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Chicago Tribune: Trial by 'File': Scully and new parter face first 'monster' test

Chicago Tribune
Trial by ‘File’: Scully and new parter face first ‘monster’ test
Allan Johnson

[posted to atxfa by Alfornos]

Now that the two-part season premiere of Fox’s “The X-Files” has come and gone, the real test begins.

Last Sunday’s episode concluded yet another chapter in the paranormal series’ so-called “mythology.” This intricate, sometimes confusing history of the show includes government coverups of alien existence, alien plans for world domination, and the struggle of intrepid FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) to reveal the truth.

Mulder has been abducted by those marauding aliens and subjected to some really nasty experiments. This storyline is a convenient way of explaining away Duchovny’s absence from the series, since he’s only contracted to be in half of this season’s episodes.

“The X-Files” passed its first test. It recast Mulder’s partner, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), as the show’s center, a former skeptic of things that go bump in the night. It introduced agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick) as Scully’s new associate in investigating X-Files who also leads the investigation into Mulder’s “disappearance.” And it effectively put Mulder in the background while keeping him very much a part of the series.

But the meat and potatoes of “The X-Files” has always been its “monster” episodes. These are the stand-alone segments that featured Mulder and Scully tracking various freaks, mutants and creatures.

The first such episode is scheduled for 8 p.m. Sunday on WFLD-Ch. 32. Scully and Doggett investigate their first X-File together, a case involving murders that seemed to have been committed by a batlike creature.

If the relationship between Scully and Doggett doesn’t work, and if the story feels like a rehash of other monster episodes, it could signal the final creative demise of “The X-Files.” (No advance tape of the episode was available.)

Those connected with the series say don’t write obituaries yet.

According to producer-creator Chris Carter, the show has “found a new way to tell good scary stories,” mostly because of the addition of Patrick, the abduction of Mulder, and Scully’s transformation to reluctant believer.

“I think what that does for us is it forces us to increase a new dynamic in the storytelling,” Carter says. “And I think of it as going back, really, to the first season and telling good, scary stories again, using this new dynamic.

“The cases come to them through the X-Files office, but now, of course, Scully is the one holding the remote on the project and taking Doggett through the cases, and he is the one who is shaking his head saying this can’t be.”

Says Patrick of Doggett: “He has to really lean on Scully’s experience with this, and he’s sort of nurtured that relationship, I guess, as a working partnership. And he’s dealing with things that he’s never had to deal with before.”

Carter had planned to do less mythology episodes this season, but now he realizes any show that has Mulder in it “becomes a kind of mythology episode.”

As is his nature, Carter is coy about future stand-alones . . . except for one: a man who is contaminated by “smart metal . . . which I think Robert [who played the morphing metallic cyborg T-2000 in “Terminator 2″] and everyone else can appreciate.”

Whether the stand-alone episodes work or not wasn’t an issue with Anderson. She had tired of the job and just didn’t want to be back (she was not only contracted for an eighth year, but she also is going to be around for a ninth if Fox wants one).

Now, she feels renewed.

“I felt that I was losing sight of what I had left to give,” she says. “Much to my chagrin, and also [because of] some conversation with Chris about the potential for the new season and the introduction of the new character, I started to get more interested and more excited about the potential of the new year.”

Anderson and Patrick are co-stars, but it really falls on Anderson to carry the show as Scully because she is the one fans have formed a relationship with. Anderson says rediscovering Scully is the reason she has been able to shoulder the load.

“What I’ve found since Scully has had more to do, and Mulder has kind of temporarily fallen into the background, [is] it almost feels as if Scully has found her voice again,” she says. “It’s almost as if when there was two of us [Scully and Mulder], part of me kind of stepped down or stepped backwards in a way. And now that half of that equation is no longer here, it’s kind of allowed me to open up a bit more.”

Carter is going to see how this season goes, but he stresses, “I don’t want to go on with the show, unless the show can be good.”

We’ll see just how good it is on Sunday.

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