When the creators of Lost announced that their show had a definite end point and there was a finale towards which they were working, fandom breathed a sigh of relief. After all, everyone remembers watching the final seasons of The X-Files and seeing people making it up as they went along, seeing storylines contradict each other because it seemed like no one remembered what went before and realizing that things were just being stretched out forever. In fact, The X-Files has become the poster child for mythology/serial shows that go on too long and overstay their welcome.
This weekend I was at the press junket for the new X-Files movie, I Want to Believe, and had a chance to ask series creator Chris Carter (who brought his huge poodle Larry to the proceedings) and executive producer Frank Spotnitz about the perception that the show really lost it in the last few seasons. Predictably, they didn’t buy that point of view.
“I’ve come to see that over time there’s been a little bit of conventional wisdom about the last two years that don’t correspond with reality,” Spotnitz said. “The ratings actually grew when Robert Patrick came in.” He does admit to understanding where some of the complaints came from. “Obviously we couldn’t have anticipated, couldn’t have planned for the show going nine years, for David reducing his presence on the show. Obviously Doggett and Reyes were not part of the original design – that’s not even an attempt at a secret. It was fun and satisfying to write for those characters but I understand why a number of fans just couldn’t get emotionally invested without Mulder there – that makes sense, the show was built around Mulder.”
Chris Carter, though, is adamant that some of the best episodes of the series came in the final years. “Some of the best storytelling came in the last four years, I’d have to say, because we hit our stride. We had to deal with some changes – when David left the show we had to add some characters. We love those characters, and we’d like to bring those characters back. While you can say ‘We’ll stop now,’ I’m glad we went nine years.”
“One of my favorite writers is Robert Graves,” Carter said. “He talks about there’s this enegry when you create something, this lightning, this creative spark. Everyone loves that part of it, and they love the thing that results, which is more creativity. And there’s something he calls maintenance energy, which is when you have to take something and maintain it and feed it and care for it and nurture it, and freshen it. That energy is one of the toughest things to find. If you can find it and you can work through it, I think that’s where the real hidden treasures are found.”
If there were treasures in the final years of that show, they were well hidden. My interest in The X-Files waned when the true fate of Mulder’s sister was revealed, and by the final season I was watching one out of every three episodes. I wish I could tell you that the new movie rekindled my love for the characters and that it marked a new era for Mulder and Scully, but if I had to guess I’d say The X-Files: I Want to Believe is where it all comes to an end.