Scully, Mulder, and the Other Great Love of The X-Files

The following is a guest post from Thomas Fahy, author of The Writing Dead: Talking Terror with TV’s Top Horror Writers. His book contains thirteen thought-provoking, original interviews with these top writers and gives readers the opportunity to delve deeper into horror TV than anything found online. Fahy takes readers into the writing room, onto the set, and behind the scenes, as the writers of today’s top horror shows reveal private conversations with actors, discuss filming and directorial decisions, and talk about the challenges of writing these shows.

Below he shares his initial thoughts and some questions on the announced return of the X-Files.

When FOX announced that The X-Files would return for a six-episode miniseries, one question popped to mind: where? Where would they film it?

This might seem like an odd question. Sure, it will be great seeing Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny reprise their roles as Scully and Mulder. There is no show without them, but let’s not forget the other star of the show—Vancouver.

In my recent interview with X-Files writer and producer Frank Spotnitz, I asked him about the inspiration behind some of his writing for the show. He certainly saw his fair share of scary movies and horror television as a kid. When faced with writing a new episode, though, he often started with a simple question: “What is the scariest thing to me?” The idea for “Detour”—one of the great “monster-of-the-week” episodes about a pair of Mothman-like creatures that have learned to camouflage themselves almost perfectly after hundreds of years of surviving in the woods—was twofold. As he explained, “the show was hugely expensive, and I was trying to think of an episode we could do where there would be no sets. And one of the questions that always occurred to me when I was in the woods was: ‘What are all those sounds?’”

There are plenty of scary sounds in the woods, and Spotnitz makes expert use of them in the episode. But the budgetary consideration about filming outdoors reminded me of the other great love of The X-Files—the place it was originally filmed.

Next to Scully and Mulder, I think the most important character in the show was Vancouver. No offense to Skinner, Cancer Man, and those inbred brothers, but its gray skies, rainy forests, knotted trees, misty hillsides, muddy fields, gusty winds, damp streets, and cold air were integral to what made The X-Files so captivating and downright scary.  At the time, very few shows on television made the landscape as central to its cinematic vision and atmosphere. But The X-Files transported us to creepy towns, vile sewers, lakeside cabins, remote outposts, and an array of places where the setting announced imminent danger. And when those dark skies lingered at the end of the episode, you were reminded that evil isn’t so easy to vanquish.

Sure, there are plenty of scary things about Los Angeles—like the traffic, the earthquakes, and the fact that everyone talks as if they’re on a first-name basis with movie stars—but The X-Files lost something vital after moving to L.A. Despite the momentum generated by the first film (which was released the summer after Season Five) and the exceptional writing of Season Six, the sunshine and blue skies of Southern California felt like an uninvited guest, like someone who wears a suit to the beach. The truth is that the move killed off one of the show’s great characters and one of the great loves that drew people to it—Vancouver.

So I hope Chris Cater will return to the place where it all started. It will make a fitting conclusion to his defining contribution to television, and it will remind us of the other reason why we fell in love with The X-Files to begin with.