After 17 years, the showrunner brings The X-Files home to Vancouver
Chris Carter doesn’t indulge in social media, but he still managed to spawn a trending topic when it was announced that the iconic series he created – The X-Files, about those equally iconic UFO-chasing FBI agents, Mulder and Scully – would be returning to Fox for a six-part event series.
Between 1993 and 2002, The X-Files was a veritable cultural phenomenon. The paranormal drama logged 202 episodes over its nine seasons, five seasons of which were shot right here in the 604 before production moved down to Los Angeles.
But the event series means more than just a return to ardent believer Fox Mulder (portrayed David Duchovny) and resident skeptic Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson); for Carter and co., it also means a return to Vancouver, the city that subbed in for dozens of American cities between 1993 and 1998.
“It was weird to leave Vancouver in the first place, because it was like taking your all-star team and saying, okay, now we’re going to start fresh someplace else,” says Carter in a recent phone interview. “The good and the bad of that is that we had to leave Vancouver, and going to Los Angeles and filming the last four years in Los Angeles, it opened up a whole new range of storytelling possibilities for us. That said, coming back to Vancouver, we’re coming back to a place that was so perfectly suited for telling a show that took place, because it was an FBI show, anywhere in America, and Vancouver doubles for almost everywhere in America.”
It’s been eight years since Carter scripted the second X-Files feature film (2008’s The X-Files: I Want to Believe, which was filmed in BC), and Carter says he’s returning to the X-Files characters and universe to take care of unfinished business.
“When you’re doing a TV show, if you’re doing it right, or you’re doing it well, you have your head down, and I have to say, for 10 years of my life, I pretty much had my head down, and it’s only really, I think, in retrospect that I’ve had the ability or the opportunity to really appreciate it,” says Carter. “In doing it, there’s things that I realize that I hadn’t completed, I hadn’t finished in my mind, I hadn’t finished as a storyteller, so that’s really exciting.”
“It’s not an opportunity to do six episodes of the show,” he adds. “It’s an opportunity to do something that will have an impact on the characters’ lives and all that came before it, and maybe even all that will come after.”
So what should viewers expect as far as story? Fans will have to be patient; Carter isn’t dishing out any spoilers.
“You will get a combination of what I think the show did best, which is to mix the mythology stories with the standalone episodes,” says Carter. “The people who are coming back to work on the creative side, meaning the writers and the directors, are people who did some of the best work in both of those respects.”
The event series will film in Vancouver over the summer. “I haven’t written these characters in about eight years, so coming back to it requires a lot of thought and care, but that said, we did 202 episodes of the show, so it’s something that comes naturally,” says Carter.
It’s been more than 20 years since the pilot originally aired on Fox, and the series’ fan base has continued to expand, thanks largely to its shelf life on streaming services like Netflix.
“The best thing is when you talk to somebody who is a fan of the show who wasn’t even born when the show first aired,” says Carter. “So you’re getting somebody who came to the show completely fresh and not at a time when the show was popular, so that’s exciting because it means the show resonates with people who were not part of that cultural moment.”
An airdate has yet to be announced for the event series, but some reports have it as late 2015 or early 2016.
In the meantime, Carter is knee-deep in pre-production, and will appear at VIFF Industry’s celebration of National Canadian Film Day at Vancity Theatre on April 29.
“I’ve been coming up there since 1986, so what I appreciate is the spirit with which the Canadians that I’ve worked with approach, not just their work, but their lives,” says Carter. “There were people who worked on the show who had, not that many years before, been loggers. I would say they brought a spirit to the work that you wouldn’t find in a place like Los Angeles.”
ICONIC X-FILES FILMING LOCATIONS
“When I drive around [Vancouver] now, it’s almost like, ‘Where didn’t we film?’” says X-Files creator Chris Carter.
Vancouver stood in for dozens of American cities over the five seasons that The X-Files shot here, but for locals, Vancouver was always recognizable as Vancouver.
Here’s a rundown of some of our favourite local filming locations from The X-Files’ original run:
• City Square Mall: Mutant serial killer Eugene Victor Tooms was one of the creepiest characters to ever appear on The X-Files. In the stomach-churning episode entitled “Tooms”, the next-level contortionist builds his nest beneath the escalators at City Square Mall (right next to City Hall).
• 2400 Court Motel: This kitschy Kingsway mainstay makes regular appearances in Vancouver-shot series and films. We spotted it in the episode entitled “Wetwired”, in which Mulder and Scully investigate death by television signals.
• Ovaltine Café: Mulder orders a slice of lemon pie and a coffee while sitting at the counter of this iconic Hastings Street café in the hilarious standalone episode “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.”
• Stanley Park: Our versatile urban forest holds a lot of memories for Chris Carter. “When I’m in Stanley Park, I think of the cold nights we spent filming the original pilot episode using the woods there, and doing some special make-up effects there, so whenever I’m [there], I have some fond memories,” says Carter.
• Farther afield: Epic paranormal action also went down at Britannia Mine Museum in Britannia Beach, Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, and Grouse Mountain Skyride in North Vancouver, and we can only wonder what locations will loom out of the fog next.