hanks’ performance, I liked the direction and the feel of it. But ‘life is like a lot of box of chocolates’? It was just ridiculous.” The monologue took surprisingly little time to write. “It came out pretty much when I sat down to write it. Sometimes everything else is so difficult, but you get to the part that you want to write, and it’s over like that.” The Cigarette Smoking Man’s monologue turned out to be one of the episode’s most well-received scenes, but the scene almost didn’t make it into the final cut. According to Morgan, Chris Carter and Ken Horton watched it in the editing room, and Carter told him that it didn’t work, that it ruined the episode. “I didn’t say anything. Jim was doing a lot of the defending,” Morgan recalled. “Finally, I said, 1isten, I’m not going to get Frohike killed, so the Forrest Gump speech is in.’ Everybody looked at each other as if to say, ‘Well, Glen’s really a jerk.’ But no one could argue with it, so it stayed in. The Cigarette Smoking Man is the anti-Forrest Gump. I wanted, very much, to point to that idea, using that speech. ”

Immediately following the Forrest Gump scene came the short scene that caused the biggest disagreement between Morgan and Wong and Chris Carter. Morgan and Wong were absolutely convinced that the only way to end the episode was to cut from the Cigarette Smoking Man’s final bitter words, to a shot of him racking his rifle and shooting Frohike as he exits the Lone Gunmen office. Without it, “the episode just died at the end; it was lacking in a dramatic moment,” Wong said. Morgan exclaimed, “He should just be the most horrible human being; he should be horrifying. That was the whole point!” He saw Frohike’s murder as the symbolical last nail in the coffin containing Cigarette Smoking Man’s soul. “Frohike would have been the first person he killed for himself. It wasn’t on orders to try to control a civil situation. It was from him, just to kill somebody, because he just came off his Forrest Gump speech, where he says, basically, ‘Life is shit. And if life isn’t going to give me an out, I am just going to become what life wants me to be, a cold-blooded killer.'” Carter, on the other hand, felt that murdering Frohike would actually make the Cigarette Smoking Man less powerful, according to Wong. “He felt that Frohike too small a catch, too small to bother with.” Morgan and Wong felt so strongly about this issue, that they decided to try an end run around Ten Thirteen. They figured that if they filmed the scene their way, and cut it into the episode, it would be so powerful that Carter would have to agree with them. Morgan called Wong up in Vancouver and told him to take a few crew members while everyone else was at lunch, and get some shots of blood spattering on the sign to the Lone Gunman offices. Wong decided against the stealth approach; instead, he filmed William B. Davis pulling back on the trigger, and Tom Braidwood, as Frohike, getting a bullet in the head. Morgan nearly panicked when he heard what his partner had done; he was certain word of it would reach Ten Thirteen down in Los Angeles. His fears were justified. Wong recalled: “I was in the editing room, and I said to the editor, why don’t we print up the B negative? We’ll cut it in and show Chris. [The “B” negative was the negative with the footage of the Cigarette Smoking Man pulling the trigger and Frohike getting shot.] And the editor told me, ‘You can’t do that.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, we can’t do that? Just print the B negative.’ He said, ‘Well, it’s been taken out of the lab. It can’t be found.” In a move worthy of a scene from an X-Files episode, someone had deliberately removed the negative without telling Morgan and Wong, and they had no idea where it was. The two weren’t quite ready to give up. “We put up pieces of green board behind the editing building and we were splattering chocolate syrup on it. We thought we would manufacture the blood splattering on the Lone Gunmen sign and make it blow up with that one shot. Then we could turn it into the network and everyone would go, ‘Wow, how powerful!’ But,” Morgan sighed, “It just never worked out.” Although “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man” didn’t turn out quite the way Morgan and Wong had envisioned, they still felt a great deal of pride in the final product. They were very happy with the look of the show, and Wong felt he had made a good directing debut. Despite William B. Davis’ intense dislike of the script, Wong was happy with his performance. “We got everything we needed from Bill and I thought it turned out quite nicely. This episode was, for me, about a guy who, despite all the power he has, really wants something else. He got his kicks out of doing his job, and he had a sense of duty about his work that made him do things that he didn’t necessarily want to do. But he had another goal, a higher calling in his writing. The problem was he wasn’t very good at it. So the episode was about lost opportunities, lost dreams. Here’s a person who, because of his ideology, sold and lost his soul.”


The final Morgan and Wong X-Files episode was yet another change of pace, a Scully-centered story concerning her dissatisfaction with her life, her career, and her relationship with Mulder. It was not the story the two writers had originally planned as their fourth episode. They had long wanted to write a story about Lincoln’s ghost haunting the White House, and thought this would work splendidly on The X-Files; finally, Mulder and Scully go to the White House! But their disappointment over the changes they were forced to make “Musings of Cigarette Smoking Man” caused them to withhold the ghost story and look for something else. “I had done a lot of research and I had always wanted to write a feature about Lincoln’s ghost,” Morgan said, “But I felt they didn’t want my heart and soul anymore, so I wouldn’t give this one to them. I thought it was time for a Scully episode and also time to do something for Rodney Rowland. ”

Although a Morgan and Wong script, Morgan did much of the actual writing, since Wong was working on a Millennium episode. Morgan carne up with a story about Scully investigating a case by herself in Philadelphia while Mulder is off on an enforced vacation, and her response to an attractive man she meets while tracking down some information. The man, Ed Jerse, would be played by Rowland, and he would turn out to be an X-file himself. Ed, despondent and angry over his recent divorce, gets a tattoo of a woman (called “Betty” in the script) on his arm, and before long, he believes because he hears the tattoo talking to him, railing against the women in his life and urging him to violence. The voice is so real and so insistent that he cannot resist it, and he kills a woman named Kaye Schilling, who lives in the apartment below him.

Morgan called Gillian Anderson and told her he wanted to write a story about Scully and a guy with a talking tattoo. Anderson not only liked the idea, but told Morgan she was anxious to have a “dark” Scully episode. Furthermore, she wanted Scully to have – finally, after three and a half years – a sex scene. “She said, ‘I want my head banging off the wall, I want fingernails, I want flesh torn,’ ” Morgan recalled. He told Anderson he’d be happy to write the scene, although privately he suspected it not pass muster with Ten Thirteen or the network.

“Never Again” was to be the “event” episode following the Super Bowl on January 26. It became even more of an event when director and writer Quentin Tarantino called and asked to direct an X-Files episode. Ten Thirteen immediately said yes, and scheduled him to direct “Never Again,” thinking Tarantino’s name on an X-Files episode right after the Super Bowl would bring in huge ratings. “David Duchovny is responsible for getting Tarantino interested,” Morgan stated. “David was at the Emmys the year before, and he tapped Tarantino and said, ‘When are you going to direct one of our episodes?’ I think David auditioned for Reservoir Dogs and Tarantino said to him, ‘You know what? I really like what you do, I just don’t want you to do it in my movie.’ So I think they’d known each other, and David said, ‘Come do one.’ And Tarantino’s the one that called Chris.” The Director’s Guild of America had other ideas about Tarantino’s directing an episode of The X-Files. Membership in the DGA is required of all directors working on prime-time television, and Tarantino is not a member. The DGA had granted him waiver to direct an episode of ER, with the expectation he would join, but he never did, and the DGA refused to issue a second waiver for The X-Files. Tarantino was off The X-Files as a result, but not before Morgan had rewritten “Never Again” for him. “I had been asked to write to Tarantino’s style, and I wrote these scenes that were four pages long. Then I heard he’s out and I went back and the scene would be one page. And then he was in again, and the script was long. I had looked closely at his movies. There’s no way I could do what he does, but I gave it a shot. Ultimately didn’t have to worry about it.”

Internet fans should be grateful to Tarantino, however, because his brief tenure on the show inspired Morgan to throw in to his script a number of pop culture references, including Scully’s comparison of Mulder’s current case to a Rocky and Bullwinkle episode where the two cartoon characters are searching for an Upsidasium mine and Boris Badenov alters the road signs; she thinks Mulder is being similarly misled. Mulder, who is something of a pop culture junkie himself, asks her if she is refusing an assignment “based on the adventures of Moose and Squirrel.” “Moose” and “Squirrel” also happen to be nicknames for Mulder and Scully on the internet. Morgan didn’t know that at the time, but was amused to learn about it while the episode was still in production, and decided to keep the dialogue, in somewhat shortened form, although Tarantino was long gone.

With Tarantino out (Rob Bowman took over as director), Morgan felt that another big name needed to be attached to the episode, since, at that point, it was still scheduled to follow the Super Bowl (eventually it was moved to the week following and “Leonard Betts” aired after the Super Bowl). He and Peter Roth, head of the Fox network, asked Randy Stone, Fox’s vice president of talent, if Stone would contact his good friend, Jodie Foster, and see if she would voice Betty, the tattoo on Ed Jerse’s arm. It turned out that Foster was a big fan of THE X-FILES, as well as a friend of Gillian Anderson, and she was delighted to perform, off-screen, as the voice of Betty. The creation of Betty the tattoo was inspired by Morgan’s observation of the crowds at San Diego Chargers games, as well as a story his brother, Darin, told him. “Kristen and I would go to Chargers games where it was hot, and everyone had their shirts off, and all we would notice is that everybody had a tattoo!’ Morgan laughed. “Also, Darin had told us about a friend who worked in a psychiatric hospital where there was a guy whose tattoos were telling him to kill people. He was trying to shut up the tattoo by putting his cigarettes out on it. And I thought, there’s a scene.” Sure enough, Ed jams a lighted cigarette into Betty at one point – a rather Freudian way to silence her.

Morgan and Wong also thought about Anderson’s request for a “dark” Scully episode, and they decided they could explore that side of Scully by raising some of the issues between her and Mulder that are often hinted at in the show, but rarely discussed openly. “I thought Scully gets jerked around a lot by Mulder, and this is time for her to stand up for herself,” Morgan said. He hit upon the idea of using Scully’s desk – actually, the lack of a desk – as a metaphor for her confusion about her role in the X-Files division. “The thing that came to me was, in four years, where does she sit? That issue becomes a big thing for people. ‘Where do I go?’ It seemed like a small but telling problem for Scully,” Morgan said. “When Mulder comes in, going on about his vacation, she’s sitting there, and he’s not even paying attention to her. The only way she can get his attention is to go, ‘Where is my desk?’ Sometimes friends suddenly seem troubled and you don’t know why and they won’t tell you. I think he is concerned, even though they get into a little fight. And he has some insight that a little time away from each other might be good. Scully doesn’t do a good job at telling him what’s wrong. She’s inarticulate about it, and I don’t think he understands what she’s trying to say. Mulder should have said, ‘Well, what’s making you feel this way?’ or ‘I don’t understand.’ But in the case of a lot of friends, he just gets frustrated, and sort of blows out. He’s a psychologist, but when it comes to his own life, it’s a forest for the trees type situation. It’s just too close to him.”

Morgan thought that since Mulder, an Elvis fan, had to go on vacation, the natural place to send him would be Graceland, although, Morgan joked, Mulder could just as well have gone to the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas or the Wax Museum in Orange County, California. Does that mean Mulder likes tacky places? “Of course!” Morgan laughed. “In all seriousness, I love the Paul Simon song, ‘Graceland.’ Paul Simon said that Graceland is about peace of mind. And it just stuck with me that that’s where Mulder would go. Duchovny stole that episode with his karate move in the Jungle Room at Graceland. It was great. David called me and said, ‘Listen, remember that karate move they cut out on me in ‘Shadows’? I did it again, and it better be in the show.’ I said, ‘I haven’t even seen the dailies and it’s in, buddy, or I’m quitting.’ I was ready to go to war to make sure that stayed. I wasn’t in the editing room when Ken and Chris looked at it, and I heard there was some complaints about it, but they knew I wanted it, and it stayed in.”

Ed Jerse, the third person in the character triangle that forms “Never Again” is, more or less, a Morgan alter ego. In the teaser, a despondent Ed signs his divorce papers in court. “It’s a really weird thing to write a scene and then go through it yourself,” Morgan commented. “Ed signs the papers and then four or five months later I was in court, going, ‘Oh my gosh!’ I suspected that Gillian, who was going through a separation at the time, would understand that. I didn’t want to be specific with her life, because a lot of fans are familiar with it. And nobody at the time knew my problems. So I used what I knew about Gillian on a general level, what I knew about me, and what I knew about Rodney. Rodney is the kind of actor who, if you tell him you’re going to give him a tattoo in an episode, will go right out and get a real tattoo unless you stop him. I guess this one was harder than the other episodes. I had the plot points and scary scenes I wanted to do, but it really became our trying to find the characters as we were writing them. I don’t know how well we did. There was a lot that we had to cut out.”

Morgan saw Ed not as a villain, but as a sympathetic character. Whatever the origin of the voice in his head – whether it’s his own rage talking to him, or a hallucination caused by a parasite infecting the rye grass used to make the ink in his tattoo – he doesn’t want to hurt anyone; he can’t help himself. “My dad taught me that the best monsters were the ones that didn’t want to be monsters,” Morgan said. “That was his definition. The WolfMan had been bitten. Frankenstein had been put together. Neither of them asked for what happened to them. That’s why my dad likes them better than Dracula, because Dracula was a conscious monster. I was thinking about that, and about all the nefarious villains in year three. Although Ed got the tattoo, he didn’t ask for it to talk to him and to tell him to kill people. It’s a case of, ‘Be careful what you wish for,’ because he didn’t ever want to forget the day of his divorce, or that memory of the heartbreak, but now he’d give anything to be able to move on.”

One of the episode’s most revealing scenes is when Ed and Scully go to a bar and have a heart to heart talk. Scully asks Ed why he got the tattoo, and he tells her it’s a memorial of his divorce, a comment that echoes back to the opening of act one, when Scully and Mulder go to the Wall – Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. – to meet a Russian émigré named Pudovkin, who claims he is selling secret reports about crashed alien spacecraft in Russia. Scully’s attention is focused not on Mulder and his latest informant, but on the names on the Wall and the mementos left by the dead soldiers’ friends and families. Among the artifacts she spots a small bouquet of dead roses and takes a flower with her, leaving it on Mulder’s desk before going to Philadelphia. Morgan had visited Washington, D.C., and been deeply moved by the Wall. “I saw this letter that said, ‘Dear Johnny, we all believed that what you did was right. We miss you very much.’ I realized that this person’s memory must be at least 20 years old and I thought that Johnny, whoever he was, is frozen in someone’s memory in a certain way. Now Scully is currently at a stagnant point in her life. She sees this toy car, a memorial which marks a point in a dead man’s life, one he’ll never move on from. She takes the flower from the memorial as her own marker, or reminder, that she must move forward from this point or risk becoming like the name on the wall. The rose is like a little memorial of herself. That’s what the tattoos became for Scully and Ed. They marked this point in their lives. He got it the day of his divorce and she got it at a point where she wanted to feel she was her own person. She didn’t want to forget that.” The symbolic link between the rose and Ed’s tattoo is emphasized when Mulder finds the rose on his desk. The camera comes in on a close-up of the flower, then there is a shot of Mulder contemplating it, and then a cut to a Ed’s tattoo, also in close-up, and roughly the same size and shape as the rose.

Ed Jerse has the honor of being the first male character since first season to engage Scully’s non-professional interest. Morgan thought Scully would be attracted to a man she considered attractive and possessed an element of danger. He would not necessarily be the opposite of Mulder, but would, according to Morgan, “be someone who has more of his shit together.” And Ed, unlike Mulder, listens to Scully. “Rob Bowman and I talked about how men don’t listen to women,” Morgan said. “So we really wanted Ed to look like he was listening to Scully giving her thoughts, and then have him commenting on what she said.” Scully tells Ed that all her life she has simultaneously looked up to and rebelled against a series of father figures, and although she doesn’t mention Mulder by name, he is certainly included among that group. “My gut feeling is that Scully does see Mulder as a father figure,” Morgan said. “Sometimes he treats her like a younger sister, and an older sibling can teach you about the specifics; how to dress, who to talk to, what to say. But fathers and parents can teach you about the greater things of life. I think, when you get right down to it, that’s what Mulder has opened up in her. In ‘Never Again, ” I don’t know if she’s rejecting the message, but she’s rejecting the father. At times their relationship becomes so oppressive. When I was married and unhappy, I would just go through these things where things would build up, and then I would just do something stupid. And I’d go, What the hell is that? That’s not even me.’

If ever there was a scene where you could say, “That’s not Scully,” or at least, “this is a new aspect of Scully,” it’s when she goes with Ed to the tattoo parlor after they’ve been drinking and bares her back for a tattoo of her own. The image she chooses is the Ourobourus, the snake swallowing its tail. Morgan wanted the Ourobourus for Scully’s tattoo because he felt it possessed, with its traditional symbolism of eternity and rebirth, relevance to Scully’s situation. He was also aware that Chris Carter had chosen the Ourobourous as the Millennium logo, and that its appearance in “Never Again” might be perceived as a plug for Millennium, but he didn’t consider that a problem worth worrying about. That was the image he wanted for Scully. As for the sequence where Scully gets her tattoo, it is one of the most blatantly erotic scenes ever on The X-Files. Accompanied by Mark Snow’s eerie, hypnotic music, the camera carefully records the penetration of the needle into Scully’s flesh, the blood-red color of the ink, and finally the ecstatic look of mixed pain and pleasure on her face as she shares the moment with an obviously turned-on Ed. The eroticism of the moment is called for in Morgan’s script, but, he said, much of the atmosphere is owed to director Rob Bowman. “Rob gave Gillian four or five minutes worth of film, because she said it would take her that long to work up to that one moment Rob wanted, and he gave it to her. He played some music which is similar to what Mark ended up writing. And I think there was some chemistry between Gillian and Rodney that helped too.”

The scene that followed Scully and Ed’s trip to the tattoo parlor was to be the sex scene that Anderson had requested. Morgan wrote a short, but rather steamy encounter for Scully and Ed after they return to Ed’s apartment. No clothes were to be removed, but there would be some roughhousing, passionate kissing and rolling around on the floor. The sexual play, mild by the standards of Fox’s Melrose Place, proved to be too hot for Ten Thirteen, as Morgan suspected it might. Even as he was writing it, he was convinced the scene would never make it farther than Chris Carter’s desk, and in anticipation, he wrote it so that it could easily be cut out without disturbing the flow of the story. “I put in an escape hatch,” he said. “Scully and Ed can mess around and the camera would just pick them up on the floor and leave the room and shut the door, something like those backward tracking shots in Frenzy, which I had just watched.” The camera move Morgan planned for the scene was identical to a camera move earlier in the episode, when Ed, driven temporarily mad by Betty’s voice, killed Schilling. “My intention was for the audience to go, ‘Oh my god! That’s the same image I saw when he killed the woman. Is that what he’s doing to Scully? What’s going on?’ I wanted to have this really erotically charged scene, and then, boom, throw the audience this way and make them nervous. ”

Morgan and Wong argued to keep the sex scene in, but to no avail. “I said, ‘Why not film it? Gillian wants to do it. You tell her that if it goes overboard, we’ll cut to the door closing. You’ll have complied with something that she asked for, and who knows, maybe you’ll get something really wild.’ They said, ‘No way, it’s not even in the script.’ Morgan had the unhappy task of telling an understandably upset Anderson that the scene she specifically requested had been cut. As to why it was cut, Morgan said that Carter and the other writers felt that every other woman on television was jumping into bed, and they had worked very hard to differentiate Scully from other female television characters. Morgan’s response: “She’s different, but the way she is now, she’s not human.”

Something of the scene does remain, in that it ends with Scully embraced roughly by Ed, and at that point the camera slowly backs out the door, which shuts itself, as if by magic. Whether Scully and Ed actually have sex is ambiguous; they wake up in different rooms, both dressed. “I think that’s cowardly,” Morgan lamented. “If I knew I was going to stay and it was still my show, I would have put up a fight, but I was on the way out.” Scully finally learns how disturbed Ed is when two Philadelphia detectives investigating Schilling’s murder knock on his door while he is out fetching breakfast. She tells them she is an FBI agent, and the information they give her instantly makes her suspect Ed. She questions him when he returns, and under the stress of her suspicion, and with Betty’s taunts ringing in his ears, he loses control and assaults Scully, knocking her unconscious, then carrying her down to his apartment building’s furnace, where he plans to incinerate her, as he did with his neighbor. Scully regains consciousness and stabs Ed, who finally cannot bear his agony anymore, and thrusts arm – and Betty – into the flames.

Several days later, Scully and Mulder are both back at their office in FBI headquarters. Scully is on the way to a physical recovery, but feels she has learned something from her experience. Mulder is confused about her behavior. “He’s been caught off guard by not knowing something about her,” Morgan said. “A date with someone in Philadelphia, someone he’s never heard of, someone she’s never told him about. He’s unnerved by his lack of certainty about her, with her being wrong about Ed.” The episode ends with Scully telling Mulder firmly, “It’s my life,” and Mulder saying, “But it’s…” and suddenly stopping. Why didn’t he finish his sentence? “It was our way of saying to the other writers, ‘Here’s where Mulder and Scully are, and now the ball is in your court,'” explained Morgan. “That’s what I always felt was our role. In the first couple of years when we were on the show, we might hand it off and then have to pick up the ball ourselves a couple of episodes later, but knowing we were about to leave and would have no input whatsoever, we just said, ‘Well, here’s this thing, how about this? Now it’s yours.’ I feel that Mulder had come to respect that there’s more to this than just him, that Scully is now a part of his life and he’s a part of hers. I think that she learned the danger of exploring the rebellious side, and that it has to be accompanied by responsibility. What she did almost got her killed. So I think that she probably has it a little in check, and yet she’s always carrying the memory of it on her back. It isn’t anything for her to let go of. But next time she’ll be smarter about it, and she won’t let it get so far away from her.”

Morgan and Wong were frustrated once more when the network decided to move “Never Again” out of its post-Super Bowl slot, and substitute “Leonard Betts,” the episode that was originally scheduled to air after “Never Again.” “Leonard Betts” ended with the wrenching realization by Scully that she might have contracted the cancer that afflicted the other female abduction victims she met in second season’s “Nisei.” This revelation impacted the rationale behind Scully’s behavior in “Never Again” in ways never intended by Morgan and Wong. “I felt horrible,” Morgan stated. “Those are not her motives for her actions in this episode. The motives in ‘Never Again’ are completely altered by posing that she has a disease or a death sentence. But I was about two months behind on our pilot for The Notorious, and I just wanted to leave.”

For this and other reasons, Morgan says he felt the episode “got away” from him. He credits others for much of what he finds good in “Never Again.” “Bowman did a great, great job. If it’s any good at all, it’s because of Bowman. I was very proud of Rodney and Mark Snow did a really great job. It’s so tough writing for somebody else. That doesn’t mean that my themes or my views are superior, only that writers should write for themselves, and then hand the script off. With ‘Never Again,’ I started out writing for Tarantino, and at the same time I was trying to write for Gillian so that she could get what she wanted, and I didn’t want Chris to say no to what I was doing. With those three things, the script got so far away from me. I lost track of it. I was trying to get my pilot done and get out of there and I don’t think I kept the responsibility of supervising it all the way through. My favorite scene, besides Duchovny’s karate move, is the teaser, because that’s the only thing in there that really hits home to me. If it wasn’t for Bowman and Randy Stone getting Jodie Foster, that episode would be up with ‘The Jersey Devil.’ When The X-Files is finished and you’ve got the whole body of work and people watch reruns or think about it, we’ll see if they talk about it again. It’s been four years since the show started and people are pointing to ‘The Erlenmeyer Flask,’ ‘Beyond the Sea,’ ‘Colony’ and ‘End Game,’ as episodes that are what the show is all about. We’ll see in a couple of years if ‘Never Again’ gets mentioned.”

The broadcast of “Never Again” on February 2 marked Morgan and Wong’s final exit from The X-Files. Even though they knew they were leaving, they wrote “The Field Where I Died” and “Never Again” looking ahead to what they thought the rest of the fourth season, and a fifth season might be. “My understanding at the beginning of the year was that we were going to drive to a point where Mulder and Scully didn’t trust each other,” Morgan said. His own scenario for plotting out the season was somewhat different from what Carter and the other writers came up with this year, but the fundamental issue was the same: trust. “I would have slowly split Mulder and Scully up over the course of the season, then in the last episode have Scully put Mulder away for his own good, which he would perceive as the ultimate betrayal,” Morgan said. “And then the next season, they would have had an entire year’s healing to go through.”

Although it was an occasionally frustrating half season on The X-Files, Morgan and Wong don’t regret any of the time they spent working on The X-Files and Millennium. All their episodes this year were greeted by decidedly mixed reactions (often love it or hate it) but they certainly succeeded in creating scenes that got X-Files fans talking: Mulder and Scully discussing their genetic heritage in “Home” and later on, in the same episode, pushing on the rear ends of a bunch of hogs while Scully bleats “baa ram ewe;” the Cigarette Smoking Man spewing out the bile in his soul in his climatic anti-Forrest Gump monologue; the look on Mulder’s face at the end of “Never Again,” when he suddenly realizes he is not the only person in the world.

“I hope we helped Chris out,” Wong concluded. “I think we did a good job. It was a lot of work; we basically did a season’s work in half a season, but I hope that didn’t show in the quality of our X-Files and Millennium episodes. We have very fond thoughts of the people we worked with.”

Vancouver Sun: Fox network party

Vancouver Sun
Fox network party
Alex Strachan

HOLLYWOOD — For a moment, Gillian Anderson seems stunned.

She has had two hours’ sleep. She has walked into the Hollywood dance zoo known as The Derby, a glorified jungle pit tucked away off Los Feliz Boulevard, to say hi to her good friend and mentor Chris Carter.

Carter is sitting, Buddha-like, in a red armchair, patiently answering the questions of legions of reporters who have descended like flies at a barbeque.

Anderson slips through the crowd, for one oh-so-brief moment virtually unnoticed by the hundreds of sweaty, noisy, anxious TV critics, TV fans, TV actors, TV publicists, TV friends and assorted ringers, gate-crashers and non-descript hangers-on who have crammed themselves into a space no bigger than a peewee hockey rink.

The tiny space is completely immersed in giant, noxious clouds of smoke — cigarettes and dry ice: a lethal combination — while a very big, very bad rock band called Big Bad Voodoo Daddy hammers away in the background with a hideous wailing.

Anderson appears out of nowhere, like a sweet, ghostly apparition: tan, thin, startlingly attractive — more so than her on-screen persona — hair tied back behind her ears, wearing casual sandals, charm bracelets on her wrists, an ankle-length, white flower-print skirt that almost hides her ankle tattoo and a short, black cardigan.

She almost makes it to Carter’s chair when one of the paparazzi spots her.

The paparazzi are demanding — not asking, demanding — that she smile. She looks tired, bemused, turns dutifully to face the cameras and offers a sudden, tight-lipped, radiant beam, then sinks wearily beside Carter and whispers something in his ear. He laughs.

The X-Files movie has been immersed in night shooting all week; the production broke for the day at 5 a.m. that morning and shooting resumes immediately after the party.

The television writer for the Oakland Tribune, one of just a handful of reporters to get near enough to Anderson to ask her a personal question, garbles her query horribly.

“I’m sorry,” she says finally, “I really screwed up that question. I’ve been here for three weeks and I’m really tired.”

“I know exactly how you feel,” Anderson replies.

Vancouver is far from her mind on this night. “There are a couple of people there that I miss,” she tells me coolly, “but not Vancouver per se.”

Incredibly, the noise grows louder: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s band members, deciding that their music is not loud enough, are beginning to screech into their microphones, which some sound geek has thoughtfully decided to crank even louder.

The Fox network is using this party to celebrate its fall-season launch, which kicks off Sept. 8 with the return of that icon of rarified sophistication, Melrose Place.

Anderson is dead tired, but gamely hangs on. She seems to be drawing strength from Carter — “I got four hours’ sleep myself,” he says, and laughs cheerfully — as he patiently answers questions of throngs of reporters besieging him from all directions.

She will get just three days off after the X-Files movie has finished shooting, she says; after that, it’s back to Vancouver to work on the series.

Her other movie, The Mighty, featuring Gena Rowlands and Harry Dean Stanton — “I play a kind of an eccentric biker alcoholic.” she says — will open Dec. 12.

She is contractually tied down to The X-Files for three more years, including the upcoming season. No, she will not consider another TV series after that.

“I’m not interested,” she says. “I wasn’t interested in doing television to begin with. I appreciate it, but I’d like to get out of it as fast as possible.”

It’s not been that difficult dealing with X-Files fans, she insists.

“It’s been more difficult dealing with the paparazzi and the press. “There are a lot of fans out there, but then there are a lot of people in the world. Everybody I’ve dealt with has been very kind.”

Anderson’s manager, agent, chaperon and confidante, Connie Frieberg, hovers near her charge like a protective mother guarding her offspring.

Which begs the question: Since Anderson is coming off just two hours’ sleep in the last 24, why is she here?

Simple, Frieberg says: The Television Critics Association nominated 11 actors for its first-ever awards for individual achievement in acting. Of those 11 actors, Anderson was the only woman. Showing up at the Fox party, two hours sleep or not, is Anderson’s way of acknowledging that recognition.

Even so, she is beginning to fade.

When The X-Files finally fades into TV’s storied past, I ask her, what one enduring memory will she carry with her from her years on the show?

“I’m not quite sure how to answer that question,” she replies after a long pause. “I’m not quite sure what the question is.”

Later, after Anderson has gone — she slips away into the night, Carter, serene as always, stands up to leave.

He’s appeared so serene, I tell him, that he could be mistaken for being in a Buddhist trance.

“I am hardly in a Buddhist trance,” he replies.

In another corner of the smoke-choked lounge, The X-Files’ Cigarette-Smoking Man, Bill Davis, flown down from Vancouver with Lone Gun Dean Haglund and Tom Braidwood especially for the event, is trying to look as inconspicuous as possible.

“I hate smoke,” one young woman says to him, clearly not recognizing him. “I’m sorry,” Davis replies, deadpan, “you’re talking to the wrong man.”

Later in the evening, I catch X-Files FBI boss Mitch Pileggi alone at the bar, buying drinks for a cluster of friends and family who have been flown down from Vancouver by Fox for the event.

When The X-Files finally fades into TV’s storied past, I ask him, what one enduring memory will he carry with him from his years on the show?

“Oh, that’s easy,” Pileggi replies. “I met my wife on the set.”

Time Magazine: The 25 Most Influential People in America, 1997

Time Magazine
The 25 Most Influential People in America, 1997

[Original article here]

Chris Carter, Creator, The X-Files

To every generation, there is a televisionary. First, Rod Serling enfolded a still innocent America in The Twilight Zone; then Gene Roddenberry launched the country, disguised as the multicultural Enterprise, on a voyage in Star Trek; David Lynch led audiences away from cosmopolis and back to the suddenly unfamiliar heartland of Twin Peaks. Today’s seer is Chris Carter, 39, creator of The X-Files, a show that takes America’s obsession with the occult and coverups, with truths impossible to ignore but too terrible to be told, and transforms that paranoia into a compelling amalgam of hipness and horror — proving it possible to be both cool and unnerved.

The saga of two FBI agents skulking along the fringes of the paranormal, The X-Files sparked a genre renaissance (including Profiler and Carter’s own Millennium) and spawned a legion of young, wild-eyed followers as fanatical as the older army of Trekkies. Why does X mark the files and the generation? “Clearly, there’s a wide-spread belief that there are secrets that can explain an otherwise unfathomable world,” says Todd Gitlin, a professor of sociology at New York University. And with the approach of the millennium, he says, “the odds go way up” for paranoia.

Carter is wary of claiming to reinvent the form. He feels he’s just pumping his love of truth-seeking movies like All The President’s Men and The Silence of the Lambs into a medium that he feels has lacked a good frightfest since the mid-’70s. “What I’ve attempted to do was scare you in a smart way that makes you think and question,” he says. “If you just put on special effects, you’re not storytelling, you’re pandering.”

A TV series can’t go far wrong with killer cockroaches and sinister feds with nicknames like “Cancer Man.” Yet the show’s biggest draws remain the sly, sexy agents Mulder and Scully, who represent the true believer and the skeptic. their intertwined quests mirror the popular thirst for certainty as well as the hope that “the truth is out there,” even if it is way, way out.

Dreamwatch: Never say never again

Never say never again
David Hughes

In The X-Files, things are hardly ever what they seem. Unfortunately, right now, things at the show itself are precisely as they seem, as the triple Golden Globe winning show suffers from what writer/producer Vince Gilligan would describe as ‘unruhe’ – trouble; strife; unrest. Hugh Davies reports on recent troubles at Ten-Thirteen, home of The X-Files and Millennium.

Signs on The X-Files first showed signs of going south during the preparations of the fourth season when creator and executive producer Chris Carter began to devote most of his time to launching his new show, Millennium.

Eager to shake off his one-hit-wonder potential (the ghost of Gene Roddenberry looming large in his eyes), Carter virtually handed The X-Files over to first season veteran Howard Gordon, despite the fact that the show had already lost Emmy award-winning cinematographer John S. Bartley, visual effects supervisor Mat Beck and writer Darin Morgan at the end of season three, and badly needed Carter’s direction.

Carter did manage to secure the brief return of the show’s ‘dream team’, Glen Morgan and James Wong, albeit with conditions. “Basically the understanding was that we were going to do four shows early on to get the staff squared away,” says Morgan. “I said [to Chris], ‘I’m doing four shows and I’m putting all our Space: Above and Beyond actors in ’em, and he said, ‘Okay.'”

Nevertheless, new executive producer Gordon was faced with not only following the series’ best season yet – a season in which its rating grew steadily, and it converted more of its Emmy nominations into awards than any other show – but overseeing its transfer to Sunday nights to make way for Millennium, a move Carter was less than thrilled about. “I wish it wouldn’t’ve stayed where it was,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “Friday night is a good night to be scared.”

Within a week of the Millennium pilot’s impressive performance, Friday nights began to give Carter his own reasons to be scared, as ratings plunged lower than Gillian Anderson’s neckline at a photo shoot. The audience halved between the pilot and the first episode proper, and began to slip further, a trend that alarmed the network which was sinking more than a million dollars into each episode, since every ratings point slip means a potential loss of $100,000 of advertising revenue.

Mark Snow, who was busy composing music for both shows, highlighted the problem, saying “They can’t keep doing the old story every week – going after bad guys, killers, and finding body parts strewn all over the place, and variations of that.” Aware that Millennium was in trouble, Carter began to spend more and more of his time shoring up The X-Files’ subsiding sister show, and less supervising the series that made Millennium possible, and pretty soon viewers began to notice.

The first signs that all was not well were the enormous problems Herrenvolk suffered at the hands of cinematographer Bartley’s replacement, Ron Stannet, whom sources close to the production say was fired mid-way through the season premiere’s shoot for “lighting the show like a soap opera”. John Hoffin eventually took over, but so much time had been lost that Carter ran out of script revision time, leaving Herrenvolk a confusing follow-up to the excellent Talitha Cumi.

The next indication that problems were mounting at Ten-Thirteen was the colossal continuity problems of Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man. Stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were reportedly delighted to learn that an entire episode would be filmed without them, giving them a much-needed ten day break – “It’s like the fourth season and they’re really burned out,” commented James Wong at the time. “And we thought, wouldn’t it be great to do a show that they’re not even in?” – but writer Glen Morgan was less than happy, for several reasons. Firstly, that no-one on the staff had picked up on the errors; secondly, that Carter had changed the original ending, refusing to allow Morgan to kill off Frohike, whom Morgan had created; finally, that Carter had dismissed the entire story as being apocryphal as soon as the continuity issue was raised.

The fans, understandably, went ballistic, calling for Carter to come back and take control of The X-Files before it went completely off the rails. By this time, Millennium was an increasingly dirty word at Fox, the final damnation coming when a re-run of the pilot show scored the network’s lowest ever numbers for a prime time slot. It was likely that if it were not for the fact that Fox would not do anything to prejudice their relationship with Carter while The X-Files star was in its ascendancy – and the spin-off movie had yet to be made – they would have canceled Millennium at the mid-season mark. (They had, after all, taken the ill-fated LA Firefighters off after four episodes, as it was scoring the same kind of numbers as Millennium.)

A further blow came when the Directors Guild of America foiled attempts to have Quentin Tarantino direct Morgan and Wong’s final episode for the show, the appropriately titled Never Again. When Tarantino was on board, the writers abandoned their original outline – described by Wong as “sort of Lincoln’s ghost in the White House type of thing” – in favor of something more suited to the director of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. “It just didn’t seem like Quentin’s style,” Wong commented last November. “We wanted to do something more gritty…something he was familiar with.”

Instead, Morgan and Wong began work on a new story featuring a killer whose tattoos talk to him, a plot inspired by Gillian Anderson’s own tattoo. “Gillian has a tattoo,” Wong explains. “And she said, ‘Why wouldn’t Scully get a tattoo?’ And we said, ‘Let’s make it so she can – if you get the situation right, let’s see if we can get this character to the point where she can get a tattoo.'” They succeeded. “It’s just a tiny little scene, [and] it ties into the plot and everything.” The episode would eventually become a solo investigation for Scully, co-star Duchovny being rewarded with another week-long break, following his calls for a shorter season this year. And while it may have lost one ‘name’ participant in Tarantino, it does feature the voice of another star, Academy Award winner Jodie Foster, in a guest voice role.

By the new year, Carter was spending almost no time on The X-Files, and it should have come as no surprise when he announced his intention to leave both shows, The X-Files after season five and Millennium after season two (reportedly the most that Fox had promised him). “I think five years is a good length of time to do something,” he said. “I have said to David and Gillian that I just want to do five really good years and then be able to look back and say that we did our best work. Anything past that is gravy to me.”

Carter is leaving to take up one of the many offers he has allegedly received to direct feature films, the first of which may very well be The X-Files movie itself. “Fox would like to do the feature before the finish of the run of the show,” he said. “There are no real details, though I have some ideas as to how I want to incorporate a movie into the show’s mythology arc and also have it be a stand-alone [story] worthy of the big screen.”

Although Carter implied that he would prefer for the show to end upon his departure, Fox responded to his announcement by commencing a search for his replacement – after all, stars Duchovny and Anderson are contracted through to the end of season six, and although Fox has already sold the show into record-breaking syndication deals, it has no plans to kill the only series that continues to show growth.

Less than a week after Carter’s announced intention to quit The X-Files, Gillian Anderson ‘upstaged’ him with an announcement of her own: her separation from Clyde Klotz, her husband of three years, a former X-Files set builder. Anderson had expressed doubts about her marriage as early as last summer; holidaying alone in Italy, she made it clear to the local press that she was very unhappy. Nevertheless, Anderson’s announcement insisted that the split was amicable, despite typically scurrilous tabloid reports that the actress had left her “boring” husband and taken up with a “toy boy,” British actor Adrian Hughes – actually four years her senior – who had played one of the abnormal Peacock family in the early fourth season episode Home. Both parties insisted they were merely “good friends”, not lovers. “There’s nothing in these love stories – our relationship is purely platonic and nothing more,” Gillian was quoted in one newspaper while her alleged lover said bitterly, “Gillian and I are friends, but my relationship with my girlfriend and my relationship with Gillian may be coming to an end because of all of this.”

The show’s surprise triple win at the Golden Globe Awards – closely followed by three nominations from the Screen Actors Guild – did nothing to defuse the situation; on the contrary, the awards seemed to justify the acres of tabloid space being devoted to the private lives of the stars, rather than the show itself. The fact that less outlandish stories than those published around the world have been investigated by Mulder and Scully themselves does not seem to deter the publications in question from their wearying quest to find anything out there – truth or otherwise…

Rolling Stone: The Virtue of Paranoia

Rolling Stone
The Virtue of Paranoia
David Lipsky

You’d think that people who spend their time dreaming up conspiracies would have beards and wave their hands a lot when they talk. Chris Carter is placid, handsome, clean-shaven. He pauses to find the right words — the breaks can sometimes last a few seconds — and when he talks again, the words are the correct ones. It’s as though he’s rewriting as he speaks, running a kind of mental thesaurus program.

“Right now I’m reading about these things called peak experiences or peak moments,” he says, speaking of future X-Files plots. “I had an idea that I’ve wanted to do since the first season — and I could never figure out a way to do it — which is the idea of perfect happiness: that perfect happiness is our natural state, and that if we ever find it, we’ll spontaneously combust.”

If that’s so, Carter should be wearing an asbestos suit. The son of a construction worker, he grew up a surfer in a blue-collar Los Angeles suburb. After college, he walked into Surfing magazine one day and became one of its editors. In 1982, after watching Raiders of the Lost Ark six times in six days, he recognized his own need to tell stories. (“Those first ten minutes are so intense,” he says. “It was almost like you hadn’t taken a breath. I felt I had an imagination that worked kind of like that.”) By chance, a relative was a talent agent, and two years later, Carter had a three-picture screenwriting deal. In 1992, just as his own dark preoccupations with trust and government were becoming the national mood, Carter was hired by Fox to develop television shows. Now in the middle of its fourth season, The X-Files is the highest-rated program on the Fox network. The show is seen in 60 countries. In some of them, the two-part episodes that run during American sweeps weeks are edited together and packaged as minimovies. An actual movie — an X-Files feature — is planned for release next summer. Carter is writing the screenplay.

“Chris has his hands on every single aspect of the show,” says Gillian Anderson. “He’s a controlling maniac, and he’s a genius.”

Like the show’s heroes, he’s downsized his personal life to the point of nonexistence. He and his wife have no children — “It’s fine with me,” he explains. “I think I’d love a kid too much, for one thing.”

“Chris is extremely focused and extremely loyal to The X-Files,” says David Duchovny. “He’s made the show his entire life, as far as I can see. Everything is to that end.”

Last fall, Carter’s schedule became even busier. Fox prevailed upon him to create a second show; Carter came up with Millennium, which so far hasn’t risen to the artistic heights of The X-Files. The dialogue sometimes seems to come from a line of brooding greeting cards. (“He was paralyzed not by fear but by something deeper; by understanding.” “The doctor says you have a mild concussion. But it’s not your body’s healing that worries me, it’s your spirit.”) “It’s a little bit confusing,” says Duchovny. “We all sort of say, ‘Why do you need another show?’ Because this show is enough work for anybody. He’s been with us less than during the first three seasons. And I think that if the quality of the show hasn’t suffered, definitely the process of making the episodes has become harder, just because Chris is very controlling and wants to be. But he doesn’t have the time now.” Carter points out that while Millennium’s viewership hasn’t lived up to the spectacularly hyped pilot, the new show is duplicating last year’s X-Files ratings. Carter’s professional life has become almost like an X-Files story line: a massive international corporation wired into and feeding off one man’s anxieties.

Carter describes his life thus: “I go to work, and I go home. I had one of those Global Positioning Systems given to me as a gift. It’s a little screen in my car that draws a map — drops these little rabbit pellets — to show where you’ve been. And my map is a very monotonous single track, back and forth to work. I go to Vancouver [where The X-Files and Millennium are filmed]. I don’t do anything else.”

When I asked Carter if he thinks he has a genius for being frightening, he laughs: “I understand what people don’t understand. I understand where people are vulnerable. Most of the kids I went to high school with still live in that same town. Fear of the outsiders, fear of the other, was very, very real and powerful in my town. I grew up with a guy who was actually one of the smarter kids in the school and who was also an athlete. And one night, when we were 18, we drove to Westwood [an upscale L.A. neighborhood]. Our town was only 20 miles away. And we were in a restaurant when he looked around and said, ‘We don’t belong here.’ That’s the distance that that half-hour created. He felt that those people were sophisticated and smart, and knew things he didn’t. So he was scared of them. That’s what people are afraid of. It’s the scary thing about foreigners; it’s the scary thing about aliens. We’re all afraid of the unknown. And each week, that’s what I’m doing. I’m exposing people to what they don’t know.”

What’s it been like, this season, running two shows at once?

It’s really brutal. There’s no getting around it. I think the series business is as hard a work as there is in entertainment.

So did you appreciate why [“Seinfeld” co-creator] Larry David left his show last year, before the sixth season?

Well, yes. I mean, you set out to accomplish something, and you accomplish it. I don’t think you should work past the point where you’re doing it for the money. Or for the — I don’t want to say the obligation, but I do feel obligated to Dave and Gillian. Our commitment when we started was that we’d give each other five years of hard work. I’ll have stuck with The X-Files for five years at the end of next season.

What happens then?

Contractually, I walk away. I produce something else. I have an overall deal at Fox, so I will be here past my obligation to The X-Files. I’ve signed away my life to them for longer than that. So there’s a chance I could still be on The X-Files past Season 5.

What are the odds that you won’t be?

Today? Big.


I’m really tired. I wish there were more good X-Files writers. There are very few people who have proved they can do it. That’s why it’s been so hard. I think with Millennium, I’ve created not only a good show but a problem for myself in that it requires more work. And so, because I can’t stand to do anything halfway, I’ve handed myself more work. It’s a collaborative process. You need good people to actually succeed, and you risk killing yourself if you don’t have them. I’d say I’ve written a third of all X-Files episodes. And last year I wrote or rewrote 20 of 24. I was on a round-table discussion with Stephen Bochco, and he said that when he was doing Hill Street Blues, they had six guys who could do an episode start to finish. That’s unheard of these days. You just don’t have that breadth of talent available to you. Anybody who can write drama now has their own show or a pilot deal, or something. The reality is, it’s very hard to get a group of people together to make something real, to make something right.

Had it been an ambition of yours to have two shows on at once?

I just want to do what interests me. I hate the word ambition — I think it sounds as if you’re overreaching. It sounds like a dirty word to me. Because the bad part is, you can be ambitious without having talent.

What is it then?

You know what it is? I could very easily leave these episodes alone. And we could do them, and they would probably be OK. I just — I look at them, and I just know they can be better. That’s what’s pushing me. It’s pursuit of, I guess, in a way, perfection. Which is, you know, impossible.

Did you start out intending to be a screenwriter?

I didn’t. I graduated from Long Beach State University, in 1979, with a degree in journalism and went to work for Surfing magazine for five pretty hard-core years. I was the associate editor. But even though that seems like a lowly title, sometimes I wrote almost the entire magazine.

It must have been a kick to go from being a surfer to working at “Surfing” magazine.

It was a great experience. I got to travel all around the world; I did stories in Australia, and I did stories in the Caribbean. I did many stories in Hawaii — I went to the North Shore for, I think, seven years in a row during the winter season, when all the big-wave riders gather.

When did you start surfing?

From age 12 on. Even though we lived inland, I would always find ways to get to the beach. I still surf, though I’m not as nimble as I once was. The town I grew up in is called Bellflower. Actually, it’s right next to Lakewood, which is famous now for Joan Didion’s Spur Posse article. Bellflower is one of those bedroom communities for people working at Rockwell, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing. My forebears were dairy farmers, Dutch. When I was growing up, the land was all dairy farms. Now it’s called Cerritos, which has become famous for that plane that crashed on its approach to LAX.

What kind of childhood was it?

I have what a lot of people in this business don’t: a very blue-collar background. My mom was a homemaker. My father was a construction worker — the guy people curse as they go down the street because he’s one of the men who was tearing up the roads and putting in storm drains and sewer lines.

He was pretty strict, wasn’t he?

Actually, I told this story once to a group of people. I was goaded into it because they said Alfred Hitchcock said that his father had locked him in a room, or something like that. They asked, “Do you have any story like that?” And I thought, “Okay, well, if they’re going to connect it to the master.” So I told this story, which is of my dad punishing me for coming home late. I was probably all of about eight or nine years old, so I was a real little kid. I’d missed dinner, and my dad, to get across that this was not allowed, carried my dinner outside and put it down on a manhole cover, and made me eat my food there. It was his way of showing he meant business. We were on a cul-de-sac, so there weren’t that many cars. But, still, it’s a pretty strange way to punish your kid.

Is that why — well, I don’t want this to sound strange: How paranoid a person are you?

[Smiles] Very, very paranoid, in that I’m acutely aware of fear and betrayal. My father had a bad relationship with his mother. She had left his father at an early age, so he was keenly attuned to her betrayal of him. I think that’s something that was passed down.

But what do you think made you paranoid?

Well, it started out — my mother, who I loved dearly, could never keep a secret. So if as a kid you go to your mother and you tell her something, and she can’t keep it secret, it develops in you, you know, a sense that nothing is safe [laughs].

What kind of secrets?

I remember that I had a girlfriend, who I’m still very friendly with, kind of a high-school sweetheart. I’d moved away, and I was afraid that she was cheating on me. So I had my mom do some of my legwork. She looked into it and came back, and told me that nothing was going on. And then I said, “Please keep this a secret.” So as late as my late teens, I mean, she would [laughs] tell her friends. She did it in the least malicious way. She was just a person who couldn’t keep a secret.

But she didn’t tell the girl that she’d kept a stakeout in front of her house…

No, but she, like, alluded to it or something. My mom was wonderfully ditsy, and so it was just sort of like, “Oops! It just snuck out!” So I think that’s where that comes from.

What kind of student were you?

I was not a great high school student. I think I was kind of bored. But I was a good college student. I put myself through school working as a production potter. When I was a sophomore, I built a house from the ground up with a carpenter. I can build things; I can make things. I know how to take a project and finish it, which is what producing is: seeing a problem, you know, and actually taking the materials and hammering the pieces together.

Did you begin thinking about writing for TV while you were at “Surfing”?

I actually didn’t. The woman who’s now my wife — Dori — she’d been a screenwriter for a long time. I had never really had any ambition to be a screenwriter. But I had an idea. I’d go to see movies — I mean, everybody has an idea for a movie. And so I told it to her, she liked it, and she said, “Well, why don’t you write the screenplay?” So I did. And it actually got a lot of attention around town.

Was it a surfing thing?

It was called National Pastime, and it was about three kids going off to Vietnam, from my socioeconomic level, and the injustices of who goes and who doesn’t. When I go back and read it today, I cringe, because I really didn’t know my craft then like I do now. But there’s still a story there to tell. Do you know how everybody out there wants to get an agent? I didn’t — I wasn’t really pushing it at all. I wrote this thing and actually had the luxury of being able to hand it to someone — an agent who was a cousin by marriage — who had the ability then to put it out. She got some feedback, and basically … nothing happened. So I had to write a second script, a big comedy, which was seen by Jeffrey Katzenberg [then the head of production at Disney]. And Jeffrey Katzenberg, for very little money — what seemed like a lot of money to me — gave me an office and a secretary. I don’t think I ever made more than $18,000 a year at Surfing, and he gave me $40,000. So one day I was in the surf, and the next day I was driving to Burbank.

Was the second screenplay more like “The X-Files” and “Millennium”?

It was very big and wild, about a character named Bad O’Malley who was a sort of private eye. But I got my foot in the door — that was the big mistake. They didn’t ask you what you were interested in. Disney wanted you to do their ideas. So, as I’m working on a script, I start getting very strange calls from a woman who says that she’s going to ruin me, that I’d taken her boyfriend’s script and it wasn’t my property. I realized I was writing an idea that actually belonged to somebody else. But no one had bothered to tell me. It was sort of, “Welcome to Hollywood, this is how the business works.”

Anyway, this was at a time when Disney needed product, and they needed writers. They were doing The Disney Sunday Movie every week. These producers would come to my door on the lot, and they’d say, “You want to do a Disney Sunday Movie?” I’d say yes to everybody because, you know, they’re asking me to write. That’s where I got seduced by television: the pace, the control that I saw that you could have.

That’s a funny jump: from Disney to “The X-Files.”

Well, the jump from Surfing to The X-Files is somehow even funnier. But I watched a lot of TV as a kid, so it was something I was very familiar with.

What did you like?

Twilight Zone. Night Gallery. The Outer Limits. The show that inspired The X-Files was called Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He was a reporter who investigated a monster of the week. But what was nice for me is that in the 20 years between Kolchak and The X-Files, a lot happened in science and technology. And those things — which, you know, became the foundation for The X-Files — they didn’t really have at the time. But I’ve never watched an episode of Star Trek in my life. I tell people this, and they never believe me.

Had you been interested in the paranormal before “The X-Files”?

I was interested in science. My brother is a physicist, and I’m kind of a dilettante amateur scientist. But magic — the unexplained, a mystery — is always fun to write about. What I really wanted was to do a good scary show. This was the summer of 1992. The two characters I came up with sort of represented those two sides of myself: the scientific and the intuitive. Then I switched the genders. At the same time, a bunch of other elements came together. You know, you start working on something, and all of a sudden your antennae become fixed. I saw a guy who worked for the FBI on Larry King whose detail was satanic cults. He said that he had found not one ounce of truth in any of those things. But I found it interesting that they had somebody specifically investigating something like that.

And The Silence of the Lambs had come out, which I thought was beautifully done, and I actually studied that movie pretty carefully. So it was scratching at my mind; the FBI was fresh in my mind. Kolchak, FBI — that really sort of helped form the concept.

And when you had it, did you think, “This is the idea, but, man, this is going to be a hard sell”?

Yeah, I thought it was going to be a hard sell, and, in fact, it was a hard sell. They didn’t buy it the first time out. Because they didn’t understand it: nothing like it on TV. I went to Martha’s Vineyard between the time I pitched it and the time they turned us down, and met somebody there who was a Yale research psychologist. He gave me a book, a tract, which was the statistical survey done by a Harvard professor, Dr. John Mack, that showed 3 percent of Americans believed they’d been abducted by aliens. Here were two guys — one from Harvard, one from Yale — who were saying, “There’s something here.” It was all I needed to go back to Fox.

Is that why David’s character is from the Vineyard?


Was he hard to cast?

He actually came in and read for the part. I didn’t realize how smart he was, because his delivery is so slow. At first I wasn’t impressed. I was looking for a different kind of intelligence. But he read perfectly.

And Gillian Anderson?

Believe me, that was a very difficult, uh, sell to Fox.

This was when “Melrose Place” and “90210” were big hits for Fox. Were they looking for a Heather Locklear type?

When she came in to read for the part, she was not looking her best. She looked like she had probably been living somewhere in the East Village [in New York] and was dressed kind of funky. She looked nothing like she looks now. But I saw an intensity and an intelligence there that I think would be a part of any person who had gone to medical school, who was young and ambitious. A person who wanted to please her superiors. You knew the chemistry was there with Dave and Gillian. That’s something you pray for, because you can’t manufacture it.

When did you know the show wasn’t going to fail?

I guess the day the pilot was completed. I delivered it to Fox at 8:00 on the morning that they were going to show it to Rupert Murdoch at 8:30 — that’s how close we cut it. And I went home and was getting some breakfast. They found me in this place where I was having some eggs — called to say how everyone had responded, that there had been, like, spontaneous applause in the room. You can imagine, of course, if Rupert Murdoch’s there, how everyone sort of waits to see what he thinks. But people responded to it. And they, uh, loved it. It was a first inkling I had that … there was something there.

And now it’s four and a half years later. How much has changed for you? Do people who aren’t in the business recognize you?

It’s kind of funny. I got off the plane the other day, and there were like 20 people waiting for my autograph. This was the first time that’s happened, and it’s kind of scary.

Did you see any of this happening when you’re trying to sell the pilot?

It’s confusing — it is still a dream. There are obviously some very personal ideas at work on the show that people are responding to. And no one has objected to my — to the way I look at the world. In fact, they seem to agree with it.

And this is not to mention the money.

I went on a surf trip with the guy who took my job at Surfing magazine. His name’s Sam George, and he was just about to turn 40. We go on this trip, and we talk about surfing. This guy really lives the surfer’s life. He’s figured out a way to work at the magazine, be a surfer and make enough money to exist off it. But I knew he was sort of miserable in his job or felt a little stagnated there. So for his 40th birthday — because I can — I gave him a year’s salary to go around the world and write a book about surfing. It was such a treat for me to do this for somebody who truly deserves it.

You said you used to “lurk” on the Internet. Do you still read the comments posted by “X-Files” fans?

I used to look at them immediately after each show. I don’t anymore. Mostly because I don’t have time. We have an assistant go through them, and on Wednesday I’m handed a sheaf of paper that has all the stuff on it, and I sort of flip through. There are certain things that I read. I’ll read Sarah Stegall, whose online name is Munchkyn. She writes really a … literary critique of each episode, which we always look forward to. Even if we agree to disagree with it.

Why you think people have connected with the material so strongly?

I can’t explain it. Nor probably can anyone else. It’s a paranormal phenomenon.

What have you changed in your actual life?

I try to maintain exactly the same lifestyle I did in my teens, 20s and 30s. I really don’t do anything different. As you can see, I’ve got no wardrobe. I’m very careful about expanding in any way.

You’re afraid if you begin expanding …

It takes your focus off the work. It’s bad luck. I remember Willie Mays would always run on to the middle of the field before a game and touch first base. And I always thought that was kind of strange. But I don’t think it’s so strange anymore.

I think you’re dressed fine. But if you were to go out and buy some suits, for example, you think that would be immediately reflected in weak plot development?

I did go out and buy a Comme des Garcon suit at Barneys, and I was appalled at how much it cost. It was two grand. I didn’t even look at the price tag, and then I was just blown away. So even though, actually, I love fashion — and love fashion magazines and love fashion photography — it’s just not something I’m involved in now.

The characters dress well, which I assume is one of the things you had in mind?

It is. Except we made a point with Mulder and Scully: Mulder couldn’t wear three-button suits in the beginning because it was too fashionable; Scully had to wear business attire, because the FBI is very rigid about those things. And actually we’ve been criticized for Scully’s dowdy suits. I always thought that was unfair — it was from people who, I think, watched too much Melrose Place. I think the characters are dressed nicely. I learned very early on when I was producing that even if you have a character who would shop at J. C. Penney, you better put them in Armani. Because Armani fits better, and you want your actors and actresses always to look good. So that’s why David wears Hugo Boss suits. And Gillian wears very fashionable clothes, but nothing that’s a fashion statement.

About Scully: after 3 1/2 seasons, are you aware of her dialogue tics? Like the way she always restates the show’s plot about 17 minutes in. If Mulder were to say, “Scully, we have a flat tire,” she’d say, “Mulder, what you’re saying is that one of our tires has no air in it.”

Glen Morgan, one of our executive producers, says that a good X-Files episode has Scully yelling, “Mulder!” and then a couple of flashlight scenes.

Similarly, I think people wonder when you’re going to run out of urban myths. You’ve already done crop-dusting, drug tests and smallpox vaccinations as tagging devices, Gulf War syndrome, aggressive security systems, creatures living in the sewer, Loch Ness, vampire plastic surgeons, repressed memory, subliminal television messages, necrophiliac undertakers. I could go on.

Yeah. We’re not dealing with a renewable resource here. We’re mining something that someday will be mined out. But it’s, just how deep is the vein? You know, it’s hard. Glen Morgan and his [writing] partner, Jim Wong, came back this year, and they wrote four very good episodes. And by the end, they said they were out of ideas. We all struggle with that. I’m constantly reading magazines and newspapers. I pick up all the things you’d think of: Science, Discovery, Scientific American, any newspaper with a good science section. I’m the ultimate scavenger. I’ve got to be — I’ve got a lot of work to do. When I get a good idea, I clip it out and put it on the board for anyone to use. I get inspiration through the paranoia. Right now I’m reading one of those right-wing extremists sort of books — Behold a Pale Horse, by William Cooper. I read these things with fascination. You know, the books that have all those capital letters. This one was given to me by David Duchovny’s assistant. I’d seen it in bookstores before but never bought it. It’s kind of a frighteningly thick book.

Would I be correct in assuming you have your own misgivings about government?

Well, I have a basic mistrust of people. And because people are government, I have a basic mistrust of government. I think this government doesn’t care about the individual. The government cares about the government, and that’s a problem. There’s an interesting quote that one of the editors keeps on top of his keyboard: “Perfect paranoia is perfect awareness.” I think if I’m adding static to the collective awareness, that’s a good thing. Paranoia is a good thing. It creates smart people. If people are around water coolers talking about The X-Files, I think it’s because the show has that spiritual foundation. It’s talking about the unknown; it’s talking about possibilities; it’s talking about your emotional life, not just about science and how dangerous it is on the streets. I’ve always said The X-Files is about extreme possibility. Conversely, Millennium, you could say, is about possible extremes. And, ultimately, it’s about evil. And it’s something that people can think about. Evil is greater than us and, in its own way, something spiritual, too.

So, how different is your thinking from the guys writing those thick books?

Well, you’ve seen how we’ve juxtaposed Mulder and Scully with the right-wing militia group — the revolutionaries of the conspiracy movement. On purpose. Because I’ve been asked, “How do I reconcile my distrust of the government with theirs?” Those people are saying, “Destroy the government.” I’m saying, “Question the government.”

How to explain the attraction of conspiracies? Why do people want to believe in them now?

It’s what 60 Minutes tells us every week: nothing is safe anymore. You’re not safe in your job; you’re not safe at home. The money that you’ve been contributing since you were a young person now, for a lot of retirees, is no longer there. Because some whippersnapper came in and decided he was going to invest it or, you know, take it and bolster up his other company out there with your money. I think a lot of the things that were safeguards — the social safety net and the psychic safety net — have been taken away. Therefore, conspiracies are just … elaborate betrayals.

Organized betrayals?

Yes. Except that I have very little faith in people’s ability to work in any collaborative, cooperative and secretive manner collectively. That’s why I — as much as I believe that there are conspiracies — I’m skeptical of their perfect execution. On the show, I’m always pulling back and saying, “This is unbelievable; I don’t believe it.” The hard part of the show, actually, is reining it in. Keeping it believable. It’s easy to go far out. But I’m mining our basic distrust of government to suggest other conspiracies.

How many of Mulder’s beliefs do you share?

A lot, spiritually. That I WANT TO BELIEVE poster in his office — I created that for the show. It really sums me up: I’m a skeptic who wants to believe. It sums up Mulder, too.

So do you believe, for example, that aliens crash-landed at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947?

I don’t know that they didn’t. But I have great doubts.

Do you believe that JFK was assassinated by gunmen other than Lee Harvey Oswald?

I don’t know. But if other people were involved, it seems to me that someone would have copped to it.

What made you pick “Millennium” as your sophomore effort?

I wanted to do something that wasn’t The X-Files. I had this idea of doing something about the millennium for a while, and the time was right. The heroic qualities of the character appealed to me a lot.

What do you mean “heroic”?

There’s not a hero like him on TV. I’m interested in his purity, his calm, his focus. I wanted Frank Black to be heroic in a way that men are not allowed to be heroic. There’s a line in an episode coming up where he says, “Somehow, we can’t do the right thing anymore, because to involve yourself in somebody else’s problems is to needlessly invite them on yourself.” And I think that’s become the world we live in. It’s frightening. You cannot reach out. You can’t do anything truly altruistic anymore without taking into consideration, first of all, the legal consequences. The question is: how can we act heroically? How can you reach out and help someone?

During the L.A. riots, I saw the most amazing thing. I was watching live footage of a man driving home from the airport on Inglewood Boulevard. Somebody threw something through his window, and hit him, and it cut him, and he swerved and crashed. He was bloodied; he went out onto the sidewalk — he was dazed. And a man rushed to his aid. And I thought to myself, “Big risk: somebody else’s blood — somebody you don’t know. Huge risk these days.”

This is our dilemma: people want to do the right thing, but they can’t anymore. Frank Black is doing it. There’s a story about Lance Henriksen — who plays Frank — that I’ve never forgotten. Akira Kurosawa’s son was staying with the director Phil Kaufman; I think they were all up in St. Helena [California]. There was a rattlesnake near this kid, and Lance went over and took it, and snapped its neck — caught it and twisted something. He slayed the dragon. I’ve never forgotten it. And so I paid very close attention to his work ever since that time.

In terms of the new TV-rating system: do you think kids should watch “Millennium”?

I don’t know. It’s scary stuff, but I’d rather have my kids smart and afraid than ignorant and vulnerable.

On the other hand, I was watching one episode, I think it was called “Kingdom Come,” and there was that guy’s severed tongue on the screen. And I thought, “The human tongue — no one should have to see the human tongue on television.”

You can see the same thing on the Learning Channel. I mean, it is a frightening image. But it doesn’t suggest that you should go out and cut off a tongue. It doesn’t suggest to anybody to do that. It actually suggest the opposite.

There’s that great line from “The Simpsons”: Lisa and Bart are at the movies, and Lisa’s looking away from some bloody thing, and Bart says, “Lisa, if you don’t watch the violence, how can you become desensitized to it?”

But you do not actually see the violent act that takes the tongue away.

But … a tongue! If we’re seeing a tongue on television, it reflects a view of the world in which violence is an accepted part of our basic feeling about the world. And I’m not sure that’s good.

It doesn’t create violence. It creates paranoia.

But if “The X-Files” creates paranoia about the public realm — the government — and “Millennium” creates paranoia about the private realm — our neighbors — then what’s left? A show about a guy who’s paranoid about himself, who doesn’t know what the hell his body’s going to do next?

[Laughs] That’s an interesting idea. Maybe that will be my next effort.

In both shows, I noticed, the male-female relationship is central and idealized. In “The X-Files,” it’s platonic. In “Millennium,” there’s a sort of idealized marriage between Frank Black and his wife.

My feeling is that the most powerful relationships you have in life are … not sexual. You haven’t seen Lance Henriksen and Megan Gallagher in a sexual situation on Millennium. Between them, love is understood. Love is gesture and feeling and trust, and all those things, and it’s not necessarily a physical thing.

And the relationship between Scully and Mulder?

It’s also like my kind of idealized romantic relationship. It’s two smart people in a room, arguing something when each one has a valid point of view. It’s like good dinner-party conversation. It’s what makes me feel alive — and good about myself. And I think there’s too little of it in most of our lives and particularly in romantic situations.

You were talking a second ago about gesture, and how Gallagher and Henriksen don’t really hug and kiss. What would happen if Scully and Mulder were to hug and kiss?

They have hugged. They’ve never kissed. They could kiss if it was the right time for it. They could never give big French kisses. People say, “Will Mulder and Scully ever go to bed?” And I say, “You really don’t want them to.” Because the minute they do, then, basically, when they’re in that motel on their assignment, you know, investigating the appearance of extraterrestrial life somewhere, and they decide they’re finally going to get it on, they’re going to lie there sort of googly eyed in the morning, and those aliens are just going to be running amok. They will become more interested in themselves than in the things that they need to be doing.

If the show is ever in trouble, don’t you think Fox would push you to have a romance?

Oh, sure.

And how strong do you think you’ll be when that call comes?

As I say, I may not be here by then, so I don’t know. But I would resist it, as I think the characters would. Or the actors that play them. That’s what The X-Files movies are going to be for.

The motto of “The X-Files” is, The Truth Is Out There. What truth is that?

You know, it’s double-edged, a joke. The truth is out there. It’s also far out there. But, in fact, that’s what we’re all seeking. That’s really what all of us want to know or, at least, anyone who is working with any depth to their own life.

What truth have you found?

I don’t know. I can tell you, every once in a while — it hasn’t happened to me in a long time, but there is something weird that did happen to me. I had a kind of psychic or paranormal experience once. I had just finished Season 2 — it was the week of my birthday. So I must have just turned 38. I’d just directed my first episode. I really liked the way it came out. I felt that I had achieved something. Something had been perfectly — not perfectly, there were mistakes — but had been executed in a way that made me feel right. I went with my wife for a birthday week to Laguna Beach. And I felt like everyone I looked at, I knew. I felt that there was some kind of truth — there was some kind of harmony to be achieved out there. It felt like, you know, you read about the Sufis or whoever, the Zen masters: that kind of calm, centeredness. I had reached it. I reached it for a very short amount of time. But I guess that’s probably what I’m looking for is that — that kind of state.

I feel silly talking about it as a TV producer. But I think that everybody, if you’re a creative person, all of us are striving for maybe that sort of moment. That great brief and fleeting moment of something, of insight.

Rolling Stone: Chris Carter As The Beast Within

Rolling Stone
Chris Carter As The Beast Within
David Lipsky

EatTheCorn note: This is a complete and unedited version of the interview that appeared on the print edition of Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone: How would you feel watching the show if it hadn’t turned those corners and you had backed away from it?

Chris Carter: I would be sad. But I mean I’m sad that in syndication they’re going to edit out one-and-a-half to 2 minutes of each episode. It’s a shame. I mean, we’ve worked hard to pack in as much as we can, and everything needs to be there in those 43-odd minutes. To get two minutes out of a picture that’s just right — that’s a lot.

RS: Is “Surfing” [magazine] where you developed your taste for booking Mulder and Scully into motel rooms?

CC: I was always in motels working as a surfing journalist. And then right before I created “The X-Files,” I drove cross-country with my wife and we stayed in motels everywhere. So that was what gave me my feeling for it — the idea that might be a guy behind the wall looking through your mirror.

RS: I’ve always wondered if you watched a show called “The Avengers.”

CC: Sure. Loved it. Mulder and Scully come from those characters, Emma Peel and what’s-his-name — Patrick MacNee. He was older than she was, so it was a sort of May-September, whatever you call it, relationship. It lacked sexual tension because of that quality. But I loved that sort of platonic thing.

RS: You stayed at Disney from ’85 to ’87. What did you write?

CC: Do I have to tell you? “Meet the Munceys.” A pilot called “Cameo By Night.” I wrote something called “The Nanny” which was also a pilot but which didn’t become the Fran Drescher Nanny.

RS: “The Nanny” is really scary.

CC: It is really scary. I actually saw the thing. One of these watchdog groups for television was doing ratings — they had a red light, yellow light, green light — and they gave a red light to “The Nanny,” which was interesting to me. For innuendo, I guess.

RS: How did “The X-Files” come about?

CC: A man named Peter Roth had became president at Fox. And hired me to a deal, in 1992. I’d been pitching shows for a while, but “The X-Files” was the first thing I pitched here.

RS: One thing that surprised me immediately this morning is that you project a real calm. It’s a quality I associate with surfers, and I wonder if that’s been valuable to you in pitching.

CC: It’s kind of cool. It’s kind of who I am, yeah. It has been valuable, and actually when you see the character Frank Black, that Lance Henriksen plays on “Millennium,” who’s very calm — that’s very appealing to me. People who are … calm, and in control. It’s a nice guiding force for any kind of project that tends to be run from chaos.

RS: David Duchovny, of course, plays it a little bit like that too.

CC: He is like that. It’s just who I am. I like quiet humor. This is more light than you’ll ever see in this office — I like dim light. I like I guess maybe solitude. I like being alone.

RS: It must be reassuring to people on the studio side. Because you’re not someone who’s bouncing up off a corner of the ceiling and then coming back down.

CC: People think Hollywood appreciates showmanship — it’s like they think that comedians are the people who are always on. [Snaps fingers.] And the funniest people are actually the opposite, are actually very quiet. Like Woody Allen who they say never laughs. He says, “That’s funny.”

RS: Why’d you shoot the pilot in Vancouver?

CC I do both shows in Canada because the crews up there just give you everything they’ve got. My experience in Hollywood has been that this is a town where you have people who do jobs. Most shows fail, right? This is a business of failure. And so if they’re on a show, that show’s going to probably fail and they’ll go to another show. It just becomes a job. They make no connection to your show because this is where everything’s made. And so you find that a lot of people won’t invest in a project. But up in Canada, this is their show.

RS: When did you know the show wasn’t going to fail?

CC: I mean I find it surprising sometimes, I’ll hear somebody talking about the “X-Files” standing right next to me. Donnie Pfaster, who was in the “Irresistible” episode about the death fetishist: I saw him in Hawaii and he didn’t see me, I was in a pool floating around. And I saw people pointing at him. They had recognized Donnie as the guy from the show. I was just amazed by it. Here’s a character, you know, a guest star and there were a lot of people asking for him. I felt I was actually watching what must be going on all the time, from a kind of a secret place. I didn’t even go up to him and say hi. I just wanted to watch.

RS: Have you dropped by any of the paranormal conventions?

CC: This is the surprising thing. When I started the show everybody said, “Just wait — the freaks are going to come out of the woodwork.” (Laughs) And it hasn’t happened. You know, there’ve been instances, but most of those people at the conventions are just regular folk. There are a lot of people who are sort of UFO buffs. But I would say most of the people are not.

RS: Is the place just one big trading post?

CC: There’s some merchandising. I didn’t want to cheapen the show by just putting the “X-Files” logo or Mulder and Scully’s face on anything that could be licensed. So I’ve turned a lot of things down. Boxer shorts was one. Various and sundry key chains. Flashlights. Mostly just doo-dads. Gee-gaws. I don’t know how to describe them. Trinkets. What David Duchovny calls wampum.

Actually a lot of the things I learned about merchandising come from the surfing world. I saw these guys at Ocean Pacific — OP — Gotcha, Quiksilver. I knew them when they were just starting out. And as soon as those guys were in Robinson’s, May or Sears or whatever, basically you knew you’d gotten to the end. The secret is to keep everything small and keep it hard to get, and it’ll have a longer life. There was a memo that came by at the beginning of the second season, which said that “X-Files” merchandise was going to start appearing in J.C. Penney stores. And I fired off the angriest memo to these saying, “Are you crazy?”

RS: And you’d never consider licensing, let’s say, a Hugo Boss line signed by David Duchovny?

CC: I’ve never thought of it. But it sounds exactly like something I would really have a reaction to.

RS: How often have you gone to the conventions?

CC: I’ve been to probably seven or eight.

RS: And how do people respond when you go out?

CC: It’s crazy. In San Diego, I got up on stage and it was like I was truly like a rock star. (Laughs) I mean, I stood up and there were just, for five minutes, there were flashbulbs flashing, and people applauding, and people on their feet. I didn’t know. I was astounded. It’s part of this dream. It’s really to me like a — I can’t explain it. It is surreal. It’s like I’m living someone else’s life. There are some things, as an executive producer, that you don’t imagine yourself ever doing. Winning a gold record for an album that I produced and co-wrote a song on. Being an actor on one of my own episodes. But the celebrity. The fact that I had my picture taken for Rolling Stone, that I’m in Rolling Stone is a really weird thing to me. It’s like your old rock star fantasy sort of coming true. In a really bizarre way. And I never imagined that.

RS: I’m trying to think of a way to phrase this: One thing I’ve wondered about “X-Files” is whether it’s a vehicle for your own sense of conspiracy, or whether this was just something in the national mood that you sensed because you’re a smart entertainer. “X-Files” and “Millennium” are both very dark. But I mean, your early work couldn’t have been sunnier.

CC: Because I really was coming right off the beach. Literally. And I was a writer for hire — I was doing other people’s ideas. And I could write young adult, contemporary adult dialogue in relationships. I probably could have done a pretty good job writing “Clueless.”

RS: You’d learned that dialogue from surfers.

CC: Yeah I had, exactly. I mean, Jeff Spicolli [from “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”] is a person who was part of my life. Which is all that “Clueless” really is, just sort of a new twist on that. So I have that in my ear, but it’s of little interest to me.

RS: Do story ideas always come from things — magazines, newspapers — you read?

CC: Sometimes I’ll suggest something, that will become a story. Last year we did an episode called “DPO” about a kid who could control lightning. That’s something I wanted to do for a long time. Because there was a James song that I’d heard, this is how that story came about. There was a James song that’s got — in fact it’s right in the beginning of the show — it always felt to me like the song was a heart attack. That it was what a heart attack must feel like. And so I thought, that would be interesting if a heart attack is actually an electrical malfunction, it means you could actually use the song too … trigger heart attacks actually, actually use the electricity to do it.

RS: Do you remember what James song it was?

CC: It’s called “Ring the Bells” by James. I don’t like the one on their album. I don’t like the one that’s off, the James album. I like the live version.

RS: Have any story ideas seemed too far-fetched?

CC: I think I’m pitched ideas, by people, that just don’t fit. I don’t know what has — has not flown. It’s often times people will try to do everything at once, in a UFO story. You know, they’ll want to do “Independence Day” and you know you have to throw in all — those things are too far-fetched. “Independence Day wasn’t my favorite movie.”

RS: No, it’s hard to have movies where either, A) the whole country is taken over …

CC: Right.

RS: … or B) where then — a whole country is liberated, and then it’s the reverse.

CC: This is oftentimes what happens as people come in and they want to do the thing where the, you know — a city is taken over. You just can’t do that on an “X Files.” It’s unbelievable. These things don’t happen.

RS: And that becomes too large an event for a single episode.

CC: It’s too big.

RS: What did you make of “Independence Day?”

CC: I was actually — I saw it, went to the premiere of that movie. And I didn’t think it was going to do the business it did. I didn’t — I don’t know, and I feel — I feel strange saying it: I didn’t quite, you know, get what the sensation was. It was just the effects, I guess.

RS: Well the effects — aside from the money shots, the effects weren’t that great. I mean the end of that movie is matte paintings on fire.

CC: Yeah, it is. And also the idea that, you know, Will Smith could be sitting there you know and cracking wise while there are space ships hovering — you know — out in the near distance. It was a show with a funny tone, but I mean obviously people really liked it. I strive hard to do something that is believable. And this was — they didn’t — they weren’t working in the same genre.

Rolling Stone: And where did “The Truth is Out There” title in the credits come form?

Chris Carter: That one hit me because I wanted something that summed up the philosophy of the show in those main titles.

RS: And do you remember where you were — were you at your desk typing out a number of things …

CC: I was just thinking, you know — we work on these main titles, and the actual main titles weren’t working. And it was like, the main titles really were not finished so they actually didn’t appear on the pilot episode. They appeared one episode later, I believe. And they just weren’t coming out very good. And I remember one thing that had — that might have worked — was that lightning strike. I love [the artist] Ed Rusha. And I wanted it to look like an Ed Ruscha painting. It worked very beautifully. And it — it was just very reminiscent of one of his paintings. And I loved the use of the literal, the textual.

RS: Yeah. There’s a line that actually is a valuable thing for the way you guys approach the FBI in story telling. I forget where — I think it’s in EBE, where Deep Throat says a lie is most convincingly hidden between 2 truths.

CC: Yeah, that’s actually in “Fallen Angel.” Morgan and Wong wrote that — which is beautiful because it’s so true.

RS: It’s a great line.

CC: It’s wonderfully true. And I just read a nice quote about. That you can — if you bury a truth under a mountain of lies, that if you … find — if you can remove that truth and put it on top of the mountain, and all the lies collapse underneath the weight of the one truth.

RS: And that’s how the science works on the show. I mean, it seems like you try to be truthful there.

CC: The show is built on a solid foundation of real science. It’s one of the secrets of the show.

RS: Tell me a little bit more about that.

CC: Well, Scully’s point of view is the point of view of the show. And so the show has to be built on a solid — a bedrock foundation of science. In order to have Mulder take a flight from it. So if the science is really good, Scully’s got a valid point of view. She’s got an argument. And Mulder has to then convince her that she’s got to throw her arguments out, she’s got to accept the unacceptable. And there is the conflict.

RS: A few times I’ve watched the show — with “Home” or “Herrenvolk” — and thought, “God, they really did their homework, that’s accurate.”

CC: Well, I told you that “Herrenvolk” is being used as a teaching aid at the Indiana University. So that’s hard, good, genetic science. That I went over very carefully with a friend of mine who’s a professor at UMass/Amherst. She went over the genetics with me, and what was possible. What actual protein strings — those were accurate. And it’s very important to the show that they are accurate, because scientists are big fans of the show. And they would call “Bullshit.” My professor friend helped me also with the “Erhlermeyer Flask.” I’d read a David Suzuki book on genetics and it was very difficult to understand. You really have to — I think — immerse yourself in genetics, to understand it completely. But that is one of the secrets of the show.

RS: Are there other secrets like that on the production side?

CC: With the directors we have, I’m very emphatic about certain ways to do things. These shows are always scary because the camera’s going to make it scary. How the show will differ from many shows — you know, some of the hit series like “ER,” “NYPD Blue” — is that we have to tell a story with a camera quite unlike most of those shows. We actually have to — the camera has to reveal things. Has to see things that are there just at the right time. The point of view is everything. Point of view is everything in storytelling anyway — but particularly when you’re trying to scare people. Because you have to scare people from a subjective — you can’t scare people from an objective point of view. Well, you can. But mostly you’re scaring them with a scare you’re delivering to someone on screen.

So I have rules. And you know the rules are always made to be broken. The directors break them, wonderfully, sometimes. We did a show called “Home” this year, which was about those three brothers, and there are many, many occasions where the rules that I usually am pretty strict about were broken to great effect.

RS: How do these rules work?

CC: I don’t like the camera in motion for no reason at all. I don’t like it pivoting [demonstrates] like a character would swivel it’s neck, unless it is somebody’s point of view. The camera has to move in a way I call “Slow Camera, Stiff Neck.” I don’t want that camera flying through space. We have a high crane available to us at all times. And directors see that, and they want to — you know — swoop the camera in. It’s distracting particularly for this kind of storytelling. I think you have to tell a story very quietly.

RS: Quietly through Mulder and Scully.

CC: That’s pretty much it. The camera shouldn’t move independently of the action. You don’t want the camera telling you a story instead of the characters telling you a story.

RS: Politics is a kind of ongoing story. What do you think the politics of the show are? As a viewer, I do find it leaves me mistrustful of politics in general. How do you feel about that?

CC: Well, I mean I think voter apathy is like one of the things — I just hate it. It’s something I find so depressing. That people are not involved in and engaged with their own government. And I think I feel that there’s a lack of moral leadership in the country. That’s what I’m trying to put across. I’m trying to raise consciousness rather than lower it.

RS: Of course — with CSM and the Syndicate — the show could very easily lead to that kind of apathy: You know, “The Government is run by those kinds of guys.”

CC: It could. But this is — the characters are not destructive characters. They are characters who want to find something. To reveal something. To change something. So they’re working — I’m sorry to use this word — pro-actively. They are not saying, they are not divorcing themselves from the government. In fact they work for a government institution, and they don’t leave it. They actually work in it, because they believe that it gives them a platform. From which to do the things that they do.

RS: Do you feel comfortable talking about who you voted for in the last election?

CC: I voted for Clinton.

RS: For Clinton?

CC: Both times.

RS: Have you voted Democratic generally?

CC: I’m a registered Democrat.

RS: That’s funny. Because in a way your politics seem at once both liberal and conservative.

CC: They’re practical.

RS: The conservative thing is the sense of family, which you see [on “Millennium”] with Frank and his wife. And then the liberal thing is this fear of government, but that has also become — recently — a more right-wing thing, like that group Kyrchek had joined.

CC: Right. Revolution starts both low and high.

RS: I wouldn’t have guessed you as a Democrat.

CC: My father was a union man so I think I’ve got some of his politics.

RS: Oh no — I mean I’m a Democrat. I guess I’ve come to see a certain kind of government mistrust as belonging to the right.

CC: Yes. I think that really — almost any affiliation now is meaningless. You know, it just seems to me that the parties have come so — they’ve both become so centrist, have moved so far to the center that they’re almost … interchangeable. Bill Clinton is very Republican. In some ways.

RS: I asked about “Millennium” a moment ago. Have you been less involved with the “X-Files” this season because of “Millennium?” I mean, you have to be. There’s no way to be as involved.

CC: There’s certain things I don’t do any more. I used to always be on the bus. The last two days of prep on every episode involve what they call a technical survey. It’s a scouting trip, on a bus in Vancouver. Where you spend a day on the bus riding around to each location, talking about how things are going to be done, where the trucks have to go — you know — to be parked. The final set deck and where the camera’s going to be. What the grips have to be ready for. All the keys from each department are on that bus. And I was on, I would say, 20 of 24 of those for the “X-Files” last year.

Then the next day is a production meeting, and then a tone meeting. Where you sit and talk through the script: how do you do this, how are you going to shoot this, remember this here: attitudes — what the characters are doing there. It is really a last … you know, it’s the last day before you set sail. It’s, “What if this storm rises here, you know, in these latitudes?” It is this checklist that you go through.

And so I don’t go on that survey. But I still, I think I’ve been to every one but two tone meetings this year on “X-Files.” Out of 13 episodes — 14 episodes. And it’s the same thing with “Millennium,” I’ve been in every one but one tone meeting.

RS: Have you considered, if the numbers aren’t good on “Millennium,” doing a crossover episode with the “X-Files?”

CC: I’ve thought of it. And I think it’s too obvious a way to get ratings. And I want the show to succeed on its own terms, rather than on some kind of gimmick.

RS: But you know it’s a fail safe: If things are going wrong, it’s something you could pull out of the hat or something.

CC: I could. I never want to reach that point.

RS: And of course the worlds the characters live in — I mean, the “Millennium” world is a much more somber world in a way than the “X-Files” world.

CC: The shows are actually worlds apart. They are certainly in different solar systems.

RS: And do you think it would violate the reality of both of them, to move from one to the other?

CC: I just wouldn’t want to do it. It’s sort of like, The “X- Files” has been sort of a sacred thing. But you know, if David Duchovny said, “I’d like to try that,” I’d seriously consider it. If Gillian Anderson said, “I’d like to try that,” I’d seriously consider it