Archive for March, 1998

Vancouver Sun: X-Files creator bids B.C. sad adieu

Mar-30-1998
Vancouver Sun
X-Files creator bids B.C. sad adieu
Alex Strachan

The creator and executive-producer of The X-Files says it was a wrenching decision to move the popular television series to its new home in Los Angeles.

Chris Carter says he was nearly overcome with emotion when he broke the news late Friday night to his Vancouver crew, which was shooting one of the few remaining episodes of the season at a Kingsway Street motel.

Carter said that, in the end, he owed it to his two stars, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, to allow them to return to their homes after five years of working abroad.

In an interview by phone from Los Angeles Sunday, Carter admitted that he had promised Duchovny and Anderson that the show would not stay in Vancouver indefinitely.

Duchovny told several U.S. talk-show hosts late last year that he would sooner quit The X-Files than spend another year away from his wife, Naked Truth actress Tea Leoni, but Carter denied the actor had forced his hand.

“It’s important to remember that we originally intended to film the pilot [in March 1993] in Los Angeles,” Carter said. “When we couldn’t find a good forest, we made a quick decision to come to Vancouver. As it turned out, it was three weeks that turned into five years. The benefits of being in Vancouver were tremendous, and now, five years later, it is my home away from home.”

Duchovny said he has no hard feelings, but that the time has come to move on. “I have enjoyed living and working in the city for the past five years,” Duchovny said late Sunday night from his Kitsilano home. “It’s a lovely city, and the decision [to move] in no way reflects on the city or the people I work with.

“This is a harder-working crew than any I have ever worked with, and there’s no doubt that Vancouver is the best place to shoot the show. It’s just that the time has come for me to go home.”

Duchovny said that “regardless of any misunderstandings” in the local media in the past year, he harbours deep affection for the city.

“I’ve spent one-seventh of my life here already,” Duchovny said. “Tbe place can’t help but become part of you, and there will always be a part of me that remains.”

Carter said he had come to rely heavily on his Vancouver-based crew, describing it as an integral part of the show and one of the main reasons the series has become successful.

In the past several years, X-Files’ Vancouver crew members have won Emmy Awards for their work. They include art directors Graeme Murray, Shirley Inget, Gary Allen and sound mixer Michael Williamson.

Carter said that he will continue to work in Vancouver and will do his best to hire X-Files crew for any future projects he produces in the city. “I had hoped that we might find a way to keep the show in Vancouver,” Carter said. “And while I wanted to respect what I was hearing from David and Gillian about doing the show in Los Angeles, I thought there might be a way to convince everyone to keep the show in Vancouver.

“I don’t know if it will be any better or worse in Los Angeles, but I know that I liked doing it in Vancouver, for any number of reasons. The most important was that we had a winning team, a great crew. To have to give up that winning team is, for me, the toughest thing to have to deal with.

“Secondly, Vancouver was critical to the look of the show. I don’t mean to take anything away from David or Gillian, but I’ve always felt that Vancouver was one of the stars of the show.”

Carter said that while no official decision has been made by 20th Century Fox Television about renewal of his other Vancouver-based show, Millennium, a third season looks “99-per-cent certain.” If Millennium is renewed, it will remain in Vancouver, Carter said.

The X-Files feature film, which will be released in theatres in June, was filmed last summer in California, and will ease the transition from one locale to another. The popular series, one of the 10 most-watched shows in both Canada and the U.S., is the highest-profile of some 18 series currently shooting in the Lower Mainland.

Vancouver Sun

Mar-27-1998
Vancouver Sun
Alex Strachan

Shaken, stirred and satisfied. That’s how X-Files creator Chris Carter felt after seeing the cast and crew of his new TV series Harsh Realm reproduce the battle-scarred streets of Sarajevo down to the last bullet-scarred detail last weekend on a block-long stretch of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“Believe me, I don’t consider myself to be a philosopher,” Carter said, taking in the scene in his characteristic even-tempered, California surfer-dude voice. “This is the amazing thing: I’m telling stories that I want to tell and people seem to like them. It’s really as simple as that. It’s all been a dream for me.”

The weekend was an emotional roller-coaster for the 43-year-old writer and television producer, recently named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential people in the entertainment industry — thanks to The X-Files, which has tapped into a worldwide nerve of paranoia and mistrust of government institutions.

Understandably, Carter has little time for those who dismiss the television medium as the ruination of society. “Television is an easy target,” he said. “It’s an easy target for lazy people. Television is the most powerful cultural tool we’ve ever known and possibly ever will know.”

Carter’s firstborn, The X-Files, now based in Los Angeles, is guaranteed a seventh season. Fox has indicated it wants an eighth, but Carter says none of the principals, including actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, are committed beyond next season. Carter has said recently his vision for The X-Files is as a series for seven seasons, followed by two or three theatrical films spread out over 10 years or so.

For now, though, Carter’s attention is focused on Harsh Realm, set to air this fall. For 14 straight hours last Saturday and 15 hours the following day, Carter felt a surge of satisfaction go through him as his crew reproduced a war-torn Sarajevo street from photographs taken during actual street fighting in 1994.

Throughout the filming on Cordova Street behind the old Woodward’s building, props masters dressed the street with bullet-riddled pages from actual Bosnian newspapers, burned tires and the charred remains of several cars flipped end over end by mortar fire. Carter took calls from Los Angeles on his cell phone throughout the day and chatted quietly with crew members while sporadic bursts of gunfire punctuated his thoughts.

While other crew members flinched and blocked their ears against the gunfire — genuine M16 assault rifles firing blank ammunition and so-called “squibs” — Carter ruminated at length about his time in Vancouver, the looming millennium, the state of television today, the tolerance and grace of Canadian society and the moral decay of American society.

“We live in a world where too many people won’t go far enough, won’t do what they know is right, what they believe,” Carter said, echoing a line from his script for the Millennium pilot, squinting into a heavy, windswept rain while across the street, director Daniel Sackheim quietly directed four local children playing Sarajevo refugees caught in a hail of sniperfire.

– – –

“Shooting in Vancouver has just been a dream, which is why I am back here again,” Carter said. But he points out that working here does have a personal cost.

“The most difficult thing about making The X-Files had to do with keeping the actors away from home for 10 months a year, for five years running. I think that is what was most under-appreciated by those Vancouverites who saw our leaving as some kind of betrayal or treachery. David and Gillian were working away from home, their friends and their family, for five years, and I think that was a huge sacrifice on their part.

“I fly back and forth all the time, and that has been a sacrifice for me. I’ve given up a huge amount of my life. But that’s been by choice.”

Carter, who maintains a home away from home in downtown Vancouver, says he never seriously considered pulling out of the city entirely. “Vancouver feels like a foreign place to me. And when you stage things in a place that feels foreign, it adds a new element that fiction often needs to be believable. It makes the stories feel as though they are happening in a believable place, but not a familiar place.

“There are so many different languages spoken here. It feels much more multicultural in a European sense than any of the American cities I’ve been in. People here seem much more tolerant. The politics here seem to be a little bit more the way I wish they were in the States.

“There’s a much more common-sense approach to political correctness. In America, political correctness has gotten to the point where it is absolutely ridiculous. Really, it’s a ridiculous place right now. Here, people seem to have their heads screwed on a little straighter. And thank God, too. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t be working here.”

There are other benefits to working in Vancouver. Carter said the on-set atmosphere on Harsh Realm is relaxed, unlike in Los Angeles, where sets on TV pilots can vary from anxious confusion to outright chaos.

For Carter, the weekend-long staging of an intense gun battle between United Nations peacekeepers and snipers was part bittersweet reunion, part fresh beginning.

Carter, who has kept Millennium in Vancouver for the past year, was again working with key members of his Vancouver X-Files crew for five seasons, including two-time Emmy Award-winning production designer Graeme Murray, American Society of Cinematographers nominee Joel Ransom, Steadicam operator Marty McInally, assistant directors Vladimir (Val) Stefoff and Mark Currie, gaffer Richard (Bucky) Buckmaster, continuity supervisor Helga Ungurait and Emmy-winning art director Greg Loewen.

“One always get excited about doing something new,” Carter said. “Millennium came at just the right time. Three years into The X-Files we did the pilot for Millennium and now three years into Millennium, we’re doing the pilot for Harsh Realm. I think that’s the way to do it. All of us working at Ten Thirteen [Carter’s production company] hate failure, so you don’t see us doing 10 pilots a year and hoping that one hits. We try to put all our energy into something that we believe in and try to make it a hit.”

Carter is aware of the daunting task facing any new TV series looking to make an impression with viewers disillusioned by chaotic scheduling, a surfeit of mediocrity and executive decisions based on commerce, not art.

“A new show has to tap into some human concern and tell the stories that need to be told at that moment. Shows succeed for many different reasons, but a show that really comes into its own has to crystallize something. Look at what David Kelley has done with Ally McBeal — it singlehandedly prompted a Time cover story on the new feminism. This is a person who is striking a chord. It’s not just what’s entertaining but what’s relevant.”

Carter hasn’t made any personal plans for the looming millennium. He will probably be home in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve with Dori, his wife of 12 years. No matter what happens in the real world with Y2K, Carter plans to ring in the new millennium quietly.

“It’s an important date, because even if we can’t agree on when Christ was born, we’re all moving through history at the same time. We all sort of agree on this date. If anything happens, I believe it will be brought on by man and not by the gods. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: The cultists and militias who could cause problems will do so because they’re looking for attention at that time. It really has nothing to do with the date itself –it has to do with people’s perception of that date.”

X-Files Expo transcript

Mar-14-1998
X-Files Expo transcript
Kahunna

Well, after sneaking in a recorder to the Expo at Tustin on Saturday… and then carefully playing it back and typing it up on the computer today, the final project is what is in this and the next 7 posts : a transcript of the Writers Forum. I spent 7 hours in front of my computer typing the following out for you, the good fans of the X-Files. I ask one thing from all that read this… please do not ask for an audio copy of the Expo. This transcript alone is illegal and I don’t want Fox on my butt more than I need them to be. Thanks and enjoy.

X-File Expo March 14th, 1998 Tustin Marine Corp. Base Transcript

FS – Frank Spotnitz JS – John Shiban VG – Vince Gilligan MC – The Emcee Q – Audience Question [] – audience reaction (unless mentioned otherwise)

All three walk out on stage. Frank at stage right, Vince on stage left and John in the middle. All are standing with cordless mics about 5 feet from each other. This transcript has been modified from its original form: the writers repeat the questions so that people who could not hear the soft voices of some of the audience members can understand the answer. I have cut out the repeat of the questions.

FS – Uhhh… can you hear me? We’re going to introduce ourselves first, one by one, and then open up the floor for questions. Are there microphones out there for questions? ok. Uh.. I’m Frank Spotnitz. I’m co-executive producer of the X-Files. [applause] I’ve been with the show four years now – since the beginning of the second season. I’ve written and co-written about 16 or 17 episodes and I’m working on the movie right now (the movie that will be coming out in June). So, umm, you can ask me about any of those things or any of the other episode and this is John Shiban.

[applause]

JS – Hi. I am John Shiban, co-producer of the X-Files. I’ve been on the show since season three. Uhhh… wrote.. uhh, enough.. four solo episodes I believe? Four or five solo’s and writing with these guys for a couple of episodes. Don’t know what to talk about…. so I will turn it over to Vince Gilligan!

[applause]

VG – Uhh… Hi, I’m Vince, supervising producer of the X-Files. I have been with the show since October of ’95 on staff. I did an episode about a year before that, uh, freelance. Done six or seven solos and a couple of episodes with these two guys. And uhh, I guess we should throw it open to questions?

FS – Yes, we could. These guys look normal but they are very disturbed and I can explain that to you if you wish. Over here?

Q #1 – Um, first of all, my name is Suzy. (FS – Hi) In one of the first seasons, I’m not sure which it was, there was an episode called “Calusari”? (FS – “Calusari”, right.) Ok, yeah… that was second season. Um, at the end of the episode, the elders are telling Mulder that he should be careful because the evil will recognize you and it might be back. (FS – yes). Are you guys going to do a second half of that episode anywhere along the lines?

FS – I don’t think we will do a sequel per se, although the idea that evil might recognize Mulder could come back in some other show but we don’t have any plans to do that right now.

Q #2 – Uh, My name’s Jenna. I just wanted to ask you guys: there’s been a lot of speculation this season that you guys are kind of writing in a kind of rift, or separation, in relationship between Mulder and Scully but there’s like, ever since the events of “Emily” and “Christmas Carol” there has been something between them – that there has been a distance between them. Are you specifically writing that in or are we just seeing that?

(FS looks at JS) JS – Hmmm… distance between them… Vince? (JS looks at FG) [laughing] VG – Uhh… That is not anything conscious on our part. I think Mulder and Scully’s relationship is probably, I would think, is stronger than ever. You know, sometimes, with the logistics of doing a tv show and also doing a movie just about simultaneously, sometimes its very hard for the show to get two stars, to schedule their time such that they can do the work in the week they need them to do. Sometimes, frankly, we have to endeavor to schedule one scene with just Mulder or just Scully. We do that as little as possible because, honestly, who wants to see Mulder and Scully together? Maybe that’s what you’re thinking of but no, that’s not a conscious thing on our part to show a rift between them.

FS – I think one of the interesting things between their relationship is how much is unsaid between the two of them. And you gotta watch and sort of look for subtle signs of communication where Mulder would take Scully’s hand or one of them would touch the other or there is a look between them that is meant to convey something that we don’t want to say. And it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Sometimes we are surprised by the way these things get interpreted out there. One of the interesting things that has happened this year is the reversals of their roles: In the beginning of the season Mulder believing, because of his meeting with Kritschgau, that he may have been mislead that the entire alien / UFO phenomenon is a cover story to disguise what the government has actually been up to. And we see a real reversal of the roles that Mulder and Scully played ending this two-parter, that was just broadcasted, where we see them shift back… possibly… to the more familiar positions. So somewhere in there, I think, this impression may have been developed.

JS – Chris Carter has said that Mulder and Scully, in a way, are having a romance. Even though it’s not a sexual romance, this is a relationship and it is complicated. And sometimes they are at odds, sometimes they don’t agree, sometimes they are concerned for each other, they are worried that one is going to endanger themselves, etc. Sometimes those things aren’t resolved and we like to leave it lie(?) because it makes them more real to us and more interesting people if they have that kind of long-term up and down that you go through in a relationship like this.

FS – Don’t you think we should be performing somehow? [laugh] We’re just standing up here with microphones…

VG – We should do the human pyramid.

FS – We have a tumbling act we could do. [laugh] Go ahead…

Q #3 – Hi, my name is Deb. I just want to say that its really great to finally see the brains behind some of the great episodes on the X-Files. (FS – thank you) [applause] I just wanted to know, um, how far on the myth – arc are you guys planning ahead or are you just writing holes so you can fill them in later? How much of this has been planned ahead?

FS – Well the… climax…of all of the mythology, Chris Carter has had in his head from the beginning of the show. And he’s left the steps to get there vague on purpose so as we go through the life of the tv series we take things from the news and incorporate them into the mythology. So he hasn’t wanted to put a straight jacket around himself or the show. We had an interesting problem this year. We thought it was going to be an advantage because we knew what the movie was and we’ve known since Christmas of 96, which is when we came up with the story. So all of the mythology you have seen since then has been sort of knowing where we’re going in the Summer of ’98. But it actually proved to be more difficult because we started having a hard time figuring out what we can say and what can we not say. And this last two parter probably revealed more of the mythology and what’s happening then this show has since the second season. So it was a big, big couple of stories for us. But, beyond that, its pretty much, you know, we know what the movie is obviously, but beyond that its pretty much tentative… except the end… we know what that is.

JS- I thought it was all true, Frank.

FS – Yeah… except for the true parts

Q #4a – Hi, my name is Rachael. Um, I was wondering, this is going out to all of you, what are your favorite episodes?

FS – All of Vince’s episodes are my favorites. (JS – Yeah, I guess.) [applause]

JS – Anything where Mulder and Scully hold hands or nearly kiss. [big applause]

FS – That’s called sucking up to the audience.

Q #4b – …and is there any plans to bring back Darren Morgan? [applause]

FS – Darren, we see him every day, because he is writing for Millennium, which is just next door to us, and he’s absolutely miserable. Hates writing, hates his own shows. And we keep hoping he will come back but if we invite him, that will make it less likely that he will. But he has an idea, he claims, but he just hates the process so… who knows if he will feel like doing it again. My favorite episodes… I have many, many favorites but among them, I would have to say “Duane Barry”, “Clyde Bruckman” with Darren, [applause]…. those are two that come to mind off hand. Many of Vince’s, John’s, and some of the one’s we have done together I love or just had fun doing. Like “Leonard Betts” was fun show for us.

JS – yeah! “Leonard Betts”…

VG – “Leonard Betts” was a fun one.

JS – Great minds think alike.

FS – You guys want to answer that question? What are your favorite shows?

VG – As with Frank, I don’t really have a favorite but the one’s that frank mentioned and, uh, “Jose Chung”, “731 / Nisei”, “Colony / End Game”, “Elegy” was a great one, “The Walk”…. uh, I’m just kissin’ ass up here, I don’t know. [laugh] I love them all, except for a couple.

FS – John?

JS – Uh… same thing? Ditto on that. Actually, I really liked this last two parter… “Patient X” and “The Red and The Black” were wonderful episodes [applause]

Q #5 – Hi, my name is Holly and I was wondering as writers, is there any direction you would, if you could, take the show but will know will never happen because of the Mythology and the restrictions that Chris puts onto you? If you could write your dream story arch for the show, what would it be?

FS – Interesting question. Um, actually, I don’t think that there is anything that will never happen. I think that because of the life of the tv series and the possibility of a feature [film] series continuing after this. Eventually, pretty much anything we want these character to face, they will face and come to pass. But it is an interesting problem, how to sort of parse out the dramatic moments in the lives of these characters because we can’t have them facing death every week and you can’t involve their personal lives every week although those tend to be the people’s favorite episodes. So we are always judging how much we can do and still sustain the show week after week. That’s a tough balance to strike.

VG – I couldn’t, frankly, find an answer to your question off the top of my head because it occurred to me that I sort of feel like we do get to do are dream episodes. We basically do get to do what we want to do thanks to Chris.

JS – I still want Mulder and Scully to go back to the old west [laughing].

VG- Ancient Rome.

JS – Ancient Rome, Egypt, yes.

FS – The fun for us is doing episodes that are completely different. And we try every week to find situations and ideas that are unlike anything that we have ever done before. It like exploring without a map: we don’t quite know how we are going to work out the story and where they are going to go, but it keeps it fresh for us and the actors too.

Q #6 – Hi, my name is Fontaine. There’s been some speculation that in “Small Potatoes” the leaf blower was Mark Hamill. Is that really true?

VG – That’s a funny idea. It is not Mark Hamill but that would have been really neat. You know, the original plan was for the guy to be Glen Morgan, Darren Morgan’s brother, who if you have ever seen him in a magazine picture or whatnot, there’s a big family similarity. And I really wanted him to do that part and it would have been wonderful. But, you know, he’s a busy man and he was working on a pilot at the time and stuff like that. He originally said yes but then he had to cancel. So actually, honestly, the actual leaf blower guy, is just, I don’t even know his name. He is just a Vancouver extra. But Mark Hamill would have been a good choice.

Q #7a – Hi. I have a few questions. How important is feedback on the internet to the show? How does that influence what goes on in future episodes? How do you do research on those episodes that go deeply into a culture? And then finally, is there a book like that… I hear a rumor that Gene Roddenberry had a book for Star Trek writers where you can’t do this or you can’t do that. Does Chris Carter has some kind of book as a guideline that you guys abide by?

JS- uhh… last question first. Our show does not have a “bible”. Other shows do, they call it a “bible” and it lays out the characters and the history behind each character, etc., etc…. A lot of that is in Chris’s head, to be honest, and part of the experience of working on the show is we all sort of begin to learn what is acceptable and what is not. Although we are always pushing that envelope so… Nobody had anticipated Scully’s cancer, for example. And as the show grew and she was abducted and as these things happened to her, we were able to fit it into her character. But there are rules though. There are ways we try to scare people that Chris has, at least for me, has taught me how to do in a lot of ways and how to handle a scene and what we consider scary and what we don’t. For example, trying to scare people at home: trying to find something that is commonplace and then turning it into something scary. Instead of just a complete fantasy. Like a monster of something.. but it is not written down like it is in other shows.

Q #7b – JS – uhh… what was the second question?

VG- Internet. (looks at JS to answer)

JS – ahhh.. internet. (looks at FS to answer)

FS- Internet. I confess that I would never look into the fan-fic areas for fear of some plagiarism accusation and also, I don’t read X-rated material. [laughs] But I will look and see the fans reaction to the episodes, despite the fact that is it extremely aggravating for me. Because people write assuming that we are not reading any of these things. They are very blunt and brutal in many cases.

JS- We have feelings too, you know. [laughs]

FS – I also find that people tend to post because they got something… if you have something to say and it’s a complaint, it gives you credibility. It’s your ticket to a post. And, for me, the things that I find most interesting to the episodes rarely surface in e-mail traffic. So that part is a little frustrating. What is interesting to me though, especially after mythology shows have aired, is to log on and see what people think is happening, how they interpret what they have seen, and how it connects to the continuing story line. Sometimes it gives me ideas, not so much for what the future should be, but for things that need to be clearer or that people got the wrong impression of. We try to be so oblique with these mythology episodes because another one of Chris’s maxims is that it is as only as scary as it seems believable and in reality, things aren’t spelled out and things are very complex so there is a lot of room for interpretation and sometimes the internet helps us understand where we are going wrong.

JS – Oh, the other question was research, right? We do have a full time research staff.. don’t want to tell you their names, though… that is constantly doing research for us off and on the internet and we will hire experts in Vancouver when we shoot the show to make sure it is authentic. So we are very careful about that and, playing off the idea that if it is real, it would be scary.

FS – A funny thing about that is that we just did this episode that airs March 29th, John and I wrote this episode in which guest stars Darren McGavin, from the Night Stalker, [applause and laughter] and he plays an FBI agent who originally uncovered the X-Files before Mulder did in the 1950’s. He discovers all sorts of government conspiracies, double dealing, etc. We had an ex FBI agent read the script for accuracy and he had never seen the X-Files and admitted that he doesn’t like television as he prefaced his notes. He was appalled that we would suggest that there was a government conspiracy going on or that … [applause and laughter] … Mr. Hoover might have had anything to do with it. So, sometimes the research has uh…

VG – And he also said that if this script is any indication of the caliber of the show that it won’t last very long. [laughter]

FS – Yes. Oh… and there are no X-Files. So that was one thing we needed to correct.

Q #8 – Hi, my name is Peggy and I want to thank you, fist of all, ’cause you guys make the show every week – you’re great. (all of them – Thank you.) Vince, I was going to ask you something that’s been bothering me. In “Momento Mori”, when Mulder is about to take Scully into his arms, what does he say?

FS- “Come on back.” He say’s “Come on back.”

Q – Thank you, it’s been bugging me.

VG – I didn’t write that, I’m sorry. I forgot… that was these guys.

JS – But, Vince.. they HUGGED Vince! Isn’t that your part?? [laughing]

FS – This has been a running joke with Vince. The three of us, you know, are so sick of each other because we work together constantly but Vince has always got Mulder and Scully hugging, or winking at each other…[big applause and screaming] …so we just think he is shameless, you know, suck up to the audience.

VG – I used to work for Hallmark, so…. [laughter]

Q #9 – Hi, my name is Allison, and I have two questions. First one is, how much do you guys get paid? [laughter] And second one, I think it was “Bad Blood”, the vampire one that aired recently. Why was Scully wearing the sheriff’s big huge coat?

FS & JS – ahhaaaa! (while looking at VG)

VG – Um, I think I will answer the second part. In my mind, the sheriff did care for Scully, not in a necessarily romantic way or anything, but he felt really bad about having to drug her and he felt bad about leaving her on the side of the road because, basically, he and the other vampires had to, as Mulder said, “had to pull up stakes” and get out of there. So, you know, it was a chilly night, you could see he breath, and I think she just needed a coat. It is just chivalrous in my mind. [applause]

FS – See what I mean about being a suck up? [laughter] Um, we get paid…. well. Being on the show like The X-Files is kinda like being struck by lightning if you are an inspiring writer in Hollywood. It is a show people like and it is actually really hard to survive as a writer on this show. We have probably had the highest writer turnover of any tv show. If you guys follow the credits, you would see it’s like a revolving door. People just don’t last. It is very hard and very demanding work and we all work very long hours. I will tell you how much we get paid for one thing though which I just got the check yesterday. For all of the episodes that air on the FX Network, we get paid $200 dollars. [laughter] $200 dollars!

JS – Oooooooo! VG – Do we have any FX executives out there? [laughter] FS – So we are not getting rich off of that.

Q #10a – My name is Sarah, and I also have two questions. The first one is, where do you get a lot of the ideas that you come up with. I mean, do you like read the newspaper, or..?

JS – Uh, a lot of them do come from reading the newspaper, reading magazines, stumbling across something on tv that gives you an idea. An example, for the first episode I did, “The Walk” was actually the night I found out I got the job and I was flipping around on the tv and an old Marlin Brando movie called “The Men Came Up” and it just occurred to me that it would be an interesting character to base an episode on. Sometimes, as I have said, we have researchers and sometimes things will come to us that way. More often than not, its our everyday lives just suddenly spawn an idea.

FS – We will get abducted by aliens or we… [laughter] … attacked by monsters.

Q #10b – Ok, the second question I have is last week’s episode where Cancer Man writes a letter to Spender and he says basically that he’s Spender’s father. He had a Navaho story in there about two sons coming to their father to kill off all of the monsters in the world.

JS – yes?

Q – … are we going to see a team up between Spender and Mulder or are they going to be rivals or…?

FS – KEEP WATCHING. [applause]

Q – It’s not fair!!!

Q #11 – Hi, my name is Nicky, this question is for Vince. I was just wondering in the episode “Bad Blood” where did you get the theme from “Shaft”? Because that was so funny!

VG – I’m glad you liked that.. I was just, I had a couple of bourbons and I was working on it… [laughter] … It was over Christmas and I was really freaking out because I had to have it done by the time I needed to be back and it just popped into my head. I’m glad you liked that. [applause]

Q #12 – Hi, my name is Maliki, and I have two questions: There is a photograph, I believe, some of the elders, and there are two men missing from the photograph. Me and a friend of mine have been putting the pieces together. We have a couple of theories: One is that there is a plant within the Lone Gunmen and he is the person in the photograph and I just wanted to know if you could comment on (probably not) but, uh, if it was way off base… that sort of thing…

FS – You are referring to a photograph of The Elders?

Q – Well, its, uh, several men that have been identified and I believe The Well – Manicured man is in there and CSM I think?

FS – Is this the photograph in “Paper Clip” of all the men that are in The Project? I think there are more than two men in there that are unidentified. Memory may not serve me correctly.

Q- Yeah, um, well- my friend is much more well-versed on this than I am. Another interesting thin, I just wanted to know if you guys had any comments on… Yeah, I really enjoy the writing all of you guys have done. Especially Vince, you really kick out some very cool episodes. You and Darren Morgan the two people, I mean… I just watch those episodes in rapture. They are the best written stuff.

VG – Thank you very much, I appreciate it.

Q – Same thing with you, Frank. What you do with Chris…

FS- That’s all right. [laughter]

Q – You can be modest all you want but I know how hard it is. I’ve done writing myself… it’s a pain sometimes.

FS – Thank you, Thank you. Um.. the identities of the men in the photograph that you are referring to… There are other men involved in “The Project” who’s identities will be revealed in the future. One of them, in the next few months. Uh, so I can’t say now. That’s one of those things we love to pull through. If you have noticed, especially in the mythology shows, and Vince’s shows, we like to take things that were established early in the life of the series and continue them through and have that continuity. Like in “Unusual Suspects”, The Lone Gunmen episode at the beginning of the season, Vince had Mulder partnered with Reggie who we met in a first season episode flashback. The Identities of the men in “The Project” is another thing that we will carry through. And I think you will see what I am talking about in the next few months.

Q #13 – Hi. my name is Andy, I was wondering, of all of the things you very talented gentleman do with your time and creativity, is there anything that you would rather be doing?

FS – Is there anything we would rather be doing? (looking at JS)

JS – Vince? (looking at VG)

VG – Just rather have more time to do it but no, I mean I used to write movies and had a couple made and I hope to keep doing that someday but I would like to do it simultaneously, if I could. This work on tv is great. This is my only tv experience but I gotta say, it’s been great for me because when Chris Carter gives us work, he lets us take on as much responsibility in the day-to-day show making process as we can handle. He lets us cast our own shows, he obviously lets us write them and come up with them. He lets us audition actors, he lets us give notes to the directors, sit on the set, sit in on the music scoring, sit in on the dubbing… its like going back to film school but they are paying us to be there.

FS – John?

JS – What would I rather be doing? The three of us have always talked about starting a rap group. [laughter] This is a great job and I have to say, it is the hardest job I have ever had, but it is what I wanted to do although I originally didn’t intend on going into television. I agree with Vince, it’s been a dream come true. It will be nice to be able to do it not 7 days a week and 24 hours a day because it can become very taxing on our time. I really enjoy it. I really love it and I wouldn’t really like to be doing anything else until, you know, The X-Files gets canceled which will never happen.

FS – For all of us, thus is our first job in television so its new to all of us and I think what keeps it interesting to all of us is that we are all big fans of the show just like you are. We love working on it and we love seeing what we can do with the characters. The only thing worse than having to work this hard is the prospect on what we’ll do that we will enjoy as much after this is over.. whenever that that happens.

JS – Walker: Texas Ranger? (looks at VG)

VG – Walker: Texas Ranger!

FS – He’s not kidding. [laughs]

JS – If Chuck Norris starts holding hands and hugging, you’ll know, you’ll know… [laughs]

Q #14 – Hi, my mane is Gene and besides the one episode with CSM, is there any chance of exploiting the JFK assassination? Kind of go in deeper and explain the government conspiracy possibly behind it?

FS – I don’t know. To be honest with you, we’ve always been squeamish about taking real historical events like that and fictionalizing them. This episode with Darren McGavin takes the Black List era and shows a fictional interpretation of what that was all about. I wouldn’t rule it out. We haven’t planned to do it but I think we would be hesitant to do it simply because the gravity of the conspiracy is so great. The real life consequences of that type of fiction is so serious.

Q #15a – Hi, my name is Molly, and I was wondering is this the last season of the X-Files??

VG – I don’t think so.

JS – I hope not.

FS – I thought it was going to be. And when we did the story for the movie we kind of assumed this was going to be it. But now it looks all but certain it won’t be. I think we will be back for at least one more year, possibly two. [applause]

Q #15b – ..and also, are you guys moving to LA.?

FS – We don’t know yet. We will probably know in the next couple of weeks. I think all of us on the stage are hoping that we are not. We like Vancouver, we have a great crew up there and my wife thinks that if it ain’t broke… but uhh…Its been hard for the actors. They have been away from their homes for five years so we can sympathize with that. We’ll find out in the next couple of weeks.

Q #16 – Hi, my name is Deborah. Two of my favorite episodes from this season are “Christmas Carol” and “Emily” and I found myself in some heated discussions with other fans who felt Scully was turned into a mere victim, that the religious iconography was heavy handed, being beaten over the head with the Virgin Mary / Scully kind of thing. None of which I agree with. I wondered if you could talk a little about the religious iconography in those two episodes and how you work that kind of thing in and was it as self-conscious as everyone else thinks it is?

FS – This is a story in which John, Vince and I worked on the original conception of the story and it had nothing to do with Melissa Scully and we dumped the story and we were very short on time and we threw it out and began again with Melissa Scully as the cornerstone of the story. When we began again, we also took the Dickens story, A Christmas Carol, as our lead. So suddenly the story came together very fast and actually was one of the most satisfying to write for the three of us.

The use of the manger at the very beginning of “Christmas Carol” was deliberate. The idea of a “virgin birth” was conscious. I think the one image in that two parter that people really felt was heavy handed or was laying onto Scully as Virgin Mary idea was at the end of “Emily” there is a very slow dissolve to the stained glass and that was an image that the director chose to use because it was there on the set that day and all of us liked it. But I don’t think that we meant to suggest that she was anyway equivalent to the Virgin Mary and simply thought that, you know, it was a Christmas story and those parallels deepened the story we were telling.

Q #17 – Hi, I’m Sherry, and I was just wondering that, there is rampant speculation regarding Agent Spender taking over or replacing Agent Mulder (no way, by the way) [applause] … and also, part two, Now, is Agent Spender, who is the CSM’s son and CSM is also Samantha’s father, does that make Mulder and Spender related in some kind of weird way?

JS – He’s a busy guy! [laughter]

FS – You’re making assumptions here. I was very sorry to hear that that was a rumor, I think it was National Enquirer who said that Spender was going to take Mulder’s place. That was never our intention and that will never happen. But I am sorry to read that because that put an unfair cast on that actor. People started comparing him in a way that we never intended to be compared to Mulder and he was cast because he’s different from Mulder and he’ll play a very different role and which I think you will all see in the coming episodes. But, no, he will not be taking his place.

And the question regarding the paternity of CSM? Assume Nothing! [applause] Just because a man write some letters to a guy and calls him “son”, it doesn’t mean…so… you will have to wait and see.

Q #18a – Who are some of your writing mentors and also, you mentioned that The X-Files is your first television work. How do you think your work experience brought you to this particular show?

VG – I had a teacher when I went to the American Film Institute in the writing program, as did Frank, which is actually where I met Frank, and we had a writing teacher named Howard Dimsdale, whom we’ve both learned a lot from and inspired us in many ways. In fact, we named a character after him in this upcoming episode because he was “Black Listed” in the 50’s and it is an episode about Black Listing and it is kind of our tribute to him. For me, other than Howard, there are a number of writers I admire and a number of screen writers I admire… but right now, my mind is drawing a blank! But, how about you, Vince?

VG – Its a good question, I’m sorry I’m blanking too. I can think of the Coen Brothers who I love. I think they are wonderful writers and filmmakers. As far as a mentor in school which I had some wonderful teachers, I went to NY University Film School where I had wonderful film professors, that’s about all I have…

FS – All three of us our film and television junkies and I think we draw from all kinds of sources, high and low, indiscriminately and Howard certainly was a big influence on me. I’ve also gotta say Chris, who is a very rigorous storyteller and very, very precise about the way a scene should be built, the way information comes out, the way information pushes a story along. He is a very tough task master which has been a great learning experience for me.

Q #18b – Will any of you be at the Washington Expo, as in the writers?

FS – Uhh.. I don’t think any of us will be in Washington. Sorry.

Q #19 – My name is Nathan and I have two questions relating to other shows. First, is it coincidence that you have a lot of actors that were in Twin Peaks playing similar roles? And the second one is, what ever happened with, there was a show called Strange Luck that mentioned Mulder, and nothing ever happened. I was wondering if you guys knew anything about either one of those.

VG – I think the Twin Peaks thins is just… I’m assuming it was just a coincidence.

FS – I think it was just that we loved that show, or at least the first season. (VG – It was a good show.) And we liked a lot of the actors in that show but there wasn’t anything more than that.

VG – Strange.. Strange Luck… uh… I’m not… uh.. aware of..

FS – They shot on the same lot as the one we shot on in Vancouver and a lot of the people who worked on Strange Luck knew a lot of people who worked on The -Files. So it was kind of a friendly wink towards us but we never seriously planned on anything beyond that.

Q #20 – Hi, my name is Olga and I have two questions. There were talk that you hired a lot of new writers in the beginning of the year and we haven’t seen anything from them. What happened? And my second question: In “Patient X”, Mulder seemed to be like, at one point, he believed that everything was done by government. And at another point, he would not believe in anything. So I’m wondering…

FS- First question, that is a part of the infamous “revolving door” that I am sorry to say we have on our show. Out of the new writers that began with us last summer, only one of them is still on staff and is doing quite well and actually, has an episode coming up in April, I think is going to be one of the highlights of the season called “The Mind’s Eye”. His name is Tim Minear. Two of the other writers did have an episode that aired called “Schizogeny” which was about trees and allegations of abuse. And another one of the writing teams, one of their stories, is going to be filmed, we are going to start filming it Monday actually, so those are the fruits of their labors that you will see on the air. The question about Mulder and his beliefs. Mulder I think has believed for a long time that the government is complicit in the conspiracy surrounding the existence of extraterrestrial life. But we had this huge shift for his character in the beginning of the season where this guy laid out a story that made perfect sense and it was all a cover-up for what the government was really up to. And his faith was totally shaken, especially when CSM came forward with his sister, alive, not abducted by aliens. We sort of played him that way all year until this last two-part episode where Scully, of all people, had a recovered memory of seeing this incredibly explicit alien encounter and alien attack even. It was one of the most explicit dramatizations of alien life that we’ve done on the series in five years. And then Krycek, of all people, came to him and seemed to confirm the story and at the very end, if you recall, he is in the back of that giant truck and he sees an alien that matches the description in Scully’s recovered memory. And that’s where we left it. So I think that Mulder is very much in flux right now in his beliefs.

Q #21 – Hi, my name is Allegra and thanks for coming out today. I was wondering, one thing that is really interesting about the show is they aren’t very many female writers on staff? Why is that and if there were, what difference would there be in the show, if any?

FS – Female writers… (looks at JS) JS – Vince? (looks at VG) [laughs] VG – I can tell you, we are always on the lookout for just good writers, period and we never give any consideration at all to … whether they are male or female or, you know, any other aspect of their physiognomy, physiology… all we care about is to find some good writers and as Frank spoke of, we do sort of have something like a “revolving door” of the staff and we always have long before we were involved in the show. It’s never personal. It’s never about anything other than… we have had a lot of great writers who are no longer with us just went on to do better things but never really got the tone, the voice of the show. I know there are good women writers out there who could do our show just as there are good male writers. Also, I know we have been looking high and low for them but they have been hard to find so…

FS – We did have some wonderful female writers though. When I began the show, Sara Charno was there and she did two really great episodes that I thought. She’s went on to Chicago Hope and she is currently writing a pilot with Tom Fontana from Homicide so her career is doing just fine. But it is just hard to find good writers, period and it is an unfortunate fact of the business that women writers comprise a very small percentage of the work force, the writing work force that is out there. As with minority writers. So combine that with the fact on how difficult it is to find good writers with few female writers and minority writers there are in the first place, it is difficult. But I would much prefer to have greater diversity if it were available. I gotta say, I’m interested to see how a woman might affect the show but I expect it wouldn’t be a profound difference. I think Scully is written as a very intelligent, strong, independent woman to begin with. I think all of us try, just as a rule, to try to make all of our characters strong and individual. When Sarah was on the show, I didn’t notice particularly that her gender effected the way she approached the characters.

VG – Nor Kim Newton and the Mayhew sisters last season. FS – yeah, yeah. VG- But the funny thing to is that we have got a show that is very interesting and has often been described that Mulder has a lot of feminine aspects to his nature: intuition. And Scully is the logical one and that makes an interesting twist.

JS- Does that explain why Krycek kissed him last episode? [laughing]

FS- Want more of that Krycek / Mulder stuff? [loud applause]

Q #22 – I have a to part question. The first one is which is your least favorite episodes? And also, what do you plan for everybody’s favorite Ratboy?

FS- Least favorite episodes…. JS- That’s not nice! [laughs] long pause JS – That’s like a political question. FS – I have a number of episodes that I.. it’s painful for me. Like I will switch on FX and see one and I’m all “Oh god!” and I’ll turn the channel. There are a number of episodes that for reasons I am sure that the audience would never know. It means nothing to the audience it’s just that I hate them and I won’t watch them again [FS laughs]. But it’s sort of like, we have done 118 episodes by now? or something like that? And it’s just impossible at the pace that we are churning these out to like everyone and was not as successful as you wanted it to be. There are ones that you just knew could have been better and aren’t. I wouldn’t want to name them to be honest with you.

JS – And, uh, plans for Krycek? He’s a great character and we have a lot of fun with him and the great thing about him is that you never know where he is going to turn up next or who he is going to be working for. There are plans for him but we can’t tell you that! [laughs]

Q – Is he going to be in more episodes this season?

FS – Uhh… next season.

Q #23a – Hi, I have a couple of questions. First, regarding Scully’s cancer. Was that a story line that was originally thought of from the beginning or was that written in due to speculation about the longevity of the show or any rumors of the actors leaving? And are you going to explain any more about how Scully remission is due to the chip in the back of her neck?

VG – I think that was uh… Wasn’t that your idea for that or..(looking at FS) I think it was Frank who came up with the cancer aspect originally, wasn’t it Frank?

FS – Well, Scully’s cancer seemed like a total natural because, in that episode “Nisei” and “731” where we reveal all these other female abductees that have the chips in their necks, we also learn that they are all dying of cancer. And the question nagged me and I think it nagged some fans was “well, why isn’t Scully dying of cancer?” It seemed like something that we were all obligated to do. Putting the chip back in the neck seemed to us like a perfect writing solution. An elegant and just clean logic. And now, this idea that this chip maybe some kind of homing device. She can’t take it out because she will get cancer again, and if she leaves it in then there’s the potential that she will be abducted again. So she’s really between a rock and a hard place which is a great place for our characters to be in. I don’t think we are going to explain it any further. Hopefully, people understand the gravity of the situation.

Q #23b – Also, does the federal government ever get back to you about the conspiracy theories you talk about in the show?

FS – It struck me as funny that we were driving onto a military base. [laughs] I expect to be placed under house arrest by the end of the day.

VG – You better believe it.

FS – We have a lot of fans at the federal government and in the military. We get letters all the time.

VG – We got a wonderful public affairs liaison with the FBI and a guy named Kurt Crawford in which we named a character after him in “Memento Mori” and he’s a great guy. I’m originally from the East Coast and he gave myself and my girlfriend a tour of Quantico. A lot of FBI people actually like the show and watch it. They take it with a grain of salt as far as reality goes but they at least enjoy it as fiction.

Q #24 – Hi. I have a question regarding the topics you cover in the show. I was wondering if there was anything you guys wanted to write about but would be to controversial or taboo for television?

JS – Oh, yeah, there was an episode in season two called “Irresistible”. It was a story where Scully was abducted by this guy named Donny Pfaster. The original idea for the story and the original script Chris wrote was that he was a necrophiliac. The network had huge problems with that. I don’t know why? [laughs] In fact, we get Standards and Practices notes for every script and its somebody’s job to read it and say “no, no. You can’t say this word” or “no, don’t make this too violent. etc. That was the shortest Standards and Practices notes that we have ever seen which was basically one sentence: “this episode is unacceptable”. [laughs] So Chris went back and rewrote it and made him a fetishist so he was instead of romancing dead bodies, he was taking parts of their hair and their finger nails and stuff like that. The irony is… that’s how we shot it, it was a great episode. When TV Guide came out that week, the log line was “Mulder and Scully investigate a necrophiliac.” [laughs]

Q #25 – Hi. I was wondering if when you write, do you write for a specific actor? And if so, could you give examples?

VG – Yeah, that’s a good question. In “Bad Blood”, the vampire episode, I wrote for a brilliant actor who played the actor who’s name is Luke Wilson. Who I think did a really good job. I guess I will give a little plug to my movie… I wrote a book called “Home Fries” and he stars in it with Drew Barrymore. That’s how I knew him. I know you guys must have examples (looks at FS and JS).

FS – Actually, this episode that is coming up, the one with Darren McGavin, the monster, if you will, was an actor we had read for another part and we just thought he had the greatest face, so we specifically wrote for him in mind. By in large though, no. By in large, we just dream up the best characters that we can and find the actors and we seek unknowns. Just because it seems to preserve the reality of the show better than using name actors.

Q #26 – What is your favorite reoccurring character? and what was the episode you had the most fun writing?

JS – Actually the most fun writing I think was probably “Leonard Betts.” We, the three of us, basically hooked up a computer to a separate monitor, a laptop to monitor, and sat in a room together. Which is how we have been working since then but that was the first one that we did that on. It was fun to write because it was a fun story for one, and number two, we were all very excited so it was a great moment to be in. We enjoyed that very much.

VG – That would have to be my favorite one too. There was a lot of fun. We ate a lot of McDonald’s food and we worked over at Frank’s house on “Leonard Betts.” It was such a crazy story but it came out. It was one of my favorites and I really enjoyed it. Recurring characters? Uhhhh… is Skinner a reoccurring or a supporting? I love Skinner, I love Krycek, I think those are supporting.. I dunno.

FS – Who are the other actors who are here today? [laughs] JS – We miss “X”. VG – Yeah, we miss “X”, Mr. X. We miss him a lot. It was a lot of fun to be able to put him into “Unusual Suspects” since it was a flashback episode.

Q #27 – Um, hi. I am like this big joy bubble standing here. You are like the Beatles or something. [laughs] Um, I’m such a nerd. Anyways, I have so many questions I am going to just try one, to Frank. In “Patient X”, and how you are developing the Marita character and… there are so many little questions I have about this character that they would end up being big questions… and I know that’s on purpose but I am talking about the little expositions, I don’t know… The way, for example, Jerry Hardin or Steven Williams. You don’t know anything but you get an idea of where their history’s are. And I don’t really get that a lot from Marita Covarrubias and I know that is probably a little bit on purpose. Also, it’s frustrating to see her in a room with these GUYS, with these MALES… you’re like “What’s she doing there? How did she get there?” You have this FBI MALE networking with the Consortium with all of these old farts.. what the heck is she doing there? I was wondering if you were planning on developing that to some degree in the future so that we could be more pleased with her or something?

FS – I was surprised how I loved seeing her in that room with all of those old… farts.

Q – Me too, but I wanna know why, you know?

FS – You will find out eventually… you know one of the things that is fun about being on a show that has a life like this, that has a continuing story that last over years, is getting to watch things evolve and change. When I first came on in the beginning of season two, everybody was mourning the death of Deep Throat and “this new guy “X” sucks!” you know…”he’s not half the guy Deep Throat was”. There was like a challenge to make people like “X” and by the time he said good-bye, people missed him as much as they missed Deep Throat. And now it’s the same thing with Marita Covarrubias. I will go onto the internet and I’ll see “Oh, she sucks. She’s bland. Blah, blah, blah.” [cheer from some girls] … and this last two part episode was a chance to show people parts of her that they have never seen before. I think it set a lot of fires. The role she plays with the U.N, her background that she has with Krycek, who she’s really working for, because she’s calling Mulder with the kid, Those are three really critical clues for her character that you can expect to see fleshed out. Probably not this year, but sometime early next year.

Q – Thank you very much. We really love you guys. JS – Thank You. VG – Thanks

FS – Two more questions, sorry.

Q #28 – My name is Liz, and my question is, why did you kill Pendrell!? [crowd reacts]

FS – Ohhh… I know. [crowd still reacts] JS – I didn’t do it! FS – I felt really bad about that. Actually, that was a tough call. There were drafts of that script where he lived. Um… and I don’t know what to say except that: the story would work better if he died. That’s the other thing about doing a show like this: Chris started establishing it at the beginning by killing Deep Throat at the beginning of season one, is that no one is safe. I think it just creates a level of anxiety for the audience that you can’t count on (except for Mulder and Scully, who obviously have to live for the show to continue) you can’t count on anybody surviving and I felt bad too.

VG – Just be glad that we didn’t kill Frohike. The original draft of “Memoirs of a CSM” had him getting killed, so…

FS – Actually, Morgan / Wong wrote “Musings of a CSM”, which was originally called “Memoirs of a CSM”, and in the first draft, Frohike gets shot at the end! And the three of us read it and you can ask my girlfriend that I couldn’t sleep that night I was so upset! You can’t kill Frohike!! [crowd laughs] And we went into Chris’s office the next morning and said “This cannot happen! Don’t kill this poor guy!” and so he got a reprieve. [laughter] [pause] Last question.

Q #29 – Hi, I’m Sherry. My question is for Vince. I was wondering if you enjoy writing the more humorous episodes or the more serious ones?

VG – I am very lucky to do both, but honestly, probably the more funnier ones are funnier to write. Its sort of like eating hot fudge Sundays, where you don’t want to have one every meal. You want to spread it out some. You want to get some other serious ones in-between. Probably, as far as fun to write, the funny ones.

Q – I thought that “Bad Blood” was hilarious.

VG – Thank you [applause]

FS – Before we go, let me just suck up a little bit and tell you that all of us are always amazed at how smart our audience is and its a struggle for us to try and be smart enough to write these shows and its a pleasure to have an audience like you. We’re grateful you come out to these things, I hope it’s worth your $25 bucks. They worked very hard to make these better than the old conventions and if you went to any of those, I think you can see its quite a bit better. You make our jobs possible and we appreciate that.

VG – Thank you. JS – Thanks

[applause]

MC – Gilligan, Spotnitz and Shiban… let’s give them another hand for the writers. Chris Carter’s main guys on the show. It’s a real treat to have them out here today and they are serious when they mean it. They are internet junkies as well so, if you’ve got fast fingers, you know where to find them.

[end]

well, that’s the fruit of my labor! All one hour of interviews with the greatest minds behind television today. I hope you appreciate the hours and hours it took me to write all of this down. Let alone, the anxiety I felt sneaking in my recorder to the Expo! 🙂

Skeptical Inquirer: Cigarette-Smoking Man

March 1998
Cigarette-Smoking Man
Skeptical Inquirer – Skeptical Briefs newsletter
Allison Cossitt

[Original article here]

This article was originally published in the Skeptical Inquirer Electronic Digest – subscribe today to the CSICOP announcement mailing list!

x-files

Okay, I admit it. I’m an “X-Files” addict. So when I found out that William B. Davis (Cigarette-Smoking Man from “The X-Files”) was going to be speaking at the State University of New York at Buffalo as part of its People’s Speaker Series, there was no keeping me away. Arriving obnoxiously early, I managed to get a front-row seat and smiled pleasantly at all the people walking past me to the higher rows. Not even when the fire alarm went off did my fellow front-rowers and I dare to move lest we lose our seats.

The event had been poorly advertised, so only about eighty truly obsessed fans could be found eagerly awaiting his appearance. Finally, there he was: the vile, loathsome, conniving, infamous Cigarette-Smoking Man. He politely thanked everyone for coming and humbly confessed that he was a little nervous about coming to Buffalo, mentioning the “X-Files” episode in which Cigarette-Smoking Man (CSM) vowed that Buffalo would never win the Super Bowl as long as he was alive. He also thanked everyone for coming on the last night of the world series, but said we needn’t watch anyway: he had arranged it so that Cleveland would win. (Maybe Buffalo still has a chance after all!)

Opening a typed manuscript with an alien head on the cover, he began his lecture by pointing out a common misconception about the show. “You see,” he paused for effect, “I think that CSM is really the hero, and Mulder and Scully are the bad guys.” He explained that if Mulder got his way and the truth was revealed, everyone would panic and terrible things would result. But if CSM got his way, everything would stay the same. So why is everyone rooting for Mulder? He went on, comparing and contrasting the different characters, each time making it seem like CSM was doing the honorable thing. Finally, he asked us, if we were to chose a leader, who would we want: a young, inexperienced guy who acts on the spur of the moment and pulls out his gun, waving it around at the first sign of danger, or an older gentleman who has a lot of experience, is very level-headed, and doesn’t even carry a gun? He figured the choice was clear.

After his prepared speech, he opened up the floor for questions. Not surprisingly, one of the first questions asked was whether he was a “believer.” Instead of answering right away, he turned the question on us. “How many of you believe aliens are among us?” he asked. About half of the audience raised their hands. Then he smiled and surprised a good deal of the audience by confessing that he was, indeed, a skeptic. That’s right, Mr. Conspiracy himself is, in real life, a skeptic. To the disappointment of a few audience members, he made it very clear that he didn’t believe aliens are among us. Then he asked if anyone knew who John Mack was, and smiled a sly grin.

One of the audience members asked if Davis knew that Chris Carter was in Buffalo a while back “for some skeptical thing” (the June 1996 First World Skeptics Congress). Not only did Davis know, he also informed the audience about CSICOP and Skeptical Inquirer, which he said he reads whenever he can. He said many people think that, because he’s in the show he’s a believer, but for him it’s just a job.

There were a few questions about the upcoming movie, but CSM wasn’t revealing anything; finding out details about the movie would be harder than breaking into the defense department. The one thing Davis could confirm was that he would appear in the film; something he never expected at the beginning of the show when he got the part of CSM, a character with no lines who stood mysteriously in the background. At that point, not even Chris Carter knew how important his role would become.

A night of preaching skepticism didn’t seem to deter his fans though, who were lined up afterwards for autographs and pictures. One imaginative fan even brought a cigarette lighter for him to sign. One thing is for certain about “X-Files” fans: they’re “out there.”

About the Author

Allison Cossitt is assistant to the executive director of CSICOP.

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