What’s Stopping The X-Files Season 12 From Happening?

Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, Chris Carter, and Dean Haglund all have different opinions about returning for The X-Files season 12...

X-Files Season 12
Photo: 20th Television

Is the truth still out there? Do we still want to believe in 2022? Yes, says one pop culture fandom in particular, who even after facing many disappointments with the recent revival series, continue to clamor for more seasons of The X-Files. Creator Chris Carter may have wrapped up the four-part “My Struggle” saga that bookended seasons 10 and 11 but many folks still want more Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

But despite the fact that the final episode of The X-Files (so far) ended on yet another frustrating cliffhanger, there has been virtually no movement on a season 12. Four years after Mulder and Scully said their goodbyes to television audiences (for the second time in this millennium), making another season of the hit paranormal drama seems easier said than done.

What will it take for The X-Files season 12 to get going and what’s stopped it from happening so far?

More X-Files Is in the Works, Just Not How You Think

For one thing, the intellectual property has changed owners since the series bowed in 2018. Once under the auspices of 20th Century Fox, The X-Files is now owned by The Walt Disney Company after the Mouse House acquired the former in 2019. That means that any negotiations for future seasons of the show would have to happen with Disney. But what appetite does Disney have for re-reviving an adult sci-fi drama with almost 30 years of baggage to its name?

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Interestingly enough, Disney has been working on re-opening the X-Files as far back as 2020…but as a spinoff animated series set in Albuquerque and starring “an office of misfit agents who investigate cases too wacky, ridiculous, or dopey for Scully and Mulder,” according to THR. Carter is even attached an executive producer.

Speaking to Danish X-Files podcast Sammensværgelsen (which translates in English to “The Conspiracy Podcast”) at the time, Carter said the animated series was “still in the development. I haven’t read a script. And so it’s really hard for me to say what my involvement will be, but I know this, it needs to be funny.”

We’ve heard very little about X-Files: Albuquerque since then, though, leaving us to wonder whether this spinoff will ever actually get off the ground. Yet, it’s still more likely we get an X-Files cartoon or spinoff before we ever see Mulder and Scully reunite in live action.

Gillian Anderson Wants “Better Writers” for X-Files Season 12

Even if The X-Files proper were to return in some shape or form, it likely would have to do so without one of its stars. Even before season 11 had wrapped what turned out to be a baffling and problematic arc for Dana Scully, Gillian Anderson revealed she was on her way out.

“It’s time for me to hang up Scully’s hat. It just is,” Anderson announced during a TCA press tour after season 11’s premiere in 2018. “I arrived at the decision before we did [season 10], but I was really curious. I felt that the previous six [episodes] was going to be it. It was dipping our toe back in again… and getting to play these wonderful characters again.”

The reason she gave at the time seemed clear cut enough. Anderson wanted to play other roles: “There’s lots of things that I want to do in my life and in my career and it’s been an extraordinary opportunity and extraordinary character and I am hugely grateful.”

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Of course, Anderson’s impending exit sent alarms blaring across the fandom, who wondered whether this news meant the end of The X-Files for good. At the time, Carter sounded hopeful…if non-committal about the future of the series.

“I think that certainly The X-Files has more life in it, there are more stories to tell, with Gillian or without,” Carter told Digital Spy after Anderson’s announcement. “I’m sorry to see her go, I’ve never actually considered doing this show without her, so is this the end? It’s the end of something, I don’t know if it’s the beginning of something new. But certainly we will have to all put our heads together and figure out where to go from here.”

Then Fox aired the controversial season 11 finale, which on top of being a clumsy and convoluted hour of television, felt like a betrayal of Anderson’s character as well as The X-Files giving into its worst habits. Not only does “My Struggle IV” confirm that the Cigarette Smoking Man was the true father of Scully’s son William (after medically impregnating her while she was drugged and unconscious in the season 7 episode “En Ami,” which itself is a problematic turn of events) but also ended with the reveal that she was once again pregnant, this time with Mulder’s baby. It was a “twist” that was almost universally criticized by fans and critics. After benching her for much of the finale, while Mulder, CSM, William, and Skinner featured prominently, The X-Files‘ writers had seemingly decided that Scully’s story should end with her becoming a “baby vessel again,” as io9 put it at the time.

The show had ended on an incredibly frustrating note, including for Anderson, who responded to the negative reaction to the finale on Twitter, simply writing, “Oh boy oh boy do I ever hear you.”

While it’s true that the structure and questionable storylines of the four “My Struggle” mytharc episodes were partly to blame for the direction of the revival seasons, Scully’s ultimate fate seemed to point to a more fundamental problem behind-the-scenes for the series: the serious lack of women in creative roles both in the X-Files writers room and behind the camera. In fact, Anderson had even commented on this ahead of the season 11 premiere, replying to a Washington Post article about the completely male writers room for the new season: “And 2 out of 207 episodes directed by women. I too look forward to the day when the numbers are different.”

Anderson echoed this sentiment when in April of this year she was asked by Variety what it would take for her to finally return for more X-Files. The actor suggested it was a long shot, but if it were to happen, it’d have to be with a new generation of writers at the helm.

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“It just feels like such an old idea. I’ve done it, I did it for so many years, and it also ended on such an unfortunate note,” Anderson told the outlet. “In order to even begin to have that conversation [about another season] there would need to be a whole new set of writers and the baton would need to be handed on for it to feel like it was new and progressive. So yeah, it’s very much in the past.”

For now, it sounds like Anderson is done with The X-Files, and who could blame her? Despite a sour ending for her most well-known character, Anderson’s put in critically-acclaimed, high-profile performances in shows like Sex Education and The Crown since handing in her FBI badge. Life after Scully has gone very well for Anderson, indeed.

But even if The X-Files were to get off the ground without Agent Scully, Carter and company would still do well to heed Anderson’s words. Seasons 10 and 11 may have shown that the love for this universe was still there, that these characters could still get us to tune in from week to week, but there’s no denying that other parts of it felt dated or re-hashed from the series’ better days.

Anderson is right: The X-Files season 12 deserves new voices.

Den of Geek’s Talking Strange paranormal podcast recently spoke to Dean Haglund, who played fan-favorite conspiracy theorist and computer wiz Richard Langly on The X-Files and the short-lived spinoff series The Lone Gunmen, and the actor shared his thoughts on what would be needed for a revamped X-Files writers room.

“I read the same interviews that everyone else gives,” said Haglund, clarifying that he had not heard anything about Carter getting the band back together for another season. “Gillian [Anderson] said, ‘I’m not going to do any more X-Files until there’s new writers.’ And I guess that makes sense.”

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Haglund suggested that for X-Files to continue, Carter would have the tough task of recruiting a creative team as good as the one responsible for the show’s original run, which included Vince Gilligan, Frank Spotnitz, Darin Morgan, James Wong, and Glen Morgan.

“Vince Gilligan has gone on to a huge career with Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Frank Spotnitz is over in Europe now working a lot, so yeah, you’d want a new team to come in,” Haglund said. “How do you build that and have that ethos and that same throughline in terms of writing quality start up again? It was like lightning in a bottle when they found those guys. That’s a huge stumbling block right there.”

Whatever happens with season 12, it’s clear that changes are necessary before the show can move forward. Fresh voices would definitely be a start.

Chris Carter’s Plans for X-Files Season 12

There’s still the matter of where Carter would want to go next with the show. Season 11 seemed to tie up many loose ends, bringing several character arcs to a close. Cigarette Smoking Man, Skinner, and Monica Reyes were allegedly killed off in the show’s final scenes; the alien virus outbreak that was foretold seemed to be prevented; Scully decided that William had never really been her son after all, and therefore no longer needed to search for him…

Not that The X-Files has ever shied away from backtracking from a major plot development, such as the alien virus outbreak that doomed the planet in the season 10 finale (all just a vision, apparently), but many long-running storylines seemed to finally reach their resolutions (even if they were massively disappointing ones). Besides Scully’s (sigh) pregnancy, what is there really left to cover beyond season 11?

When we spoke to Carter in 2018 about what could happen next, he confirmed to Den of Geek that season 12 would definitely address the new baby in the room — after a time jump.

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“We always have the show in real time, so I would imagine that if we come back, there would be a passage of time, and Scully would have had that baby – or not. We might find out things about that child that are unexpected as well, so there are lots of unanswered questions and interesting things there.”

Carter teased some of the “interesting things” concerning Mulder and Scully’s baby further in a post-mortem with THR after the season 11 finale: “I will confirm it is their child. But I will also confirm Scully has alien DNA.”

So, would X-Files season 12 be about our FBI agents raising a half-alien baby? It sounds like that was at least part of the plan back then.

“I always thought there would be even more X-Files,” Carter told Sammensværgelsen in 2020. “Gillian [Anderson] decided very late into the shooting of the season 11 finale, I didn’t realize there wouldn’t be more X-Files.” 

Of course, this contradicted what Carter said in the THR post-mortem about not giving Scully proper closure despite Anderson’s exit from the series: “My plan had always been to end it essentially in the way I ended it. It all adds up. There are four chapters to the ‘My Struggle’ series and they all add up to that finale. It was certainly on my mind, but it didn’t change much.”

But while talking to the Danish podcast in 2020, Carter expressed some regret for the way the season 11 finale left things for some of the characters, while suggesting he still hoped he’d one day get a shot at season 12.

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“Skinner, Mulder, Scully, and William’s stories are still unresolved. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to do that,” he said. “Being that Gillian has decided to move on with her career, we certainly couldn’t do Mulder and Scully again. But that’s not to say there isn’t another way to do The X-Files. And so right now I think the future is unwritten.”

As far as we know, Carter’s X-Files future lies in animation. And could there be yet other directions to explore beyond what we’ve already seen?

Chris Carter said as much to THR in 2018: “You look at any long-lived franchise, and there are endless possibilities. There are prequels, there are other ways to approach a series like The X-Files.”

David Duchovny Still Believes in The X-Files

Like Anderson, David Duchovny has also spent the last four years answering the same questions about The X-Files. Would he return for season 12 if Disney wanted to make it? In 2020, he had some doubts about being a part of the show’s potential future.

“I don’t really think about it anymore,” Duchovny told Danish film site kino.dk in 2020. “I’ve always thought it’s such a great idea that somebody is eventually going to pick it up again. I don’t know if I’ll be part of that.”

But what if Carter were to call him up to get the band back together?

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“Chris is a good friend and I’d be there for him for whatever he wanted,” Duchovny said.

More recently, Duchovny sounded much more excited about the possibility of a season 12 return when asked again in June of this year.

“I thought the first seven years were enough! But I’m always up for more, clearly,” Duchovny told Yahoo. “Someone sent me a clip of Joel McHale from the 2016 episodes we did, and it’s a spot-on description of where we’re at six years later. I don’t think [X-Files creator] Chris Carter gets enough credit for being [prescient].”

In the same interview, Duchovny addressed Anderson’s comments about the writers room, saying he had first heard her misgivings about the show from the Variety piece like everyone else, and that he “was surprised to see it actually” as “personally, I don’t like to air creative grievances like that in public.”

For now, Duchovny seems more willing than Anderson to give Carter the benefit of the doubt when it comes to new X-Files ideas.

“If he wanted to do more, I’d certainly listen to him. I’d say, ‘What have you got?'” Duchovny said. “Because I want to know the future, too, you know what I mean? And not denigrating Gillian’s feelings about Scully being pregnant or the character. I certainly had misgivings about my character throughout the run. It’s in the nature of a long-running thing. But to take the long view, what that show is able to embrace thematically is really the key to its longevity, and if we were to do it again, it’s just a question of: ‘What have we go to say?'”

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Almost three decades on, what does The X-Files have left to say? That’ll be up to Carter (and hopefully a few new voices) to answer.

For more deep dives into the supernatural, don’t miss Den of Geek‘s very own paranormal podcast, Talking Strange, which you can find on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and YouTube.