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Why the ''The X-Files''' future looks dicey

Ken Tucker offers his view of the hit show’s prospects

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Why the ”The X-Files”’ future looks dicey

We have just entered into the twilight zone of ”The X-Files.” These are possibly the final weeks of this great television series, and — because the show is great — it would do it a disservice not to admit that this, its seventh season, has been uneven. Like a lot of smart shows, ”The X-Files” has become self-conscious of its past, and as its various writers — foremost among them creator Chris Carter — proceed, ”The X-Files” has started to deconstruct itself.

This past Sunday’s episode, for example — a superfine, funny edition written by Carter — commenced with Gillian Anderson’s Scully complaining to David Duchovny’s Mulder that they had become stuck in their roles. Scully said she was Dr. Watson to Mulder’s Sherlock Holmes, but Carter was making his characters speak for the actors themselves: Both Duchovny and Anderson have, in interviews, expressed a desire for the series to end, and here, Chris Carter, the man who made these actors famous, was having them voice that discontent overtly, albeit in the service of a clever story about dangerous twins.

Other self-conscious episodes this season haven’t been as artistically successful. I’m thinking particularly of the recent ”First Person Shooter,” cowritten by cyberpunk godfather William Gibson and Tom Maddox, an F/X-heavy computer-game scenario with leaden humor. But if the ”File” written and directed by David Duchovny a couple of weeks ago, ”Hollywood, A.D.,” was cleverly parodic (and explicitly critical of the show’s increasingly unwieldy ”mythology” underpinnings), Anderson’s writer-director debut, ”All Things,” was also refreshing for a most unusual quality in an ”X-Files” episode: a woman’s point of view. (That’s why so many of the show’s fanboys found it weak — they flinch at the vulnerability and romance Anderson boldly injected into the show.)

Anderson is contractually obliged to show up for an eighth season, but Duchovny’s situation is dicier: Not only is his contract up, but he’s also suing Carter and Fox for what he feels is an unfair syndication deal. Add to this the fact that Carter is reportedly hard at work on a pilot spinning-off the popular Lone Gunmen supporting characters, and the future of ”The X-Files” looks dim.

But maybe not. ”The X-Files” makes a bundle for the Fox network, which hasn’t had much luck this season in launching successful new hour-long series — they may be willing to pay everyone involved the bucks necessary to insure another batch of fresh ”Files.” And having gone through its self-conscious period with dignity intact, the show may invigorate itself for a final eighth, especially if the stars are granted their wishes to continue to write and direct occasionally. The result could be a real surprise, and a truly satisfying, season-long climax to a great show.