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Fox presented a panel on The X-Files to the Television Critics Association for the new six-episode event premiering this month. Discussing how he thought about bringing back FBI agents Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny), series creator Chris Carter revealed he had actually written a screenplay for a third movie before the limited series was greenlit.

Also revealed from the X-Files TCA panel was a new trailer for the upcoming revival, which you can watch below.

“There was talk of doing a third movie,” Carter said on the panel. “It was casual talk, so I actually wrote a third movie just because I was interested in where that might go. This television idea came out of the blue for me and was really a surprising phone call. When that happened, I let my wife read the third movie. She said, ‘I think not for television.’ There was something else I’d written. She said, ‘I think you need to do something more like that.’ That’s how the mythology episode came about.”

Another X-Files movie would be a massive production for 20th Century Fox, so it seems bold to write a screenplay on spec before a budget or commitment had been approved. Carter clarified, “It was less on spec. I’d call it a study if you will.”

The six-episode series opens and closes with “mythology” episodes, where the story addresses the continuing conspiracy of the X-files. In between are three standalone monster episodes and even a comedic episode.

“That was the signature of the show,” Carter said. “We’d do a mythology episode, then a monster-of-the-week episode then a comedy episode and it works. The audience went with you week to week. The thing we became known for was our range. The show could come back to shape to its original concept. We did that always in the run of the original series. In this case, there are only six episodes so we had to do it in a much shorter arc.”

The original order was slightly longer, though not as long as a full broadcast season. “Not 24 [episodes] certainly,” Carter said. “Originally we were supposed to do eight and that got scaled back because of schedules. Eight would’ve been doable. Six was very doable. Six works. You get a variety of episodes and you’ve got two strong mythology episodes which I always think are the spine of the show.”

Were another season to be produced, Carter would consider expanding the order. “I’m waiting for Fox to come back and say, ‘We want more of these,’” Carter said. “Then we’ll talk about how many.”

Sitting on the panel, Duchovny joked about the short order of X-Files episodes. “Think of it as a bento box of X-Files,” Duchovny said.

As for the placement of the mythology episodes as bookends, Carter explained, “It’s really a re-entry into a series that hasn’t been on the air for 13 years. I think you needed to get back into the character’s lives, their professional quest, where the characters are.”

Duchovny agreed. “You had to pay homage to the mythology that we’ve done as well as introduce the new twists that Chris has created for the series,” he said. “You have to honor the fans as well as introducing people who don’t know anything about it.”

Many classic X-Files characters are back including the Smoking Man, and the Lone Gunmen, who fans will remember died in the original series. “The Lone Gunmen are back,” Carter said. “You’re right they did meet their makers in the run of the original series but I think the way you see them return will explain itself. We don’t just bring them back as live characters. They are back in a completely different way. They’re actually back in a fantasy.”

“Scully’s fantasy,” Anderson added.

Returning to their landmark roles wasn’t entirely smooth sailing, not for Anderson at least. “I hate first days,” she said. “First and second days, I wish I could give them back. Everything that we do, I wish I could do over again so I am unusually nervous and weird and forget lines and don’t behave like the character for the first couple days. That wasn’t a ‘woo hoo, here we go!’ thing for me.”

It complicated things when the first scene was a major exposition scene. “I felt, for myself a little bit, because it’s hard to come back, and Mulder can’t stammer and hem and haw,” Duchovny said. “He has all his facts at his fingertips. It’s got to be real and fast and right there. Poor Joel [McHale] had even more than I did to say that day. He did wonderfully. It’s not easy to do I don’t think. Especially to come in on a first day on a show, we looked at Gillian, she didn’t look like she was going through the horrible moments she was talking about.”

After 14 years since The X-Files wrapped, and one movie in 2008, Anderson finally understands the magnitude of returning to these characters. “I did a Comic-Con right before it was about to start shooting,” she said. “It wasn’t until I sat on a panel and there was the degree of enthusiasm for it. And the theme music played, it was the first time in my life of The X-Files that I completely got what it was like for an audience to sit on a couch and hear that tune again for the first time. I got excited with them and it occurred to me I was starting to [shoot] on Monday.”

The X-Files returns Sunday, January 24 on Fox at approximately 10 PM after the NFL game.

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