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Why David Duchovny Should Write for X Files Season 11

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Why David Duchovny Should Write for X Files Season 11

Post by jade1013 on Tue 27 Jun - 6:32

Trust the Teller: Why David Duchovny Should Write for X Files Season 11

At the TV Upfronts in May, X Files fans rejoiced to hear that FOX had finalized a deal to produce another ten episodes of the hit 90s show. The news was particularly welcome because the final scene of last year’s six-episode revival left our heroes in jeopardy, the fate of the planet uncertain as a virus ravaged the population, with FBI agents Mulder and Scully marooned on a bridge, an ominous-looking craft hovering overhead. At times this past year, the fate of the series looked similarly ominous as reports of a breakdown in contract negotiations threatened to strand our heroes forever on that bridge — a prospect that left a sour taste in the mouths of long-time fans.

Almost as soon as the news of a new season broke, fans began taking to social media with their visions for what is almost certainly the show’s last hurrah, discussing everything from still-dangling plot threads to who should write and direct upcoming episodes. Alongside hopes for the return of respected writers and directors like Vince Gilligan, Darin and Glen Morgan, James Wong, Frank Spotnitz and Rob Bowman, there were calls for input from another surprising source: writer David Duchovny, the series’ male lead.

Duchovny’s involvement as a writer on the series is less well-known but nevertheless significant. His contribution to story arcs began early in the season two mythology episodes “Colony” and “Anasazi.” His influence continued through the show’s original nine seasons, progressing to solo writing and directing credits for “The Unnatural,” “Hollywood A.D.” and “William.” Though Duchovny’s writing efforts have met with mixed reviews in the years since they first aired (for the record, I think “The Unnatural” is a pitch-perfect take on The X Files as magical realism in the style of W.P. Kinsella), many fans feel he brings a unique set of talents and perspective to the series’ story and characters.

With the opportunity to shape the outcome of the series’ final episodes and the need to payoff nearly 25 years worth of emotional and narrative debt, here’s why many longtime fans would like to see David Duchovny write a script or two.

Elevating the Material

By now, Duchovny’s writing credentials are widely-known. With English degrees from Princeton and Yale, two published and well-received novels and another on the way next year, Duchovny brings a depth of knowledge that elevates the pulpy X Files storylines and connects them to broader literary tradition. The season three episode “Talitha Cumi,” for which Duchovny received a story writing credit, contains a scene in which the series’ primary villain, the Cigarette Smoking Man, interrogates another character, defending himself with the logic of the Grand Inquisitor from Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. In seasons six and seven, in the episode “The Sixth Extinction,” Duchovny puts his character, Mulder, through the trials and temptations of a Christ-figure. His story explores Mulder’s position as a reluctant hero, drawing on Kazantakis’s novel, “The Last Temptation of Christ,” as well as the Nietzschean concept of “the love of fate.”

Writers such as Darren Mooney of and others have written extensively about the ways in which the series’ themes and preoccupations were shaped by Duchovny’s input, so rather than rehash their thorough readings here, I’ll merely point you to them. Even the seemingly lighthearted episode, “The Unnatural,” Duchovny’s first solo script, is shot through with literary allusion and a playful use of magical realism. By these contributions, he has imbued The X Files with the kind of weight that garnered attention from serious viewers and critics from its outset. Going into the series’ final season, in a television universe now much more comfortable with risks and highbrow pretensions, new X Files scripts would benefit from Duchovny’s input and direction.

David: Captain of the ‘Ship

Another reason fans want Duchovny’s input for the upcoming season is because he understands that the heart of The X Files is, and always has been, the characters of Mulder and Scully, their relationship, their journey and their growth. While series creator Chris Carter has often placed emphasis on the ways in which Mulder and Scully embody the archetypal “believer” and “skeptic” roles (the staticness of which became almost comically unbelievable over the years, asking us as viewers to maintain our suspension of disbelief past the bounds of reason in the face of Scully’s relentless skepticism), Duchovny’s scripts always gave us moments in which Mulder and Scully were allowed to be nuanced and multi-dimensional.

In talking about the writing of “The Unnatural” (a Cinefantastique article from April 2002 is indispensable reading for its record of Duchovny’s thoughts on his contributions to his character and the show at the time.), Duchovny explains “I was tired of hearing the conversation between Mulder and Scully where Scully would say, ‘Well I’m a scientist. I believe in science and science tells me this,’ and then Mulder would say, ’Well, I go with my gut. My gut tells me this.’ I wanted them to have a conversation in which they are actually ‘in’ their dialogue rather than saying who they are”. Thus, in an episode in which there are really only two brief scenes between the two, he grounds that week’s foray into the paranormal in the deeply human bond between them.

He also used the final scene in “The Unnatural” as a way to bring the viewer back to Mulder and Scully and the way that the fantastical situations they encounter impact the duo. He explains, “it was very important that there be something like an old-fashioned moral. The whole story is about how it affects Mulder and Scully. What did we learn? It was really important to me that Mulder and Scully have communication on this issue, but that it not be literal and that the audience realize Mulder has called Scully up to the ballfield because he’s learned something about life. I wanted him to impart it to Scully without telling her what it is.” The final scene of Mulder and Scully playing baseball together is one of the series’ most charming. (And is probably the closest to a satisfying sex scene that fans of MSR are likely to get from 11 seasons and 2 movies. Sigh.)

His season seven episode, “Hollywood A.D.” makes a similar move in its closing scene, allowing the characters to talk about what they’ve just been through, drawing meaning from their experience — a technique that creates a strong thread of emotional continuity than the show could at times lack.
Fan lore is replete with examples of ways in which Duchovny’s suggestions or changes provided us with some of the very best Mulder/Scully interactions, showing his sensitivity to the “sacredness” of their relationship — a word he used to describe it during a panel at the Paley Center in 2013. The final scene of “Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati,” referred to fondly by the ‘shippers as the “Touchstone” scene, is rumored to have been a Duchovny re-write.

Perhaps most significantly, Duchovny knew when to end a tease and give a meaningful, long-sought payoff to the ever evolving relationship between the series’s main characters. In the final scene of season eight’s closer, “Existence,” which was also Duchovny’s final shoot as a full-time cast member, Mulder and Scully stand holding their son. “Initially, the script called for Mulder to kiss Scully’s forehead. Both Duchovny and [director] Manners argued that the scene was “mundane” and that they had “been teasing and doing that bull for so long” that they wanted “a real kiss at this point”.

Duchovny’s sensitivity to the need for resolution between the characters at that moment in time, particularly as it marked the final moment of his full-time participation in the show, gave viewers what is probably the most satisfying moment of closure in a show that has had more than one false ending.

Transcending Our Endings

Perhaps the strongest argument for why David Duchovny should write for season 11 of The X Files comes not from his work on the show, but from his more recent writings, specifically his latest novel, Bucky Fucking Dent. While on the surface Bucky Fucking Dent is another addition to the Duchovny baseball oeuvre, at its heart is a story about how telling stories (some may call them deceptions or even lies) can be a way to create coherence and resolution amidst complicated lives. In the novel, a son effects a reconciliation with his terminally-ill father partly through constructing a fake winning season for the Red Sox. This elaborate deception creates a common ground of memory and affection between the formerly estranged father and son, illustrating that factual accuracy is less important than emotional fidelity when it comes to our interactions with those we love. If there is one thing that The X Files now-muddled plot line could benefit from in this final go, it is this sense of emotional fidelity to the characters over and above the need to tie up every loose thread.

This way in which living into a fiction can transform us is a theme also present in “The Unnatural.” In the first of Duchovny’s individual contributions to The X Files, extraterrestrial baseball player, Josh Exley, takes on his human identity to such an extent that when his life comes to an end, he has literally (maybe?) become human. Even Duchonvy’s meta comedy episode, “Hollywood A.D.”, revels in language and its creative power. The central, comically-played, mystery of that episode revolves around an artifact inscribed with ancient words that, when spoken aloud, have the power to raise the dead. This of course is the storyteller and scriptwriter’s gift, to not only create but to resurrect, and it’s one which closes out the episode as the final scene shows zombies rising from their graves to dance across a movie set in a slow tango.

In each of these Duchovny-shaped narratives, it is the creative act of storytelling that enables characters to transcend the limitations of time, the body, and death itself. As The X Files stretches into these extra innings, there is ample opportunity to make sense of the sprawling narrative that has come before, and Duchovny has shown throughout his work that he has the capacity to honor the depths of the characters and their journey. He is on the record as stating that of all the ways the show might end, his favorite image is that of season five episode, “Postmodern Prometheus,” in which the frame freezes on Mulder and Scully’s faces and they are transformed into a comic book drawing. They’re fixed forever at a moment of joyful connection, transcending their own narrative by becoming icons in another teller’s story.

Mulder and Scully are now middle-aged heroes, with two dozen years of triumph and tragedy behind them. Fans hope this final leg of their journey can convey the depth of their sacrifices and bring them to a satisfying conclusion. Bucky Fucking Dent demonstrates Duchovny’s ability to convincingly render characters in the final chapters of life, people who are seeking reconciliation with past loves, and to pass on something of their own stories to their children. One of The X Files’s most significant dangling plot threads is the fate of William, Mulder and Scully’s son, given up for adoption in season 9. Last year’s revival hinted liberally at William’s role in resolving the central mythology, and no ending to the series would be complete without dealing with the repercussions of this choice. Being a father in real life informs how Duchovny would write Mulder and Scully as parents, struggling with their decision to give up their child — a struggle last year’s revival episode “Home Again” touched upon, but which would need to be revisited during the final season.

A show as iconic and influential as The X Files deserves an ending that hits it out of the park, so to speak. The lineup of original writers for season 11 currently includes creator Chris Carter, Glen and Darin Morgan, and James Wong. Duchovny should have a place among them. He brings a unique perspective on the characters and their journey, and his attentiveness to the emotional coherence of Mulder and Scully’s experience will be an essential component in crafting a satisfying ending. In “The Unnatural,” character Arthur Dales urges Duchovny’s Mulder to “trust the tale, not the teller, Agent MacGuyver.” But in this case, I think the teller will make all the difference.

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Re: Why David Duchovny Should Write for X Files Season 11

Post by Duchovny on Tue 27 Jun - 10:57


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