Should Shows End?
Should TV shows have endings? I don't mean each individual episode (though there are some that would benefit from not just meandering along for 40 minutes and then declaring, there! The episode's over), but the arc of the whole series. Babylon 5, for example, does indeed have a definite and conclusive ending, even if we haven't seen it yet. So did The Prisoner. Twin Peaks, at the other end of the scale, not only had no ending, it provided no closure or resolution of ANY of its mysteries, to the point where loyal viewers like myself could well believe that they were making it up as they went along.
Which brings us to The X-Files. The current rumor that the movie is the last episode of the series, with season six being a publicity hoax, is of course incredible, but leaving aside whether the movie really is the capstone, the finale, the END of the series (it's not), would it have been a good idea if it were?
My answer, of course, is yes: it would have been. To the degree that Fight the Future ties up, closes off and finishes the dangling threads of five years of wonderful television, it'll be a good movie. And to the extent that it leaves those threads dangling, it'll be a cheat, a ripoff and a shame.
I mean, how many times can they throw Samantha across Mulder's path before he stops barking after that old scent? How often can the Cancer Man make enigmatic chit-chat with shadowy billionaires? How many of Mulder and Scully's close family do Cancer Man and Krycek have to kill before M&S start acting like they're in a war, instead of a debate? What do they feel about each other, deep down? And what in Hades is going on with this black oil/gray alien stuff?
That's what soured me on Twin Peaks: all the attention I paid to the clues, the mood and the feel of the piece was wasted, because IT DIDN'T ADD UP TO ANYTHING. If The X-Files never resolves its central mysteries, what was the point of caring about the answers? It's not like The Incredible Hulk, in which David Banner never got close to curing his affliction, or Battlestar Galactica, in which they never got any closer to Earth. Those alleged quests were just excuses to encounter all sorts of neat, transient crises, the way Voyager does today. But only the monster-of-the-week X-Files eps are like that; the others, which increasingly don't make sense unless you're deep into the conspiracy storyline, derive virtually all their value from furthering or deepening the mystery.
Not that Chris Carter can't do both: tie up the loose ends and still continue the series, albeit in a different direction. In this case, he's finished one mammoth novel about Mulder and Scully (the story of how these disparate seekers found The Truth, and each other) and is starting another story with the same characters. Perhaps it will concern what they do about The Truth, and what they do about the fact that they're now in love but still very different people in mortal danger from an intelligent, ruthless enemy.
Or perhaps it'll be something else, something we never expected. But the story needs to progress. You can hang by your thumbs only for so long.
I don't believe in endings. Ever. I don't believe that Jim Kirk is dead. I don't believe the events of Galactica '80 ever happened. And no matter what you do, you cannot make me believe that Spock mind-raped Valeris in his last filmed appearance. I am a "Choose Your Own Adventure" kind of viewer, and as such, I don't want to know what really happened to Samantha Mulder. Or maybe I should say that Chris Carter is welcome to tell me what HE thinks, but I'm not necessarily going to buy it.
I'm an outlaw, a fan fiction writer - I take The Powers That Be's intellectual property and manipulate it to my own specifications (not for profit of course). Thus far most producers have been tolerant, even encouraging, as long as it stays at a certain level. George Lucas went from threatening to sue Star Wars erotica writers to offering licenses to amateurs who wrote asking for permission to use the characters as long as they met certain guidelines. Fanfic writers tend to be a passionate audience, the sort who write "Save Our Sentinel" letters and work to popularize shows. But we're not passive consumers - we interact with the material that's presented to us, we reinterpret it, sometimes we rewrite it completely. You want to know what Ivanova's been up to this season? The heck with Straczynski: I can introduce you to people who will give you ten different stories, and you can pick your favorite. Or you can write your own. Who needs official closure with this much freedom to play?
According to the rules of good narrative storytelling, TV shows should indeed have endings. But I sort of liked the movie Clue, with its three endings: just think how great it would be if Fight the Future had that. For the people who think Chris Carter is warning us through fiction of a REAL government conspiracy, there could be an ending implicating Monica Lewinsky in a giant plot to cover up an alien invasion. For fans who want a lot of really disgusting things like autopsies and fat vampires and fluke men, Scully could have to take a journey through Mulder's entrails and suck out the remnants of the LSD which have caused ongoing flashbacks about aliens. And for the really die-hard 'shippers, there wouldn't even necessarily have to be any dialogue...at least not after, "Scully, did I show you why they call me Fox?" (Ouch, I'm kidding! I want a mature, enlightened relationship between colleagues in love, too!) If Fight the Future doesn't tie up all the loose ends, it won't significantly diminish my pleasure in The X-Files: tying up too many loose ends is more likely to make me lose interest.
Bad shows tend to generate even more fanfic than good ones because there's so much more to rationalize. Voyager is a terrible series about a bunch of people lost in space, bumping into Vicious Threats which they defeat, secure in their belief that the Prime Directive is the only ideological system worth spouting. It doesn't add up to anything. I wish these people would explore strange new worlds, forge bonds, fall in love, evolve, etc. Still, I am the writer of a really frightening amount of Voyager fanfic - not one of which contains a premise which is filmable, nor even printable in an anthology like Strange New Worlds (which has the same requirements as Pocket Books: don't rewrite Starfleet rules, don't maim the characters, and for god's sakes don't let them go to bed with each other). When I get an idea about what Janeway should have said to Chakotay at the end of "Resolutions"...well, there's no legitimate forum. Which is fine; if the producers really had the power to let anyone have the last word, even me, it might have stopped the other eighty or so delectable alternate endings which I have in my 42 MB Janeway/Chakotay fanfic collection.
I expect that some people reading this will think I am nuts, while others will write to me privately and say, "Where can I FIND these stories?" (Try the recommended J/C fanfic at http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Studios/7371/jc.html.) I don't know why some people watch television looking for closure while others watch to create their own...I expect it has to do with why some people think The Truman Show has the greatest ending ever while others found it disappointing. I just know that, whatever happens in The X-Files movie, I will continue to have my own opinions about what happens to Mulder and Scully. Hey, if we're supposed to trust no one and be skeptical of what we're told by big corporations and broadcasting companies, isn't that only fair?
This column was originally written for AnotherUniverse.com.