The X Word
Note: Spoilers follow—really!—for the upcoming season of The X-Files.
As a longtime X-Files fan eagerly awaiting the show’s upcoming return, I’ve spent the last year consuming even the tiniest scraps of information about the new season. Casting announcements, photos from the set, the briefest of teasers—I’ve studied them all, not so much for clues about what was coming as for the small tingle of pleasurable anticipation they inspired. Last week saw the release of our thickest slice of information yet: a full featurette, “The X-Files Reopened,” with more than twenty minutes of interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips from new episodes. It was great to see David Duchovny, the agelessly beautiful Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, and Chris Carter, and I was especially glad for the appearance of a surprisingly trim-looking Darin Morgan. Morgan, the writer responsible for such classic casefiles as “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” and “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” is one of my favorite authors in any medium, and the prospect of a new episode from his brain is one of the most exciting aspects of the show’s resurrection. As I listened to him describe his episode and caught glimpses of the new scenes, however, I noticed that much of it seemed familiar. And I finally realized that not only did I know a lot about this episode, but I’d read an early version of the script in its entirety.
At this point, a little background information is probably necessary. After his short but triumphant run at The X-Files, including an Emmy win for “Clyde Bruckman,” Morgan moved to Millennium, where he wrote and directed a pair of excellent episodes. And after that—nothing. Like many a great screenwriter before him, Morgan spent more than a decade in the wilderness, with rumors of new projects occasionally surfacing but nothing produced under his byline. (I know this because I actually created his Wikipedia article, a fact that I occasionally forget when I go to look him up and find myself reading my own words.) Morgan tended to pop up in projects produced by his brother Glen, another X-Files veteran, and his first televised scripts in many years took the form of two installments of the supernatural teen soap Tower Prep, which aired in 2010. Before that, however, he’d worked as a consulting producer on his brother’s reboot of Night Stalker—the original version of which had influenced Chris Carter himself—that aired for a grand total of six weeks five years earlier. Morgan wrote a script for the show, titled “The M Word,” which was never produced. But the teleplay was made available as a bonus feature in the box set of the series, and it later turned up online, which is where I found it years ago. It’s smart and funny, like everything else Morgan has ever written, and you can still read the whole thing here.
And a quick comparison of the X-Files promotional footage and the Night Stalker script indicates that Darin Morgan’s “new” episode, titled “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Man,” is close to an exact remake of “The M Word.” In the segment of the featurette starting around 16:33, Morgan says that he had wanted to make a monster in homage to Creature from the Black Lagoon, which precisely matches the description from the teleplay:
The man-sized creature looks reptilian, resembling a horned lizard (including, obviously, some occipital horns). Its features also have a humanness to them, in the manner of Jack Pierce’s classic Universal makeup designs of yore. In short—it’s a monster!
The scene that follows, in which the monster scares a couple of stoners in the woods, appears to have been faithfully shot as written, down to the line “Did that just happen?” A later scene, in which Mulder and Scully interview a transgender character who shot at the monster, also tracks a scene in the earlier script almost word for word, including the opening camera move in which Mulder is seen through a hole in the witness’s purse—”Looks like you gave it a pretty good shot!”—and the memorable exchange: “It was only wearing underwear.” “Boxers or briefs?” Both feature a scene in which the hapless protagonist is surprised to see that his hand is transforming. And this character’s name in both episodes, which is a slight plot spoiler in itself, is Guy Mann.
As far as I know, no other media outlet has noticed that a script for one of the most highly anticipated and closely guarded reboots of the year is basically available online for anybody to read. An article by Den of Geek from last summer refers to the “possibility” that the script was derived from “The M Word,” and a few astute fans on X-Files message boards have also made the connection, but that’s it. I haven’t done more than skim the old script, mostly because I don’t want my first experience of the episode to be ruined, but part of me feels slightly disappointed that Morgan didn’t write a new story from scratch: he understands the appeal of the original show so well—and was responsible in such a large part for creating it—that I wish he’d done more than plug Mulder and Scully into an existing equation. Of course, this script has probably been revised in ways that we haven’t seen, and I suspect that when Morgan wrote his original Night Stalker episode, he was secretly thinking of The X-Files anyway. And I can’t blame him for wanting to rescue a premise that he thought was lost: Morgan’s writing process has always been a laborious one, and it makes sense that he’d try to recover those sunk costs. (As Jose Chung once said: “Unlike profiling serial killers, writing is a very depressing and lonely profession.”) If I were in his shoes, I’d have done much the same. I’m still looking forward to it more than anything else due to air on television this year. And if the revived series takes off and we’re lucky, maybe Morgan will start afresh, and solve a new equation for X.