Ken Tucker explains why a Lone Gunmen spin-off might not be such a great idea

February 08, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

An open letter to Chris Carter

Dear Mr. Carter: I hear you’re thinking of taking the characters of the ”X-Files”’ Lone Gunmen — Bruce Harwood’s John Byers, Tom Braidwood’s Melvin Frohike, and Dean Haglund’s Ringo Langly — and turning them into the stars of their own TV series, particularly if ”The X Files” doesn’t go into an eighth season.

As an admirer of your work, I hope I’m wrong about this, but I fear you might be making a big mistake. The way I look at them, the Gunmen were always meant as comic relief — master conspiracy theorists, which means they’re also deluded nerds and obsessive personalities. This has proven to be a fine concept when the Gunmen have David Duchovny’s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully to react against. (Indeed, Scully has proven to be an entertaining object of the trio’s geek ardor.)

The Lone Gunmen — named after their own newsletter, which of course takes its name from what many consider the laughable theory that only Lee Harvey Oswald was involved in the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy — are supporting characters whose primary amusement lies in their stubborn peevishness, their relentless pursuit of oddball evidence, and the amassment of facts and factoids to bolster their wacky notions.

Turning them into the heroes of a weekly series will, I can only hazard, inevitably lead them to take on heroic characteristics, as well as paranormal cases, that will only remind viewers how much they miss seeing Mulder and Scully working this territory. Maybe I’m wrong; given the protean imagination you’ve brought to ”The X Files,” maybe you’ve also figured out a way to make the Gunmen antiheroic protagonists capable of carrying a show, but it also sounds like a creative retreat.

Mr. Carter, I’m well aware that the Fox network dumped your ambitious ”Harsh Realm” series way too quickly. (I dug the way you worked ”realm” references into this past Sunday’s ”Files,” and I’m looking forward to seeing the unaired episodes on the F/X network in March). But Fox’s miscalculation shouldn’t lead you to think that you should continue to mine the same territory. I’ve always thought, for example, that, given your interest in surfing, you probably have an interesting series about surfers in you: the anti-”Baywatch,” the sort of mystical-thriller surf drama that director Kathryn Bigalow tried to do with ”Point Break” some years ago and which novelist Kem Nunn has sketched in his best books.

Whatever you decide to do, best of luck. But unless you’re going to be able to invest ”Gunmen” with the same deep emotions you’ve poured into this past Sunday’s ”X-Files,” which grappled with the death of Fox’s mother with enormous grace, you’re betraying your own talent. Please be careful about conspiring with gunmen who may shoot creative blanks.

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