The Truth Is Still Out There
by Michelle Erica Green

XOXs For X-Philes

"When will Mulder and Scully Kiss?"

That's what everyone wants to know about the new X-Files season, right?

"On November 28, in the episode "Millennium."

There's the answer, courtesy TV Guide originally, though it has now been cited more places than the Starr Report.

The "Millennium" episode features the return of doom-and-gloom Frank Black from Chris Carter's cancelled show - not Harsh Realm, the other one. It's set on New Year's Eve. Lots of people kiss at midnight or under the mistletoe or stumbling around with masks on at that time of year. I refuse to be held responsible if the kiss isn't all it's hyped up to be, like the "Small Potatoes" kiss or the "Triangle" kiss or the Fight the Future kiss.

But for once, there is a question brewing which is almost as big as that of whether Mulder and Scully will finally get together. Not "Did aliens really write the Bible?" Not "Is Krycek really Mulder's sister Samantha?" Not "If extraterrestrials play baseball, can we assume George Steinbrenner is from outer space, too?" It's bigger than that, a conspiracy involving multinational corporations and millions of dollars and vast political intrigue. The question is, "What are the chances of an eighth season of The X-Files, and what will it mean if we don't get one?"

Well, it might mean a conclusion of sorts. Not like that tease "The End" which led into the movie and didn't really wrap up anything at all. We might get serious closure on certain issues, such as - to quote executive producer Frank Spotnitz in the official X-Files magazine - "a direct conclusion to seven years of unrequited sexual tension."

In other words, Mulder and Scully may not just kiss. To borrow one of Mulder's favorite metaphors, they've already had all the batting practice they need: it's time to go for the home run.

Or else the writers may just be screwing with our minds.

Shipping Out

X-Lord Chris Carter has thrown out more teasing tidbits than ever before on the subject of whether his leads will liplock. (To his suggestion that Mulder and Scully will do something they have never done before this season, Entertainment Weekly retorted, "You mean smile?") He also said he imagines the show "going out with a bang," and he didn't necessarily mean fireworks. Carter directed the hugely 'shippy "Triangle" last season and has become less and less committed in print to his early avowals that he would never let Mulder and Scully get involved, so perhaps there's hope.

Then there's Spotnitz, who said a year ago that he really hoped no one expected him to write any serious romance between Mulder and Scully. He had fans hysterical and practically calling for blood. Now, in answer to an official magazine question about comments that Mulder and Scully are moving toward a new plateau in their relationship, he said, "Big changes! In the movie, they didn't kiss but clearly the desire was there. Then we really, I thought, teased the audience with episodes like 'Triangle' and 'The Rain King.' I think you will see that attraction addressed more squarely at some point during the year."

David Duchovny reportedly wrote the second part of the "Biogenesis" trilogy, which began at the end of last season and continues this Sunday night in the season premiere. Against all odds (and alleged acrimony with his co-star which he's done nothing to dispel), Duchovny appears to be a 'shipper. His last outing, "The Unnatural," ended with Scully in Mulder's arms playing with his balls and stick...I mean, baseball bat. But we all got the idea. As my friend Shelley pointed out, every time Duchovny has contributed to the story - "Colony"/"End Game," "Anasazi" - we've gotten some nice 'shippy moments, so "Biogenesis Part Deux" may be no exception.

Then again, perhaps we should ask ourselves: with Millennium and Harsh Realm cancelled in short order by FOX, with Duchovny suing the network for trying to deprive him of royalties, with Gillian Anderson under contract for an eighth season but saying she's too physically and emotionally drained to do it, does anyone on the staff still care passionately enough to see this or any other arc through to its logical conclusion?

And what might that be?

God, Government, and the Meaning of Life

Nah, The X-Files doesn't tackle the big questions. Much. Hah! Right now it's an equal-opportunity offender in the Creationism-Evolution debate, suggesting both that aliens wrote The Bible and that something not of this earth triggered survival of the fittest in the species of this planet. It has shown us senators that make the most corrupt, lecherous creeps in Washington look like saints, and defenders of the peace who make good honest war sound preferable. Most of the evil cabal conspiring with aliens in a global hostile takeover are dead, but there's still more we don't know about that group than things we do know. Are we all doomed to be helpless sheep before powerful wolves that we can't even understand?

When we left Mulder, he was having a nervous breakdown, courtesy of an alien artifact and Heartless Bitch of the Universe Diana Fowley. Cancer Man and his hit-man-for-hire Krycek were lurking in the background, torturing Skinner. There's an alien fetus hidden somewhere, maybe in the same place as Marita Covarrubias. Presumably Cassandra Spender is with the rebel aliens. I have no idea where Mulder's sister Samantha might be at this point, nor am I sure I still care, but Mulder does. The last time Scully demanded what Mulder was hoping to learn from his work on the X-Files, Mulder answered, "My sister."

Samantha must be somewhere. The same dramatic rule which dictates that a loaded gun must go off onstage surely dictates that if a character's absence drives the plot of a story and a character's personal quest, it must be addressed. But what does Samantha still connect with? We saw more bees than we needed in Fight the Future, we witnessed the warped truth about the cloning plot in the "Christmas Carol/Emily" stories. The men who plotted to save their families from the aliens are dead as is Mulder's father, the man who turned Samantha over. Her reappearance is necessary to quell Mulder's personal demons, but I can't imagine how she could be a key to the remaining mysteries on the series.

It's more interesting to think about the fact that Krycek could kill Skinner at any moment via those nanoprobes in his bloodstream, and Fowley could kill Mulder right now through whatever she did to him in between taking off her blouse and calling Scully in "Biogenesis." Krycek and Fowley would make a wonderful couple if she weren't involved with CSM and he weren't in love with Mulder. At this point, I wish we had some idea what either of them is after. The X-Files once meant something to Fowley, so even if Mulder doesn't, one has to wonder what conspiracies she's aware of to make her turn on him and Scully.

Scully has had her moments of sounding like she might walk...not away from Mulder, but away from her research on these cases, which must seem as trivial to her as drug cases did to Mulder before they got put back on the fun stuff. When you've seen proof of extraterrestrial life, what do you care if some suburban subdivision has a monster in its sewers? More importantly, when you've seen evidence that there really are angels, and quite possibly a God like the one you grew up believing in, what do you care if there are extraterrestrials? I don't like the way Scully's Catholicism comes and goes. Having seen the things she's seen, she'd either be a true believer or a total skeptic by now. I'd have thought the Book of Genesis written on an alien artifact would have shaken her up more than it did.

Just Ask Already

Perhaps the reason Mulder and Scully are still working together is that they've defined their relationship to each other for so long by their jobs that they have no idea how to take it out of that context. Maybe they're just afraid to try. Mulder worked with Fowley on The X-Files and got involved with her, and look how that turned out. Then again, Scully had a fling with a guy who turned out to be a tattoo-controlled psychopath, yet she seems to have recovered from that trauma nicely.

What precisely is at risk, at this point, in Mulder and Scully getting together? They've broken so many FBI regulations that I can't imagine that fear of protocol is still an issue, though it is something they would have to deal with eventually. I also don't think either one of them would refuse to get involved out of pathological fear of losing the other. They've already got the pathological fear, they may as well have the joy as well. Scully's brother Bill may try to kick Mulder' ass and his ex may try to have her wiped out, but I think they can handle that if they could handle Fluke Man.

The writers' chief concern should not be that the show will lose viewers a la Moonlighting once all the sexual tension disappears. Instead, they should be worried that viewers will disappear because it's so frustrating and unrealistic to watch a potential romance get dragged out for network ratings. This show is not a romantic comedy. It better not be dependent solely on the chemistry between its leads, or it shouldn't be masquerading as supernatural drama. Viewers have generally always wanted both and have to some degree always gotten both. But more than half a decade later, it's time to evolve.

Is this it? Two months ago, the network was making noises like it would consider doing a season of X-Files without Carter or Duchovny. Two weeks ago, Carter was suggesting he might stay and he wanted to rope Duchovny into staying too. Then Harsh Realm was cancelled, and I'm not so sure either FOX or the exec really wants to drag X-Files out another season. Carter claims tht the network didn't promote Harsh Realm and saddled it with a bad time slot (the same time slot where the unheralded X-Files began and thrived for years). FOX in turn demanded that Carter tone down the violence, and apparently wasn't too happy at being named in a lawsuit filed by the Harsh Realm comic book's creators demanding credit for their invention.

There's a lucrative movie franchise waiting if The X-Files doesn't glut the market by sticking around on television too long. Having watched the Star Trek franchise drive itself into the ground by attempting to keep the franchise everywhere at once, we can only hope that the various interests involved with The X-Files don't make the same mistake. Let this be the last season of The X-Files, wrap up the conspiracy, find Samantha, tell us Krycek's stake in everything, send Fowley where she belongs, leave enough steam over for the next movie.

And for god's sake, let Mulder and Scully do more than just kiss.

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