Physical Appearance & Biological Processes
- This concept is only ever implied in The X-Files, most explicitly by Marita Covarrubias in "The Truth". However, such a possibility was supported by Frank Spotnitz when he stated, "The idea is that the black oil [...] was here on Earth, it's been all over the planet, or all over the galaxy, rather. And it infected virtually every life form that there is in the galaxy, except for we on Earth, the humans, and the faceless rebels." ("One Son" audio commentary)
The alien rebels avoid infection with the colonizing virus through self-disfigurement. (TXF: "The Truth") They bear facial scarrings, the results of self-mutilation done in order to protect themselves against infection by the virus. (TXF: "The Red and the Black")
- When the first of these aliens appears in The X-Files, the corresponding scripted version of the scene describes the alien's face as having "no eyes, no nose and no mouth -- all these covered by scarred, cauterized skin."
In common with Alien Alien Bounty Hunters, the rebels are capable of shape-shifting, can be killed by a piercing blow to the back of their head using a gimlet weapon and each of their bodies contains a frothing green substance that liquefies the alien's body upon death. (TXF: "Two Fathers", "One Son") Unlike the bounty hunters, however, the green substance inside them is not toxic to humans. (TXF: "Two Fathers")
- Although the faceless aliens and the bounty hunters are only loosely connected in the series, John Shiban commented, "The faceless aliens [...] are the bounty hunters basically." (The X-Files Mythology, Volume 2 - Black Oil; "Threads of the Mythology: Black Oil") Furthermore, Frank Spotnitz explained that the rebels "are bounty hunters who have sealed up their eyes, nose and mouth, and they were not infected so they're the same race of alien, if you will, as the bounty hunters but they have protected themselves from infection." (The X-Files Mythology, Volume 3 - Colonization; "Threads of the Mythology: Colonization") Given this connection, it seems probable that the reason the green substance inside the alien rebels is not toxic to humans, while the corresponding substance within bounty hunters does have toxic effects, is that the rebels are missing the "black oil" virus from the substance within them.
- For more information regarding another possible way in which an alien rebel might be killed, due to their involvement with a UFO, see the UFOs section below.
The alien rebels are skilled at impersonating humans, capable of not only assuming a person's physical appearance but also the individual's voice, although the aliens' pro-resistance ideologies are prone to give them away. A facially disguised rebel can be returned to its scarred appearance by either ripping its mask away or by the alien choosing to shape-shift back to their disfigured countenance. (TXF: "Two Fathers", "One Son")
The rebels were responsible for a mass burning of forty-one abductees in Kazakhstan where they incinerated many people in cars, the victims including the father of a boy named Dmitri and at least two individuals who carried implants within themselves. On the morning after, this mass burning was investigated by the United Nations (including Syndicate operative Marita Covarrubias and a group of UN peacekeepers) as well as a unit of Russian soldiers led by former Syndicate operative Alex Krycek.
Around the same time, abductee Cassandra Spender commented on the period of conflict when she told FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder, "Now is a time of war and stress among the alien nations." Cassandra further explained that the different alien races were "in upheaval," although she was unsure of exactly who was responsible for the mass burnings.
After more abductees were unknowingly summoned to Virginia's Skyland Mountain via their own implants and drove there, a group of rebels burned them all to death. At least two faceless aliens were active in an area where many of the abductees had abandoned their cars. Most of the victims were congregated in a wooded area, a short distance off the road. (TXF: "Patient X")
Soon thereafter, the rebels began to set fire to another congregation of abductees (this time including Cassandra Spender, Dmitri, a Syndicate assassin and Mulder's FBI partner, Agent Dana Scully), all of whom had gathered on a bridge above Pennsylvania's Ruskin Dam. The rebels arrived there following a UFO flyover, with two rebels first approaching the crowd from one side of the bridge before another pair of faceless aliens approached from the other side. (TXF: "Patient X", "The Red and the Black") At least two of the aliens – specifically, the rebels who had first approached the crowd – were then destroyed by another overflying UFO that hovered in midair. The rebels' attack resulted in over fifty deaths, including those of Dmitri as well as the Syndicate assassin, and many more victims were left in serious or critical condition. About fifty-one survivors of this incident – such as Agent Scully – were found, huddled in the woods, on the following morning but even they were not unaffected by the incident, which was reported (at least initially) as a "cult suicide." None of the survivors were able to give a cogent account of the experience.
Shortly after this attack, two alien rebels were captured by the United States Air Force in West Virginia but one of the aliens did not survive. The remaining alien survivor was photographed on the night of its capture. Amid much deliberation between the Syndicate members regarding the best method of dealing with the captive rebel, the Syndicate officially agreed to turn the alien prisoner over to the Colonists. The imprisoned alien was loaded onto a truck by an Alien Bounty Hunter, who continued to drive the truck to a quiet stretch of road. Although the bounty hunter prepared to kill the alien, another faceless rebel appeared from a bright light that flooded the truck's interior, which was simultaneously shaken. Mulder – who had been warned by Krycek that, if the alien captive died, the resistance would also die and had therefore boarded the truck – made an urgent attempt to stop the aliens but was left with no memory of what had happened next and found that all three aliens had apparently vanished. (TXF: "The Red and the Black")
In 1999, the rebels killed a team of doctors who had just finished operating on Cassandra Spender, in a train car at one of the Potomac Yards in Arlington, Virginia. The rebels also badly burned the team's leader, Eugene Openshaw, but left both him and Cassandra Spender alive (the latter of whom having, moments earlier, been proven to be the first successful alien/human hybrid). The reason that the faceless rebels left Cassandra alive was because they wished to expose the Syndicate's Project.
One of the rebels later visited the Second Elder, posing as Eugene Openshaw, but (moments earlier) the Second Elder had learned that Openshaw had died in hospital. The alien's disguise was peeled away by the Second Elder but the alien then managed to kill the Syndicate member, incinerating the Second Elder.
Thereafter, the alien rebels attacked and burned Project facilities in New Mexico and the southwest of the US, also slaying all medical staff at the Syndicate's Arizona research facility. The alien posing as the Second Elder attended a subsequent Syndicate meeting held to discuss these strikes and presented the controversial option of siding with the alien resistance. When Jeffrey Spender unsuccessfully attempted to kill the alien imposter with a gimlet weapon after having been charged by the CSM to do so, the alien retaliated by strangling Spender. Amid the ensuing struggle, the alien's disguise was peeled away by Spender and the extraterrestrial was thwarted by Krycek, using the gimlet weapon. (TXF: "Two Fathers")
With their hand now forced by the rebels, the Syndicate made final preparations before colonization could begin, starting to transport Cassandra Spender from medical confinement at Fort Marlene to El Rico Air Force Base (where the Colonists were due to rendezvous with the Syndicate members, prior to initiating the process of occupation). However, an alien rebel who had been posing as a nurse at Fort Marlene stole an alien fetus that had provided the alien DNA for hybridization and attacked a Syndicate doctor who had been removing the fetus from cold storage. Even though the alien's disguise was peeled off by the doctor, the rebel literally froze the doctor to death and assumed his physical appearance, continuing to pose as the doctor upon and after gaining access to a train-car that was carrying Cassandra.
- The scene in which the alien disguised as a nurse attacks the doctor was, according to Frank Spotnitz, filmed and edited "very judiciously because, [if] you get a good look at this woman, you know what's going on." ("One Son" audio commentary)
Finding that the alien fetus had been removed, Krycek realized that the rebels were about to win the war. Indeed, at El Rico Air Force Base, the faceless aliens appeared instead of the Colonists and surrounded the Syndicate members, practically destroying them and their plans by incinerating the entire group of gathered high-ranking Syndicate members.
When subsequently asked – by an appalled Assistant Director Alvin Kersh (Mulder's and Scully's FBI superior at the time) – about who had killed the deceased Syndicate members, Mulder replied, "They burned themselves, with a choice made long ago by a conspiracy of men who thought they could sleep with the enemy, only to awaken another enemy." (TXF: "One Son")
During her testimony at Mulder's trial in 2002, Marita Covarrubias recounted that the faceless aliens had destroyed the conspiracy and killed all the conspirators. Even when pressed, however, she would not admit that – despite the rebels' efforts – the conspiracy continued in another form by other men. (TXF: "The Truth")
In 2016 Mulder met with an elderly man involved with an early UFO recovery in 1947. The man claimed that, among other things, the faceless aliens were part of a massive hoax to misdirect Mulder from uncovering the true conspiracy. (TXF: "My Struggle") This plot, apparently, was later revealed to be a massive de-population of the planet Earth. (TXF: "My Struggle II") However, the claims made by this informant have yet to be substantiated.
The rebels have several UFOs in their arsenal.
A triangular craft was used by the two captured rebels, who crashed in Wiekamp Airforce Base before being captured. Shortly after this crash but before being captured, one of the two alien rebels lay motionless on the ground as the other faceless alien attempted to drag his body away from the UFO wreckage. (TXF: "The Red and the Black")
- It is possible that such a crash may result in the death of a faceless alien. Besides the fact that one of the two aliens that endure the crash in "The Red and the Black" is later seen lying motionless on the ground and has to be dragged away from the crash site, the episode's script refers to the downed alien in this scene as "lifeless" and, in a later scene, the First Elder describes the other alien as "the lone survivor" of the crash. However, the body of the unmoving rebel remains solid and does not begin to transform into a liquefied, gooey green substance similar to what happens to the faceless alien who is killed via gimlet weapon in "Two Fathers". Consequently, it is unknown whether this effect is only applicable to rebels who are killed by a gimlet weapon or if the faceless alien who did not survive the crash was merely unconscious – while being dragged across the ground – and died later, its body beginning to liquefy upon death.
- Note that, in "The Red and the Black", the bright light that washes over the truck carrying the captive faceless alien, the Alien Bounty Hunter and Mulder could be from another UFO, bringing the rebel alien rescuer to the vehicle. To film the arrival of this alien rescuer, the performer stood on a platform that was built especially for the occasion and was pushed in on a dolly to give a sense that he was floating. ("The Red and the Black" audio commentary) In other episodes of the series, many UFOs are established as each having a bright, white light below them as well as the capabilities of shaking a nearby vehicle and causing an individual to float in specific directions.
The rebels are also equipped with extremely effective, hand-held metallic weapons that, upon touching an individual, sets fire to the victim's body. (TXF: "Patient X", "The Red and the Black", "Two Fathers", "One Son")
Upon inspection of one of the incinerated corpses in Kazakhstan, one of the UN peacekeepers told Marita Covarrubias that the bodies seemed like their flesh had been cooked, all the way through.
Covarrubias herself later told the Syndicate that all the bodies had been "burned beyond recognition, the result of some kind of intense bio-chemical reaction none of the U.N. medics had ever seen. Not in the Gulf, or on any battlefield." She added, "The corpses were literally carbonized from the heat." (TXF: "Patient X")
The survivors of the rebels' attack at Ruskin Dam were also injured; Dana Scully was left with minor burns – first-degree scolding on her hands and face – while she also suffered from vasogenic shock as well as memory loss, and her fluids and electrolytes were abnormally depleted.
- It should be noted that Mulder – similar to Scully, after encountering the faceless aliens on Ruskin Dam – also suffered memory loss, following his own encounter with the alien rebels.
The faceless aliens were commonly portrayed by stuntmen. For example, one of the faceless aliens who attack the Project doctors in "Two Fathers" was played by a stuntman named Alex Daniels. Director Kim Manners explains, "We found that it was important to use stuntmen because they couldn't see." He laughs and continues, "And just the nature of the character, it was dangerous enough we thought we should protect ourselves and at least use a stuntman so, if he did fall down, he wouldn't kill himself." ("Two Fathers" audio commentary)
For the appearances of the alien rebels in the "Patient X"/"The Red and the Black" two-parter, their creation was supervised by make-up supervisor Toby Lindala. Because The X-Files moved from Vancouver to Los Angeles between Seasons 5 and 6, another make-up supervisor – John Vulich – had to recreate the look for the sixth season two-parter "Two Fathers"/"One Son". Vulich consulted Lindala on several occasions to create the effect.
Vulich was also responsible for coming up with the effect of the aliens' disguises being ripped away. To create this look, he applied two complete masks to each appropriate actor; in each case, the pair of masks – applied one on top of the other – were separated by a layer of gelatin.
The alien rebels ultimately had a significant effect on the mythology of The X-Files television series. Chris Carter explains, "The faceless alien. This is the addition to the mythology that would go on to change, really redirect the whole plotline of the mythology up to this point, the addition of these characters." ("The Red and the Black" audio commentary)
Kim Manners remembers the creative process for the effect of an alien rebel's body transforming into a foaming green substance. "This is a stuntman lying on the ground and he's got some of the makeup on him, and then what they do is they take it to the CGI lab and they make it pulse and foam and do that kind of thing. I think we shot different elements so that we'd lock off a camera or do some motion-control." ("Two Fathers" audio commentary)
Frank Spotnitz was unhappy with one of the shots in the Syndicate destruction scene, in which a facially disguised alien morphs into a faceless rebel, but he did like many other shots that incorporate the aliens in that sequence. He also blamed the failure, that he perceived, of the computer-generated visual effect on a lack of time. The series' creative staff originally wanted to continue this sequence, by showing the aliens incinerate the Syndicate, but the airplane hangar that was used for filming of scenes in El Rico Air Force Base was one of the largest wooden structures in the world, so fire in that location was not an option for the crew. ("One Son" audio commentary)
Two clips of archive footage featuring the faceless rebels is included in "The Truth". The first clip features a shot of the first pair of rebels who approach the abductees at Ruskin Dam, from "The Red and the Black", and then a shot of a pair of rebels who are among those that surround the Syndicate in "One Son". The second clip features three other shots of the rebels surrounding the Syndicate, from "One Son". Both clips are shown in quick succession, during Marita Covarrubias' testimony in "The Truth".