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‘X-Files’ Meets ‘Star Wars’: Is Chris Carter the George Lucas of TV?

'X-Files' Meets 'Star Wars': Is Chris Carter the George Lucas of TV?

After watching two of the six new "X-Files" episodes, one thing is inarguably clear: One of these is better than the other. Fans may like the premiere episode of Mulder and Scully’s long-awaited return to the small screen, but critics were divided (at best) regarding the overall quality of "My Struggle (Part I)." Indiewire’s TV team of Editor Liz Shannon Miller and Critic Ben Travers gave it the very same grade — a C+ — in their individual reviews of the episode, but some critics were even harsher in their analysis of the first episode back. 

LAST WEEK’S EPISODE: How to Keep Up With ‘Too Much TV’ in 2016

Yet most agree that Episode 2, "Founder’s Mutation," shows promise. Setting aside the eternal X-Phillies debate of conspiracy plots vs. case-of-the-week stories, one big difference can be seen between the two episodes: the person in charge. Creator Chris Carter wrote and directed Episode 1 while "X-Files" veteran James Wong handled the same responsibilities for Episode 2. Considering a) that Carter was also responsible for the abysmal second film in the "X-Files" franchise, "I Want To Believe," and b) that "Star Wars: Episode VII" is still raking in the dough at the worldwide box office, a simple comparison came to mind: Is Chris Carter the George Lucas of television? If so, should he do as Lucas did and step aside, allowing new voices to tell his story?

It’s not an easy question to sum up in a few words, so Indiewire’s Miller and Travers took to their podcastVery Good TV Podcast — to try to hash out an answer. On the one hand, Carter has been with the series since Day 1 and seems eager to keep writing and directing "X-Files" stories, unlike Lucas with "Star Wars." On the other hand, the example set thus far by the "Star Wars" franchise is undeniably a success story — especially when compared to the reception around the Lucas-helmed prequels. And who doesn’t want to see an "X-Files" episode written and directed by the likes of a Rian Johnson, Matthew Weiner or Beau Willimon? 

Don’t forget to subscribe to Very Good TV Podcast via Soundcloud or iTunes. Follow Indiewire on Twitter and Facebook for all your pertinent TV news — as well as the latest reviews and analysis on all the best television shows of 2016, not just "The X-Files" — plus check out Liz and Ben’s Twitter feeds for more, more, more. Plus, don’t forget to listen to Indiewire’s other podcastsScreen Talk with Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson, as well as Indiewire Influencers, hosted by Editor in Chief Dana Harris and featuring various guests relevant to anyone tracking independent film or entertainment in general.

Related News and Articles:
– Liz went deep into her own history with "The X-Files" for this lovely, moving essay on how a TV show can change your life

– In other TV news, "Baskets" is on the air, and it’s…different. Ben’s review.

– Remember Liz and Ben’s sandwich bet about whether or not the Woody Allen Amazon series would actually happen? Production starts in March and Miley Cyrus — yes, Miley Cyrus — is set to star. [Note: A lot can happen before March. Alot.]

– Keep up with the final season of "Downton Abbey" via Indiewire’s weekly episode reviews.

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Well ‘Founders Mutation’ was a convoluted mess, so bang goes that theory.


Parts of this article are undeniable and echo my own thoughts after watching "My Struggle," but then—like so many articles written about the new series—you had to go and knock the second movie, "I Want to Believe," citing it as further evidence that Carter has lost his way. But here’s the thing: the stuff everyone hates about the premiere are the very things IWTB so deftly avoided. “My Struggle” is a clunky, heavy-handed, cliché-ridden 45-minute YouTube conspiracy rant (half plastered over with stock footage and other stale visuals), suffocating under the density of its now-lifeless mythology (once so vibrant and gripping, in the first five years or so). The characters are empty husks of the Mulder & Scully people fell in love with, mindlessly reciting the show’s various catchphrases and quickly devolving into complete buffoons (well, Mulder, anyway) long before the opening credits roll (by which point they’ve also been inexplicably shoehorned back into the FBI, and… oh yeah, the once great antagonist of the show has apparently been resurrected… FOR THE THIRD TIME). The whole thing plays like some kind of bizarro caricature of what the X-Files once was (much like the season 9 finale before it!). “I Want to Believe,” on the other hand, was brilliantly understated, well paced, and masterfully written to condense 6 years worth of exposition into a few natural lines of dialogue and a loaded glance or two. It was stark and beautiful the way the X-Files was at its best (haunting in both the visuals and Mark Snow’s amazing score, which, for my money, was some of the very best music he has ever written for this or any other franchise), it did not beat us over the head with nostalgia, and perhaps most importantly, it breathed the life back into the Mulder & Scully that had been completely drained out in season 9. In a sense, it is one of those films that is far better and more purely focused on character and story than any film so far along in such a big franchise has any right to be (much like Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) — it’s the X-Files film we desperately needed, but apparently not the one we deserved (yes, I’m ripping off “The Dark Knight,” which premiered a week before and [rightly] stole what thunder the little-marketed X-Files film might have otherwise had). Roger Ebert defended it quite nicely in his review, calling it “a skillful thriller” that “works like thrillers used to work, before they were required to contain villains the size of buildings.” To me, it is a masterpiece, and, objectively speaking, it almost could not be more different than the new mini-series premiere. Buuuuut… Mulder & Scully weren’t back in the FBI. There were no aliens. There was no conspiracy. It didn’t fit the formula captured in the memory of the collective pop culture consciousness (instead dealing honestly with the characters where they had left off, miraculously managing to take those lemons and make lemonade), so people hated it. And Chris Carter, apparently, decided this time around to give the people what they thought they wanted. Yes, he did a terrible job both writing and directing “My Struggle,” I hate to say, but even more than him I think I might blame all the people who blasted “I Want to Believe.”

In any case, I’m just relieved that “Founder’s Mutation” was SO MUCH BETTER than the premiere (almost like two different shows), and apparently next week’s should be even better, and beyond that… yes, I’m nervous about the other upcoming Carter episodes (especially the finale), but I’m willing to give him at least one more shot considering all the brilliant episodes he has brought us in the past (let’s not forget Triangle, The Post-Modern Prometheus, Duane Barry, How the Ghosts Stole Christmas, and even Improbable—not to mention his work on the incomparably awesome Millennium series). The very fact that he brought Morgan and Wong (…and Morgan) back on the new mini-series (all of them strong personalities and creators in their own right who I don’t see just being “yes men” for Carter) tells me that there is hope that he has not entirely gone the way of George Lucas (who by the time of the prequels simply had no one around him who could or would tell him “no”).


You’re dead on on what you said. I know I shouldn’t have such a strong opinion until I finish watching all the episodes and not just two and I know its blasphemy to think that someone else other than Chris Carter be in charge of the x files but I cant help but think how incredible future episodes could be with Vince Gillgian in charge
With out rambling on and on the final 8 episodes of Breaking Bad where a masterpiece and Chris Carter couldn’t use the 6 episodes he was given to figure out the convoluted mythology he created.
The simple fact is Vince Gillgian is just a much better show runner. And the mere fact that Chris Carter had to switch episodes around now to make things more understandable when that is something that should have already been figured out in pre-production proves my point.


nonesense. both of the new episodes have been great. feels just like an x-files episodes without missing a beat. i was impressed.

if you didn’t like it, then you probably didn’t like the originals either….so who cares?


Morgan & Wong wrote plenty of awful episodes in their time — Shadows, Shapes, 3, The Field Where I Died. Their best work was always a rip-off of a classic horror movie (Ice = The Thing, Beyond the Sea = Silence of the Lambs, Home = The Hills Have Eyes). Chris Carter wrote all of the classics that Ryan mentioned above and more besides — The Host, Duane Barry, Irresistible, Syzygy, Requiem. He is the spinal column around which other writers are enabled to do their best work too. Without him it would all fall apart.


carter wrote some great stand alones – "Triangle", "Milagro", "Post-Modern Prometheus", "Darkness Falls", "Patience"… "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" is a yearly tradition for me. Not denying talent of other writers, I love their work, but don’t forget that even Vince Gilligan wrote "Sunshine Days".


Chris has never been the shows strongest writer. yes he wrote many good mythology eps but glen morgan and james wong wrote all the best eps. ice, home, squeeze, die hand die verletz, home, beyond the sea, never again. also when they took over carters millennium in season 2 theydid brilliant work there. its no accident that once again theyve upstaged him


It’s completely unfair to compare the event series premiere to a standalone. "My Struggle" was encumbered with the weight of having to be all things to all people. It had to introduce the show to a brand new audience, re-introduce the show to existing fans, establish a premise that would get Mulder and Scully back investigating new cases, AND tell its own new story – ALL in the space of just 42 minutes! An impossible task for whoever would be writing the script. In comparison, writing a standalone is easy. No heavy lifting required, no continuity to serve, just jump right into a fresh story with no hassle. Any half decent writer could make a respectable episode on such simple terms. But only Chris Carter could tackle the big issues and relaunch a conspiracy mythology in such challenging circumstances. Not to mention the fact the show has been a runaway success so far, pulling in massive ratings for FOX. And IWTB was a vastly underrated film. Without Chris Carter in charge, The X-Files would simply not be the cultural icon it is today.


Gtfo with this argument, Chris Carter IS the X-files. I love Darin Morgan as much as the next nerd, but he can only play in the sandbox because Cater built it. "My Struggle" was nowhere near the miss advanced reviews made it out to be. Haters gonna hate, but the truth IS out there.


No way, man! Either Chris Carter’s majorly involved or I don’t care. Chris was the show’s best writer. He had some misses, but that’s because he wrote so much; he wrote or rewrote 20 out of 24 episodes in "The X-Files"’ 3rd season — the show’s best. People can gush over a great writer like Vince Gilligan, but Chris was rewriting his stuff. After season 5, Gilligan, Shiban, and Spotnitz ran the show in a lot of ways and that’s also when it started to suffer. It makes me angry how fans attack Chris Carter; the guy’s quite brilliant, but he’s also tolerant and smart enough to let talented writers do their thing, too, and build upon it; that’s why he let Wong and the Morgans write and direct their own episodes. I really enjoy things about the premiere, especially the courageous political commentary; you don’t get that in a Wong or Moran script.

Sharon Harmon

Screw the critics! More X Files, more Mulder, more Scully, more Skinner, more more more!!!!! That means Dave Duchovney, Gillian Anderson, Chris Carter, and for gosh sakes somebody find Mark Snow!

Misconception upon misconception upon misconception. Slavishly devoted to misconception.



Here’s the dilemma: I think David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are so incredibly loyal to Chris Carter that they would never sign onto another miniseries if Fox fired him. Perhaps the two actors would be likely to sign on if Chris Carter voluntarily stepped down, but this seems unlikely because he enjoys writing for this show–this show is his baby.
I would not watch this show without David Duchovny AND Gillian Anderson, so I can only hope that Chris Carter comes to his senses and voluntarily steps down.

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