Air date: 11-05-93
Writers: Glen Morgan and James Wong
Director: David Nutter
Editor: Stephen Mark
Director of Photography: John S. Bartley, C.S.C.
Documented Phenomenon: Non-Terrestrial Arctic Parasitical Worm
In Alaska, in the Icy Cape, 260 Miles North of the Arctic Circle, there is a complex housing the occupants of an Arctic ice core project. It is night and there is a snow storm. At 8:29 AM we hear eerie sounds and see a whimpering dog search for food, it passes a lifeless hand as we hear footsteps. An injured man with dark hair walks into the room, armed with a gun, bare chested with gashes on him, as well as dirt and burn marks. He is panting as he looks around the room; he has a demented look in his eye. He raises his gun as he approaches the radio, he sets up a video camera and records himself mumbling "We're not who we are". He glances around as he continues, "It goes no further than this." Suddenly another man appears, grabs him around the neck and pulls him away. There's a violent struggle, the blond haired man looks absolutely crazed as they wrestle. Theres a struggle that ends in a stalemate with each pointing a gun at each other. We cut to the exterior of the complex and hear two gunshots ring out.
Video static and then color bars are shown, before we see a video diary of the team from the Ice Core Project. The dark haired man is identified as John Richter as he speaks; the team is celebrating breaking the record for drilling into an ice sheet. The video is paused as Mulder explains to Scully that the team was sent by the government's advanced research project agency to collect evidence about the structure of the earth's beginnings. Their work was nearly completed, with no problems indicated, until a week later when the next transmission was made, the previous "We're not who we are" transmission, it's dated November, 5, 1993. The transmission is unclear with static and Scully seems unnerved watching it. She wonders what happened as Mulder explains that no one has been able to reach the compound due to bad weather. Mulder speculates that either his superiors believe they are brilliant or expendable for being given the assignment. Scully wonders if it is severe isolation distress, but Mulder doesn't believe it. Pointing out that these men were top geophysicists, screened for this project. Scully is informed that they leave for Nome, Alaska, they are to meet up with three scientists, and the National weather service reports a three-day window before the next artic storm. Mulder tauntingly advises to bring mittens.
Mulder and Scully are in a hanger at Doolittle Airfield in Nome, Alaska when they are awkwardly introduced to Denny Murphy, professor of geology at U.C. San Diego, who is caught listening to a cassette of greatest football plays. Dr. DaSilva and Dr. Hodge walk up with their luggage as the agents are introduced to them. Dr. Hodge, a blond man with thinning hair, asks to see identification from everyone. Mulder and Scully are perplexed by the request, but they agree. As each shows their FBI Badge, Dr. Hodge asks why are they going. Denny points out there are two agents, a geologist, a medical doctor, and a toxicologist - a curious mixture of experts. When Mulder asks if everyone saw the tape, DaSilva and Hodge point out that the FBI probably knows more than they do, with a tone of skepticism. Just then a jeep pulls up, and a long haired man, by the name of Bear, steps out, introduces himself and informs them he will be their pilot to the Icy Cape. Bear scoffs as Hodge asks for credentials - he is the only pilot willing to fly them up there. They fly to the complex at the Icy Cape and break into it. With flashlights in hand, they find the two men who killed themselves. Bear goes to see if he can get the power started; Meanwhile Mulder reminds everyone that they have to thoroughly document the scene before they can touch anything. As they start to wander, Scully takes pictures. Mulder reaches a refridgerator filled with the ice core samples, labeled 'Ice Cores 3,175 - 3,250'. He opens the fridge to find the samples half way melted away, as Denny reaches in to collect and preserve some samples.
While walking with Mulder, DaSilva is startled when the sound of the generator kicks in. When the lights go on, a dog growls and lunges at Mulder, knocking him down and attacking him. Everyone races to assist Mulder who is using snow galoshes to fight back the dog. Bear pulls the dog away, but is thrown down and is bitten by it. Mulder uses a blanket to cover and muzzle the dog as Dr. Hodge prepares a syringe and subdues the dog. Bear sits with a bleeding hand; Mulder is unharmed as the dog didn't break the skin of his arm during the attack. Hodge asks Bear to take off his jacket, but Bear insists on cleaning the wound himself. DaSilva wonders if the dog has been infected with rabies, but Scully observes black nodules, swollen lymph nodes on the underside of the dog. When DaSilva wonders if it's bubonic plague, Hodges suggests taking a blood test to find out. Scully notices a skin irritation on its neck, and suddenly something alive moves under the skin; everyone is puzzled and distressed by what they observe. Meanwhile Bear has bandaged his hand in a bathroom, when he suddenly grabs his side, falls over onto the toilet seat and groans; he takes off his shirt and notices the same black nodules.
Hours have passed and Scully has concluded that the men, Richter and Campbell, did kill one another and that there's evidence of strangulation and tissue damage. Bear is present as Scully continues, observes tissue damage due to fever. Bear asks if any of the men had the same black spots as the dogs, Bear is clearly concerned and starts to speculate if the spots has nothing to do with what killed the men. Hodge walks in, having just examined the dog, and can't rule out the possibility that there's a connection. Upon Mulder asking, Dr. Hodge speculates the spots could be a symptom of a disease. Bear is starting to pant and is looking anxious as he moves a body bag. DaSilva walks over, moves one of the guns in an evidence bag and grabs a file on a desk. Mulder has been walking around the desk and he picks up a data sheet with scribbled, increasingly frantic writing that reads; "We are not who we are". Mulder approaches Denny, interrupting his enjoyment of a football game, and asks him about a satellite photo. Murphy confirms it is the Icy Cape area, noting that the ice sheet is estimated to be three thousand meters thick. Mulder also points out some other data that shows the prior team found the ice sheet to be twice that depth. Denny replies that it looks like they were drilling inside a meteor crater.
Mulder overhears Dr. Hodge and Scully arguing: she has found evidence of ammonium hydroxide in Richter's blood sample, but Hodges' argues it's not possible because Ammonia would vaporize at body temperature. DaSilva walks up and comments she found no evidence of such toxins in the air filtration systems. Murphy acknowledges he has found such Ammonia in the ice. "That's not all there is" he replies as they follow him. Denny observes that he has found a high concentration of ammonia in the water, something that the Earth's atmosphere could never have produced at such levels, even a quarter of a million years ago. Denny points into a scope, Mulder observes that unless a foreign object was introduced into the environment. Mulder sees a microscopic larvae in the scope, Scully takes a look and confirms that that same thing was found in Richter's blood. She ponders if that single-celled organism was the larval stage of a larger animal. Dr. Hodge is skeptical. Denny wonders if the organism in the ice core got into the men, but DaSilva doubts the idea, pointing out nothing can survive in sub-zero temperatures for a quarter million years.
Bear is anxious and wants to leave, but Mulder says they need to set up a quarantine. DaSilva points out that Bear has been bitten, making him angrily retort that Mulder was attacked too. When Dr Hodge says they need blood and stool samples to check for infection Bear smashes a jar and storms out. The rest of the group vote to confine him but when they confront him there is a struggle. Suddenly Bear makes a run for it as Scully and Mulder tackle him, pinning him to a table. Bear starts to convulse as something moves inside his neck, DaSilva gasps as Hodge leans over and looks at the neck. Dr. Hodge asks for his bag and a scalpel to cut it out. Both Mulder and Scully protest the decision. Bear screams in agony as the incision is made, Dr. Hodge asks for forceps. In a horrific display, a small worm is slowly pulled from Bear's neck as his agonizing moans become pleading, as the Worm is pulled out, Mulder reaches for a container, as the worm squirts a black liquid around the base of Bear's neck. Bear gasps for breath as Mulder takes the container and hands it to Murphy, Mulder uses the radio to contact Doolittle Airfield, explaining he has a biological hazard and requesting air pickup and quarantine, but there is a storm and no aircraft can reach them until it clears. When he turns back to ask if Bear will be able to fly, an exhausted-looking Scully tells him Bear is dead. Mulder walks over to the table and looks at the worm in the container.
Dr. Hodge explains the worm is similar to a tapeworm, he explains it is very different from any known organism, he has no idea how it is transmitted to the host, either by air or touch. Another worm is found alive in one of the dead bodies, Scully explains the worm was found in the hypothalamus gland, which is a gland that secretes hormones. Hodge further explains the Hypothalamus releases acetylcholine, which produces violent aggressive behavior; he wonders if the worm feeds on this substance. Scully argues a parasite shouldn't want to kill its host, but Hodges then argues that it doesn't kill you until it is extracted, when it releases a poison. Mulder steps in and speculates that the worm makes you want to kill other people, which is perhaps what happened to the first team. Hodges points out it is just a theory, while Murphy observes that there are five dead men as proof. When Scully wonders why Richter and Campbell killed themselves, Mulder suggests they did so to save the rest of the world.
Hours later, Scully is finishing bagging the bodies in a supply shed as Mulder enters, and suggests she get's some sleep, but Scully doesn't want to waste a second trying to kill it. To her amazement, Mulder isn't sure it should be killed; he reminds her that theorists in alternative life designs believe in ammonia-supported life systems, and this creature was found in a meteor crater. Scully doesn't buy his defense, pointing out that Bear developed symptoms in minutes and the parasite took control within hours. She is worried that such a parasite could infect an entire city rapidly and also concerned that they may go the same way as Richter and Campbell. She and Mulder argue; they are overheard by Murphy, DaSilva and Hodge, who debate the fact that Scully was exposed to Bear's blood - as was Hodge. Mistrust is beginning to brew.
DaSilva and Hodge approach Mulder and Scully, who are still arguing. Scully wants to incinerate the bodies. Hodge and DaSilva asks Scully if she is alright, as she seems stressed, but she picks up the implication and becomes defensive. Mulder suggests they should all settle down and get some rest, they shouldn't turn on one another, Hodge is suspicious and suggests they examine each other for symptoms, and anyone who has them should be confined. The men strip down in one room, while Scully and DaSilva examine each other, everyone is clear. Each of them go into a room of the former staff to sleep. Before they enter their own rooms, Scully feels assured that everyone is alright, but Mulder reminds her that the spots on the dog had gone away. Scully, restless, looks around her room briefly before shoving a desk in front of the door and barricading herself in.
Denny is sitting on his bed, listening to another football play game, yet he is looking concerned as he faces the door. Dr. Hodge is writing down on a notepad, making notes about who has been exposed to what. DaSilva appears to be crying in her bed before she turns to her side to sleep. Mulder has set aside his gun on the nightstand of his room. Later that night Mulder is awoken by the sound of a door closing and, taking his gun, goes to investigate. All the doors to the main hall are closed as he searches with a flashlight, expect for Denny's room, where the bed is empty and with his radio sitting on it. Mulder walks into the main room, where the dog startles him as it barks. Mulder walks over and glances at a journal before he notices blood and water leaking from a refrigerator; when he opens the door Murphy's body, throat slit, knocks him to the floor.
Scully turns on a light and walks in followed by Hodge and DaSilva. Scully looks suspicious as Mulder explains he found Murphy that way. Mulder realises one of the others is the murderer; Hodges says Mulder is lying, but Scully rejects this claim when Mulder points out that he doesn't have any symptoms. The situation becomes tense as Scully tries to persuade Mulder to put the gun down and allow Hodge to do a blood test. Mulder refuses, worried that Hodge will doctor the results; he then refuses to allow the others to confine him or examine his neck. Hodge grabs a weapon, Mulder points his gun at Hodge and Scully aims at Mulder. Scully is conflicted and terribly torn, explaining that Mulder might not be himself. In an act of faith, Mulder lowers his weapon, even though he knows he's not infected. Mulder is placed in a storage room, telling Scully that he'll be safer in there than the others out there.
Scully is apprehensive as she leaves the area where Mulder is locked in. Finding Hodges and DaSilva asleep in the research room, she tries to examine DaSilva's neck, but Hodges suddenly rushes over and stops her, Da Silva shrieks as Scully's arm is grabbed. Hodge is suspicious and points out that Scully is the only one with a gun. Almost in an act of defiance, she pulls out both clips, places the gun on a table, walks to the exit and throws the clips outside into the Alaskan cold. Da Silva asks if there anything Scully found, but Hodges assures her, they are all okay. Still convinced Mulder is infected, he points out the three of them can't turn on another. After Scully calls Doolittle with no response, they work around the clock researching the parasite.
While preparing a microscope sample, Da Silva makes a mistake and places infected blood with infected blood. While Hodges and DaSilva argue, Scully makes a startling discovery; two of the larvae are attacking one another until both are dead. As she draws Hodge's attention, she realizes an individual worm will not tolerate another worm entering its host. She goes to the fridge, places the jars that holds the worms side by side and they attempt to attack one another. Hodge is puzzled why a species would kill its own, Da Silva points out that worms are hermaphroditic, they reproduce themselves. They attempt the experiment by using the dog that's been infected, first by sedating it, then placing a worm into the dogs ear. The dog whimpers, there's spasms, but then it seems alright again. Hours later, Hodge confirms that the dog passed the worms in its stool, dead. They decide to try the procedure on Mulder, but Scully insists on talking to him first in order to make it voluntary.
When she sees him he is convinced Hodges and DaSilva are infected, but Scully reminds him nobody has been killed since he's been held. She tells him about the procedure, but Mulder points out if he's given a worm, he'll be infected. Scully asks why he didn't allow them to examine him; defensive and frustrated, he points out she pulled a gun on him, and that he doesn't trust the others. She trusts him as he turns and she examines his neck, and then he hers; they are both clear. Outside Da Silva comments that there's only one worm left to use. She argues that Scully won't allow them to place the worm in Mulder. The door opens and Scully informs them that Mulder is uninfected, Mulder states that Scully isn't infected either. It must be either Hodge or Da Silva. Hodge calls their bluff and agrees to go to the main building.
On their way, however, Hodges grabs Mulder and DaSilva locks Scully into the storage room before picking up the spare worm with a tong. They are close to putting the worm in Mulder's ear when Hodges notices a worm in Da Silva's neck; he throws her to the side and shouts to Mulder who releases Scully and tells her DaSilva is infected. Hodge picks up the worm. DaSilva is hysterically screaming looking for a weapon; she grabs a gun from the drawer as Mulder reaches her, he jumps her causing her to fire it towards the roof. Scully assists, grabs the gun and helping to pin her down as Hodge walks over with the worm. DaSilva struggles as the worm is placed; she moans and then stills, apparently cured.
DaSilva in placed in a quarantined gurney at Doolittle Airfield. Hodge informs the agents that DaSilva and the dog are being kept for observation before their release but Mulder and Scully's results are normal so they can leave. Mulder wants to go back to the site, prepared with proper equipment, but Hodge informs Mulder that 45 minutes after they left the complex was burnt to the ground, there's nothing left, Hodge doesn't know who did it, either the Military or the CDC, Hodge walks away and Mulder points out with determined resolve, it's still there, 200,000 years down in the ice. 'Leave it there' Scully replies resigned and exhausted.
"It was our first really rockin' show" - David Duchovny has been quoted as saying regarding Ice. Even Gillian Anderson has agreed, "I think that show was one of the first turning points for us". Ice is probably one of the strongest episodes of season one, and one of the most seamlessly written Glen Morgan and James Wong scripts. Many fans are aware of the fact that the premise borrows from classic sources, one being the John W. Campbell novella, Who Goes There? The other source being the two films that were inspired from that book: the 1957 Howard Hawks production and 1982 John Carpenter version of The Thing. It is also the first episode where Mulder and Scully are put in a situation that pulls them out of their comfort zone, where their emotional reactions are laid bare and very raw. It also helps that the supporting characters are clearly developed, the support characters really help to create the level of great drama that pushed Anderson and Duchovny to deliver such great performances.
The episode was initially inspired from an article that Glen Morgan read in Science News about "Three guys who dug something 250,000 years old out of the ice." Unlike the premise in John W. Campbell's book, the idea of a parasitical insect feeding on the glands of humans made this all too possible and unnerving. While the themes of paranoia and claustrophobia are long standing story devices, these ideas worked extremely well on The X-Files and these themes would play themselves out throughout the series' history. The first idea that came to Morgan and Wong, where the rest of the episode would be built around, was the scene where Scully has the gun drawn on Mulder. To justify giving the FBI a reason to become part of this investigation, the location was shifted to Alaska, as opposed to the scientific team from Greenland that inspired Morgan. The dog that is featured in the episode was the mother of David Duchovny's beloved dog, Blue.
Location Manager Todd Pittson considers Ice one of his least location-intensive episodes during his time on The X-Files. For the exterior scene set at Doolittle Air Field, Nome, Alaska, the location used was Delta Air Park. These scenes were filmed in a hanger, looking out on the treeless landscape, on a very sunny September 29, 1993, when the cast had to pretend to be freezing. Unusually, the rest of this episode was mainly filmed in a bunker in the old Spelling studio, which helped create an air of realism, and this was helped by the fact the studio had no heating. Production designer Graeme Murray created the whole Arctic bunker set. (He had also worked on John Carpenter's remake of The Thing in 1982.) The object of shooting in a confined location was to help keep budget costs down, though ultimately this proved not to be the case. This episode also marked Graeme Murray's debut on The X-Files. Matt Allair / Robin England
Ice was the first episode to be directed by David Nutter. He was brought in due to the recommendation of Morgan and Wong, who had had good previous experiences with Nutter on such shows as The Commish and 21 Jump Street. David Nutter would become a significant part of the X-Files production history for many seasons afterwards. Considering his trial by fire, Toby Lindala was given the assignment of creating the prosthetic device that would be used for the worm beneath the skin. The extraction of the worm from Bear was probably one of the most disturbing and bloody scenes from the first couple of seasons of the show. It ranks highly by X-Philes in the gross-meter. There's a visceral effect to the scene of Bear's death that's on par with the infamous 'chest-buster' scene from Ridley Scott's 1979 film, Alien.
Fake human and animal skins were created for the effects of the worms crawling through the necks and bodies of its victims. Lindala achieved the effect with the dog using a juice jug, he included the mechanical piece first, using a wire with a tool of beads running along that would form various shapes approximating the worm. A gelatin skin was used with bear fur to match the dog. Morgan has recalled that Lindala was sweating it out when the prosthetic device started to tear stating "his hands were trembling, he was so nervous." The scenes involving the worms included several techniques. A real worm was used for certain scenes; Animal trainer Debbie Coe recalls suggesting using a super mealworm, essentially like a beetle larvae, for the live shots. The scenes where a worm enters the dog's ear as well as the shots of the fighting worms in the jars were done using CGI.
Actor Xander Berkeley, who plays Dr. Hodge, was born December, 1955 in Brooklyn, New York, and has produced a staggering body of work for a support player. He began acting as a child in experimental theatre. His major break came in Mommy Dearest in 1981. He went on to play Tom Hank's roommate in Volunteers, as well as John Conner's stepfather in Terminator 2; Judgment Day, and Capt. Whitaker in A Few Good Men. In Apollo 13 he played Henry Hunt, and in Air Force One he played turncoat secret service agent Gibbs. Recent feature film work includes North Country, Shanghai Noon, Timecode, Amistad, Gattaca, The Rock, Heat, Leaving Las Vegas, For The Boys, and The Fabulous Baker Boys. Mr. Berkeley has received acclaim for his role as George Mason in 24. Other television appearances include Teen Titans, Law & Order, CSI, The Twilight Zone, ER, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, Miami Vice, Moonlighting, Cagney & Lacey, The Incredible Hulk and M*A*S*H.
Actor Felicity Huffman, who plays Dr. Da Silva, is the wife of William H. Macy. They have two daughters, Sofia and Georgia. She graduated High School in 1981 from the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. By 1988, she received a BFA in Drama from the New York University - Tisch School of the Arts. She met William H. Macy when she was one of his students at the Atlantic Theatre Company. Her feature film work includes Christmas with the Kranks, Raising Helen, Magnolia, and Reversal of Fortune. Her television appearances include regular guest spots as Julia Wilcox on Frasier, as well as The D.A., Kim Possible, The West Wing, Law & Order, Chicago Hope, Raven and Desperate Housewives.
Actor Steve Hytner, who plays Denny Murphy, has regularly appeared on a number of other shows written by Morgan and Wong, including The Commish and Space: Above and Beyond. His feature work includes 2003's The Haunted Mansion, Charlie's Angels; Full Throttle, Face / Off, The Shadow, and In The Line of Fire. His additional television appearances include CSI; NY, George Lopez, The King of Queens, Friends, a regular recurring role as Milton Ross on Roswell, Seinfeld, and Lois & Clark.
Episode synopsis and notes: Matt Allair
Page Editor: Red Scully
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Crew Production Credits