Woof! C'mon, Mr. 'X-Files' — Throw Us a Bone!

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PASADENA— At the annual TV critics' tour, the non-answer answer is an art form. "We think this show has a good chance to be competitive in its time period"; "We're going to take this character places you haven't seen him next season"; "We never even think about the ratings." But no one on the tour, perhaps, is better practiced at the non-answer answer than Chris Carter. Carter, after all, is the creator of Fox's "The X-Files," which is essentially a non-answer answer in series form: a fascinating and infuriating sci-fi mystery whose "mythology" unfolds molasses-like, every season offering an "explosive" finale that opens five questions for every one it resolves.

Most recently, it closed with FBI agent Mulder (David Duchovny) being abducted by a UFO while nemesis Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis) died (apparently) and partner Scully (Gillian Anderson) announced she was pregnant, apparently — as far as anyone watching the show could tell — without having had sex with anybody. Millions of viewers asked the eternal question: What the...? So Carter's session with the insatiable critics was a delicate ballet of obviously unanswerable questions and cryptic answers, which alternately conveyed, in classic Carter fashion, that he was holding back the mysteries of the universe or that he basically makes up the answers as he goes along. The very first question, posed by Fox's new entertainment president, Gail Berman: Who's the baby's father? "I am," Carter said. "I'm the father and the mother."

This much we do know: Duchovny, who last year suggested he might not return to the series at all, will be back for 11 episodes, about half the series. Fox just hired a new male lead, Robert Patrick, who will sub for Mulder, playing a cop turned Fed. About six or seven of the 20 or so episodes will be "mythology" installments and the rest stand-alones — the usual stingy ratio. They will be an hour in length and will be punctuated by short films, or "commercials," that encourage viewers to buy consumer goods and services.

Otherwise, while the truth may be out there, it was not in the Ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Huntington hotel. Will Scully deliver the baby this season? "I haven't thought about it yet." You wouldn't have had Mulder and Scully consummate their relationship off-screen last season, would you? "[Viewers] will have their prurience indulged." Could Scully turn out not to be pregnant at all? "I would never assume anything in 'The X-Files.' But I think that would be a real cheat... It would be like bringing back a dead character." Which, by the by, the series has more or less done with Cigarette-Smoking Man. So he's really dead this time, right, Chris? "I'm not going to tell you."

Gee, thanks. To be fair, mystery is essential to the show. And some of Carter's questioners had Sci-Fi-Convention Syndrome, expecting the creator to spit out, like a creative jukebox, the answers to all manner of ephemera and hypotheticals. How will Mulder feel if it turns out Scully's preggers by somebody else? Was the spaceship in the season finale the same kind of spaceship as in the movie? "This one was the sports car," Carter said, bemused, "and the other was the Lincoln Continental."

Still, reporters hoped he might throw them a bone. One asked: If Duchovny's going to be in 11 episodes, yet there'll be only six or seven mythology ones — during at least some of which he'll presumably be on a spaceship — how will they work the abductee into the stand-alones in the meantime? "You'll see how that works," he said. "And hopefully you'll think it's very clever of us." Judging by how well the man improvises onstage, we won't be a bit surprised.