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Sunday, May 19, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Television

Chris Carter reflects on 'X' going ex

Seattle Times staff reporter

The evil FBI bureaucrats have always threatened to close "The X-Files," and tonight it's finally happening for real.

Agents Mulder (David Duchovny), Scully (Gillian Anderson), Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Reyes (Annabeth Gish) are riding off into the sunset or some other bright light in the series finale. It comes after nine years of government conspiracy, strange creatures and sexual tension, not to mention a few other things: achieving a worldwide popularity that rivals that of "Star Trek," opening up pop culture to horror and the paranormal, and bringing movie-caliber production values to TV shows.

We interrogated series creator Chris Carter recently, while he was in the middle of filming tonight's farewell episode.

Are there still a lot of loose ends to wrap up?

I realize I was saying we're going to answer as many questions as we can. But the truth is, now having written it, it's not so much answering questions as it is making it all make sense.

What story threads will you deal with?

Almost all the mythology threads — or the large mythology threads — about the two conspiracies: the one involving the government's willful propaganda on the existence of extraterrestrials, and also this new conspiracy that came from the first, which is the super-soldier conspiracy.

Is the Cigarette Smoking Man really Mulder's dad?

There is some indication that he may be, but we leave that open.

What did it take to get David Duchovny (who had left the series) on board for the ending?

All it took was business negotiation. He wanted to do it. He wanted to do "X-Files" movies past this, as we all do. So really it was an opportunity for him to come back to the show, which I know he missed this year — he told me so — and to also come back as a way to put himself back into the concept for the movies.

So there will be a second "X-Files" movie?

It's in negotiation. Everybody wants to do it. That probably means that it will be done.

Why didn't the show shift completely to Doggett and Reyes?

That was the plan, but when the ratings dipped this year, my feeling was I didn't want to sit and wait for the journalists [whom] I felt would see it as an angle and a chance to flog the show. I thought that was a new show that could have built a new audience, but I wasn't interested in seeing "The X-Files" damaged at all or criticized unfairly, so I decided to call it a day and focus on the upcoming movies.

Has the show run its course? Has it been challenging to think of new creatures and bizarre situations?

It's always a challenge, but I honestly think that season nine had some of the more inventive episodes ever in it.

There are also rumors of a "Millennium" movie.

You know, it still could happen.

That series of yours lasted three years, but two others disappeared fast. What did you take away from your experiences with "The Lone Gunmen" and "Harsh Realm"?

My experience is that if a network is not behind the show, that the audience perceives this as a vote of no confidence and doesn't get behind it, either. I think what's happening is that for me, the network landscape is changing, and if you're not a hit right out of the box they're not prone to stick with you — although shows like "24" would disprove that theory. All I can do is come up with a good idea and execute it the best I can and try to get them to promote it and hope that it finds an audience. It's the name of the game. I can't cry too much, because if people aren't watching the show, you can't argue with that.

Was "X-Files" an instant hit?

It was not an instant hit, but Fox was a different network then. But it was certainly enough of a hit on Fox at the time to give them a sense that they had something. It was a show that never was imperiled. It was never "on the bubble," as they say.

What's an "X-Files" convention like?

It's funny. You'll see generations, little kids, bigger kids, parents and grandparents. It seemed to be a show that could appeal to everyone. I consider myself to be a geek, and it's a show that won the hearts of the right kind of television watcher, which is a rabid television watcher.

Costume ideas would seem to be limited, compared to a Trekkie convention.

Costume ideas are limited, and you might not even recognize them without the proper identification.

As the show's winding down, how do you feel?

I'm glad not to have the gun of series production to my head after this for a while. I'm already sad — I won't admit it to myself that I'm sad — because we'll do our last production meeting and I'll do a little speech and there's a lump in my throat. Everything we do now is a last, and it's kind of hard. It's been my life for 10 years.

What's next for you?

I owe Fox some more television, a year more of my, I guess, ideas and execution. And then I've got a movie that I set up a long time ago along with ("X-Files" co-executive producer) Frank Spotnitz over at Miramax/Dimension that's kind of in the vein of a "Good Will Hunting." And I signed a book deal a couple of years ago which I have never gotten around to, so I'd better get around to that.

"Good Will Hunting"? That sounds like a change of pace for you.

It is, although it involves an aspect of the paranormal. It's about a guy who may be a kind of missing link.

Mark Rahner can be reached at 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com. He has one of those telltale bumps on the back of his neck.

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