The X-Files are back in a big way. The first episode of the forthcoming six-episode reboot aired Saturday at New York Comic Con, and judging by the sold-out crowd, X-Philes are back in full force as well. The premiere, which airs on January 24 after the NFL championship game on Fox, doubled-down on the mythology — and reunited Agents Mulder and Scully, who are no longer living together, but still cordial. In one of many loaded moments the duo shares, Scully tells Mulder that she's “always happy to see [him].” So despite creator Chris Carter keeping them apart, rest assured, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson do share plenty of screen time.
Carter seemed particularly anxious for the screening, “It makes me very nervous,” he said during the post-episode panel. “I was wondering how everyone was reacting to it, how they’re enjoying it.” Fans hooted their praise in response, as they also did through the show’s original credits (which now seem vintage), and when Mulder and Scully first came on screen. The premiere episode, titled “My Struggle” and written and directed by Chris Carter, lightly skims the agents’ decades-long relationship while digging deep on the alien abduction and government conspiracy that made the show so irresistible.
Here’s what we learned during the post-show Q&A moderated by Kumail Nanjiani, the Silicon Valley actor, diehard X-Files fan, and host of the podcast The X-Files Files, who threatened to cry while talking to Carter, Duchovny, and Mitch Pileggi (who plays Skinner) during the 20-minute chat. (Spoiler alert: While there were no Nanjiani tears, some mild spoilers for the upcoming season of X-Files are revealed below.)
Duchovny set the reboot wheels in motion.
When asked about the timing for the miniseries event, Carter said, “20th Century Fox called and said David was interested in doing the show, and I said if David is interested, then I am, too.” The new climate we live in, when Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are household names, doesn’t hurt either. Says Carter: “It’s a perfect time to be telling X-Files stories and that’s one of the reasons why I was excited to do the show, and it gave a lot for us to write about.”
They know all about your Mulder-Skinner fanfic.
The Q&A laid bare the sci-fi’s show’s other infamous relationship, namely, the one between Skinner and Mulder. While they watched the episode for the first time with the crowd, Duchovny said Pileggi kept asking, “What’s happening?” Nanjiani quipped: “I think [Skinner and Mulder] are the great unrequited romance of the show.” Or maybe it’s more familial? Nanjiani described the relationship as if Skinner is Mulder’s strict father: “He’s not going to hug you or kiss you,” he said. To which Duchovny quipped, “He never once told me he loved me.”
Mulder and Scully aren’t together — but don’t say it’s because Mulder is hard to live with.
When asked why the agents are no longer romantically involved, Carter quipped, “This is where the sniper gets me. I mean, they’re not living under the same roof and that was a conscious thing and we wanted to play to the passage of time, and Mulder and Scully had their difficulties, and that’s where we are.” He offered no further explanation, but when Nanjiani said “Mulder is probably a chore to live with,” Duchovny offered up a little side-eye (jokingly, we assume) in response.
But really, they’re just in the middle of a “bump.”
When an audience member named Laura, who grew up watching The X-Files in the Philippines, pressed Carter further, “Why are Scully and Mulder not together? Don’t you think they’ve earned it after 20 years?” Carter offered this metaphorical image in return: “We were doing some sound on the show and I was going under a bridge, and above us it said, ‘Life has many bumps in the road.’ And I think Mulder and Scully hit one of those.” Laura in the audience persisted: “Don’t you think they’re stronger than that?” To which the panel laughed and Carter responded: “That’s like a network note.”
The Lone Gunmen are back.
But not in the first episode. After being asked if the fan-favorite trio was returning, Carter himself confirmed, “The Lone Gunmen are back!” — a statement that received the loudest applause during the panel.
The reboot is much more cinematic.
Maybe it’s just because TV taste has changed and evolved so much since the show’s ending, but the premiere feels far more grand and epic — more reminiscent on a grand scale of the 1998 film Fight the Future — than any of the network episodes. And there’s a good reason. Carter recalled that before shooting, “David said, ‘We gotta come out and punch them in the mouth.’ We know we needed to make a statement and be bold.’” And it seems Fox allowed them the freedom — and the budget — to do so.
The opening sequence distills nine years into a few minutes.
Longtime fans and newbies alike will find the very opening of the premiere supremely helpful: A voiceover monologue by Mulder runs down most of the mythology and the main characters’ backgrounds in mere minutes (so anyone who hasn’t started binge-watching all nine seasons can probably skip it). Says Carter: “That opening sequence, I didn’t know if it was going to work or not, because there’s a lot of ground to cover in very little time.” Duchovny said, “I remember reading that and loving it and saying to Chris, “I don’t have to memorize it, right?” He added, “I love the word V.O. [voice-over].”
Mitch Pileggi believes in aliens; Duchovny’s not so sure.
When an audience member asked the panel if they are believers or skeptics, Pileggi offered the unequivocal response, “I’m a believer. I absolutely believe there’s extraterrestrial life.” The typically wry Duchovny responded, “I’m a belieber.” And of course Carter replied, “I want to believe.”
Skinner’s character was based off Pileggi’s father.
After Nanjiani noted that Skinner is very intimidating, Pileggi gave a little insight into his 20-year-old portrayal of the tense assistant director. “This character is very similar to my father. I’ve watched my father work in the Middle East in the Department of Defense and his bearing and demeanor seeped into what I was doing with Skinner. I didn’t realized what I was doing until I watched the episodes with my mother and sister and they said, ‘That’s Dad.’” Pileggi seemed to get emotional for a second, then said, “[Chris Carter] gave me a wonderful character that I could do that with.”
Duchovny works hard for that “Mulder Flow.”
Apparently it doesn’t take the Californication star long to get back into the groove and feel some nostalgia. “It was funny to watch the episode because the first day for me was filming the huge long speech with Tad [O’Malley, played by Joel McHale], and Gillian and Svetta [a new character who believes she was abducted and has alien DNA]. [The speech] was chunky. Chunky-style. And I hadn’t been Mulder in years and we used to have this first A.D. named Barry Thomas, and he would always talk about “Mulder flow” [during speeches]. And I was searching for that Mulder flow. I didn’t feel it and then I worked on it and then it was flowing again.”
Don’t worry, the MoTW are back.
As Carter explained, the reboot is a mix of mythology and the monsters-of-the-week episodes: “We start with a mythology episode, and then do standalone for the next four. One and six are mythology and the ones in the middle are written by Glen Morgan, Darin Morgan, and James Wong.”
There could be more episodes on the horizon.
And Duchovny and Anderson wouldn’t be the holdouts. As Duchovny said, “Chris has the lion’s share of the workload. Gillian and I and Mitch work hard, but Chris has to work really hard. It’s a bigger commitment and bigger time commitment, and I’m really kinda putting you on the spot, aren’t I?” He went on to say, “I’m grateful to all you guys and to Chris for making it possible to come back and play these characters again. If it so happens that there’s an appetite for more, then Chris, as he has me say it in the show, ‘You have my number.’”