Archive for September, 2002

Skeptical Inquirer: Why Was The X-Files So Appealing?

September / October 2002
Why Was The X-Files So Appealing?
Skeptical Inquirer Volume 26.5
Erich Goode

[Original article here]

The success of The X-Files was in large part due to its expression of a confluence of three powerful, ancient, and legend-like beliefs-paranormalism, conspiratorial thinking, and populism.

The demise of The X-Files series cries out for an assessment of its appeal. In the volatile world of big-time television, a decade-long run is no small potatoes. Clearly, the show said something to audiences that most programs don’t. What was The X-Files‘ special magic? What made it intriguing to tens of millions of viewers?

My sense is that the program’s appeal was confluence of two immensely attractive and primordial ideas: paranormalism and conspiratorial thinking-along with a strain of populism, which often comes with paranormalism, and nearly always accompanies conspiracy theories.

The X-Files was not a documentary, of course—it was fiction. (At the same time, or so the show’s producers claimed, it was “inspired” by “documented accounts.”) It didn’t lecture to us a paranormalist or a conspiratorial (or a populist) point of view. In fact, my guess is, its creators and producers adopted a tongue-in-cheek attitude toward the occult events it depicted. For most of us, the events it depicted were just a bit too fantastical to be taken seriously as fact. [See also ”The X-Files Meets the Skeptics,” Skeptical Inquirer, January/February 1997.]

But the program did contrast a paranormal/conspiracy point of view (Agent Mulder’s) with a more scientific or skeptical perspective (Agent Scully’s)-and week after week, the skeptical perspective always lost. Moreover, viewers actually saw evidence of both paranormalism and conspiracies at work with their own eyes. We saw the aliens scuttling about in the shadows and we saw the Cigarette-Smoking Man and his cronies, also in shadowy places, conspiring to cover up evidence that the aliens are on our planet.

Spotting The X-Files‘ paranormal theme is a no-brainer. Not only were the words “paranormal activity” flashed on the screen in the program’s opening credits, but throughout, Mulder’s supernatural theories were always verified. When Scully told him that that the presence of aliens on Earth contradicts the laws of physics, Mulder replied, when it comes to aliens, “the laws of physics rarely apply.” At another point, Scully, who is trained as a doctor, said: “I’ve always held science as sacred. I’ve always put my trust in accepted facts.” Mulder had a different take on the matter: “Might we not,” he asked, “turn to the fantastic as a possibility?” Week after week, the show overturned Scully’s trust and validated Mulder’s “possibility.” No doubt about it: In The X-Files, traditional science was thrown out the window and paranormalism reigned supreme.

The X-Files was also a classic case of a conspiracy narrative. Conspiracy theories argue the following. First, treachery is afoot; somebody (or something) is trying to do harm. Second, not only do the conspirators want to do harm to others, they want to do harm to us- good, decent people. Third, the conspirators are organized; indeed, that’s what conspiracies are all about. Fourth, their actions are secret and clandestine; the conspirators are very good at covering their tracks. And fifth, they are powerful; in fact, all conspiracy theories are centrally about the distribution of power, about monopolizing and withholding it (Fenster 1999).

Conspiracy theories are nearly always populist theories as well: They support and trust the common man and woman, especially, first, their view of things, and second, their right to power. Conspiracy theories and populism share a strong distrust of the elite, people in high places, the rich, the powerful, the well-connected-including scientists and other well-educated, pompous pundits. And, crucial for our understanding of The X-Files, most varieties of populism see science as symbolizing or representing elitism-that is, as contrary to the views and the interests of the common man and woman. Science is complicated and difficult to learn and superficially it seems to be monopolized by, and to support the interest of, the powers that be. Turning the tables on what most scientists think, the populist strain of conspiracy theories sees science as traditional rather than revolutionary, conventional rather than going against the grain.

In conspiracy theories, the conspirators control public life by controlling access to valuable information. To fight against a conspiracy, we must first believe in it. And the central idea of conspiracy theories is that we must uncover the truth, which is what The X-Files is all about. As usual, Mulder said it best: “The answers are there. You just have to know where to look.” In principle, by telling the truth, we can undermine the control that the powerful have over us. One of the things that makes The X-Files interesting is its ironic twist on this age-old theme. More on this momentarily.

There are many varieties of conspiracy theories. One major type is the paranormal conspiracy theory. What paranormal conspiracy theories share with conspiracy theories in general is the view that nothing is as it seems. There are evil, shadowy figures who hide valuable information from the public. In The X-Files, the conspirators constituted a multinational “consortium” that “represents certain global interests,” which kept the truth from the rest of us. It was a conspiracy so vast that even the FBI was kind of a pawn, a puppet, a middleman between these powerful forces and the public. The valuable information in this case was of a paranormal nature-that extraterrestrials are here, they are here as a result of violating the laws of physics, and they mean to do harm to us by colonizing our bodies.

In the paranormal conspiracy theory, the underdog tries to reveal the truth about scientifically unexplainable phenomena and undermine, and ultimately defeat, the dominant, establishment view, thereby empowering the public. The underdog is opposed to a “rigid scientific view of the world.” In place of this rigid view, the anti-conspiracy theory favors intuition, what feels right, what seems right, experience, memory-in short, what contradicts or can’t be explained by science.

In such paranormal narratives, there is usually a believer and a skeptic, and the tension of the narrative is introduced in the debate between them. We want to be there to witness its resolution, that is, the manifestation of the truth of paranormal powers. The believer has usually seen evidence of paranormal powers with his or her own eyes, but either can’t get his or her hands on hard, physical evidence, or the evidence keeps being stolen or destroyed by others, usually the conspirators. In contrast, the skeptic has faith in traditional science, trusts hard evidence, and thus debunks the paranormal point of view. One fascinating feature of The X-Files is that week after week, Agent Scully, a physician, an extremely intelligent woman, never quite comes to accept Mulder’s paranormal and conspiracy beliefs.

Most commonly, the believer is a powerless, marginal person and often a woman; the skeptic is almost always a man (Hess 1993). In The X-Files these sex roles are reversed because the screenwriter and creator, Chris Carter, explicitly stated that he wanted to “flip” traditional sex stereotypes and make Mulder the believer and Scully the skeptic.

So, the populist, paranormalist, and conspiracy elements in The X-Files are expressed by: first, an anti-scientific viewpoint, that is, the view that traditional, established science is wrong, the laws of physics can be overturned, and the intuition of the common man and woman is right; second, a condemnation of government secrecy-it is opposed to the fact that the powers that be are withholding valuable information from the public and are harming us; and third, the hero, the outsider, the paranormal believer, discovers evidence that contradicts the official, dominant view, and attempts to unmask the conspiracy and empower the powerless, the common man and woman, by giving us this valuable information.

Of course, in The X-Files, the conspiracy couldn’t really be unmasked and the treachery couldn’t be defeated because it was an ongoing series and hence the same evil forces had to continue to do their machinations in episode after episode. There was no triumph, no resolution. The only triumph was the reality of the evidence that Mulder and Scully gathered. But, again, because the conspirators were so powerful and commanded such a huge arsenal of resources, that evidence had to be destroyed or taken away; hence, the triumph of getting their hands on the evidence was negated. The only true victory in The X-Files was the viewers’ knowledge of what really happened.

As a result, the triumph of the paranormal and conspiratorial views in The X-Files was only an intellectual and cognitive victory-not a political one. At the end of each show, the evil remained; only our view of the world changed. We know the truth, but the evil in our midst, it seems, will always abide.

References

  • Fenster, Mark. 1999. Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Hess, David J. 1993. Science in the New Age: The Paranormal, Its Defenders and Debunkers, and American Culture. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Erich Goode

Erich Goode is Visiting Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-8235, and the author of Paranormal Beliefs: A Sociological Introduction.

The X-Files Magazine: Agent Anderson

Sep-??-2002
The X-Files Magazine
Agent Anderson
John Reading

In an exclusive interview for The X-Files Magazine, Gillian Anderson reflects on her nine years playing Agent Dana Scully, as she faces the future without her alter-ego. Interview by John Reading

It’s all just starting to dawn on Gillian Anderson. The X-Files television series is over. She spent nearly one-third of her life portraying F.B.I. Special Agent Dana Scully on the show, first opposite David Duchovny as Fox Mulder and, later, opposite Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish as John Doggett and Monica Reyes.

Along the way, Anderson made time for a wide range of other experiences, both personal and professional. She married, divorced and became a mother during the show’s run, and helped raise nearly half a million dollars for Neurofibromatosis, Inc., a charity dedicated to those, like Anderson’s brother, who suffer from this genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on a person’s nerves. The actress also managed to squeeze in performances in such films as Chicago Cab, The Mighty, Playing By Heart and The House of Mirth, and lent her voice to the likes of the animated feature film Princess Mononoke and TV shows such as Frasier, Harsh Realm and The Simpsons. Closer to home, Anderson wrote and directed the “all things” episode of The X-Files.

Now, however, it’s time to get on with the rest of her life and career. We caught up with Anderson just as filming on the series was approaching its end, engaging her in a wide-ranging conversation about matters past, present and future as they relate to both The X-Files and to Gillian Anderson.

THE X-FILES MAGAZINE: So what are your thoughts on this major chapter of your life closing?

ANDERSON: This is so surreal. I swear to God it’s only started to hit me over the past couple of days. It feels like the nine years was so short. You know what I mean? While we were in the middle of it I felt that it would never end and now all of a sudden it just feels unfathomable.

XFM: So does that mean you don’t want it to end?

GA: No, no, no. I think ultimately that it’s good. I think it’s good for everybody and I think that everybody has put in such a huge effort over the years in really trying to keep the quality of the show up, to continue with its integrity as much as we could. There’s a time for everything to end and I think this is the right time. I think everybody in their own way is excited about moving on to other things. But both things can co-exist; one can be sad and in the process of mourning and at the same time be excited and hopeful for the future and change.

XFM: After nine years, is there a favorite episode that stands out in your mind?

GA: I felt akin to (all things). It certainly wasn’t one of my favorite episodes, but the process of it was exhilarating and rewarding. There are a few that I liked, that were fun. Bad Blood was a bit of a comedic episode that I felt was fun and smart and well written. Our schedule is so crazy that it’s hard for me to keep them straight. I’m terrible at that, so I couldn’t even begin to tell you favorites, but you know there are some.

XFM: The X-Files went from cult favorite to pop culture phenomenon. Let’s talk about the so-called craziness of the fans.

GA: I haven’t been feeling the craziness of it lately. We’re pretty well protected from that. It all just feels like there’s another entity out there that’s kind of breathing with the same heartbeat as we are and they support us.

I don’t experience a lot of craziness. We don’t get a lot of visitors on the set. Once in a while we do and people burst into tears and stuff, but the crazy period of time was earlier on and I didn’t even realize that that was crazy until it stopped being crazy. Then I thought, “Oh God, that **was** crazy!”

XFM: But you must go to restaurants and get recognized?

GA: Yeah, but it’s not on the same level as other people have. It’s not what Gwyneth Paltrow has, where you can’t sit in a restaurant without the entire restaurant stopping and trying to listen to your conversations. So I’m blessed in that way that I don’t have the pressure of that in my life. I live a very quiet, private life and every once in a while it feels abruptly jarred by somebody who’s extra-enthusiastic.

XF: OK, let’s get into the show a bit more. The past couple of years have focused not on Mulder’s story, but Scully’s. She was the anchor. What’s your take on the character’s evolution and where she’s at as we build to the end?

GA: Well, it’s happened by necessity because of the fact that David was going to be leaving. I think that for the first year he was gone the writers did a very good job of keeping him in the public consciousness even though he wasn’t around. It was remarkable. It’s interesting how if someone is talked about, it feels as if they’re present even though they’re not. So they were very successful in doing that. The show certainly did start out as Mulder’s quest. The show was primarily about his character and his genius and his revelations, and Scully’s job was to kind of help solidify that in the questions she would answer. They created a whole partnership, but it was 70/30, then it got to 60/40 and then to 50/50. And I’m not talking financially.

XFM: This season, Scully spent a lot of time with baby William and away from Doggett and Reyes. What did you make of that turn of events?

GA: That’s interesting. I don’t know about this whole baby thing. It certainly adds a level of complication to the filming! I think it added an interesting storyline, but it’s also been complicated. How do you involve Scully in the cases they’re investigating to a degree without the audience thinking, “Well, where’s the baby and why isn’t she home with him?” And if she **is** with the baby the fans are going, “We want her out in the field. We don’t want her home with the baby.” It was a very fine balance that they had to play.

XFM: Speaking of kids, how excited is your daughter Piper about the likelihood of having you home more often?

GA: Well, she’s not necessarily going to have me back home. She’s going to be doing a lot more traveling is what she’s going to be doing.

I don’t know what she’s feeling right now. I mean, we’ve had a couple of conversations about it and she’s just at that age right now where she’s starting to understand what it is that Mommy’s being doing for her lifetime. And I think she has, for the first time, a bit of a romantic view of what that is, and I’m trying to break that down as quickly as possible!

XFM: How do you feel about David coming back for the finale?

GA: I think it’s great. I didn’t realize how important it would be for that to happen. When I heard I was very excited and he called me and we had a conversation about the fact that he was coming back and possibly going to be directing something. I guess I didn’t realize how much I was missing him and integral he was [to the show], and I didn’t realize that we needed his presence to make a necessary closure.

XFM: You and David started on this journey together. How differently do you think you might feel if he didn’t come back to close things out?

GA: I don’t think I would have known that until the very end when I would have thought, “Well, wait a minute. This isn’t right. This isn’t right.” I’m very glad that the show is completely ending now because I have a feeling that, even though I would have mourned to a certain degree in saying goodbye, there would have been something left undone. Because the crew would have been continuing and, even though I was saying goodbye, it wouldn’t have been as clean. I feel like we have an opportunity now to really tie it up in a whole and constructive and completing way.

XFM: What will you miss most about The X Files?

GA: There are many, many things that I’m going to miss. I’m really going to miss David and Kim (Manners) and Chris (Carter). I think my body is going to keep expecting to do something familiar that it’s not going to have an opportunity to do. I’ll have the hiatus and then come July it will kind of feel like, “Well, something’s supposed to happen now, right? I’m supposed to go on a sound stage.” So it will be interesting to watch how it transpires in my body and in my psyche.

XFM: Would you even for a second consider jumping into another TV series?

GA: No, I’m just done. Please, it’s been nine years. There are so many other things to do, so many other things not even in the business that I want to do and in the business, but in other ways. Eventually, after I do some features, maybe if HBO asks me to direct something, I might do that. But there are so many things I want to do first.

XFM: How about the next X-Files feature?

GA: Well, there’s one that they’re hoping to do in the next couple of years. That I would definitely do.

XFM: Any concerns about ending the show now and then having to turn up on the set of an X-Files feature a year or so down the road?

GA: No. I’ve got a lot of stuff that I’m going to be doing between now and then that will be feeding me creatively in completely different ways. So when an X-Files film eventually presents itself, it will feel more like a reunion, I think, than something to dread or be afraid of.

XFM: Chris was asked about the meaning of the tagline “Trust no one,” and he said, to paraphrase, “I live in Hollywood. I work in Hollywood.” Do your experiences in Hollywood make you think the same way?

GA: I don’t trust anybody. I don’t trust anybody in Hollywood or Ohio. No, that’s not true.

XFM: But does working in this business, if nothing else, make you more cynical?

GA: Probably, I think. It’s interesting, because what I’ve heard about that aspect of the business is much more devastating than my experience. Because I don’t tolerate that, and I don’t behave in that way with people, I have a tendency to bring people into my experience who do not behave that way, because there’s no room otherwise. And so I don’t have that experience very much. I generally work with and get into business with people who are very on the line and honest and straightforward.

XFM: You’re currently gearing up to do a play and a movie. What can you tell us about those two projects?

GA: I optioned something that I’m going to adapt and direct eventually. Hopefully I can start writing over the summer. It’s a book called Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rossner. It’s a beautiful little book. But I’m not sure when I’m going to be able to get to that. I’m looking for different film projects for the summer and then I’m going to do a play in London in October and then maybe a feature after that. Or I might take a little time off. The play is a new Michael Weller (show) and it’s called What the Night is For.

XF: How full an experience has this show been for you? You started as a young unknown and you’re leaving as a mature woman and a famous and respected actress?

GA: The fact of the matter is that I grew up during the course of the show. I started when I was 24 and ended at almost 34. That’s almost a third of my life. I was young and naive and impressionable and didn’t have a clue about the business or anything at that time. Then, to grow up and to make mistakes along the way and to experience my life while trying to be somebody else (Scully) and try to be something other than myself for 18 hours a day was an interesting task. I also was doing that very publicly. So, as I’ve said, it’s been surreal.

The X-Files Magazine: Good Manners

Sep-??-2002
The X-Files Magazine [US]
Good Manners
Ian Spelling

After joining The X-Files in Season Two, Kim Manners went on to direct over a quarter of the episodes in the whole series. Ian Spelling caught up with the long-time X-Files director/producer, as he was literally and figuratively in the middle of telling ‘The Truth’.

As the official X-Files Magazine speaks to director Kim Manners, he is coming to terms with the fact that he is working on the very last episode of the show. ‘There are days that are really emotional and days where we’re all very stoic,’ says the long-time X-Files director. ‘We’re going through every human emotion. It’s very strange. We’ve fought with each other. We’ve apologized to each other. Everybody is under great pressure. It’s a very, very foreign feeling. It has been a very bittersweet resolution for all of us knowing that, finally, we are doing the last show. For the last four years we wrapped up in April, never knowing whether or not we were coming back for another season. Now we know this is it. Knowing that, I think we’re all savoring ever day, every moment on set, as painful as it may be, as demanding as it may be.’

The Truth, as we all know by now, heralds the return of Fox Mulder He’s captured and put on trial for the murder of Knowle Rohrer, a Super Soldier who cannot die, which makes it clear to all in the know – you, me, millions of other fans, not to mention, Scully, Skinner, Doggett and Reyes – that Mulder is being framed. Much of the show unfolds in a courtroom, as a parade of familiar faces return to provide testimony or, as apparitions, support Mulder. Among those on hand are Marita Covarrubias, Jeffrey Spender and Gibson Praise, as well as the long-dead X and Krycek. Later portions of the two-hour finale find Mulder on the run and encountering yet more familiar visage: the Cigarette Smoking Man and the ghosts of the Lone Gunmen.

“Directing this has been the epitome of the eight years I’ve been on the show,” Manners notes. “It’s been a very difficult shoot. The script is still evolving, and that’s only because every day we want to make it better. It’s always been a challenge. It’s always been last-minute. It’s just spontaneous.”

“That’s one of the reasons the show has worked over the years. We thrive under pressure and we don’t stop trying to make it the best it can be until it’s time to put it on the air. This finale is no different. We’re winging it, buddy! What can I tell you? And we’re getting it done. I knew David would come back. Whatever money he got I don’t even think was that important to him. He wouldn’t miss the end. This show is too much of his life. Now it’s the end and he’s here. And it’s important in terms of the story, the X-Files arc.

So does Manners feel that The Truth is a satisfactory end to the series? “The finale answers a lot of questions and, at the same time, it clears the slate, or some of the slate, for the next feature. If David hadn’t come back for the finale, the movie would have to be very different from whatever it’s going to be now.

“I think the finale does a lot of things,” Manners continues. “It opens up a completely new chapter for Mulder and Scully. The finale sets up a fugitive run, if you will, and that fugitive run will probably be addressed in the next feature. Chris (Carter, series creator) has said that the finale answers a number of the big questions and, in answering the big questions, answers some of the small questions, too. I tend to agree with the boss. The truth is revealed and the storyline of The X-Files is revealed in this courtroom drama, and you have to listen to every word. It brings you back to old episodes. It reminds you of old episodes. And you understand more clearly what this entire mythology story arc was.

“I think it’s a good path to the end. It’s a new beginning for a couple of people who are actually running from the law now. It’s a good way to go because it’s very tough to close out nine years of storytelling in two hours. It’s extremely difficult. That’s why we did it in a courtroom setting, with people testifying about what happened over the last nine years. It’s a clever idea, a clever script. You’ve got the courtroom drama and some very dramatic scenes at the beginning, for the first hour and 10 minutes, and then it becomes a chase at the end. I think Chris and (executive producer and co-writer) Frank Spotnitz have created a strong storyline and set themselves up for a good feature franchise.”

Manners own storyline goes like this: he’d directed episodes of Charlie’s Angels, Hunter, 21 Jump Street, Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Adventure of Brisco County, Jr. when he met Carter in the bar at the hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia, where those involved with The X-Files usually stayed. Manners was up in Canada at the time – in 1993 – working on Brisco County, which then served as Fox’s lead-in to The X-Files.

Manners told Carter “I really want to do your show,” and Carter, after screening a Manners-directed episode of 21 Jump Street, agreed to hire Manners for the Season Two episode Die Hand Die Verletzt. Bob Goodwin, then an X-Files co-executive producer, informed Manners that much of his footage might be reshot, as that happened often on the show. Those words reinforced Manners’ resolved that no one would reshoot any of his footage. Manners did his thing and two weeks later he was invited to join the show as a producer. And he’s been there ever since, directing episodes from Oubliette and Home to Leonard Betts, Max and Demons to Two Fathers, Requiem to The Gift to This is Not Happening, and from Nothing Important Happened Today, Part 1 to 4-D to The Truth.

The producer-director laughs when asked to pick a few favorites from among the dozens of episodes he helmed over the years. “Home is definitely one of them,” he says. “That’s number one. It was a classic horror story. I was born and raised on Lon Chaney, Jr. and Boris Karloff, and when I read the script that Morgan and Wong wrote I went, ‘This is classic horror,’ and I tried my best to make it that. I think I pulled it off. A lot of fans think it’s the best show. Some fans go with Home and some go with Bad Blood, which my friend Cliff Bole directed. And that’s fine. Home is my personal favorite. I also like one called Release, which was the resolve of the murder of Doggett’s son. That was the last one I did before the finale, actually. Monday was a bank robbery story told four different times. Milagro was the one with an author whose character comes to life in the seduction of Scully. Closure was Mulder finding his dead sister as a ghost. Tunguska was with Mulder and the Black Oil in Russia. I did Audrey Pauley this season, and that was one of my favorite shows, too. There were just so many great, great opportunities for me as a director.”

It should be noted that Manners wasn’t just a director on The X-Files. He also earned a paycheck as a producer. When he wasn’t prepping or shooting or editing his own shows he worked on other people’s shows. “I am really a troubleshooter,” Manners explains. “They rely on me in that way.”

As part of the inner circle, Manners was among the first to learn that Carter had decided to lock the doors and turn off the lights at The X-Files. “Chris made the right decision,” he opines. “The show is over. It ran for nine years. I think it’s time to walk away and move onto other things. I think The X-Files itself ran its course. I was sorry to see that the X-philes didn’t follow our show for the eighth and ninth seasons after Duchovny. Those people, I think, missed a great arc in the odyssey of the adventure. But it’s definitely time to go.”

Some fans believe Carter should have closed up shop with Season Seven, once Duchovny chose to pull back from the series. The more critical longtime viewers argue that The X-Files simply overstayed its welcome by continuing on, first with Duchovny on hand only part-time, then with him off the radar entirely. Manners is typically straightforward in offering his thoughts on the issue. “They shouldn’t have called it a wrap after David left,” he insists. “The X-Files is just that, The X-Files. They’re not ‘Mulder Files.’ They are The X-Files. I thought that Robert and Annabeth with Gillian brought a whole new dimension to the show. You can’t predict how the show would have gone had it been turned over entirely to Doggett and Reyes, to this new X-files team. It could have gone for another year or two, maybe or maybe not. We’ll never know that. The torch was being passed this season from Gillian to Robert and Annabeth, but they never had an opportunity to carry the show themselves. As actors, Annabeth really came into her own this season and Robert was a steely factor in keeping the show alive these past two years.

“If I have one criticism of the show after David left, I think the show made a wrong turn in killing off our villains. We killed off Cigarette Smoking Man. We killed off Krycek. We barely saw Marita Covarrubias again. I think that might have hurt the show (in the eyes of serious X-Files watchers). But other than that I think the show lived as long as it should live. And it’s dying a natural death when it should die a natural death. It has nothing to do with Mulder.”

So why – to pose the biggest question of all – did The X-Files last so long? “We did science fiction, but we did it in different ways,” Manners replies almost instantaneously. “We did it real. We made science fiction, we made the unbelievable believable. We did that through great production, great acting, great directing, great storytelling and great imagination. We made the stupid, the dumb, the impossible, the unbelievable believable. We could get into some ridiculous, outrageous things, but on The X-Files they were all played as real. We got you to believe it would happen and you cared about the characters who were in the middle of it week after week. We’re all very proud of that.” And how would Manners define his contribution to the phenomenon? How big a hand did he have in it all? “I directed 52 hours of the show’s 201 hours,” he notes. “So that’s a pretty big hand. I joined the show in its second year and so did Rob Bowman. Rob Bowman and I did a lot of this together. I’d say that we brought the show a look, a style, a feature quality. We had to bring that in order to translate the science fiction into TV that you could watch and follow and believe. Rob and I had great directors of photography. We had John Bartley, Joel Ransom and Bill Roe, who lit the show beautifully. I think that’s our main contribution.”

Bowman, it should be noted, graduated from producer-director of the series to director of The X-Files movie. Manners is coy when addressing the matter of his calling the shots on the next film. “I will direct the next X-Files feature,” he says, “if I’m asked to direct the next X-Files feature.” Manners’ phone rings. The Truth beckons and he’s got to say goodbye in a moment. And so he offers some closing thoughts. “There will be X-Files films and the show will continue, probably forever, in repeats,” Manners says. “But this is really it. For the people involved in making the show, The X-Files experience will never live again. Nobody in the television medium, other than those of us who were here and experienced it, will never get to taste what a great high it’s been, what a great blessing it’s been. We’ve made TV history and that’s the way it is. It’s been painful and it’s been exhilarating at the same time.”

The X-Files Magazine: The Next Files

Sep-??-2002
The X-Files Magazine [US]
The Next Files
Ian Spelling

With the end of The X-Files, the final issue of The X-Files Magazine presents one last chat with executive producer Frank Spotnitz. When we tracked Spotnitz down he was no longer at his Ten Thirteen office on the Fox lot. Instead he was ensconced in new digs and already hard at work on his latest job, an upcoming cop series tentatively entitled RHD/LA. Spotnitz lifted the lid on scenes cut from The Truth and talked about the need to move on to the next chapter in his life.

THE X-FILES MAGAZINE: What got written and not shot, or shot and edited out of The Truth?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: There was a lot more in the courtroom that we cut before shooting even began because we realized it would just be too much information, too hard to follow. And then we cut more after the show had been filmed because it was too long. So there were a lot of answers and connections to things we hoped to make clear with the finale that just didn’t get in there. There was a second scene between William Devane’s character and Kersh that occurred after Mulder’s trial that made it explicit they were just going to go ahead and kill Mulder. That helped motivate Kersh’s turnaround. I think the turnaround works perfectly fine without the scene, but it was a great scene and I was sorry to see that go. That was written and even scheduled, but not shot because we realized we just weren’t going to make our schedule if we shot it.

There was another scene, actually shot, in which Marita Covarrubias came to Scully’s apartment and warned her that Mulder was going to be killed that night in his cell. I thought that was a really nice moment for the Covarrubias character because Mulder basically saved her on the stand. He let her leave without having to name the current conspirators. Telling Scully what was going to happen was a nice way for her to repay the favor. But there just wasn’t time to include it. We also had a fantastic scene that was written and not shot. It would have been early in the show, before the trial began. It was with Skinner, Reyes and Doggett, and it was Skinner preparing for the trial. It was a really good scene with Skinner and I was sorry to see it go. It was also very funny because it was Skinner trying to tie together nine years of the mythology and trying to make sense of it. The scene was a wink at the fans, because it was really about our job as writers trying to tie nine years of the show together.

XFM: Reviewers and online fans have launched quite a lot of criticism at the finale: too slow, didn’t have enough action and didn’t provide enough pay-off. How justified are those criticisms?

FS: If people felt that way, then I guess it is justified. I know some people felt that way. It didn’t play slow for me. I think if you were hungry for answers you got answers from the finale. It’s a very funny thing. The X-Files audience is so stratified. There are people who know nothing, who maybe even tuned out the mythology episodes and preferred the stand-alones. There are people who studied the mythology episodes. And there are people in between. Well, how do you satisfy all of those people? For the people who know nothing it was probably all new. On the other end of the spectrum, for the people who know everything, the entire two hours was probably a rehash. And then there was that group in the middle, for whom some of it was new and some of it was stuff they understood. We tried to address all those levels of understanding, so it was inevitable that some people would be more enthusiastic than others.

XFM: You told us last issue you avoided the emotion of the show ending by not being on hand for the bit of filming. But what was it like the day you left your office for good?

FS: In mid June I went back to give up my keys and pick up my final box of files. My assistant, Sandra, had prepared a scrapbook for me. It was a complete surprise. And in it were all these letters that the castmembers and various crewmembers wrote to me. That’s when it finally hit me and I got the sadness of having to say goodbye.

XFM: What can you tell us about your new gig?

FS: I’m in my temporary office here at Michael Mann’s production company. I’m in week three of preparing scripts for the show with a new writing team and production staff that actually has a lot of X-Files faces on it. The title right now is RHD/LA, which stands for the robbery and homicide division of the Los Angeles police department. The show stars Tom Sizemore from Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. I never thought I’d work on another cop show, but it was an opportunity to work with Michael, who’s such a talented filmmaker. And as we’ve gotten deeper into the show I realized it’s unlike any police show that’s ever been done. It’s a real challenge and completely opposite to The X-Files. I’m the showrunner under Michael and I’m working my ass off. We’ve got a 13 episode commitment from CBS and we’ll be on in the fall.

XFM: Lastly, where do you go from here so far as the X Files is concerned?

FS: Chris Carter went on vacation with a backpack and he has no return ticket. Someday he’ll come back and when he does we’ll start talking about the next movie. I think it’s a good think that Chris is off on vacation and I’ve gone right into this other show, because I’m so overwhelmed by dealing with RHD/LA I don’t have much time to think about the world of The X-Files. It’s also probably good for The X-Files that Chris and I clear our minds and not think about The X-Files for a while so that when we come back to it it will be with a fresh eye. And I think we’re both determined that, if we’re going to make another X-Files movie, it be unlike anything we’ve done before. We want it to be exciting and new and to push the idea of the show forward.