8 November 98


"It all comes down to trust. I'm asking you to trust me."
-- Scully to Mulder
in tonight's episode of The X-Files, The Beginning

It's been a busy week. I've been "on the net" every day messing with everybody else's sites, but I haven't had the peace required to add even one Journal entry to my own. So, at five minutes of nine tonight, I decided to give myself a break to watch The X-Files. Afterwards I took a walk. I was trying to figure out why I felt so annoyed.

I enjoyed my walk. The weather is cool, and there are clouds moving in, but it's a pleasant night, and walking did me good. It helped me to think. On the way back I stopped in at Ma's to cadge a snack. While I ate toast, I asked Ma to give me her input on the questions that were bothering me: 1) Why didn't the FBI-- or Mulder-- have copies of the X-Files? And 2) Why didn't A.D. Skinner give a copy of that very sensitive file to Mulder instead of giving him the original, an act which alerted the enemy? Could Mulder and Skinner be guilty of such inexplicable stupidities?

Ma agreed with me that it is highly unlikely that Mulder would have failed to make copies of his own files for his own use-- despite any injunctions or prohibitions FBI policy might stipulate. Over the years, Mulder's defiance of official policies and procedures, and his paranoia have been all too well documented. Thinking about it, we just couldn't believe Mulder wouldn't have copies-- and we figured that at least one copy is probably in the keeping of the boys over at The Lone Gunman: Frohike, Langly, and Byers.

As to Skinner's tactical faux pas, Ma's contention was that he didn't know how to work the copy machine. (Ma is an executive secretary for the local utility company. She knows the ins and outs of administration, and the ways of executives.) My riposte was that, even so, he could've taken the file over to Kinko's [a copyshop chain] on his lunch hour-- if he couldn't trust his secretary Kim with the task of making the copy.

Now, you're probably wondering why I'm bothered by such piddly details. It's because of my training. I am a dramaturge-- an ugly title, but that's what they call me; I prefer Script Doctor. My business is drama, and its effective execution. When a story or a play or a screenplay has a problem, it is my job to find out what's wrong and help the writer fix it. I'm very good at it. And one of the main problems found in stories that "don't work," is that the details haven't been properly attended to. "God is in the details," somebody-or-other said, and he was right.

When "little things" have been left out of a story, or don't add up, or are just plain wrong; or when characters behave inconsistently, capriciously, or inexplicably, it destroys the credibility of the storyteller, and it breaks the pact of trust between him and his listener. And when a listener can't trust a storyteller, he stops listening.

As a dramaturge, I know that I can't expect any storyteller to tell his story the way I want it to hear it. It is not up to me to say, "That is a stupid storyline." (I admit I do have a lot of trouble with Carter's alien invasion/ government conspiracy storyline-- I found the source of it on the web, by the way at-- I'll have to look it up and get it to you later.) But it is within my purview to comment on the quality and effectiveness of the storytelling. If I were consulted, as script doctor, I would have to say, "Mr. Carter, there are some problems with this The X-Files storyline..."

Perhaps it's unfair of me to comment, since by the time viewers get to see a television program, it's way too late to do anything about fixing any problems-- TV is a rough gig. Things move fast, and-- well.

There were problems with tonight's episode, the season premiere, which should have been taken care of early on. Setting aside the problems I have with the storyline, the inconsistencies in the characters pointed out above-- and there were others besides-- bother me. (And in my opinion they should have bothered the story editor, too-- or the actors, at the very least.) They bother me because they give me to think that the characters are being sacrificed to serve the storyline.

I don't care about the AI/GC story. It doesn't work for me, especially the alien invasion stuff-- and that's the trained dramaturge talking. But I do like the non-AI episodes, government conspiracy, et al, and I like the characters immensely-- failings, foibles, and the whole nine yards. But I can't shake the feeling that they are being badly used-- especially within the context of that AI/GC storyline which requires too much constant manipulation--

Storytellers must beware of making their characters subservient. If they aren't allowed to behave naturally, consistent with their creation, they will turn into cardboard. This is always fatal. Unless the story is of overwhelming interest, audiences will not continue to listen to stories about cardboard characters.

It all comes down to trust. Each time an episode of The X-Files airs, Chris Carter is saying to me, "I'm going to tell you a story about the X-Files, and Agents Mulder and Scully. Trust me..." I am sorry to have to say that I am finding it more and more difficult to give him any measure of trust. I want to, but, like Mulder, I've been bit quite a few times, especially by television, one of the hardest mediums for storytellers to successfully tell stories in.

But trust is a very hard thing to earn at best, and perhaps it's even harder to give. After five, going on six years, in spite of proof after proof, Mulder still doesn't whole- heartedly trust Scully. And Scully? Has she enough faith to trust anyone but herself? She doesn't even trust her own god, how can she trust anyone as fallible as Mulder? It's an interesting relationship, isn't it?

For myself, I'll continue to watch The X-Files, but I know I can no longer trust it. I can only hope for the best and rest assured that, if the hope fails, the fan writers out there will remedy any and all failings and shortcomings...

That's something I've learned about fans and storytelling over the years. The fans will take over whenever the storyteller doesn't tell his story well enough, doesn't give enough to satisfy them-- and that happens a lot in television. It's a somewhat depressing thought, but...

If a storyteller can tell a "true" and satisfying story-- and that always means putting his own blood and guts on the pages-- it will stand as gospel, and all efforts to rewrite it will be shot down in flames. There is that to shoot for.

Next time you read a satisfying story, one that you don't want to change a word of, think about that. And those of you who aren't writers, thank your lucky stars you aren't!



Review by Autumn Tysko: [The Beginning]

This is the site where the Alien Invasion/Government Conspiracy scenario was set forth: http://www.marsweb. com/~watcher/uforocke.html; however, the address is no longer in service (16 Nov 98). I'll put my notes together, in case anyone is interested. And don't neglect to read down to find out Disney's part in all this!

I reread what I wrote about the premiere. And, yes, sometimes I think I'm a pompous ass, too.

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