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TV and Satellite Week: Great Expectations

TV and Satellite Week
Great Expectations
David Bassom

Season seven of The X-Files has been so successful in the US that the Fox network is now begging the series’ cast and crew to make an eighth. David Bassom previews Mulder and Scully’s latest x-ploits, which begin on Sky One this month.

By the time an American TV show reaches its seventh season, conventional wisdom dictates that it will face a struggle to stay on screen. Naturally, however, there are exceptions to every rule. And one of the most recent exceptions has been The X-Files.

For The X-Files seventh season, the series’ cast and crew have continued their pursuit of excellence as successfully as ever. Following its premiere Stateside last November, the new season has garnered exceptional ratings as well as a better response from viewers than season six. But perhaps even more surprisingly, the show’s spiraling production costs have done nothing to dampen the Fox network’s enthusiasm for the series. As production of season seven reached its halfway mark, Fox was practically begging to get show’s leading cast and crew members to sign up for an eighth series.


Life was far less complicated in the summer of 1999, when The X-Files’ seventh season entered pre-production in Los Angeles. From the off, all parties were happy to regard the seventh season as its end. Series creator Chris Carter and actor David Duchovny (Fox Mulder) both wanted to end their seven-year contracts with show on a high note, and Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully) said she had no desire to fulfill her eight-year contract if the show lost its guiding light and leading man. Fox chiefs accepted that The X-Files’ future lay on the big screen following the popularity of the movie in 1998, and felt that they already had the show’s replacement lined up – Carter’s hotly tipped new virtual reality drama series, Harsh Realm.

And so season seven was launched with Carter’s tantalizing promise to resolve The X-Files’ two principal ongoing plot strands. The truth about the Syndicate and their nasty alien allies would finally be uncovered before The X-Files permanently relocated to the big screen. Similarly, Mulder and Scully’s long- simmering attraction would be brought to the boil, following years of foreplay.

Carter and crew also vowed to produce some of The X-Files’ most ambitious and innovative stand-alone tales. As the series had placed too much emphasis on comedy during series six, its writing staff were told to push up the terror quota in the closing year.

With this strategy in place, shooting began on August 9, 1999. The first episode to be filmed was Hungry, a terrifying creature feature which takes the monster’s point of view. It wasn’t until another episode – the whimsical The Goldberg Variation – was in the can that work began on the season’s opening two installments, The Sixth Extinction and The Sixth Extinction II: Amore Fati. Besides resolving the previous series’ cliffhanger, these episodes advance the myth arc storyline as the sinister Cigarette Smoking Man gains a dangerous alien-induced edge over his enemies.

From there, the series continued to impress, with a solid run of satisfying stand-alone adventures, including the thriller Rush, the light-hearted mystery The Amazing Maleeni and the sizzling snake-fest Signs And Wonders.

Another early highlight was Millennium, The X-Files’ long-awaited crossover with Carter’s failed detective series. Not only does the episode bring Mulder and Scully face to face with former FBI agent Frank Black (Lance Henriksen), but Millennium also represents The X-Files at its scary best. To top it all, the episode’s closing moments see Mulder and Scully celebrate the start of the new millennium by doing something viewers have wanted to see for years. As the series reached its halfway point, The X-Files returned to its myth arc plotline with an epic two-part adventure, Sein Und Zeit and Closure.

Like last year’s mind-blowing mid-season installments Two Fathers and One Son, the episodes promise revelations about alien activity on Earth and also deliver a shocking blow to Mulder.

Incredibly, with supposedly just 10 episodes left to be produced, cast and crew then began work on two of the series’ most innovative installments. The first, X-Cop, is shot in the style of the popular US docu-drama COPS, and promises to be an X- Files unlike any other. The second, First Person Shooter, was written by cyberpunk guru William Gibson, and pits Mulder and Scully against a Lara Croft-style computer-generated villain. Not bad for a show that’s supposed to be on its last legs!


When the new series premiered last November, it was one of the few shows to survive opposite America’s top-rated quiz, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

It was then that the series’ success had one unexpected side-affect. As The X-Files went from strength to strength, Fox suffered its worst season ever. All the network’s major new offerings, including Carter’s Harsh Realm, drew lackluster ratings and were quickly axed.

By January 2000, the truth about Fox’s dire performance was out there – as was its desire to produce an eighth series of The X-Files, no matter what the cost. Fox TV chief Sandy Grushow confirmed that he wanted Carter and Duchovny to renew their contracts with the show. His announcement cast serious doubt over The X- Files’ future, and raised the possibility of a Mulder-less eighth season or even a spin-off focusing on The Lone Gunmen.

The future of The X-Files as a weekly series probably won’t now be certain until season seven ends production in April. Both the conspiracy and the relationship between Mulder and Scully may yet be extended into an eighth season.

But whether or not it is the show’s last year, series seven is one of The X-Files’ most accomplished in years. That should be enough to get most viewers to rejoin Mulder and Scully’s quest for The Truth.

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3 Responses to “TV and Satellite Week: Great Expectations”

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