The X Files: The Official Archives is an essential read for any fan of Mulder and Scully, with a selection of case showcased as actual case files from the vaults of the FBI.
Bloody Flicks caught up with author Paul Terry to find out more about the book and his love of The X Files.
Can you tell us about the genesis of The X-Files: The Official Archives?
I had the in-world idea for this book rattling around in my head for a while. But, in 2015, when they officially announced that The X-Files was coming back for season 10, I literally pitched the idea to Fox the day that was announced.
It took a while to find the right publisher for it—one that was one hundred percent behind the concept. Fortunately, Abrams Books loved it, and I was signed on to craft it in 2017. Rewatching episodes, investigating the props archives from the show, and the writing/crafting of the book then took place over the next couple of years.
I take it you are a big fan of the show?
Absolutely. It’s my favourite TV show. I saw the pilot episode when I was a teenager and I was immediately bewitched by the chemistry of Mulder and Scully, and the alien abduction case they were investigating. And, after all these years, it’s still a show that I’ll randomly just put an episode of on.
In fact, while I’m doing work on a project—for example, something like research, or compiling information—I’ll often put on what I call “X-Files Radio”. That means I’ll pop in a disc of the show, and just let it play on the television, but in my peripheral vision—or, as Rhys Darby would put it, “using my periphs”—so that it’s on in the background. And I’m more listening to it than I am intently watching it. It’s just a nice way to have something audio on that not an album. Sometimes I find it a good way to work.
What do you think made Mulder and Scully so popular?
Gillian Anderson + David Duchovny + Chris Carter. I think the combination of their undeniable chemistry, their acting skills and choices, and the writing/creation of the characters by Chris Carter, was the unexpected alchemy that made Mulder and Scully, as a unit, such a popular storytelling vessel. If you imagine a situation where you remove any one of those people from that equation, I don’t think Mulder and Scully would’ve become the phenomenon they did.
This looks like a labour of love. What was the design process like?
It really was a labour of love. The pre-production that went into the creative process was a lot of heavy lifting, even before the geniuses at Headcase Design began their incredible work.
That prep began with me doing a full rewatch, and taking countless notes. Those notes were very specific: what items of evidence legitimately should be shown in these in-world case files? Every report had to start from that place. Then, it was all about finding out if those newspaper clippings, x-rays, photos, etc—that were on screen in the episode—even still existed in the archives of the studio.
I combed through folders and boxes from the show’s archives—which had not been opened in decades—and it became a process of discovery. Alongside items that I desperately wanted to use inside the book, I also came across other gems that inspired even more in-world ideas. All of these ‘paper props’ were then scanned in high resolution and sent to Headcase Design.
As well as writing the text, I also needed to write down a kind of art direction guide to how these items should be displayed in the reports, so they would to make the most sense. And that wasn’t to prevent Headcase being creative. It was to guide them with specific in-world reasons as to why items needed to be shown, or not shown, in certain ways. And the simple reason for this is: no author is going to expect their design team to watch hundreds of hours of a TV. They knew The X-Files. But it was my responsibility to explain the how and the why of each case report. But I cannot overstate this: Headcase came up with brilliant design, application, and treatment ideas that elevated the whole concept even further. So it became a dialogue—refining tiny things to make each case report as in-world accurate as possible, as well as honouring the in-world concept behind the book itself.
As you can see, what Headcase achieved with this book is astounding. The realism they crafted is way beyond the wildest expectations I hoped for. And I’m so thrilled that the book has won two design awards: ‘2020 Print Award: 1st Place – Books, Entire Package,’ and ‘2021 Communication Arts Design Award.’
How did you feel about the Season 10/11 revival?
I think they were compelling because they dared to be different. And, at the same time, they dared to lean into the truth of the characters being older, which I really liked and respected.
Season 10 began in 2016, which is 24 years later than when Mulder and Scully first met (shown on screen in the pilot as 1992). Even if fans prefer to think about more recent time periods, 2016 is still 14 years after the end of Season 9. And 2016 is 8 years after the I Want To Believe movie. I guess what I’m emphasizing is that, whichever way you slice, a lot of time has passed. Even from the last time we saw them in the second movie, a lot happens in eight years of anyone’s life. So I really respect that Season 10 felt like a natural follow-up to the difficulties in Mulder and Scully’s relationship that we could see right there, out in the open, in I Want To Believe.
I don’t think starting Season 10 with them being happily a couple would’ve worked at all. The dynamic they decided upon reinforced that these are different people now. Related to that, what I especially loved about Season 11 is that I like to call it “the dating season.” Yes, we did get some lovely moments in Season 10 that showed that, even though they were not together, there was still that “one in five billion” connection between them. But Season 11 really is the perfect follow-up to those fleeting, sweet moments.
For me, the emotionality that runs through Season 11 is wonderful. The intimacy obviously returns pretty early on. But, overall, I love how we watch them grow closer and closer as the William quest deepens. And the final scene of Rm9sbG93ZXJz, when Scully decides to put down her phone and squeeze Mulder’s hand, is everything.
Story-wise, I enjoyed the ambition and scale of the William/CSM/Purlieu Services mythology arc. And the more stand-alone cases were a terrific mix of comedy, thriller, and horror. I also think Darin Morgan wrote his best two episodes—yes, of all his episodes—in these seasons: Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster and The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat.
When did you feel like The X-Files was at the peak of its powers?
That’s a really interesting question, and a really hard one to answer. Because it requires looking back and assessing a number of different factors. Does the peak of its powers mean how many people around the world were watching and discussing the show? Or is it specifically just about TV ratings? Perhaps it was at the peak of its powers when it dared to some of its most ambitious storytelling?
When I think about that term, ‘most ambitious storytelling’, emotionally, my memory first leaps to when Scully found out she had cancer, and that entire arc. And, of course, I can’t not think about the full, complex story of Scully’s abduction, mysterious return, and what followed. But my mind also recalls the fact that the show dared to abduct Mulder, and make Season 8’s entire season dedicated to trying to find him. Only to find him ‘dead’, and then dig him up after months, resurrect him, and have Mulder discover Scully is pregnant. All those big swings feel like high points in the creative journey of the show. Because they were all catalysts for really complex emotions to be played out by all of the characters.
The X-Files had some great side characters too, including the Cigarette Smoking Man and Skinner, do you have a particular favourite?
There are so many to choose from! I can’t pick just one, but I will say that I really loved X. Steven Williams just absolutely crushed every scene he was in. You couldn’t take your eyes off him. He had an intensity and an authority that was so compelling. You never felt sure if Mulder was in danger or not.
Do you have a favourite Monster of the Week episode?
Again, way too many favourites to just pick one. But I do adore Bad Blood. I know that sounds like a lazy choice, because it’s Gillian Anderson’s favourite. But it’s honestly been right up there for me since I first saw it. It’s because everyone, in every department, just crushes it in that episode: from the script, to the acting choices, to the guest stars, to the directing, to the music choices. I love that we got real components from Bad Blood into The Official Archives.
I have so many favourites though. After all, there are more than 200 episodes! Some others I adore—which are also in the book, with some spectacular evidence/props from the show—include: Humbug, Quagmire, Detour, The Post Modern Prometheus, Pusher, Folie à Deux, Arcadia, Field Trip, X-Cops, Roadrunners, and Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster.
Where do you think The X-Files ranks in terms of science fiction shows?
I think it’s still the best one. I can’t think of a show that successfully combined the lightning-in-a-bottle dynamic between its two lead characters with such compelling and eclectic storytelling.
The X-Files didn’t just pull off genres like horror, thriller, mystery, comedy, and beyond. More often than not, it excelled in the execution of them. And I love how it was a show that you had to pay attention to. It engaged your brain and made you work for it. Its mythology was complex, yes. But I always saw that as a positive. I enjoy it more when a show dares to pull me in with storytelling that doesn’t serve up any easy answers.
Order your copy of The X Files: The Official Archives by Paul Terry now.