- For other pilot episodes, see Pilot
- “The government knows about it, and I got to know what they're protecting. Nothing else matters to me”
- — Fox Mulder
"Pilot" is the first episode of the first season of The X-Files. The episode aired in the United States and Canada on September 10, 1993. Written by series creator Chris Carter and directed by Robert Mandel, the Pilot set up the mythology arc for the rest of the series.
Dana Scully is assigned to work with Fox Mulder, an FBI agent with an interest in the paranormal. Together, they travel to Oregon where Mulder believes several teenagers have been abducted by aliens.
Dressed in a nightgown, a young woman scrambles through a darkened forest at night. She stumbles into a small clearing and sees an immense light growing over a nearby hill. As the surrounding leaves begin to whirl around the woman in a vortex, a figure approaches from the light. The figure stands over her as the light engulfs them both.
COLLUM NATIONAL FOREST,
The next morning, Detective Miles and Coroner John Truitt inspect the woman's corpse with a team of coroners. Truitt shows Detective Miles two small bumps on the woman's lower back. A trail of dried blood runs from the woman's nose to her mouth. Detective Miles recognizes the young woman as Karen Swenson, since she used to go to school with his son. As Miles walks away in a hurry, Truitt calls after him. The coroner asks whether the woman and the detective's son were in the high school class of 1989 together and implies that other members of her class have died in the same way as Karen Swenson.
Special Agent Dana Scully enters the FBI building and reports to a receptionist. She then walks through a set of offices until she comes to Division Chief Scott Blevins' office. Inside, Blevins questions her about her past work while a mysterious man smoking a cigarette silently watches. Scully is a medical doctor who has been working within the FBI for a little more than two years. Blevins notifies her that she is being assigned to work with Fox Mulder on the X-Files, a group of cases that involve paranormal or inexplicable phenomena.
In the building's basement, Scully meets Mulder in his office. Mulder shows her several slides of Karen Swenson's dead body and reveals that a strange organic substance has been found near the two marks on the woman's back. He also shows her two slides of bodies found in Sturgis, South Dakota and Shamrock, Texas, where both the two spots and the substance in the surrounding tissue were found. Although Mulder seems to believe that the cases are somehow linked to aliens, Scully argues that science will uncover a more logical explanation. Mulder tells her that three of Karen Swenson's classmates have also died in mysterious circumstances and states that he and Scully will leave to investigate the deaths early the next morning.
On an airplane to Oregon, Mulder lies sprawled across a row of seats, with his eyes closed and headphones in his ears. Wearing glasses, Scully meanwhile looks at newspaper clippings about the dead teenagers. She focuses on the name "Dr. Nemman". Upon making its descent, the plane suddenly starts to shake violently but eventually normalizes. Mulder nonchalantly concludes the temporary vibrations must mean they are in the right place.
Afterwards, Mulder drives a rental car into Bellefleur, Oregon as Scully reads the relevant X-file. She is surprised to learn that the case has already been investigated, information that Mulder did not disclose. He explains that the FBI became involved after the first three deaths, but left one week later without explanation. According to Scully, no unidentified marks are noted in the autopsy reports of the first three victims, although those reports were signed by a different medical examiner than the latest victim. Mulder is impressed by Scully's observations, but adds that they won't know whether the original medical examiner is a suspect until they have exhumed one of the first three bodies. The agents will likely then have a better idea whether the examiner intentionally missed the strange marks, or if Karen Swenson was the first victim with the spots. Suddenly, the car's radio powers up and the agents hear a high-pitched noise. Mulder stops the car and uses an aerosol from the luggage compartment to spray a large, red "X" on the road directly behind the vehicle. When he returns to the car, Mulder states that the incident was probably only trivial.
OREGON MARCH 7, 1993
When the agents arrive at their destination, they meet with John Truitt and an assistant coroner. The group begins to discuss arrangements for the exhumation but are interrupted when another car arrives and the County Medical Examiner, who autopsied the first three bodies, steps out. The examiner, Doctor Jay Nemman, struggles to stop his daughter from interfering and protests against the FBI's use of the cemetery. He also reveals that he and his family have just come back to Bellefleur after a recent holiday, which explains why he didn't conduct the autopsy on Karen Swenson. When Mulder mentions the tissue sample taken from the victim's body, Nemman believes that the agents are insinuating that he missed something in the original autopsies. Eventually, the man leaves at his daughter's insistence.
Mulder and Scully return to the grave site and discuss Ray Soames, the third victim whose body they are exhuming. A crane lifts Soames' coffin out of the ground, but a harness attached to the vehicle suddenly breaks and the coffin rolls down a hill. Mulder runs toward the coffin, to see it has been broken open by the fall. Against Truitt's advice, Mulder opens the coffin to find a desiccated, mummified body lying inside. The corpse is definitely not human and Mulder demands that the coffin be resealed.
While examining the corpse, Scully determines that the body is mammalian - possibly an orangutan or chimpanzee. Excited that the body may have been alien in origin, Mulder asks Scully to conduct a complete analysis of the corpse. Scully, who thinks that the presence of the body was someone's practical joke, reluctantly agrees to comply with Mulder's request.
Later, Scully finds a small metallic implant in the body's nasal cavity. Mulder knocks at her door and asks if she wants to join him on a run. Scully tiredly declines. When Mulder wonders if she has identified the implant in Soames' nose yet, she replies negatively and bids Mulder goodnight.
STATE PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL
Mulder and Scully walk with Doctor Glass, who confirms that Ray Soames was a patient at the hospital. Glass claims that, under his supervision, Soames was treated for clinical schizophrenia for a year. According to the doctor, Soames appeared to suffer from a form of post-traumatic stress and couldn't grasp reality. Similar cases that Glass has treated have included several of Soames' classmates, two of whom are currently undergoing treatment at the hospital. The patients, Billy Miles and Peggy O'Dell, have lived in the hospital for four years. When Scully asks if she and Mulder can speak to them, Glass replies that the agents might have difficulty questioning the patients, especially Billy Miles.
Inside the hospital, Billy lies in a bed unresponsive as Glass and the agents enter. The doctor explains that Miles is experiencing a "waking coma" as a result of a car accident on State Road in which Peggy O'Dell was also involved. Peggy sits in a wheelchair next to Billy Miles, reading to him. The doctor asks her if she will talk with the visitors but she replies that Billy wants her to read to him at the moment. When Mulder asks the doctor for permission to conduct a detailed medical examination of Peggy O'Dell, she throws her book down and starts wheeling around. A nurse approaches and tries to calm her, but she starts screaming as her nose begins to bleed. When she falls out of her wheelchair, Mulder takes the opportunity to lift up the back of her shirt, confirming his suspicion that she has the spots. He helps Glass to lift the girl back into her wheelchair shortly before Scully angrily rushes out of the room.
Outside, Mulder hurriedly follows her down a flight of steps. He realizes that Scully is upset because she thinks he knows more about the strange marks than she does. Eventually, Mulder admits to his belief that the teenagers were abducted by extraterrestrials, a theory that Scully thinks is crazy. She comments that there must be another explanation which can be proved scientifically. Mentioning that all four victims were found in or near the woods, Scully wonders what they were doing there.
At night, the agents walk through the forest where the latest victim died. They carry flashlights and are dressed in informal clothing. After they separate, Mulder looks at a compass he is carrying, which is spinning wildly. In the clearing where Karen Swenson died, Scully notices a patch of strange dirt on the ground. She picks up some of the dirt and puts it in her pocket. When a low rumbling begins, Scully removes a gun from her pocket and leaves the clearing. She approaches the source of the noise, where a light shines through the trees. A humanoid silhouette from out of the light comes toward her.
The silhouette is actually Detective Miles. He doesn't reveal his name, but states only that he is employed by the Raymon County Sheriff's Department and warns the agents that they are on private property. They are forced to leave.
Driving through a storm in the darkness of night, Scully shows Mulder the dirt that she gathered earlier. Mulder believes the dirt might be from a campfire, while Scully theorizes that the teenagers may have been part of a cult and that the man they just encountered is aware of that. Suddenly, there is a blinding flash of light and the car loses power. Mulder, who looked at his watch just before the incident, says they've lost nine minutes of time. Extremely excited, Mulder exits the car and discovers that they are almost exactly at the red cross he previously marked in the road. He excitedly explains to Scully that people who have sighted UFOs often report time loss. However, Scully argues that time can't just disappear, as it is constant throughout the universe. Their car then restarts by itself and the headlamps light up.
In her motel room, Scully writes her report, concluding that she cannot validate nor substantiate Mulder's claim that they experienced a loss of time. When the power goes out due to the storm, Scully begins to get ready to take a shower but notices three spots on her back.
Worried that the spots may be the same marks that the teenagers had, Scully visits Mulder in his motel room, where he determines that the spots are only mosquito bites. Scully is so relieved that she leans on Mulder's chest and he puts his arms around her.
Later, Mulder tells her that his sister's disappearance when he was twelve tore his family apart. He continues by recalling that he left America as soon as he could and attended Oxford University, before being recruited by the Bureau. He then discovered the X-files and became fascinated by them. He tells Scully that he has been trying to access classified government information, but someone at a higher level of power has been blocking him from doing so. The only reason Mulder has been able to continue his work is that he has made connections in Congress. He suspects Scully is part of an agenda to stop him, but she swears that she is not and tries to convince him to trust her. Mulder leans forward and tells Scully that a Dr. Heitz Werber has taken him through regression hypnosis to access his repressed memories of the night his sister disappeared. He reveals to Scully what he can recall from that night. Mulder believes that his sister was abducted by extraterrestrials and that the government is aware of the existence of the aliens. He also states that the only thing that matters to him is finding out whatever the government is protecting. Mulder then receives a strange phone call from an anonymous female caller, who says that Peggy O'Dell is dead.
RURAL HWY. 133
When the agents arrive at the scene of the car accident that killed Peggy O'Dell, a driver tells Mulder that the girl ran in front of his car, despite normally being in a wheelchair. Scully takes a look at the girl's body. Her face is bloodied and her watch has stopped at the same time that the agents experienced time loss. Mulder tells Scully that the autopsy lab has been trashed and the body that the agents exhumed has been stolen. They leave the scene in the car they arrived in.
Mulder and Scully return to their motel to find it has burnt down, along with all their files and photos. A terrified girl, Theresa Nemman, rushes up to the agents and asks for their protection.
In a diner, Theresa speaks with Mulder and Scully. She reveals that she often finds herself in the woods with no recollection of how she got there. She fears that she might die, like most of her classmates. Mulder realizes that Theresa is the medical examiner's daughter and that she was the anonymous caller who told him that Peggy O'Dell had died. She admits that her father is covering things up and that she has the same spots as the other teenagers. Suddenly, her nose starts bleeding, moments before her father enters with the same detective who warned the agents to leave the forest. Mulder and Scully learn that the detective is Billy Miles' father and are unable to stop the men from taking Theresa home.
Scully thinks the medical examiner and the detective are aware of the murderer's identity and are responsible for the destruction of the autopsy lab and the agents' motel rooms. However, she is unsure as to the reason the corpse was stolen if the men are indeed responsible.
Mulder and Scully go to the cemetery but discover that the bodies of the other two victims have also been exhumed. Mulder suddenly realizes the killer's true identity - Billy Miles, the boy in the hospital.
Scully can hardly believe what Mulder is suggesting, but he claims that recent strange events, such as Peggy O'Dell dying at exactly the same time that he and Scully lost nine minutes, fit the profile of alien abduction. Mulder theorizes that tests were being conducted on the victims that left the marks found on their backs but the experiments caused a genetic mutation, explaining the disfigured body in Ray Soames' coffin. In regard to the loss of nine minutes that he and Scully witnessed, Mulder believes that conventional time stopped and that an alien impulse, which also caused Billy Miles to take the victims into the forest, actually took control of time itself. Scully laughs almost hysterically with Mulder, finding his theory preposterous but believing it nevertheless.
In an attempt to confirm or disprove their suspicions, Mulder and Scully return to the hospital where Billy Miles is undergoing treatment. Although his nurse claims that his mental condition has rendered him incapable of walking, Scully shows Mulder dirt on the soles of the boy's feet. She takes a sample of the dirt shortly before she leaves the room with Mulder.
Outside, Scully claims to be certain that Billy Miles was in the same forest as the victims. She explains that the dirt she has just discovered matches the strange earth she found in Collum National Forest earlier. Unfortunately, the sample of strange earth was destroyed in the motel fire and, therefore, can not be used to make a comparison. The agents consequently decide to return to the woods, in order to retrieve another sample.
When Mulder and Scully arrive at the edge of the forest, they notice Detective Miles' car. A distant scream draws them into the woods. Scully follows Mulder as they run toward the source of the noise, but is suddenly ambushed by Detective Miles and falls to the ground. The detective stands over Scully and reminds her of his previous warning to stay away. He then runs toward Mulder and holds him at gunpoint. Mulder accuses Miles of always knowing what was happening and warns that his son is about to kill another girl. Persuaded by Mulder, Detective Miles rushes towards his son, who holds Theresa Nemman in his arms. The detective urges his son to put her down and raises his gun when Billy Miles does not comply. Mulder knocks the detective over, just as he is about to fire his gun, alerting Scully to their location.
Mulder and the detective witness Billy Miles lift Theresa Nemman in his arms, as leaves whirl around him and a bright light shines down from above. The light eventually engulfs them all, as Scully watches from a distance. After the light dissipates, Billy has no memory of his actions and is confused as to what has happened. The spots on his back are gone and he is no longer crippled by the deleterious effects of a "waking coma." Unlike the other victims, Theresa Nemman is unharmed. Mulder rushes away to find Scully and, when they meet, he seems extremely moved by the event he has just witnessed.
MARCH 22, 1993
Billy Miles undergoes hypnosis performed by Heitz Werber. Mulder is in the room with him, while Scully watches from an anteroom through a one-way mirror. Division Chief Blevins, the Cigarette-Smoking Man and the third man from earlier are also in the anteroom. According to Billy Miles, he and his friends were having a party in the woods to celebrate their graduation when he first saw the bright light. It transported him to a location that he calls "the testing place," where a group told him to gather the others so they could do tests. The group put an implant in his nasal cavity, and he would wait for the light to give their orders to him. They assured him that it would be okay and that no-one would know. However, the tests didn't work and they wanted everything destroyed. Although they said they were leaving, Billy is now afraid that they're coming back. Heitz Werber tells him not to be afraid, assuring him that the FBI are only trying to help, as the Cigarette-Smoking Man whispers something to Blevins in the anteroom. When the FBI officials subsequently start to leave, Scully follows close behind. Mulder looks at the mirror directly at her and she stops briefly. Knowing that he cannot see her, Scully looks at Mulder through the mirror and then exits the anteroom.
In Blevins' office, Scully and the Division Chief discuss the case. The third man is also present. He and Blevins both seem to believe that the suggestion of alien abduction found in Scully's field reports and Billy Miles' supposed recollections under hypnosis is completely unscientifically founded. Scully replies that, while writing her field reports, she only noted things she actually saw. She admits that she cannot substantiate all of Mulder's claims, including the sudden loss of nine minutes. Blevins tells her that he sees no evidence to support the validity of the X-files, and, therefore, no reason to continue them. Scully answers that real crimes had been committed and were solved, but Blevins rhetorically asks how to prosecute the criminals when the case has no basis in reality. When told that she has no evidence, Scully hands over the implant found in Ray Soames' coffin, which she has kept in her pocket and was not destroyed in the motel fire. According to Scully, a lab test that she conducted failed to identify the material. When Blevins asks what Mulder thinks about the case, Scully responds by implying that her new FBI partner believes aliens are responsible.
After she is dismissed from Blevins' office, Scully passes the Cigarette Smoking Man in the corridor outside. She pauses to watch him enter Blevins' office, before continuing on her way.
Later, Scully lies awake in bed. She answers a phone call from Mulder, who tells her that a case file on Billy Miles has disappeared from the District Attorney's office in Raymon County, Oregon. Mulder wants to talk with her and Scully agrees that they will discuss their situation on the following day.
In a storage room in the Pentagon, the Cigarette Smoking Man files away the implant in a box containing many others, surrounded by rows upon rows of shelves, all containing similar boxes. He exits the room and locks the door by running his keycard through its sensor, before walking away.
Abductee; "the Academy"; Agent; Alien abduction; Automobile; Autopsy; Bellefleur; Bernardelli Model 60; Class of '89; Collum National Forest; D.A.; Division Chief; Doctor; Einstein's Twin Paradox: A New Interpretation; FBI; God; Halloween; Hypnotic regression; Implants; J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building; Jeep Cherokee; Monte Propps; Mulder's sister; Oregon; Oregon Memorial Psychiatric Hospital; Oxford; Pentagon; Raymon County; Scully's parents; Shamrock; Soames, Ray; South Dakota; Spielberg, Steven; "Spooky"; Sturgis; Texas; Time loss; UFO; Violent Crimes Section; X-File
- Charles Cioffi as Division Chief Scott Blevins (First appearance)
- Cliff DeYoung as Dr. Jay Nemman
- Sarah Koskoff as Theresa Nemman (First appearance)
- Leon Russom as Detective Miles (First appearance)
- Zachary Ansley as Billy Miles (First appearance)
- Stephen E. Miller as Coroner John Truitt
- Malcolm Stewart as Dr. Glass
- Alexandra Berlin as Orderly
- Jim Jansen as Dr. Heitz Werber (First appearance)
- Ken Camroux as Third Man
- Doug Abrams as Patrolman #1
- William B. Davis as Smoking Man (First appearance)
- Katya Gardener as Peggy O'Dell
- Ric Reid as Asst. Coroner
- Lesley Ewen as Receptionist
- J.B. Bivens as Truck Driver