The X-Files creator talks to Digital Spy about season 11 and the possibility of season 12.
After stumbling back on to our screens with season 10, The X-Files has hit the ground running with season 11.
The US is four episodes in to what may well be the last ever run of Chris Carter's paranormal series, with lead actress Gillian Anderson swearing that this is it for her. The UK gets the season premiere tonight (February 5)
So Digital Spy got on the phone with Chris to ask him all about re-opening The X-Files, writing FBI conspiracies in the age of Donald Trump, and what Gillian's departure means for the future of the show. Here's what he had to say.
How much fun has it been to have The X-Files officially re-opened once more for season 11?
"I was talking to my fellow executive producer Glen Morgan and we were saying how sorry we were to have it come to an end. I just finished filming the final episode last week and I'm sorry to see it go, so it was a lot of fun."
So is this it, for good, forever?
"I don't know. I think that certainly The X-Files has more life in it, there are more stories to tell, with Gillian or without. I'm sorry to see her go, I've never actually considered doing this show without her, so is this the end?
"It's the end of something, I don't know if it's the beginning of something new. But certainly we will have to all put our heads together and figure out where to go from here."
Did you know that Gillian was going to say what she said?
"I wasn't aware when she announced it that she was going to say it, although for quite a while I've wondered how long David and Gillian really wanted to do this show after doing it for 25 years. They've played these characters, considering all the material that ended up on the cutting room floor, for probably 6-7,000 hours of their lives.
"That's a whole lot of time and so considering that and considering that they're still relatively young folk, I'm sure they have other things they want to do"
You've said the show has always been Mulder and Scully and David has said a few things about the seasons without him – how do you feel about the Doggett and Reyes years looking back?
"I always thought of David the way I thought about the child William [Mulder and Scully's child], as an absent centre. Even when he wasn't there he was the centre of everyone's concern, and the stories revolved around him. I think that's an interesting problem for storytellers and I think that if The X-Files is to go forward then Scully would be a similar absent centre."
You've spoken around the season 11 finale and farewell to Scully, is there anything more you can tell us about it?
"It's a culmination of the ten episodes and it's a culmination of a storyline. I can tell you that it involves their son, who they've always considered to be their son, revelations there. It will certainly be looked upon as a cliffhanger of sorts, but also an episode that answers so many questions."
The opener pulls the rug from under viewers by recontextualising what they've seen before – is that a risk or are X-Files audiences used to that now?
"Coming back to series television I've been a student of it. It's funny that we live in a time where shows are killing off their lead characters regularly and pulling the rug out from under their audience consistently, so I felt no fear about that.
"At the same time, we didn't just pull the rug out from under people, we actually connected this to a historical event for the characters, and the first plans had been laid a long time ago, so this was really a revelation and maybe a hard one to take, but one that had been set up a long time ago."
There are some lovely nods to past adventures in the new season – what's your favourite X-File?
"I have so many. I loved that Vince Gilligan came to me when the show was ending and he said he didn't think we'd done a bad episode in the 202 episodes. I always took that as high, high praise. They episode that I always talk about as my favourite is one from season 5.
It was the black-and white-episode where Mulder and Scully, after five years of no romantic involvement, dance together at the end of a concert. 'The Post-Modern Prometheus'. For me, it was one of the sweetest moments in the series and I'll always consider it that."
Are there any characters or storylines that you've wanted to bring back for the revival that you've not been able to for any reason?
"No, it was consideration, whether or not to do sequels. That would have been an easy thing to do, and oddly a popular thing to do. But we really thought instead of doing a reboot we wanted to do all-new material and make it original and fresh.
"I think that's one of the things I'm proudest of coming back, is that we didn't fall back on the tried and true. We went for it. We went to tell fresh, new stories in a completely contemporary context."
For a long time people thought if The X-Files returned it would be a third movie – how did you decide on coming back to TV?
"I got a call completely out the blue from Fox the other day saying the actors were interesting in bringing back the show, would I be interested in coming back? As soon as I heard that the actors were interested I said yes. I signed on and signed up and that was that."
The TV landscape is so different now – would you have been interested in dropping all ten episodes at once, Netflix style?
"We used to do 22 -25 episodes a year and it took us 11.5 months a year to do it. Now we just did 10 episodes and somehow it took me the same amount of time... 10 is all we're capable of, but if you're asking about weekly instalments, I love the way it used to be that everyone had to gather round a TV on the night it aired and it gave it a special quality.
"Now of course no-one watches television like that, or few people do. Although I have to say I smile every time I see the overnight ratings. A lot of people come to the show on the night it airs, so there's still something to that magic."
TV in 2018 gets the respect it always deserved, but The X-Files came before that change. Is that long overdue?
"It's a place to tell the kind of stories that you used to see on the big screen. Now with the superhero movies dominating the big screen, it's funny when you look at the movies that are out there during Academy Awards season. It's a much more pared-down group of movies to choose from, outside of the superhero franchises.
I think what people are finding is that television's a good place to tell the kind of personal stories, the kind of character-driven stories, the kind of movies that I grew up with. You wonder if a movie like The Godfather would make it to the big screen these days. Is that something we would see serialised on television now?"
There were a lot of news stories flying around when season 11 launched about "revelations" that were actually in previous seasons – how much of a challenge is it to cater to both a hardcore and casual audience?
"There are many challenges right now and one of them is that we began a story 25 years ago and I'm determined to finish that story and so the mythology is very important. I think it's very important to a lot of the really hardcore viewers, certainly the question of the parentage now and the life and future of this child William, is very important to them.
"But we're also coming back 25 years later to an audience, some of whom weren't even born 25 years ago. Have they had a chance to catch up on the mythology? Maybe, maybe not. But we have a brand-new audience, we have a casual audience, we have a hardcore audience. You want to reward them all and catch them up as much as you can with these recaps.
"It is a trick bringing a show back that's 25 years old and being mindful that you're coming back because of what I would call a loyal group of fans. You have to reward them, not abuse them, and try to bring everyone else along at the same time."
You say you want to finish the story, but when 'The Truth' aired in 2002 did you think that was the end of the story?
"At the time it was it for me. I said that I'm done and I imagined there would be X-Files movies, there had already been talk about it and then there was a writers' strike and a lawsuit... those things were all resolved and paved the way for that second movie and ultimately paved the way for the series.
"I tell people that I pick up a newspaper every single day and I see an opportunity for an X-Files story, so it's always in the back of my mind. I'm very friendly with David and Gillian and so there had been talk about it. Certainly we've remained friends. I think it's always been in the back of everyone's mind that the we weren't quite finished."
Another show that returned after 25 years was Twin Peaks, which David popped into for a scene as Denise Bryson– what did you think of The Return and how it tackled the same challenges you had?
"I haven't watched the show... it's on the top of my pile to watch, I haven't watched it yet. For me, when Twin Peaks came out, I loved it so much that I could have watched it every night of the week for the rest of my life. I absolutely loved the series
"And so, coming back, I was actually afraid coming back that I had changed, and it may have changed at the same time. I'm going to watch it with a certain trepidation."
Gillian has spoken openly about having to fight for equal pay for season 10 – are we turning a corner in the industry now compared to the mid-1990s when The X-Files was first on TV?
"I come to this from a very personal perspective. I believe Gillian should be paid as much David, and she is paid as much as David. But we work in a business where you have agents and you have lawyers and they try to make you the best deal they can. On the other side of that table is a studio who is going to make sure they make themselves the best deal they can. That's as it's ever been.
"What people don't appreciate is that it's a business, and just because we all believe that people should have equal pay, the people on the other side of the table believe that they should be able to make the best deal they possibly can, and that's simply how it works.
"They just don't automatically pay someone equal to someone else because that's what the world is asking for. I'm happy to say that Gillian is paid the same as David now."
What's it like writing about evil overlords and FBI conspiracies in the age of Donald Trump – is it an extra challenge to compete with reality?
"It's funny, the show has been through four presidencies now and this may be the strangest one. While the show has always been a science-based show, which means it traffics in truths, the truth has now become marginalised and conspiracies have now become mainstream.
"The show has been completely flipped on its head, as has the world, and that's an interesting place to tell stories from."
The X-Files season 11 continues on Wednesdays on FOX in the US and premieres on Channel 5 in the UK on Monday, February 5.