Though the show they love has lain dormant for six years, fans turned out in droves Wednesday night to the PaleyFest to reanimate “The X-Files.” Like, say, a zombie. Or a golem. Or a giant human liver fluke.
During the clip reel of the nine-season show, “X-Philes” cheered for sci-fi Heathcliff Fox Mulder and savvy strawberry Sno-Cone Dana Scully. Things got especially rowdy in the seats when the two locked lips, a kiss that ended nearly a decade of sexual tension that had become as thick as ectoplasm.
On hand to expose the truth were creator Chris Carter; producers Howard Gordon and Paul Rabwin; director David Nutter; writers Frank Spotnitz, Steven Maeda, Glen Morgan, Rob Bowman and Darin “Flukeman” Morgan; and actors Nicholas Lea, Dean Haglund and Mitch Pileggi.
Carter admitted off the bat that the second “X-Files” movie had finished shooting 13 days earlier, but, sly as the Smoking Man, declined to provide so much as the title of the film—he said he knows what he’d like to call it, but the studio disagrees, so it’s still up in the air. He would say only that the film takes place “six years down the line. … They [Mulder and Scully] have lived out their lives during that time” and we pick up the thread in the present day.
“They’ve been in that motel room in New Mexico the entire time,” suggested moderator Cynthia Littleton, alluding to the series’ final scenes of the couple in bed together.
Predictably, the crowd at the Arclight Cinerama Dome went nuts.
While David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were not on hand (fortunately for a crowd that seemed to have left their albuterol inhalers in their basement bedrooms), Lea, who played the dreamy double-agent Krycek and now appears on “Kyle XY,” tried to describe what life is like after “X-Files.”
“It’s like your first relationship … you’re always searching for ‘that’ ever after. It set a really high bar. It was unbelievable what we produced in an eight-day period.” He added, “I’d be hanging off balconies 18 floors up in the air, jumping from exploding cars, horse chases…”
“What, you don’t do that on ‘Kyle KY?’” quipped Haglund, who played conspiracy theorist/”Lone Gunman” Langley.
In a show famous for big reveals, Carter gratified fans with a few major declassifications.
When asked if they kept a “show bible” on hand, Carter denied, denied, denied. Shows that create universal guidebooks to their mythology really limit themselves, he explained. In fact, he claimed that part of the fun of the show “mythology” was a result of choosing not to set any rules in the development process.
Part of the reason to avoid planning it all out was the ever-present fear of cancellation, he admitted. In fact, then Fox exec Sandy Grushow thought “X-Files” would be canceled after its first 13 episodes. He was programming it, Carter said, as “the show that follows ‘Brisco County Jr.’”—anyone remember that?—which was expected to be a big hit that year.
In fact, Carter credited much of the success of the show to those low expectations. They were pretty much left alone early in the run, because no one expected it to catch on, and by the time Fox executives realized there were a lot of eyeballs on the show, the quirky tone and extended mythology were too established with viewers to tinker with them.
When asked if he had any regrets on the way characters ended their run, Carter took a lengthy, telling pause, collecting his thoughts, before answering, “The choices we made were the best we could make at the time. So no. No regrets.”
That serious moment was triumphantly followed by the new trailer for the movie sequel.
Like the eyes of a semi-hibernatory genetic mutant starved for human liver, camera phones, camcorders and digicams glowing in the darkness, recording the trailer for YouTube the next morning.
In closing, Carter shared an anecdote to distill the “X-Files” ethos. When he received the script for the infamous, bomb-on-the-train alien autopsy story arc, he initially told the writers that the script was “unproduce-able.” Time and continuity constraints aside, budget was always an issue for a show that relied on makeup and effects that consistently had to go above and beyond to be convincing.
But, said Carter, it was thanks to amazingly passionate individuals like producer R.W. Goodwin and others, who were always “begging, borrowing and stealing” despite a limited budget and breakneck shooting schedule.
The show’s success and amazing quality, he said, is owed to the self-sacrifice and cunning of a highly skilled team, driven to do whatever was necessary to accomplish what seemed insurmountable.
Sounds like a conspiracy to us.