Following 2016's six-episode revival of The X-Files, every fan wanted to know: what's next for Scully, Mulder, and the gang? The answer, it turns out, is ten episodes of classic X-Files weirdness in a 21st century wrapper, intended to appeal to new fans and diehards alike. We caught up with showrunner and creator Chris Carter and actors Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, and Mitch Pileggi to find out more.
For the actors as well as the fans, this will be a return to the good old days. Mulder, as ever, wants to believe; Scully lives by facts and science; and overarching intrigue mixes with monsters of the week and various extraterrestrials. Pileggi, who has played Assistant Director of the FBI Walter Skinner since late in season 1, said the new ten-episode run will treat viewers to some "old-school Mulder and Scully." Everyone's favorite agents, he explained, are "back to what they were doing that made everybody love the show so much and built such a tremendous fanbase that has stuck with us for so long." Anderson agreed, saying that the team were "delivering everything that is expected of us to deliver," but in a way that works better for them as individuals and for the show's format. "It feels more manageable somehow," she said. "We're not pulling 17-hour days, which we used to do all the time, so as an old person that's quite nice."
Although the essence of The X-Files may remain the same, the world around it has undergone significant changes since the show first went off the air 15 years ago. We use extremely advanced digital technology every day for the most mundane things, for instance—and it's thanks in part to said technology that the conspiracy theories Mulder espoused have crawled out of fringe obscurity into the mainstream. "When we [first] stopped the run of the show," Duchovny notes, "Mulder was getting his information from little newspapers, little news outlets, blogs. Now that kind of information, false and true, is open to everyone. It's an interesting proposition to take this guy into a world that maybe is more receptive to his way of thinking."
Granted, these days it's more about chemtrails, anti-vaccination movements, and lizard people rather than alien contact, but still. How do Mulder's credulous underdog schtick and Scully's skepticism hold up in the face of the current climate?
"You can still question the existence or the impossibility of something even though it's right in front of you," said Anderson. "Maybe her [Scully's] degree of skepticism has shifted, but as a scientist and a doctor, she still has to ask those questions of the universe, Mulder, and anyone else."
Duchovny offered a broader take on the issue, hinting that the dynamic between Mulder and Scully taps into something universally human. "I think ultimately what makes the show, or any other piece of art or drama, enduring is actually something that never changes, which is humanity's capacity to wonder, our capacity to imagine. So I think that's what the show was always about—this president or that president, internet or not, phones or not."
In addition to these themes, the actors and Carter stated that the show's timelessness is also partially due to X-Files fandom getting passed down to new generations. "I go to these conventions," Pileggi recounted, "and I see kids ten years old that come up who have watched every episode, and it's so gratifying to see that type of response. The grandparents have passed it down to the parents, and then the parents pass it down to their kids."
According to Anderson, this same timelessness has allowed The X-Files to reclaim its place as a frontrunner of small-screen sci-fi/fantasy for the 21st century. The show, she said, was "so much at the beginning of this type of TV, introducing something that was so addictive that people had to come back every single week and watch it en masse with families. And we were also at the beginning of proper regular sci-fi on television, and now every other film is sci-fi, every other show is sci-fi."
Carter summed up the show's appeal with a simple character-focused statement: "I think it's really to do with Mulder and Scully and those characters and their relationship and the respect they give one another; it's the kind of stories we tell; it's the way we tell them."
However, The X-Files' longevity still continues to surprise the cast, who hadn't expected to return to their old roles almost two and a half decades after they started. "I remember talking with my manager at the time and saying, 'This is a show about aliens,'" Duchovny recalled. "It's like, I like the part, let's do the part and then I won't have to do any TV, because no one's going to watch this. It'll be a good pilot but it's never going to catch on."
"Coming back to something after so much time," noted Anderson, "I'm emulating somebody that exists on celluloid [as] so much younger. What are the elements of her that are still evident, and which elements are appropriate or which elements are actually inappropriate because they're a matter of one's age and how one ages and matures? So that's been ongoing...in trying to do right by her." The question is especially salient considering that the upcoming season might be Anderson's last outing as Dr. Dana Scully. If it's true, her performance in these ten episodes could have a serious impact on the character's legacy. (Hopefully she'll stay on, but if not, she'll no doubt be moving onwards and upwards to even greater heights.)
So once this season finishes, what's the long-term plan for the show? Carter didn't give a definite answer, instead saying, "Right now we're just doing what we're doing, and there are no plans beyond this." But don't despair, folks. He quickly reassured fans that "there's a lot of life left in the show." As long as that spark keeps going, "as long as there are stories to tell," he said, "it's hard to imagine that it wouldn't go on."
What are you looking forward to most in the new X-Files? Tell us in the comments!
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