Archive for May, 2002

Cinescape: Interview with Frank Spotnitz

May-24-2002
Cinescape
Interview with Frank Spotnitz
Melissa J. Perenson

Agent Mulder’s (David Duchovny) return leads to a military tribunal that could cost him his life in The X-Files two-hour series finale.

Frank Spotnitz on the End of The X-Files – Part Two
Chris Carter’s right hand man on the close of Mulder and Scully’s TV journey

Last Sunday saw the conclusion of The X-Files’ formidable run after a nine-year stretch. We finally did learn The Truth – though much of it proved to be a recap of the past more than new revelations in the present. And we finally had to say goodbye to Mulder and Scully – two characters whose odyssey we’ve followed through monsters-of-the-week and labyrinthine government conspiracies alike. Today, executive producer Frank Spotnitz continues his chat with Cinescape about the end of the groundbreaking show.

We know now that Mulder is the father of Scully’s baby, William; Mulder states it himself. Yet now that he’s back, the family can’t be reunited, since Scully made the heart-rending decision to give her son up for adoption in one of the show’s final episodes, “William.” “She doesn’t get him back in the finale,” acknowledges Spotnitz, who adds the decision to have her give up the baby was a difficult one. “But I think the decision to have Scully give up the baby was something that, in no small way, makes it easier to do another movie, and really sort of frees you in what that movie can be, in a way that you would not be free if the baby storyline had to be serviced. You’d just have to have another threat to the baby in the movie, and that dictates the entire story of the movie.”

Then again, he adds, “I can’t predict, because I don’t know how many movies there are going to be. I’m sure if there are enough movies, William will become important. Maybe William will be in the next movie. I don’t know, because Chris and I haven’t even started talking about what the next movie might be.”

The show may have served up unpredictable plot lines, but the one thing Spotnitz was always able to predict was the pace of Mulder and Scully’s evolution – if for no other reason than the fact that it was, by nature, glacial. “The characters evolved very, very slowly. Chris was very strict about who Mulder and Scully could be,” explains Spotnitz of the world’s best-known team of FBI investigators. “But I think through the plots, through the mythic journey these characters were on, they slowly began to change.”

The more Scully saw over the years, the more voices cried out that she should change. “We used to get criticisms all the time: ‘Oh, come on, she’s seen so much.’ By the end of season one, season two, people were already saying, ‘C’mon, how can Scully still be a skeptic, she’s seen so much?'” remembers Spotnitz. “But Chris knew that’s what made the show work, and you needed to preserve her skepticism. And even in ‘Endgame,’ there was a voiceover in that episode that was designed to tell us where Scully’s head was at that early point of the series; that, after all she’s seen, she’s still going to bring science to everything she sees. And it was an attempt to preserve Scully as a scientist and a skeptic. Yes, there’s stuff that we can’t explain, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be explained one day.”

Now, that one day has arrived.

Whether you loved the finale – or loathed it – will have little impact on The X-Files’ historical contribution to dramatic television. While many will argue the series went out past its prime – the stories the show told, right up to the end, were some of the most ambitious projects on the small screen. “I think in terms of the ambitions of stories, and the ideas we tried to communicate – I mean, there was no idea too big. One of the first things that struck me when I came to work here was how smart we tried to be,” muses Spotnitz. “It’s the opposite of what everyone’s impression is of television. We were never smart enough. We were always trying to be smarter.”

“To this day, we’ve always tried to be smarter, because our audience is so smart. And no matter how smart we are, our audience is always smarter,” explains Spotnitz. “It became a very constructive dialectic. Less so the last two years, I’ve got to say, because so many of the voices on the Internet have been dumbed down, and it’s no longer what it was – a race to see who could surpass the other in terms of achievement and understanding the ideas we were going for.”

As smart as the fans were, Spotnitz laments the changes among the show’s Internet following. “Before ‘Sunshine Days’ aired I was distressed to read on the Internet that a lot of people were saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be them dissing the fans, and telling us that we were idiots.’ It’s such a misreading of us and how we feel about our fans. We love our fans, we’re so grateful for our fans – we think they’re so smart and attentive,” he reaffirms. “Nothing could be further from the truth. We would never do that. There was also a misreading of the ending of ‘Scary Monsters.’ ‘What are you trying to say, people are stupid for watching our show?'” he quotes. Determined to set the record straight, he adds, “You’ve got to be crazy to think that or do that if you’re in our line of work. I think that there’s a lot of wasted energy in some quarters talking about things like that.”

There’s no doubt that the devoted fans are still out there, though: some 13.4 million viewers tuned in for the finale – more than two-thirds of the show’s audience when it hit its peak four years ago.

Nostalgia for X-Files of yore brought back viewers in droves, but nostalgia of another sort has set in for someone like Spotnitz, who joined the series in its second season. “Oh sure,” he says candidly. “This is what happens in human nature; you forget about all of the pain. It’s the nice thing about human beings – you just forget about the pain and you just remember all of the good things. That’s what’s moving about [the end].”

At the Fox lot hub of 1013 Productions, they’re preparing to turn out the lights. The X-Files has taken its final bow, executive producer John Shiban has moved over to his new home at Paramount’s Enterprise, Chris Carter has a one-way plane ticket for a long-overdue vacation, and even Spotnitz will be moving on in a few weeks to take a producing job on a new CBS cop show series. But Mulder and Scully’s impact will not soon diminish. And while the logistics (including the final go-ahead from Fox) for another movie have yet to be worked out, there’s always that little hint bit about an alien colonization set for the year 2012…

[Unknown]: ‘The X-Files’ bows out after nine years

May-20-2002
[Unknown]
‘The X-Files’ bows out after nine years
Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles

Thanks to FBI Special Agents Mulder and Scully, the aliens never managed to take over Earth and the mother of all conspiracies never quite materialised, despite many hints and dark suggestions.

That was, of course, all in the fantasy universe of television entertainment. Back in the real world, even David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson could not prevent The X-Files falling from favour in the eyes of Fox Network executives and, after nine seasons on air, the cult programme bowed out in the United States last night.

“Yes, I feel like something is gone, but every day I wake up with the nagging feeling that it’s still there,” the programme’s creator and lead producer, Chris Carter, told reporters last week. It’s an understandable reaction from the man who, for years, played on the American weakness for conspiracy theories and on the notion that nothing is quite as it seems.

It also attests to the deep cultural influence of a programme that inspired passions in a way matched only by the – very different – cult following for Seinfeld, the sitcom whose absence is still sorely felt in the US four years after its much-trumpeted finale.

Last night’s X-Files was a two-hour special with a lot of loose ends to tie up. No doubt the fans will talk long about the explanations given for some, if not all, of the outstanding mysteries. Would they really be the final word, or would there be some truth beyond the truth that will now never be told?

The programme went out too late for discussion here, but Mr Carter gave a few advance hints of what it would contain. It would set the record straight on whether the baby born to Agent Scully (Anderson) was fathered by Agent Mulder (Duchovny). It would tidy up the mystery of Mulder’s sister. And it would give some kind of answer on whether aliens and humans were involved in a government-run conspiracy to take over the planet.

It would be tempting to blame the decline of The X-Files on the paranormal, but the reasons are mundane. Costs jumped when production moved from Canada to Los Angeles in 1998. A lawsuit by Mr Duchovny over profits meant Agent Mulder all but disappeared from the programme and the ratings dipped.

The moment when The X-Files lost its oomph came in 1999 when the simmering, but hitherto platonic, relationship between the principals was broken with a New Year’s Eve kiss. Breaking the sexual tension robbed the show of one of its most fascinating qualities.

Gannett News Service (Honolulu Advertiser): ‘X-Files’ series finale offers closure to 9 chilling seasons

May-19-2002
Gannett News Service (Honolulu Advertiser)
‘X-Files’ series finale offers closure to 9 chilling seasons
Mike Hughes

For nine years, “The X-Files” has teased us and terrorized us, dazzled us and amused us.

It has turned weirdness into an art form. And on Sunday it ends.

The final episode – 8:10 p.m. tonight on Fox – will put Special Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) on trial. It may answer many of the dangling questions.

“The series will come full-circle,” Chris Carter, the show’s creator and producer, says by phone.

“Viewers will have a sense of closure.”

There will still be “X-Files” movies ahead, Carter promises. “I think we have everyone on board now.”

And those will have self-contained stories. Tonight’s finale, in which Mulder must prove the existence of aliens, will wrap up the “X-Files” mysteries, Carter says.

You can trust him on that. Then again, he’s the guy who told us: “Trust no one.”

Carter, now 45, started “The X-Files” in 1993, with Mulder and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) chasing the unexplainable. It was a wild ride.

“Each week, something happens to Mulder and-or Scully that is completely life-changing,” Duchovny reflected in 1999 before he left the series for good to spend more time on movies. “And yet we come back the next week as if nothing happened.”

They confronted shape-changers, gender-benders and time warps. Mulder was shot five times (once by Scully) – or more, if you count his imagination.

Still, this wasn’t just a series of odd adventures. “You need this to become the vehicle for (Mulder’s) personal story,” Carter says. “This is his personal quest.”

Along the way the audience has learned details about Mulder.

He graduated from Oxford and from the FBI Academy where classmates called him Spooky. His favorite snack is sunflower seeds. He was playing the board game Stratego with his 8-year-old sister when she was abducted by aliens.

He also has a kitschy side. Mulder went to Graceland for a vacation; he’s seen the movie “Plan 9 From Outer Space” 42 times.

When the series first started Carter cast two unknowns in the lead then had them work marathon hours in Vancouver, Canada. “I had no idea what I was getting into,” Anderson said midway in the second season.

For supporting roles, Carter chose people who didn’t have the usual TV look. He had bald actors (Mitch Pileggi, Terry O’Quinn), craggy actors, and odd and interesting performers.

For the first five seasons – before “The X-Files” began filming in California – he had lots of Canadians in the cast.

“They have a wonderful talent pool in Vancouver,” Carter says, “but it’s thin. We used the same actors in five or six different roles.”

He also kept re-using the same gifted directors.

In the first year or so, Carter says, he replaced more than one-third of his directors in the middle of episodes. Eventually, he found ones that fit his style.

“We have a director who has surpassed 50 episodes now,” Carter says. “We have another who’s pretty close.”

The champ is director Kim Manners, also one of the show’s six producers. His personal vocabulary made him the prototype for the profanity-spewing character, Detective Manners; the finale will be approximately the 53rd “X-Files” he’s directed.

Coming close was Rob Bowman. He’s directed more than 40 episodes, plus the 1998 movie.

What Carter wanted from his directors was a delicate balance – dark but not dreary, serious but fun. He relates that to the times he saw shows being tested with viewers, recording their interest minute by minute.

“I’d get so upset by the valleys,” Carter says. “But then I realized that you need a valley, before you can have the next peak.”

That’s sort of how he sees the mood of “The X-Files.” On the surface, Carter is a sunny guy – a handsome surfer with wavy hair and a polite, well-spoken manner, a sharp contrast to the guy who is fond of dark drama.

“You have to have the darkness in order to have the light,” Carter says. Now, after nine years of dark brilliance, his show is ending and except for writing the next “X-Files” movie, he’ll have time to play.

“I started having too much fun too soon,” he says. “I went skiing and broke my arm.”

The Boston Globe: ‘X-Files’ to mark the final spot

May-19-2002
The Boston Globe
‘X-Files’ to mark the final spot
Erin Meister

For nearly a decade, aliens, mutants, crooked government officials, and other monsters have run amok, terrorizing and generally grossing out millions of people in America and abroad, thanks to the cult hit series “The X-Files”. Since the show’s creation in 1993, loyal X-philes have tuned in weekly to watch the trials and tribulations of their favorite FBI agents – Mulder and Scully – in hopes that with each episode they come closer to the truth they relentlessly pursue. The long-awaited series finale (airing tonight from 8 to 10 on WFXT, Channel 25), promises to close some of the agents’ case files – but not to answer all the questions.

Chris Carter, the show’s creator, says that solving the mysteries woven into the show’s nine years would be untrue to the series. In a recent telephone interview, Carter said, “There’s a huge, complicated mythology to the show, and everybody’s asked, ‘Are you going to answer the questions?’ We’re going to make it come together in a way that makes sense, but we’re not going to answer everything.”

Although the final details of the last show are clouded in characteristic mystery, Carter promises a return appearance by David Duchovny’s character, Fox Mulder, who has been in hiding from supposed governmental conspirators. Many fans have been wondering if Duchovny, who has been working behind the scenes on the show but no longer appears weekly, would return for the finale and shed some light on the relationship between him and his partner, Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully.

Carter hints that things will become clearer during the reunion of the two agents. “This should be a satisfying episode for anyone who’s wondered where that relationship is going,” he said.

Of course, with this show, that could mean anything.

“The last episode is called ‘The Truth’,” Carter said, “and it deals with what [Mulder] has been searching for, and a truth that he’s found that he can’t even tell Scully.”

Though the television series will end, Carter says that there are “X-Files” film projects in the works, and he said that future movies “won’t continue where the series left off. They won’t have to be a part of the mythology.”

During its run, the show has dealt with alien visitors, clones, FBI cover-ups, and any number of phenomena ranging from the supernatural to the superficial. Early on it blossomed into a cult hit, making it one of Fox’s longest-running and most popular series. “I’m so thankful for the fan base,” Carter said. “I’ve gotten to do exactly what I’ve wanted to do over the last 10 years. It was a miracle.”

At the same time, he said he is “looking forward to a life of anonymity. The real luxury is that I’ll be able to stop and think, because I’ve been on the run like a wanted man for the last 10 years.”

When asked if he believes in the little green men Mulder and Scully have been chasing all these years, Carter said, “I don’t believe in them, but I want to believe. It’s the desire to believe these things, to have my faith confirmed – I think that’s really what the show is based on. There are more ‘X-Files’ stories to tell, and I’m sorry to see [the series] go.”

Ottowa Citizen: Vancouver salutes X-Files legacy

May-19-2002
Ottowa Citizen
Vancouver salutes X-Files legacy

Tonight, Boyd McConnell and his friends and fellow ‘X-philes’ will be watching the two-hour finale of The X-Files in the apartment that was used in the series as the residence of FBI Agent Dana Scully.

VANCOUVER – Boyd McConnell knows where he’ll be tonight. The Vancouver entrepreneur will be at FBI Agent Dana Scully’s old apartment building, checking the creaky floorboards for poltergeists and watching The X-Files’ ghostly images with friends and fellow “X-philes” on a flickering TV set. He probably won’t mark the window with a giant “X” in masking tape, as Agent Fox Mulder did in several early episodes, but God help you if you call him on his cellphone while he’s occupied with the cult classic’s two-hour series finale.

The rustic heritage building that he owns on Pendrell Street in Vancouver’s West End played host to The X-Files’ unflappable FBI agent and resident nonbeliever for the five seasons it was filmed in Vancouver, and even today resembles the Georgetown neighbourhood in Washington, D.C., where Scully ostensibly unwound when she wasn’t chasing down alien conspiracies and deranged whack jobs.

Her apartment’s keynote performance was delivered in the second-season episode Duane Barry, in which Steve Railsback, playing a man who claims to be a victim of alien experimentation, is beamed aboard a flying saucer by a malevolent shaft of light that penetrates Scully’s inner sanctum, well-nigh wrecking the furniture in the process.

Since The X-Files pulled up stakes and headed to L.A. nearly four years ago to the day, Pendrell Suites has played host to some 30 film and TV productions, all the while doubling as a bed-and-breakfast. (In their 1999 book, X Marks the Spot: On Location with The X-Files, veteran Vancouver location managers Louisa Gradnitzer and Todd Pittson said the one drawback of the West End location was 11 p.m. curfew times for night shoots — midnight on Fridays — and the need to light the scene without lighting up half the adjacent apartments.)

In his spare time, Mr. McConnell, whose family owns and operates Pendrell Suites, runs sightseeing tours of Vancouver’s movie and TV locations, including the two-block stretch in Gastown that doubled as a turn-of-the-century Montana cattle town in Legends of the Fall and the abandoned shipyard and warehouse district that hosts Dark Angel. Mulder’s apartment, throughout The X-Files’ stay in Vancouver, was at the Wellington, a brick apartment block in Kitsilano that again doubled for the Washington, D.C. neighborhood where Mulder lived.

“The X-Files put us on the map, as far as gaining credibility for film and TV productions,” Mr. McConnell said. “People were proud when it was here. It was the No. 1 show, and everybody could brag about it. And then when it left, a lot of people felt it lost its edge. A lot of the locals just didn’t want to watch it anymore. I think some people felt a bit betrayed when it left.

“I’m actually quite upbeat about this. I’m glad that it’s coming to an end now, because that means we’re still going to have, historically, 118 episodes I think, and 90-something that were L.A.-based ones.”

His math is not far off: Technically, 117 episodes were shot in Vancouver, 83 in Los Angeles.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

May-19-2002
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Todd Camp

Nine years is a long time to wait for “The Truth.”

But that’s how long Chris Carter, creator of the pop culture phenomenon known as “The X-Files,” has been telling us “the truth is out there.”

And tonight, as the show wraps up nine seasons of alien abductions, monster hunts and government cover-ups, Carter calls his legion of “X-philes” close, leans in and whispers what they’ve all been waiting for.

Or will he?

Carter offers a characteristically mysterious take on tonight’s two-hour series finale, titled “The Truth”:

“You see Mulder and Scully in a way that you may have always wanted to see them,” the 44-year-old Carter says. “The show and the conspiracy and the mythology and the X-Files as a concept have come full-circle. I think it’s a very touching, emotional show that doesn’t so much answer all the questions as it tries to make the entire series seem cohesive.”

We do know that David Duchovny’s Agent Fox Mulder returns and must stand trial, defending not only his life but the very existence of the X-Files. But cohesion and clarity have never been the aim of this deliberately evasive, often hypnotic series that has left an indelible “X” on the TV and cultural landscapes.

A solid, if not spectacular, performer in the ratings (at its peak, the show was drawing about 20 million viewers and was regularly in the top 20), the “The X-Files” is better measured by its hold on the public consciousness.

The show and its stars graced numerous magazine covers from “Rolling Stone” to “Vanity Fair” to “Newsweek” _ not to mention a staggering 10 covers for “Entertainment Weekly.” It inspired a wave of spinoff merchandise, including novels, trading cards, video games, comic books, soundtracks, toys, videos and DVDs, as well as its own official Web site, fan magazine and fan expositions. There was a spinoff TV series (which was later canceled) called “The Lone Gunmen,” based on a trio of recurring “X-Files” characters. And the 1998 feature film, “The X-Files: Fight the Future,” grossed more than $185 million worldwide.

The series was also the first legitimate dramatic hit for Fox. But beyond its reliability as a cash cow for a struggling network, the series tapped into the American psyche, with its catchphrases “The Truth Is Out There” and “Trust No One.” They would become mantras for an increasing disenfranchised public.

“I think that its underlying subversiveness is sort of a universal thing, and certainly an American thing,” Carter says, though the show’s nationalist paranoia has appealed to audiences in more than 100 countries around the world.

“What was more important about “The X-Files” was “how” it did what it did rather than “what” it did,” says Stuart Fischoff, professor of media psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. “You really had a fortuitous blending of ingredients. . . . it had a feel, it had a look, it had an ambiguity.”

Much of the show’s appeal has been linked to its filmic quality. Shooting in the perpetually cloudy, damp surroundings of Vancouver, Canada, gave the show a glistening, wet darkness all its own, a trait that unfortunately vanished when the series moved to Los Angeles to allow Duchovny to be closer to his wife, actress Tea Leoni. Its top-notch writing team and talented visual-effects and cinematography crews have helped earn the show 61 Emmy Award nominations and three Golden Globes wins.

But the heart of the series’ success has always been its stars.

“To me, the appeal of Duchovny and (Gillian) Anderson was so strong that even the episodes that weren’t really that great were saved by the chemistry between the characters,” says Craig Miller, 42, editor of the Arlington-based science-fiction magazines “Wrapped in Plastic” and “Spectrum,” some of the first national periodicals to begin covering “The X-Files.” “They found the right actors for the right parts.”

BIRTH OF THE X-FILES

Drawing inspiration from television classics such as “The Twilight Zone” and ’70s cult shows like “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” and Jack Webb’s “Dragnet”-like “Project: UFO,” “The X-Files” first introduced agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in 1993.

“It was when the Internet was taking off. . . . The mood of the country was such that all of the global villains had sort of fallen away and everyone was starting to look inward. It was a time of a sort of spiritual longing, and a time when science and technology were evolving faster than our ability to comprehend the consequences of it,” Carter says of the show’s origins. “So there were a lot of things and moods and facts and circumstances that I think allowed it to succeed.”

“There’s always been a time-honored suspicion of the government, and a fascination, mixed with hope, mixed with fear, of extraterrestrial life,” Fischoff says. “We look to the skies for either bad things or good things _ good things to deliver us, bad things to harm us.”

Duchovny’s Mulder is a brilliant FBI criminal profiler and confirmed believer in extraterrestrials, stemming from witnessing his sister’s abduction as a child. He continues his search for her while working on “The X-Files,” the bureau’s division devoted to unexplained phenomena. Anderson’s Scully is a medical doctor and confirmed skeptic assigned as Mulder’s partner in an effort to debunk his work.

It was this relationship _ the skeptic and the believer _ that would drive the series _ with Scully’s doubt waning in the face of overwhelming evidence and Mulder’s belief system increasingly eroded in the face of growing government cover-ups.

The presence of a subtle sexual tension between the partners has also played no small part in their appeal, though fans have been rewarded with little more than a couple of kisses and an off-screen one-night stand that may or may not have resulted in the birth of Scully’s baby.

“It had that element that has continuously made stories attractive to men and women for thousands of years, and that is the star-crossed lovers,” Fischoff says. “These are people who never quite make it, and the minute they do, like “Cheers,” the show goes down the tubes.”

Equally interesting is the rogue’s gallery of characters who have helped or hindered the agents in their quest for the truth, including: Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), the Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis), X (Steven Williams), Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin), Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea), the Lone Gunmen (Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund and Tom Braidwood), and later in the series, agents John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish).

All of these characters coexist within a delicate balance of grim stories involving supernatural creatures or human monsters, mythology episodes focusing on an increasingly complicated government conspiracy (see accompanying synopsis), and occasional oddball adventures showcasing the cast and crew’s delightfully dark senses of humor.

Mulder’s continuing quest for his sister would be put on hold for a visit to a town populated by former circus freaks, his body swap with quirky Man in Black Michael McKean,, or, in Carter’s favorite episode, a black-and-white retelling of the Frankenstein legend featuring a tortured creature with a Cher fixation.

Last week’s episode centered on a psychokinetic man with a “Brady Bunch” fixation. But even though the humorous episodes often angered diehard fans, they were also the most critically lauded and gave folks who didn’t follow the story a much needed inroad to the show.

“The mythology, at some point around the fifth or sixth season, became so maddeningly complex, I could no longer make any sense of it,” Miller says. “And I thought it was just me. But in talking to people who followed the show, and who obsessed over the show much more than I did, I would ask them, “Whatever happened with this or that?’ and they’d say, “Beats me. I don’t know.’ ”

Despite the show’s confusing nature, it still ended up influencing any number of copycats _ most of which died on the vine in Fox’s disaster-prone lead-in spot for the series when it first aired on Friday nights. It’s safe to say, however, that popular series such as “CSI, Smallville, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias” and “Roswell” owe their very existence to “The X-Files.” Fox even used the show to market its own programming, with Duchovny and Anderson showing up in “The Springfield Files” episode on “The Simpsons,” and specific “X-Files” episodes referencing Fox shows like “Cops” and the network’s much-ballyhooed “Alien Autopsy.” But Carter’s other TV experiments _ the well-made but too grim “Millennium,” or the quickly abandoned “Harsh Realm” and “The Lone Gunmen” _ never clicked with audiences.

REALITY TV

Though the series drew from real life _ directly or indirectly referring to events such as Ruby Ridge, Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing _ it was in the wake of Sept. 11 that Carter says the show was perceived as has having run its course. “The mood shifted radically,” he says. “I think that to question authority was un-American, for a time. But this is not a young show anymore; it’s not a new show. And while I feel like we did really good work this year, I think that the mood of the country did affect us.”

But Fischoff says the show was in trouble long before Sept. 11.

“All shows run out the skein of their appeal and they get tired,” he says. “If it really, really lost its flavor because of the World Trade Center, that’s kind of a heroic demise. But I don’t think that’s really what happened.”

Duchovny left the show at the start of the eighth season, shortly after settling a highly publicized lawsuit he filed against Fox over his share of the show’s syndication profits. For many fans, his departure sounded the death knell for the series, though he returned for half a season last year as well as the series finale tonight. Most of this season, the series has ranked in the mid-’80s, with a weekly audience that’s dropped to less than 9 million.

But with Anderson contracted for another year, Carter stuck it out, despite seriously considering leaving the show at the end of last year, he says.

“I made a promise to the actors that I wouldn’t bail out on ’em and I didn’t, so I at least feel like I’ve honored something I feel very strongly about,” Carter says. “Now it’s time to find new ways to tell a good story.”

Whether it’s stayed too long at the fair or whether or not there are still good mysteries to unravel, “The X-Files”‘ departure will leave a void, not just in Fox’s Sunday night lineup, but in the pantheon of shows with good storytelling. For nine years, “X” has marked the spot for something a little different, and Carter himself says he still hasn’t begun to grasp the scope or impact of his creation.

“It’s just weird to see the places it’s cropped up, you know,” he says. “You hear it referred to in popular song lyrics or you see people with it tattooed on their body. That’s always strange.”

But with the series’ final episode airing tonight, Fischoff says one of the show’s greatest appeals was that “it never really ended. The central recurring theme, the leitmotif of “The X-Files” was never resolved,” he says.

So when Carter and company unveil “the truth” tonight, X-philes everywhere remain confident that there are many more truths still out there.

Associated Press: Strange, wonderful ‘X-Files’ journey ends

May-19-2002
Associated Press
Strange, wonderful ‘X-Files’ journey ends
Lynn Elber

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — C’mon over here and let us plant a big farewell kiss on dark, droll, gory, sexy, devious, paranoid, sly, subversive, baffling, marvelous you — “The X-Files.”

The Fox drama about extraterrestrials, freakish terrestrial villains and the FBI agents driven to pursue them is ending its nine-year run, secure in its reputation as a television classic.

Chris Carter, its creator, dared to take the most orthodox of genres, the cop show, and transform it into a convention-busting, one-of-a-kind vehicle for thrilling and intelligent storytelling.

“The Truth,” the two-hour finale, airs Sunday from 8-10 p.m. EDT. David Duchovny returns as Fox Mulder, who faces a murder charge and military tribunal. Gillian Anderson co-stars as Dana Scully.

Since its September 10, 1993, premiere, “The X-Files” has thrived on dichotomy. The feds were the good guys (Mulder and Scully and a few fellow FBI travelers) and the bad guys (just about everyone else in power).

It treated the convoluted “mythology” at its heart — Mulder’s quest to determine if his long-lost kid sister was kidnapped as part of an alien-invasion plot — with intense solemnity and, when it felt like it, tongue-in-cheek affection. Other episodes, even those about murder and worse, often evinced a seriocomic tone; “The X-Files” was “The Twilight Zone” with continuity and more wicked wit.

The relationship between Mulder and Scully was sensuous and soulful and yet chaste and intellectual, save for a few kisses, a suggested one-night stand and a resulting baby, William.

(Says a bemused Carter: “It just tickles me that in this day and age, when we have characters jumping into bed with each other at the drop of a hat, that there was so much anticipation and so much attention to what ultimately became a peck on the lips.”)

Cultural reach

The cultural reach and influence of “The X-Files” outstripped its popularity. The series couldn’t equal the numbers of, say, a top-rated ’90s show like “Seinfeld,” which at one point lured nearly 40 million viewers. In 1997-98, at its peak, “The X-Files” drew 20 million viewers and ranked 19th.

But Duchovny and Anderson — and sometimes even Carter — decorated magazine covers and became gossip column material, a testament to their appeal and that of the series.

It earned a prestigious Peabody Award and received 61 Emmy nominations during its run, winning a best dramatic actress trophy for Anderson (but failing to nab a best drama award). The series became a cash cow for the network and 20th Century Fox through TV syndication, DVDs and a movie.

The catch phrases “The truth is out there” and “Trust no one” took on lives of their own as “The X-Files” became a cult phenomenon with mainstream impact. And the use of the letter “X” was enigmatic enough to mean just about anything — especially anything cool, sexy and disturbing to the status quo, the elements in which “The X-Files” trafficked.

The drama’s psyche was steeped in anti-authoritarianism and alienation, with echoes of the Vietnam era in which the 45-year-old Carter came of age. Those themes managed, however, to resonate with younger as well as older viewers.

Resonant themes

Then real-world events conspired to make “The X-Files” feel out of step in its final season.

In insecure, post-September 11 America, citizens needed to have confidence in government. And there were a host of dramas ready to capitalize on the new zeitgeist, including ABC’s “Alias,” in which there’s conspiracy aplenty but the CIA is on the right side.

Carter, for the record, concedes only a brief moment when the show may have seemed out of step with society. The themes of “The X-Files” represent “the heart and soul of this country,” he argues.

“I think there will always need to be and will always be built into the government this need to police itself, and for the public to be distrustful of authority generally and of putting too much faith in it.”

Carter also disagrees with critics who said the series had faded, especially after Duchovny left last year and despite the valiant efforts of cast additions Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish (as agents John Doggett and Monica Reyes) to fill the void.

“I think the numbers make people say that,” said Carter, referring to its 85th-place ranking for the season to date and a weekly audience that’s dwindled to less than 9 million.

A viewership decline is inevitable for most aging series, and Carter admits to pondering the shift: “Your audience over that time changes, the whole demographic changes. People’s lives change. I don’t know what happened to that audience, but only a portion of them came back this year.

“My sense is they felt something had been completed.”

Moving on

Did Carter harbor any grudge toward Duchovny for not sticking it out? The actor who found stardom on “The X-Files” has focused on movies, including director Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming “Full Frontal.”

“No, I understood. He turned 40 years old, he’s got things he wants to do. Eight years is a long time to be on a television show. I wished him the best and still do. It’s just nice to have him back.”

Patrick, who co-starred in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and was making his first foray into regular series work, was glad to catch even a two-season piece of the “X-Files.”

“The best part about it is that I know this is going to live on. I feel like I got involved in something great. When you think about the history of TV, you’ll think about ‘The X-Files,”‘ he said.

And more cases and conspiracies are ahead. With the success of the 1998 feature film, at least one more movie is planned. Carter is ready to start work on the script and hopes to begin filming as early as next summer.

“X-Philes,” as fans became known, aren’t the only target audience.

“We’re looking at the movies as stand-alones. They’re not necessarily going to have to deal with the mythology,” he said.

Through the years, Carter maintained his goal was to provide audiences with a first-rate thrill ride. He acknowledges “The X-Files” was also thought-provoking and politically minded.

One more thing, he adds: “It was tremendously romantic … romantic in both the literary and more common sense in that it was about two people who were tremendously tender and caring for each other.”

A show like that deserves a hearty goodbye smooch. And that’s the truth.

Newsday: Chris Carter On the Conspiracy

May-19-2002
Newsday
Chris Carter On the Conspiracy
Noel Holston

To boost interest in Sunday’s final episode of “The X-Files,” creator-executive producer Chris Carter, 45, proposed a whirlwind series of 10-minute telephone interviews with TV critics. Here’s part of his conversation with Newsday’s Noel Holston.

Will you really be wrapping up the “loose ends” Sunday, or is that going to require a second theatrical film?

No, my hope is that we can come full circle here, that we can make it all make sense. I won’t be answering questions per se. That can be a little tedious, but hopefully we can make everything that’s been part of the mythology over the past nine years come together.

When you first pitched “The X-Files” to Fox, was the conspiracy aspect already prominent in your mind, or did it assert itself once you got going?

It was actually part of the pitch – the idea that the government knows about extraterrestrials and is keeping it a secret. You can see that in the pilot. It’s laid in very distinctly. The Cigarette-Smoking Man appears at the end putting [Scully’s] piece of unexplained evidence away in a kind of vault at the Pentagon.

Has this been like writing a novel for you?

In a way. Maybe like Dickens used to write novels episodically. You have to have a big idea about where you’re going. The challenge was just how we would get there: What were the paths to this so-called truth?

How did you keep track of it?

In our heads. But to be honest, we actually go back and review once in a while. I think the thing we maybe haven’t gotten credit for over the years – because everybody talks about the complexity of the conspiracy and the unanswered questions – is that we’ve worked very hard with each mythology episode, trying to reintroduce elements that the audience needs to go forward and may have forgotten.

If you had to give a capsule update for someone who was coming in at the tail end of this, what would you say they needed to know about the mythology?

There has been a deceptive, willful and complicated attempt by the U.S. government, or factions within the U.S. government, to deny the truth about the existence of extraterrestrials to the American public. And that Mulder and Scully, who’ve been searching for the truth, while they were once of opposing viewpoints, have now come together, and they know what the truth is. But you will see in the finale that Mulder has now discovered a larger truth that he can’t even tell Scully.

One of the hallmarks of “The X-Files” is its movielike look. How did you manage that on a TV budget?

A tremendous amount of ambition and a certain amount of naiveté. We just tried everything. We figured out ways, by hook or crook, by hiring the right people, to get done what we wanted to get done, including bringing submarines out of polar ice caps. Luckily, with the popularity of the show, we were able to increase our budgets as time went on. This may be the last of a certain kind of TV show because the economics of the business have changed. I don’t know that anyone will get an opportunity to do what we did again.

Were you ready to quit?

I was going to leave at the end of last year. I figured I had done everything I had set out to do when I had come around to a nice moment of completion with Mulder and Scully. Fox picked up the show, anyway – it was still their top-rated show. They convinced me – and I didn’t need much convincing, to be honest – that we could do a next generation of “The X-Files” with the addition of these new characters (played by Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish). I believed it, and I still believe it. But for whatever reason, the ratings diminished this year, whether it was the prevailing attitude and mood in the country after 9/11 or that we premiered so late, and viewing habits had already changed. Less people came back this year, so my feeling was that people sensed something had been completed.

What’s next for you?

I have lots of ideas, but I can guarantee you that whatever I do, I will try to do something that is not typical franchise television.

[Unknown]: X-Files: Science Fact or Fiction?

May-18-2002
[Unknown]
X-Files: Science Fact or Fiction?
Kristen Philipkoski and Brad King

This Sunday, FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully hang up their badges after nine tumultuous years on the The X-Files, where the dynamic duo helped thwart a government conspiracy to help aliens recolonize the Earth, oftentimes at great personal peril.

Every other week, in fact, the pair were getting knocked around, kidnapped, bushwhacked and downright messed up by aliens trying to create a slave race of human-alien hybrids.

Right, OK. No problem. Assuming that aliens ever landed, maybe that could happen, considering the quantum leaps in science over the last decade: sequencing the human genome, cloning animals and developing the first round of genetic medicine.

But surely series creator Chris Carter was pushing the bounds of science, right? Frankly, that’s the only way we’ve been able to sleep at night, believing it was all some science fiction nightmare.

Unfortunately, that’s not entirely true, according to Frank Spotnitz, an executive producer for the last eight years, who walked us through the show’s plot.

Spotnitz explained that on the show, the government conspiracy began in 1947, when a spaceship landed in Roswell. The aliens were coming back home after a brief respite in space to avoid the ice age that covered the Earth millions of years ago. They were happy we kept the planet warm, but they wanted the Earth back.

This time, to take over the planet, they had brought a little weapon called the black oil virus, which invades the human body. The virus not only allows aliens to control an infected person, but also implants an alien fetus in the human. Anyone who’s seen Alien knows that doesn’t end well for the host. As if that’s not enough, the aliens also want to create a race of human-alien hybrids to do all their dirty work.

So they start to experiment, hoping to find a way to engineer “worker people.”

Here’s the kicker. If we run across aliens some day and they are DNA-based critters, scientists believe that cross-species hybridization could happen. Certainly lots of mice are running around with human genes, engineered as test subjects for potential human drugs.

However, there is another way to create a hybrid race, called chimerism, which is a process of combining embryos from two species to create a brand new one.

“The cells of the species then cooperate with each other to form an organism that hasn’t existed before,” said Stuart Newman, a New York Medical College professor of cell biology and anatomy.

Although he doesn’t have plans to make one, Newman has filed a patent application on his own chimera: the “humouse.”

Scientists have purposely developed “geeps” — sheep crossed with goats. And they say they’ve learned quite a bit about human and animal development from these chimeras.

But all that genetic manufacturing is a royal pain, as anyone who has ever tried to create a hybrid race of human-alien slaves knows. So, our alien visitors developed the black oil virus.

In The X-Files universe, humans have both a human genetic program and an alien one. The black oil virus can flip a “gene switch” to turn off the human program and turn on the alien one.

“The idea was that this virus inside this black slime would actually get into the cells, inactivate the human program and start the alien one,” said Anne Simon, a virologist, University of Maryland professor and scientific adviser for the show.

Simon, who wrote the book The Real Science Behind the X Files, was inspired to come up with the idea of a genetic switch by the large amount of so-called junk DNA in humans. Only about 1.5 percent of human DNA is made of actual genes that have a known function, and the rest is relatively mysterious — or even alien.

Like the appendix of genes, junk DNA doesn’t have any recognizable uses. Which isn’t to say science won’t one day unravel that mystery. However, Simon said that the black oil virus could essentially re-sequence junk DNA to create new, alien genes within living humans.

“Viruses are able to do a lot of fascinating things,” she said. “They can activate and inactivate genes, integrate into the genome, shut down the manufacturing of all the host proteins.”

On The X-Files, the black oil virus and the hybridization tests laid the groundwork for colonization. Mulder and Scully continually come face to face with the Syndicate, a group of rich white dudes helping the aliens in exchange for their freedom. Mulder nearly buys the farm several times, but Scully — poor Scully — she can’t buy a break.

Scully is abducted in 1994. Once captured, she is subjected to experiments that render her unable to have children. Her eggs are harvested so the aliens can try to create hybrids. But that’s not the end of Scully’s problems.

She’s eventually stung by a nasty swarm of bees that carry the black oil virus. The bees picked up the virus from pollen, which the aliens engineered.

Frighteningly, this would be a piece of cake for any virologist.

“Expressing a virus in plant pollen would not be a problem,” said Simon.

Once she’s infected, Scully is kidnapped and put into a cryogenic freeze where the alien baby inside her can grow. But Mulder rescues her and kills that nasty alien baby. Afterward, Scully is chilly, but fine. Except she’s sterile.

Nothing is ever as it seems on The X Files. The aliens weren’t quite finished with her. Soon, she’s pregnant.

Before childless women putting off parenthood until the last possible moment rejoice, they should be reminded: First, Scully is a TV character. Second, fertilization technologies are improving, but even they couldn’t help someone whose eggs have been completely depleted by aliens.

In fact, several fertilization experts have recently warned women not to wait too long to try having children because the fertilization techniques might not be as good as they hope.

Aliens, however, have the fertilization game down. When little William — Scully’s baby — starts levitating his toys and the meteorites that mysteriously appear in his dresser drawer, it’s pretty clear he’s no regular baby.

This is where we leave our hero and heroine, heading into their final small-screen adventure, with a baby that could be not entirely human, a mysterious black oil virus possibly floating around the universe and some honked-off aliens.

“I’m very sad that this is the last episode,” Simon said. “The life of a professor, as fun as that is, is always in need of some comic relief — and this certainly provided some.”

Sure. Alien invasion. Comedy. Sleep well.

Atlanta Journal and Constitution: As ‘The X-Files’ ends, Mulder and Scully get one last chance to discover whether the truth is really out there

May-17-2002
Atlanta Journal and Constitution
As ‘The X-Files’ ends, Mulder and Scully get one last chance to discover whether the truth is really out there
Steve Murray

“The Truth” is out there — and over and out after Sunday night on Fox. That’s the name of the final, two-hour episode that brings “The X-Files” to an end after nine years on the air.

Creator Chris Carter says the show’s shoot ended with a bang. “The last scene was fitting. It was a gigantic explosion.” (FYI: The explosion isn’t literally the episode’s ending, it’s just the scene that happened to be the last one shot.) Here’s hoping the series goes out with the same kind of explosive effect. Once a cult hit and pop phenomenon, “X-Files” should have hung up its sensible gray suit two years ago, after Ivy League heartthrob David Duchovny reduced his appearances as paranormal FBI sleuth Fox Mulder to only half the season. He was absent this year but returns for Sunday’s finale, in which Mulder is on trial for murder.

Carter admits that the series hit a rough patch around the time of Duchovny’s departure. “There was the business problems with David during the seventh year of the show,” he says. “It didn’t help the creative energy.” He’s referring to Duchovny’s lawsuit against Fox, accusing the network of devaluing the series’ worth by giving rerun rights to its own cable and local stations, and as a result lowering Duchovny’s share of profits.

At the same time, co-star Gillian Anderson announced in an interview that “The X-Files” would not return for an eighth season. Oops. It continued, she returned, and former Marietta resident Robert Patrick stepped in as new FBI partner John Doggett to fill the gap left by Duchovny. This year, Anderson’s role has been limited, with much of the FBI legwork being done by agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish).

But now, really, truly — the series ends Sunday.

Fans who’ve endured the head-spinning twists might be glad to know that the episode’s setup, a military tribunal, should allow a lot of clarifying facts to come out during testimony. “Hopefully we’re going to make it all make sense,” Carter says. “The piece will bring the series full circle.”

But he stays mum about specifics. Wrapping up nine years of byzantine plot lines promises to be a challenge. “It’s complicated by the quantity of the detail,” Carter says. “But as you’ll see, as you watch the two-hour finale, it makes rather cohesive and clear sense.” (Sorry, but I can’t offer you any hints: Fox didn’t send advance review tapes to TV critics.)

It’ll be interesting to see how the final installment ties up more than 200 episodes of sometimes bewildering narrative arcs. As the series introduced multiple types of aliens, cannibals, miracle pregnancies and cancer remissions, and too many explanations to count concerning the abduction of Mulder’s kid sister, “The X-Files” began to resemble the tattoo Scully chose in one episode: a serpent swallowing its own tail. For a while, the writers seemed geekily more interested in weaving together their “mythology” of governmental corruption than in giving viewers the heebie-jeebies.

What kept us watching were the coolly creepy atmosphere and high production values that gave the show a dark cinematic gleam. But even more important than those was the Mulder-Scully chemistry, the will-they-won’t-they sexual frisson that was yin to the characters’ professional yang. When “The X-Files” movie hit theaters in 1998, the duo’s near-kiss was, for fans, more pulse-raising than the soft-core sex scenes in most Hollywood flicks.

Once the sexual tension broke (complete with the birth of baby William), the show became much less sexy. And with the approach center-screen of Patrick and Gish, it lost its core. The production values remained high, but it was a case of style over substance. The numbers reflect that. This season’s viewership declined to below 9 million, at 85th place in the ratings; at its ratings apex, the 1997-98 season, 20 million watched, and it ranked 19th.

But Carter’s series goes out honorably. It may have stayed on past its prime, and if it “jumped the shark,” the splash wasn’t a tsunami. And remaining fans needn’t mope. “The X-Files” isn’t gone for good; plans are in the works for at least one more feature film.

“Everyone wants to do it,” says Carter, who says that at the show’s wrap party, “my cheeks got very tired from smiling. It was a very happy party. The sadness came before then, when we were doing everything for the last time.”

And he still won’t leak any specifics about Sunday’s finale. Except by indirection. Asked whether the show might have a big surprise or two, all he offers is a low chuckle and a single word:

“Yeah.”