Missing. One hit television show.
Answers to the name of The X-Files.
Distinguishing marks: A unique partnership, based on trust and mutual respect between a tall, handsome, intelligent, empathetic true believer and truth seeker and a shorter, attractive, intelligent, loyal, true skeptic.
Last seen sometime around May 2000.
But the show hasn’t disappeared, you say? It still airs Sunday evenings on FOX, you say?
Bullshit, I say.
I don’t care how many TV critics applaud what’s been airing on Sunday nights, it ain’t the X-Files. It ain’t even the neXt Files. It’s the fauX Files.
Not convinced? Let’s look at the evidence.
1. Mulder as the ‘absent centre’ is MIA.
"The theme of the season is the search for Mulder".
So said Chris Carter in Matt Roush’s column in TV Guide.
"… I have to say his [David’s] absence has really framed the season, which is (about) the search for Mulder."
Said Chris Carter in the 3 November issue of the Hollywood Reporter.
"… the search for Mulder kind of informs the whole season."
Said Chris Carter in *that* issue of Entertainment Weekly.
"Well, the whole season is really the search for Mulder."
Said Chris Carter, on the Kevin and Bean show (KROQ) on 3 November. Do we need any more examples? Hey, why not?
"Both the search [for Mulder] and the pregnancy will play out over the entire season."
So said Chris, again in TV Guide, on 5 November.
"It’s interesting to be doing some of the shows without David. He’s always a big presence on the show, even when he’s not there, because this is the search for Mulder this year."
Another Chris Carter spiel, from http://www.mothership.com/tuberviews/ on 3 November.
One more, this one from the January issue of Dreamwatch:
"I realized there were good stories to tell by adding a character like Doggett, making Scully’s character a little bit different and making Mulder a kind of absent center."
Okay, I lied. One more:
"David is still a regular. Even when he’s there he’s going to be ‘not’ there – he’s going to be an absent presence and an absent center. And so, his involvement in the show, even though it’s in an abbreviated fashion, is going to be very important."
All the above set the tone quite well, don't you think? Back before the season premiere it was obvious that Season 8, while lacking the physical presence of Mulder, was still going to feature Mulder prominently, by virtue of the search for him, Scully’s reaction to his absence, Skinner’s reaction… maybe even the Lone Gunmen’s reaction. The introduction of a new character, one who was initially assigned to head up the investigation into Mulder’s disappearance, seemed promising to this end as well.
But its interesting to note now, after the 7th episode has aired, and knowing that Chris said much of the above when most of these episodes had already been filmed, if not at the least scripted, that bar a recent throwaway line, nary a word has been said about Mulder this season.
Within and Without gave us the expected (though far from logical) sequel to Requiem, so Mulder’s presence was felt… aided by the use of David as a Muldermorphin' Bounty Hunter and lab-rat for the aliens who apparently abducted him. But what followed has been a series of MOTW eps which have not only failed to focus on the absent centre, they’ve gone to almost painful lengths to ensure the message that 1013 would like to forget him is broadcast loud and clear.
And it was a message we have, sadly, heard.
Nobody expected that season 8 would be one myth-arc ep after another, focusing purely on the search. But would it have caused major internal injury for a mere mention? Was there not room in 44 or so minutes of screen time in each episode for Scully to acknowledge one email from the Lone Gunmen confirming they hadn’t tracked Krycek down? Could we have not had one moment where Skinner received news of Cancerman’s death/disappearance, and his sadness at the loss of a source of information on Mulder? What about a check with local MUFON groups?
Nope, we get an obvious attempt by 1013 et al. to replace Mulder as soon as possible by having Scully invite Doggett into Mulder’s office, and then provide him with a desk. Worse, we get Mulder’s nameplate shoved in a desk drawer after a not-so-subtle speech from some aged bat-victim about the nature of obsession.
And as if all of that wasn’t bad enough, a little salt is added to the wound a mere few weeks later when we see the Lone Gunmen in Mulder’s office, showing no concern or sense of loss for the missing Mulder. (You remember Mulder, don't you? He was the guy whose 'death' Frohike was mourning and getting drunk over in The Blessing Way.) Nor did they seem particularly concerned that someone else was in Mulder’s office. Just as well these guys are getting their own show, because they don’t really belong on this one any more.
(It should be acknowledge that the script of Roadrunners did, it seems, have a mention of Mulder. However the scene was cut, presumably because it showed Doggett in a less than flattering light… and maybe because it showed Scully was thinking of Mulder? Who knows. Who cares. It doesn't count if it hasn't been filmed.)
On the http://www.horroronline.com/ website Chris was quoted as saying:
"I want the event of Mulder’s disappearance to be an important event."
Chris, if this is how you treat an important event, we’d really hate to see your reaction to a minor one.
The eloquent Joyce wrote recently:
"If CC was writing the epic story of Beowulf, we’d see the hero enter the monster’s lair, risking his life to do battle with the monster. Once Beowulf and the monster were locked in mortal combat, CC would cut away for several long stanzas to describe Beowuld’s wife doing her daily chores as if she didn’t have a care in the world. We’d then spend several more stanzas watching his heir settle comfortably into his father’s throne. Finally, we would discover no one is left to care that Beowulf is off somewhere fighting for his life and theirs. And so ends the Great Saga of the hero’s quest."
Nicely said, Joyce.
To which we can only add… "absent centre my ass, Chris."
2. Scully is absent.
Despite the fact that Gillian Anderson was contracted for season 8, and signed on for season 9 during a renegotiation of her existing contract, we really aren't seeing Scully on the screen any more. That character that Gillian is portraying is not Scully. It's a pod-person. A morphing alien. Someone who should, perhaps, become a spokesperson for the ab-roller.
Need evidence? Look no further:
Witness the bat episode. Mulder's nameplate – the nameplate of the man who has been her partner and friend for 7 years, the one who called her his 'one in 5 billion', the one who referred to her as his 'touchstone' - is shoved in a drawer. Enough said.
Witness Roadrunners. We get Scully apologising to Doggett for doing her job. Let me say it again. We get Scully apologising to Doggett… For. Doing. Her. Job. The woman who has held a gun on Skinner, a gun on Mr. X, has faced down countless criminals, lowered her head to Doggett and apologised to him because she was unlucky enough to become a victim on what would have normally been a routine case.
(A side note: One wonders whether Mr. Carter has been listening to a certain group of Philes who have long held a stance that Scully can do no wrong, and anytime Mulder pursued a case on his own, was committing the ultimate sin by ‘ditching’ Scully. How sad that this drivel had to be written to ensure Mulder [Scully in Mulder persona] apologised to Scully [Doggett, in Scully persona] for a supposed 'Mulder ditch'. On top of the ‘I’m sorry I never got you a desk’ crap we got in the bat thing pretending to be an XF episode, this was just revolting.)
Witness, again, the lack of reference to any ongoing search or concern for Mulder. Witness the last 4 episodes which have not shown one real indication of Scully's sense of loss over Mulder's absence. 7 years -- 7 years of the closest friendship and partnership. After a couple of weeks, Scully gives up the search. Ack.
Witness, also, Scully’s almost miraculous transformation from ‘You’re the only one I trust, Mulder’ point of view to ‘falling into Doggett’s arms and trusting him immediately’. What happened to the woman who has known of, encountered and been a victim of the Consortium in many ways, shapes and forms? To the woman who would keep a man like Doggett, who has no history with herself or Mulder, yet some relationship of sorts with a suspect Kersh, at a distance?
Nope, Scully is absent. By draining her of her independence and strength, of her loyalty and belief in herself and her partner, Chris Carter has changed this unique character into nothing more than a caricature. With every decision or action that leads to a reprimand or a visit to the hospital, Chris peels back another layer on this formerly complex, strong individual. In her place we find, to our dismay, that underneath that façade lurks a quivering, insecure, stereotypical damsel-in-distress needing a manly-man to help her make it through life. Gag.
Season 8 Scully just isn’t Scully. She isn’t really even Mulder-as-Scully. The sole purpose of this character is now purely to enable the set up of circumstances which will enable Doggett to solve a case, or, as in the case of Roadrunners, save the damsel. Scully-as-Mulder is a poor man’s Mulder. Her so-called beliefs do not, as Mulder’s did, assist with investigations. Largely, thus far, they have impeded them.
No, that ain’t Scully we’re seeing.
3. The unique characterisation is gone
One of the most unique and endearing characteristics – and one of the most talked about – of The X-Files was the turnabout in stereotyped gender roles which CC instituted with the characterisation of Mulder and Scully, to which David and Gillian gave life. Mulder was to be the believer who saw the extreme possibilities, whose empathic and sympathetic nature and sheer intellect and brilliance gave him an almost woman’s intuition, an ability to make leaps of logic. Further, as played by David, he was convincing… we believed those leaps made sense. And many an XF writer has acknowledged that writing some of the dialogue for the show has been made so much easier knowing that David's delivery as Mulder would make the theories seem logical. Frank Spotnitz, in fact, said it in a 3 November interview:
"You realize how much having Mulder around helps tell these stories because he can come out with the big theory and take the big leap. There's nobody to do that now so it has put us in more than one quandary on how to tell a story."
Scully was to be the skeptic, the rational thinker, perhaps a little rigid in her skepticism and by-the-book authoritarian outlook, yet willing to pursue the possibility despite a lack of belief in the paranormal. With a mere look, a raise of an eyebrow, Gillian was able to effectively communicate Scully’s apprehension and questioning of a theory.
Together, and almost from the start of the series, Mulder and Scully earned a place in television and popular cultural history. The chemistry between the two characters as so brilliantly played by David and Gillian was a tangible asset to the show, giving rise to the so-called UST – Unresolved Sexual Tension – which became a much talked and written about factor.
The introduction of Doggett, aka The Manly-Man, and the shift of Scully from skeptic to quasi-believer was to change that wonderful dynamic. Scully was to become Mulder – a believer – and Doggett a less scientific Scully. The concept appeared to be the same, however – believer and skeptic - with merely a reversal of the roles. So perhaps Chris thought the character elements that made XF such a great show were still in situ.
But more than a mere role reversal has occurred. Scully’s overnight transformation to believer (even in Je Souhaite her skepticism was felt) has rung false. Her convictions in her beliefs are nowhere near as strong as Mulder’s are and therefore provide a less than satisfactory counterpoint to Doggett’s view. Doggett himself seems to vacillate, and the lack of any true characterisation beyond the anti-Mulder ‘manly-man’ posturing Chris established means that, despite doing the best he can, Robert Patrick is not being given much to work with to make his character truly come alive.
And what of the chemistry? A primary factor to consider is that the focus on chemistry in XF was never about chemistry as a concept in and of itself. It was about the chemistry between Mulder and Scully. Without this chemistry, without these two characters, Chris Carter could set up a chemistry farm and many still wouldn’t be interested.
But even for those who may find it engaging if there were chemistry between the new man and Scully, it’s interesting to note that more than a few Philes have commented there is more chemistry between the two ex-Marines (Skinner and Doggett) than between Doggett and Scully. While Gillian and Robert have professed to have found such in their day to day interaction with each other on set, it would seem that chemistry isn’t being transferred to the screen. Which only proves that chemistry is a bonus that develops when the right actors are paired. Prayed for by fledgling producers, lauded when it occurs, but impossible to create on demand.
4. The scare factor
"…I think of it as going back, really, to the first season and telling good, scary stories again…"
So said Chris.
There’s scare and then there’s just plain gore. Earlier episodes of XF – the eps CC et al. seem to be trying to recapture – were good at the plain scare. Squeeze and Tooms are excellent examples of the scare factor being well-handled: Menace, suspense, a hint of the gore which occurs offscreen, and an insight into the character through Mulder’s initial interest and persistent pursuit, and, in the latter ep, Scully’s investigation into Toom’s history. Now and again XF treated us to some of those factors which could turn the stomach of the more squeamish amongst us – the maggots in The List, the blood in Sanguinarium for example. But mostly we’ve had well-handled scare with a hint of gore.
Enter Season 8, and we get a massive hit of pure gore. Within/Without gave us visions of Mulder being tortured. Whether factual or a figment of Scully’s imagination, the level of violent sexual imagery was only surpassed by that presented in Roadrunners, an episode in which a pregnant Scully was tied down and ‘raped’ by a male slug. The close ups of the slug’s extraction from Scully by Doggett (analogy of a back-yard abortion?) provided, perhaps, the most gratuitously gory scene in the last 8 years, particularly given the importance of this character to the show and to Philes.
And while still on the subject of Roadrunners, and while acknowledging the distress Scully displayed at the time was understandable, the melodramatic screaming from Scully of "I’m pregnant" was just a tad gory, too.
5. The nitpicking isn't fun anymore
Post ep discussions on the net were always rife with talk of the plot holes and inconsistencies. In some episodes there were many, and in some hardly any at all. Yet despite the seemingly overly critical view, the nitpicking was usually fun, and generally the faults were accepted as just a by-product of many people working to bring the show together. In most cases they were forgiven.
But season 8 has changed this situation. The plot holes, the logic leaps, the lack of commonsense and departure from the real of the everyday in this paranormal show are just getting ridiculous.
Witness Roadrunners. See Scully wander into the desert without water. See Scully wander into the desert without a hat. See Scully wander into the desert without sunglasses. See Scully defy the natural laws of science that she holds so dear as she, a pregnant woman, miraculously survives. What medically trained, 7+ years veteran of the FBI - one who has found herself in all manner of potentially dangerous situations - goes into such an environment totally unprepared, especially knowing she is pregnant?
Witness Roadrunners, part deux. See Special Agent Dana Scully with her firearm. See Special Agent Dana Scully willingly hand her firearm over. See Special Agent Dana Scully willingly hand her firearm over to an impaired man. Tune in next week we're we'll hopefully see Special Agent Dana Scully reprimanded for her foolish action, and sent back to Quantico for a refresher course.
Witness Roadrunners, part trois. See Special Agent Scully encounter a slug-like parasite. See Special Agent Scully state she’s never encountered such a creature before. See Philes send the writers a copy of the first season episode ‘Ice’ to jog their memories.
Witness Via Negativa. See The Lone Gunmen cruise into the Hoover Building with barely a paranoid concern. See The Lone Gunmen barely mention Mulder at all. See The Lone Gunmen happy and laughing as if they never knew a guy named Mulder and didn't know he was missing. See The Lone Gunmen chatting with Doggett as if they were best buds. See the Lone Gunmen praise Doggett as if their endorsement will convince Philes that Mulder isn't needed. See many a Phile vow to skip the new series CC has in the works given its obvious The Lone Gunmen have been swapped for pod people.
Witness Requiem, an episode time-framed in the spring. See Scully declare she is pregnant. See the episodes that follow in the new season, and Scully is still pregnant. See the latest episode, set in December. See that it is six months since Scully declared she is pregnant. Realise that Scully is six months pregnant and is not looking pregnant.
Of course, the other factor contributing to the lack of fun in the nitpicking is that, basically, it’s all been done before. When the eps are compilations of previous episodes (Roadrunners=Ice+Our Town) what’s the fun in nitpicking? As one Phile (Jen) said, its nice the guys at 1013 are so environmentally aware, but recycling and reusing plots doesn’t work too well. It didn’t when they re-hashed Tooms into Teliko. Sad they didn’t learn from this lesson.
6. The clothing
Its an interesting contradiction that the same team who seem to have so many issues with Mulder and Scully having a sex life together, or even either character having one at all, are now falling over themselves to sex this show up. We can't have Scully conceive naturally, or even have a sex life, but wait, instead we'll put her in push-up bras and shirts one size too small, then do slow pans up Gillian’s rear end when she’s tied down to a bed. That'll work.
Ya think, Chris?
While it might appeal to some, many - including those males of the 18-49 year bracket you are so obviously catering to - find this pretty revolting. Which isn't to say that Gillian doesn't look good. It just isn't appropriate, or necessary. If we want tits and ass, Chris, we'd watch Baywatch reruns.
7. Doggett is not Mulder.
In a 3 November interview, Chris Carter stated of the character of Doggett:
"He is not assigned to the X-Files to begin with. He is not Scully's partner to begin with. There is a gradual, hopefully realistic integration of the character into the series."
Gradual? Realistic Integration? You’ve got to be kidding, Chris. Within and Without perhaps successfully began that gradual, realistic integration of Doggett into the show. But from there on in we’ve had a ‘ram this guy down your throat’ approach; ie. the immediate assignment of Doggett to the X-Files division, the move-in to Mulder’s office, the immediate post Within/Without acceptance of Doggett by Scully, and, of course, the shoving of Mulder’s nameplate into the desk drawer.
It was hardly a gradual integration. And the attempt by CC et al. to coerce viewers to accept Doggett by having Scully act as our representative was tacky. Just because she initially distrusted him and pulled the melodramatic and inappropriate water-throwing stunt in Within, doesn’t mean we all caved in and accepted him as the best thing since… well, since Mulder, just because Scully did by the time that bat thing aired.
Which isn’t to say we dislike Doggett, per se. We’re just not that interested in seeing X-Files through Doggett’s eyes when we’re still worried about what Chris has in store for Mulder.
Then there’s the humour. Or the lack thereof. Doggett’s lack.
Chris has stated a number of times that they were looking to get back to the season 1 and 2 formula of XF. And with the re-hash of season 1 plots (Ice, anyone?) they certainly seem to be achieving this goal on some level. But what is sorely lacking in these episodes which Doggett just can’t provide is Mulder’s wry, dry sense of humour. Even in the darkest of episodes one or two comments from Mulder – Mulderisms as they came to be called – provided a bit of light relief, and an insight into character, without distracting from the story itself. (Can anyone imagine Doggett delivering a line like "Before anyone passes judgment, may I remind you we are in the arctic" which Mulder did in Ice?)
Oh. And Chris? Having Scully smiling at Doggett’s occasional bad puns doesn’t make Doggett more acceptable… when she rarely did the same for Mulder, it just makes Scully into more of a pod-person.
There’s also Doggett’s treatment of Scully. Mulder would never have criticised… no, it was stronger than that…. blamed… Mulder would never have blamed Scully for becoming the victim during a case file. Doggett's "you screwed up" at the end of Roadrunners is nothing more than the assignation of blame, as if somehow Scully is at fault for what happened to her. And if you follow the 'rape' analogy that many believe lay beneath the plot of that episode (slug-like creatures of specific male gender – even though slugs are hermaphrodites - being forcibly inserted into a bound female), Doggett's words were the akin to blaming the victim for being raped.
(Beyond the fact that such an apology is inexcusable anyway, is this another case of Carter trying to undermine Mulder? If Scully is Mulder this season, is this the delivery of justice to 'Mulder' for all the times his independent acts did result in personal harm? Or is it simply the de-Scullying of Scully and the reinforcement of the manly-man notion we’ve had thrust down our throats since before the new season aired? Whatever the answer, its disgusting.)
Nor does the creation of a back-story for Doggett which almost mirrors Mulder's - the missing child relative - make Doggett as interesting a character as Mulder. Re-hashing plots is one thing, but trying to re-hash motivation for character… that’s just plain sad.
Its true that Chris et al. were attempting, in the creation of Doggett, to realise a character who differed in many ways from Mulder. This guy was to be a by-the-book cop and unscientific skeptic, who would play against transformed-overnight-into-a-believer Scully. But neither character provide something which separated this show from many other 'cop' shows - being a witness to Mulder's passionate search for his truths and those elements which lay beyond the scientific boundaries Scully could not see past. Mulder’s empathetic qualities, his desire to understand the reasons and motives of the ‘criminal’ and, in the case of characters like ‘Tooms’, the how and why such a person could exist, gave the show a unique interest and perspective. Put Mulder in an episode like Roadrunners and we’d have found out a little bit more about that cult - why they believed the slug was Jesus Christ, from where the belief sprang, even perhaps some follow up as to what happened to them once the slug was exterminated. And wouldn’t that have been a more acceptable conclusion than the whole apology scene between Doggett and Scully?
8. Mulder is absent.
The not-so-logical rebuttal of this point is, of course, that it was David Duchovny’s decision to pull back from full-time involvement in the show. And true enough. Nobody – well, nobody who ever gave it some considered, reasonable and fair thought – is blaming David for his reduced involvement. As he said so eloquently himself, 7 years of Mulder is no different than 7 years of Hamlet… sometimes you need to try a new role, no matter how good playing Hamlet might be, no matter how grateful you are for having had the opportunity.
But despite the off-screen, real-world requirement which resulted in a lack of David, and therefore a lack of Mulder, there’s no getting over the fact that Mulder is absent. And for those for whom the show was about Mulder and/or about the Mulder and Scully dynamic, it means the consequence of Mulder’s absence is a show which does not deserve to be called The X-Files again until Mulder returns. And even then, the application of the XF moniker will depend greatly on the ability of CC et al. to manage his return with dignity, sensitivity (for the character and the Philes who have followed Mulder's quest for 7 years), respect for the character's history, and plain old fashioned logic.
Its doesn’t get any more simple than this: Mulder is absent.
Frank Spotnitz said recently on Zap2It.com:
"I’ve got to say 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 is no clear-cut way how to do this."
We’ve got news for you, Frank. As hard as you may be working – and we do appreciate that you and the rest of the cast and crew are working hard at this – you *are* missing the target. Without that engine, with a leading man who "doesn’t have a great memory for mucus" (as Doggett said himself), and a leading woman who no longer resembles at all the character she once was, this show is just Dragnet with a slight paranormal overtone.
Frank was also quoted as saying:
"There's a pretty clear objective for the season 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."
It seems to many, alas, that the way has been lost.
In discussing the season thus far, Joyce (who I so often quote because, frankly, she nails my feelings on the subject very well), said two things which perhaps best sum up what The X-Files has become this season:
"Wonder has fled, cold iron rules the land, and heroes are banished into memory."
"To put it in mythological terms, this is Camelot after the death of King Arthur – a gloomy, dull place. It may still be called Camelot, but it’s soul is gone and eventually people will drift away."
The drift may be gradual, but the stats are there. While the ratings are showing that most of the viewers of XF are the 18-49 demographic that is so coveted - particularly with the male demo (which is perhaps why we’re getting more Scully ‘tits and ass’, ‘manly-man’ rescues, gore and more gore etc) - the ratings have been steadily dropping overall. During a recent ep, 3.5 million people turned the channel after watching FOX’s Malcolm in the Middle. Other stats show that XF has dropped 21% since the season permiere, and 23% in that key demographic.
And of those who are still watching, perhaps CC et al. should take notice of the reaction each episode engenders. Perhaps they should go back to looking at the online reaction, as they used to back in the day when the show was at it's height of success, and what they read was mostly positive. Perhaps they should listen to what people think of Scully being morphed into an unrecognisable character, the Lone Gunmen betraying Mulder and Doggett being given Mulder’s Danny as a source. Perhaps they should listen to the views of those like Marta, who said recently:
"I made a little Chris Carter doll three of four seasons ago. He wears surfer jams and his hair sticks straight up. I don’t stick pins in him, but I do throw him at the TV when my goat has been gotten. Maybe I should have made him with little wings, too, since he seems to spend so much time airborne."
Given the spoilers for future episodes, spoilers which indicate Chris Carter is re-writing XF history and undermining the characters of Mulder and Scully in an attempt to re-create the show in the image of Doggett, we’re suggesting that doll should be on a frequent flyer program.