It was after a 2013 Comic Con panel commemorating the 20th anniversary of The X-Files that interest in bringing Chris Carter’s brainchild back to television started to bubble. The fans made noise, and 20th Century Fox and Fox listened. In a letter Carter penned for Yahoo, he said he received an out-of-the-blue call from Fox to revive the sci-fi classic and his two charismatic leads, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were interested in reprising their roles as Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.
In March of 2015, the whispers turned into an official announcement for six new episodes of The X-Files. With the revival now here, we sat down with series creator Chris Carter, who promises the same mix of scary, shocking, goofy, and thrilling episodes that defined the X-Files original run.
Den of Geek: With only six episodes, don’t you have quite a big mythology story to get through?
Chris Carter: Yes, there’s a big arc, but it’s now a tighter arc. Instead of going over 22 episodes, it’s a relationship arc that spans six episodes. Two mythology episodes bookend it. Four standalones in between. One comedy episode.
Den of Geek: Which one is that?
Chris Carter: Number three. Darin Morgan’s episode. It’s called "Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster."
Do any of the monsters harken back to classic X-Files monsters?
No, they don’t. These are all new monsters.
Was it difficult finding something different after 200 episodes?
No, we went forward. We didn’t go back at all.
Were any of these episode ideas potential ideas for a third movie?
No, I think the third movie, if there were to be a third movie, has to be a gigantic movie. So these are television episodes. Even though we take a cinematic approach, this is for broadcast network television. I did have to sit down and come up with an idea.
But there was talk of doing a third movie, and it was casual talk. So I actually wrote a third movie just because I was interested in where that might go. When this television idea came out of the blue for me and was really a phone call, surprising phone call. When that happened, I let my wife read the third movie, and she says, "I think not for television.” There was something else I had written to which she said, "I think you ought to do something more like that," and that's how the mythology, the entry into the mythology came about.
You wrote a third movie on spec?
It was less on spec. I’d call it a study, if you will.
How much of the arc is addressed in between the bookends?
Joel appears in the first and last episodes. He doesn’t appear in between. So the mythology arc is bookended, but the relationship arc spans those four episodes. That was the signature of the show was we would do a mythology episode, and then you could do a monster-of-the-week episode, and then you can do a comedy episode and go right back to a mythology episode, and it worked, and the audience went with you week to week. The thing we became known for was our range, how the show could come right back to shape to its original concept. We did that always in the run of the original series, but in this case, there are only six episodes, so we had to do it in a much shorter arc.
Out of six, why did you only want the first and last to be mythology?
It's really a re-entry into a series that hasn't been on the air for 13 years, so I think you needed to get back into the characters' lives, their quest, where they are, where the relationship is, where their professional lives are. That was a definitely a mythology episode, part of the saga, if you will.
What was your decision to make the conspiracy more man-based than aliens?
I think it just expands the conspiracy. It doesn’t change it but it expands it and sort of blows the other conspiracy out of the water in the sense that you realize it’s part of something much bigger.
Joel McHale is interesting casting. Did you envision that originally?
No, but as soon as I saw him do the Correspondent’s Dinner, he hosted it, I thought this is the guy for us.
What talk show hosts did you base Tad O’Malley on?
You know, Alex Jones and Glenn Beck and people that I’ve been interested in.
Is The After completely dead?
Yeah, it’s not coming back. Right now, I’m too tired to think about it. I think it’s a really good idea still but we had a difference of opinion about the direction and so it would’ve cost those guys a lot of money to go forward, $40-45 million. So I understand, if they were reluctant at all, they shouldn’t do it.
At the time, did you know you’d come back and do The X-Files?
I didn’t. So it actually worked out. I wouldn’t have been able to do both.
What was your opinion in that difference of opinion?
As I said, it was Dante’s Inferno. I imagined it was eight characters in hell. That was a difficult sell.
Was six episodes the right length or did you ever wish it were more?
Originally we were supposed to do eight, and then that got scaled back to 10 because of schedules. It would have been doable. Six was very doable, and I think that six actually works. You get a variety of episodes still. You get two strong mythology episodes, which I always felt were the spine of the show, so I do think six worked, but it would have worked.
If Fox asks you to do another season, would you want to do eight episodes?
I'm waiting for FOX to come back and say, “We want more of these,” and we'll talk about how many.
How are the Lone Gunmen back?
They did meet their makers, so to speak, in the run of the original series. But I think the way you see them return will explain itself. We don't just bring them back as live characters. They are back in a completely different way. They're actually back in a fantasy.
How have recent events like Snowden and government surveillance changed the way you view conspiracies in 2016?
I mean the '90s were great. It was still, for me, a sort of residual paranoia that came out of my young adulthood, out of Watergate and such. But we're living in a time now when there's a tremendous amount of distrust of authority, government, even the media. So this is a really interesting time to be telling X-Files stories.
Conspiracy sites are chockablock with the most outrageous stuff, but some of it actually is quite plausible and I think that's what you find in the mythology episodes here. I've kind of cherry picked through some of the things that are frightening to me, the prospect of them are frightening. Even if one of them comes true, it will be a bad thing for America and beyond. So this is a really interesting time to be shining lights into the darkness.