Watch carefully, though, and you'll see them whispering among themselves, slipping off one or two at a time for an audience with the All-Knowing, All-Powerful Oz, a middle-aged surfer with a wave of prematurely white hair that just grazes his shoulders. "X-Files" creator Chris Carter is holding court.
If there's a high point of the Television Critics Association's summer meetings on the West Coast, for some of us, it's the chance to interrogate Carter, even if the music is so loud we can barely hear him, even if he's no more likely to tell us the whole truth about the truth than Mulder is to kiss Scully while she's conscious, even if we might as well be wandering in the vast whiteness of Antarctica in search of answers.
Fresh off the moderate success of the first "X-Files" movie and looking ahead to a sixth season that the movie plot broke wide open, Carter seemed to be in a particularly good mood that night.
The previous day, he'd gotten a call from the studio, asking him to "start thinking about the next one," he said.
Carter's a quick thinker, but even if he started writing as soon as the party ended, it'll still be the summer of 2000, following the show's seventh season, before the second movie hits the theaters.
So could the movie turn out to be the series finale?
If it happens that way, it'll take "The X-Files" two seasons past Carter's original five-year plan, but one part of the plan is still on schedule, he said.
"I said to the people who originally hired me that we wouldn't see a spaceship until Year 5, and in a way, I kept that promise, even if we saw things that we thought might be spaceships," he said.
The spaceship, of course, showed up toward the end of this summer's movie, which might be considered an adjunct to the fifth season. We saw it and Mulder saw it, but did Scully?
"She was hazy," Carter said. (I tell you, these things are never simple.)
But having now shown viewers at least part of his hand, Carter's not planning to cheat.
"We have this mythology now where we have seen a spaceship and we have seen aliens," he said. "We've got to deal with it, and so that will become an ongoing storyline." Those fans who didn't choose to pay for whatever piece of the truth was out there at the moviehouse won't be left in the dark, Carter promised. "They'll still understand. We're going to do a recap that will involve the movie." Research, he said, has also shown that there were moviegoers who'd not been regular viewers of the show: "I think some of the first-timers didn't understand it because it's sophisticated and complex, and then a lot of fans came a second time. I always tell people if they didn't get the movie, go see it again." (Talk about a marketing strategy.)
Having come this far, though, some of us are starting to worry: Carter does know the truth that's out there, doesn't he?
"Don't you?" he asked, grinning.
"I have an idea where we're going," he added. "I don't necessarily want to even think clearly about how we're going to get there." Told that some people worry that the closer the show gets to its elusive "truth," the sillier it begins to seem, Carter just kept grinning.
"The truth is a very slippery little thing," he said.
Cruises to nowhere?
by Ellen Gray