X-Files fans got a glimpse inside the writers’ room on Saturday at EW Fest — not that the groundbreaking sci-fi series ever had a writers’ room in a traditional sense.
As executive producer/ writer Glen Morgan, who is returning for the show’s new season in January, recalled, the writers rarely broke stories in a group, working instead out of boxy offices or each other’s backyards. But out of the series’ regular group of writers came a number of TV’s biggest influencers, including Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) and Frank Spotnitz (Man in the High Castle).
Series creator Chris Carter joined Glen Morgan and fellow writer/ producer Darin Morgan onstage, in a panel moderated by EW’s own Jeff Jensen, to look back on the experience of writing The X-Files and tease what fans can expect from the series’ return. Here’s what we learned:
1. Carter denies rumors that Mulder and Scully have married.
When asked about recent comments made by series star David Duchovny (Fox Mulder) alluding to his character’s marriage to partner Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), Carter replied that he was “really surprised” by Duchovny’s answers. “They were together but never married, so that was news to me,” Carter said. “You saw them in the second movie — they were obviously together and under one roof. I am here to announce that is not the case coming back.”
2. Mulder and Scully’s partnership will be reignited — even if it’s only for work.
“They’re not together. And…” Carter trailed off when asked about the state of Mulder and Scully’s relationship as it stands now. “We’re dealing with two people who had a romantic relationship,” he said. “They’re no longer together for reasons that we come to understand over the course of the pilot — it’s mentioned — and we see the reigniting of some old passions that each of them have. And they find a reason to come back together, not romantically, but for other reasons.” Monsters might be involved.
3. Early notes from Fox asked Carter to ramp up the sexual tension.
On the subject of Mulder and Scully’s relationship, Carter said that he initially felt making the two characters a couple would be “the wrong direction for the show” — but the network felt differently. He recalled executives calling during the filming of the pilot to say that there was “not enough sexual tension.” While the showrunner stands by not making The X-Files a “racy hot super romance,” he also admits that by the time of the franchise’s second movie (2008’s The X-Files: I Want to Believe), “it was time that they did get together.” Carter praised the way Mulder and Scully’s relationship evolved over the course of the series, especially their “clever” first kiss (which Mulder shared with an alternate-universe, 1939 version of Scully in season 6’s “Triangle”).
4. Carter calls Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny’s chemistry a “miracle.”
Anderson was 24 when she was cast as Scully, but even then, Carter remembers, “she had that seriousness, like a gravity.” He called casting her a “stroke of luck,” adding that Anderson “had really good ideas for the character. As much as we create that character, Gillian is as responsible for Scully and making her that icon as any of the writers.”
Carter also said that he sees The X-Files as Scully’s show: “If it weren’t for Scully’s science, the show would be much less interesting than it would be if it was just a show about the paranormal.”
5. The show never had a series bible.
The team behind the show veered away from a set of definitive guidelines for writers — aside from one. “Early on, we said, ‘If Scully ever sees an alien or they kiss, the show’s over,’” Glen recalled, to plenty of audience laughter. “That’s how much we know.” Carter said that they preferred “finding what the show did best” organically to laying down a writers’ bible, which he called “self-limiting.”
Darin Morgan remembered season 1’s “Beyond the Sea” as one of the first times the writers broke the rules, positioning Scully as the believer and Mulder as the skeptic after the death of her father. Darin, who was not yet a writer on the series but was watching for brother Glen, called that episode the first to show the series’ full potential.
6. The writers pulled ideas from everywhere.
Glen Morgan recalled that the series’ first monster-of-the-week episode, season 1’s “Squeeze,” originated from a comment frequent writing partner Wong (who is also returning for the new season) made late one night in their office: “What if a guy came through that vent right now?” The series’ most disturbing hour, season 4’s “Home,” was inspired in part by an anecdote in Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography, along with Morgan and Wong’s thoughts on “coming home” after time away from the show. (When asked if his upcoming episode “Home Again” is a sequel to that classic, Glen explained that it is not — he “was just kind of being a punk” with the name.)
Darin Morgan’s season 3 episode “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” was guided by an actor who came in to audition for one of Darin’s earlier episodes and just happened to remind him a lot of Truman Capote. From there, Darin said, he got the idea to write an episode about “Truman Capote, [but] instead of doing ‘In Cold Blood,’ he’s writing about alien abduction.” Director Rob Bowman considered changing an aspect of that episode, but Carter remembered counseling him against it: “Sometimes you just have to bow to genius.”
7. The X-Files never left its writers.
Glen Morgan said that he still walks down the street and thinks of things that would make good episodes of The X-Files. “Something about that show is a place that, for me, I like to explore. And I love writing for Gillian and David.”
Darin Morgan echoed the sentiment, explaining that already he had story in mind that involved a monster, but was really about humanity. “This is the only place that you can tell that story.”