Why Did David Duchovny Leave X-Files?


  • David Duchovny’s departure from The X-Files in Season 7 left fans disappointed and the series was never the same without him.
  • Duchovny’s reduced role in Season 8 was criticized by fans who felt his absence was contrived and that his replacement couldn’t fill the void.
  • Duchovny left the show because his contract ended, but later returned for the films and revival seasons. He also accused Fox of cheating him out of syndication profits.

David Duchovny rose to stardom as maverick FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder on the hit science-fiction series The X-Files. Created by Chris Carter, the show originally aired on Fox from 1993 to 2002, for nine seasons and a total of 202 episodes, plus two feature films. However, Duchovny’s Mulder literally disappeared in Season 7, puzzling and disappointing fans. Charming and determined to uncover the truth, no matter the cost, Mulder was the heart of The X-Files, alongside his skeptical partner Dana Scully played by the inimitable Gillian Anderson.

Although they frequently didn’t see eye to eye, there was no denying the respect each agent had for the other, or the chemistry they shared. Much of the plot, centered on alien abductions and supernatural events, connected to Mulder and his quest to uncover the mysteries surrounding his sister’s disappearance. As such, Duchovny’s performance played a huge role in The X-Files — and fans were understandably shocked when the actor left as a series regular at the end of Season 7. Though he returned a few times, the series was never the same.

Updated September 20, 2023 by Joshua M. Patton Fox Mulder was aniconic television character. He was heroic and charming, while also being mysterious and strange. The X-Files was part of the rare group of television shows that produced a feature film while the shows were still on television. In the 1990s, there were few hits like The X-Files, so when David Duchnovy left the series fans expected the series to falter. So, what happened to make its star leave?

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What Happened to Mulder in Seasons 8 and 9?

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in a promo shot from The X-Files Season 4

Aliens abducted Mulder in the Season 7 finale “Requiem,” and Robert Patrick’s character John Doggett to be introduced as Scully’s new partner. The first half of Season 8 followed Scully and Doggett as they tried to find Mulder. After his abduction, Mulder’s body mysteriously appeared in a forest. Three months later, he was mysteriously resurrected, and Scully supervised his return to full health. Against orders, Mulder resumed working on the weirder X-Files cases until he was fired from the FBI, although he continued consulting on cases in an unofficial capacity. While the storytellers did the best they could with the situation, many of the fans who loved the characters were frustrated by Fox Mulder’s absence.

Duchovny appeared in only half of Season 8. While the season received mostly positive reviews, some fans criticized Mulder’s reduced role. This was in large part to seeing his forced absences as contrivances to make up for the limited availability of the actor. While Doggett eventually became popular among viewers, they felt he couldn’t fill the void left by Mulder’s absence, especially since Mulder and Scully were finally romantically involved. The show dubiously sent Mulder into hiding after Scully gave birth at the end of Season 8. He didn’t reappear until the (first) series finale in Season 9, “The Truth.”

RELATED: 10 Underrated Episodes of The X-Files Fans Should Never Skip

David Duchovny as Fox Mulder in The X-Files

Unfortunately, the business of Hollywood, currently in disarray as writers and actors strike for fair pay, got in the way of the show. David Duchovny left The X-Files because his contract ended following Season 7. “As much as I love the show, I think for me this will be the end,” Duchovny said at the time of his departure in an interview with International Business Times before the first revival season. “I always thought five years was enough. Seven years is definitely enough.” Except it wasn’t enough, since he returned first for 2008’s The X-Files: I Want to Believe and the two revival seasons in 2016 and 2018. Making 22-26 episodes of network television per year is difficult, however the films and ten-episode 10th and 11th seasons represented a smaller time investment. Plus, after some years and distance from the character, it’s not surprising Duchovny would want to revisit the role of his most famous character.

However, the actor also accused 20th Century Fox of cheating him out of millions of dollars from The X-Files‘ syndication profits. In 1999, while the series was airing its seventh season, Duchovny filed suit against Fox and claimed to be a victim of “corporate synergy.” He alleged the company purposefully undersold The X-Files‘ rights and reruns to cable networks and book publisher HarperCollins, thus reducing his (and likely his fellow castmates’) royalties. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 1999, he said, “I’m not looking to win the lottery. I’ve fulfilled my contract, and I want them to fulfill theirs.” Again sharing connective tissue with Star Trek, Spock actor Leonard Nimoy almost didn’t return for the film series over disputes about his royalties from merchandising and the rights to his likeness.

Duchovny and Fox settled the case out of court in 2000. The X-Files was successfully revived in 2016 for Season 10, with Duchovny and Anderson reprising their roles as Mulder and Scully. But the show’s second run was much shorter — it ended in 2018 after Season 11. Reaction to the series’ revival was mixed. Fans had come to expect a great deal from the series, as it had previously featured classic Monster-of-the-Week episodes, like “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” and one of the show’s most hilarious episodes, “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.”

While not every X-Files episode was a hit with the fans, there were plenty of loyalists who loved both the Monster-of-the-Weeks and the deep lore episodes that explored Mulder’s connection to an otherworldly experiment perpetrated by the government. In fact, the series finale, which finally revisited the issue of their son William, was widely panned by the fanbase, despite many wanting to know what happened.

Where Is David Duchovny Now?

The Chair - David Duchovny guitar

Despite leaving The X-Files in Season 7 as a series regular, David Duchnovy found out what happened when a show and its characters overstay their welcome. That being said, he’s gone on to expand his career over the years, starring in Showtime’s Californication from 2007-2014, lending his recognizable voice to The Simpsons for an X-Files episode. and appearing in both films and on TV from time to time. These days, he devotes a great deal of his time to pursuing musical and writing endeavors and touring.

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