The X-Files event series interview: creator Chris Carter

The X-Files creator Chris Carter chats to us about making more new episodes, Mulder and Scully's fan-appeal, and his favourite episode...

As The X-Files event series comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK, we chatted to creator Chris Carter about the response to the revived series, doing more episodes and looking back on his lengthy time on the show…

Were you pleased with the way the revival series turned out?

Yes, I’m very happy with the work, I’m proud of the work, and with the response to it, we had terrific ratings here in the US.

It’s a big risk to come back to the show after 23 years, and do it with actors and directors and writers who are 23 years older, and hopefully the audience is still there. We had the fans, the hard-core audience, and a desire to see the show again, and we decided to do all fresh new material, so that was also a risk, that we weren’t going to do sequels. So I’m very pleased that all those risks, which were calculated, ended up becoming rewards.

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It certainly gave us chills up our spines when we heard that music again for the first time in so long…

We decided not to play with the main titles at all, which was a little bit controversial, but I think we make the right call.

What can fans expect from the DVD and Blu-Ray releases of the revival series?

There’s a terrific Making Of feature in the Blu-Ray release, that was done so lovingly by a woman named Julie Ng – that alone I think makes the purchase worth the price. I think that if you have any love of the show beyond the show, you’re going to be well rewarded.

Why do you think fans are still so passionate about The X-Files, 23 years after the pilot?

I think it’s simply Mulder and Scully. I think it’s those two characters that are the reason that people have such a connection to the show, and the way that David and Gillian play them. I’d say that is the reason for our success. Plus we got to tell good stories, and that is all-important probably.

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But it really is, I believe, the characters of Mulder and Scully [and] what they represent to people. Scully is a strong female protagonist, independent, smart. And I believe one of the nicest things about Mulder, a thing that makes him a special character, is that he allows Scully that independence, and yet he is very protective of her at the same time, and respectful of her.

Is that why you were so keen to stick with Mulder and Scully for the revival series?

Yeah. You know, if David and Gillian had come back half-heartedly, it would have made everyone think twice about doing it. But they came back with the desire to do great work, and for me, that’s all I needed to hear to say yes.

The revival series also introduced two new characters who almost seemed to be younger versions of Mulder and Scully; will we be seeing more of them?

You know, Fox had come to me at one point and said would you be interested in doing this without Mulder and Scully, and I hadn’t ever thought about that, and actually I don’t know that I would do that. But it was an interesting question and so I thought, I’m going to play with that idea, and introduce younger mirror images of Mulder and Scully and see what that does to the story-telling, and I found an episode where I thought it suited that approach, and I found two terrific actors to play those parts, and so I think it was a gamble that paid off.

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So it was partly about mirroring Mulder and Scully back towards themselves, and developing their characters by introducing these new ones?

Yes, and while we don’t have any hold on those actors beyond our desire to see them again, I think that they’ve now entered the accepted X-Files fandom.

The revival series ended on quite a cliff-hanger, so can we expect to see more of Mulder and Scully any time soon?

Yes, I’ve already got the call from Fox saying they want more episodes. I think now it’s just a matter of figuring out when we can all co-ordinate our schedules to do it. So yes, I think absolutely you’re going to see more, and of course, that means you’re going to see how we get ourselves out of that very steep, sharp cliff!

We got to the end and thought, that can’t be the end of it! Presumably that’s how you wanted us to feel?

Yes, well it’s a tradition of The X-Files, ending on a cliff-hanger like that, and I have to say that as cliff-hangers go, this was a big one for us. People are asking me crazy questions about it, asking me who’s driving the spaceship, I thought that was one of the craziest questions I’ve ever heard.

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What’s been your favourite part of working on The X-Files, both through the 1990s and early noughties, and now?

I have to say, one of the most amazing things is [that] on The X-Files I got to write about what interests me, and what scares me, and what thrills me, and what moves me, and finding an audience for those things was kind of a dream come true. I dreamt it up, and it found an audience, and that’s a rare thing as a story-teller. Other times, you come up with something, and you tailor it to the audience, and you are finding your way to the show, but here, while there was a lot of discovery early on about what the show was, we all just wrote about the things that moved us and as a writer, that is something that comes along – well, hopefully not just once in a lifetime!

Do you have a favourite episode of The X-Files?

Oh, I’m always asked this question, I don’t have a favourite episode!

I always point to the black and white episode in season five, The Post-Modern Prometheus. It was an episode that we did when we were leaving Vancouver, which was a bittersweet time; it was an episode we did while we were making the first X-Files movie, which was a very stressful time. It was a change to do a black and white episode, to do one that was a tonal shift for the show. I wrote it for Cher and for Roseanne Barr, and neither of them ended up being able to do the show. It was one of these episodes that [the fact] that it came together so beautifully was a miracle, and that it would end on a kind of miraculous improvised note with Mulder and Scully dancing in each other’s arms was, for me, the icing on the cake of a moment in time I’ll forever cherish.

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It’s certainly a fan favourite, and that moment with Mulder and Scully dancing together is something that many people have loved over the years.

Yeah, it was better than a kiss, in many ways.

You may not want to answer this, but do you have a least favourite episode?

That’s a hard one to answer! It’s funny, Vince Gilligan came to me at one of the events surrounding Breaking Bad, and he said Chris, I honestly think that there isn’t a bad episode in the nine seasons [of the original run]. And I thought wow, you know, I take that to heart.

I felt that there were some episodes that were weaker, but even the weakest of our episodes had some kind of brilliance. I can tell you that there are episodes that didn’t quite measure up for me. I’m not going to point out what they are, I’ll just leave you with that Vince Gilligan comment. You know, we worked very hard to make the show great, and to point out your weaknesses, especially at this remove, is to take something away from the show, and I don’t want to do that.

That’s fair enough. Would you consider making another movie?

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Yes, I would consider making another movie, and now, having done two, I think I know what works in terms of the kind of stories that are big screen stories, so I would look forward to making another movie, whether or not that opportunity arises.

Would it be a conspiracy story, or a stand-alone story?

Whatever it would be, would be a big screen approach, meaning that it would be a big screen story, and I think we told a very big screen story in the first movie. And in the second movie we took a darker, more stand-alone approach, and I think an audience wants a big screen, more epic approach from a big screen X-Files story, so I think whatever it would be, I think it would now be built on the experiences of both of those movies.

Finally, what was your favourite thing about working on the revival series?

My favourite thing was getting to work with David and Gillian every day. Sometimes it wasn’t easy, and sometimes we had to hash out problems, but they always make the work better, so getting back together with people who I’ve known now for almost 25 years – there’s a sweetness to that, that most television producers will never have an opportunity to live out, and so that reunion was the sweetest part.

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Chris Carter, thank you very much.

The X-Files: Event Series will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday the 13th of June.