'The X-Files' Boss Talks Cliffhangers, Betrayals, and What's to Come
Spoiler alert! Do not read this post unless you've seen The X-Files finale, "My Struggle II."
The X-Files ended its revival with quite the cliffhanger.
As the world fell apart around them—thanks to an outbreak of a mysterious disease that was picking off all but a chosen few—Scully (Gillian Anderson) raced to save a dying Mulder (David Duchovny) with a vaccine that was adapted from the alien elements in her DNA.
When she found him, she privately confided in Agent Miller (Robbie Amell) that they might be too late: the only cure for Mulder could be their son, whom she gave up for adoption in 2002. Unfortunately Scully didn't even have the chance to figure out where to go from there—a UFO appeared, and zeroed in on the three agents...and the season ended on that chilling note.
What comes next for the show is complicated. The series has yet to be picked up for an 11th season (due to the creative team's very busy schedules), so it could be years until the story continues. We spoke with executive producer Chris Carter about the revival's end, the franchise's future and more.
Fox wants more and the ratings are strong. When do you see yourself revisiting this world?
I know where this goes in my mind. And so, it wasn’t just a cliffhanger without a clear idea of where we go. That said, even though I had a conversation with [Fox boss] Dana Walden today, talking about doing more episodes, I think the question is how to get it done.
Do you still want to continue on TV? Or do you feel like the next chapter needs to be a movie?
I think there are more X-Files stories to tell. I think movies are a big story. I think a TV show is serialized and more ecological approach. I think there are ways to do either of them.
But with this particular story, you’re looking to resolve it on TV?
I don’t know. Right now, the call came from the television side today. I’m taking them seriously. I’ve heard nothing from the feature folks, so until I do, I can’t image that’s going to happen any time soon.
What was Fox’s reaction to the cliffhanger finale?
They really didn’t question me. So, they worked with it. I think they know that traditionally we ended the show on a cliffhanger; this just happened to be a very big cliffhanger and doing things we had never done before. But, as I say, I have ideas about where this goes.
There was the initial hope that this revival would be eight episodes versus six. How would those two hours have changed the spine of the series and how the mythology played out?
I think we accomplished what we set out to do, which was to tell original X-Files stories and not let anyone accuse us of coming back for nostalgia and ratings; we wanted to do fresh, original, cutting-edge material that drove the mythology and drove the series into a new direction, and not just a rehash of where we were.
If and when the show returns for a Season 11, do you intend to have another time jump to catch up to whatever time has passed? Or will you be picking up from where the show left off?
[As of now the plan is] we would come right back. We wouldn’t be coming back to the X-Files [standalone cases], per se; we’d be coming back to a continuation of this episode.
Looking to that spaceship, we’ve seen, in theory, both man-made and alien spaceships. Can you clarify whether that was an alien or man-made one?
I cannot clarify that for you. I’m sorry. [Laughs]
At this point, could fans be able to figure it out if they freeze frame enough? Or is there not enough evidence, either way, to find out until the show returns?
The cards I hold are those kinds of things—I want to hold those very close to my chest.
One of the biggest twists of the hour was the reveal that Reyes (Annabeth Gish) has spent the past decade working for The Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis). At what point did you decide she was going to reenter The X-Files universe that way?
If you remember in the first episode, you see the Cigarette-Smoking Man, and he says, “The X-Files have been reopened,” and he says that to someone. Now, we come to find out in Episode 6 that was Monica Reyes. That is something I had in mind.
In Reyes’ introduction in Season 8, there was a little bit where she was introduced smoking, and we later saw she smoked Morleys. (Which is CSM’s brand of choice.) Did you always intend to align her with CSM?
I’m just playing with the audience now. That was not something I had cooked up other than now.
What was the conversation like with Annabeth, when you told her where Reyes was headed?
She loved it. She was game. Actors want something to play, and it gave her something to play. It gave the character a tragic quality; [Reyes] had made terrible decisions, and now she was trying to live with it. Trying to, in fact, make amends with Scully, for these terrible, selfish decisions. It’s a fun thing for an actor to play.
The Cigarette Smoking Man has always had such a twisted relationship with Mulder throughout the years. CSM very much seemed to want Mulder to live—but at the same time, he didn’t cure Mulder in his weakened state, because Mulder didn’t want his help. How much does CSM genuinely want him to live?
He respects Mulder. He thinks Mulder is a great man. Because of his relationship with Mulder’s mother, with Mulder’s father, he feels a kinship with him; he doesn’t want to see him die. One wonders, though, why he didn’t give Mulder the same alien DNA. There are questions.
In any version of the finale script, did CSM play the William card as he attempted to entice Mulder to take his offer? It’s understandable why he wouldn’t take it for himself, or even Scully, but you’d think his son might be what changed his mind…
I think that the primary thing in Mulder and Scully’s life—in their regular life, certainly—is their search for William. That, I think, is even bigger than their need to uncover the biggest mysteries.
William was very much in the ether during the revival series, but as part of the discussions between his parents and as a part of their daydreams. Now that Scully has expressed that finding him is essential to Mulder’s safety, how will that change how you utilize him going forward?
The quest now becomes dire; not just a personal need to see their son, but it could mean [the key] to the life of Mulder.
Aside from Mulder, a fair number of characters were in danger when we left them—but no one actually died. Was the plan always to keep these new people in play for another season, or did earlier versions of the story have someone not making it?
There wasn’t anything where we changed our mind. Working in series television, you have to make choices and you have to live with them. These were our best choices, going forward, and we don’t really second guess ourselves. We do what we think is right and live with the consequences. The fortunate thing we have here is we’ve been able to work on this show for 23 years. It’s given us a wealth of experience to deal with the bigger story.
Speaking of your history, we got a new tagline in the episode’s credits with “This is the End” replacing “The Truth is Out There.” There have been episodes in the past where you swapped them out, but what led to this particular one being used?
I thought about it long and hard. We’ve done many things with “The Truth is Out There” and made many changes, and I thought, this one called into question everything I wanted to call into question.
Looking to the science of the episode, you had two doctors, Anne Simon and Margaret Fearon, who were credited with you for the story. What kinds of discussions were had about the vaccine conversations?
They’re responsible for all of the science of the episode and walking me through it. Even as I was shooting, I was calling them and going, “What if I say this? What if the character says this?” When the actors are having to say so much dialogue that is scientific, and they say, “Can we say it this way?” I’d go, “I want this to be realistic. I don’t want this to be just made up science.” So I’d be calling Anne Simon and Margaret Fearon saying, “What do I do?” when there was a problem. They were all-important to helping me come up with the story, and walking me through it every step of the way.
On a character note, aside from the comments in the premiere, there wasn’t a huge shift for Mulder and Scully relationship-wise, with their behavior toward each other versus how we had seen them in the past. Now that you’ve completed the revival, what did you get out of them being split that wouldn’t have been possible had they remained together romantically?
I think it created a tension that wouldn’t have been there if they had been together. It would have been a more relaxed situation. I think that that complication made for better storytelling. I think there was a longing through the course of the episodes, and certainly when we saw them in Episode 5 together, hand-in-hand, in front of Mulder’s house, that they had come a long way from where they began in Episode 1.
They also didn’t get a lot of time together in the finale due to the nature of the storytelling. Was there anything you cut in the episode to keep the dramatic tension up?
There was nothing cut. I actually think there may have been only one scene completely cut out of the series, and it had nothing to do with Mulder and Scully.
What scene was that?
There was a scene in Episode 1, where the old scientist’s daughter comes to Mulder and they have a conversation. But, I hope to play that elsewhere as the series progresses.
The scientist and the flashbacks were a bigger part of the premiere, but he was MIA in the finale. Was there a version of the finale that had him in it? If not, what was he up to while the world was falling apart?
There was not a version with him in it, and I’ll answer that question if and when we come back!