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The Buffalo News: Fox's eerie 'X-Files' opens with a touch of Stephen King

The Buffalo News
Fox’s eerie ‘X-Files’ opens with a touch of Stephen King
Alan Pergament

Talk about strange sightings. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw “The X-Files,” the new Fox series (9 p.m. Friday, Channel 29). A quality, suspenseful, adult show on Fox that doesn’t have any sexual titillation? What a concept!

In it, FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) investigates some unexplained cases called “X-Files,” which often involve paranormal phenomena. This true believer is teamed with skeptical agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), a medical doctor who the FBI expects will debunk his theories.

Friday’s fast-moving premiere has elements of “Twin Peaks” and a variety of Stephen King stories. It isn’t so much scary as eerie.

The two agents are sent to a small Oregon town to investigate a series of strange murders of young high school graduates.

The story opens, King-like, in the forest, with one of the victims being chased as the wind howls and a strong light brightens the landscape.

Soon, the female victim is found dead with some mysterious moles on her back, a sign of the strangeness going on.

The agents eventually dig up old graves, visit a mental hospital and pull over the side of the road when a light flashes and time stops for 10 seconds.

Time will fly watching “The X-Files.” You don’t have to believe in UFOs, but it will help.

Duchovny and Anderson have strong chemistry together and his character has a sarcastic sense of humor that gives the show an unexpected element of enjoyment.

When Scully notes that time can’t disappear because it’s a “universal invariance,” Mulder cracks: “Not in this ZIP code.”

Duchovny is used to being in strange ZIP codes. The Richard Gere look-alike was in “Twins Peaks” but you might not remember him. He played a transvestite. So he is used to playing strange.

Which rates higher on the bizarro-meter, this show or “Peaks”?

“Well, when you’re wearing a dress things tend to get pretty bizarre,” said Duchovny in an interview in Los Angeles. “I would say ‘Twin Peaks’ is an interesting show to bring up when talking about this one. Because it has a kind of an offbeat sense of humor, and it’s definitely dealing with bizarre, extraordinary things. Aside from being scared, you’re going to be entertained with this show as well. But you’re not going to see my legs.”

Series creator Chris Carter prefers a comparison to his favorite show as a child, “The Night Stalker.”

“It was this fantastic show and I was scared out of my pants,” said Carter. “And so I said there’s nothing scary on television anymore. Let’s do a scary show.”

Carter said the (idea) for “The X-Files” came from talking to a Yale psychology professor who made him aware of a study in which Americans were asked if they believed in UFOs.

“Believe it or not, they found that 3 percent of Americans believe they’d actually been abducted by UFOs. That means if there are 100 people in this room, there are three of you who have actually been abducted. Please raise your hands.”

Actually, out of 100 TV critics, 10 may have been abducted. But that’s another story.

Carter doesn’t plan to have Fox appear to be right every week.

“They’ll uncover hoaxes,” said Carter. “There will be more traditional FBI cases that involve what seems to be paranormal phenomenon and we’ll have evidence and MOs (methods of operation) that seem otherwordly. But they won’t always be alien abduction.”

He doesn’t want the show classified as science fiction because he feels that reduces the scare factor.

“I’m going a long way to try to make these scientific possibilities . . . that indeed something could happen genetically with someone. Or there could be some experiment gone wrong. Or there could be biologic anomalies that could cause these cases to be paranormal in that way.

“I think that’s much more interesting if it’s believable. I think it’s much more frightening. You could look at Michael Crichton’s ‘Terminal Man’ or his ‘Jurassic Park’ or his ‘Andromeda Strain’ and the most frightening part is that you actually believe that it could happen.”

Naturally, Duchovny was asked if he believed in paranormal phenomenon.

“Personally, I’m the kind of person who needs to be shown something before I believe it,” said Duchovny. “And I haven’t had any personal experience with UFOs. Paranormal activity seems to be all around me. I grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan so I’m used to that.

“It’s hard for me to believe that we’re the only sentient life in this universe. So I think there’s got to be something else out there. I just don’t know why they seem to choose people in North Dakota all the time. So I’m waiting. I’m waiting to be contacted. Now.”

He was kidding. I think.

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