I Want to Believe...That Chris Carter won't ruin The X-Files: Fan/producer relationships and textual ownership

Curator's Note

As a huge X-Files fan the news that the series would be returning on a 6 episode run had me seriously excited. Friends (many of whom I've met through the XF fandom) on Facebook and Twitter were buzzing about the news and what it would mean for the characters and the fans, who didn't have social media when the series first aired. But amongst the buzz were also areas of concern. Which of the actors would be coming back; which of the writers would be returning; and how much involvement would Chris Carter have?

Carter, as executive producer and creator, has been a contentious figure for many X-Files fans. The convoluted mytharc, the poor handling of the William storyline and the failure that was 2008’s I Want to Believe have each contributed to the belief that Carter – as much as fans love him for creating the show – should not be allowed anywhere near the revival. Research I’m currently doing shows that fans have very clear ideas of what they do and don't want to see in the revival: no supersoldiers, no complex mytharc, no William, Mulder and Scully together. And these are all storylines that fans are concerned Carter will (re)introduce (Carter's comment that "when we come back [following I Want to Believe] we will find that [Mulder and Scully's] relationship is not where we left it" has a lot of fans concerned).

Derek Johnson talks about fantagonism between fans and producers in relation to Buffy, writing that when Marti Noxon managed season 6 in Joss Whedon’s stead she faced scrutiny and distrust and was blamed for the poor quality of the season (2007: 292). There are disagreements between fans and Carter about The X-Files but there are differences between Carter and Noxon. He is not vilified as such (at least not in the same way as other producers, like Noxon), and fans still have some affection as well as gratitude and (grudging) respect for him. But the revival, and Carter's authorship, are causes of concern for fans because there is so much that could go wrong. Fans have continued to live with the series since 2002, writing fic, making fanvids, rewatching DVDs, claiming some ownership over the characters. Carter has moved on and created other shows. The question for many fans is whether he really is the best person to revive The X-Files.


Bethan, I absolutely love the video and your insight into the potential fantagonism surrounding Chris Carter's involvement in The X-Files revival, particularly when contrasted with other, more mainstream responses. I've gotten the distinct impression that Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny wouldn't even come to the negotiating table for this new set of episodes if Carter wasn't included as showrunner, and sources such as Nerdist and IGN -- organizations that like to portray themselves as nerdier and more fan-centric than the traditional news media -- have cited his attachment to the project as proof that this is a "real" return to the original series, perhaps ignoring the show's decline in its last few seasons and I Want to Believe. It's interesting to hear that going "deeper" into the extensive X-Files fan community reveals less confidence in Carter's ability to guide a successful return. I'd love to hear more about what you've found in your research: Does the community approach some sort of consensus as to what the ideal degree of "Carter-ness" might be? Are fans consistent in their desire for "no supersoldiers, no complex mytharc, no William, Mulder and Scully together?" Or is the response more nuanced than that? I guess another way to put it: What exactly do the fans you've spoken with expect from this revival, and do you think the show has any hope of living up to those expectations?

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