"Trust No One," the watchwords of The X-Files,
seemed to apply not only to cigarette-smoking men and shadow government committees,
but also to Executive Producer Chris Carter and star David Duchovny in the eighth
season of the Fox phenomenon. The series that put Gen-X conspiracy theories
on the sci-fi map followed the quest of FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder and spy-turned-comrade
Special Agent Dana Scully as the two uncovered secret government agendas, past
paranormal mysteries, and monsters of the week. Season eight faced a unique
challenge: could the show go on without the abducted Fox Mulder, the central
knight errant and true believer of the show?
Carter and Duchovny tried to answer the question with
a "yes and no," by stringing along the audience, turning a blind eye
to continuity, and offering brief, less-than-even-cameo glimpses of Duchovny,
which he deigned to shoot while following the siren song of his awaiting screen
career. (After comparing Duchovny's Evolution to X-Files co-star Gillian
Anderson's House of Mirth, one feels compelled to advise him to keep his day
job.) Despite Carter and Duchovny's attempts to have their respective cakes
and eat them, too, their half-hearted antics could not put a serious dent in
the consistent excellence of Gillian Anderson's performances and the unexpected
delight of X-Files newcomer Robert Patrick.
The urgency of "where's Mulder?" gave way
to an ambivalent "Mulder who?" during the season as Dana Scully learned
to work with her new partner, Special Agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick), who
not only came from the wrong side of the tracks, but also did other non-Mulderish
things such as carry a flashlight, check in with his superiors, and listen to
his partner once in a while. Doggett also proved able to out-angst Mulder; Mulder's
sister might have been kidnapped by stardust (don't ask - not even Chris Carter
himself understands what that was about), but Doggett's son was violently murdered
and the crime remains unsolved. Much of the show's celebrated mytharc went the
way of the dodo during the season, but Doggett's bulldog-like skepticism and
Scully's passionate vision, when it wasn't manifesting itself in uncharacteristic
bouts of tears and self-absorption, went a long way to making even the most
mundane episode viewer-friendly. Also, at long last, Assistant Director Skinner
(Mitch Pileggi) seemed to be developing a more crucial role - and chemistry
- with the duo and their search for answers.
The two-part season finale of "Essence" and
"Existence" (May 13 and May 20, 2001, respectively) offered a radical
departure from the rest of the season. First, although the series' creator,
stars, and writers seemed to have forgotten this tidbit from the previous season,
it appeared that Dana Scully was, in fact, pregnant for the entire year. Carter
and company remembered this fact in time to labor over a none-too-subtle "virgin
birth" scenario in the finale that cast Scully as Mary, a returned and
recovered Mulder as Joseph, a wide place in the Georgia road as Bethlehem's
stable, the Lone Gunmen as the three wise men, and John Doggett as Sir Not Appearing
in this Metaphor. Second, the series recovered the mytharc in time to treat
viewers to the return - and death - of the so-bad-he's-good villain Alex Krychek.
Third, the finale force-fed fans a new and unimpressive addition to the cast,
Annabeth Gish as Special Agent Monica Reyes.
Last but not least, the final scene of "Existence"
offered a family portrait: baby William Scully (whose biological paternity remains
an X-File of its own) in the arms of a lip-locked Scully and Mulder.
On the heels of this scene - warming to some, nauseating to others - came the
news that David Duchovny will not reprise the role of Fox Mulder again. It seems
that the ninth season, like the eighth, will begin with an unanswered question:
in this case, how will Mulder's permanent absence be explained after this tender
scene of domesticity?
Finale aside, the eighth season of The X-Files
proved that paranoia was bigger than one man, be he David Duchovny or his alter
ego, Fox Mulder. Robert Patrick definitely earned his honor as Best Television
Actor at the recent 27th Annual Saturn Awards. Until the ninth season continues
to follow the quest of Scully, Doggett, Reyes, and their allies and enemies,
fans can turn to the Web for X-Files fixes that range from the encyclopedic
to the eccentric (http://www.obsse.com/,
All will be well as long as they remember that, even if the truth is out there,
Chris Carter may not be paying attention.