The X-Files Would Feature A Much Different Mulder If It Weren't For David Duchovny

"The X-Files" is easily one of the best shows of the '90s. The whistling theme song, the creepy storylines, and the will-they-won't-they relationship between Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) kept us all hanging on for 11 seasons and two feature films. The show wasn't the first to focus on weird stuff. Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone" and David Lynch's "Twin Peaks" both explored the strange and unusual, but the worlds of both of those shows were as weird as the events that took place within them.

As Serling famously explains in "The Twilight Zone" opening monologue, the show takes place in a "dimension of imagination." The world of "Twin Peaks" is unflinchingly bizarre, where characters speak in riddles, a woman walks around with a psychic wooden log, and people slip into extra-dimensional red rooms to communicate with giant spirits. The strangest thing is that everyone in the bizarro town acts as if it is all normal. Both of these shows explored the weird, but it was done in equally odd worlds that we were not a part of, which can quickly become cliche and hokey. "The X-Files" avoided that by creating characters and relationships that felt real.

Yes, Mulder and Scully investigate some freaky stuff, but they aren't surrounded by oddballs that speak in riddles or communicate with firewood. They live in our reality, where most people don't believe in telekinesis, alien abductions, or past lives, which makes Mulder and Scully's discovery of such things more interesting and scary.

David Duchovny believed that the show had to be wary of making his characters too bizarre or cliche. Throughout his time on the show, he had to fight to keep Mulder authentic and relatable.

Fox 'Spooky' Mulder

David Duchovny is a skeptic, which almost led him to turn down "The X-Files" pilot:

"I thought, this is about extraterrestrials, there is no way that, you know, how long can it go? It's a ... good pilot, but you're either going to see the aliens or you're going to wait too long to see them. And I wasn't interested in conspiracy theories ... and I was perfectly willing to just say, 'you know, I'm going to have to pass on that pilot.'"

The actor's agents convinced him that passing on the role was a bad idea, so Duchovny took the gig, and the lifelong skeptic became everyone's favorite conspiracy theorist, Fox Mulder.

From the start, the actor was determined to play the character in a way that avoided the weird or banal. Back in 1994, Duchovny told Entertainment Weekly it would have been "an obvious choice ... to make him an oddball, a mad professor," but the actor had no interest in portraying the character that way.

The actor's portrayal of Mulder gave us a witty, charming, sensitive man, who makes us all want to believe in his theories, no matter how crazy they might be, and who approaches the weird with childlike amazement.

Series creator, Chris Carter, told Entertainment Weekly that Duchovny's version of Mulder was the most interesting:

"It was David who pointed out correctly that if he were a nerd with pocket mechanical pencil protectors, you wouldn't be interested. But a smart, educated, perfectly sane guy can get you to believe outrageous things."

Mulder and Scully

Although I'm sure Scully would disagree, Duchovny believed Mulder was a scientist at his core, which led to friction on set:

"Sometimes I have to fight, because [directors] say, 'Here's this dead body, how come Mulder's not more emotionally involved?' Everybody's aghast, and I'm detached, like, 'Look at those beautiful maggots.' Like in the episode with the liver-eating squeeze guy who could elongate himself through chimneys, the director wanted me to be mad about this horrible serial killer. I was like, 'No, this is an amazing discovery! He's not morally culpable, because he's genetically driven.' I judge no one."

Mulder's obsession with the paranormal and his quest to understand the unknown is usually his top priority. This could make the character seem cold or aloof, but his relationship with Scully shows his softer side. A few times throughout the series, Mulder puts Scully above everything else, which shows his caring side.

One of the biggest examples of this is in the first movie when Mulder rescues a kidnapped Scully from an alien mothership. He is literally surrounded by proof of alien life and even grabbed by an extraterrestrial, but his priority at that moment is to save Scully. Another example is in the second season episode "One Breath," where Scully mysteriously turns up in a hospital after being missing for months. She is comatose and the doctors do not expect her to recover. Mulder feels responsible and tries to resign from the bureau. This is a huge thing for a guy who has dedicated his life to investigating X-Files!

These situations with Scully allow us a glimpse into the affection and respect Mulder has for her. They also show us that he is more than a mad man swept up in conspiracies. He's a real guy, who experiences deep emotions for those closest to him, and he will risk it all to protect them, which is why we will forgive him when he seems more interested in monsters than people.

At first glance, "The X-Files" is a show about creepy things. But Duchovny was right when he suspected that wasn't enough to keep a show alive. However, his portrayal of Mulder added a complex character to the mix of monsters. This helped to create one of the most successful science fiction shows to ever grace our television screens.