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'X-Files' Season 8: Mulder Is Out There
Affixing blame, or giving credit, for things that happen on TV shows is a tricky business. Only some of the decisions spring from anything creative, the rest are driven by personality conflicts, budget issues, lawsuits, life changes, political shifts, you name it. The search for the truth behind television is as elusive as the search for any truth.

So when it comes down to the season premiere of "The X-Files," airing Nov. 5 at 9 p.m. ET on FOX, questions like "Why is David Duchovny only in half the season or less?," "Why add a new character?" and "Why have a season eight at all if not with Mulder and Scully throughout?" have answers that are neither neat nor simple.

It's part greed (the show is a solid performer for FOX), part fear (FOX's schedule is not exactly awash in big hits), part love (creator Chris Carter didn't want to end his saga unfulfilled) and part launching-pad for a spin-off ("The Lone Gunmen," currently in production, makes its debut in the new year).

Production on the last episode of last season completed before Carter and his fellow producers Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban even knew whether or not the show had been renewed. Also, while Gillian Anderson, who plays FBI Agent Dana Scully, had another year on her contract, the contract had expired on co-star David Duchovny, who plays FBI Agent Fox Mulder.

In addition, Duchovny had sued producing studio 20th Century Fox, claiming that its sister company, cablenet FX, had gotten a sweetheart deal in purchasing "X" reruns, thereby reducing Duchovny's share of the profits. Although the suit was settled, Duchovny's assertion that Carter knew of the monetary deal put pressure on the friendship between star and producer.

In the end, the show was renewed, Anderson added another year on her contract, and Duchovny agreed to appear in as many as 11 episodes, although Spotnitz says it will more likely be nine or ten.

"This is a very funny season," says Spotnitz, "with Mulder in this odd configuration of episodes. This was really very much the studio and the network urging Chris Carter to go forward this year. They needed this show. It was Chris that said, 'If I go forward, you have to make a deal with David Duchovny in some way, shape or form.' I think they would have been prepared to have the last episode of last season be David Duchovny's final appearance and just start clean this year."

"But Chris didn't want to end seven years of 'The X-Files' with that kind of relationship, despite the fact that David and Chris' relationship had some pretty well-publicized strains in the last year. They still speak, though. This restored some kind of equilibrium in their relationship. That's what's really hard about this business. It's creative and personal and business all mixed together."

So, in the season finale, "Requiem," Mulder was apparently abducted by aliens, and Scully admitted to her boss, Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), that she was pregnant, despite having lost the ability to have children as the result of experiments done on her during her own abduction. Who's the father? That question remains unaddressed.

"There's a pretty clear objective for the season," says Spotnitz, "and there are some pretty clear things to head toward. Mulder returning and Scully's pregnancy are really very definite features on the landscape there. But how you get to them ... you feel your way each week."

So the decision was made to add a new character into the mix, FBI Agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," "The Sopranos"), an ex-Marine and ex-NYPD detective assigned by Deputy Director Kersh (James Pickens Jr.) to find the missing Mulder. Knowing that extraterrestrial forces are at work, Scully and Skinner doubt Doggett's motives and his ability to find Mulder.

Over the course of the two-part opener, Doggett finds himself drawn into Mulder and Scully's reality, which is far removed from his own - forcing Scully to now be more believer than skeptic - and winds up assigned to "The X-Files." Mulder appears in the opener and will be seen again later in the season, most prominently in the last five or six episodes.

"I've got to say," admits Spotnitz, "when the idea first came up of doing even part of the season without Mulder, it seemed unimaginable, not just because of the Scully-Mulder chemistry and the relationship, which has been so important to the show, but because Mulder is the character that drives the stories. He is the engine. So it's been very interesting figuring out how this works without him. It's been a challenge, and every episode is different from the one that precedes it, because there's no clear-cut way how to do this."

"Doggett doesn't buy a lot of the stuff," says Patrick. "I basically throw it up to Skinner's face a lot, 'If you want me to think like Mulder and Scully, you've got the wrong guy.' He approaches everything the way he did prior to that, which is `Give me the facts.'"

"He's a blue-collar guy. That's the thing that really sets Doggett apart. He's a blue-collar guy with a real strong work ethic. He will exhaust a case. He will work himself until he's exhausted, trying to figure these things out. He will not accept anything for what it is. He's got to deal with these really extreme cases, and he has to rely on Scully, and Scully has to rely on him."

"It's interesting for Gillian with Scully now, because she's half in and half out of both points of view."

In the show's first season, Anderson wed and became pregnant, forcing the producers to write in her alien abduction as a way of dealing with her absence after the birth. Now it's Scully's turn."

" The irony of it," says Spotnitz, " and the circularity of it is so beautiful, when you think about it. That's really what started the whole mythology proper of the series, now it all comes around seven years later."

And by the way, while Patrick says that Doggett " admires Scully's craft" and " his respect for her is genuine," he also admits that " he admires a lot of other things too. Doggett's a red-blooded American male, and he certainly is aware of all her feminine charms."

Written by Kate O'Hare

The X-Files is © 20th Century Fox
This story is © Thursday, November 2, 2000

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