Chris Carter on Reviving 'The X-Files': 'I Knew We Had Stories to Tell'

Over a year ago, in the Fall of 2014, I got a call out of the blue from 20th Century Fox asking me if I would consider bringing The X-Files back to television. There had been the suggestion of this at a 20th anniversary event at ComicCon a year earlier, but it seemed like wishful thinking by a vocal contingent of diehard fans. Whether Fox was listening or simply wanted to capitalize on a trend of rebooting old shows wasn’t clear. Again, this could have been simply talk but Fox was quick to add that the actors, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, were both very interested in the idea. That was really all it took to convince me there was good work to be done. A must if we were going to do this right. Whatever anyone else’s intentions, I knew we had new stories to tell.

When we went off the air in 2002 the mood of the country had changed dramatically. Post 9/11 no one in America wanted to believe in a government hiding secrets. Rather, people wanted to believe their government was doing everything it could to make them safe and secure. We were willing to give up rights and liberties in the name of such, and in the wake of all this we felt it was a good time to exit the stage. The show’s oftentimes subversive spirit seemed beside the point.

But now in 2016 much has changed again. Those rights and liberties that were rolled back in the name of Homeland Security are being selectively abused. Edward Snowden and others inform us that the government we’d elected to protect us is spying on us. Spying. And even more alarming is that they’ve admitted to as much. Equally alarming to me is very few people inside the political center and heart of the country seem to care. The internet, for all its beauty, has created a social environment where self-expression trumps all our concerns about privacy.

In this context, it seemed like a perfect time to rattle some cages and shine a light on the dark and distrustful mood toward government that polls tell us pervades our country. But this wasn’t the only reason. After all, The X-Files first sets out to scare you, but it also sets out to entertain you, and there were writers from the original run of the show who told me they were anxious to do just that. Glen Morgan, James Wong and Darin Morgan all helped to put The X-Files on the map and had fresh new ideas themselves. Suddenly, we were putting the band back together.

Over the past ten months about 500 people came together to make six episodes of the best TV we know how. We returned to Vancouver, Canada, where we’d made five seasons of the series beginning in 1993. Now, twenty two years later we were committed to fulfilling a promise to the same hardcore fans who’d suggested the idea in the first place. But we were also mindful that there was a whole new generation of viewers out there who weren’t even born when the show was first on. How to catch them up without belaboring the concept to fans was a big concern.

For the uninitiated, that concept is two FBI agents who explore cases involving the paranormal. Agent Dana Scully is a scientist and medical doctor, and a skeptic. Her opposite is Agent Fox Mulder, a believer. So it largely remained over 202 hours of TV. But it would also become so much more than this. The stories could veer sharply into satire and screwball comedy. They could frighten you with science fiction speculative and supernatural. Monsters both human andimaginary. But at the show’s heart was Agent Mulder’s belief that the government was hiding a well-kept secret about the existence of aliens and UFOs. A belief rooted in a well-known case involving a government coverup in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Not only this, but Mulder had good reason to accuse the very government he worked for of this knowledge. When he was ten and his sister eight, she was abducted from their childhood home. His quest was very personal.

Anyone who has watched the show knows all this, so forgive me the old news. The point is, in coming back we wanted to recreate that very same mix of our signature take on the genre. I can assure fans and new viewers alike that we will scare and entertain you in all new ways, in an all new context, with a return to the running saga, the mythology, where we answer questions that were unanswered 13 years ago when we went off the air. Mulder and Scully, colleagues who developed a tempestuous affection and intimacy, have a child together, William. He was put up for adoption when they feared for his life, due to the same conspirators Mulder so believes in. This becomes a very personal story that is explored through the course of these six episodes.

Coming back to work on the show so many years later was surreal. All of us have experienced about every problem television producers can imagine. But the challenge to revisit the past and bring it into the future is something few producers have chanced. Was it the proverbial riding-a-bike? Not exactly. But it was a sweet and satisfying reunion. Our work on The X-Files actually spans three decades of our lives. We’ve watched careers and families blossom, lost many of those who worked closely with us, like director Kim Manners, assistant director Jack Hardy, stunt coordinators Tony Morelli and Danny Weselis, actors John Neville and Floyd Red Crow Westerman, and casting director Randy Stone. But life goes on — and now so does the show.

The X-Files premieres Jan. 24 at 10 p.m. on Fox

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