If you sit down with Chris Carter expecting straight answers and full truths, you’re a fool. Was Indiewire a fool, during the TCA Winter Press Tour, when a round-table opportunity to speak with the creator of “The X-Files” presented itself? Maybe.
But despite being denied some specifics about what we might expect from the show going forward, we still gleaned some intriguing details about not just the new season, but its relationship to what came before. Below is an edited compilation of our most important takeaways. (Only one of them has anything to do with whether or not Mulder and Scully have had sex.)
The first people Carter asked to join the new season were the very original writers.
When Carter got the greenlight to bring “The X-Files” back, not everyone was available because he only went out to writer/producers who had worked on the show during its original run, some of whom happened to be pretty busy right now. “Frank [Spotnitz] couldn’t do it because he was on ‘The Man on the High Castle’ and he’s actually got a European series, so he has two series on the air,” Carter said. “I actually had lunch with Vince [Gilligan] to try and convince him to do it, but he’s got his eye on ‘Better Call Saul.’ I saw him at the premiere the other night and he was very apologetic and sorry he couldn’t be a part of it, but I understood.” But Glen Morgan, James Wong and Darin Morgan were able to say yes.
And he never considered bringing on anyone new to the show.
“I think it would have been a mistake, because you want to make good on a promise,” Carter explained when asked about the idea of bringing new behind-the-scenes talent to the series. “You don’t want to take a chance. If it didn’t work you’d be sunk because there is no way to recover if someone wrote a script and it didn’t work. The clock is ticking. The clock is always ticking in series television. You don’t have a chance to make a mistake. You have to put it on the page first and you can’t fix it in post, no matter how much you rely on your post-production process. If it’s not there to begin with, it’s very hard to manufacture quality.”
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That said, if he COULD pick anyone…
“Charlie Kaufman and Aaron Sorkin,” Carter laughed when asked.
Of course, that would be a very different kind of “X-Files” episode, but as Carter said, “That would be amazing, to see other people’s take on it. Of course, those people would never come to the show. That’s a fantasy.”
The most expensive episode was “Founder’s Mutation.”
James Wong’s episode, which was originally planned as Episode 5 but aired as Episode 2 of the new season, cost more than the season premiere (which featured the crashing of a flying saucer). The reason? Many logistical issues. “It had the most locations. It used some of the most expensive equipment, and it had a large cast,” Carter said.
“The X-Files” belongs on network television.
Carter’s last project before returning to “The X-Files” was the Amazon Prime series “The After,” which reached the pilot stage. And he didn’t hate the experience: “On Amazon, I got to use foul language. It was completely permissive. It was nice and freeing, and it felt natural.”
However, don’t expect “The X-Files” to ever find its home on, say, FX. “But I always said that ‘X-Files’ worked best on broadcast network television because of the push-and-pull. Since there were rules and restrictions on broadcast television and on the show as well of what you could see, what you could hear and what you could say,” Carter said. “These restrictions help to make the show what it is. I think that’s home for it. David [Duchovny] once said to me, ‘How do you think we’ll do on cable?’ I don’t think this is a cable show. I think that it is a network show.”
If Mulder cursing in “Fight the Future” was strange to you, don’t worry. Carter felt the same way.
“It was weird to write, and then to have them say it!” he said. “I actually imagined with the second film that we could make an R-rated version and release it along with a DVD package that would be just a different take on Mulder and Scully. It never happened… having done both a series on network, and then to make the first and second movies PG-13 — the PG-13 rating is actually less permissive than broadcast television. That was really weird.”
He laughed when he said that, for the record.
He won’t tell us exactly how William was conceived.
In two of the first three episodes this season, Mulder and Scully’s son William, given up for adoption years and years ago, is not physically present but very much on their minds. And while at least a few of this season’s mysteries seem to be connected to William’s unexpected conception (given Scully’s previously believed infertility), during the roundtable Carter would not confirm any specifics about how William came to be. Here is our exchange below on the matter:
INDIEWIRE: For example, you’re reintroducing a child the characters had, but it’s never been officially clear how that child was conceived.
CARTER: Yes, network television. [laughs]
INDIEWIRE: [laughs] So you’re saying that we just didn’t see them have sex?
CARTER: No, I’m not saying that. [laughs]
And nothing more. Maybe there will be more answers on the matter, by the end of the season. At the time of this interview, though, Carter was playing coy.
This new season had a “luxury of time.”
Production on the new season began in June 2015, but here’s the important thing: They only made six episodes. “Just imagine when we were doing 22 to 24 episodes per season, and it took us 11 months a year. When we were Friday nights originally, we were delivering the shows at like 2:00 in the afternoon on Friday to air at 9:00. We were running with it to the place where the satellite was, and we were always pressed for time,” Carter said.
So there’s a reason why the production quality in 2016 has increased dramatically: “You can only do effects as well as the time and the money allow… In this series, we wrapped around September 1, and we finished the six episodes around Christmas. That was such a luxury of time, and we got to work on those effects and perfect them because I have smart people working for me. They were able to budget our time in such a way as to allow us to keep perfecting and bring us back to the drawing board about what could be better. I think that the effects on the show are as good as they’ve ever been because of that.”
Carter thinks of the show as a science show, not science fiction.
While Mulder might usually be right, that’s not the point of view that Carter leans towards. “It’s Scully’s show. It all starts with science, and the science fiction is built on that. Every time I open the paper, there’s some technological invention or some new scientific convention turned on its head,” he said. “There’s all kinds of stories to tell because the world is everchanging. So, you can tell them as episodic television stories, which I love, or you can tell them as big, tent-pole movie ideas — which I also love because of my admiration for the big screen.”
Carter watches everything, but he’s only binge-watched “House of Cards.”
When asked what he’s watching beyond “The X-Files,” Carter had plenty of answers because, in his words, “I watch a little bit of everything.”
Favorites include “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” (“of course,” he added). But when it comes to bingeing: “I binge-watched ‘House of Cards,’ and that’s the only thing I’ve binge-watched.”
He doesn’t seem to hate the idea that his own show might be experienced the same way. “I could imagine binge-watching a season of ‘The X-Files.’ You make them with the idea that people are going to binge-watch them.”
It’s never going to be a post-apocalyptic show.
Carter spoke about how much he loved bringing in scientific ideas, but while “The X-Files” has always toyed with apocalyptic concepts (especially when it comes to a potential alien invasion), he didn’t think it’d ever actually descend into a truly “Walking Dead”-esque scenario. Asked directly about it: “No, because that’s futuristic science-fiction, and I don’t see that being done unless it’s in a dream or a fantasy.”
This is why we love “The X-Files,” as frustrating as it might be.
When asked directly about whether the show would ever explore some of the more apocalyptic scenarios that have been threatened, Carter declined to answer. “That’s what ‘The X-Files’ does. We rarely ever answer questions. We always pose them, and Mulder’s always right and Scully’s seemingly always wrong, but he’s only right to the extent that she’s wrong. Rarely does he end up with cuffs on the bad, evil, supernatural creature.”
“The X-Files” Season 10 aires Mondays at 8pm on Fox.