'The X-Files': Chris Carter reveals his personal connection to the Cigarette Smoking Man

Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Yahoo TV

Warning: This post about the “My Struggle III” episode of The X-Files contains spoilers. 

It’s only taken 25 years, 11 seasons and two movies, but the truth is finally out there: The X-Files‘ number one nemesis, Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), has a name — and it’s Carl Gerhard Busch. Series creator Chris Carter drops that truth bomb in the opening seconds of “My Struggle III,” which kicks off the latest — and, for Gillian Anderson at least, last — season of his long-running sci-fi serial. And here’s another fact you can add to your personal X-Files-related file: Carl Gerhard Busch happens to be the moniker of someone very close to Carter. “It’s my grandfather’s name,” the writer/director tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I’ve been holding onto that secret for a very long time! We’ve said that his name was C.G.B. Spender, and I always knew those initials stood for Carl Gerhard Busch.”

It’s worth nothing that this longstanding mystery wasn’t cracked by ace agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Instead, Cigarette Smoking Man… sorry, make that Carl, tells the audience himself via his first-ever voiceover, which is heard throughout the episode, starting with a “secret history” montage that explains his place within the past five decades of American life. “I’ve had a privileged seat at the centers of power, held the reins of that power, making sacrifices few are capable of,” Busch intones, referencing his two grown sons — Jeffrey Spender and, of course, Mulder himself — and suggesting that they, along with the rest of the world, will come to view his actions as entirely practical rather than abjectly evil. “In my mind, he sounded like everything I imagined as a kid in high school when we started learning about Watergate,” Carter says of vocalizing his creation’s internal monologue. “He’s an operative who is both self-interested and very puppeteering in the darkest recesses of the government.”

Busch won’t be the only longtime character/first-time narrator we’ll hear from on this season of The X-Files. Carter says that current run of episodes will close out with the fourth installment in the mythology-heavy “My Struggle” series, and will give voice to Mulder and Scully’s long-absent son, William. “It’s funny, as the product of Mulder and Scully, you think of William as a kind of golden child who needs to be protected,” he muses. “But I always saw him as a much more troubled and complicated kid.” And now Carter has gone and made William’s young life even more complicated. In the closing moments of “My Struggle III,” Busch tells Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) that he, and not Mulder, impregnated Scully back in Season 7. Carter even includes vintage footage from that season — which happened to be Duchovny’s last during the show’s original run — to illustrate Carl’s yarn about William’s true parentage.

David Duchovny and Chris Carter on the set of ‘The X-Files’ (Photo: Robert Falconer/FOX)
David Duchovny and Chris Carter on the set of ‘The X-Files’ (Photo: Robert Falconer/FOX)

“It lays down a credible and perfectly opportune moment for the Cigarette Smoking Man to have taken advantage of her,” Carter says of the new, and controversial, wrinkle that he’s added to the show’s labyrinthine mythology. “I think it throws the series into a new phase that’s very interesting. The audience knows something Mulder doesn’t, which is hardly ever the case, and presents storytelling opportunities and toys with the audiences’ affections as well. It also connects directly to Season 7 of the series; we’re connecting dots, not just making it up as we go.” At the same time, he allows that this may be another case of Busch manipulating the truth to suit his own agenda, which means that Mulder may continue to call William “son” rather than “bro.” “Every character except for Mulder and Scully is speaking out of both sides of their mouth. While Cigarette Smoking Man claims to be William’s father, is he? We may have justification, but do we have verification?”

Beyond shaking up the Mulder and Scully status quo, “My Struggle III” also resets what we know of the show’s larger alien conspiracy. In a pointed environmental message, one that Carter hopes will resonate with viewers, mankind’s carelessness has rendered Earth worthless to extraterrestrial inhabitants. Meanwhile, a battle is brewing between the planet’s economic elite — as embodied by Erika Price (Barbara Hershey) and Mr. Y (Alexandre Campion) — and the shadowy government forces aligned with Carl Busch. While the wealthy plan to colonize space, Busch intends to unleash a plague that will kill the majority of the populace, minus those privileged few who happen to be immune. That includes himself, Scully and William…but not Mulder.

Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’ (Photo: Robert Falconer/FOX)
Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’ (Photo: Robert Falconer/FOX)

Carter says he didn’t have to look any further than the daily headlines to dream up this conflict between those that oversee the economy, those that run the government and everyone else caught in between. “Look at the state of the world right now, whether it’s Poland and the rolling back of democracy or even in our own country. The tax bill suggests that this is a country divided between us and them. Or when you read the news reports about UFOs and secret government programs at the Pentagon. You’re talking about secrets, dark money and the possibility of a secret space program. When I saw those headlines, I had to laugh.”

The X-Files airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox

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