Fellow X-philes, rejoice. The X-tra cool two-part season premiere (Sunday on Fox, 9-10 p.m.) goes a long way to reassure us that the show can survive without Fox Mulder. David Duchovny will appear in only 11 episodes during this eighth season and shows little inclination to stay on for a ninth. But his replacement is the marvelously intriguing Robert Patrick as John Doggett, who is, of course, doggedly determined to get his man. Which is Fox Mulder.
Icily handsome, he brings a mysterious charisma to the role. A truly accomplished actor, Patrick gives his character layers of intelligence, making a fine foil for Scully who is still in love with Mulder. That affection gives a new edge to her manhunt - Mulder was snatched by aliens at the end of last season.
"Robert Patrick changed the tone immediately," says executive producer Frank Spotnitz. "We earned the right to do some lighter comedic episodes in the past few years, but now it seems like we have to reestablish it as a scary show about paranormal activities. And he brings gravity back to the show.
Mr. Spotnitz points out that Doggett is an ex-cop whose common sense street-smarts make him a different kind of skeptic. The new dynamic is more challenging. Still, it's inescapable that Scully and Doggett form a bond, he says. OK by me.
Are the producers still going to ask the big questions about life and meaning and our place in the universe? "Absolutely. That's the stuff we're interested in," Spotnitz says. "So it's still what we look for - the reason to tell these stories. We try to find big ideas. But they will come out in a different voice, we will get at them through a different kind of character."
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