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SciFi Magazine: Executive producer Frank Spotnitz closes the final X-Files

SciFi Magazine
Executive producer Frank Spotnitz closes the final X-Files
Melissa J. Perenson

The elusive truth that Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) have searched so long for remains just that – elusive. Even as The X-Files ends its impressive run on television, there are still truths to be spoken – and realities that cannot be changed.

Executive producer Frank Spotnitz has spent the past eight years with the show, the latter half as creator Chris Carter’s right hand – carrying the day-to-day production duties and co-writing the mythology episodes. On the eve of the show’s conclusion, Spotnitz spoke to us from his office on the Fox lot to discuss what went into crafting the series’ finale, “The Truth” – and to reflect on the series’ final days and what it is that made X-Files so special.

This time, the end is really here.

Spotnitz: Yes. It’s very strange. It’s pretty amazing.

Was there a sense of nostalgia leading up to the final days on the show before the finale aired?

Spotnitz: Oh yeah, every day. This is the last time we’re going to spot a show, this is the last time we’re going to edit a show, this is the last time we’re going to hear the music. We had playback of the finale yesterday [Thursday], which is when the sound crew plays their first pass of the mix for us, and one of our editors was just sobbing when it was over.

What are some of the good things that you’re going to take away with you?

Spotnitz: The amazingly talented people that I’ve worked with here, both in Vancouver and in Los Angeles. How gifted the actors were. The writers and all of the staff people, the crew. And the work itself, and how proud I am of the work. That’s the great thing about a job like this – that the work will still be around. That’s really great.

The finale, “The Truth,” is monumental, not just because it marks the end of the show, but because it’s also the first two-hour episode you’ve done in the history of the series. How did you go about pulling the story together?

Spotnitz: It’s interesting, because we knew this time that it was indeed the end – and so that really changes the way you approach it. We came up with this format that allows us to look back on the past nine years and comment on what they meant, and then really the show talks about the journey Mulder and Scully have taken together, and where they have been left after nine years. Most of the show – a huge portion of the show – is in a courtroom.

We had never done a courtroom [like this]; actually, Chris isn’t big on courtrooms, so that was very unusual for us. You say, courtrooms are a staple of television dramas, it’s not that big of a deal, but for us, it was a case of how do we do it in a way true to our show, and how do you keep it visually interesting. So that was one thing that was strange – and a challenge of sorts for us. And then I think the attempt, just generally, to make sense of, and be coherent about, the mythology of the show, and what you could address and you could not address, and what questions you could answer and what questions you couldn’t answer, just because it becomes too complicated for a general viewer to follow, that was a big challenge, too.

With respect to the mythology, how did you decide which elements to address in the finale?

Spotnitz: It was interesting. The first thing I did was I went online and I looked at what people had written about the mythology. And I was alarmed at how many people who are extremely knowledgeable about the show and had followed it had drawn false conclusions and false connections between things. I realized that was going to confuse me even more if I looked at those things, so I abandoned that approach.

I had our researcher go through all of our mythology episodes and pull the script pages that talked about the larger framework of the series; and I reread all of those. Then I organized the mythology of the show by character – which characters would be best to explain which parts of what the show has been for nine years. And so that’s really what happens – you have witnesses who tell you different parts of what’s happened. An awful lot is said, an awful lot, but even then, you realize it’s still just skimming the surface, because you would need eight hours if you really were going to touch on everything we’ve done over nine years. It’s an amazingly complicated, sometimes convoluted conspiracy. I’m just astonished people stuck with it for as long as they did.

Are there things you wish you could have taken into account in the finale that you couldn’t do in the end?

Spotnitz: Oh yes. We actually wrote things, filmed scenes explaining things, that we had to drop because of time, because you only have two hours. The actual running time of the episode when we’d edited it the first time was much longer than we had broadcast time for.

Lots of familiar faces reappear in some form or another. How did you decide who should return for the final send-off?

Spotnitz: Fox spent a huge amount of money on cast. But I think it all fits. I think when you see the episode, you see how it all fits, and you’ll realize why we chose certain people, and why we left out others. It tells a story.

Do you see the finale as bringing a sense of the show full circle?

Spotnitz: Oh, yeah. I would say that the finale services the mythology of the show. And so, yeah, it does feel like definitely, in terms of the mythology and the journey that Mulder and Scully began in the pilot, there’s a sense of closure and completion – and that was very important to us, we were very aware of the need to do that. There’s a scene – the final scene with Mulder and Scully – that could not be more direct in terms of closing a circle.

Leading up to the finale, we had the episode “William,” a very pivotal episode for Scully – and one whose ending begs the question of why have Scully go through the pregnancy arc to begin with.

Spotnitz: Yep. I had a lot of reservations about that storyline and about her giving up the baby, and was not at all sure that it was the right thing to do. But in the end, I think it was the right thing to do, because it becomes unsavory. And I think everybody – David and Chris, especially – felt that this was going to be an obstacle to us in the movies. And I think the solution we came up with was kind of Solomonic in its wisdom in the end, which is, it’s true to Scully’s character and the pattern of behavior that she’s had for the past nine years: that she sacrifices her own happiness for a greater cause. It’s true to the tragic series of losses she’s endured over the course of the series, and I thought it was very moving in the end. It kind of helped us go forward with Mulder and Scully – and whether there are movies or not, it serviced them – and us, as storytellers – in a good way.

What has Mulder and Scully’s journey meant for each of them?

Spotnitz: The final scene addresses this head-on. You can’t get the truth. You can’t. There’s a larger truth, though: that you can’t harness the forces of the cosmos, but you may find somebody else. You may find another human being. That may be kind of corny and all of that, but that’s really it: Love is the only truth we can hope to know, as human beings. That’s what Mulder and Scully found after nine years. And that’s a lot.

What do you think the lasting legacy of The X-Files will be?

Spotnitz: The only thing I know for sure, because it’s very hard at this point in time to answer that truthfully, but I know for sure that The X-Files had great ambition, in every department. In its production, in its drama, in its writing, in the ideas it attempted to capture. Sometimes we failed miserably, and then many other times, it was glorious. That was so exciting to be a part of that. That’s the thing that other shows will try to shoot for, and it’s very hard to hit – is the level of ambition the show had. And I think that’s why The X-Files is a singular show – because it’s very hard to reach the heights that we were able to reach now and then.

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One Response to “SciFi Magazine: Executive producer Frank Spotnitz closes the final X-Files”

  1. […] It is particularly frustrating because David Duchovny was actually working on the episode. Duchovny came up with the story for the episode. In fact, according to Frank Spotnitz, David Duchovny and Chris Carter were the ones pushing to write William out of the show: […]