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Production

  • This episode was initially inspired by an article in Science News about, in Glen Morgan's words, "these guys in Greenland who dug something 250,000 years old out of the ice." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, pp. 118-119) The incident had namely involved the Greenland Ice Project and what the scientists had discovered, frozen in the ice, had been worms. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31,  p. 15) The team had been drilling down to obtain some ice cores. "We thought, 'That's perfect. What if we do that?'" James Wong recollected. (Starlog, issue #210, p. 63) Morgan elaborated, "That ice had basically been the same for a quarter of a million years and so we said, 'Wow! What could be down there?' So with 'Ice', it was that article [that gave us the idea] [...] and also that worms are just horrible!" (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31,  p. 15)
  • This episode borrows heavily from John Carpenter's movie The Thing and the short story on which it was based, Who Goes There?, by John W. Campbell (who the character of Campbell may have been named in homage to). Series creator Chris Carter stated about this outing, "It was inspired by The Thing, as anyone who knows the genre will tell you." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Ice", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) Although Glen Morgan and James Wong once admitted there are similarities between this episode and The Thing, the writing duo attempted to avoid comparisons while devising this installment. (Starlog, issue #210, p. 63) Morgan pointed out, "Just because we set it in the Arctic doesn't make it a Thing rip-off." (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 8,  p. 31) In addition to the Arctic setting, the element of paranoia in The Thing had the biggest influence on Morgan and Wong when they developed this episode. According to The X-Files Magazine (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31,  p. 17), a reference to a footballer called Foukes in this outing was an homage to The Thing, as a character in that film has the same name. However, the name herein is actually "Fouts".
  • In writing this episode, Glen Morgan and James Wong wanted to devise a story focusing on Scully. "We wanted to put her on the spot," stated Morgan, "get her in a situation where we would have to ask to what degree did she trust Mulder." To do this, the writers felt they had to put her in a situation where she was responsible for him. The writing duo then worked backwards out of this idea, as it had other implications for the storyline, and thought up the moment where Scully checks if Mulder has been infected. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26)
  • Having worked out where they wanted to take Scully in the structure of the story, the writers asked themselves where Mulder was at the same points in the storyline and what interesting things they could do with the character. This resulted in the pair of writers imagining the concept of Mulder being the first to lower his gun in a scene where he and Scully suspiciously aim their weapons at each other. "That was just to show how much he had come to trust her from the pilot," expressed Glen Morgan, "where you go, 'To what degree does this guy trust this partner?" (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26)
  • The first draft of this episode's script was submitted on 15th September 1993. The script gives Hodge's first name as Lawrence and refers to Murphy as having the first name "Randy" rather than "Denny", though DaSilva's first name is "Nancy" in both this draft and the final version. The same draft refers to the airport in this episode as "Jimmy Doolittle Airfield", a reference to American aviation pioneer Jimmy Doolittle, and the airport is said to be in the Alaskan state of Council instead of Nome.
  • This episode was atypical in its fewness of locations used. The Icy Cape Research Compound was built on a soundstage at the Molson Brewery facility. Doolittle Air Field was actually Delta Air Park at address 4187 - 104 Street, Delta. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 37)
  • The production personnel of The X-Files originally intended to wait until later in the show's first season before producing this episode, so they could take advantage of the possibility there might be snow in Vancouver at that time. However, the making of this installment had to be moved ahead in the schedule of the first season, due to the series having become over-budget. "So we had to do it all inside," explained James Wong. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26; The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 8,  p. 31) The installment ended up still being filmed in Vancouver, though in late autumn. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 8,  p. 31)
Parasitic ice worm concept art

Concept illustrations of the worms in this episode.

  • For cast and crew alike, the production of this episode was a pivotal time in the making of the series. "It was really the first time since we started the show," stated Gillian Anderson, "that I think we all had a very strong feeling of what it was that we were doing and what the potential was for the show [....] It was the first time when we all just really came together and worked really, really hard and felt that we were making something important." (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31,  p. 17)
  • The scene which is set at Doolittle Air Field was filmed on 29 September 1993. It was a clear, sunny day at Delta Air Park, although the characters were meant to look cold. The cast consequently donned down-filled winter wear but no tell-tale hint of breath was visible during the filming. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 37)
  • Graeme Murray, who had worked on John Carpenter's version of The Thing, created the entire Arctic complex seen in this installment. (X-Files Confidential, p. 50) Glen Morgan and James Wong were surprised by the set. "It was much bigger than we thought," Morgan attested. (Starlog, issue #210, p. 63) The set also helped the actors access the mindsets of the characters they were playing. Gillian Anderson explained, "The way the set was built was like a bunker almost. We felt like we were really in that place, as opposed to many of the sets, which are three-quarters walls. This was the Antarctic – for all we knew, that's where we were shooting. And it was cold." Anderson went on to specify this was because the Molson Brewery studio didn't have heating. (X-Files Confidential, pp. 50 & 49)
  • The dog featured in this episode was the father of David Duchovny's own dog, Blue.
  • Three methods were used to create the effect of the alien worm. These were actual live meal worms, rubber props and a CGI model. (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38; "The Truth About Season One", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) Both of the latter style of worms were designed to move realistically. ("The Truth About Season One", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) Xander Berkeley spent much of this episode's production walking around the set with either of the two practical versions of worms on the end of a pair of forceps and pretending to pull them out of people's ears. (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38) Toby Lindala was extremely nervous when a prosthetic device he was using to create the effect of the alien worm beneath skin started to tear. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 118)
  • The scene in which a worm is pulled out of Bear's neck was a difficult one for the production crew to film. Exactly how to convincingly show the worm emerging from Bear's neck was a source of puzzlement. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 37) Noted R.W. Goodwin, "It was one of those things where going in to it you didn't know how you were going to do it. What I was deathly afraid of was that we would do something that looked so cheesy that it would just take away from the story." (X-Files Confidential, p. 51) This was despite the effect being done at a time in the series when the crew was generally becoming increasingly confident about how to actualize whatever had been scripted. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 37) The effect was achieved with help from the show's resident makeup artist. Recollected Goodwin, "Toby Lindala really saved us [....] Toby came in and said, 'Let me try something,' and he actually created a process in which he created false skin that went over the real neck of the person." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 50 & 51) The fabricated neck was latex foam rubber and even contained faux "blood." (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38) Lindala also built a channel for the worm to go into the fake neck. "Actually right there on the actor's neck you could see the worm," Goodwin commented. "It was disgusting, but it was cool." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 50 & 51) Xander Berkeley agreed the neck appliance "looked great." (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38)
  • One scene, lasting approximately four seconds and involving the alien worm, was made intentionally long, as the producers anticipated that Fox's standards and practices department would edit the sequence. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 119) The scene was the one in which a worm is extracted from Bear's neck. The production team filmed enough to make sure that at least some of the footage would make it through to the episode's final version. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31,  p. 15)
  • Even though this episode was conceived as a money-saving exercise, it really didn't end up saving finances. Said Chris Carter, "We got such production value, and production value costs money." (X-Files Confidential, p. 50)
  • According to Xander Berkeley, a shot of him slicing the neck appliance with a scalpel was removed because it was considered too gruesome. "Unfortunately, everyone got grossed out by the whole thing when they looked at the dailies," he recalled, "so, they decided not to put it in the episode." (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38)

Continuity

  • Near the end, Scully virtually repeats a line said by John Richter earlier in the episode. Richter says, "It stops right here, right now," but Scully changes the line to, "It all stops right here, right now." When the line is repeated, it is said in a completely different context.
  • Gillian Anderson once commented on how this episode broke new ground as regards the relationship between Scully and Mulder, saying, "It was [...] the first episode where Mulder and Scully had to confront each other [at gunpoint] [....] [and] that scene where we check each other in the room is the first time that you really see Mulder and Scully touching each other." (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, p. 17)

Trivia

  • Mentions of a footballer named "Fouts" in this episode are references to Dan Fouts. He played for the San Diego Chargers, Morgan and Wong's favorite football team.
  • Not only is Doolittle Airfield a reference to Jimmy Doolittle; the airport's setting of Nome, Alaska is where he spent his youth.

Goofs

  • If the parasite causes the increase of aggression in the host, how was DaSilva able to behave so calmly until the moment when her infection was discovered?

Reception

  • The fact that the creative personnel of The X-Files liked the story idea for this episode was one reason it was moved ahead in the schedule of the first season. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26) However, executives at the Fox network initially disapproved of its conclusion. Glen Morgan revealed, "They said it was all wrong, that the third and fourth acts were horrible. They wanted us to have the [alien] disease brought into the world. There was a lot of fighting." (Sci-Fi Universe #10, p. 36)
  • The production crew found the effect of a worm being removed from Bear's neck was highly effective. "We looked at it, and we went, 'Oh, my gosh,'" R.W. Goodwin remembered. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 37)
  • Watching this episode had a re-energizing effect on the cast and crew of The X-Files. "I remember 'Ice' being one of those moments," reported David Duchovny, "where we all refocused and (realized) we were making a really good show. Let's keep going." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 40)
  • Glen Morgan and James Wong were quite pleased with this episode. They particularly liked the set for the Arctic research station. Despite its enormity, Morgan once opined that, on film, the set nevertheless conveyed a sense of claustrophobia. (Starlog, issue #210, p. 63)
  • David Nutter was happy with this installment as well, citing it as his favorite segment of Season 1. ("The Truth About Season One", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) "To me, the real great thing about 'Ice' is that we were able to convey a strong sense of paranoia," he remarked. "It was also a great ensemble piece. We're dealing with the most basic emotions of each character, ranging from their anger to their ignorance and fear. The episode also showed a real trust between Mulder and Scully. It established the emotional ties these two characters have with each other, which is very important." (X-Files Confidential, p. 49) Nutter expressed this installment was his favorite "because of the visual style and the excitement I was able to do there; to peel-the-onion, so to speak, of the Scully/Mulder relationship [so that] we were able to look into it deeper." (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 8,  p. 31) Summing up his feelings about the episode, Nutter concluded, "It was an interesting show because all the actors, all the characters were pretty much in one location, and it was really fun to kind of stretch Scully and Mulder into places they really hadn't been to before." ("The Truth About Season One", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features)
  • Graeme Murray once described "Ice" as "a very tense and exciting episode." (X-Files Confidential, p. 50)
  • R.W. Goodwin was likewise proud of this outing. He enthused, "Everyone delivered, and it's a classic episode." (X-Files Confidential, p. 51)
  • Chris Carter also highly approved of this installment. "It really showed what the series was capable of," he commented, "and that's a testament to the good writing of Jim and Glen." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 40) Carter elaborated, "They just outdid themselves on this show, as did director David Nutter [....] I think they wrote a great script and he did a great job directing it, and we had a great supporting cast. I think that the cast, directing, and writing came together." (X-Files Confidential, p. 49) Additionally, Carter said, "I think it [the main plot] worked even better as an X-file [than as The Thing]. It pitted the characters of Mulder and Scully against each other in a way that was, I think, very interesting and a new look at their characters, early on in the series. It's the stuff of great drama and to see it resolved as it was resolved, in a rather strange and weird way, with [one of] these Arctic worms [...] nearly put in Mulder's body, was [...] just good stuff and actually, I think, pulled off rather believably [....] I think, as David Duchovny says, it was one of our first 'rockin' episodes.'" ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Ice", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) Carter specified this installment as being joint lead in his favorite episodes from Season 1 (along with "Beyond the Sea"). ("The Truth About Season One", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features)
  • In a review of this episode published in the New York Daily News on 8 October 1993, writer David Bianculli commented, "I can safely say this episode of X-Files turns out to be one of the more potent and creepy hours on network TV in quite a while–with a scene or two virtually guaranteed to make you squirm, and with a story line worthy of honorary passage into The Twilight Zone." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 253)
  • This first season episode is the only one whose initial broadcast was not on a Friday. Instead, it was originally aired on a Wednesday.
  • This episode achieved a Nielsen household rating of 6.6, with an audience share of 11. This means that roughly 6.6 percent of all television-equipped households, and 11 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode. It was viewed by 6.2 million households. (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 4 out of 4 stars. The magazine criticizes, "Superficially, the Arctic setting may make this appear a retread of The Thing, but in 'Ice', the threat doesn't kill and replace you, it just takes over your mind. Gripping and tightly-wound, this is a study in claustrophobia, paranoia and trust, and is the first X-Files episode where everything–story, visuals, directing and acting (including the guest stars)–fires on all cylinders. Morgan and Wong and first-time director David Nutter screw the tension up to an unbearable level, resulting in an explosive finale. Duchovny and Anderson are superb together, and make us really believe that Mulder and Scully are not only a team, but truly are beginning to trust each other."
  • Upon initially reviewing this episode, The X-Files Magazine (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 8,  p. 31) commented, "Arguably a little too reminiscent of the icy John Carpenter horror flick The Thing [...] 'Ice' nevertheless has enough genuinely chilling moments to make it not only its own show, but also one of the first season's, er, coolest." In a subsequent issue of the same publication (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, pp. 15, 16 & 17), Kate Anderson admitted the episode's similarities to The Thing from Another World and John Carpenter's The Thing but went on to contend, "In the hands of the tour de force writing partnership of Glen Morgan and James Wong, 'Ice' becomes a successful and unique thriller in its own right. A mini-masterpiece, wonderfully dramatic and atmospheric, with Morgan and Wong injecting fresh life into a still new body. 'Ice' is probably one of the most memorable and scary episodes from the first season [....] [The] teaser succeeds perfectly, pulling the audience into the plot immediately [....] From the prologue to the dramatic climax in act four, suspicion, paranoia and fear are rife [....] 'Ice' brandishes a fine supporting ensemble. The well-crafted co-stars are used to their full potential as they are an essential ingredient to the plot, emphasising the tight, claustrophobic atmosphere as each character turns against the other [....] With its non-cliched characters and gloomy cinematography, it remains to this day one of the most rewarding and memorable episodes." The same issue of the magazine additionally described the outing as "pivotal to the story and the essence of The X-Files." The magazine called the stand-off between the pair of FBI agents "riveting, [...] dramatic and tense" as well as "one of the most uncomfortable moments from the first season." The publication also referred to the scene in which Mulder and Scully check each other's necks for signs of the parasite as "extremely revealing" and proceeded to comment, "Sensual, this moment is even slightly erotic, thanks to the tantalising camera movements and subdued lighting." The X-Files Magazine Yearbook 2002 (p. 66) cited the same scene as one of the two agents' twenty most romantic scenes in the entire series.
  • 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 5 out of 5 stars. Shearman questioned the popularity of this outing, given its extreme likenesses to The Thing. "It must be because however derivative 'Ice' may be, it finds a way of taking its borrowed material and finding within it something which defines The X-Files," Shearman reckoned. "This must surely be the most influential episode ever made [....] And what Morgan and Wong so skilfully extract from The Thing is its desperate paranoia and its fear of identity loss. 'We are not who we are' is the chilling statement that runs through this episode, and there is surely no better mantra that sums up the entire series. It's the more cynical flipside of 'The truth is out there.' What makes 'Ice' so extraordinary is the way that, for the first time in the series, it makes Mulder and Scully not mere observers of the unexplained. The X-Files will always work best once it realises the most satisfying stories are the ones where our leads are the story, not just commentators upon it [....] And it's the way in which Mulder and Scully are made afraid of each other, yet come through the experience with even deeper loyalty, that makes 'Ice' such a pivotal story. On the surface it's a yarn about arctic worms, but it's really about how much Mulder and Scully can trust each other. This story is such a claustrophobic slice of horror that it's easy to forget how witty Morgan and Wong's dialogue is, and how well-rounded the supporting characters are." The book also refers to this episode's guest cast as "terrific."
  • Somewhat echoing the plot of this installment, the frozen worms found by the Greenland Ice Project actually came back to life. "It was after we wrote the episode that we found it out, which was a little scary," admitted James Wong. (X-Files Confidential, p. 49)

Cast and Characters

Ice cast

Cast members from this episode sharing a light moment, on the episode's set.

  • The cast of this episode integrated well together. Gillian Anderson expressed, "We had some great actors to work with." (X-Files Confidential, p. 49) Hodge actor Xander Berkeley enjoyed his time with both Anderson and David Duchovny. (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38) Duchovny and Berkeley specifically developed a close rapport. "He and I sort of hit it off like long lost friends," reported Berkeley. "I remember that we had a day off so David, Felicity Huffman and I went off and climbed a nearby mountain. We laughed the entire day [....] The two of us just clicked immediately and had a great time working together." (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38)
  • Gillian Anderson approved of this episode's plot. (X-Files Confidential, p. 49; The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31,  p. 17) She commented, "It was a strong sense of confinement and paranoia that was involved that really gave the episode an edge [....] It will always stick in my mind as being one of our strongest episodes and one which really represented a turning point for us." Anderson also called the scene where Mulder and her own character of Scully confront one another with guns "a very powerful scene" and "a wonderful jolt to our relationship." Regarding the intimate scene in which the agents check each other for signs of the parasite, Anderson opined, "It's very provocative, the way the camera moves around us and the way the lighting is with a single light bulb and it's swinging... Then for her to start to walk away and him to stop her, there's a moment of fear and tension in that because you don't know if he's going to attack, if he has been infected by this parasite. I think there was a huge element of fear in that scene, and through the whole episode in general, because [nobody knew] who to trust." (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31,  p. 17)
  • Xander Berkeley likewise had high regard for the way this outing is constructed, remarking, "I thought it was kind of interesting the way that they structured this story." Berkeley also noticed a connection between Hodge and Mulder, because they both have "an innate distrust of anybody connected with the federal government [...] and in the long run it sort of sets up a link between [them]." (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38)
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