Season 1

1x15 Young at Heart

Air date: 02-11-94
Writers: Chris Carter and Scott Kaufer
Director: Michael Lange
Editor: James Coblentz
Director of Photography: John S. Bartley, C.S.C.
Documented Phenomenon: Reverse Aging, Genetic Engineering

Episode summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

One night in 1989 at the Tashmoo Federal Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania, Joe Crandall, a wheelchair-bound prisoner notices that one of the inmates is missing from his bed in the infirmary. He is then disturbed by screams coming from another room. Going to investigate, he finds that the facility's medic, Dr Ridley, is operating on a prisoner called John Barnett, having removed his hand. Ridley tells him to return to the ward as Barnett is dead. Although the prisoner disagrees, he is forced to leave when the doctor brandishes a surgical blade in his face, though he does see the seemingly dead Barnett blink at him.

Meanwhile back in present day Washington, Mulder and Scully arrive at a crime scene at a department store, following a call from Mulder's old partner, Reggie Purdue. He's called them in to help him with the case of a lone gunmen who shot a salesgirl after she'd given him the money. An aspect of the case made Purdue bring in Mulder: all the clues and the description point to the perpetrator being the long-deceased John Barnett. Mulder explains to Scully that Barnett was his first case at the FBI, a trigger happy armed robber who had killed seven people. He had been the one to collar Barnett as he had had a theory that Barnett had an inside partner working for the armoured car company who was tipping him off as to where all the big deliveries were being made. One of Barnett's calling cards in all his crimes had been to leave notes taunting the rookie FBI agent on his tail. That's why Mulder is completely shocked to see such a note - reading "Fox can't guard the chicken coop" - at the scene of this new crime. All this only serves to rake up some unpleasant memories for Mulder - an agent had died when Barnett had been apprehended and he still feels guilty about it. But the real mystery is how a man who died four years before in prison is now back at large.

Taking the note for handwriting analysis, Mulder is able to establish that it was written in the last 48 hours and it is a match to John Barnett. It was also written with a right hand.

Purdue shows Scully a videotape of what actually went down when Barnett was apprehended. She sees that Mulder had a clear shot at Barnett but didn't take it, seeing as Barnett had a gun to a hostage's head. Barnett was ultimately shot by Mulder but only after he had killed another agent and his accomplice, the armoured car driver. From Scully's subsequent conversation with Mulder, it's clear that even after all this time, he still feels enormous guilt over the unnecessary death of a fellow agent, caused by his own indecisiveness.

Mulder goes off on a little guilt trip of his own, watching the dead agent's young son at football practice. When he returns to his car, he finds a package containing the note "A hunted Fox eventually dies" and photographs taken of him earlier that day at the department store crime scene. A young man who was also watching the football practice - with the same kind of milky eyes that John Barnett had - watches him go.

Purdue reckons that someone is playing an elaborate hoax on Mulder in an attempt to mess with his head. He gets annoyed by Mulder's adamant refusal to believe that Barnett is dead, and rails against him that he has pissed away a glittering career with his fixation on the supernatural. Scully interrupts them, having uncovered Barnett's last will and testament. He had left what little he had to Joe Crandall, his fellow inmate at the Tashmoo Correctional Facility, along with instructions that his body be cremated. This evidence seems to confirm Purdue's theory that someone has concocted a grand scheme to undermine Mulder.

With the help of a computer operator, Mulder tries to get a fix on what Barnett would look like now, ageing an existing photograph of the man. All this only serves to make Mulder relive the day Barnett stood trial when he testified that Barnett had effectively been playing a game of cat and mouse with the FBI. Barnett kept his composure completely that day, even when Mulder didn't, and even leaned around to him after his testimony and told him that he would get him in the end.

Meanwhile, Scully has been doing some thorough investigating of her own, and has unearthed some questions over Barnett's seeming death from a heart attack in prison. She tells Mulder that just prior to his death, he was admitted to the infirmary with an infection in his right hand. There was no evidence of cardiac complications. In fact, he'd been given a clean bill of health six months earlier.

This prompts the agents to visit the Tashmoo Facility, where they encounter Joe Crandall. He immediately dismisses the notion that Barnett died of cardiac arrest, and then asks if Barnett is actually still alive. The last time Crandall saw Barnett he was blinking at him, after all.

Back at their basement office, Mulder receives a phone call from Barnett himself. The call is just an excuse for him to tease and taunt Mulder, and he naturally hangs up before a full trace can be made. Though he does hang up promising Mulder confirmation that he is who he says he is. Mulder has to accede that it does sound like the man.

Confirmation comes with the brutal murder of Reggie Purdue in his own bedroom. Mulder hears this attack as he is on the phone to Purdue at the time. What he can't know is that Barnett murders Mulder's former partner with a deformed and powerful right hand, all the more unsettling given that Barnett had had his right hand amputated four years before. At the scene of Purdue's murder, Mulder starts beating himself up all over again about the fact that he should have killed Barnett while he had the chance. The taunting note left at the scene - "Funeral for Fox's friends - then you Fox" - only makes him more upset.

This latest note is taken to handwriting analysis where Agent Henderson confirms that it was definitely written by a right-handed person. This troubles Mulder as he remembers Crandall telling him that Barnett's right hand had been amputated. She tells him that this kind of handwriting could never have been written by a prosthetic hand. She does find it odd, however, that no prints have been lifted off the notes. If the perpetrator had been wearing gloves, then the handwriting would have been affected.

Scully has since discovered that the prison medic, Dr Ridley, hasn't officially been a doctor since 1979, having had his medical licence revoked by the State of Maryland for flagrant medical malpractice and misuse of a government grant. Ridley's speciality was an investigation into the disease of progeria. He had been attempting to slow down the rapid ageing effects of the condition. It leads Mulder to the conclusion that Barnett has evaded capture because he has found the perfect disguise - youth. He goes back to the photographic imaging at the FBI to put together a picture of what a younger, rather than an older, Barnett might look like.

Whilst typing up her notes at home, Scully is surprised by a visit from the disgraced Dr Ridley, although she doesn't realise that Barnett has broken into her apartment too. Summoning Mulder, they listen as Ridley tells a tale. He has continued his work in Belize, though he now has only a month to live as he is dying of a rare cerebrovascular disease, the same disease that usually kills those suffering from progeria. By dabbling with the genetics, Ridley was able to reverse the ageing nature of progeria and make it go in the other direction. His experiments also encompass myolin, the genetic factor that prevents us from generating a new body part should one get cut off. It transpires that Ridley was able to grow Barnett a new hand from a salamander. Even more shockingly, Ridley reveals that one of the organisations sponsoring his extreme work was the US government.

Mulder needs to corroborate this so he sets up a meeting with Deep Throat. It transpires that Barnett had stolen all of Ridley's research and that the government is currently in negotiations with the killer to buy it back from him. The fact that Barnett is a murderer barely factors into the mix.

Scully figures out that she's probably next on Barnett's list, given that he is now accessing the messages on her answering machine. Barnett's left oblique fingerprint is on the underside of her device. Mulder receives another threatening call from Barnett in his office. So a trap is set at the Janie Taylor Memorial Recital Hall, with Scully as the bait. A taskforce of agents are brought in to help flush the killer out. As no one really knows what Barnett looks like, no one has really paid too much attention to the piano tuner (and they certainly haven't noticed his salamander hand seeing as he largely resorts to wearing gloves). Barnett has smuggled a gun onto the premises and his daredevil attitude means he thinks nothing of pulling the gun on Scully in the packed lobby. He shoots her, only for all the other agents to give chase. In a grim repeat of four years ago, Barnett grabs another hostage and Mulder is faced with either playing it by the rule book or taking a shot at him. This time, he chooses the latter. Scully of course is all right, if a little winded, as she is wearing a bulletproof jacket.

Barnett dies on the operating table, taking the secret of where he's hidden Ridley's research with him.

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

  • We had a delve into Scully's past in the previous episode, "Lazarus", so it seems only right and fitting that this time around it should be Mulder's turn. Interestingly, this is an X-File that is less about the paranormal but rather some good old-fashioned messing about with science. Robin J. England
  • Early in the episode, Mulder quietly watches the son of Agent Steve Wallenberg, at a practice football game. One has to wonder if this guilty action of Mulder's was an isolated incident, or if he had, for a number of years, been quietly looking out of Wallenberg's son. Matt Allair
  • This is the very first episode in which Mulder actually kills anyone. Robin J. England
  • The episode actually starts off with a bit of a bum steer, trying to depict that John Barnett has returned from the dead. He was never dead to begin with, just lucky or unlucky enough to be subjected to years of regenerative testing in a rather misguided attempt to stop the ageing process. Being a convict obviously means that Dr Ridley can get away with some pretty nasty procedures and probably not get called on it; not such a great idea, in retrospect, to pick a psychotic murderer harbouring a longterm grudge as your test subject. However, the concept of a killer who is actually getting younger is an interesting one. Clearly the writers felt that it lacked the yukky factor, so we have the addition of Barnett's salamander hand. Strictly speaking, this plot device is probably not necessary - it just adds clues to Mulder's deductions - but it does graft on an element of gruesomeness that this episode would otherwise lack. Robin J. England
  • Surely Agent Purdue must be one of the least lamented agent in FBI history. Certainly Mulder doesn't spend too much time grieving over his loss. What we do see of Mulder here though is a man still chewed up over a mistake that he made back in his rookie years. Technically, Mulder responded in a completely appropriate manner in the original stand-off with Barnett and a hostage situation. But, as he has learned, playing by the book is not always the best method. That's certainly a credo he has fully adopted merely to get the chance of working on the X-Files. Certainly Barnett does a good job of getting to our agent, and it's not entirely surprising that the episode ends with a rerun of that stand-off situation all those years ago. It's a well handled scene, and Duchovny's dedication to the part really pays off. We don't often see Mulder fire his gun in such a pointedly determined manner. Here, he clearly means business. Robin J. England
  • On a side note, isn't it funny how everyone is very quick to label Scully as being emotionally repressed, but here Mulder is the one who has a lot of unresolved guilt issues bottled up inside him. He can talk openly about the bare bones of the case, but you can just tell that there's a lot more pain and guilt lurking underneath his surface. Scully can't help him, mainly because he won't let her. This is Mulder's foxhunt, and we see a very focused agent here. Robin J. England
  • The best line, during Mulder's playful exchange with Agent Henderson is spoken by her: "Ten minutes may be enough time for you, Mulder. Of course, I wouldn't know from personal experience." Matt Allair

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

This episode has been criticized by some fans with being filled with potential that is never fulfilled while it unfolds. There is some reasonable basis in this criticism. One does get the sense the episode follows a kind of obvious formula, and as observed by some X-Philes, the plot development does have some striking similarities to Ghost in the Machine. For example, one of the agents being paired with a former partner - a partner that eventually meets his demise, a mad scientist who creates a monster that only he understands, and a shadowy government agency that is attempting to acquire the technology and knowledge from this scientist or the creation. Then there is the problem of the added element of the Purdue's salamander hand: it does feel as though it was added in as an afterthought. Matt Allair

That's genuine footage of a child with the rare disease of progeria that Mulder and Scully watch in the episode. The X-Files production crew contacted the Progeria Society and were allowed to film a little girl from San Diego who actually suffered from the disease. Filming it proved to be a very emotionally affecting experience for director Michael Lange and producer Bob Goodwin, both of whom are fathers of young children. The little girl who suffered from the disease was flown to Vancouver to film the footage.

Chris Carter had yet another tangle with FOX's Standards and Practices Department over the murder of Agent Purdue at the (salamander) hand of John Barnett. Originally it was a much longer and more gruesome murder, which had to be considerably trimmed back. This was a fight that Carter was always going to lose as there was a very high-profile ongoing debate about violence on television that understandably had made the FOX executives very nervous. Robin J. England

The teaser required a high end jewellery store to stage the aftermath of the robbery. Location manager Todd Pittson made an inquiry to Henry Birks & Sons which was Vancouver's largest and most prestigious jewellery store. Several stipulations had to be met: Chief among these were security measures that were put in place to insure that the presence of a large film crew would not lead to a real robbery attempt. A robbery six weeks earlier at Birks & Sons only added to the precautions. Birks' management and the police agreed to the terms of the crew filming due to the fact that a crime scene was being staged and not an actual crime. It had been agreed that no weapons would be carried by the actors, as on a number of prior occasions on other shows, actors had been nearly killed due to lax safety precautions. The other condition was that they would film during non-business hours. Matt Allair

Dick Anthony Williams who plays Agent Purdue is a stalwart veteran of movies and television work. He has appeared in such films as the Sean Connery thriller The Anderson Tapes in 1971, the blaxploitation classic Slaughter's Big Rip-Off (1973), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), The Deep (1977), The Jerk (1979), Gardens of Stone for director Francis Ford Coppola (1987) and Edward Scissorhands (1990). He's also appeared in numerous TV series as NYPD Blue, JAG, LA Law and The Shield. Dick Williams was born in 1938, Chicago, Illinois. On Broadway, he earned consecutive Tony Award nominations as best supporting or featured actor in 1974 for What the Wine Sellers Buy and again in 1975 for Black Picture Show. Robin J. England / Matt Allair

Canadian-based actor David Petersen, who plays the older version of John Barnett, has appeared in such TV series as Airwolf, Highlander and The Dead Zone. His first important feature film appearance was First Blood, others include The Grey Fox, Iceman and Fast Company. More recent TV appearances include Da Vinci's Inquest and Living with the Dead. Robin J. England / Matt Allair

Graham Jarvis who played the NIH Doctor Ridley, has been working in Hollywood since 1969 when he appeared in the counter-culture film Alice's Restaurant. He has continued to be involved with music related projects including R.P.M. (1970) and a regular role as Bob Dyrenforth for two seasons in Fame. Mr. Jarvis has had a broad career spanning nearly five decades. He attended Williams College before moving to New York to pursue a theatre career. He was an original member of the Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre and studied at the American Theatre Wing. His feature film appearances include Son-In-Law, Misery, Parents, Silkwood, Mr. Mom, Prophecy, What's Up Doc?, and The Out-of-Towners. Numerous television appearances include 7th Heaven, Six Feet Under, JAG, Home Improvement, Coach, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Murphy Brown, Cagney and Lacey, Trapper John M.D., Hart to Hart, Starsky and Hutch, and Sanford and Son. Mr. Jarvis, who was born in August 1930, died of multiple myeloma in April, 2003.

Christine Estabrook, who plays graphologist Agent Henderson, is probably best known for her recent stint on the first season of Desperate Housewives in which she played the nosy and ill-fated Martha Huber. The role was specially created for her by series creator Marc Cherry, a long time fan. She went to the Yale School of Drama where one of her classmates was Meryl Streep, and has an enviable reputation as a Broadway actress. She had a small role as a doctor in the classic crime movie The Usual Suspects (1995) and has also appeared in numerous TV series, including Frasier, Six Feet Under and Veronica Mars.

Episode synopsis, review and production notes: Robin J. England
Additional review and production notes: Matt Allair
Page Editor: XScribe

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