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Pilot (The X-Files)   Credits   Gallery   Transcript   Videos   Background Information    

This is a list of information relating to the production of the Pilot episode of The X-Files.


Production

  • This is the only episode of The X-Files' television series which omits the regular opening credits sequence and theme music, as well as the only one which starts with a disclaimer or notice of any kind. This installment also has an irregular production number, owing to its pilot status. The omission of the opening credits and theme music is because series creator Chris Carter was not yet satisfied with how the credits looked and their development therefore continued. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 35)
Pilot (The X-Files) notice

A notice that precedes this episode.

  • The episode starts with the notice, "The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts." Although The X-Files are not directly based on true stories, elements of some episodes have been taken from true-life accounts. Chris Carter declared about the notice, "When we say 'actual documented accounts' in the Pilot, it's true." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Fallen Angel", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features)
  • The elements Chris Carter took from actual documented accounts include implants, alien abductions and marks allegedly left from experiments done by mysterious extraterrestrial forces. He noted about the episode, "It's an amalgam of bits and pieces of stories and information that I gathered by reading about alien abduction." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Fallen Angel", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features)
  • Plot points such as Scully initially being instructed to essentially do what she can to undermine Mulder's findings and the hiding away of possible evidence at the episode's conclusion stemmed from Chris Carter having a skeptical nature, particularly about the government. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 12) When he created this installment, the FBI, according to him, was "trying to close down the X-Files." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 58)
  • Throughout this episode's genesis, Robert Greenblatt – head of Fox's drama development – was adamant it be well thought out. "I was always concerned," he related, "that first of all, the story be very clear, and secondly, that people buy it, because we were asking them to make this big leap of faith and suspend their disbelief." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 18)
  • Believing a romantic relationship between Mulder and Scully would cause them to no longer be interested in investigating the X-files, Chris Carter consistently appealed for such a connection to be omitted from this installment. "A big part of my job during the [...] scope of that pilot creation was protecting against that [romance]," Carter noted. "I was really the lone voice saying we cannot have these people romantically involved." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 16)
  • No sign of the initial notice describing this episode as "inspired by actual documented accounts" is present in the installment's first-draft script. The shooting script includes a similar note, though, characterizing the influential reports as "true eyewitness accounts." One reason why this episode includes the statement is that the Fox network was concerned the show would be portrayed as realistically as possible, since reality programming was one of the most popular types of programs at the time. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 13)
  • This episode was originally set in Bellefleur, Louisiana. It was written in the original script draft that way, though the state had been changed to Oregon by the time the shooting script was compiled.
  • Both the original script draft and the shooting script give more insight into Scully's visit to Scott Blevins' office. The scene that introduces Scully in both versions of the script is set just before her visit and takes place at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, where she teaches a small group of trainees about the physiology of homicide, specifically electrocution and death by cattle prod. In lines of dialogue which are included in the first-draft script but not in the shooting script, Scully instructs, "We all conduct in different degrees. While I may survive a lightning strike, someone else might die from putting their finger in a light socket." In both scripts, her attention is distracted by an agent who enters the room and hands her a note that reads, "Your attendance is required in Washington at 1600 hrs. sharp." In the first-draft script, the note then says, "Contact Special Agent L. Drazen." In both versions, Scully subsequently checks her digital watch, which reads 1:03.
  • The next scene is that in which Scully reports to the receptionist at FBI headquarters; both versions of the script begin with Scully flashing her FBI badge to the receptionist. In the original script draft, Scully begins to speak to the receptionist but is interrupted by a Special Agent named Lake Drazen, who is described as "a large imposing man in his 50s." Drazen introduces himself to Scully and says they're late. In the shooting script, the receptionist – directly after Scully reveals her badge – tells her, "See Section Chief Blevins. Third floor, violent crime division." In the aired version of the episode, Scully's badge does not appear in any of the scenes and the receptionist does not speak. Furthermore, the receptionist's words in the shooting script include the first of several references in that script to Blevins holding the rank of Section Chief, though a door to his office refers to him as a Division Chief near the end of the episode's final version.
  • In the first script draft, Lake Drazen accompanies Scully on her way to the FBI meeting, notifying her she is about to be "interviewed, at a very high level." Scully is alone in the shooting script's equivalent of this journey, which is much as it is shown in the installment's final edit.
  • The meeting itself, in the original script draft, is described as including six men – all in their 60s – sitting around an oval table in a conference room, while leafing through folders. Meanwhile, Agent Drazen shows Scully a chair then remains standing. The atmosphere in the room is characterized as "chilly, inquisitional." In the shooting script, the conference is held in Blevins' office, with only three men in the room, whose atmosphere is said to be "strict, professional." Whereas the Cigarette Smoking Man is described as being in his "early 40s," Blevins and a third man are said to be in their 50s. Only they two sit at an oval table, leafing through folders, while the Cigarette Smoking Man stands. This seems to suggest the character of Agent Drazen later became the CSM. Although Blevins is never directly referred to in the first draft, his role in the final version of the meeting is notated as that of Elder Man in the original script. Also, in the final version, Blevins alone leafs through folders.
  • During the first-draft script's version of the meeting, Blevins refers to Scully as having "an undergraduate degree in astronomy" as well as an "advanced degree in physics" and specifies the year she graduated from medical school as 1989. Scully states, "I come from an extremely literate family. I guess science was my way of rebelling." She also clarifies that, prior to joining the FBI, she had "planned to take a job doing research at the National Institute" and comments she completed her physics degree at the FBI Academy. Scully remarks about Mulder, "I believe he's rather notorious," and Drazen adds, "I can assure you it's not a reputation he's cultivated." Although Scully reflects upon Mulder's nickname of "Spooky," it is Drazen rather than Scully who details Mulder's credentials, almost verbatim to how they are described in the final version of this scene. Much to the disapproval of the Elder Man, the Third Man impertinently criticizes the X-files as "a grab bag of outrageous ghost stories." The Elder Man explains to Scully that Drazen, at the request of the other personnel, chose her for the assignment to evaluate the validity of Mulder's work. The Elder Man instructs her to make her reports "exclusively to this group," and goes on to say, "Should your reports cast doubt on the legitimacy of the X-files, so be it. I'm sure Agent Mulder's prodigious talents will find utility elsewhere with us and you'll both resume careers in full flower. Agent Drazen will give you a full briefing." The shooting script's version of the meeting is almost exactly how it is in the final version of the episode, removing almost all of these lines with one exception being the idea of Scully having committed a supposedly rebellious act; this changed, however, from involvement in science to her recruitment by the FBI. Also, the shooting script incorporates Blevins' instruction for Scully to make her reports "exclusively to this group" but he gives her no such instruction in the final version.
  • In the first-draft script, Scully subsequently takes the elevator ride to Mulder's office with Drazen. Cautious and wary, she asks him therein what Mulder is actually like, to which Drazen responds, "He's bright, extremely so. Difficult, independent and somewhat eccentric by FBI standards. He'll know exactly what you're up to." Scully replies she isn't "up to" anything and is merely following orders. In the basement, Drazen introduces Scully to Mulder, who is said to be sitting at his computer when Scully enters his office in the shooting script but is instead examining slides in both the first draft and the final version. Though the final version incorporates Scully telling Mulder she has heard a lot about him, this line is not in either of the two scripts. In the first draft, Drazen informs Mulder that Scully is a medical doctor who teaches at the Academy, details Mulder says he already knows, whereas – in the final version – Mulder interrupts Scully with these details. Along with Scully, Drazen watches the slide-show presentation Mulder makes, regarding the deaths in Bellefleur. Scully guesses, in both versions of the script, that the chemical diagram Mulder shows her is of something inorganic, though this is changed to "organic" in the final version. Also, the reference to Shamrock, Texas in the final edit was originally to Tumwater, Washington. After Mulder directly asks Scully if she believes in the existence of extraterrestrials, both of the scripts continue with her admitting she has "never given it much thought." Mulder adds, "As a scientist," and the scene then proceeds much as it is in the final version, though omitting Mulder's mocking reference to the state they will be traveling to as "very plausible." Upon Drazen leaving with Scully in the first draft, another discussion between them includes Drazen commenting on his selection of her for the assignment by explaining, "I knew you would be rigorous. And fair."
  • Also present in early versions of this installment is the character of Scully's boyfriend, Ethan Minette. He was added as an attempt by the Fox executives to create the love interest they felt wasn't there between Mulder and Scully. ("The Truth About Season 1", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) In a scene that follows the slide-projector scene in both scripts, Minette and Scully meet. Scully tells her boyfriend she will have to cancel holiday plans she made with him, as she has been assigned to a case outside Washington, D.C. with Fox Mulder. Minette recognizes the name and tells Scully "Spooky Mulder" supposedly convinced an Iowa Congressman to sponsor a UFO project. According to Minette, the incident was "a big joke around town" during the previous year. Scully asks if he would be willing to go on a holiday over a weekend after she returns and Minette, distracted by his work, accepts. In the first draft of the script, Minette is a lobbyist and meets Scully in an "upscale Washington D.C. bar." In the shooting script, he is working in a television studio when they meet.
  • The first-draft script suggests "Local Family Mourns Daughter's Mysterious Death" as one of the newspaper headlines from the file folder Scully reads on board a plane. The shooting script and the filmed version omit this particular headline, though feature two other headlines, which are also in the first draft.
  • The first draft of the script follows the plane journey with a later day-time scene outside the New Iberia Airport. While Scully is standing at a curb, Mulder quickly pulls up in a rental sedan, exits the vehicle and comes around to Scully's side. Though she initially assumes he has come to help her with her bags, Mulder instead hands her the keys and proclaims, "If you didn't like that plane ride you're definitely not going to like the way I drive," implying insistence that she drives instead of him.
  • The agents' first drive together is consequently different in the original script from how it is in the shooting script and final edit, with Scully driving. Other exclusive elements of the first-draft script's account of this scene include Mulder being described as "wearing Oakley 'thermonuclear' wraparound shades," as well as certain details of the agents' conversation. Also, the file folder from the plane is not referenced, though it features in both later versions. Mulder's method of depositing used sunflower seed shells, as he eats the seeds, also changes; in the original draft, he spits them out his window, though he "drops the seed shells in the ashtray" in the shooting script and is shown dropping the shells out his window in the final version.
  • In the original draft, the agents' discussion amid their drive begins with Mulder offering Scully some of the sunflower seeds, from what is said to be "a big bag" of seeds, before Mulder goes on to talk about Louisiana crawfish, remarking that – with "a little cocktail sauce" – he finds it is "to die for... pardon the expression." Other than Mulder eating sunflower seeds – from a bag no longer characterized as "big" – the shooting script makes no mention of food in this scene, even though the final version includes Mulder explaining that the FBI, during their previous investigation of the case, "enjoyed the local salmon which, with a little lemon twist, is just to die for, if you'll pardon the expression." Although a connection between Karen Swenson's death and those of her three classmates is only implied in the two other versions, the original draft features Scully directly commenting to Mulder, "You obviously think there's a connection between the girl's death and her three classmates," and him responding, "It's a reasonable assumption. Except our latest victim is the only one with the unidentified marks and tissue sample." The presence of these unexplained characteristics is a facet Scully mentions to Mulder in the later two versions, rather than Mulder referencing them. In lines of dialogue excluded from the two other versions, the first-draft teleplay additionally features Mulder commenting, "The limitations of science often make for limited scientists. For this kind of case, most are surprisingly ill-adept," and Scully replying, "If I'm not mistaken, we're trying to solve a murder, not unlock the mysteries of the universe." Somewhat similarly, Mulder makes a comment in the shooting script only, saying about corpses, "Two or three years underground, we all start looking pretty much the same. Sort of that lean and hungry look," a remark at which Mulder smiles but Scully doesn't. Mulder's reaction to the car's radio behaving strangely, in the original draft, includes him twice telling her to "stop the car." When he leaves the vehicle, it is said he "walks ten yards from the car," before spray-painting a large X on the ground, whereas the shooting script alters this distance to five yards.
  • In all three versions of the episode, Mulder and Scully drive past a sign welcoming drivers to Bellefleur. However, in the two script drafts (the first of which states the sign shows the announcement "The Friendly City" rather than "Gateway to Fun & Recreation"), the agents do so after their in-car discussion and the malfunctioning car radio causing Mulder to mark the ground, whereas the duo pass the sign before these events in the final edit. Furthermore, the first-draft script alone details that, on a telephone pole beside the sign, there are "a dozen flyers for missing dogs and cats."
  • Although both the shooting script and the final version follow the scene wherein Mulder marks a large X on the ground with he and Scully driving through the main street in Bellefleur, this scene is not in the first-draft script. It alternatively incorporates a scene in which Mulder and Scully arrive outside a small town civic center, finding their plan of exhuming graves has provoked outrage from "an agitated group of people," including parents, teenagers, a priest and other community leaders. The angry mob confronts the agents as Mulder and Scully make their way towards the coroner's office and a uniformed cop blocks their path, serving them court injunctions which the protesters have obtained against the agents' action. Mulder takes the injunctions and heads indoors, followed by a hesitating Scully. Despite this scene being excluded from the shooting script, that version does follow the agents' drive through Bellefleur's main street with a short scene likewise omitted from the episode's final cut. It features Mulder and Scully arriving at their motel, where Mulder happily stretches and rhetorically asks, "Almost feels like vacation, huh Scully?" As Scully watches Mulder walking away to the lobby, his statement influences her to think "about the vacation she could have been on."
  • Location Manager Louisa Gradnitzer once observed the descriptions of the motel scenes, as they eventually turned out, required a lot. "The script demanded fire, wind, rain, darkness, and everything else that can be thrown into a night shoot," Gradnitzer pointed out. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 25)
  • Another scene featuring Ethan Minette occurs later in the script, once Mulder knocks on Scully's motel door as she is studying evidence concerning the deformed corpse in Ray Soames' grave. The agents' conversation ends with Mulder handing Scully a slip of paper and saying, "I believe this is for you." Once Mulder leaves, Scully sees the slip of paper is a phone message from Ethan. The scene cuts to a few minutes later, as Scully is walking around her room, phone to her ear. As Scully's phone call wakes her boyfriend, their discussion is a short one; Ethan demonstrates interest in "Spooky"'s wellbeing and in the case Scully is investigating with Mulder but soon asks her to call him later, explaining, "I've got to get another hour in here." Scully agrees to call him later and ends the call.
  • In the scene where their car loses power as the agents drive from the forest, the "time loss" is originally only three minutes. When the car starts up again, Mulder "leaps up like a guy in a Toyota commercial." The X-Files Magazine Yearbook 2002 (p. 57) cites this scene, as well as the scene in which Mulder knocks at Scully's motel door and claims to be Steven Spielberg, as having been inspired by the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
  • In the first-draft script, Dr. Neuman (the county coroner, later to be renamed Dr. Nemman) had performed an abortion on Peggy O'Dell, the same summer the teenagers had graduated from high school. Peggy said the father was Billy Miles (the boy in the hospital). According to Dr. Neuman's daughter (just prior to her nosebleed), "Billy disappeared right before graduation and he didn't come back until almost the end of the summer. Peggy said he got her pregnant, but no one believed her because he wasn't even there… No one was supposed to know. She had an abortion but there was no baby. There was something else. He said it's because Peggy had the marks."
  • Both the first-draft script and the shooting script include a scene in which Mulder and Scully literally howl at the moon.
  • In the original script draft, Agent Lake Drazen later appears in the scene where Scully is debriefed, in which the senior FBI agents decide to let Scully continue monitoring Mulder until they come up with something concrete with which to shut down the X-files. One of the high-ranking agents says, regarding Scully's report, "If Congress got a hold of this we'd expend all our energy chasing ghosts and spacemen." Subsequently, Drazen tosses the copies of Scully's report into an incinerator. His final scene seems to further suggest his character later became the Cigarette Smoking Man.
  • Unlike the original draft, the shooting script includes the scene in which Mulder calls Scully at 11:22 pm, while she lies in bed. However, the shooting script's account of this scene has Ethan Minette lying next to her in the bed. After she puts down the phone, Minette asks, "Anybody important?" Scully replies, "Just work."
  • Chris Carter wrote the pilot episode while completely unaware the subsequent series was later to prove a massive hit. "When I was sitting in my office in my surf trunks, barefoot, playing ball with the dog every twenty minutes, writing the pilot for The X-Files, I never imagined that they would be making X-Files underwear," he admitted, with a laugh, "and that ten thousand people a week would be logging on to the Internet to talk about the show." (X-Files Confidential, p. 8) Despite being unsure – while writing the episode – if the series would be successful, Carter did devise plans for the potential future of the show during this period, such as inventing the character of Deep Throat. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 31)
  • Louisa Gradnitzer once described the setting of a "Knoll Graveyard" as having been the "most difficult location to find." After much searching, Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver was finally selected. The road leading to the park was also used for the scene where Mulder and Scully find Peggy O'Dell has died. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 22)
  • The FBI bullpen, Mulder's office and the FBI hallway were interior locations found in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's office in Vancouver. The company's television newsroom served as the bullpen whereas the basement and ground-floor hallway became the FBI's. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 23)
  • An FBI lobby (involving two elevators) as well as Scully's laboratory location were filmed at B.C. Hydro Headquarters in Vancouver. A room on the building's sixth floor represented the lab. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 26)
  • Because the script had many demands for the exterior of the Rural Motel location, selecting a suitable filming site was somewhat difficult. Eventually chosen to be featured was Cedar Lane Motel in White Rock. Though everyone in the production crew were enthusiastic about using this place, the owners made a last-minute decision to cancel the filming there. "After I told [Production Manager] Lisa [Richardson] of the problem," stated Louisa Gradnitzer, "she looked at me sternly and said, 'Offer them more money.' It worked." (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 25)
  • Apparently, some consideration was given to showing the exterior of Scully's apartment in this episode. According to Louisa Gradnitzer (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 27), 610 Jervis Street in Vancouver was used to show the outside of her apartment building in this pilot. However, that location doesn't actually appear herein.
  • After Chris Carter submitted this episode's script to 20th Century Fox, the decision of whether to okay the installment's production was made the responsibility of then-newly-appointed Fox Entertainment Group president Sandy Grushow. He reviewed the episode's script at home during a visit from Robert Greenblatt over the Thanksgiving weekend of 1992. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, pp. 13 & 14) Carter was granted – around Christmas of that year – the go-ahead to film. This news was followed by the hiring of Robert Mandel as director. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 28) Carter personally recruited Mandel, a friend of his, to helm the pilot. However, because The X-Files got a late start and more than twenty pilot episodes were being shot in the Vancouver area prior to some of them being accepted as series in the Fall primetime lineups, the producers of this outing didn't get their first choice in terms of hiring for technical positions. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 17) Pre-production on the installment began in February 1993. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 28) The next month, Lisa Richardson hired Louisa Gradnitzer to be Location Manager for this episode. "None of us knew who Chris Carter was, but when he greeted his new crew for the first time," remembered Gradnitzer, "his passion, his kindness, and a suggestion of his perseverance reverberated through everybody." (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 21) The episode was filmed in fourteen days during March 1993 and had a budget of $2 million. Carter later remembered the shoot as a fortnight of problem-solving, particularly "all the technical ones." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, pp. 28 & 18)
  • According to Chris Carter, the making of this pilot involved "some animosity and antagonism between the crew and some of the producers and the director." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 17) On the other hand, Carter appreciated the help he was given during this episode's production from "a very collaborative group," most notably Robert Mandel and Producer Daniel Sackheim. "The two of them were instrumental in giving the pilot the quality and standard for what has become the series," said Carter. (X-Files Confidential, p. 36)
  • Chris Carter's confidence in the show's success had meanwhile grown. Daniel Sackheim remembered about Carter, "He had a game plan going into the pilot [....] He said it to me when we were doing the pilot: 'The reason most series fail is that nobody has a long view of where the show is going to go,' and he felt that he did." (X-Files Confidential, p. 14)
  • Needing to film some hospital corridors for this episode, Chris Carter consulted Co-Executive Producer R.W. Goodwin, a long-time friend of Carter's. It was Goodwin who arranged for him to use some space in Vancouver's Riverview Hospital, which had been leased for the pilot of a television series called Birdland, an initial episode whose production Goodwin had recently participated in. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 21) Although he booked Crease Clinic for a year at the price of only one Canadian dollar, the production crew of this episode, after approaching Goodwin for use of the space, were permitted it for $500 a day. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 22)
  • The scene from this episode which was shot first is the one in Mulder and Scully initially meet. Aware the dailies (rough shots from that day's footage) would be minutely analyzed, Chris Carter felt that first meeting was "all-important to not just the show but to the future of the project. If everyone says it's not working, the next 14 or 15 days are going to be hell." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, pp. 17-18)
  • The reason why both the Pentagon warehouse and FBI boardroom were created at the Knowledge Network was in order to facilitate filming schedules. The boardroom scenes in which Scully meets with her FBI superiors were filmed during regular work hours, for which the production crew had to pay extra money. Louisa Gradnitzer offered, "Since we were filming during the regular work day, lights were positioned in and around active workers. One woman was quietly working in her cubicle with equipment clamped everywhere, reflecting light onto her computer screen. When asked if the lights were a problem, she enthusiastically told us that we were no bother." For the first of the boardroom scenes, special permission was needed to permit "smoking" in a public building, so that the Cigarette Smoking Man's introduction could be filmed. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 23) The same scene, in which the CSM watches the meeting while leaning against a file cabinet, was added to with a suggestion from CSM actor William B. Davis. "The leaning was my idea," he clarified. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 29)
  • As soon as they received the instruction to set up, the set decorating department hurried into the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's newsroom. The group proceeded to turn the room into the FBI bullpen, altering some signage, messing up some desks and disconnecting a few computers. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 23)
Mulder and Scully raining pilot

In a promotional image, Gillian Anderson stands with David Duchovny while rain soaks them.

  • On the night when the production crew shot the graveyard scene wherein Mulder and Scully realize Billy Miles is responsible for the abductions, rain towers were positioned on an upper road in Queen Elizabeth Park, together with two lighting cranes. With Vancouver's usual weather conditions thereby being simulated, numerous takes involving Gillian Anderson were filmed, which essentially introduced her to the city's native cold and wet climate. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 22) "We were up on the hill in the cemetery when it was pouring down with rain. And trying to get that dialogue, over and over again, with the rain just streaming into our faces, freezing cold," she shuddered. "I remember the impossibility of trying to spit those words out when I couldn't even feel my cheeks!" (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 29) Anderson's determination during the filming of this scene impressed David Duchovny. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 18)
  • The decision to film the semi-truck accident scene on the road leading to Queen Elizabeth Park was made on Day Two. Also planned on the second day was for the same scene to be shot that night. With last-minute approval from city officials, the production crew forged ahead with this plan, successfully capturing all the footage they needed. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 22)
  • At the request of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), the production crew made preparations for rain – considering the time of year and area of the world – when it came time to set up filming in the Seymour Demonstration Forest, which the GVRD governed. The team constructed platforms at the base of the gully and supplied wooden paths with grips for accessibility of the required equipment and performers. This preparation cost around $6000 for supplies and an additional $3000 to provide a plywood base for a crane, in which a bank of xenon lights was contained. On the night of filming in the forest, the rains descended. They were clearly detectable by the cameras and, within five minutes of call time, everyone was soaked. Even though the crew was somewhat prepared for the downpour, Daniel Sackheim was not yet accustomed to Vancouver weather. Having spent an hour on setting up, Sackheim approached Lisa Richardson and Louisa Gradnitzer, demanding weather cover. The crew's only option for such safe haven from the stormy conditions, at this point in the shooting schedule, was a fast food restaurant which was so distant it would have cost a day's filming. Sackheim persisted in continuing the shoot. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 24)
  • Visual effects were used for shots of the leaf and wind vortex. Explained Mat Beck, "I got a call from Dan Sackheim and he said, 'Uh, we're doing this pilot and we need a bunch of leaves to swirl around in a vortex.' The entire vortex was CG leaves but they were combined with real leaves that we had blowing on the forest floor." ("The Truth About Season 1", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) Chris Carter offered, "That was a very difficult scene to create–I think the invasion of Normandy was probably a little simpler. We needed to use real leaves whipping around in a whirlwind, and we needed to use digital leaves, and we needed a special lighting effect–a lighting rig that actually took something like eight hours to construct." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 29)
  • Since Cedar Lane Motel was positioned on the border between the cities of White Rock and Surrey, the filming unit had the option of using Surrey fire engines, which were green, or White Rock fire engines, which were red. The group chose the latter style to appear on camera but also had to have a green fire engine on standby, in case trouble arose. There was insufficient space to park the camera truck. Recollected Louisa Gradnitzer, "It was a big night for special effects coordinator David Gauthier, who arrived at Cedar Lane with a cube van filled with noisy wind and lightning machines." (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 25)
  • Theresa Nemman's nosebleed was a challenging effect to create. "No mean feat, as it were," noted Chris Carter. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 18) He admitted the effect was perhaps harder to create than a nosebleed might seem, clarifying, "This nosebleed actually had to happen on camera." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Pilot", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) Toby Lindala was called upon to suggest a convincing way of executing the effect. He initially experimented with an eventually unused technique, in a small basement shop he had at home. "I did some testing with gelatin capsules," he explained, "which I filled up with blood." Stuffed up a person's nose – in this case, Lindala's – the capsule was meant to melt at a particular temperature, letting the blood trickle out, hopefully at precisely the right time. "I had it inside of about a 15-second window, but it was too unpredictable." Ultimately, he opted for a physical makeup appliance. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 33) "We had to run a tube up through the girl's hair, down her forehead, along one side of her nostril, and shoot her in profile," Carter offered. "That tube was covered up by thick, flesh-colored makeup." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 18) On a separate occasion, Carter specified, "There was a giant cord covered with, I'm telling you, two inches of makeup over the tube that led to the appliance." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 33) This method was subsequently tested, in an attempt to ensure the effect would work, while Daniel Sackheim and Chris Carter stood and watched. ("Behind The Truth: Toby Lindala", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) Carter added, "In the test, the blood actually came out in her hair instead of in her nose 'cause it exploded in the tube. I thought we were goners." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Pilot", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) Carter concluded that "angles and lighting" were used in the efforts to make the shot seem believable. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 33) Lindala added, "Just before the camera's about to roll, Dan turns to me and said, 'Toby, it's not gonna come from up here [upper forehead] this time, is it?' I was like, 'Oh, I hope not!'" ("Behind The Truth: Toby Lindala", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features)
  • The filming of the FBI lobby located within B.C. Hydro Headquarters was during actual working hours. A crew and more than fifty extras took control of the lobby and two elevators. On the same day, three other units were parked close by. The fact one of the streets hadn't been signed for unit parking caused massive delays with maneuvering trucks in. Concluded Louisa Gradnitzer, "As usual, our Teamster captain, Ken Marsden, resolved the situation." (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 26)
Ethan Minette

Ethan Minette, as played by Tim Ransom.

  • The scene which shows Scully teaching a class at the FBI Academy was actually filmed before being omitted from the episode. Another shot-but-deleted scene was the one in which Scully meets up with Ethan Minette while he is busy at work. Likewise filmed but cut from the installment's conclusion was an extended version of the scene wherein Scully receives a call from Mulder while Minette snoozes beside her. Minette was portrayed by actor Tim Ransom in both these scenes (which are included on the The X-Files (season 1) DVD) and was depicted as an employee at a TV studio in the former one.
  • Post-production on this installment was completed in early May 1993. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 28) This was, according to Chris Carter, "just short of a year" after he had first pitched the series to Fox. ("The Truth About Season 1", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) It was also only days before Fox was scheduled to officially see the outing and decide whether the show had a place in its Fall lineup of programming. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 18) Carter continued to toil away on the outing. He finished with the episode at five in the morning, prior to an official Fox screening at eight in the morning of the same day. "That's how close we were to deadline," Carter noted. (X-Files Confidential, p. 36)

Continuity

  • Heitz Werber, the psychologist who conducts Billy Miles' hypnosis near the end of this episode, is the same doctor who supervised Mulder's own regression. He appears again in the fifth season episode "Patient X".
  • The scene near the end of this episode in which Scully receives a phone call from Mulder is copied at the end of "The Erlenmeyer Flask", as is the scene of the Cigarette Smoking Man depositing evidence in the Pentagon basement.
  • The first establishing shot of the FBI's headquarters (and the only shot of the building in this episode) was later reused in "Lazarus". Similarly, the same speech Scully gives at the FBI Academy in a deleted scene from this episode was later reused, virtually verbatim, in a scene from the second season episode "Sleepless".
  • Mulder and Scully mention the nine minutes they lose in this episode in "Tempus Fugit", another episode in which nine minutes are lost.
  • Mulder and Scully return to Bellefleur, Oregon in the Season 7 episode "Requiem", in which Theresa Nemman, Billy Miles and his detective father appear too.
  • Fox Mulder, Dana Scully and the Cigarette Smoking Man are the only characters to appear in both this episode and "The Truth", the final episode of the series.
  • This episode's original script describes the transition between the two scenes in the "teaser" as, "The clear white light begins to fade… the scene re-appearing like a developing Polaroid." In the series Millennium, later created by Chris Carter, the Acts in most episodes likewise begin with a clear white light that fades to reveal a still image of action that resumes after the light has faded. Polaroids are, additionally, integral to parts of that series' plot.

Cultural References

  • In one scene, Mulder knocks on Scully's door and jokingly claims to be Steven Spielberg when she answers. Spielberg is a celebrated movie producer and director. He is one of the most financially successful motion picture directors in history. Among Spielberg's most beloved films are Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extraterrestrial, both of which deal with extraterrestrials visiting Earth.

Goofs

  • Despite the year provided on-screen, several episodes, the end of Season 4, opening of Season 5, Season 9 and Season 10, as well as other evidence strongly suggests a 1993 date.
  • When Scully first walks into Mulder's office, she gazes at the walls. A close-up shows his "I Want to Believe" poster in full view. In the next shot, however, she is seen walking past the poster, which is now partially hidden by papers stacked in front of it.
  • In the slide projector scene, Mulder shows Scully the molecule found in the strange spots on Karen Swenson's back. Mulder and Scully seem bewildered to have never encountered the chemical before, but the fact they have never previously seen it doesn't mean the molecule is special or unique in any way. Since the molecular structure on the slide is that of a generic protein, it should actually be immediately familiar to anybody who has studied even basic biochemistry.
  • From 47 to 52 seconds in, a pair of what seem like red, glowing eyes can be seen in the woods, on the left of the screen.

Trivia

  • The Bellefleur setting of this installment is a reference to Chris Carter's hometown – Bellflower, California.
  • Scully's autopsy of the strange corpse found in Ray Soames' coffin begins at 10:56, a reference to Chris Carter's birthday – 10/13/56.
  • Near the end of the episode, Scully's clock changes from 11:21 to 11:22. Chris Carter's wife, Dori Pierson, was born on 11/21/48.

Reception

Scully Mulder Ray Soames Autopsy The X-Files Pilot

A promotional image showing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in the autopsy scene.

  • Even before this episode was produced, the executives at 20th Century Fox were thrilled by its plot. "As Chris [Carter] unfolded that pilot story, it was really suspenseful," reflected Robert Greenblatt. "It was a riveting pilot. We were all pretty excited about it." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1) Greenblatt was particularly impressed. "I was scared shitless," he chuckled, regarding his first reading of Carter's story outline. "I knew from that story that there was something really unique here." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 13)
  • Louisa Gradnitzer reminisced, "The script for The X-Files was refreshing and innovative." She characterized some of the footage captured in Seymour Demonstration Forest as "one of the most visually exciting scenes of the Pilot" which "established rain as a valuable commodity to the show." While outside the B.C. Hydro Headquarters location while work on this episode proceeded, she and Assistant Location Manager Rick Fearon related to one another their suspicions that the show would be successful. In Gradnitzer's words, the pair "acknowledged the intrigue of the show and our delight at working on a different and refreshing television concept." (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), pp. 21, 24 & 26)
  • The casting of Gillian Anderson tainted how some of the network executives viewed this outing. As footage from the episode's filming began to come back to Fox, there was, in the words of Peter Roth, "tremendous negativity toward Gillian" from some. Certain executives asked questions about whether the Scully character was being depicted as too cold or if she was sufficiently likable. After the episode wrapped production, qualms about Anderson persisted and Robert Mandel predicted the members of the shooting company would all see one another again when the show became a series, a remark few took very seriously owing to the survival rate of most pilots. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, pp. 16 & 18)
  • Despite Fox receiving this episode in Spring 1993, Rupert Murdoch and the network executives remained unsure as to how successful the episode would be. "They really did not know what they had," said Chris Carter. In fact, someone at Fox who viewed the installment's rough cut, when it came in, simply told Peter Roth, "Nice try." Meanwhile, as Robert Greenblatt's belief in the outing mounted, so did his doubt about whether the show would be accepted for a place in the network's Fall schedule. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 18)
  • Mark Snow enjoyed viewing this episode. "When I saw the pilot, it was really great but I don't think any of us thought it would turn into one of the greatest TV shows of all time," he reckoned. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 52,  p. 20)
  • Director David Nutter came to the opinion that The X-Files pilot had a lot of promise. "When I got the first script and started talking to people about it," he stated, "I realized that this was something very special and something that had a lot of quality." ("The Truth About Season 1", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features)
  • This episode was exhibited for Fox one day in May 1993. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 18) The audience included Rupert Murdoch, the company's owner. Robert Greenblatt became concerned while the installment was being screened for the organization. "There was some nervous laughter in the room," he recalled, "and I thought, 'Oh, we're dead.'" Greenblatt was extremely pleased with the response, though. "It screened gangbusters," he exclaimed. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 18) Chris Carter explained, "After the screening, there was spontaneous applause from the audience [....] It was an overwhelmingly positive response to the show." (X-Files Confidential, p. 36) When Greenblatt asked the executives what they thought, hands shot up in the air. People eagerly spoke over each other so their opinion of the show would be heard, behavior unusual in such sessions. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, pp. 18-19) "It was one of the most well-received screenings we've ever had," Greenblatt pointed out. "Then we did some test market focus groups here in Los Angeles, which were equally positive." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 18) Carter concluded, "It was the kind of response that you only dream about." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 35-36) Afterwards, top officials within Fox – Rupert Murdoch and chairman Lucie Salhany among them – called Peter Roth to congratulate him on the program. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 19)
  • One element of the pilot, when it was first screened, which was generally thought to be successful was David Duchovny's portrayal of Mulder. (X-Files Confidential, p. 19) When Jon Nesvig, the head of Fox's sales department, raised the subject of the episode's politics after the installment was first screened, his comments resulted in what Sandy Grushow once termed "some sparks flying in the room." No one even questioned the premise of government cover-ups when the show was tested with focus groups. On the contrary, the conclusion that every single person in that test marketing believed the government was conspiring to cover things up amazed Chris Carter. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 27) Additionally, Robert Granblatt was relieved to discover the test screenings showed people were "so eager" to suspend their sense of disbelief. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 18)
  • Chris Carter was personally proud of the episode, regarding it as "exactly what I wanted it to be." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 22) He elaborated, "I think the pilot worked great, and I'm helped to that opinion by the response I've gotten to it [....] I think it succeeds on many levels." (X-Files Confidential, p. 35) One scene he regarded as effective is the one in which Scully visits Mulder in her nightgown, anxious about two mosquito bites on her back. He believed the scene was a key moment to "really establish what I was trying to establish" regarding a certain platonic connection he felt should be between the two characters, particularly appreciating Mulder's cool response to Scully's panicked arrival in only her robe. Carter enthused, "I love that scene." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, pp. 101 & 17) He was ultimately highly pleased with how Duchovny and Anderson played their parts in this episode in general. "They gave it humor, they gave it seriousness," he remarked, "they gave it many of the things that I had hoped that they would give it." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 28) Another scene Carter held in high regard was the one wherein Theresa Nemman has a nosebleed. Not only was he amazed that the effect worked. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 18; The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 33) Carter was also highly pleased with the scene itself, saying, "[It] ends up being a very believable and effective and scary moment in the pilot. I think it's pretty cool movie-making." Furthermore, Carter approved of how this episode was influenced by Director of Photography Thomas Del Ruth, observing, "He established a nice look." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Pilot", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) In another interview, Carter reflected that Ruth "had done such a wonderful job." ("Deep Throat" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • Director Rob Bowman was attracted to the prospect of working on The X-Files by one particular shot from this episode. "It was the image that was in the trailers from the show which caught my eye, which was a shot of a boy in the woods with leaves circling around him," explained Bowman. "I saw that commercial and said, 'That's what I want to work on.'" (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 44)
  • R.W. Goodwin first viewed this pilot between the time he received a call (in May 1993) asking him to begin work on The X-Files television series and when he actually did so. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 32) Despite not knowing much about The X-Files prior to viewing this installment, the episode was insightful and attractive to him. "I obtained the pilot and saw that it was exactly the kind of stuff I really like to do," he said. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 21)
  • One of the viewers of this installment was actor Rob LaBelle, who arrived in Vancouver – in preparation for portraying Brad Wilczek in "Ghost in the Machine" – on the same night as this episode aired. "I started watching it and thought, 'Wow, this show is pretty good,'" LaBelle reminisced. (TV Zone Yearbook 1996, Special #23, p. 14)
  • As well as the Cigarette Smoking Man (CSM), this episode contains two other elements which early internet-surfing X-Philes referred to by the collective name YAXA (Yet Another X-Files Acronym). These were the CITDBTB (Conversation In The Dark By The Bed) and the IMBS (Infamous Mosquito Bite Scene). (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 1,  p. 31)
  • Writing duo Glen Morgan and James Wong were loaned a video tape of the pilot episode from Peter Roth, who had brought their names to Chris Carter's attention and asked the pair to join the then-forming writing staff of The X-Files. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 30) "I had The X-Files script, and I never read it," conceded Morgan. "I remember cleaning up my office thinking, 'Well I don't need this,' and I threw it out." Roth insisted that the pair watch The X-Files pilot, so the two finally complied, watching the episode in their agents' office. Morgan later admitted that, even though they viewed the episode, they simultaneously wanted "to hate it." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 32) The reaction he and Wong had to the installment, though, convinced them to join the burgeoning writing staff. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 30) Explained Morgan, "We sat down and watched the pilot for The X-Files and said, 'Wow.'" Wong added, "When we watched the pilot we said, 'You know, there are so many ideas that come to mind when you think about The X-Files versus anything else out there.' That's what appealed to us." (X-Files Confidential, p. 26) A line of dialog which the pair of writers found "interesting" was Scully mentioning her parents hadn't wanted her to become an FBI agent. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 43) Morgan was impressed, too, by perceiving a merging of the films Silence of the Lambs and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. "[Chris Carter] had taken from all these movies that I really liked," observed Morgan. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 32) He appreciated the unresolved ending and thought the episode was unusually scary for a television program at that time. (X-Files Confidential, p. 36) "Anyone who saw and liked that pilot understood what the show could be and what the show was going after," Morgan reckoned. "So we said, 'Let's do The X-Files.'" (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 32)
  • Writer Howard Gordon was similarly impressed when he first saw this installment. He believed it was "terrific" and one of the best pilot episodes he had watched "in years." ("The Truth About Season 1", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) In fact, he and writing partner Alex Gansa were both thoroughly entertained by the episode. "We saw the pilot and flipped," reported Gordon. "We thought it was one of the best things we'd seen in a long time." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 33) Although Gordon and Gansa had watched multiple pilot episodes in the same year they first viewed this one, it was only the pilot of The X-Files which really captured their imagination. "Everything about it was smart and intriguing and fun and scary," Gordon pointed out. "We were hooked." He believed the episode demonstrated "tremendous chemistry" between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, as well. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28/27, No. 6/1, p. 31) "The pilot set the tone of the show really successfully," he commented. "It established Mulder and Scully's characters, as well as the aspect of Mulder's sister supposedly being abducted. There was also a good solid murder investigation [....] Although I think the series has improved on it, the pilot was a tremendous synthesis of all the parts." With the pilot having attracted him to the imminent series, Gordon went on to write several other episodes of The X-Files with Gansa. (X-Files Confidential, p. 36)
  • Mat Beck's work on this episode was deemed so successful he was assigned to The X-Files television series. "After the pilot," recalled Beck, "I got a message from Chris Carter saying he was delighted with how it went, and he wanted to work with me again. And the rest is… whatever the rest is!" (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 29, p. 24)
  • Cinefantastique (Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 18) scores this episode 3 and a half out of 4 stars. The same magazine comments, "The dark, stylish visuals reflect the show's understated tone, where one senses tremendous emotions lying below the flat, calm surface. The chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson is intriguing, despite performances a bit on the tentative side, although that quality plays well into how Mulder and Scully would behave during their first days together on the job."
  • In the unauthorized reference book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium and The Lone Gunmen, writer Robert Shearman rated this episode 3 out of 5 stars. Additionally, he critiqued, "On its own terms, as a TV pilot, this isn't half bad. The direction is terrific, already reaching for that feel of a feature movie truncated into forty-five minutes [....] There's a pace and an energy to the whole thing which rattles through its rather complicated plot with so much abandon, you find yourself working hard to keep up – but you do so quite willingly, because the enthusiasm shown is quite infectious. For all its darker themes of abuse and dread, and its ghoulish set pieces of coffins being knocked open, there's an eager puppy dog feel to this: it's just revelling in the joy that such an unlikely TV pilot is being made [....] The story itself doesn't really work [....] But even if the plot is a bit rusty, its component parts are fresh and exciting. And what you're left with is the promise of a series brave enough to conclude its stories messily, in which the bad guys go unpunished and the good guys go unrewarded." Shearman also considered this pilot episode weaker than the series' next outing, "Deep Throat", and Millennium's pilot episode.
  • Author Les Martin published a novelization of this episode with the title "X Marks the Spot", possibly referring to or influenced by the X spray-painted on an Oregon road by Mulder in the story.

Cast and Characters

  • The casting of this episode stirred up much activity. "I [...] heard a lot of buzz here in Hollywood when they were casting for the pilot," reported actress Claire Stansfield. (TV Zone Special #21, p. 24)
  • For Scully actress Gillian Anderson, reading the script, while living in Los Angeles with her then-boyfriend and a dog, turned out to be a memorable experience. "I remember the pajamas I wore and the color of the walls of the bedroom I was in when I read the pilot for the first time," she related, years later. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 28) Anderson further commented about the teleplay, "I was enthralled by it. It was very different from anything I'd ever read, and […] I had a very distinct feeling that the show would be a part of my life when I read it." Chris Carter jeopardized the chance to produce this episode just so he could cast Anderson, as executives at Fox didn't at first think she was the right type of actress to play Scully. (X-Files Confidential, p. 20) By the time Anderson's casting was permitted by the network, the start of shooting was only days away. Two days after she was informed – on a Thursday – that she had been cast as Scully, Anderson boarded a plane on her way to the filming. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 16) Portraying Scully herein was somewhat of a challenge for Anderson. "I was still trying to formulate who she was for myself in the pilot episode," the actress conceded. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 29, p. 24)
  • Though actor William B. Davis hadn't smoked for twenty years before appearing in this episode, he accepted the task of doing so in order to portray the Cigarette Smoking Man herein. "And actually, when I went on the set, they offered me real cigarettes or these herbal cigarettes and I said, 'I'm an actor! Give me the real cigarettes. I can do that.' So, you know, I did the first episode and I smoked these real cigarettes and everything went fine." ("The Truth About Season Two", The X-Files (season 2) DVD special features)
  • Evidently, David Duchovny's father made an appearance in the scene where Mulder and Scully arrive in Oregon airspace aboard a plane; while the cameras were filming, he was sitting behind Gillian Anderson.
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