"Ice" is the eighth episode of the first season of The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on November 5, 1993. It was written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, and directed by David Nutter. The episode is a "Monster-of-the-week" story, independent of the series' mythology arc.
In an Arctic research station, Mulder and Scully are threatened by primordial ice worms that cause their hosts to become dangerously paranoid and violent to each other.
ARCTIC ICE CORE PROJECT
ICY CAPE, ALASKA
250 MILES NORTH OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE
An isolated research station, with a dimly lit window, endures a harsh snowstorm. The compound's interior is in a state of mess, with tell-tale signs that some form of mayhem has taken place here. A thermometer shows the temperature to be below -30°C and a digital clock reads 8:29 a.m. A dog searches through a plastic bucket and then, whimpering, walks past a dead body. There is another body, although only an arm hanging off a desk can be seen. A man who is wearing only pants and whose his torso is bloody looks around, while carrying a gun. He turns to a communications device and camera, in front of which he takes a seat. Continuing to look into the camera, he twice repeats the words, "We're not who we are," and then says, "It goes no further than this. It stops right here, right now...." He is suddenly attacked from behind by another man, Campbell, and a struggle commences, ending with both men pointing a gun at each other. Instead of the men shooting one another, however, each man turns his own gun on himself. From outside the facility, two gunshots can be heard.
Mulder and Scully are watching older footage of the Arctic Ice Core Project crew celebrating recent success with drilling down into an ice sheet. The team's leader, John Richter, is the bloodied man who ended up shooting himself. Mulder explains the research team was basically studying "the structure of the Earth's climate back to the dawn of man." According to Mulder, no problems of any kind were reported... until a week after the previous transmission, when the next one was received: the transmission recorded by Richter, earlier. The footage remains unexplained. Mulder jokes their FBI superiors think they are "either brilliant or expendable," because he and Scully are the ones who drew the assignment. Scully asks about the possibility of events being a result of cabin fever but Mulder dismisses this, stating the scientists "were top geophysicists," thoroughly trained and examined. The agents are scheduled to leave for Nome, Alaska today, where they will meet with three scientists familiar with the Ice Core program, and then head north to the Icy Cape. Mulder says the National Weather Service predicts a three-day window before the next Arctic storm.
In a small hangar at the airport, a man is listening to a football game on headphones. Apparently, his team just scored. Scully and Mulder arrive, puzzled by the football game; the man explains it's just one of his all-time favorite games he has taped. The man introduces himself as Denny Murphy, professor of geology, UC San Diego, one of the crew. Soon, they are joined by the rest of the team, Doctors DaSilva and Hodge. The latter asks all the crew to show some sort of identification because he wants "to make sure we are who we say we are." After each member shows his or her own ID, Hodge challenges any of them to guess why are heading to the base. Murphy speculates that their job descriptions should give some explanation, whilst Dr. DaSilva makes a remark about Mulder and Scully, being FBI, probably knowing more than the rest of the group. A jeep drives into the hangar and the driver steps out, introducing himself. He is the last member of the team: the pilot, Bear. He refuses to give Hodge his credentials.
Later, a light airplane flies over snow-covered hills.
The team arrives at the compound. The electricity is off and the place appears deserted. The newcomers see dead bodies lying on the floor. Mulder asks Bear if he can get the power on and says that, before they remove the bodies, the crime scene must be documented. Scully proceeds with photographing. Mulder opens a refrigerator containing drilling samples which Murphy immediately retrieves to preserve. The team continues to investigate the compound, and the generator is restarted.
While with Dr. DaSilva, Mulder is suddenly attacked by the same dog which was in the base when two men shot themselves. The rest of the team hurry toward the animal and Bear rescues an unbitten Mulder from the dog but, during the struggle, is bitten, himself. The group finally manages to sedate the dog, which the team then studies. Dr. Hodge immediately dismisses the possibility of rabies, since none of the classic symptoms are present. Yet, black nodules — swollen lymph nodes — are found, which Dr. DaSilva identifies as possible symptoms of bubonic plague. Scully observes the dog also has a skin irritation around its neck, as if the animal was scratching off its own hair. While looking at the trauma, there's a sudden movement of what is apparently a foreign object under the dog's skin, startling the group.
In the bathroom, Bear is bandaging his wound when suddenly he is struck by a sharp pain under his right armpit. Looking at a mirror inside the room, he discovers he now has the same black nodules as the dog had; ergo, he is infected.
Having finished the autopsies, Scully tells Mulder and Bear that it's obvious members of the science crew killed each other. Bear inquiries whether black nodules were found on the autopsied bodies, to which Scully responds in the negative. Bear, knowing he has the nodules, queries further whether this means that nodules had nothing to do with the condition which caused the crew to kill each other. Dr. Hodge enters the room, saying he wouldn't rule it out; he says he re-examined the dog and found the nodules have disappeared, which could mean the spots are symptoms of some disease at an early stage. Bear appears more and more anxious after hearing this.
Mulder finds a piece of paper repeatedly scribbled with the sentence, "We are not who we are." He consults Denny, the geologist, regarding some satellite remote sensing photographs. Denny identifies one of the photographs as showing the depth of the Icy Cape area's ice sheet to be about 3,000 meters in thickness. Mulder shows him another piece of data he has found, which demonstrates the research team discovered the depth of the ice sheet was twice that. Denny adds that the numbers appear to indicate the team was digging inside a meteor crater.
In the other lab, Dr. Hodge and Scully are arguing about something when Mulder and Dr. DaSilva enter. Scully has apparently discovered ammonium dioxide in Richter's blood. Hodge claims this impossible, since ammonia would vaporize at human body temperatures. Although no evidence of any such toxins has been found in the ventilation machinery, Murphy has discovered it in the ice samples, and even more evidence therein. He explains he has found a remarkably high ratio of ammonia to water in the ice core. Meanwhile, Bear quietly enters the room, still becoming increasingly agitated. Mulder postulates a foreign object introduced into Earth's environment might be responsible for the otherwise impossible amount of ammonia on the planet. Advised by Murphy to do so, the agents take turns to look in a microscope which magnifies a micro-organism of some sort. Scully concludes the same thing is present in Richter's diseased blood. She hypothesises that it's a larval stage of a larger organism but Hodge criticizes this theory. DaSilva likewise doubts the notion that the organism could have survived in the ice for a quarter of a million years, though Mulder posits the creature might live like that.
Bear confronts the others, criticizing their discussion over "some bug" as futile, because Scully's autopsy clearly showed the men killed themselves, and seems desperate to leave. Though Hodge agrees with this plan, Mulder refuses, insisting proper quarantine procedures should be followed in case the organism is infectious. Bear points out that, even if the deceased crew succumbed to some kind of infection, they themselves haven't and he refuses to wait around until they do. He proceeds to pick up his gear. After Dr. Hodge further approves of the observation that the team seem safe to leave, Dr. DaSilva notes the dog did bite Bear. Appealing against this, Bear shouts about Mulder having also been attacked. Scully suggests the only resolution is to conduct a medical test to determine whether anyone in the crew is infected, and then proceed. Bear strongly refuses the test and proceeds to pack his belongings in order to fly back to Nome. In his absence, the team takes a vote: Bear must be forced to take his test. After his return, Mulder, now holding a gun, explains to him the crew's decision. He appears to comply, but instead uses his stool sample flask to hit Mulder and attempts to escape. He is subdued and restrained by the others.
As Bear starts having convulsions while the others grapple with him, the team sees the same movement under the skin previously seen in the dog. Dr. Hodge decides to cut the parasite out, because now, it, being exposed, is attempting to kill the host. The parasite is removed, a worm which simultaneously squirts a black substance out of its body, and put into storage. Mulder contacts the airport and requests evacuation due to the serious biological hazard. Yet, the station is currently impossible to reach because of an unexpected snowstorm. He returns and asks if Bear is in any condition to fly, because they have a very short time frame to evacuate the base, but Scully informs him that Bear is dead, a situation Mulder sees for himself, though the worm is still alive.
Dr. Hodge remarks the organism is similar to a tapeworm but otherwise extremely unlike any organism he knows. He is also unsure of the precise means of infection. Scully returns after re-examining the bodies, reporting she found the worm in every single one of them but that only one of these worms is still alive. The difference is that the worms were not attached to the spinal column, as seen previously, but were in the hypothalamus, deep in the human brain. Hodge speculates that, since the hypothalamus produces the neurotransmitter acetylcholine – which can produce violent, irrational behavior – there might be a connection with the aggression exhibited by the worm's hosts. Hodge suggests the parasite doesn't kill its hosts until it's removed, at which point it secretes a toxin. Mulder postulates the parasite may have caused the members of the previous team to kill one another and that, by killing themselves, Richter and Campbell could have been trying to save other humans from the infective organism.
Scully is re-examining the bodies, in case she missed anything. Mulder enters the morgue and suggests they and the other team members get some sleep, since they are "all wired and hypersensitive." Scully, on the other hand, says she doesn't want to waste a minute until she finds out how to kill the parasite. To her surprise, Mulder disagrees with killing it, since it could be living proof of a theory that alternative life can evolve in an ammonia environment at extremely low temperatures, for instance on other planets. Conversely, Scully is concerned with the possibility of the parasite reaching densely settled areas or that it might cause herself and Mulder to end up with the same fate as Richter and Campbell, "with guns to our heads." The agents loudly continue to debate whether to destroy the organism.
Back in the lab, Murphy puts on his headphones again whereas DaSilva and Hodge wonder what the argument is about. Hodge is sure that Mulder and Scully, being government agents, knew more about the situation than they revealed to the rest of the team. He also mentions that Bear's infected blood did get on Scully, yet, as Dr. DaSilva notes, it also got on him. They, accompanied by Murphy, leave the lab with the intent of confronting the agents.
The group meets in a storage room. Hodge notes that Scully seems a bit on edge, implying that she might be another host. She irritatedly reacts but Mulder prevents the argument from going further. Fear and tension is already running high in the group, and Mulder recommends they all get some sleep. Hodge is skeptical that any of the group could manage that and persuades the team that each member be checked for spots.
All appear okay and proceed to their quarters, yet tension is still present. As Mulder says good night to Scully, he reminds her the spots on the dog disappeared. Scully enters her room and blocks the door with a heavy desk, Murphy attempts to calm himself with one of his taped football games, Hodge is making a list routes of exposure for each of the team, finding that all had some exposure. DaSilva is lying in bed yet also showing signs of anxiety and Mulder is sitting on his bed, putting his gun on a desk.
Mulder suddenly awakens, apparently after having a nightmare. He hears a door open and footsteps that follow. He dresses and picks up his gun in order to investigate. All of the doors are closed except for Murphy's, whose room is empty, only his Walkman laying on the bed. Mulder continues investigating, is startled by the infected dog (which is now in a cage) and notices blood dripping from a closed freezing unit in the main science room. When Mulder opens the compartment, Murphy's body falls out of the unit, his throat having been cut. The rest of the team appear and Hodge immediately assumes Mulder killed him. Mulder concludes one of the other members killed Murphy and that at least one of them is infected with the parasite. The conflict of suspicion escalates until he and Scully are pointing guns at one another. Mulder backs down and allows the team to contain him in a locked room. Before Scully locks him in, he warns her he'll be safer in here than she will be outside.
Scully enters the main lab, finding both DaSilva and Hodge asleep at their desks. She attempts to check DaSilva's neck but Hodge stops her, waking DaSilva. Hodge points out to Scully that, since she's the only one with a gun, the rest of them don't stand a chance if she does become infected. She removes the clips from both her gun and Mulder's, then throws them outside. Hodge and the women argue about what should happen with Mulder. Hodge is trying to exclude him from the team out of fear that he is infected, but Scully argues for them to help Mulder if he is, with which DaSilva concurs. Scully attempts to contact the airfield, but is unsuccessful due to the storm outside.
DaSilva and Hodge continue to work on the parasites. By accident, DaSilva puts an infected blood sample on another infected sample, instead of on an uninfected sample as Hodge requested. They furiously yell at each other, but Scully takes a look at the combined samples and watches each parasitic larva kill each other. She places two living, mature worms, held in jars filled with ammoniac solution, next to one another. The three survivors then observe aggressive behavior between these two worms. Hence, Scully comes to the conclusion that none of the parasites will tolerate another of its kind occupying the same host. She and Hodge agree that, by introducing a parasite in an already infected host, they can kill both worms and thereby cure the infected. Conducting the test on the infected dog proves them right, after which they release the dog from its cage.
Scully, Hodge and DaSilva take their last remaining worm to Mulder, intending to cure him with it. When Scully privately examines him, though, she finds no sign of parasite on his neck. Mulder examines Scully and also finds her uninfected, so now it's either Hodge or DaSilva who murdered Murphy. They both disbelieve the agents stating they have found one another to be uninfected and, after a brief struggle, Scully is locked inside the holding area whilst Hodge and DaSilva continue with the procedure on Mulder. It is at the last instant, just before DaSilva introduces the worm, that Hodge sees movement on her neck, thus exposing her as Murphy's murderer and the person who was infected all along. She flees, screaming and pushing Mulder out of her way. He then rushes to free Scully and they hurry after DaSilva. Frantic, she grabs one of the guns of the previous team from an evidence bag, but is overpowered by Mulder. He and Scully wrestle with DaSilva on the ground, while Hodge introduces the parasite into her body. After experiencing convulsions, her muscles finally relax, Scully assuring her the infection is ended.
On the strip of Doolittle Airfield, DaSilva is taken into an ambulance in a biohazard suit, watched by Mulder, Scully and Hodge, who stand nearby. After the vehicle drives away, Hodge announces DaSilva and the dog will be quarantined. He also explains that himself, Mulder and Scully have been determined as clear of infection. Mulder plans to return to the Icy Cape area, now fully prepared and with proper equipment, so the parasites can be further studied. Hodge notifies them that, the moment everyone was evacuated from the Ice Cape station, the entire place was torched, either by military or the CDC, so there's nothing left for Mulder to find there. After Hodge departs, Mulder comments the worms are still buried deep in the ice, which is where Scully believes he should leave them.
- Brad Dourif as Luther Lee Boggs
- Xander Berkeley as Dr. Hodge
- Felicity Huffman as Dr. Nancy Da Silva
- Steve Hytner as Dr. Denny Murphy
- Jeff Kober as Bear
- Íñigo Garcés as George