"It really comes down to how long it's good, and if it ever feels like it's running out of steam or people don't want to see it or no one wants to do it, that's the time to pack it in," Chris Carter concludes.By Ian Spelling
Adding a new Agent, Chris Carter continues exploring The X-Files.
Even as Chris Carter chatted last issue about future possibilities, everything was X-changing. And now it's a whole new ballgame for Carter and company as The X-Files enters its eighth season. Gillian Anderson is back full-time as Scully, but David Duchovny will only appear in 11 of the 22 episodes scheduled to be filmed. Faces as familiar as William B. Davis might be gone for good, while the mugs of Mitch Pileggi, Nicholas Lea and Laurie Holden may show up more often. And then there's the wild card, namely Robert Patrick---he of Terminator II fame, whose other credits include Fire in the Sky, The Faculty and Copland---who joins the cast as a series regular starting in the as-yet untitled eighth season opener.
"It's interesting," Carter says. "Everything is kind of changing. Agent Scully, who has always been the sceptic over seven years, has seen enough that it has eroded her skepticism. And now that Agent Mulder has been abducted, as reported by Skinner, the only way to find him is to accept what Skinner is saying. So the two of them become believers, although reluctant believers. And that's really the way we make room for this new character. His name is Special Agent John Doggett and he comes in on the manhunt, the search for Agent Mulder."
Though no one ever officially confirmed the names of the actors who were up for the Doggett role, the short list supposedly included Bruce Campbell, Chris Noth, Lou Diamond Phillips, Hart Bochner and Patrick. Patrick has been enjoying a career renaissance of late, `having completed a much-praised dramatic stint on The Sopranos, as well as roles in the upcoming features Texa s Rangers, D-Tox with Sylvester Stallone, All the Pretty Horses with Matt Damon, Backflash Blues and Spy Kids with Antonio Banderas and Teri Hatcher. "We saw terrific actors for the part," Carter notes. "We have written and conceived of a role that was very much an insider at the FBI. He's part of the fraternity. Mulder has always been an outsider--the consummate outsider. We wanted somebody who was blue-collar, a former cop, a man's man. Robert Patrick came in and blew us away.
"I had known him. He had done so much good work, and then he had actually come in a few years ago to read for something else [Harsh Realm]. He wasn't quite right for that part, but I knew I wanted to work with him. So when I called him [to inform him that he had won the role], I said, 'This is fate, because what I wanted to do then I'm getting to do now.' He has a great---everything---from the timbre of his voice to his presence to his intensity. He's going to be on screen a lot with Scully, and I saw them as worthy adversaries and partners. Robert is not going to be a person who would, because Gillian is a very powerful person and actor, shrink from her. He will be able to stand up to her both as an actor and a character. I just thought he really filled the bill for me in that way. [Patrick did not read opposite Anderson], but I kept her in the loop every step of the way. We talked a number of times about people who she wanted to work with, people that she would work with, the character and how it was going to work. I was very considerate, I think, of giving her the best possible co-player."
"There's a coincidence here, too. Robert's brother [Richard Patrick], the lead singer of the band Filter, has done two songs for The X-Files for two different soundtracks. So there's a familial connection as well."
Offering some more detail on the new character, Carter describes Doggett as a former New York City police detective who served in the Marine Corps. He will be a skeptic, but a different kind of skeptic than Scully. While she believes there's a scientific explanation for just about everything, he thinks that simply employing solid police techniques can solve any case, of an y nature. Doggett will not be assigned to the X-Files immediately. He will n ot immediately partner with Scully. He may or may not get along with Mulder, who--by the way--may or may not be the father of Scully's baby. The plan, Carter says, is to integrate him slowly into the proceedings.
As for the name Doggett, that's a story unto itself. Carter is notorious for dipping into his past for character names. Scully is a tribute to sports announcer Vin Scully, for example. "I've had a lot of high school friends call me and thank me for making them dead people on The X-Files," Carter says, laughing. "I thought long and hard about what I wanted to name this new character, and I had lots of interesting names. I went back and thought about people I had grown up with, names I had liked and people I had admired and people [whose present circumstances] I wondered about. And then suddenly it dawned on me that I was looking for a good, solid orking-class name, and one that fit. The name Doggett came to me because every evening, for a great part of the year, I would listen to the Dodgers with my Mom, and Jerry the Dodgers [game telecasts]. At first I thought it might be too cute and clever, but I liked the name. It fits, and now we have it."
In November, when the new season premieres, audiences will be able to determine for themselves not only if the name fits the character, but also if the character fits the show. After all, it was the relationship between Mulder and Scully, the chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson, that won fans over and eventually transformed the show into a phenomenon. Terrific as Patrick may be, and as terrific an opportunity it may be to reinvent The X-Files with Doggett's introduction, there's also the real danger that messing with the heart of the show will kill it deader than Cigarette Smoking Man.
"You're going to have to see what we do, but I think we've come up with a very good solution to that," Carter notes. "You know, everyone's afraid of change. Everyone says 'That's what made the show work. That's what's great about the show.' That's true. Mulder and Scully---David and Gillian---are [a major] reason for the show's great success. But that doesn't mean that you can't threaten the paradigm, can't threaten the model and can't threaten the relationship. In fact, dramatically speaking, you had better do that every once in a while, or else you're going to have a very stale show. That's particularly [the case] when you have two characters who, after seven years, finally kissed last New Year's Eve---a smooch at the strike of midnight. That's pretty good for two characters who have had tremendous sexual chemistry and tension."
Future movies aside (a second one is a sure thing), a possible ninth season aside (Anderson just agreed to another year's contract; Patrick is under option for another season), The X-Files will cease to exist at some point. Carter and company have provided bits of closure here and there, most recently wrapping up the convoluted storyline involving Mulder's sister, whose disappearance was the impetus for the character's obsession with aliens and conspiracies. But he doesn't want to drag it all out forever and doesn't want to kill the show, so the man who created The X-Files promises, the plug will be yanked before it ever comes to that.
"It really comes down to how long it's good, and if it ever feels like it's running out of steam or people don't want to see it or no one wants to do it, that's the time to pack it in," Chris Carter concludes. "It would be nice to come to some sort of conclusion, but my fear is that when you have a show about the unexplained--the unexplainable and the unknowable---to actually try to explain any of that is kind of ridiculous. You need to reward audience expectation, however. You can't leave people hanging. I would never want to leave people irritated like that, if they've taken the journey, there wasn't some satisfaction at the end. But The X-Files always leaves as many questions as it answers, so that's probably what I would say we would end up with: More questions."