'X-Files' set cherry-picks myth-making episodes

"If you could see where I'm standing now," teases Chris Carter.

Carter, creator of "The X-Files," is calling from a remote spot in the southern end of Costa Rica, where he has taken cover from the rain under some thatched bamboo. It's not as mysterious as it sounds--everybody needs a vacation every once and a while--but with the series off the air and each season already released on DVD, what's left to talk about? In this case, "The X-Files Mythology, Vol. 1--Abduction" (Fox, 1993-1995, 681 minutes, NR, $39.98), a new four-disc set that smartly recontexualizes the show.

As any "X-Files" fanatic will remind you, each episode of the hit series fell into one of two categories: a stand-alone, "monster-of-the-week" episode, or an episode that expanded the show's so-called "mythology", namely the quest of Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) to get to the bottom of a vast government conspiracy.

"I actually came up with it," says Carter of the use of "mythology" in the TV world. "I assumed that it was a word that other people used on TV shows like 'The X-Files.' I obviously didn't coin the word, but I don't know if anyone had ever used the word that way before."

What "The X-Files Mythology, Vol. 1" does is jettison the monster-of-the-week episodes and repackage the 15 episodes from the first three seasons of the show that specifically concern Mulder's search for "the truth."

"It makes perfect sense that we did it, but I actually never imagined the mythology ever being put together as such," reveals Carter, who says the repackaging idea came from the studio. "The whole afterlife for `The X-Files'--and for any TV show--is still kind of new.

"I think the show had so much more range than the mythology, but it was the spine of the show," he continues. "It constituted Mulder's quest and ultimately, by association, Scully's [played by Gillian Anderson] quest. It was the most personal part of the series, and for the diehard fans, it was their favorite part of the series."

For all the weight fans place on the nine-season story arc of "The X-Files," Carter claims he never planned that far ahead.

"No one could have predicted it would last nine seasons," he explains, "so we created it on the spot. I never held anything in reserve. My philosophy, if you want to call it that, was always `give them everything you've got, always, and there will always be more to give.' That's kind of the way it worked."

"X-Files" fans might disagree. They still grumble about the way the show wrapped up, especially in its waning years that followed the departure of star and series linchpin Duchovny. But after so many questions raised, so many twists and turns of the mythology (to be explored in future repackaged anthologies), a tidy conclusion was all but impossible.

TV watchers may currently sense a similar situation in the mysterious "Lost," the finale of which angered viewers by failing to answer any of the many questions raised during its first season. While his travels have kept him from following "Lost" in detail, Carter has a few words of advice, drawn from his own experiences.

"I'm a big fan of [Lost and Alias creator] J.J. Abrams," Carter says. "I think he's really creative, and I'm a big fan of what he does. But I know there are pits to fall into, and you've got to avoid them every step of the way. It takes a lot of thought and gut instinct. I can tell you that with mythology shows, if you stumble, you fall."



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