San Francisco Chronicle
'X-Files' creator ends Fox series
If the truth is indeed out there, fans of "The X-Files" could finally get nine years of nagging questions answered by the end of May. That will be the 201st -- and last -- episode of the popular Fox series.
Chris Carter abruptly pulled the plug late Wednesday night, saying he didn't want to issue a goodbye in the summer (when the decision might have been out of his hands -- Fox execs haven't stepped up with a vote of confidence) and will instead try to wrap up countless loose strings from one of television's finest weekly mysteries.
Not many shows get to appease fans in the fickle world of television, where network presidents kill shows willy-nilly all the time. But Carter, who helped shape the success of the Fox network when his dark, conspiracy-laden sci-fi thriller went from cult to hit series, still has quite a bit of pull, not to mention another year on his contract.
So Fox will get back as many as 5 million stray fans who jumped ship the past two seasons, right in time for a grand May sweeps goodbye, and Carter will have the chance to develop another series (several previous attempts have ultimately failed).
"I saw this as an opportunity to go out with all my people in place," Carter said yesterday in a phone interview from his office in Los Angeles. Although the series has flagged in the past couple of years, as the "mythology" -- as fans called the continuing conspiracies -- failed to be revealed and star David Duchovny left the show, "The X-Files" will now become a kind of must-see property for the rest of this season.
Carter said he will solve things "as best I can" despite a relatively short timetable. He's currently writing episode 14 -- there will be only 20 this season -- and plans on writing at least four of the last seven.
"I hope everybody comes back to see what we do," he said.
The culmination of "The X-Files" isn't a complete surprise. Ratings have dipped, and this season even Gillian Anderson's role was reduced as the focus shifted toward two lesser characters (if that had worked, the show might have continued forever, like "Law & Order").
"It's been a very strange season," Carter said. "We lost our audience on the first episode. It's like the audience had gone away, and I didn't know how to find them. I didn't want to work to get them back because I believed what we are doing deserved to have them back."
"The X-Files," which spawned one feature film (there may be others, Carter said), has had times in the past when the end looked near. "I had ideas (on how to end), but because the show remained strong and popular -- we never got to them."
But this time it's for real, so look for the truth to finally be revealed.
"I've got plenty of ideas," Carter said. "In this business, you've got to swing for the fences. I've been doing that for nine years."
"The X-Files" will be remembered as a show that helped spawn a genre of dark, interior, don't-trust-the-government suspense shows, but none of them could equal the eerie nature of the original. Despite sometimes veering off into comedy or going well over the bounds of believability, Carter's taut storytelling always kept the series intriguing. But the past two seasons simply saw the audience tire of the game (along with Duchovny), and this ending was almost inevitable.
Carter says he never got creatively bored with the show and will miss it. "The one thing that depresses me about this decision is that I'm not going to each week be able to tell a new 'X-Files' story."