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Ghost in the Machine   Credits   Gallery   Transcript   Background Information    

Production

  • Because neither Howard Gordon nor Alex Gansa were very computer literate at the time of writing this episode, they did some fact-finding to help them write the installment. "The research on that alone took a couple of weeks," remembered Gordon. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26)
  • A major influence on this episode was 2001: A Space Odyssey. In fact, the writers slightly feared that, in their writing of the C.O.S., they might veer too far from the depiction of HAL in that film. (X-Files Confidential, p. 47)
  • This episode's script went through nine drafts. Single drafts were submitted on 1st, 10th, 14th, 15th and 16th September 1993, with another two drafts submitted on both the 17th and 21st of the same month.
  • Eurisko World Headquarters was depicted using the Metrotower Complex, the second complex at 4720 Kingsway in Burnaby. Both exterior and interior footage was captured here, with the outside of the Eurisko building actually being shot from a plaza outside the Metrotower Complex and a lobby inside that building becoming the interior of Eurisko World Headquarters. This episode also made use of Burnaby's Central Park as well as exterior and interior views of Burnaby Public Library. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), pp. 36 & 38)
  • This episode was filmed in "nine or ten days," estimated Director Jerrold Freedman. (TV Zone, issue 81, p. 38)
  • Chris Carter was present while this episode was being filmed. He left the outing's production process, however, in Jerrold Freedman's auspices. Explained Rob LaBelle, "He [...] thought The X-Files would be a fun project. Jerrold seemed to have a lot of respect for the crew and worked well with the actors [....] He had a good sense of the way to work with you and would take some time with you if you knew what you wanted and I appreciate that." (TV Zone Yearbook 1996, Special #23, p. 14)
  • As the C.O.S. didn't move, Jerrold Freedman instead focused on the effects of its calculations, in an effort to overcome the challenge of making the computer system seem credible. As an example, Freedman cited the scene in which Agent Lamana is killed in an elevator and "the way that was set up – the different cuts of his getting on the elevator, the clicking of the machine, the lights, all that." (TV Zone, issue 81, pp. 36-37)
  • One day, production at the Metrotower Complex started on the plaza outside the towers. Filming took longer than expected, so – by the time the production crew began filming inside the building's lobby – it was about 6 p.m. and most of the building had been vacated. "I was struck with relief when I saw the set-up in the lobby," remembered Location Manager Louisa Gradnitzer. The room was a busy, mobbed area. Background performers were positioned behind the security counter while lighting equipment took up much of the space. The elevator was being pre-rigged with lights and carts of equipment lined the corridor outside the elevator. Barely enough room was left for the actors. It would have been virtually impossible for anything else to take place in the lobby. Later the same evening, the crew returned to shooting the exterior of the Metrotower Complex, capturing the shot – near the end of this episode – when the Eurisko building's lights come back to life on each floor. For that shot, the Tower's engineer sent a surge of power to each floor of the high rise. The engineer used his cellular phone to program the sequential lighting of each floor. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 36)
  • The production crew filmed at Burnaby's Central Park on a Friday morning. The crew then moved to film inside the Burnaby Public Library parkade, before relocating to shoot interior footage inside the Library administration area. The exterior sidewalk/plaza of the Library was chosen as the venue where the crew could view that evening's 9 p.m. broadcast of The X-Files. Approximately forty chairs were placed in front of a forty-inch television as the crew watched, while nearby traffic slowed at the sight of the crew watching the television outside a library. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 38)
  • The ventilation shafts which Scully crawls through were built, as a single crawlspace, especially for this episode. "It was very large with a whole lot of cutout sections which allowed us to get inside to shoot," Jerrold Freedman reflected. "Once the thing was built it just became a question of getting in there and doing it shot-by-shot, which ended up being a very slow and cumbersome project. Even though the set was big it had several twists and turns that we had to manoeuver around to do our work, so, it was not an easy situation," Freedman laughed. "A lot of time and money were put into this fairly short section of film and we took a long time to shoot it." (TV Zone, issue 81, p. 36)
  • Another problem with this episode's production was the amount of footage which needed filmed, since there are multiple shots that were intended to be from the point-of-view of the C.O.S. In many of the scenes herein, two or three monitors each showed a different perspective. For the various views, a long time had to be taken over pre-filming a scene, transferring it to video, and playing it back on the relevant monitor. Explained R.W. Goodwin, "It's almost like we were shooting two different shows [....] It was a very complex show." Goodwin also reckoned that, if it hadn't been for the directing expertise of Jerry Freedman, the episode "could have easily been brought to its knees." (X-Files Confidential, p. 48) The director himself concluded, "I found the whole thing to be a good and positive experience." (TV Zone, issue 81, p. 36)

Trivia

  • This is the second episode in which Jerry Hardin appears as Deep Throat. The character had originally been intended as a one-off in the episode "Deep Throat", but reaction to his appearance was so favorable, among both audiences and crew members, that he made several appearances throughout season one.
  • In a successful attempt to stop the spinning fan blades in this episode, Scully uses her gun for the first time in the series.
  • In this installment, Scully's phone number is given as (202) 555-6431. 555 is the standard prefix used in movies and television series, as it is not used by the phone company and therefore helps to prevent people from receiving hoax calls (although certain films have purchased actual phone numbers, which often lead to pre-recorded messages). (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 116)
  • The film crew can be seen, quite clearly, in the reflection of Brad Wilczek's computer screen before he turns it on to demonstrate something to Mulder and Scully.
  • When Mulder and Scully introduce themselves as FBI agents to Brad Wilczek, he responds "What took you guys so long?" A reference to the first words serial killer David Berkowitz told the NYPD, after finally caught and arrested. The actual quote was: "You got me. What took you so long?"

Reception

  • Howard Gordon once called this episode "one of my biggest disappointments," thinking the artificial intelligence was less well-defined an antagonist compared to its predecessors in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Demon Seed. According to Gordon, "Fox felt it was a bit too pedestrian to be an X-File, and it was one of those instances where I'd have to agree with them." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 115) In fact, both he and Alex Gansa felt this was the worst episode from the entire first season of The X-Files. "This is easily and clearly our worst," Gordon criticized. "It's basically uninteresting. Some of the concepts may have been interesting, maybe the idea of artificial intelligence. It's an old idea. There may have been a more interesting way of doing it and we unfortunately don't feel that we licked the problem. We didn't write our material very well [....] It was a completely unsuccessful episode. Well, it pretty much sucked." Gordon also expressed embarrassment with the fact he and Gansa had, at the time, very little understanding of how computers worked. (Cinefantastique (Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26) On the other hand, Gordon thought the sequence with the rotating fan blades "looked good." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 115)
  • Glen Morgan had a more balanced view of this outing. "I think parts of the episode worked," he commented. "What maybe fell a little flat is that we were a little too afraid of [not] doing HAL [from 2001] and, in a sense, I think that's what the building needed: to have a scary personality. I think we could have given the building a little bit more of a mean-spirited personality to get it away from HAL." (X-Files Confidential, p. 47)
  • James Wong also had a varied opinion of this episode. "It had some neat stuff at the end," he admired, "although I think the ending was a little unsatisfying to me visually, as well as in terms of how Mulder comes to dismember the machine. It was either a little too easy or maybe we could have thought of something more fun to do with the machine. Actually the script was a lot more fun [...] and it [the final version of the episode's action sequences involving the elevator] was just a lot more complicated [than how it had originally been scripted]. Overall a fun episode." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 47-48)
  • Chris Carter once spoke as a strong supporter of this installment, expressing that he thought the script effectively addressed the question of exactly what was appropriate subject matter for an episode of The X-Files. "I think the action scenes and the abduction of Scully were great," he enthused. "A very successful episode on many levels. Some people didn't think so, but I did. There are some computer buffs who question a few things we had done. Maybe they have some valid arguments, but I think as a dramatic piece it was strong and good." (X-Files Confidential, p. 47) Carter later complained about the installment, saying, "I don't know what happened with that episode. It was a perfectly good story, but it's hard turning a building into a villain. I don't know how cinematic that ever is." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 40)
  • This episode achieved a Nielsen household rating of 5.9, with an audience share of 11. This means that roughly 5.9 percent of all television-equipped households, and 11 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode. It was viewed by 5.6 million households. These viewing figures match those of the preceding episode, "Shadows". Together, they were the joint second lowest audience numbers in the first season, higher than only "Fallen Angel". (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 248)
  • Cinefantastique (Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26) rates this episode 1 and a half out of 4 stars. The magazine also characterizes it as a "predictable" installment with a "hoary plot," in which "stock elements abound." Cinefantastique goes on to observe, "There is some tension achieved in the debate over the cost to humanity by creating new technology that we barely understand, let alone control, but 'Ghost in the Machine' is not a particularly compelling dramatization of this theme." Aspects of the episode which the magazine considers highlights include Scully's near-fatal passage through an air duct (which Cinefantastique describes as "the best scene"), the few titbits of information about Mulder's past assignments and Rob LaBelle's portrayal of Brad Wilczek.
  • The X-Files Magazine (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 7,  p. 31) calls this "neither the best nor the worst episode of the first season" and cites the episode's most interesting character as being "by far" Brad Wilczek. The magazine adds this is "particularly in the light of his Oppenheimer speech."
  • In his reference book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium and The Lone Gunmen, writer Robert Shearman scored this episode 2 and a half out of 5 stars. He critiqued, "Here's an episode that has been given a good kicking by fans over the years, and you can see why. It's rather silly and contrived, it shamelessly steals from 2001: A Space Odyssey to no great effect... and it's [...] [an] episode which feels like it's groping around blindly to find out what the show’s tone might be [...] but although 'Ghost in the Machine' may be throwaway tosh, it's terribly likeable throwaway tosh [....] Watching it now [...] the episode feels rather charming, as all the talk of artificial intelligence and advanced technology is conducted to the background whirr of DOS programs and floppy discs. If it's an unintentional charm then it's no less engaging for it; this may be the most dated of X-Files, but the story still works. Sequences which involve our watching victims from the computer's point of view are surprisingly tense [....] And when Mulder and Scully get access to the building, with all electrical systems turned against them, there's a palpable sense of danger the series hasn't offered in weeks. It's not clever and it's not subtle [....] [Wayne Duvall and Rob LaBelle are] both fun to watch, in a cartoon like way, and their performances fit an episode which may never flatter the audience's intelligence, but never insults them by being dull either."

Cast and Characters

  • Brad Wilczek actor Rob LaBelle highly valued the fact this episode gave him opportunities to work with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. "I found [...] [David] and Gillian to be very kind," he related. (TV Zone Yearbook 1996, Special #23, p. 15)
  • This episode's production was enjoyable for Rob LaBelle, in general. "There was a great feeling on the set while we were filming the episode," he remarked. "The sense of camaraderie and excitement about what was going on [...] was wonderful. I also enjoyed being in Vancouver [....] People had such a good feeling about the series even though it hadn't as yet been established [....] So it was very exciting to be a part of that." (TV Zone Yearbook 1996, Special #23, pp. 14 & 15)
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