Season 1

1x09 Fallen Angel

Air date: 11-19-93
Writers: Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon
Director: Larry Shaw
Editor: James Coblentz
Director of Photography: John S. Bartley, C.S.C.
Documented Phenomenon: UFO Contact and Military Recovery

Episode summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

In a country road two miles off the canyon intersection in Townsend, Wisconsin at 12:57 AM, a flash of red light appears in a forest. Deputy Sheriff Wright, passing by in a patrol car, sees the trees begin to burst into flames and radios in suggesting a dispatch of fire crews out to his location. The response is nearly completely obscured by static. Frustrated, the deputy gets out of the vehicle. Simultaneously, the U.S. Space Surveillance Center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, a radio operator and a controller, Chief Karen Koretz, report the appearance of a bogey to their superior. An unidentified aircraft has appeared over the continental US. First appearing on the coast of Connecticut it proceeded to move at a speed and pattern that no known aircraft can match. Apparently it has crashed over Lake Michigan, moving at roughly 800 miles per hour. When the operator tries to dispatch a rescue team, he is overruled by his superior who brusquely informs him that what they just tracked was a meteor, its erratic movement due to instrument malfunction. After ordering the unconvinced that their reports will reflect this, he calls in a "Code Indigo DE9", confirms that there is a "fallen angel" over sector 87 and to mobilize "Operation Falcon". Back in Townsend, Wright approaches the crash site, unaware that there is someone behind him until something invisible attacks him in a flash of light and a burst of heat. The deputy screams and the teaser ends.

In a Budget-Rent motel outside of Townsend at around 12:57 AM, Mulder listens to a report detailing the story of a toxic spill forcing the evacuation of the town. He then flashes back to an earlier conversation with Deep Throat. The informant tells the agent that the US is surrounded by a fence of satellites that reach 15,000 miles into space. Deep Throat tells Mulder about the breach and the salvage mission headed up by Commander Calvin Henderson, the government's top reclamations leader. Deep Throat tells Mulder that he has twenty-four hours before all the evidence is "sanitized".

Back in the present, Mulder reaches the forest of the crash site to find a laser-fence guarding government vehicles cleaning up something. At 'Operation Falcon' headquarters, Commander Henderson tells an arriving truck that his team will be going in as soon as it is dark, with live rounds in their weapons. He makes it clear that this is not a drill. Mulder emerges from beneath the truck and that night follows Henderson's team toward a light in the forest, which turns out to be some kind of aircraft being 'cleansed' by men in gray biological suits. Mulder begins to take pictures of the craft but is knocked out by a man in uniform.

In a room, Henderson rips out the film in Mulder's camera and berates the agent for putting his men at risk and violating a federal quarantine. Shrugging off the agent's remark that there seem to be a lot of people with guns around for what was reported to be an ecological disaster, he tells Mulder to forget what he may or may not have seen. The FBI agent is put in a stockade where he is greeted by a long-haired, scruffy, bespectacled man who asks Mulder what UFO organizations he is affiliated with. (He also mentions MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network.) With Mulder looking on incredulously, he identifies himself as Max Fenig from the National Investigational Committee of Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). The loquacious Fenig queries the agent on whether he saw anything. While Fenig admits he got nowhere near the crash, he is convinced something is out there.

At sunrise, the door opens and a royally ticked-off Scully enters. Evidently, Max has been released which leaves Mulder to face Scully's wrath, unhindered by the presence of a spectator. Apparently, Section Chief McGrath overreached Blevins and demanded a full inquiry--his goal being to shut down the X-Files and to have Mulder dismissed from the bureau. She gets even angrier when Mulder shrugs this off and that says that he has no qualms about risking his job for lights in the sky. (We're very early in the Mulder-Scully relationship at this point.) When Mulder says this is not an ecological disaster, Scully tells him the new story--that the craft was a downed Libyan jet with a nuclear warhead. This story impresses Mulder even less, especially when Scully tells him it's "highly classified". He believes that the military is searching for the pilot of the craft--mainly because no "human" pilot could have walked away from what he saw of the crash. At the crash site, something covered in heavy camouflage gets through the laser fence and begins to move.

Even with the board of inquiry twenty-four hours away, Mulder tells an incredulous Scully that he plans to spend that time investigating what crashed in the forest. When he opens his motel room, he finds to his surprise that his room has been ransacked. Upon hearing noise, the two agents find an unlikely source--Max, trying to surreptitiously escape out the bathroom window. The wild-eyed Max explains he wanted to make sure the agent was Mulder and tells him that NICAP has been following Mulder's career closely through the Freedom of Information act. He recognized Mulder from a trade publication and saw his article in Omni, even though Mulder wrote it under the pseudonym, F.M. Luder. Scully is less than impressed (especially when Max refers to her as the enigmatic Dr. Scully), but Mulder is more than a little surprised.

Max shows the two agents his Airstream trailer, which is parked outside the motel. Scully remains bemused and while Max and Mulder discuss a report on crop circles. She looks at the very messy and haphazard trailer interior, which bears a striking resemblance to Mulder's office. She also discovers several prescription medication vials. Max then shows the FBI agents a very advanced CIA-type radio device (similar to a police scanner) that enabled him, two days ago, to hear the report from the Townsend sheriff's department from Deputy Wright and another broadcast thirty-five minutes later from the fire department, which seems to indicate something was in the wreckage.

Back at Operation Falcon, Commander Henderson informs his superior about a sighting of the pilot and assures them that this time it won't get away.

At 6:27 PM at the Mill Road high school (currently being used as an emergency evacuation center), Mulder and Scully talk with Mrs. Wright, who responds to their inquiries by telling them that her husband is dead and she's tired of answering questions. Scully gets her to reveal that the government won't even release his body and that if she answered any questions, they would withhold her husband's pension. Suddenly the lights go out. Simultaneously, at US Microwave Substation B21, a loud signal causes a man in headphones to grasp his head in pain while another soldier spots something moving on a thermal imaging scanner in another sector. Commander Henderson orders the Beta Team to go after it--"search and destroy". The team enters a warehouse but see nothing. Suddenly it moves and pounces on two commandos. A light flashes and men scream in pain.

At 11:42 at the County Hospital, Dr. Oppenheim refuses to discuss what happened to Deputy Wright. Mulder asks the doctor what hold the military had over him and Oppenheim, smarting from his harsh treatment the night before admits he treated Wright and three members of a fire crew. All four were DOA with fifth and sixth degree burns on ninety percent of their body, but the burns were like nothing he'd ever seen before. Under questioning from Mulder, he confirms that they could have been caused by ionized radiation. As they leave, Mulder and Scully debate the cause of the burns--Scully believing that they could have come from the core of the warhead in the fighter jet, Mulder insisting that they are earmarks of "close encounter mortalities" with similar kinds of burns. As Scully tries to get Mulder to leave, a code 5 comes in--the men from the warehouse with terrible burns on their body followed closely by Commander Henderson.

Mulder berates Henderson about the continued pursuit of the pilot, asking how many men must die before he rethinks his approach. Henderson admits nothing and orders Mulder and Scully to leave. Dr. Oppenheim insists that Scully remain on hand for her abilities as a doctor, standing up to the effrontery of Henderson. Henderson backs off but orders the military to escort Mulder out. Returning to the motel Mulder passes by Max's trailer only to find Max suffering a seizure. After a long time, Max regains consciousness, though he is postictal and very drowsy. He is surprised, saying he hasn't had a seizure in seven years. As he discusses his epilepsy, Max reveals to Mulder that he has suffered from it since he was ten and he would frequently wake up in strange places with no memory of how he got there. As Mulder puts Max to bed, he notes a strange scar above his ear.

Hours later, an exhausted Scully returns to the motel. She tells Mulder that all but two of the men she treated died, the survivors going to the burn unit at the Johns Hopkins Medical Center. She confesses that she has no idea what happened to the men but tells Mulder that their plane leaves in an hour and they have to be on it. Mulder counters by showing Scully pictures of two women, both with scars in the same location, both of whom claim to have been abducted by aliens. Scully dismisses Mulder's supposed claim that Max is also an abductee by saying he is schizophrenic and prone to delusions. Mulder counters by saying that it is he who believes Max is an abductee--not Max. Scully reluctantly agrees to look at the scar.

Back in Colorado, Chief Koretz tells her superior that another object has been spotted in the sky, heading for the same sector as the first object. She says that the craft doesn't correspond with any known aircraft and that it is much larger than the first one. Her superior tells her that this is another meteor, to which she counters that this "meteor" is apparently hovering over a small town in Wisconsin.

Something flies over Max's trailer and seems to enter. The scar behind his ear begins to bleed and his eyes snap open.

Mulder and Scully enter Max's trailer to find the radio on and Max gone. Suddenly the radio blares that Falcon has noticed an unidentified trespassing at the Waterfront. Mulder bursts out of the trailer with Scully frantically trying to convince him to fly back to Washington. Paying no attention to his own plight, Mulder points out Max was in Townsend the night of the crash. He then leaps to the conclusion that Max's abduction plays a vital role in his obsession, that Max is probably at the Waterfront and that if he figured this out, Henderson will have, too. Reluctantly Scully gives Mulder the keys.

At Dock 7 on the Lake Michigan Waterfront, Max is seen walking towards a building. A jeep drives up and an officer, ignoring Max's plea not to do this, radios in that they have found a civilian. Henderson orders them to approach Max with extreme caution. There is a buzz of sudden static. Mulder and Scully drive up to the jeep, finding the hood smoking and both soldiers dead. Suddenly Mulder hears a scream from a war ehouse. Both agents run there to find Max clearly in pain, muttering that they're coming for him. As the military arrives in full force, Mulder tells Scully to hold them off while he tends to Max. The military surrounds the building, preparing to "take it" by force.

Ignoring Scully's pleas for Max's safety, Henderson orders his teams into position. As a soldier notes, using a thermal imaging device, that there are three forms in the building--one steadily approaching the other two. In the warehouse, Mulder tries to get a petrified Max to move even as the third figure approaches them. Suddenly there is a surge and Mulder is hurtled over a pile of barrels. He runs back to Max only to watch in shock as Max hovers shaking in mid-air, held in place by some kind of tractor beam. There is a flash--and the soldier on the roof tells Henderson there is now only one figure in the building. Henderson orders the door blown and Operation Falcon enters the building to find Mulder, with only Max's hat remaining. Infuriated by Mulder's remark that "they got to him first," Henderson orders Mulder arrested.

Back in Washington two days later, Section Chief McGrath lists Mulder's dereliction of duty and failure to fill out a proper report. He dismisses Scully, refusing to hear any of her pleas on Mulder's behalf. Scully leaves as Mulder, on crutches, enters the room, cheerfully resigned to his apparent dismissal. Scully looks at a newspaper which has a brief article on the success of the toxic cleanup. In front of the board of inquiry McGrath ignores Mulder's statement that the FBI seems more concerned with his violation of protocol then the death of a dozen men and reams him out for violating a federal quarantine. Outraged, Mulder insists on Max Fenig's abduction even as McGrath points out Henderson's report that Fenig's body was found in a cargo barrel, hours later. Resigned, Mulder gets to his feet and points out that in the long run denial is futile, because no government has a monopoly on the truth.

Some time later, a flabbergasted McGrath questions someone as to why he countermanded the bureau's last best chance to get rid of Mulder--Deep Throat. The informant answers that Mulder's work is a singular passion and conduct and insubordination are dangerous--but not nearly as dangerous if he were to come forward with whatever he thinks he knows. He tells McGrath to keep his friends close but his enemies closer.

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

  • The episode raises more questions about Deep Throat then probably any other. It can be assumed that Deep Throat has an elevated position in the FBI, though later episodes (E.B.E.) will imply that he may work with the CIA as well, though this is never confirmed. How it is possible that anyone could work in both agencies simultaneously is a question that is never answered, possibly because different writers wrote both teleplays. In any case after this episode, the informant is far more circumspect in his dealings with Mulder, at least until the finale of Season One. David Morris
  • This is the first episode to mention the agencies NICAP and MUFON. The Pennsylvania chapter of MUFON will play a vital role in the 'cancer arc' that will emerge in seasons 3 and 4. It also marks the first appearance of Max Fenig who will reappear (after a fashion) in the season 4 two-part 'Tempest Fugit/Max'. David Morris
  • While Colonel Henderson may be the most visible character, Max is the most important, for his impact on Mulder will be visible for several years. Max is the first character Mulder encounters who is aware of his work, thus Max helps Mulder to see that his efforts are making a difference. In addition, Mulder has a certain affinity for Max and through Max, Mulder can see the kind of damaged person he could become in the future, while pursuing his obsession. Matt Allair
  • What is the departmental layout in the FBI? Up until this point the people in charge of the Bureau have been Section Chiefs. After this episode, most of the authorities at the bureau will be Assistant Directors. Section Chiefs clearly still have a role in the Bureau; Blevins will be working in the same position four years later, but who holds the final authority? The answer to the departmental layout can be found on the official FBI website. Agents Mulder and Scully work in the Criminal Investigations Branch, the branch is headed by an Executive Assistant Director. Under that hierarchy it would include the Section Chiefs and Assistant Directors under them. Other subdivisions include the Cyber Division, Critical Incident Response Group, Office of International Operations, as well as the Office of Law Enforcement Coordination. The FBI's organizational layout follows as thus, The Director, Deputy Director, a Chief of Staff, the Special Agents in Charge, The Associate Deputy Director, and the Executive Directors for the various Branch's. These executive directors seem to have the same role as the section chief's that were portrayed on The X-Files, the title appears to have changed. What is interesting to note is the fact that the FBI has a Science and Technology Branch. That could lead one to speculate if The X-Files department wouldn't be placed in such a Branch, considering Scully medical science background as well as the need for scientific explanations. Apparently that isn't the case as The Science, Engineering, & Technology branch is a very specialized support team employed by the FBI. Their resources can, however, be called upon outside of the FBI. These professionals work in different divisions of the FBI, including the lab, the Cyber, Operational Technology, and the Criminal Justice Information Services Divisions. They work strictly within their own expertise, take care of the problem, collect evidence, and get out. They don't do detective work, but report their findings to the different divisions. David Morris / Matt Allair
  • Even though it is technically part of the mythology, it is never clear what kind of alien the pilot is. He clearly bears no resemblance to the Bounty Hunter we will meet in season two. Furthermore, given the nature of the burns that we see on the soldiers in 'Fallen Angel' this may be the only alien on the X-Files that is radioactive. All of this is probably due to the fact that Chris Carter and the other writers were still uncertain about what exactly the conspiracy was at this point in the show's development. David Morris
  • Then again, there is the possibility that the cloaked alien might not be a part of the colonist's agenda but an aberration in the greater scheme. The Alien seems to have a weapon similar to what we will see later used by the alien rebels in season five and six. Matt Allair

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

This is Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa's only script for the 'mythology'. Gansa would depart from the show after the first season; Gordon would only co-author two other scripts dealing with the alien storyline (Nisei and Zero Sum) before departing from the show in season 4. (DM) While some of the plot ideas of Fallen Angel borrow from the 1987 Science Fiction Action hit Predator, the character of Max Fenig offers a balance and helps to make the episode emotionally involving. Chris Carter has argued that the use of the cloaked alien left more to the imagination than a typical "monster of the week". Max Fenig's character predates the introduction of The Lone Gunmen by a number of episodes. For the scene where the cloaked alien breaks the perimeter of the laser-beam fence, effects supervisor Matt Beck, realizing that the reference footage was shot in a green forest, used an actor in a bright orange suit from head to foot, with ball-like body padding to approximate a large reptile-like alien. While viewing the footage during post production, most of the post crew found the footage hysterical. In the scene at the end where Max is being abducted, piano wires were used to suspend Scott Bellis in the air, without using any postproduction CGI effects other than the light ray effects.

When filming the flying saucer crash sequence at the Seymour Demonstration Forest, co-executive producer Bob Goodwin was caught speeding, and narrowly escaped a permanent ban from the forest. Gary Allen has acknowledged while referring to Seymour Forest for the crash site, "with all that foam and fire, it was a wonderful set; we cut our chops on that show."* In July 1993, the University Hospital (Shaughnessy Site) began closing wards in preparation for a transfer of ownership to the Children's and Women's Health Center of British Columbia. This change of ownership benefited the B.C. film industry as the site offered a vacant emergency ward, two vacant fourth floor wards, a vacant sixth floor ward and ICU, the Jean Matheson Pavilion as an extra empty building and a wooden structure which stood alone in a parking lot, the Old Stones building. This hospital became a regular location starting with the episode Fallen Angel, with the added benefit of additional parking for the X-Files crew. For the scene where Deep Throat is talking with McGrath at Washington Park / Plaza, part of the Simon Fraser University in Burnaby was used. A great deal of bureaucratic negotiations transpired to obtain the permits to shoot on the campus during a semester.

There's a general bias in the television industry towards casting actors from Los Angeles in lead roles; therefore, the casting of Scott Bellis as Max Fenig was a surprise and one of the proudest finds of casting director Lynne Carrow. Even Howard Gordon has acknowledged that the casting of this Vancouver local, "came in and knocked our socks off."** Scott Bellis has principally been known as a television character actor; his feature film work includes Little Women, Timecop and Intersection. Recent feature work includes Antitrust and Marine Life. His most recent television work includes The Dead Zone, Smallville, Dark Angel and The Outer Limits. His appearances in the nineties included Dead Man's Gun, Street Justice, and MacGyver. His first television appearance was in The Beachcombers in 1988.

Actor Frederick Coffin who played Chief Joseph McGrath, was the son of actress Winnie Collins and enjoyed a very wide, illustrious career that spanned three decades before his death. Mr. Coffin attended Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio as a youth. His most recent appearances included Identity, View From The Top, the animated video game Star Wars: Jedi Knight II - Jedi Outcast, The Base, Memorial Day, and the nineties A Streetcar Named Desire. Other feature appearances include Wayne's World, V.I. Warshawski, Hard To Kill, Jo Jo Dancer �Your Life Is Calling, and Alone in The Dark. His television appearances include Presidio Med, Family Law, Providence, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, Murder, She Wrote, Walker, Texas Ranger, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., L.A. Law, The Commish, MacGyver, Hunter, Remington Steele, Hill Street Blues and Kojak. He died July 31, 2003 of lung cancer in Los Angeles.

Actor Marshall Bell who played the imposing Commander Calvin Henderson, originally hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma and has enjoyed a highly visible and wide ranging career. He appeared in the pilot episode of Tales From The Crypt and was the first character on the show to die a grim death. Mr. Bell recently finished production on Capote. His other feature work includes Identity and Serving Sara. Some past feature appearances include Virus, Starship Troopers, The Brave, Things To Do in Denver When You're Dead, The Puppet Masters, Natural Born Killers, Airheads, 1990's Dick Tracy, Total Recall, Twins, Tucker; A Man and His Dream, Manhunter, Stand By Me, and Birdy. Mr. Bell also appeared in another Ten Thirteen Production, Millennium during its first season. His television appearances include Deadwood, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The District, Sliders, The Larry Sanders Show, Wiseguy, and Hill Street Blues.

* Quote source: "X Marks the Spot; On location with the X-Files" by Louisa Gradnitzer and Todd Pittson, © 1999 Arsenal Pulp Press

** Quote source: "The Truth Is Out There; The Official Guide to The X-Files" by Brian Lowry, © 1995 Harper Prism

Episode synopsis and review: David B. Morris
Additional review and production notes: Matt Allair
Page Editor: XScribe

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