Archive for March, 2000

[Unknown]: Interview With Paul Rabwin, Producer for The X-Files

Mar-27-2000
[Unknown]
Interview With Paul Rabwin, Producer for The X-Files
Melissa Cooley

Melissa Cooley: When did you join 1013 Productions and The X-Files crew?

Paul Rabwin: I started with The X-Files when they first got their order to become a series. I didn’t join the company while they were shooting the pilot, but after they were “picked up” I started with them which would have been in early ’93, and I’ve been on the show since the very beginning. There are only about four of us left who have actually been with the series for the entire time.

MC: Oh, that’s great! I didn’t realize you were there when the show was in Vancouver too.

PR: Yeah, they were shooting in Vancouver. My role has always been specializing in post-production, and since our post-production is done in Los Angeles my office was at the studio of 20th Century Fox. I would go up to Vancouver on occasion, but most of the time I was here in Los Angeles.

MC: Oh, okay so it hasn’t changed too much for you then, since the move?

PR: Well actually, there are some significant changes obviously. I am able to spend more time on the set, deal with the actors and directors directly as opposed to by telephone. The most significant change for the productions moving to Los Angeles had been the look of the show. In fact, we were very concerned about it because the look of The X-Files had always been very dark and damp. It rained all of the time in Vancouver and was very gloomy, it kind of helped the whole concept of The X-Files. It was no accident that the very first shot of the very first episode that was filmed in Los Angeles was a close-up of the sun blazing over the desert. We did that intentionally just to show that there was going to be a new look, [laughs] and we couldn’t do anything about it.

MC: I remember that, it was great. What television and movies had you been involved with before The X-Files?

PR: I started in 1970 with a company called Quin Martin Productions, and Quin Martin produced some very good television series. I worked on The FBI Show, on Cannon, Barnaby Jones, and a wonderful series called The Streets of San Francisco. I directed all the second unit and car chases on The Streets of San Francisco and went on to do a couple of pilots and movies of the week over at Paramount, and then I was able to get on a series called Chips which I was involved with for four years as a producer. That was my biggest “credit” until I came upon this little science-fiction show called The X-Files, [laughs] I had no idea that it would be anything at all like it is .

MC: [Laughing] So you’ve been surprised by the popularity of it?

PR: Yeah, we were a little surprised at first. I knew it was a good show, that’s why I decided to accept the job, but I had no idea that it would take off the way that it did. It started with a cult status, and it blossomed to become a show that appealed to a great many people… I think the move to Sunday night also helped to increase its popularity, our ratings seemed to improve quite a bit after that point.

MC: Is there anything in particular that you feel makes The X-Files so appealing to different aspects of the audience, both the fan community and the “general viewing public?”

PR: Well, I think the thing that makes The X-Files unique and so appealing, first and foremost is the relationship of the two characters, Mulder and Scully. They are professionals, they are very good FBI agents, they are not romantically involved, they respect and admire each other as FBI agents, but they also have a personal relationship. In spite of what people say, they also relate to each other on a very personal level, but they are professional enough not to allow it to go beyond platonic… [laughing] now that could change, who knows! But I think the fact that they are so grounded in their work makes the show very appealing, they are of course very funny, they are both very good actors, they have a good sense of what their characters are supposed to be, I think people have related to that. I think the idea of us being a science fiction show is not exactly accurate, I think that it is a crime-drama which deals with the paranormal, and I think that is what makes it unique. I think the fact that imitators have tried to make science-fiction shows and have not succeeded as well attests to the fact that this is really a show about real people working in an area that we are not at all familiar with.

MC: That is great that you mentioned that, I was going to ask what you would categorize it as. As a producer, what are your specific duties?

PR: I am one about five producers now, the Writer-Producers work on the scripts and actually write the episodes. We have a Director-Producer who directs many of the episodes, a fellow named Kim Manners, and I am a producer whose specialty has been post-production. Which means, the areas that fall under my jurisdiction are: editing, music, sound effects, color, visual effects… a lot of the fun part of the show. I like to say, once the episode leaves the camera it comes into my jurisdiction– getting the film processed, getting it to the editors, getting it cut, and getting it finished so it can go on the air. In many ways, it is the “heart and soul” of a show like this, where so much works around visual effects and about the sound of the show, the color.. .we can make the hues bright or we can make them dull… and a lot of it has an effect on the feel of a particular episode. I find it a fascinating part of the business, and I have been able to use a lot of my experience on a show like this. It is very complex, it is like making a little feature every week. We really put a lot of effort into it, and a lot of money as a matter of fact.

MC: How much time is spent on each episode?

PR: Well, traditionally we spend close to ten days, sometimes more, actually filming the episode, and then we like to take about six weeks to get it finished to be put on the air. As we get closer to the end of the season that compacts dramatically, we have some shows that will be on the air a month after we start shooting, which is very very fast. But… we are accustomed to that, and we try not to cut too many corners when we have to do that, but it means weekends and late nights.

MC: This is rumored to be the last season of The X-Files, has that changed the feeling [of production] at all?

PR: Well, we are doing this interview on the 27th of March. There is a possibility that within the next few days or week, or hopefully within a couple of weeks, we should know the fate of The X-Files. It is not fully determined that it will be the last season, there are some issues and negotiations which are on-going, which may in fact bring us back for another season. Not being certain of that, the creator, Chris Carter, and his staff of writers are planning a final episode which will have two endings at the moment, one would be a finale to try to wrap up the series and the other will be a cliff-hanger to take us into another season. And we are at a bit of a disadvantage, not knowing yet exactly which way we are going to go… [laughs] so it is… interesting! By the time this gets published, or by the time your readers get this, we may have an idea.

MC: I have heard that will be a spin-off of The X-Files involving The Lone Gunmen, are you going to be involved with that at all?

PR: Yes, I am a producer on the spinoff series of The Lone Gunmen, and it seems like a very likely scenario for a spin-off. These three kooky geeks… computer geeks, have been involved in the show since late in the first season, and they have achieved a certain amount of popularity, they’ve had some comic relief, they are also very interesting guys. I think the nature of the show will be unique, there isn’t anything quite like that on the air, my guess is that if The X-Files doesn’t come back The Lone Gunmen have a very good chance of going on the schedule in the fall. If The X-Files does come back, I am not sure if it would be on the air in the fall, or if it might be a mid-season replacement, which means holding it back until January, which a lot of the networks seem to do with certain shows. Anyways, it looks great and I think it’s got a good chance of being picked up as a series… and that we won’t know until the middle of May.

MC: Were you involved at all with Harsh Realm or Millennium, Chris Carter’s other shows?

PR: I worked on Millennium… I liked Millennium! It was a very dark show, Millennium went through some changes over the course of its three years, and I think the audiences had a little trouble picking up on it and identifying with it, which is too bad, because I thought it was very well done. I thought Lance Henricksen was a terrific actor, and I quite enjoyed that show. Harsh Realm, I was not able to be involved with, I was around it, obviously offices were right next to mine and I was very familiar with the production as it was being done, but I did not work on that show specifically.

MC: I wanted to go back to what you were saying before about the feel of the editing and the action of the show, have there been specific things you have done to capture the spirit that was there in Vancouver as you guys have been in L.A., or have you more just recognized that you are in a different place… are there any problems that have come up?

PR: I think we have succeeded, we have shot certain shows at night, which gives it that creepy feel. We have tried to locate the show in areas that lend themselves to an X-Files feel, for example this year we did a show about snake handlers up in the Appalachians, and I think that was just naturally a very uncomfortable kind of arena to set a show in, I think that kind of gave it an X-Files feel. We don’t always get the rainy look being in Southern California, sometimes we manufacture our own rain. We did a show the first year we were in L.A. which took place during a hurricane in Florida and [laughing] all the rain was manufactured, we had big water trucks out there and fans and we created our own hurricane. So, we have the ability to capture the spirit of Vancouver, but the skies do tend to be a little bluer, and the we just compensate sometimes with the way we approach the look of the show after the fact, with the color, sometimes the camera man uses certain lenses that will give it an X-Files feel… I think we have been pretty successful in making it keep the spirit of Vancouver… it has it’s own special look now. If we ever were to shoot back in Vancouver, we would have to try and capture the L.A. look!

MC: Definitely, the show has evolved. There have been some fun episodes this season, the crossover with Cops… are there any more episodes coming up that are particularly unique?

PR: Oh sure, there is one that is being shot right now in which a quirk of nature produces a group of dopple-gangers, which are people who look exactly like other people, and cause havoc through misidentification and I think people are going to find that very amusing and are going to get a big kick out of that. We also have a very interesting episode coming up dealing with the tobacco industry and smoking and I think people are going to find that very very creepy and scary and relevant, and I think that is going to be a very popular episode.

MC: [laughing] Is CSM going to be involved at all in that one?

PR: [laughs] He might be… he might be involved.

MC: I’ll let you go in a minute, it sounds like you’re busy. I do have one more question… What do you think has been your favorite aspect of working with the show?

PR: Well, I guess my favorite aspect of working with the show has been the exposure to a whole new genre of series. This was a ground breaking television series, I think the realization of knowing that I was on a show that had historical significance as far as the history of television is concerned, is very very exciting. I have worked on many shows which were good, had great quality and that we look back upon fondly… but they aren’t going to be trivia questions in, you know… books years from now. I think there have been a handful of absolutely significant television breakthroughs, and I think The X-Files is one of them. I don’t think the nature of television drama is exactly the same, and I think it was a very exciting experience to be involved in that. It just made.. you know I have been involved with this for thirty years, and this has been an absolutely unique experience. The quality of this show, the amount of creative effort that we all have to put it into it is… different, and it’s really fun to do, there is no question about it.

MC: Well it’s fun to watch. Thank you so much! I really appreciate your time…

PR: Well thank you! This has been great, bye…

Calgary Sun: ‘Only about money’: Duchovny expects X-Files to continue without him

Mar-25-2000
Calgary Sun
‘Only about money’: Duchovny expects X-Files to continue without him
Louis B. Hobson

HOLLYWOOD — The truth is out there.

David Duchovny is leaving The X-Files TV series after this season.

He refused to negotiate a renewal of his contract for an eighth season. His co-star Gillian Anderson has one more year on her contract, so the popular series could continue without Duchovny’s Agent Mulder.

“I think it would be stupid if they decide to go on without me, but seeing it’s only about money at this stage, they quite likely will,” says Duchovny, who insists there is no ill will over his departure.

He was allowed to write and direct an episode of The X-Files, which will air this season.

In it, his friend Garry Shandling will portray Fox Mulder and Duchovny’s wife Tea Leoni will star as Agent Scully.

“It’s about a film based on one of Mulder and Scully’s cases and it ends with a premiere. I’ve been asking as many of my celebrity friends as can to be in the audience when the camera pans.”

Duchovny’s newest big-screen project, Return to Me, a romance co-starring Minnie Driver, opens April 7 — but has a sneak preview in Calgary tonight.

The Associated Press: Aliens, Mayhem, All in a Day’s Work

Mar-??-2000
The Associated Press
Aliens, Mayhem, All in a Day’s Work
Lynn Elber

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Makeup artists Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf and Kevin Westmore were confronted with the task of turning a chubby-cheeked doll into a believable corpse for “The X-Files.”

“So Kevin throws the doll on the studio sidewalk and he’s stomping on its head. A guy walks by and says, ‘That’s really sick, buddy,'” recounts Montesanto-Medcalf.

It’s just an average day for the special effects experts who conspire to make the Fox drama one of television’s most ghoulish and reliably chilling experiences.

The truth isn’t out there, as lead character Fox Mulder insists. It’s in the wizardry of technicians who can make us believe that aliens have landed, that a patient has been barbecued in an MRI machine, and that a handsome young actor is wizened and ill.

A small army works behind the scenes of the show (9 p.m. EST Sunday), which stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI agents solving oddball cases while trying to expose a government conspiracy possibly involving an alien invasion.

The prop department alone has six to seven people, double the usual number for a TV show, said property master Tom Day. There are three people in Bill Millar’s visual effects squad and an equal number in the department run by Montesanto-Medcalf. John Vulich contributes additional makeup effects.

Some joined the series when production was moved to Southern California two years ago, after five years of filming in Canada. And they really love their work.

“I do nice beauty makeup but I also have a kind of sick mind and can make people look disgusting as well,” said Montesanto-Medcalf, cheerily. If she’s haunted by frightening images, it’s only professionally.

“I’ve been up since 2 a.m. thinking of zombies because of you,” she chided Duchovny recently. An upcoming episode he’s written and directed is filled with undead souls, and Montesanto-Medcalf had to devise a makeup scheme for them.

Day’s Fox studio prop room is filled with evidence of the mayhem he regularly helps fake. There are boxes marked “human guts,” skeletons and a rainbow of body bags – yellow, black and white representing different law enforcement agencies.

Many items are custom-made, such as a machete that was shown slicing into a scientist’s shoulder in the season’s opening episode.

A weapon with a cardboard “blade” patterned to fit snugly against the actor’s shoulder was created, then held in place with a thin metal plate and straps. Makeup provided the bloody finishing touch.

“It looked great, but it was kind of silly to watch the guy walk over to craft services and get himself a sinker and cup of coffee in the morning,” Day said.

The aliens who make occasional appearances in the series are MIA from this storage room.

“We have a selection of alien bodies at another warehouse, the ones with big eyes that look so friendly,” Day said. “As we use them and they get more and more beat up … then they become the body of the guy from Florida who’s just been eaten by the swamp monster and is inside the bag.

“As long as they don’t complain, they’ll go into any body bag we can fit them into,” Day said, a grin stretched across his face.

Some props are benign. A baseball-themed episode last season called for a mechanical bank. When a suitable one couldn’t be found, Day and his crew researched and engineered a bank with a ballplayer whose hat tips in coins.

“All that happens in five or six days,” Day said, referring to the average prep time available for each episode. “That’s the part that amazes me. How quickly it winds up happening.”

The various departments collaborate on each episode. Although division of labor is the rule, sometimes one unit – such as CGI, or computer-generated imagery – will take the lead on a special effect.

“They decide by virtue of what gives them the most bang for their buck, so to speak,” Day said. The big-ticket effects, such as giant spaceships, provide a respite for his department.

“When we read ‘CGI’ in the script, it’s great. We’re at craft services (eating and relaxing) for those parts,” he said.

For performers, the “X-Files” experience can be truly memorable.

“A lot of times the actors are hired and think, ‘Oh, I got a part.’ Then they read the script and go, ‘Oh, my God, this is going to happen to me?'” said Montesanto-Medcalf.

In one episode involving poisonous snakes, a guest actor was covered with prosthetic blisters that seeped a pudding-like substance with the help of air pumps. For another episode, titled “Theef,” the MRI victim was “burned” by four makeup artists working for eight hours.

“We put a bald cap on her. Then the hair people glued on yak hair, which is wiry, that had been singed,” said Montesanto-Medcalf. A blend of acetate, gelatin and paint was used to simulate charred flesh, with dog rawhide serving as exposed bone.

It was “X-Files” perfect. “It looked so disgusting,” said Montesanto-Medcalf.

Most actors are good sports, including the stars. Anderson was a real trouper when subjected to a swarm of insects, including giant winged beetles, in the season’s first episode, while Duchovny was equally game when facing live snakes, Day said.

Duchovny even relished being transformed into an elderly man in one story, Montesanto-Medcalf said.

“Not only did he have to look old, he had to look diseased. So he wasn’t a good-looking old guy, that’s for sure,” she said. “But he loved it. Everyone on the set was so amazed at how great it looked and kept going up to him and saying ‘You look fantastic.'”

There seems to be only one thing that can frighten an “X-Files” veteran – sharp-eyed fans looking for flubs.

“If a baseball bat is used in an episode in season two and I bring out the same baseball bat for something in season seven, there will be people who get on the Internet to carp,” said Day.

Dreamwatch: Lighting the Darkness

Mar-??-2000
Dreamwatch
Lighting the Darkness
Jenny Cooney Carillo

Jenny Cooney Carillo probes the mind of The X-Files’ creator Chris Carter, and learns that there are still some surprises in store for the future….

For someone who spends so much time on the dark side, Chris Carter is surprisingly light. The youthful-looking 43-year old, whose white wavy hair makes him look more like an ageing surfer (which he is) than one of the highest-paid TV producers in Hollywood (which he also is), is the talent behind The X-Files, Millennium and the short-lived virtual reality drama Harsh Realm, based on the sci-fi comic of the same name.

These days he has a lot on his mind: the lawsuit which his former friend David Duchovny filed against 20th Century Fox naming Carter as a co-conspirator in efforts to short-change everybody else who shares profits by selling the Show to a Fox affiliate for less than the fair market price. Then there is the debacle over the cancellation of his long-awaited follow-up series Harsh Realm and finally the struggle to decide whether his major cash cow, The X-Files will close down as it heads to the end of its seventh season.

But for somebody who has spent much of the past eight years dealing with aliens, monsters, UFOs and serial killers {and that is just the people he works with!}, he is remarkably good-humoured and adept a not taking himself or his shoes too seriously no matter what the stakes.

Where do you think The X-Files is headed?

Fox has approached me about trying to figure out a way to bring it back for an eighth season, and they haven’t spoken to me beyond that. They’ve asked me if there is a way to do it. I told them I would think about it, but the truth is I think there’s a lot of other things that need to be resolved before we get to that point, so right now our work is simply doing really good episodes in anticipation of either it being the end or the beginning of the end, as it were. I think the show is as good as it has ever been, and the mythology will play out either this season or in some later season.

Can you imagine The X-Files without one of two of the major players as has been the suggestion lately?

I’ve never had to imagine it, so I haven’t really put much thought into it. But to be honest, it’s one of those things that you can imagine. The possibility is out there but I don’t know exactly how it would play out.

So what can we look forward to in the seventh season?

We began the season with a two-parter that is the answer to the Season 6 cliffhanger and that really goes deep into agent Mulder’s psyche. If you remember, in the season finale, Mulder is bouncing off the walls in a psychiatric ward and we learn a lot about Mulder through the course of the treatment of that illness, which has both modern medical complications and perhaps complications that go beyond that to the paranormal, and just possibly to outer space, so that is the way we begin. I can’t exactly tell you any more than that, or how it’s going to wrap up, but we do have general plans. I can tell you there will be a wrap-up with Mulder’s sister and his whole quest, so you’ll learn the truth, which has been out there, but there will be something left to ponder, and I think that will lead us into the movies.

What is happening with the movie franchise?

That is our hope when the series finally comes to an end; that we will begin the movie series after the television series, so now it’s sort of in the idea stage. We’d have to figure out how the series ends, I think, before we do our next movie, but certainly the relationship of Mulder and Scully is the strongest thing that will lead us into the series of movies.

Looking back on The X-Files movie, do you have any regrets?

I loved the movie, and saw it again on cable the other night, and really enjoyed watching it – and I’m very critical of my own work, so I’m glad with the way it came out. I think that we accomplished what we needed to and wanted to accomplish, I think when we do the next movie, we won’t have to tie it into the mythology, which will remove The X Files fan connection to the movie. That was all-important to the first movie, but I think will be less important to the next movie, since the series will be gone.

How do you feel about the legal problems between you, Fox and David Duchovny?

I don’t really know anything about it, I’m not named as a defendant so it’s not a legal problem for me and as far as David and I are concerned, we just co-wrote a script together so right now it’s all about the work.

Has it created bad blood between you?

No, there has been no words exchanged, nothing. [in fact rumour has it the pair quite literally haven’t spoken since the lawsuit was filed and actually co-wrote all episode together via fax…].

Looking back on The X-Files, could you have imagined this success?

No one ever imagined that the show would be as successful as it is. Most TV shows don’t have this kind of success, which is international, and develops the kind of following where there are episode guides every year and conventions and so many different things that most TV shows don’t have. Most TV shows don’t create this kind of devotion, so that’s just one of those amazingly lucky things which has afforded me less lifestyle! Professionally it’s been incredible but personally it’s also meant that I have less time to do what I want to do.

And what do you want to do?

I’d like to go surfing more, that’s for sure! It’s one of those things that you are thankful for, and you’re blessed for having it, but at the same time I look back, I’ve been working on this for eight years now and those eight years lave just been devoted to really one pursuit, so sometimes you think, ‘Well I’d like to write a book or take some time to go to Europe. I haven’t been to Europe in eight years because of this show, so it has a sort of limiting quality is well; it’s a trade-off.

What are the qualities that you think Duchovny and Anderson contributed to the success of the Show?

You don’t want to think too deeply because it’s magic. Putting them together, I had no idea how the chemistry would be, and now we’re more than 150 episodes into the show and it’s still there – there are still sparks there and these people have never truly had any kind of romantic relationship. There were near-misses in the movie and in the show but you can’t imagine what the qualities are that you need to make it work. I think mostly they are terrific actors who are both serious about the work. I don’t think either of them missed a day of work in seven years so they’ve been extremely professional.

Given what you said about your lifestyle, why did you sign a {lucrative five year multimillion-dollar} deal with Fox to keep working so hard?

I’ll use a surfing analogy and say: once you catch the wave, you should keep riding it until it breaks, or I should say until it crashes. So that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re riding this wave and we have a lot of really good people that came to work on The X-Files and Harsh Realm, and when those people come on board and good ideas are in the air, there is good work to be done and you have to really treat that very, very carefully. You don’t want to blow it because it doesn’t come along too often.

How difficult is it to keep producing such enormous amounts of material for television and what do you do when you get stuck?

That’s a really good question, Because you truly have a gun to your head in television, you must produce every day and it must be good work, because you don’t have a chance to go back and make bad work good. You keep churning the stuff out so you develop instincts that tell you, ‘This is good’, or ‘This won’t work’. You are your own sort of quality gauge and scale and detector about what’s acceptable or not, but you still have to figure out a way and a reason to sit down and write every day. The reason to keep doing it is the people you work with and the reason to keep writing is that the actors perform it well. The stories come out good and are fun to do. You have to find the joy in work in order to keep doing it, I think. And beyond that, I could tell you I go out surfing when I get stuck but that doesn’t help my work any. That actually works against me because it makes me want to surf more!

What are your own personal interests in virtual reality and what sparked your interest in making Harsh Realm?

I’m not a big video game player because I just don’t have the time, but I’m interested in the technology and in the creativity that goes into these things. I think virtual reality is one of those ideas that is out there right now, because it is a kind of story-telling genre in a way. It’s a parallel world. It’s another dimension is really what it is, and that’s not anything new. It’s just a new way of telling that kind of story and there is now enough familiarity with technology and virtual reality and the idea of the digital world that we can start telling these stories and have them be understandable to people, so that when you do jump into a world that has different rules and different consequences, people will get it.

You are known for these dark, sombre TV shows but you’re certainly not a dark person. What’s the attraction?

I prefer to do dramatic shows but I really just like writing heroic characters so I never see those as dark, per se. I see them as shows with a very big bright hero at the centre. Even though Lance Henriksen [in Millennium] was a sombre guy, he was goodness, and he loved his family and wife, and wanted to save the world, and that was a very bright centre with that yellow house he lived in. The same way with Harsh Realm, because we have two wonderfully heroic characters in Scott Bairstow and D B Sweeney and they are different from one another but want the same thing, which is to save something or someone. What is interesting for me about all my shows is the light versus the dark. The X-Files was a very different show, in a way, until Episode 48, where we did a show about circus freaks and then the show really saw that it could expand and be light-hearted instead of just incorporating those bits of humour into it like we used to, so you can’t say there isn’t any comedy in my shows!

Do you personally have any conspiracy theories about how the new millennium will affect the world in general and Hollywood more specifically?

I know it is a tremendous time of reflection, but everybody is looking backwards, and we should be looking forwards because it’s a chance to start anew, like walking out of the Betty Ford Clinic and getting a new lease on life until you screw up again. It already has affected my business, if you look at all these movies about good and evil – Stir Of Echoes, Stigmata, The Sixth Sense, all these dark movies that are really reflective of the time that we live in. 1 think people find it frightening, the prospect of new technology, and it will be interesting once we pass this period to see what kind of stories we start to tell once it’s over. Are they going to be more serious or less serious? I don’t know.

TV and Satellite Week: Great Expectations

Mar-??-2000
TV and Satellite Week
Great Expectations
David Bassom

Season seven of The X-Files has been so successful in the US that the Fox network is now begging the series’ cast and crew to make an eighth. David Bassom previews Mulder and Scully’s latest x-ploits, which begin on Sky One this month.

By the time an American TV show reaches its seventh season, conventional wisdom dictates that it will face a struggle to stay on screen. Naturally, however, there are exceptions to every rule. And one of the most recent exceptions has been The X-Files.

For The X-Files seventh season, the series’ cast and crew have continued their pursuit of excellence as successfully as ever. Following its premiere Stateside last November, the new season has garnered exceptional ratings as well as a better response from viewers than season six. But perhaps even more surprisingly, the show’s spiraling production costs have done nothing to dampen the Fox network’s enthusiasm for the series. As production of season seven reached its halfway mark, Fox was practically begging to get show’s leading cast and crew members to sign up for an eighth series.

ENDGAME

Life was far less complicated in the summer of 1999, when The X-Files’ seventh season entered pre-production in Los Angeles. From the off, all parties were happy to regard the seventh season as its end. Series creator Chris Carter and actor David Duchovny (Fox Mulder) both wanted to end their seven-year contracts with show on a high note, and Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully) said she had no desire to fulfill her eight-year contract if the show lost its guiding light and leading man. Fox chiefs accepted that The X-Files’ future lay on the big screen following the popularity of the movie in 1998, and felt that they already had the show’s replacement lined up – Carter’s hotly tipped new virtual reality drama series, Harsh Realm.

And so season seven was launched with Carter’s tantalizing promise to resolve The X-Files’ two principal ongoing plot strands. The truth about the Syndicate and their nasty alien allies would finally be uncovered before The X-Files permanently relocated to the big screen. Similarly, Mulder and Scully’s long- simmering attraction would be brought to the boil, following years of foreplay.

Carter and crew also vowed to produce some of The X-Files’ most ambitious and innovative stand-alone tales. As the series had placed too much emphasis on comedy during series six, its writing staff were told to push up the terror quota in the closing year.

With this strategy in place, shooting began on August 9, 1999. The first episode to be filmed was Hungry, a terrifying creature feature which takes the monster’s point of view. It wasn’t until another episode – the whimsical The Goldberg Variation – was in the can that work began on the season’s opening two installments, The Sixth Extinction and The Sixth Extinction II: Amore Fati. Besides resolving the previous series’ cliffhanger, these episodes advance the myth arc storyline as the sinister Cigarette Smoking Man gains a dangerous alien-induced edge over his enemies.

From there, the series continued to impress, with a solid run of satisfying stand-alone adventures, including the thriller Rush, the light-hearted mystery The Amazing Maleeni and the sizzling snake-fest Signs And Wonders.

Another early highlight was Millennium, The X-Files’ long-awaited crossover with Carter’s failed detective series. Not only does the episode bring Mulder and Scully face to face with former FBI agent Frank Black (Lance Henriksen), but Millennium also represents The X-Files at its scary best. To top it all, the episode’s closing moments see Mulder and Scully celebrate the start of the new millennium by doing something viewers have wanted to see for years. As the series reached its halfway point, The X-Files returned to its myth arc plotline with an epic two-part adventure, Sein Und Zeit and Closure.

Like last year’s mind-blowing mid-season installments Two Fathers and One Son, the episodes promise revelations about alien activity on Earth and also deliver a shocking blow to Mulder.

Incredibly, with supposedly just 10 episodes left to be produced, cast and crew then began work on two of the series’ most innovative installments. The first, X-Cop, is shot in the style of the popular US docu-drama COPS, and promises to be an X- Files unlike any other. The second, First Person Shooter, was written by cyberpunk guru William Gibson, and pits Mulder and Scully against a Lara Croft-style computer-generated villain. Not bad for a show that’s supposed to be on its last legs!

EIGHT EXPECTATIONS

When the new series premiered last November, it was one of the few shows to survive opposite America’s top-rated quiz, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

It was then that the series’ success had one unexpected side-affect. As The X-Files went from strength to strength, Fox suffered its worst season ever. All the network’s major new offerings, including Carter’s Harsh Realm, drew lackluster ratings and were quickly axed.

By January 2000, the truth about Fox’s dire performance was out there – as was its desire to produce an eighth series of The X-Files, no matter what the cost. Fox TV chief Sandy Grushow confirmed that he wanted Carter and Duchovny to renew their contracts with the show. His announcement cast serious doubt over The X- Files’ future, and raised the possibility of a Mulder-less eighth season or even a spin-off focusing on The Lone Gunmen.

The future of The X-Files as a weekly series probably won’t now be certain until season seven ends production in April. Both the conspiracy and the relationship between Mulder and Scully may yet be extended into an eighth season.

But whether or not it is the show’s last year, series seven is one of The X-Files’ most accomplished in years. That should be enough to get most viewers to rejoin Mulder and Scully’s quest for The Truth.