The truth is still out there. And, FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are looking for it again.
Thirteen years after FOX did what The Smoking Man couldn’t, shut down the “X-Files,” the most famous team of paranormal trackers this side of the Ghostbusters will return to action for six episodes starting Sunday, Jan. 24.
In the new show, Mulder and Scully have moved on to other interests and are brought back together by a radio talk show host (Joel McHale) who believes in the odd, weird and supernatural. He sparks an interest in Mulder to start his search for the truth again.
Scully goes along with the idea because she doesn’t think she has any other choice.
“It’s really a reentry into a series that hasn’t been on the air for 13 years, so I think you needed to get back into the characters’ lives, their quest, where they are, where the relationship is, where their professional lives are,” says Chris Carter, the producer/writer behind the series.
At least two of the episodes will be a close encounter of the familiar kind as they plow back into the deep and twisted mythology of the show. There will also be some fun stand-alone episodes.
Carter calls working on the series again a surreal experience.
“The thing about the show that was so amazing to me is that we wrote about what we were interested in and everyone else was interested in it, too. We never pandered,” Carter says. “We never looked for ways to necessarily make good on a promise. It was an opportunity to really do what we were interested in.
“But I think, coming back, we have an opportunity here, and it is a chance to make good on a promise. That we are coming back for a reason, we are coming back to do really fresh, original material, not a victory lap. This is an opportunity to show people that the show has more life to it.”
Six episodes might not seem like a lot but Carter faced a real truth when trying to bring back the team: It is easier to spot a UFO than organize the schedules of all those involved. Both remain so busy that the original plan to make eight episodes was cut back to six.
Life after ‘X-files’
Duchovny and Anderson have been busy since the series ended.
Duchovny has worked on assorted projects, including his series “Californication.” Anderson has appeared in a variety of movies, plus starred in the series “Crisis,” “Hannibal” and “The Fall.”
After her days on “The X-Files” ended, Anderson tried to find roles as different from Scully as possible.
“Afterwards, it’s kind of been about refocusing on what my original idea of what I wanted my career to look like and the kinds of things that I wanted to do. And I’m sure that part of that is you play a character for nine years and it’s nice to be able to challenge oneself to do other things, to keep it interesting,” Anderson says. “I get to mix between film and theater and TV, and that kind of suits me just fine.”
She has struggled with being so closely associated with the character. She finally stopped worrying about being typecast, and she appreciates what it means to spend all those years playing the logical Yin to Mulder’s imaginative Yang.
“I think it took a good decade for me to suddenly start thinking of it as the gift that it was and to properly appreciate the opportunity that I had, and also the how fortunate I was to play such a great iconic character in a show that was iconic in and of itself,” Anderson says. “It could have been something that I hated or had bad reviews.”
Duchovny never lost his love for Mulder. He too saw the scope of the show as a gift.
To him, episodes were often so different in tone that it felt like two different series to him. An episode like “Bad Blood,” where Mulder and Scully have different views of the same event, relied heavily on comedy. On the other end was “Home,” the first episode to carry a viewer discretion warning.
“It was very tricky as an actor to try to find the right tone all the time. Is it a thriller, a horror, a mystery, a quest? It ended up to be a gift for the actors,” Duchovny says.
Even when he left the series during season eight, it was his understanding he would be coming back to play the character in films. After two features, there was no interest in further movies. But, he never lost hope that the character would be revived at some date.
The original show got rave reviews and became a fast part of pop culture.
The success was based on the personal and professional connections made by Mulder and Scully.
Carter knew he had cast the right people to play the characters, but he wasn’t certain how well Duchovny and Anderson would work together. He didn’t see them together until the first day of shooting when they were in Mulder’s office. Carter says they both lit up.
That’s something that hasn’t diminished over the years.
Duchovny says it’s a matter of history, not on-screen chemistry.
“If you don’t have chemistry, you’ve got to figure out a way to make it happen. But if you have history,” he says. “We’ve all seen movies and television shows where you see a mother and daughter or father and son and you’re like there’s no way. It doesn’t feel right. There no history. It doesn’t feel like history. Gillian and I actually have history, so we don’t have to play it.”
The actors bnded through more than 200 episodes and two feature films.
Tapping into pop culture
“The X-Files” has legions of fans, but in some ways its success comes from tapping into people’s distrust of authority. It has fueled conspiracy theorists, paranormal hunters and others who believe the truth is out there.
Technology has exploded since the original show ended, and the kind of facts that Mulder uncovered through months of work now exists at the end of a mouse click. Carter recognizes thing have changed since the original series was set in the 1990s, a time of residual paranoia.
“But we’re living in a time now when there’s a tremendous amount of distrust of authority, government, even the media. And so this is a really interesting time to be telling ‘X Files’ stories. And conspiracy sites are chockablock with the most outrageous stuff, but some of it actually is quite plausible and I think that’s what you find in the mythology episodes here,” Carter says. “I’ve kind of cherry picked through some of the things that are frightening to me, the prospect of them are frightening.
“And even if one of them comes true, it will be a bad thing for America and beyond. So this is a really interesting time to be shining lights into the darkness.”
There are more than 500 conspiracy sites on the Internet and that’s not counting the conspiracy sites that believe the Internet sites are all a conspiracy. Duchovny’s not so sure having all of this information at hand is a good thing.
“There’s so much information available, and there’s not a real vetting process of what’s true and what’s false,” he says. “I’m much more old school, pre-Google. We had an encyclopedia in my house. That’s kind of where I got my information. I think I still live in that world.”
- 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, FOX (Channel 26.1)
Five best “X-Files” episodes from its 10 seasons:
1. “Home”: The story of in-bred farmers who drive around killing people while listening to “Wonderful, Wonderful” by Johnny Mathis is one of the most terrifying tales told on TV or film.
2. “The Host”: Flukeman, a super fluke worm, sounds like a silly idea. But the episode is done so well it will give you pause the next time to go the bathroom.
3. “Jose Chung’s from Outer Space”: An author (Charles Nelson Reilly) tries to figure out what really happened in an alien abduction.
4. “X-Cops”: “X-Files” and “COPS” come together when Scully and Mulder join the Los Angeles Police Department to look into some weird attacks.
5. “Our Town”: A small town in Arkansas has a dark secret that includes a madman with an ax and a meat-packing plant with a strange recipe.