ONE of his stars is on the record as saying she won’t come back for more episodes, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end.
“I’M VERY pessimistic right now,” The X-Files creator Chris Carter says over the phone from Vancouver.
He’s worried about the state of the world. This is a man whose imagination has envisioned so many apocalyptic scenarios, portrayed on his iconic sci-fi series, but it’s real-life that has him terrified.
“I think we are heading into very strange times to do with so many of things people are talking about,” Carter tells news.com.au. “I have a fascination with biological terrorism right now. There was a former CIA chief who said there are three things that have the greatest possibility of ending mankind and the world as we know it.
“And that’s nuclear holocaust, global warming and a biological contagion or bioweapon. I think you saw all those things in the show this year.”
In that sense, you can read season 11 of The X-Files, out on digital and DVD this week, as Carter’s fears, of what keeps him up at night, as evidenced through the show’s plot line involving a potential conspiracy to unleash an alien virus on the human population.
For a series whose mythology is enmeshed in Deep State conspiracies, the transition from season 10, released during the end of the Obama administration, to season 11, released a year into the Trump era, proved a challenge.
How do you write a show about conspiracies when we’re living through an age defined by paranoia and suspicion of established institutions, spurred on by the so-called most powerful man in the world?
“The show has been through four administrations now and we’ve dealt with each one honestly and in real time,” Carter says.
“This latest one is certainly completely new territory because as Darin Morgan said in his episode (“The Lost Art of the Forehead Sweat”), it could be considered a post-conspiracy moment where conspiracies are more important than any kind of received wisdom and truth, and the truth is being assailed.
“That’s a completely new place for The X-Files to work from and I think it’s a really interesting place to work from. It helps to shake us up and has a way of turning the show and the concept on its head.”
The episode Carter is referring to is, arguably, the strongest chapter of the season, centred on the Mandela Effect — the phenomenon in which people vividly remember something that didn’t happen.
It’s a clever and funny episode and highlights how a series such as The X-Files, 25 years after its original debut, can still tap into the current culture and be relevant — even when it’s now competing against the likes of Black Mirror and other boundary-pushing shows that have been influenced by Carter’s creation.
Carter, though, concedes it’s hard to compete against something like Black Mirrorwhen those shows are on streaming and cable networks and his show is still broadcast on network TV, which has much stricter censorship standards.
“We can’t compete with a show where in the first episode a man has sex with a pig on camera,” he said.
One of the more high-profile revivals of the past few years, The X-Files has released 16 new episodes over two and a half years, adding to a series total that now tallies at 218.
For Carter, a 61-year-old Californian native, the challenge is now seeing where it goes next, if there is a next.
Because the power in The X-Files engine, the spark that keeps the fans coming back is Mulder and Scully, one of the most seminal pairings in TV history. It’s also what keeps The X-Files special, more than just another sci-fi show among a pantheon of sci-fi shows in the era of Peak TV.
But Gillian Anderson, who plays Scully, has already ruled out returning for more episodes.
“Gillian has announced that she doesn’t want to come back, which I respect. It might be done without her,” Carter says.
“For me, to be honest, The X-Files is Mulder and Scully so the idea of doing it without her is one I haven’t confronted yet and I don’t really have to because there is some time now, because 20th Century Fox (which makes the show) is going to be 20th Century Disney pretty soon (if the two companies merge) and that will change everything.”
Asked if Carter has started to lobby Anderson to change her mind, he says he hasn’t.
“I’m not trying to convince her, she’s got her own life. Everyone has their own life, their own reasons and I don’t question them.
“It’s my job to figure out how we go forward without her in an interesting way. We have done the show without Mulder for a time (David Duchovny only appeared in a handful of episodes in seasons eight and nine), so there are always ways to skin that cat but I haven’t had time to think about that yet.”
If the series does end where it did in March this year, it leaves a lot of questions hanging, especially when it comes to William, Scully’s son. But as Carter likes to point out, even when we think we know what’s happening, it doesn’t mean we do.
“On The X-Files, the truth is always out there,” he says. “Just because we’ve been given something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we should take it at face value.”