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Buchanan? I Wanted Doggett!

All those months of anticipation, hype and unending commercials. The prosperity of seven good years now in question, can this kind of momentous decision ruin everything? Now here it is, a couple weeks later, and the results are still incomplete.

Yes, the debut of the new Mulder on The X-Files has been every bit as gripping as the Presidential election and twice as important. There are some very positive signs, yet many people remain unconvinced.

Since X-Files creator Chris Carter is smart enough to avoid a Bewitched-style Darren brouhaha, the new Mulder isn't really a new Mulder. He's Special Agent John Doggett, a hardboiled ex-Marine brought in to lead the search for the old Mulder, who was abducted in last season's finale.

Bringing Doggett to life is Robert Patrick who, no matter how fantastic his run on The X-Files, will always be known as the Terminator, Liquid Metal Version. It's not the first time the actor has gone chasing little gray men either, according to the 12 people who saw the movie "Fire in the Sky," a white-trash version of The X-Files, or to the slightly larger group who saw him as an alien schoolteacher in "The Faculty." Until Patrick's guest stint on The Sopranos last year, however, most people has no idea he could emote.

Doggett's appearance on The X-Files couldn't have come at a better time for a show that was once a pathfinder for original and intriguing television. Last season, however, the series wandered from the creative path, sometimes looking completely lost. (Let me get this straight: Mulder's sister was abducted by ghosts? What'd they do, team up with the Mummy and drag her off to be the bride of Frankenstein?) David Duchovny's semi-departure could hone the edge on what used to be as sharp a series as you could find. If the first two episodes are any indication, Carter and Co. aren't going to miss the opportunity.

John Doggett is one hell of a hardass, a breath of fresh air in a show where all the characters have gone soft. He may be the new male lead, but it's Scully who is really the new Mulder. Then again, Scully has already been Mulder Junior for the past couple years. The conflict that once separated the skeptic M.D. and her nutball partner has all but evaporated. Sure, characters need to grow as the plot evolves, but it reached a point where you figured Scully would be diagnosing alien gastrointestinal probing instead of one too many Bennigan's Buffalo wings to a patient complaining of stomach pain.

The supporting characters have all gotten flabby as well. Assistant Director Skinner, once a paragon of by-the-book skepticism, might as well be knitting baby alien sweaters and singing leprechaun songs. Even the Cigarette Smoking Man turned out to be a mushy family guy before meeting his end as an invalid too pathetic to fight off even the one-armed incompetent, Krycek.

Cancer Man's son, Agent Spender, might have been a worthy foil if not for the fact he looked like an accountant who would finish third in a triangle cage death match against a florist and an oboe player.

Thus far, Patrick's Doggett looks to be both gruff and strong-willed enough to bring that edge of conflict back to a series where the best episodes featured humans fighting other humans as well as aliens. Even better, he's walking a tightrope without a net: Scully and Skinner despise him, and his boss, Deputy Director Kersh, has assumed the role of Chief Evil Guy. This should make Doggett even harder to bear and that much more interesting a character.

Of course, there are those of you in the audience who want your television heroes to be likable. In the spirit of media hype, I formed my own little canvassing board and the five of us did an X-Files recount. The balloting was over quickly and I immediately threatened legal action.

It seems my opinion is in the minority on this issue. Of the four others, not a single person liked Doggett and most seemed convinced he was, in fact, Satan. One of the guys, Johnathan, said he "wanted to just stand up and punch him in the face, again and again."

This was hard for me to relate to, since I rarely have the urge to strike completely ficitional television characters, with the exception of John Tesh. Even then, I'm hoping Tesh's writers will kill him off.

I slowly scooted away from Johnathan, who began muttering something about "bitch slapping Doggett." Next to him was Jeannie, who didn't like the new character, but was even more upset about Scully's pregnancy after an apparent tryst with Mulder. It turns out Jeannie is jealous.

I'm not sure, and am in no hurry to find out, but I'll bet these must be the people who populate X-Files message boards.

With the conversation turning ugly -- one of them mentioned relishing the day Doggett gets an anal probe -- I brought the recount to a quick and decisive end. These people are idiots whose votes shouldn't be counted.

Therefore, the results are clear: John Doggett has saved The X-Files.


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