|The Post-Modern Prometheus||Credits||Gallery||Transcript|
"The Post-Modern Prometheus" is the fifth episode of the fifth season of The X-Files. Premiering on the Fox network on November 30, 1997, the episode was written and directed by series' creator Chris Carter.
Mulder and Scully's investigation when a letter from a single mother leads them to a small mid-Western town where a modern-day Frankenstein lurks, Jerry Springer is an obsession, and Cher plays a significant part.
In a rural Indiana neighborhood, Shaineh Berkowitz watches a daytime talk show on television. So entranced is she by the interview, that she fails to notice someone covering the home with termite tenting. A dark figure enters the kitchen and drops a white cake into a skillet, triggering a chemical reaction that produces a gaseous white cloud. Sensing a presence in the house, Shaineh investigates. Suddenly, a horribly disfigured, Frankenstein-like face emerges from the misty darkness. Shaineh gasps in horror.
Later, as the agents drive through the Indiana farmland, Scully reads aloud a letter addressed to Mulder. In it, Shaineh describes how 18 years earlier a presence entered her smoke-filled bedroom as, strangely, the voice of singer Cher filled the air. Three days later she woke up pregnant with her son, Izzy Berkowitz. A few days ago, it happened again and Shaineh is once again pregnant. Shaineh explains that she saw a woman on The Jerry Springer Show who contacted Mulder about her werewolf child and hopes he will investigate her case. The agents do, indeed, drive to Shaineh's home. There they discover a comic book bearing the exact likeness of the creature Shaineh claims attacked her.
Shaineh explains the monster is called The Great Mutato, a creation of Izzy's fertile imagination. Izzy claims he, and many others in the community, have seen the creature--who apparently has a penchant for peanut butter sandwiches. Izzy and his friends lead the detectives to a wooded area, and using sandwiches for bait, lure the creature from its hiding place. The group gives chase, but the creature disappears into the darkness. Mulder then encounters an Old Man, who claims the real monster is his own son, renowned scientist Dr. Francis Pollidori.
The agents visit Pollidori, who describes his experiments in genetic manipulation. He displays a photo of a fruit fly head... with legs growing out of its mouth. Later, Pollidori bids goodbye to his wife, Elizabeth, as he embarks on a trip out of town. Moments later, termite tenting falls past Elizabeth's window. When the agents stop by a country diner in downtown Bloomington, they are feted with heaping plates of food. It turns out that the entire town believes Jerry Springer will do a story on the creature... the result of a newspaper article in which Mulder is quoted as verifying the monster's existence. The agents realize Izzy secretly tape recorded their conversations.
As the agents drive along a country road, Mulder spots Pollidori's tented house. The pair race inside, where they discover Elizabeth's unconscious body. Shortly thereafter, the agents also lose consciousness. The Old Man, Professor Pollidori's father, steps from the smoke, a gas mask covering his face. When the agents regain consciousness, Elizabeth describes her attacker as a hideously deformed man with two mouths.
The Old Man brings the Creature a peanut butter sandwich in the cellar as it watches the movie "Mask," starring Cher, on television. Upstairs, Pollidori confronts his father and strangles him in a rage.
A mob of townspeople forms around the local post office as a mail clerk proclaims he's found the monster. He pulls out someone wearing a rubber Mutato mask and yanks off the mask, exposing Izzy. The postal worker then displays a box he intercepted, which is filled with identical masks.
Records indicate that the residue from the white cakes is a substance used to anesthetize herds of animals. Its use is monitored by the FDA, leading the agents back to the Old Man's farm. When the agents arrive at the scene, a diligent newspaper girl, who had been recording notes about the case, describes how she witnessed the creature burying the Old Man. Shortly thereafter, an angry mob makes its way towards the farm. The agents realize Pollidori killed his father. They befriend the frightened Mutato and attempt to escape, but they are spotted by the mob and retreat into a cellar. Pollidori and the townspeople burst into the cellar. There, Pollidori claims the Creature was brought to life by his father.
The Creature claims he never harmed another soul. He explains how, 25 years earlier, the Old Man realized his son was conducting secret experiments--of which he (Mutato) was an unfortunate product. The Old Man grew to love the Creature, and then set out to create it a mate. As the Creature continues his tale, the agents, putting together two and two, look around the cellar at the townspeople... one of whom resembles a horse, another a Billy goat and so on. Pollidori yells out, "You were a mistake!" The mob concludes Mutato is not a monster after all.
A police cruiser transports Pollidori from the scene. The agents take the Creature into custody. But instead of transporting him to jail, they head for a Memphis nightclub where Cher sings to Mutato, her biggest fan. Shaineh and Elizabeth appear on the Jerry Springer Show to talk about their mutated offspring. When questioned about whether it is difficult to love the children, Shaineh says, "What's not to love?" Back in the nightclub, Cher takes the Mutato's hand and takes him to floor, and Mulder takes Scully's hand and they dance.
- The original idea for this episode came from science adviser Anne Simon. The sudden idea behind the episode came when Simon invited Chris Carter on a visit to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. A friend of Simon showed Carter some experiments on flies; he was able to manipulate the genes to create a manufactured leg. He created "little monsters." Carter thought this idea was interesting and finally came up with the idea of a Frankenstein story, which Carter had wished for a long time to work with, on The X-Files.
- This episode's title is an in-joke relating to Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein; that story is subtitled The Modern Prometheus, a reference to the Greek mythical figure Prometheus. Prometheus was a Titan who made men out of clay, and is probably best remembered as being the one who stole fire from Olympus and taught mortal men how to use it - an act that got him punished by Zeus. His punishment was to be chained to a rock and to have an eagle eat his liver every day.
- The Cher songs that are featured in this episode are "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine", "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" and "Walking in Memphis".
- The Great Mutato was portrayed by actor Chris Owens, who had previously appeared in The X-Files as a young Cigarette Smoking Man in the Season 4 episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man". Owens would later portray recurring character in the series.
- The episode was nominated for seven Emmy awards by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences: It won the award for Outstanding Art Direction. 'The Post-Modern Prometheus' was nominated for seven Emmy awards in 1998; Outstanding Writing, Directing, Art Direction, Cinematography, Single-Picture Editing, Makeup and Music Composition. Graeme Murray, Greg Lowren and Shirley Inget walked away with the award for Outstanding Art Direction.
- Chris Carter asked the hairstylist Anji Bemben to make certain people look like certain animals. The newspaper reporter had to look like a chicken, another one had to look like a goat, and yet another one like a pig.
The University of Ingolstadt, where Dr Pollidori is to deliver his lecture, was disbanded in 1800. The university is frequently mentioned in The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.
Mulder and Scully were originally supposed to kiss as they dance at the end of this episode. However, Chris Carter thought it was too much, so he cut it.
Doctor Pollidori shows Mulder and Scully the image of a fruit fly with legs growing out of its mouth, claiming that he created the mutant by genetic manipulation. In actual fact, it is a random mutation that does occur in nature without human intervention. Another type, Antennapedia, has legs growing where antenna should be. There are many similar variations.
Jerry Springer makes a cameo playing himself.
The role of Cher was written for Cher herself, a major X-Files fan. She declined at the time as she thought that her appearance would be a bit tacky. She regretted this decision after viewing the episode when it aired.
An ad lib by David Duchovny was cut from the final version. After the waitress at J.J.'s County Dinner dumps coffee in his lap, he complains: "Why'd you go and do that for? Now my crotch is going to be up all night!".
The role of Shaineh Berkowitz was originally written for, and offered to, comedienne and actress Roseanne but she turned down the offer.
This episode was filmed between the 'Emily' 2 parter because David Duchovny was scheduled to be away from Vancouver while promoting his movie Playing God.
Shaineh Berkowitz was probably named after the serial killer David Berkowitz. David Richard Berkowitz (born June 1, 1953), also known as Son of Sam and the .44 Caliber Killer, is an American serial killer and arsonist whose crimes terrorized New York City from July 1976 until his arrest in August 1977. Shortly after his arrest in August 1977, Berkowitz confessed to killing six people and wounding seven others in the course of eight shootings in New York between 1976 and 1977; he has been imprisoned for these crimes since 1977. Berkowitz subsequently claimed that he was commanded to kill by a demon who possessed his neighbor's dog.
"It's Alive" This is a reference to a popular 1974 horror film of the same title, which became a popular catchphrase during the 1970s. Given the Frankenstein allusions throughout, it's also an obvious reference to the famous 1931 film directed by James Whale, in which Dr Frankenstein, on seeing his creation come to life, exclaims 'It's Alive!' eight times in a row.
Mutato watches the 1985 movie Mask starring Cher. It is also another reference to Frankenstein, where the monster studied and related to John Milton's Paradise Lost, Mutato here can relate to the boy in the movie.
Frankenstein Dr. Pollidori had to leave so he could deliver an address at the University of Ingolstadt. The Ingolstadt University is the institution where medical student Victor Frankenstein first had the idea of 'creating' a human.
Elizabeth Pollidori Dr. Pollidori's wife, Elizabeth, was probably so-named because the infamous Dr. Frankenstein's wife was also named Elizabeth.
Dr. Pollidori was named for physician Dr. John Pollidori, who was the personal physician of Lord Byron. Lord Byron is the man who suggested the ghost story competition that inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein.
When Scully picks up the paper that reads "FBI Hunts Hometown Monster", outside JJ's Country Diner. If you pause and look closely at the small print of the article, it repeats itself 3 times, making the 3 columns of the article.
The article next to the headline FBI HUNTS HOMETOWN MONSTER is complete gibberish.
Cast and Characters
- Chris Owens (The Great Mutato) previously played Young Cigarette Smoking Man in The X-Files episodes "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" and "Demons" and Deputy Bill Sherman in the Millennium episode "Monster".
- John O'Hurley as Dr. Francis Pollidori
- Pattie Tierce as Shaineh Berkowitz
- Stewart Gale as Izzy Berkowitz
- Chris Giacoletti as Booger
- Chris Owens as The Great Mutato
- Dana Grahame as Reporter
- Jean-Yves Hammel as Izzy's Friend
- Tracey Bell as Cher
- Lloyd Berry as Old Man Pollidori
- Miriam Smith as Elizabeth Pollidori
- Xantha Radley as Waitress
- C. Ernst Harth as Huge Man
- Jerry Springer as Himself