Darin Morgan penned some of The X-Files‘ funniest, quirkiest hours, including ‘Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,’ the only episode to win an Emmy for writing. Here, he reflects on the art of satirizing Mulder and Scully.
How did you persuade Chris Carter to let you go off in such idiosyncratic directions?
The first one I wrote was [season 2’s] “Humbug,” and Chris just liked the story I pitched. He has always responded to my stuff — it’s more the fans who have a problem with the show’s change in tone. But I always felt one of the more interesting things about the series is that you never knew what you were going to get from week to week.
What was the inspiration for Clyde, the insurance salesman who sees how everyone will die in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”?
There were some people who thought “Humbug” was too silly. So I wanted to do one that was much darker. I was reading about how psy- chics work, and there was also a book in the office on crime-scene investigation with photographs that were so disturbing to look at. I just had this thought that if you are psychic and you could see someone’s future, then you could see how they were ultimately going to die. And if you knew that, how would you be able to function in life?
At one point Scully asks Bruckman how she will die and he tells her, “You won’t.”
That was a throwaway line from me, and then Vince Gilligan or someone used that idea in a later episode more literally — and then everybody else seemed to pick up on it. I referenced it again in my episode last season [“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”] as a joke, but I don’t know where we stand now. One of the things about working on a show is that a story line or an idea you write can be picked up by other writers and taken in a totally different direction.
You helped forge the tradition of satirizing Mulder and Scully within the show. How did that happen?
Mulder at the beginning was cast as a kind of mythological hero on a quest for the truth, but I noticed things that made him rather foolish, and we all started having fun pointing out Mulder’s flaws. I think that actually deepened his character and saved him from being a cartoon guy on a vision quest. You understand that he is trying to find his sister and fighting the powers that be, yet he is still human and does a lot of stupid things. And then Scully—you could make fun of her because she hung around Mulder for so long.
Excerpt from Entertainment Weekly’s The Ultimate Guide to The X-Files, celebrating 25 years of out-there conspiracies. On sale Jan. 5, buy it here now.