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Frank Spotnitz on the End of THE X-FILES Part One
The executive producer discusses the series finale and more
By MELISSA J. PERENSON
May 23, 2002
Frank Spotnitz, executive producer of THE X-FILES
© 2002 Fox
For nine years, we've been promised that the truth is out there. With the conclusion of THE X-FILES
' formidable run this past Sunday, we finally did learn The Truththough much of it proved to be a recap of the past more than new revelations in the present. And we finally had to say goodbye to Mulder and Scullytwo characters whose odyssey we've followed through monsters-of-the-week and labyrinthine government conspiracies alike.
The 9th season cast of THE X-FILES
© 2001 Fox Broadcasting
Audiences aren't the only ones saying goodbye: the producers are saying goodbye to these characters, too. "Bittersweet is the word that everyone keeps saying," says executive producer Frank Spotnitz, speaking from his office on the Fox lot little more than 48 hours removed from the finale's airing. Much like the finale itself, the moment is bittersweet "because it is the right time to do it," he elaborates. "But it is [also] sad to say goodbye to something that's such a huge part of your life and you love doing so much. We've had a number of goodbyes internallya number of parties and lunches and eventsand it all felt like goodbye. And it's all very emotional."
For Spotnitz, the series' end was something he'd known would happen all along. But he never imagined it would take nine years for THE X-FILES
to exit stage left. "To sustain a show like this, that's as difficult as this, for nine years, is pretty amazing. I'm amazed it lasted this long," he marvels. "When I began, in the first few years, we thought we'd do five good years. And I thought it would be over at the end of season five, and then I was surprised we were back for season six, and then I was surprised we were back for season seven and you know, every year beyond season five was a surprise to me."
is not like other shows on televisionit's pretty much one of a kind. I don't think there's really anything else quite like it."
As the writers set about determining The Truth, their goal was an unenviable one: to sift through the events leading up to the finale and figure out how to present the cacophony of ideas thrown out over the years in a cohesive fashion. "And then to say something about what this experience has meant to our characters," adds Spotnitz, "most importantly to Mulder and Scully, but also to everybody elseSkinner, Doggett, and Kirsch, and all of the other supporting characters. So, that informs the shape of the episode."
Frank Spotnitz, executive producer of THE X-FILES
© 2002 Fox
The other challenge, of course, was in making an expository courtroom situationan anomaly in THE X-FILES
, and the writers' chosen plot device to further Mulder's trial on murder chargesfeel organic to the story. "A courtroom settingthat could get very... boring. Very boring. And even for us, it's unusually talky," concedes Spotnitz. "Even now, you look at the show and it's unusually talky for us. But I thinkat least I hopethere's a thirst for answers, and there's inherent interest in what's being said. And that that will draw people, since the stakes are certainly very high."
The "I see dead people" sequences represents a hit parade of supporting cast membersincluding X, the Lone Gunmen, and Krycek. But if Spotnitz had been able to, we'd have seen far more familiar faces from X-FILES
' past. "Well, I wanted to bring everybody back. I wanted to bring Jerry Harden back. And I was not able to find a way to do that. I wanted to find a way to bring Samantha back, and I wasn't able to do that. There were so many things I wanted to do for sentimental, emotional reasons, but at the end of the day, you've got to be disciplined about what's a coherent storyand there were people I had to leave out, with great regret," explains Spotnitz. "I would have loved to have brought back Scully's father, who we haven't seen since season one; Scully's mother; Mimi Rogers; there were tons of characters we wanted to bring back, and we just couldn't find a way to fit them in. But we brought back as many as we could."
While the series' has had its share of two-part episodes, the two-hour finale was the longest episode shoot the series ever produced. Directed by Kim Manners, the shoot required 24 days of main unit workwhich alone is a testament to the ambitious production the X-FILES
' team undertook. "A normal episode is 11 days8 days main unit, 3 days second unit. Because this was the final episode, they were all main unit days with the same director," says Spotnitz. "The end of this showthe final actproduction-wise is enormous, and I guarantee you, nobody else on television does what we did. I mean, the size of it, the set we built... you can't imagine. The production of it is phenomenal."
Agent Mulder's (David Duchovny) return leads to a military tribunal that could cost him his life in THE X-FILES two-hour series finale.
© 2002 FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY
Mulder and Scully's last hurrah ran long in other ways as well. "When we edited it the first time, the actual running time of the episode was much longer than we had broadcast time for. So there are things we had to take out, and we were like, 'We hate to take this out, because if we do this, then we will end this series not having explained this thing.' But you've got to do what you've got to do: We had to make room for the commercials, so we had to take certain things out." Those scenes may not be lost forever, though, according to Spotnitz. "I would expect that it will be on the DVD."
As for the fact that Mulder keeps reaching for that brass ring and doesn't quite make it, Spotnitz offers this observation: "What we realized after spending years with the subject matter is that so much of the quest for aliens is, in a way, a quest for God. And so much of people's desire and need to know that there's extraterrestrial life is much like the desire and need to know there's a God. Looking for proof of aliens is a lot like looking for proof of God, and God exists on faith. That's kind of the definition of God; there is no proofyou find God if you accept God on faith. So in a way, Mulder was doomed to fail."
Mulder's not the only one who's lost an ideal over the course of the series. Scully, in particular, has suffered many personal lossessomething we saw pass through actress Gillian Anderson's face in the final scene of the series. "It's really been a very tragic experience for these two people," remarks Spotnitz. "And really, the only thing they've won is each other. That's very touching. That's the only thing they've won, but that's a lot, that's a lot to have won."Be sure to check back for part two of our talk with Frank Spotnitz.