Season 1

1x79 Pilot

Air date: 09-10-93
Writer: Chris Carter
Director: Robert Mandel
Editor: Stephen Mark
Director of Photography: Thomas Del Ruth, A.S.C.
Documented Phenomenon: Alien abduction and genetic manipulation

Episode summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

A teen girl is running late at night in a forest in Bellefleur, Oregon in 1992. She's in a nightgown, appearing to not know where she is as the wind begins to intensify. She tumbles down a slope to the ground and a light appears nearby as the wind shakes the trees. Dead leaves blow as a wind vortex begins to build, and an unidentified man walks up from the light and stands beside her. A shaft of light, combined with a rapid swirl of leaves, consumes them. The following day she is found dead in Collum National forest, where she's identified by Detective Miles as a friend of his son, Billy Miles; she is Karen Swenson, as another resident asks if she was from the class of '89 and if 'it's happening again.'

In Washington DC, Dana Scully, an agent of the FBI, signs into the main building. She meets with her supervisor; section chief Scott Blevins, who reviews her record over the past two years. There's a man in attendance she is not familiar with, the cigarette smoking man. Blevins asks her if she's familiar with an agent named Fox Mulder, and she acknowledges so through reputation at the academy. He is known to have a nickname, "spooky" Mulder, and he's an Oxford educated psychologist who is known for being one of the Bureau's best crime investigators. Mulder wrote a monograph on serial killers and the occult that helped to catch Monty Propps in 1988. Blevins then reveals that Mulder has taken up with an obsession that is outside the Bureau's mainstream, cases known as "X-Files". Scully acknowledges some awareness with the cases as unexplained and unresolved, usually involving the paranormal. Based on her scientific background, Scully has been assigned to work with Mulder, to write field reports, to report on whether there's anything of substance to Mulder's work - in essence to debunk his work from a scientific basis.

Scully goes to the lower levels of the bureau's offices, enters and introduces herself to Agent Mulder. "Nobody here but the FBI's most unwanted," he replies sarcastically as he seems hostile and skeptical. He comments that he was "under the impression that you were sent to spy on me." Scully testily begins a response but is cut off by Mulder who acknowledges his implication, if her qualifications are questionable for such an assignment, he then acknowledges he has read her senior thesis, "Einstein's Twin Paradox, A New Interpretation", Mulder admits to being impressed yet comments that the laws of physics rarely apply in the areas he investigates. He presents slide photos of a victim in Oregon, no known cause of death with two distinct marks on the victim's back; the victim is the fourth in a series. He then shows victims with similar marks in South Dakota and Texas, followed by a diagram of a chemical compound Scully can't identify. Scully is intrigued and they begin an intellectual debate; "When convention and science offer us no explanation, might we not finally turn to the fantastic as a plausibility?" Mulder asks. Scully disputes there's nothing that can't be explained through science. "The answers are there, you just have to know where to look for them." She retorts. Mulder tells her they are going to Oregon the next day.

In a deleted scene, Scully visits her boyfriend Ethan at a television studio and tells him she has to go on assignment to Oregon. He seems bitterly disappointed about passing up a planned trip as he questions who's she partnered with. To her surprise Ethan has heard of Fox Mulder, revealing he tried to do a story about Mulder's work with the FBI a year before, after hearing that a Senator was sponsoring his efforts, but no one would talk to him and it seemed as though Mulder was an embarrassment for the bureau. They warmly part.

On the plane flight the next day, Scully studies the case file and notices the name Dr. Nemman. Unexpectedly, there's a brief engine malfunction. While the rest of the passengers as well as Scully seemed alarmed, Mulder seems unaffected by the incident. They drive toward Bellefleur; Scully comments that the latest victim was examined by a different coroner. Mulder seems to enjoy intellectually challenging her as he reveals they are to exhume one of the previous victims. Unexpectedly the car radio turns on, goes haywire changing channels until it is reduced to high pitch static. Mulder pulls over, goes to the car trunk, grabs a spray can and marks an 'X' nearly a yard from the car. Scully is baffled as Mulder doesn't give her an explanation, nor seems willing to give her one as they continue on. They arrive at the cemetery on March 7, 1992, and they are introducing themselves when another car pulls up; a man and his daughter step out, the man, Dr. Nemman seems outraged and defensive. Nemman wasn't informed about the exhumation request by Mulder. Dr. Nemman seems almost paranoid that there's an insinuation he hasn't been doing his job. The daughter pleads for him to just leave; the doctor does so to calm the daughter. Mulder and Scully approach the crew opening the grave of Ray Soames. Ray was the third victim, sent to state central hospital for post adolescent schizophrenia, He died of exposure after being outside for seven hours.

While the casket is being raised, one of the straps breaks and it tumbles across the cemetery grounds until its fall is broken. The lid cracks open and a non human decayed body is revealed. Scully performs an autopsy of the body, found to be mammalian, probably chimpanzee or simian. Mulder grills her with questions then assures her, "I'm not crazy Scully, I have as many doubts as you." Later after performing X-rays, mammalian physiology is confirmed as well as a metal implant found in the nasal cavity. Both go to Rayman county state psychiatric hospital, where a doctor admits to treating Ray Soames and is currently treating Billy Miles and Peggy O'Dell. They find Peggy in a deep psychosis and Billy in a waking coma. Mulder asks to do a cursory medical exam on Peggy. She goes mad, falls on the floor when her nose bleeds, and Mulder and Scully notice that there are two pronounced marks on her back. Scully is unnerved as they leave. She asks Mulder how he suspected that about O'Dell, Mulder says she isn't ready for his theory. After Scully presses, he proposes that Miles and O'Dell are abductees. They review what they know and debate. Later that evening they go to the forest where Karen Swensen was found; Mulder notices that his compass is spinning, and while both wander the site Scully finds ash all over the ground. Suddenly there's a mechanical humming and a bright light, Scully follows it to find Detective Miles with shotgun in hand; Mulder joins up with her, both with their weapons ready. There's a stalemate as Det. Miles orders them to leave. Mulder and Scully agree, get into their car and drive off.

Mulder, suspicious, wonders why the detective was out there while he is driving. By now it is pouring rain, Scully shows the ash she found and suspects that the detective and others are hiding something, that some kind of cult rituals are being performed. Mulder notices his compass is spinning wildly, looks at the time of his watch, 9:03 and looks up at the rainy night sky. There's a bright flash and the power on the car shuts down, the car pulls to the side of the road. Both are dazed as Mulder looks at his watch which then reads 9:12. Mulder jumps out of his car, ecstatic while Scully follows in the pouring rain. Mulder finds no less than a yard the very 'X' he painted on the road earlier. Mulder, in euphoria, explains to Scully that abductees have experienced missing time, that they just lost nine minutes. Scully in disbelief argues that time can't just disappear, it's a universal invariant.

Later that evening Scully is working on her report with her laptop computer when the power goes out. She prepares to take a shower when she notices two marks are her back. Unnerved, she goes to Mulder's motel room, disrobes and shows the marks to him. He assures her they are Mosquito bites. Scully is shaken and has to sit down. They talk for hours as Mulder reveals the disappearance of his sister Samantha when she was eight and he was twelve, there was never any evidence and it tore his family apart. He mentions going to school in England and being recruited by the FBI. Mulder mentions he had an aptitude for applying behavioral models to criminal cases, and his success allowed freedom to pursue other interests, which is how Mulder came to discover the X-Files. Meanwhile a man in shadow heads towards the motel rooms.

Mulder continues to explain about his interests; then reveals that there's classified government information that someone is blocking him from getting. Mulder explains that the only reason he's been able to continue his work is because of congressional connections. Mulder also suspects that Scully is part of the agenda to limit him, she reassures him that she interested in solving this. Mulder trusts her enough to tell her about his work with Dr. Heinz Werber, being taken through deep regression hypnosis, regarding the night of his sister's abduction. He remembers seeing a bright light, a presence in the room and being paralyzed. Mulder insists to Scully that these incidents, these cases are real, and the government knows about them. Mulder reveals he has to know what the government is hiding about it. There's a phone call, someone tells Mulder that Peggy O'Dell is dead, and then hangs up.

They arrive at an interstate highway with the police and ambulance. Peggy, the girl who they had seen in the wheelchair had run out into the road and was hit by a truck. Mulder and Scully are informed by an officer that the corpse they examined has been stolen from the coroner. They drive back to the Motel to find it in flames, all their evidence is destroyed. Theresa Nemman walks up to them, she asks for protection believing she is about to be the next to die. They go to a local restaurant and she tells them she's an abductee, she doesn't know how she ends up in the woods and that this started to happen the summer after graduation. Mulder realizes she was the girl that phoned and told him about Peggy dying. Theresa's nose starts to severely bleed, just as her father, Dr. Nemman and Detective Miles appear at the restaurant to forcefully take her away.

Scully and Mulder realize that Dr. Nemman and Detective Miles know who the murderers are and are protecting them, that Dr. Nemman has been lying in his medical reports the entire time. She suspects they are behind the motel fire that destroyed evidence, as well as the stolen corpse. Mulder doesn't agree, so they go back to the cemetery to find the graves of the earlier victims had been dug up. With a horrified expression, Mulder figures out that the coma victim, Billy Miles, is behind all of this. Mulder speculates that the kids come to the forest because they are summoned there by an alien force, that the tests that are conducted causes a genetic mutation, thus explaining what happened to the Soames body. They next day, they go to the hospital and question a nurse while they examine Billy, Scully finds soil on his bare feet, the same ash she had found earlier. Thus Billy, a waking vegetable, had been outside. Mulder stresses to her that she has to be careful with what she is saying, that in effect, she will have to write it down in her field report. They agree to go back to forest, the crime scene and get another sample of the ash. They go back to the forest to find Detective Miles' car there, suddenly they hear a scream. They run towards the sound, but are separated as Scully is struck by Det. Miles before he runs. Mulder catches up with Miles and confronts him, Mulder telling him that Billy will kill that girl when they hear another scream and follow it. Detective Miles finds his son, a nearly naked Billy, carrying Theresa in his arms. Mulder stops Miles from using his shotgun. Just then the wind picks up into a vortex and a bright light builds until it is blinding.

By the time Scully reaches them all, Billy and Theresa have come to, they are back to normal and dazed. Billy is fully functional and speaks to his father, as Theresa is back to normal. To Mulder's amazement, the marks on Billy's back are gone. Back in Washington at the Bureau, Billy is questioned under hypnosis by Dr. Werber while Blevins observes. Billy says that the aliens told him the tests didn't work and they won't be back, but he's afraid they will come back. While being interviewed by the section chief, Scully can't substantiate evidence of the missing time, nor anything else. The only evidence she has is the nasal implant that directed the teens to go to the forest; the material could not be identified. When Blevins asks what Mulder believes, she replies he believes 'we are not alone'. As she leaves, she notices the cigarette smoking man pass by her into Blevins' office. Late that evening at 11:21, Scully is awakened by Mulder on the phone, he tells her that the Oregon office has told him, the case file on Billy Miles has gone missing and that they need to talk. Scully is unnerved.

On an extended deleted scene, Ethan is found in bed with Scully, he asks her who is calling and she tells him someone from work.

The cigarette smoking man is seen in a warehouse, he pulls out the implant that had been given to Blevins by Scully and files it in a clear box with a number of other implants. It is revealed that this warehouse is located somewhere in the Pentagon.

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

  • Throughout the episode Mulder constantly challenges Scully, testing her until he understands her intentions. To Scully's credit she seems willing to meet Mulder half way, and while there's a façade of resistance from her, she proves herself open to his arguments. Her willingness to meet him 'half way' can be demonstrated in two examples. The fact that she wrote her senior thesis on questioning and reinterpreting Einstein, demonstrates her fierce intellect and a willingness to accept extreme theories that cannot be proven. The other example is only visually implied through seeing that she wears a crucifix, her Catholic upbringing. Even if, as later episodes suggest, her religious faith appears to be lax, we see that she is open to the notion of accepting that there are forces in the universe that can't be comprehended. Her openness would lead to a deep trust between them, in addition to her continued support of Mulder's pursuit of the truth.
  • The "Pilot" is the first and only episode to be prefaced with the tagline "The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts." Robin England
  • The condition of Ray Soames body seems to be an aberration within the known mythology. One question that could be raised is whether Ray Soame's body was already reverting to a simian state, due to a genetic mutation, before he died? Could rigormortis have triggered the genetic mutation that reverted Soames' body to a Simian form? This detail is not really explored throughout the rest of the nine seasons.

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

The Pilot was very effective, covering most of the major themes that would run through the thread of the series. The location of Bellefleur, Oregon would make another appearance at the end of season seven. The town of Bellefleur in Oregon does not exist. Chris Carter, however, was born in Bellflower in California. In the script there was a description of the phone call between Scully and Mulder at the end that was prophetic. "...there's no doubt from the unsettled tone in her voice that it is much more than work. It will become the defining event of her life. Nothing that comes after now - religion, motherhood, anything - will not pass through the filter of this experience." * Few words have ever been more true, for ultimately the X-Files is a show told from Scully's point of view, as she begins as a skeptic and will be transformed into a believer. The pilot was screened for FOX executives at 8 in the morning. Chris Carter had just put the finishing touches to it three hours previously. Fortunately, there was spontaneous applause from Rupert Murdoch and the FOX executives after the screening. Matt Allair / Robin England

During the scene on the aeroplane, the man sitting directly behind Scully is David Duchovny's father, Amran Ducovny (sic). The iconic visual effects scenes of the wind and leaf vortex was partially shot at the location and finished with CGI leaves added in. Theresa's nose bleed was done with a disguised tube and then shot in profile. Robert Mandel was a friend of Chris Carter whom was personally recruited to shoot the pilot. Mark Snow's famous theme had not been developed yet, nor was the credit sequence developed. There are few series pilots that are arguably ever this well developed, the rapid progression of the early original series episodes of 'Star Trek' are the exception that comes to mind for a science fiction series. There are some minor rough edges with the characterizations of Mulder and Scully. Mulder's sense of humor would show more restraint in later episodes. Scully's exasperation would become more restrained, would change and be more finessed in later episodes. Matt Allair / Robin England

The use of locations in Vancouver B.C. played an important part in establishing the visual flavor of the show. Location managers Louisa Gradnitzer and Todd Pittson were to be given the regular challenge of finding locations that represented the landscape of the United States. The location of the "Knoll Graveyard" was Queen Elizabeth Park, between Cambie Street and 33rd Ave in Vancouver. The road leading to the park was also used for the Semi Truck accident, O'Dell's death, near the end of the episode. The location of the Psychiatric Hospital was found at Riverview Hospital in Port Coquitlam. The locations for the FBI Boardroom and the Pentagon Warehouse, was a site in Burnaby at a complex called The Knowledge Network. The FBI Bullpen, Mulder's office and the FBI hallway were interior locations that were found in the Canadian Broadcasting Corperation's office in Vancouver. Eventually the Bullpen and Mulder's office were built on a stage at North Shore Studios. Another FBI lobby as well as Scully's Laboratory location were filmed at B.C. Hydro Headquarters in Vancouver. The forest location was found in North Vancouver at Seymour Demonstration Forest. The Rural Motel location featured Cedar Lane Motel in White Rock. The exterior of Scully's apartment was 610 Jervis Street in Vancouver.

William B. Davis earned recognition and acclaim for playing the Cigarette Smoking Man. In one of life's ironies, he was a reformed smoker before taking on the role. He started his acting career in the eighties playing minor parts in Cronenberg's The Dead Zone and Look Who's Talking. In addition to his acting career, Davis is the founder of the William Davis Center for Actor's study and an acting coach, Davis also wrote an X-Files episode for season seven. His other television appearances include Smallville, The Outer Limits, Sliders, 21 Jump Street, MacGyver, and Wiseguy. Actor Charles Cioffi, who played Section Chief Blevins, would continue to play the character until the beginning of the fifth season. Cioffi has a very distinguished career dating to the seventies appearing in such features as Time After Time and The Other Side of Midnight. In addition to appearing in television shows such as Cannon and The Streets Of San Francisco, his most recent television work includes a regular appearance in The Practice as well as Chicago Hope and Frasier.

Cliff De Young, who played Dr. Jay Nemman, was already a reputable actor before his involvement with The X-Files, he had appeared in the film Glory as well as the Steven King miniseries The Tommyknockers. Since 1993 he has appeared in the Mario Puzo Miniseries The Last Don and the television movie George Wallace. His acting career began in the late 50's and he had been featured in shows such as Matlock, JAG, Murder She Wrote, Star Trek; Deep Space Nine, Lois & Clark, and would appear in another 1013 production, Harsh Realm. More recently he has appeared in Alias, CSI and Jack & Bobby. Actress Sarah Koskoff, whom had delivered a memorable performance as Theresa, reprised the role of Theresa Nemman in season seven and eight. She also appeared in the first season of Millennium. Sarah Koskoff appeared in a segment of If These Walls Could Talk as well as appearing in Tom Hank's directorial debut, That Thing You Do. She has also appeared in episodes of Seaquest DSV, MacGyver, and Chicago Hope.

* Source: Page 21, "The Truth Is Out There; The Official Guide to The X-Files" by Brian Lowry, © 1995 Harper Prism

Episode synopsis and notes: Matt Allair
Additional production notes: Robin J. England
Page Editor: Red Scully

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