Chris Carter Thinks The X-Files Can Work Without Gillian Anderson, But He Is Wrong

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We’ve known for some time now that Gillian Anderson will be leaving The X-Files after Season Eleven. At the winter Television Critics Association (TCA), she said, “There’s lots of things that I want to do in my life and in my career … I’ve done this now for decades, and it’s time for me to hang up Scully’s hat.” With her departure, the future of the series has come into question. How could you have The X-Files without Scully?

Apparently, series creator Chris Carter thinks you can. He recently told Digital Spy that he thinks the series has “more stories to tell, with Gillian or without.” He suggested the possibility of using Scully as “an absent center,” as David Duchovny’s Mulder was used in large parts of Season Eight and Season Nine.

“I think that certainly The X-Files has more life in it,” Carter said, “there are more stories to tell, with Gillian or without. I’m sorry to see her go, I’ve never actually considered doing this show without her, so is this the end? It’s the end of something, I don’t know if it’s the beginning of something new. But certainly we will have to all put our heads together and figure out where to go from here.”

“I always thought of David [Duchovny] the way I thought about the child William [Mulder and Scully’s child],” he continued, “as an absent center. Even when he wasn’t there, he was the center of everyone’s concern, and the stories revolved around him. I think that’s an interesting problem for storytellers and I think that if The X-Files is to go forward then Scully would be a similar absent center.”

Now I can’t exactly say I’m surprised that a showrunner with ZERO women writers on his staff is also okay with dropping the female protagonist, but that’s a discussion for another day. (Let’s not forget they still tried to pay Anderson half of Duchovny’s salary for this revival.)

It would also be tempting to simply point out what an amazing character Scully is, or what an impressive actress Gillian Anderson is. To talk about the Scully Effect, or the importance of the character as a feminist icon. These are all awesome reasons to defend Scully, and they’re amazing examples of how the character thrived despite the show’s writing and because of Anderson’s performance. But this isn’t just about Scully as a character. One of the biggest reasons The X-Files needs Scully is because of the mechanics of the show itself.

Scully is, in so many ways, the audience’s point-of-view character on The X-Files. When the series begins, she’s the one we follow. We learn things as she does; Mulder, the true believer, already knows most of the things that the audience discovers, and so intellectually we follow Scully’s journey, not Mulder’s. We watch her use the scientific method to test out Mulder’s theories, and with her we become more and more convinced of aliens, monsters, and mutants. The X-Files has always drawn heavily on procedural-style storytelling and detective work, and Scully the scientist is the one who actually does that detective work, who examines the evidence and tests the hypotheses.

In addition, Mulder and Scully’s partnership is so, so key to the show. Pages and pages have been written about their will-they-won’t-they relationship, their logic vs. faith discussions, Scully’s rational calm against Mulder’s emotional drive. I can’t really add much that hasn’t already been said about how fascinating and iconic this partnership is. The show’s mythology is plenty interesting, but it can also get plenty nonsensical. Their partnership was the driving force of the show, and their relationship remains its center. This is fundamentally a show about a team.

The show could certainly go without Scully for a long time before bringing her back. It’s used that trick of absence before for emotional payoff. But do we not remember what those Mulder-less episodes were like? When the show did do that with Mulder, when it spent so much time with an “absent center” instead of a wonderful, productive partnership, we ended up with some of the least satisfying episodes in the series. It felt like The X-Files was missing a fundamental part of what made it work. That’s not a feeling that I, as a viewer, want to go back to. The X-Files didn’t feel like The X-Files when Mulder was gone for just a limited time It definitely won’t feel like The X-Files if Scully’s gone, period.

And, sure. I guess I reserve my right to be surprised with if the show continues on without Scully and somehow gets better. Shows can evolve; they can go in unexpected directions.

But would that be an X-Files that could tempt me back to watch? Nope.

(Via SYFY Wire; image: 20th Century Fox)

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