When Chris Carter launched “The X-Files” in 1993, the Internet was just in its infancy, the broadcast networks were the channels that had the best shows and Mulder and Scully’s most high-tech gadget was a flip cellphone, complete with retractable antenna!
So, when Fox rang up the 58-year-old writer and director in October 2014 and said it was going to bring his most popular show back for a six-episode miniseries, Carter said he wasn’t worried if his characters and universe were too dated.
On the contrary, the increased public distrust in the government and media and the appetite for edgy, dark TV created an opportune moment for Carter.
“Today is the perfect day to be doing ‘X-Files’ stories,” he said.
The greatest challenge for the miniseries, which premieres Jan. 24, was figuring out how Mulder and Scully had changed since audiences last saw them in the 2008 movie “The X-Files: I Want to Believe,” how to move them forward. Carter and his writing staff decided to hit the ground running and placed the two iconic FBI agents back in their old beats, solving the most bizarre cases while also tackling the still unresolved government conspiracy.
“It would have been very easy to come back and do sequels and an exercise in nostalgia instead of something original,” he said.
Although the show still has to stay within the limits of a 40-minute broadcast with commercials, Carter said the staff stuck to their original mantra of delivering the best stories that would push the limits of network TV, and the writers had a friendly competition among themselves to see who could come up with great dialogue, story beats and other plot points.
“Coming back, that same spirit was alive. Everyone wanted to do the best episodes,” he said.
Carter acknowledged the stronger competition from shows on cable, Netflix and other new platforms that have popped up in the past 14 years since his show went off the air, but at the same time credited them for introducing “The X-Files” to younger fans. He said he was humbled by the new batch of writers who have cited the series as inspiration for their projects — such as “Breaking Bad,” which was created by “X-Files” writer Vince Gilligan — since he “built off the great good drama of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s” for the show.
His advice for up-and-coming writers is to give their stories heart, soul and depth.
“You have to make sure that your ideas have not just one year of stories, not just two years of stories but have a concept and characters that have lives and millions of people live with them for a long time,” Carter said.
That philosophy applies to Mulder and Scully, who could have more adventures after the miniseries, if the fans want it, according to Carter.
“I do think it has more life,” he said. “I’ve got a lot more stories to tell.”