Last spring, Chris Carter creator of "The X-Files" walked into the office of the series' executive producer, Frank Spotnitz, and started talking about an idea for a new episode.
Spotnitz, Carter recalled, "looked up and said, 'You realize we only have five episodes left on this show possibly.' And I couldn't believe it, I couldn't believe the show was going to be over ... and we would never be able to tell that story.
"And that gave me pause, like there's still a lot of good work left to do. I don't want to go on with the show unless the show can be good. We have thrown our lives into this show ... and none of us want to see it peter out or just fade away or fall into ruin."
But just six months ago, that's precisely how it appeared that "The X-Files" one of modern television's seminal shows would come to an end.
After six successful seasons, the series unraveled in its seventh year. Some individual episodes were still good, but many were not and worse a number were recycling story lines and themes from previous years.
The contract of star David Duchovny was up, and he wanted out. Co-star Gillian Anderson was under contract for another season but also was looking for a quick exit. (It showed in their performances.) Even when Duchovny agreed to another season actually, half a season since he will only be in 11 of 21 episodes this year it seemed as if darkness and gloom had settled on "The X-Files."
But on Sunday, "The X-Files" returns for a new season with the first episode in a pulse-jolting, high-energy two-partner, arguably the best back-to-back shows the series has done in a couple of years.
Written by Carter, the episodes artfully get around the (relative) absence of Duchovny's Fox Mulder, abducted by aliens last season, and cast a new light on Anderson's Dana Scully. They establish a compelling new character in Scully's new partner, Agent John Doggett, played by Robert Patrick. They refocus the role of Deputy Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and bring back some players key to the show's mythology, such as young chess whiz-part alien Gibson Praise (Jeff Gulka), now a 12-year-old.