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Left to right: “X-Files” actors Mitch Pileggi and David Duchovny, and show creator Chris Carter at Comic-Con in New York, Oct. 10
Left to right: “X-Files” actors Mitch Pileggi and David Duchovny, and show creator Chris Carter at Comic-Con in New York, Oct. 10 Photograph by Taylor Hill — Getty Images

‘X-Files’ creator: Here’s why there are fewer alien believers today

Oct 25, 2015

Fox is bringing The X-Files back to television for the first time since 2002 with a six-episode run that debuts Jan. 24. The show's creator, Chris Carter, made the trek to New York Comic Con to premiere the first episode, "My Struggle," for approximately 800 fans on Oct. 10.

Given the fan reaction, as well as the critical acclaim that followed the show's world premiere at MIPCOM in Cannes, France on Oct. 6, this likely won't be the last we see of agents Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). After nine seasons on Fox (fox), two feature films, and one miniseries, Carter feels there's more to explore, and in the following exclusive interview, he explains why he never really left The X-Files universe. Answers have been edited for clarity.

What was it like for you to revisit these characters after such a long period of time?

It was wonderful. But to be honest I pick up the newspaper every day, and I see an X-Files story, so they’re in my blood. I’ve written so much for them, and they’ve occupied about a third of my life, so just telling you that it’s coming back is kind of a misconception. I really never left.

How has this post-Edward Snowden and Julian Assange era, in which we now believe that the government is snooping on us, influenced The X-Files?

Completely. In the first episode, there’s plenty of reference to the government snooping on us and actually the shamelessness of it, and how it fits into possibly a larger conspiracy.

What did that open up for you guys creatively when coming back to this show?

I’ve been writing about this privately for some time. I wrote something about five years ago that was relevant to this, and so coming back I had a chance to take that material and incorporate it.

What has the evolution of new technology from smartphones to tablets to drones opened up to this universe that wasn’t there before?

You know it wasn’t there in 2002, when we went off the air. Of course the Internet was there, but smartphones and mobility weren’t. As you’ll see when you watch the series, we incorporate texts, we incorporate streaming video and technology in general.

How does the ability to instantly access information today impact developing the show?

I used to employ researchers, and we would ask them a question, and they would ask five scientists, and those five scientists would give us five different answers strangely enough. Now you can sit at your computer, ask yourself a question, and with the push of a button you can get all those answers. It’s revolutionized what we do in terms of the information at our fingertips.

Do you feel technology has changed people's belief in aliens vs. during the show’s heyday?

They say that it actually has had the opposite effect, because belief in UFOs has gone down because UFO accounts, photos, and videos now can be much more scrutinized on the Internet.

Does that play into what you’re doing when it comes to the show?

Tangentially.

Is there technology today that you’re specifically tapping into with this new series?

I refer to something in the pilot called “dirt boxes,” which are technology that people use on airplanes to snoop on other people. I’ll just say that.

What has the decade-plus of time that’s elapsed since the episodic TV show last aired opened up for you creatively in terms of thinking about new monsters for the series?

The genre allows for the same way to scare people in terms of using horror and suspense, but I would say that the decade since has produced new paranoia about real things as opposed to things that go bump in the night.

How has the dynamic between Mulder and Scully evolved over time?

Their relationship has been tested, and while they found themselves together in the last movie, we’ve now seen that that relationship is rocky—for reasons that we spell out in the first episode.

We've seen The X-Files video games in the past—what role could new technology play with this franchise?

We pushed the limits on The X-Files over the years, so thinking forward we’d love to see a virtual reality experience.

What are your thoughts about virtual reality?

I was just given a demonstration that blew my mind, so I’m thinking about it as we speak. I only saw this one example, and it was simply where you take virtual reality goggles and they snapped an iPhone onto it, but it was amazing. I had to hold on to the furniture.

What do you see VR or 360-degree video opening up to storytellers?

You have all the same problems in VR, which is time, money, budget, and what I would call “certain creative constraints put on you.”

How big into technology are you personally?

I would say I’m a reader. I’m not on anyone’s cutting edge. I’ve got an Apple Watch, and I am still confounded by it. My interest in technology is really as it relates to what I can do with it right now.

What do you feel separates The X-Files from anything else that we’ve seen in television over the years?

I’d like to think it’s a smart take on the genre, that it explores interesting things to do with science and faith in ways that some people don’t do. We are very rigorous in our science, and that’s the anchor of the show.

What are your thoughts on the role science plays today in science fiction?

It’s everything. Science fiction is predictive of science fact, and I’ve watched time and again on The X-Files when we were writing about clones 23 years ago, clones didn’t exist. Now people are cloning their dogs. The best science fiction for me is the science fiction that could be called “speculative science.”

With the critical buzz coming out of the first two screenings, where would you like to see The X-Files go next?

You’ll see, when you see the six episodes that we set up, the possibility to come back in an interesting way, so it would be the continuation of the mythology and more chills and thrills.

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