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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.

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