- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 4, 2000


Tomorrow's season premiere of "The X-Files" is the beginning of a new quest, rather than the resolution of last season's cliffhanger.
Regular viewers will realize that by the end of the revised opening credits, which hint at what lies ahead. The familiar eerie images are joined by two new ones — FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder floating across the TV screen and a baby in the womb.
These refer to the two loose threads from last season that form the basis of the new season: the disappearance of Mulder (David Duchovny) and the pregnancy of his professional and romantic partner, FBI Special Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), who had believed herself barren as a result of shady scientific experiments.
The loose threads are series creator Chris Carter's way of explaining the absence of Mr. Duchovny, who is working a reduced schedule on "The X-Files" to pursue movie roles.
For seven years, the show has revolved around Mulder's pursuit of X-Files, FBI cases without rational explanations, in hopes of unraveling the mystery of his sister's disappearance, a case that finally closed last season.
Mr. Duchovny, who has made television's most paranoid Washingtonian into a one-name archetype such as Columbo or Kojak, still comes first in the credits, reassuring fans that Mulder will be back. Soon after the credits, viewers learn that Mulder is alive, being tortured on an alien ship, but his fate is not resolved in the two-part opener.
Instead, the two episodes serve as an introduction for Jack Doggett (Robert Patrick), a former New York police officer now working for the FBI. We first meet him as a rising star in the agency, but know his career is headed literally for the basement — more specifically, the windowless basement X-Files office, and Mulder's abruptly vacated position.
Doggett first meets up with future partner Scully as she watches — but cannot hear — Assistant FBI Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) being questioned by a review panel. Skinner had seen Mulder's abduction by an alien bounty hunter in last season's finale.
Doggett offers Scully a glass of water and begins questioning her about Mulder. Doggett clearly regards Scully and Skinner as possible suspects in Mulder's disappearance.
Scully is equally distrustful of Doggett. When she finds her phone tapped, she immediately calls him to accuse him of keeping her under surveillance.
He also turns out to be a skeptic about aliens and the supernatural.
"I just find it hard to swallow that a scientist, a serious person, can buy that," Doggett tells Scully, echoing her own skepticism when she was sent downstairs to work on the X-Files seven years earlier.
Instead of working together, the two FBI agents pursue separate leads and converge on the Arizona site where, for different reasons, they both expect Mulder to make an appearance.
Most of the action takes place in the Nov. 12 episode, as Doggett sees a chain of impossible events and tries to make sense of them — both in his own mind and in official reports — without believing in aliens or the supernatural.
This second episode serves up some nifty twists and turns, but sharp viewers won't have any trouble figuring out what's happening, something that can't always be said for the sometimes murky plot lines of this adventure series.
Mr. Patrick's scenes in the first part of the two-part opener might leave viewers wondering if he'll turn out to be a threat to Scully's investigations, as have past characters such as Jeffrey Spender (Chris Owens), Diana Fowley (Mimi Rogers) and Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea).
The second part, however, puts his character in his element — the field — and shows him as a dedicated investigator and suggests he'll stay loyal to Scully, even if he thinks her theories are a little bit out there.
Although he's filling the skeptic shoes once filled by Miss Anderson's character, Mr. Patrick creates a new character, rather than echoing Mulder or Scully. His Doggett is a classic crime-drama tough guy, without the touches of eccentricity that ran through Mulder's character. When the Lone Gunmen, the investigators' techno-nerd sidekicks, leave for their own series later this season, that eccentricity might be missed more.
The two-part opener turned out stronger than many multipart episodes of "X-Files," suggesting that the aging show still has some life in it. While not wrapping up the story line of Mulder's abduction, it didn't fizzle into the sort of unresolved mess that makes me long for the days when only daytime soaps had real ongoing story lines.
I hope the new plot line doesn't transform itself into a weekly alien chase, and leaves plenty of room for the side trips that have given the series some of its best moments over seven years.
"The X-Files" hums along nicely without Mr. Duchovny, and the truth still is out there, just out of reach. Mr. Carter is gambling that fans want it to stay that way.
{*}{*}{*}WHAT: "The X-Files"WHEN: Tomorrow and Nov. 12 at 9 p.m.WHERE: Fox, WTTG Channel 5 and WBFF Channel 45CREDITS: Written by Chris Carter

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