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Detroit Free Press: 'X-Files:' Paranormal paramours

Detroit Free Press
‘X-Files:’ Paranormal paramours
Mike Duffy

With Fox Mulder’s return in the final episode of ‘The X-Files,’ we bid goodbye to one of TV’s signature — and most intriguing — couples

“I will never have other TV heroes than Mulder and Scully.” — Snoopy1013, posting on an “X-Files” fan forum

‘X-Files’ creator speaks about the past and future

A few words on “The X-Files” with series creator Chris Carter.

On cranking up the alien conspiracy for Sunday’s two-hour series finale: “The return of David Duchovny helps to do that. And it also explains Fox Mulder’s absence over the past year. We also see how the new conspiracy relates back to the old conspiracy. And I think this will offer a very satisfying end to longtime fans.”

Will there be more “X-Files” movies? “That’s the plan. And they will be Mulder and Scully movies.” (The next film, starring Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, is scheduled to begin filming in 2003.)

Is the Cigarette Smoking Man really Fox Mulder’s father? “There’s a great possibility that he is Mulder’s father. That isn’t settled in the two-hour finale. But I’ve always felt the Cigarette Smoking Man is Mulder’s father. He is to me.”

On the outpouring of angry X-Philes feedback after the Lone Gunmen were killed off: “It’s heartening. You want reactions to these events. We’ve often killed off characters on ‘The X-Files.’ But when you’re dead on ‘The X-Files,’ you’re never really dead. I’m going to say something very uncharacteristic. The Lone Gunmen will be back (on the series finale). We’re always trying to surprise our viewers. And when you kill off lovable characters, you surprise them. But it was a way to give those characters a fitting, respectful and celebratory end in typical ‘X-Files’ fashion.”

What is the legacy of “The X-Files”? “It’s never easy talking about yourself or something you created. But what I would like its legacy to be is that this is a show that never, ever rested on its laurels. Right to the end, we were inventive, imaginative and ambitious. We maintained a high level of quality all the way through.”

Just the two of them. Scintillating synergistic perfection. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, as played with understated charisma, style and intelligence by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, have been the cosmic yin and yang of “The X-Files.”

The believer and the skeptic. Mulder, the sardonic wiseguy seeking the extraterrestrial conspiratorial truth. And Scully, the fearless queen of scientific logic, a no-nonsense, real-deal dame.

Sublime FBI fate, as orchestrated by “X-Files” series creator Chris Carter, first brought them together. And lo, it was good. Very good. FBI special agents Mulder and Scully became perfectly matched workplace soul mates, the signature television couple of the past decade.

And now? And now, thanks to the miracle of May sweeps and the marketing needs of future movies, they’re finally together again.

As “The X-Files” concludes a nine-season run from 1993 into the 21st Century, and as David Duchovny returns after a year in the paranormal wilderness, the series bids what promises to be a slam-bang sayonara with a two-hour finale called “The Truth” at 8 p.m. Sunday on Fox.

It’s part of a high-profile Super Sunday of heavyweight channel-surfing. Besides “The X-Files,” there is a three-hour finale of CBS’s “Survivor: Marquesas” (8-11 p.m.), ABC’s two-hour season finale of “The Practice” (9-11 p.m.) and NBC’s two-hour retrospective tribute to “The Cosby Show” (9-11 p.m.).

But it’s Mulder and Scully and “The X-Files” — one of the coolest couples and one of the most uniquely offbeat and memorable drama series in TV history — that merit some special attention as they prepare to exit TV’s prime-time building.

With moody style and riveting creepshow smarts — mixing sci-fi, suspense, humor and horror — Chris Carter created a whacked universe of his own. A universe where anything could happen. It was also a slightly surreal world where unsettling indigo shadows, industrial-strength flashlights in the night and terror-filled flights of imagination were always with us.

“The X-Files” didn’t look like anything else. It was brand new.

The show’s byzantine space alien skulduggery, sinister governmental conspiracies and otherworldly freak show paranoia dependably supplied the biggest “Wow!” and “Holy cow!” thrills.

But without the cockeyed partnership serendipity of Mulder and Scully, along with the wonderfully complementary acting chemistry of Duchovny and Anderson, “The X-Files” never would have gotten its emotional hooks so deeply into us.

This rare couple was the real secret to the show’s almost mystical allure. They have been its charming heart and soul.

“Without a doubt, the Mulder-Scully relationship is the engine that drove the show. That was always the plan,” says Carter.

“It was an idealized male-female relationship. There was trust, understanding, respect, shared passion. And there was the postponement of the easy pleasures of . . . the flesh.”

Oh that, the sex thing.

They finally did it

Instead of doing the typically dumb TV thing — allowing his two unusual heroes to quickly become romantically entangled — Carter succeeded in infusing “The X-Files” with a deliciously subtextual tension of the sexual kind. He played it engagingly platonic for the longest while, blessing Mulder and Scully with a genuine emotional bond that defied cheap, sleazy hormonal tricks.

OK, eventually it happened. Scully had a baby. Mulder’s the father.

But the conceptual hanky-panky happened out of sight. Sweetly mysterious and poetically correct.

Once Duchovny left the show after the 2001 season, more than a little something was lost. What hard-core X-Philes sometimes call “the MSR” (the Mulder-Scully relationship) had been ruptured.

And the somewhat awkward addition of new FBI agents John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) to the world of “The X-Files” over the past couple years only made the loss more painfully obvious. The quintessential relationship driving the series had sputtered and stalled.

The disappointment of longtime fans became clear. With Fox Mulder missing in action, the ratings took a steep dive this season. Last year, when Duchovny was still part of the show, “The X-Files” averaged 13 million viewers. This year the average Sunday night audience dwindled to 8.6 million. Ouch.

“The show has been going downhill because we lost that story, that Mulder and Scully relationship,” says Jim Farrelly, a longtime “X-Files” enthusiast and professor of English and film at the University of Dayton. “We lost the adventure. That has been the absolute heart of ‘The X-Files,’ the interaction of these two characters.”

Now they will be reunited on Sunday night’s “X-Files” farewell.

And for devoted X-Philes, the “X-Files” relationship paradise will be at least temporarily restored: Mulder and Scully, the believer and the skeptic, together again.

“I just hope that the MSR scenes don’t get too sappy and melodramatic,” said an X-Phile named JINK01, chatting on an “X-Files” fan forum recently. “I’m looking for some angst and dramatic tension, too.”

Others are looking forward to one final, affectionate television celebration of the enchanting, multilayered Mulder-Scully partnership.

XFILESGIRL02 waxed eloquent on the same fan forum recently, quoting a rapturous Mulder-Scully message from her friend MSILUVU.

“I envy the relationship they have with one another, the bond that they share” MSILUVU wrote of the good old magical MSR. “His passion and devotion to the truth and Scully saved her countless times. Her dedication to science and Mulder in turn saved him.

“I know it’s not real,” said MSILUVU. “But a lot of time and thought went into how they would act and react to each other, the encounters that they have and obstacles they must overcome. I think to myself, ‘I want to be loved like that.’ ”

Yes, it’s only make-believe.

But “The X-Files,” powered by the beguiling energy of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully’s rather amazing bond, their friendship and beyond, explored an idyllic love supreme. That’s the truth. And there’s nothing paranormal about it.

Krause Publications: The X-Files enters the unknown without Duchovny

Krause Publications
The X-Files enters the unknown without Duchovny
Tom Kessenich (aka Unbound)

It ended, with a kiss. And just like that, a door was closed on the past while another was opened to a future ripe with change and riddled with uncertainty.

When “The X-Files” begins its ninth season this fall, the landscape of the long-running Fox drama will have undergone a massive transformation. David Duchovny, the series’ top-billed star, has departed for good, leaving co-star Gillian Anderson behind, along with Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish, who joined the show last season as FBI Agents Doggett and Reyes.

Duchovny is not the first TV star to depart the small screen hoping to find more creative opportunities in the film world. But his departure creates a Grand Canyon-sized hole at the center of this series.

“The X-Files” has never been an anthology series or an ensemble show with a rotating cast of stars. It has always been about Mulder’s world as seen through the eyes of Anderson’s skeptical, scientific-minded Scully. Mulder’s quest to find the elusive “truth” was the impetus that drove the series forward, while the Mulder-Scully dynamic provided its heart and soul.

Now Mulder is gone after an emotionally compelling send-off in last season’s finale that saw him with Scully, holding their baby and kissing her passionately as the screen faded to black. That scene has fans wondering what will become of this series now that Duchovny has departed, and what will become of Scully, whose presence will serve as a constant reminder of who is no longer there?

“Mulder and Scully really are the heart and soul of the series,” executive producer Frank Spotnitz said in a recent telephone interview. “You can’t separate the success of The X-Files from the success of David and Gillian as actors and the characters they play. All you can do really is just rely on all the strengths you’ve got which is a great idea for a television series and some wonderful actors who are here and have chemistries of their own.”

Spotnitz said one thing fans of the series will not have to be concerned about is the paternity of Scully’s baby being revised in the ninth season. Much of the eighth season was spent examining how the baby came to be since it had been previously established that Scully was unable to conceive.

Numerous red herrings were trotted out, including the idea of alien tampering. But in the end, the naming of the baby after Mulder’s father and their tender kiss provided confirmation that the baby was Mulder’s and the product of a sexual relationship between he and Scully that had only been hinted at in the past.

“The final scene was meant to say that Mulder and Scully had consummated their relationship and this child was a result of that,” Spotnitz said.

That final scene would have been significantly different had Duchovny and director Kim Manners not intervened after both were unsatisfied with series creator Chris Carter’s original ending which featured a mundane kiss on the forehead.

“We all sat down with Kim Manners and Chris Carter and said, ‘We’ve been teasing and doing that bull for so long, let’s have a real kiss at this point,'” Duchovny said during his press junket to promote his latest film “Evolution.” “I said, ‘I’m pretty sure I’m not coming back at this point so let’s have a romantic kiss.'”

So out went the forehead and in came the lips. And in that final moment, with their child between them, Mulder and Scully were given a rare moment of happiness in their journey into the unknown.

The kiss capped the most controversial season in the show’s storied history. Fans were divided over the introduction of Patrick’s character and many were outraged over the re-writing of history that had Mulder inexplicably being given a fatal brain disease and Scully trying invitro fertilization using Mulder as a donor.

It all resulted in declining ratings and a reinvention of the series so pronounced it left many fans wondering what had become of the show they loved.

“Chris Carter had his chance to go out with a bang, leaving a memorable mark on TV history,” said Katherine Ramsey, a fan from Virginia since the first season. “Instead, he squandered it in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Without Mulder’s wit and humanity, The X-Files has no soul. Everything I saw in Season 8 reinforced that belief.”

“Somewhere along the way, the writers managed to get themselves sidetracked by mindless gore, inane and irrelevant plots, timeline blunders, and soap-operatic teasing,” said Konrad Frye, a fan from the Canadian province of Manitoba who also has watched the series since its inception. “It’s a shame because things didn’t have to be that way and as a longtime fan of the show, I’d come to expect more.”

These fans weren’t the only ones disappointed. Duchovny also lamented how the series had shifted away from Mulder and the Mulder-Scully dynamic after his full-time return for the final six episodes.

“When I came back, I felt somewhat peripheral,” Duchovny said. “Mulder’s story was one of three or four stories and it didn’t feel like the same show to me.”

Spotnitz responds to such complaints by saying 1013’s hands were tied creatively due to Duchovny’s contract, which called for him to be a part-time participant.

Many fans disagree, believing greater care should have been taken to weave Mulder’s absence (he spent half of the season on a spaceship after being abducted by aliens) and Scully’s pregnancy into the framework of the first half of the season, rather than focusing so intently on Doggett. They were also unhappy that, in some instances, Mulder and Scully were reduced to being guest stars on their own show.

The discontent was reflected in the ratings, which were higher for the episodes Duchovny appeared in compared to the ones he did not. The five highest-rated episodes last season all featured Duchovny and there was a steady decline in the ratings in December and January, when Duchovny did not appear in any episode, that ended only after his return in Feburary.

With Duchovny gone, many fans have said they have no interest in Doggett, Reyes or a show called “The X-Files” that does not feature Mulder and Scully together.

“To put it simply, The X-Files is Mulder and Scully,” said longtime fan Jan Skinner from Peoria, Ill. “Without them, you have a show that happens to have the same name, but is something else entirely.”

Not only is the series at a crossroads with Duchovny gone, it may move forward without its creator.

Planning for the ninth season began in June with Carter absent for the first time since he created the series in 1993. He has yet to reach a deal with Fox to return for the ninth season and there is speculation he will not return or serve only as a “consultant,” with Spotnitz assuming the lead role for the show’s creative decisions along with co-executive producers Vince Gilligan and John Shiban.

Carter declined to be interviewed for this story, but Spotnitz said it has been odd going to work without the show’s creative driving force around.

“Obviously, we hope he comes back because it’s his show, it’s his vision that we’ve all been serving for all these years and he’s an enormously talented writer and producer,” said Spotnitz, who has been in charge of the series with Carter gone. “If he doesn’t, it’s not like we don’t know where all the files are.”

Spotnitz also said contrary to speculation, Anderson will be in all of the episodes next season. The Emmy-award winning actress is in the final year of her contract and has been vocal about being a reluctant participant, saying – as Duchovny did – that she is tired of the weekly TV series grind.

Despite that, Spotnitz said Scully will be a vital part of the ninth season with one of the central story lines exploring how Scully’s fertility was restored. Another issue to be addressed is how to explain Mulder’s absence given the romantic relationship with Scully that was confirmed in last season’s finale.

“I think we’ve got a way that’s going to be pretty satisfying to people to address that issue that’s completely true to the character and completely true to the series,” Spotnitz said, declining to reveal anything further. “We were able to plot certain things in (last season’s finale) considering he may not be back.”

For the first time in series history, the writers at 1013 do not have the luxury of relying on the strength of the Mulder-Scully relationship to push the show forward. They no longer have the luxury of knowing that when things are in doubt, Duchovny and Anderson’s amazing chemistry can lift the show to greatness.

Like Mulder, that is now part of the show’s past. The present is filled with uncertainty and in many ways, “The X-Files” is embarking on a tenuous high-wire act without a net.

“If I went into the season thinking things were hunky dory and there were no risks associated it, I’d be foolish,” Spotnitz said. “Mulder and David Duchovny have been incredibly important to the success of the show and now we’re going forward without that character at least physically present. So it’s a gamble, there’s no doubt about it.”

Newsweek: The Truth Is X-ed Out There

The Truth Is X-ed Out There
Barbara Kantrowitz and Adam Rogers

TV: Spooky, lovable ‘X-Files’ captures Friday night

She’s the skeptic, always looking for a scientific explanation for the seemingly irrational. He’s the believer, willing to accept the concept that some things defy conventional analysis. In their second season on Fox, FBI Special Agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) have turned their weekly investigations of the FBI’s creepiest unsolved cases “The X-Files” into the top show on Friday night for 18-to-49-year-olds, with a loyal base of fans around the world (broadcast rights have been sold in 56 countries). And after each episode, hordes of self-described X-philes log on to the Internet and online services to dissect the plot. “The fans are just about as obsessive as Mulder is in his quest to find the truth,” jokes Paula Vitaris, an Atlanta writer and a frequent contributor to online “X-Files” discussions.

Mulder is an Oxford-trained psychologist with a wry sense of humor and a fascination with the unknown. The key to his psyche is his childhood trauma: he watched as his sister was abducted by aliens. His creed: “The truth is out there.” Scully graduated from medical school and then joined the FBI. She was assigned to the X-Files, largely to monitor Mulder (colleagues call him “Spooky”).

So far, the team has battled a pyrokinetic assassin, an evil computer, human genetic experimentation gone awry and various mutants and alien life forms. As a general rule, things turn out to be even stranger than they seem. “It’s ‘Twilight Zone’ with a regular cast of characters,” says Pat Gonzales, a Minnesota fan who edits a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” about “X-files” for the Usenet newsgroup on the Internet.

Although the fans have all kinds of theories about why the show is popular, creator Chris Carter says he just wanted to scare people. Among his inspirations were Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein” and the 1970s TV show “The Night Stalker,” about a reporter who tracked down vampires. Some of the most compelling episodes have been written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, who grew up together near San Diego, Calif. Before “X-Files,” they wrote for “The Commish”; now, they say they draw on such influences as “Rosemary’s Baby.” And the show’s feel, from camera work to lights to music, is at least as freaky as its plots.

“X-Files” attracts both male and female fans, largely because Mulder and Scully are appealing role models. They are intimate friends but never sexually intimate. “What’s more interesting is someone who can meet you in a conversation or a debate, that exchange of ideas,” says Carter. Both leads are serious people, and, as it happens, very good-looking people. In the online discussion groups, male contributors frequently refer to themselves as proud members of the GATB, the Gillian Anderson Testosterone Brigade. Mulder has his admirers, too, the DDEB, David Duchovny Estrogen Brigade.

Like other shows that have attracted a cult following, the X-philes discussions especially the Usenet group, alt.tv.x-files are filled with a multitude of details. “Even the most esoteric question can usually be answered in the newsgroup,” says Cliff Chen, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania who edits a weekly episode update on the Net. “For any huge X-phile, knowing things like David Duchovny’s birthdate and Fox Mulder’s astrological sign is a thrill unto itself.” Carter monitors reactions online and the writers have often included fan references. For example, an airplane-passenger manifest featured names of frequent discussion- group participants (and a crucial clue).

As “X-Files” becomes more widely known, some fans worry that it will turn too mainstream. Morgan and Wong are leaving to create their own show, which they describe as a World War II movie in space. Carter promises to keep it creepy. “The material,” he says, “is out there.” Sounds like a case for “The X-Files.”