- The development of this episode began as a group effort. "'Conduit' came out as a result of a kind of a kernel of an idea that I had, that Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, who were writing as partners, expanded on," detailed Chris Carter. "We had come up with this idea of this boy writing down the digits one and zero, which are the digits in all digital information. He was getting them through the television, inexplicably. And I think it was Alex, I remember, saying, 'What if all of these things added up to a giant puzzle, a mosaic, that in fact drew a picture of the sister that was missing?'" ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Conduit", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) The huge mural consisting of binary code was, according to Gordon, something that the writers deemed "specifically weird" and "would give you the creeps." He postulated, "All this information would be regurgitated to Kevin from these extraterrestrials through the television. 'We have her, she's here, she's OK.' The question was, how do you find something that doesn't make sense until another angle illuminates it? We put it on the ground, where you can't really read it and then put the characters on the second floor." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 25)
- Even before continuing to develop this episode between themselves, Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon were not confident about doing so. Remembered Chris Carter, "They went off and wrote it, certain that they were going to hand me something that I wouldn't like." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 39)
- Owing to unfamiliarity with science fiction and horror, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa initially found working on this installment was extremely difficult. "Alex and I found ourselves baffled and, frankly, a little bit out of our depth at first," reflected Gordon. "We were more inclined towards straight-ahead dramas [....] [This episode] was difficult for us [....] It came out of the frustration on our parts, and creative uncertainty." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 26-27 & 42) Gordon also recounted, "Alex and I said, 'What the hell are we going to do?' That's where 'Conduit' came from." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 35)
- Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon chose to try writing the episode in a way that they generally seemed to excel at, which was focusing on characterization. "We said let's see if we can take Mulder's character and deepen it somewhat," said Gordon, "tell a story that would echo his quest for his sister." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 35) The writers suspected, too, that it might be an interesting time in the first season to reiterate that quest. Gordon explained, "We set out to tell a simple abduction story, which was played out behind the shadows. We wanted to create an air of tension." The writing partners were also interested in loading the episode with multiple potential explanations for the strange occurrences depicted herein, such as the disappearance of Ruby Morris. "Was she taken or killed by her boyfriend, who she was seeing against her mother's wishes? Is it Twin Peaks or an alien abduction? That was the theme of the show," Gordon pointed out. (X-Files Confidential, p. 42)
- Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon took some ideas from UFO lore when devising this episode's story. Elements from ufology that were influential on this episode include, in Gordon's words, "the idea of repeat abductions and mother-daughter abductions." (X-Files Confidential, p. 42) Gordon also felt the alien abduction story told here could be viewed "in some very strong fashion as a metaphor" for incidents of abuse, "because if you look at the governing symbols, they often involve violation and helplessness. The victimization is often of a sexual nature." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 25)
- Act Four of this episode was not included in the original version of the story, so the episode's ending was at first far less concrete than it turned out. ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Conduit", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) Howard Gordon recalled he and Alex Gansa "struggled mightily" with the episode's script. (X-Files Confidential, p. 27) Eventually, the outing's conclusion was made more definite. "We added more explanation at the end," noted Chris Carter. ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Conduit", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features)
- This episode's script went through nine drafts. These were dated 23 and 26 July as well as 2nd, 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th, 17 and 19 August 1993.
- This episode's script describes the details of a front page to the X-file concerning the abduction of Mulder's sister, including the date of abduction as January 14, 1989, and that the case belonged to the Violent Crimes Division. Although the CD-ROM The X-Files: Unrestricted Access includes a close-up view of this page – revealing that it was created for filming – the front page can only barely be seen in the final version of this episode. There is no visible evidence elsewhere in the series to suggest that Mulder was aware of the X-files prior to 1990.
- After Blevins asks Scully if Mulder has shared any details with her regarding his sister's abduction, Scully replies, in this episode's script, by stating, "I wasn't aware that he was pursuing the case in an official capacity," and Blevins further inquires, "But he's told you about it?" before he tells her that there is no need for her to protect Mulder as he was the one who originally opened the X-file. The final version of the episode omits Scully's reply and Blevins' further inquiry; Blevins asks Scully if Mulder has told her about the abduction then immediately tells her that there is no need to protect her partner as Mulder was the one who initiated the file.
- Another two lines were omitted between Scully relaying to Blevins the details she has learned about the abduction of Mulder's sister and Blevins asking her whether, in her opinion, Mulder's personal agenda has clouded his professional judgment. In the script, Blevins asks her, "Agent Scully, do you see a parallel between this X-file and the tabloid article Agent Mulder proposes to investigate?" to which Scully answers, "Of course. A young boy. A missing sister. An Alien abduction scenario." Blevins then asks Scully if she believes Mulder's agenda is clouding his professional judgment, as Blevins does in the final version of the episode but his question is asked in the present tense rather than in the past tense.
- After Blevins announces that he is planning to disallow Mulder's 302 form, Scully states in the script, "With respect, sir, I think that might be premature." The script notes that "Blevins' look challenges her to explain" and Scully then adds, "You've given me an assignment to assess the validity of Agent Mulder's work. If you're concerned about his objectivity in this matter... at least let me talk to him and make a recommendation." In the final version of the discussion, however, Scully merely states, "With respect, sir, at least let me talk with him... and make a recommendation."
- The script's version of the next scene, set in Mulder's office, starts with Mulder clipping out the tabloid article, previously described in the script as "a newspaper clipping," with an exacto knife. This action is not shown in the final version of the episode and Mulder is instead twiddling a pencil between his fingers when the scene in his office begins. Later in the script's version of the same scene, Mulder eats popcorn while showing Scully several slides that relate to the UFO sightings of 1967. He does not do this in the televised version of the scene. At the end of the slide show also in the televised version, Mulder points out that not only was Darlene Morris one of four girl scouts to have reported one of the 1967 UFO sightings but she is also the mother of the recently abducted teenage girl, Ruby Morris. In the script, however, Scully realizes this connection alone; Mulder leads her to make the correlation but does not directly point it out to her and the name "Darlene Morris" has been circled repeatedly in red ink, also unlike the final version of the scene.
- The next two scenes in the script feature Mulder and Scully first driving down Sioux City's main street and then arriving outside the Morris residence but the scene set in the main street does not appear in the episode's final edit. The script describes the street as "a monument to the American franchise phenomenon. One of everything – from McDonalds to K-Mart to 7-11." A Burger King store had previously been set to appear in the series' second episode, "Deep Throat", but this was also ultimately changed.
- Upon their arrival at the front door to the Morris residence, Scully rings the bell in the script but Mulder knocks on the door in the final edit. When Darlene Morris answers the door, she nods in the script when Scully asks her if she is Darlene Morris but she does not do this in the final version and, unlike in the script, Scully shows her FBI badge to Darlene.
- Shortly after the agents question Darlene and she is left alone with Scully, Darlene admits she can see a look in Scully's eye and implies that she believes it is an indication of the agents' skepticism regarding Darlene's claim that her daughter has been abducted. The script concludes that scene with dialogue that does not feature in the episode's ultimate version, when Darlene asks Scully, "let me ask you something: what would you do? What would you do if you saw what I saw, and your little girl was gone? Would you shut up about it or would you stand up and shout until someone listened to you?"
- Mulder's method of obtaining the Redskins game tickets for Danny Bernstein also changed as the episode evolved. In the script, Mulder claims, during the phone call to Danny, that he already has the tickets and tells his FBI contact to "pick a game." Mulder winces at Danny's response and replies, "The Giants? You're killing me here, Danny." In the version of the episode that was televised, Mulder tells Danny, "I know a friend who knows a friend who knows a friend who can get you tickets to a Redskins game." Mulder then thanks Danny and ends the call, but is neither seen nor heard doing either of these actions in the script, due to a scene change.
- Sheriff Jack Withers is only named in the script and not in the televised version of this episode. In the script, Withers describes Ruby Morris' reckless behavior as "a local secret" but he refers to it merely as "something" in the version of this episode that was televised.
- Similar to the sheriff, Tessa Sears' last name is only given in the script and does not appear in the episode as finally televised. During the agents' covert meeting with Tessa in the library, the script describes the as-yet unnamed character by noting, "Even through the aisles, we can make out a crooked smile, a chipped tooth." No abnormalities of actress Shelley Owens' dentistry can be seen in the final version of this episode, however.
- In this episode, the agents' secret meeting with Tessa is put to an abrupt end when a librarian behind them drops some books on the floor, startling Tessa into quickly leaving. Originally, a librarian pushing a squeaky book cart past the agents was to have provided the startle. Subsequently, the script states that the sound of Tessa's receding footsteps can be heard shortly before the pursuing agents manage to catch sight of her "disappearing" through an emergency exit and a heavy steel door shutting behind her. In the episode as it was televised, only the receding footsteps can be heard.
- The Pennsylvania Pub was originally named the Boar's Head. The script includes a scene in which the agents' rental car can be seen parked outside the pub, seeming very out of place next to a row of Harley Davidson motorcycles, before Scully glances up at a neon sign bearing the pub's name and then enters with Mulder. In the final version of this episode, though, only bikers and their vehicles can be seen; neither Scully, Mulder nor their car appear.
- Act One was originally to have ended immediately after the NSA agents burst into Scully's motel room and demanded to know the whereabouts of Mulder.
- Agent Holtzman's first name is given as "Victor" in the script.
- The televised edit of this episode does not show the agents entering the Morris residence but the script describes this scene, with the agents showing their ID upon admittance before climbing the stairs in the house.
- Agent Atsumi's first name is given as "Leza" in the episode's script. The script also refers to Atsumi as holding the rank of a Special Agent but this cannot be determined in the televised version of the episode, in which she is only described as being an Agent. When Agent Atsumi demonstrates the data deciphered from the binary code, Scully identifies a sample from the Brandenburg Concertos in the episode's ultimate version but, in the script, she rhetorically asks whether the music is from those concertos.
- In the script, Scully hears the distant howl of wolves at the start of the scene where she visits Campsite 53 with Mulder but, in the episode's televised version, Scully does not notice the presence of the wolves until she sees one at the perimeter of the forest. The script's version of that later scene again features the sound of the howling wolves, just before the lone wolf Scully sees leaps back into the woods, and the sound is described as being closer and more fierce than the first wolf howls but this also cannot be heard in the ultimate version of the episode. After the lone wolf scampers back into the forest, Scully wonders, "What's going on?" but she does not say this in the episode's final edit. In the scene where Mulder finds the grave in the forest, the script notes he is holding a handkerchief over his mouth but he uses only his hand to stifle the smell in the version that was televised. In the script, Scully tries harder to convince Mulder not to disturb the grave in his attempt to uncover its contents, asking if he hears her and then suggesting, "Let's do this by the book." Mulder initially seems to concur but is ultimately determined to unearth the contents of the grave.
- The massive image of abductee Ruby Morris seen in this episode was originally designed by Assistant Art Director Greg Loewen. However, colleague Vivien Nishi had to painstakingly alter the printed binary design to make it seem like an eight-year-old had drawn the image. The assignment took several days to complete, but the final image only appears for a few seconds. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 108)
- During the making of this episode, the van responsible for installing signage on the highway leading to Buntzen Lake (the location used to represent Lake Okobogee) became lost itself. This resulted in several members of the production crew subsequently becoming lost too. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 174)
- Although the X-file about the disappearance of Samantha Mulder states that she went missing from "Chilmarc", the first episode of the second season, "Little Green Men", spells the name "Chilmark" in a legend that describes the setting of Samantha's abduction.
- In this episode, Scully listens to a recording of Mulder's hypnotic regression where he recalls that he was in bed when his sister was abducted. In a flashback to the incident portrayed in "Little Green Men", however, Mulder and his sister are seen playing a board game called Stratego before Samantha's abduction. According to Chris Carter, a possible explanation for this inconsistency may be due to the fact that Mulder's memories are derived from hypnotic regression and are therefore vague.
- In this episode, Mulder fires his gun for the first time in the series. He doesn't use it to cause harm, but to simply scare away a pack of wolves.
- The page of binary code Mulder gets from Kevin on his first visit to their home which he then faxes contains only 276 bits, which is 34 and a half bytes. This is an incredibly short chunk of data, shorter than some packet headers, in fact; it would be almost impossible to glean even the smallest piece of information from this transmission fragment. Both the fact that many tens of millions of largely similar transmissions are sent every minute and the fact that the pictographs have been re-digitized via the fax machine make it highly unlikely that telecomms monitors would be alerted. It is possible to "translate" the binary into something readable, which involves translating the binary into HEX; this binary code's HEX translation is: "0XFFC01F03FF003C3FE03F81F001E1FF07F07C1F0787FFE003FE00FC7F00F1FE3F8D15" (the 0X at the start of the HEX code is needed for all HEX codes and is not part of the original binary). Translating this further using the ASCII table reveals the binary code means nothing; there is not a single English letter in the final translation.
- The X-file regarding Samantha Mulder's abduction (labelled X-40253) reveals that Samantha disappeared from 2790 Vine Street, Chilmark, Massachusetts. 2790 was once the address of The X-Files' production office in Vancouver.
- According to Scully, Tessa had a doctor's appointment scheduled on August 7. That date is also David Duchovny's birthday.
- Eventually, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa were satisfied with this episode. Noted Gordon, "I think we're most proud of the ending." He also enthused the final scene was "beautifully" directed by Daniel Sackheim. Gordon felt what worked well for viewers was the importance on Mulder's emotional connection with the case examined herein, with the parallels between Ruby Morris and Samantha Mulder as well as between Kevin Morris and Agent Mulder. "Those little touches the fans seem to respond to," Gordon recognized. (X-Files Confidential, p. 42)
- Glen Morgan once commented, "I think 'Conduit' really helped define Mulder." (X-Files Confidential, p. 42)
- Chris Carter was delighted with the work Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon invested on developing this episode. Carter recalled that, once the writing pair handed him an early form of the installment, he approved of it and "gave Howard a noogie because he had been such a worrywart about it." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 39-40) For Carter, one of the episode's highlights was its conclusion and "the realization by Scully that Mulder may not be a crackpot," with "the science that she so depends on" indicating an abduction. "It really helped to define something that was very important to the show," remarked Carter, "which was its point of view. It was, I think, a very defining episode in terms of how to tell these stories using these characters we had put in motion." (X-Files Confidential, p. 43) Carter also believed the addition of the ending made the episode an "interesting" one and clarified that the final scene, with Mulder crying in a church while holding a photograph of his sister, was a way in which the outing "helped us to sort of define how X-Files stories would be told in the future, with some resolution, at least emotional resolution." Concluded Carter, "I think it's a very successful episode on a number of levels." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Conduit", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features)
- This episode achieved a Nielsen household rating of 6.3, with an audience share of 11. This means that roughly 6.3 percent of all television-equipped households, and 11 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode. It was viewed by 5.9 million households. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 248)
- Cinefantastique (Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 25) rates this episode 4 out of 4 stars. The magazine goes on to say the installment "works on many different levels, from mere mystery–what happened to Ruby Morris–to a profound exploration of the long-lasting effects trauma and the repression of victims' emotions have on families and individuals [....] The story builds to an inevitable, wrenching conclusion [....] 'Conduit' serves to drive home the unending tragedy of Samantha's abduction, and the seriousness with which the viewers will have to regard it. David Duchovny gives a deeply moving performance, matched by guest star Snodgrass as the tremulous, yet earthy Darlene. This is a superb hour of television." The same publication also characterizes Mulder and Scully discovering the large mural of Ruby Morris as "one of The X-Files' most chilling moments."
- Contrastingly, writer Robert Shearman – in his reference book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium and The Lone Gunmen – scored this episode 1 and a half out of 5 stars. Shearman referred to the scene involving the mosaic portrait of Ruby Morris as "a lovely scene." He continued, "It's both shocking and moving, and it's a great metaphor for the series too, that sometimes the truth can only be observed from an unusual perspective. That said, it's pretty much the only notable thing about this disappointingly formulaic outing." Shearman went on to list aspects of this episode previously depicted in the series, arguing it was too early in the run of The X-Files for the show to already be repeating itself. "Director Daniel Sackheim does his best to energise the material," posits Shearman, "but in the main he tries too hard." In Shearman's opinion, this results in the library scene – which he believes involves "a dull conversation" – seeming not "more dramatic" because it was "shot like the climax of a conspiracy thriller" but merely looking "silly," and an even worse interrogation scene wherein "the clichés of the good cop/bad cop are played so lazily, the whole thing smacks of parody." Shearman proceeded to criticize, "It's a storyline so linear, and so without twists or surprises, that the episode can only find depth by tapping into Mulder's quest for his missing sister. But there's little of the sense of obsession which so concerns Scully in Duchovny's performance." Shearman also noted "an interesting irony" in the conclusion of this episode, as it's a mother's concern for her daughter's privacy rather than interference by any government agency which keeps Ruby Morris from speaking to Mulder and Scully. However, Shearman concluded this is "a fatal anticlimax to such a tedious episode."
Cast and Characters
- Howard Gordon saw parallels between Kevin Morris and Mulder, as well as between Darlene Morris and Mulder. Regarding Kevin Morris, Gordon mused, "In a way, the little boy who is the conduit, who is also perhaps touched by the aliens, is essentially Mulder." (X-Files Confidential, p. 42) As for Darlene Morris, Gordon mused, "You have a character who, like Mulder, is holding the truth and is discredited [....] It's essentially like the boy who cried wolf." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 39) Having been a major fan of Carrie Snodgress for years, Gordon was thrilled that she was cast as Darlene Morris. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 25)
- Actress Shelley Owens appears as Tessa in this episode. Shelley Owens is the sister of Chris Owens, who eventually portrayed a young "Cigarette Smoking Man" in the Season 4 episodes "Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man" and "Demons". He later starred as recurring character Special Agent Jeffrey Spender, the "Cigarette Smoking Man"'s son, in Seasons 5, 6 and 9.
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