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Production

  • The genesis of this episode was when writer Glen Morgan, Christmas shopping at a mall in Los Angeles, saw men working on an escalator that was open and exposed. The sight inspired him to consider the scare factor of an urban myth involving an initially unspecified monster living underneath an escalator. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 148) Executive Producer Chris Carter recollected, "As the season was coming to an end, winding down to an end, we thought, 'How would we like to scare people again in the same way?'" The writers decided the best option would be to make this installment a sequel to "Squeeze", by again focusing on the character of Eugene Victor Tooms. ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) However, Morgan and writing partner James Wong had never before done a follow-up to a show they had written. (X-Files Confidential, p. 73)
  • This episode was additionally influenced by the fact it was written around the time when murder victim Polly Klaas was kidnapped by Richard Allen Davis, who had been released from prison prior to killing her. "We thought, 'Tooms–what a perfect person to release,' so all that played into that show," recalled James Wong. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 57)
  • Left to assume many people hadn't seen "Squeeze", Glen Morgan and James Wong were inclined to incorporate a quick recap of the earlier episode in this one. "That's why act one is at Tooms's trial," Morgan commented. "You could recap what the rules were with this monster." (X-Files Confidential, p. 73)
  • The FBI-centered conspiracy facets of this installment were incorporated due to advice from Fox. In essence, the studio executives there suspected it was the right time in the first season to return to the conspiracy storyline. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 57) Chris Carter noted, "It was an opportunity to introduce the character of Walter Skinner." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Tooms", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features)
  • The development of this episode was impacted on by the fact "Darkness Falls" was shot immediately before it and had challenged the shooting company with the filming of many outdoors scenes, in poor weather conditions. At one point, R.W. Goodwin consequently made a request for the writing of this episode. Related Glen Morgan, "Bob Goodwin called me up and said, 'You know those keys on your typewriter that spell EXT for exterior? They're now broken.' So 'Tooms' had a lot of interiors." (X-Files Confidential, p. 72)
  • This episode's script went through six drafts, all of which were submitted in March 1994. One draft was submitted on both 1st and 3rd of that month, before two drafts were submitted on 8th, then a single draft on both 9th and 11th.
  • The setting of the mall located at 66 Exeter Street in Baltimore (including the mall's interior) was actually City Square Mall, at 555 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver. The plaza which appears in the episode's final scene was filmed on steps north of City Square. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 48)
  • The aspect of this episode David Nutter found most challenging was how to bring back such a highly regarded character as Eugene Victor Tooms. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 50) Nutter explained, "The main thing for me on that show was, knowing how popular this character was, I felt it was important to give him his just deserts on the second show [....] I wanted to punch that up as much as possible." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 73 & 74)
  • A contortionist named Pepper, from Seattle, was hired for scenes exhibiting Tooms' physical stretching abilities, having previously done the same kind of work for "Squeeze". (X-Files Confidential, p. 73)
  • There was a palpable sense of exhaustion on the set of this episode. "It was at the end of the season, and everybody was just really fried," said Doug Hutchison, adding that increasing attention from the media and the fans, the demanding work schedules, and harsh winter weather had weighed heavily on the shooting company. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 54)
  • Remembering the making of this installment, R.W. Goodwin remarked, with a laugh, "Nothing brilliant to say about the episode." Goodwin's children and their friends made repeated visits to the set during the shoot, as they were big fans of the Eugene Tooms character. (X-Files Confidential, p. 73)
  • Doug Hutchison protested when he was informed he would be clothed in his final scene herein, believing nakedness at this point made much more sense for the character he was portraying. He even refused to wear a G-string. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 54) Therefore, at his own suggestion, Hutchison played the scene while nude. He later recalled in regards to filming the scene, "They covered me with Karo syrup and food coloring, and it was cold! I kept sticking to the walls." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 149) Hutchison was meanwhile ill with a cold and the green mixture slathered over his body was not only so sticky he couldn't wear a robe, during the breaks in the filming, but had also come straight from the refrigerator. "I was sick as a dog and naked as a jaybird and had this icy cold slime all over me. I was literally sticking all over everything and everything was sticking to me. I had lint in the most preposterous places on my body. It was really kind of gross," Hutchison laughed. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 54)
  • Chris Carter was visiting the set during the filming of the escalator scene. "So, I walk onto the stage and here is this stark naked man, covered in this gooey, yellow substance," he remarked, "and it was shocking, you know, because here is this man walking around naked [...] But I think the thing that I felt worst about was that David Duchovny was gonna actually have to get into this elevator shaft with this naked, greasy, grimy, sweaty man and to have to [...] pretend to be afraid of him, which was probably the easy part." ("The Truth About Season One", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features) Carter also remembered, "It caused a little bit of discomfort, which was good. I think it actually added to the scene. I think David was very nervous about being in a little tiny confined space with a naked man, to be honest. And I think it made the scare, the creep, all that more real, certainly for David." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Tooms", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features)
  • Interior filming in City Square Mall was only permitted after 6 p.m. Location Manager Louisa Gradnitzer noted, "Tooms' demise in the escalator was a major concern as location production assistants, special effects, and our on-site liaison worked frantically to remove the 'blood' from the surface of the escalator. Seepage into the elevator's motors might have caused extensive and expensive damage." (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 48)

Continuity

  • This episode marks the only appearance of Assistant Director Walter Skinner in Season 1 of The X-Files. However, from the second season onwards, he became a recurring character on the series, additionally appearing in The Lone Gunmen episode "The Lying Game".

Cultural References

  • During the scene in which Tooms sneaks into Mulder's apartment and fakes an assault from the FBI agent, the original version of The Fly can be seen on Mulder's television as he sleeps.

Reception

  • Glen Morgan changed his opinion of this episode. He reflected, "When we were doing 'Tooms', I was disappointed, and then we were mixing in the sound and I thought 'Man, I love this.' Doug Hutchison really stole the show." (X-Files Confidential, p. 73)
  • David Nutter ultimately considered himself "lucky" he was available to direct this installment. "I think it's a real classic horror story [....] I'm really happy with the finale of that show," he enthused. (X-Files Confidential, p. 73) Nutter was also very pleased with Doug Hutchison's performance herein. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 50) He credited the script as well as the lead actors with making successful the scene involving Mulder and Scully sitting stake-out in a car, commenting, "That scene was really the writing [....] Basically it was a situation where the writing came off the actors' tongues and David [Duchovny] and Gillian [Anderson] did it very, very naturally." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 57)
  • Chris Carter was likewise proud of this outing. "This was sort of the command performance of Tooms [....] In a way, it was almost a vindication episode. I think it turned out very well." (X-Files Confidential, p. 73) Carter also believed David Duchovny's fear of an unclothed Doug Hutchison made the scene scary for the audience too. ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Tooms", The X-Files (season 1) DVD special features)
  • This episode achieved a Nielsen household rating of 8.6, with an audience share of 15. This means that roughly 8.6 percent of all television-equipped households, and 15 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode. It was viewed by 8.1 million households. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 248)
  • This episode was rebroadcast, along with "Squeeze", on 4th November 1995, when the cancellation of a highly publicized boxing match involving heavy-weight boxing champion Mike Tyson – a match called off because Tyson broke his thumb – left a two-hour hole in the schedule. The resultant "Tooms Night" surprised and delighted the viewing audience, including Doug Hutchison. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 11,  p. 28)
  • Cinefantastique (Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 57) scores this episode 3 and a half out of 4 stars. The magazine remarks, "This episode is a lot of scary fun. Doug Hutchison as Tooms is as dispassionately evil as ever, and scripters Morgan and Wong borrow a page from Dirty Harry by having Tooms frame Mulder for assault, but with a wonderful twist–this time the victim doesn't have to pay for a beating because he can beat himself up [....] And the hour doesn't go by without any number of humorous lines. One of the pleasures of this episode is Mitch Pileggi's Skinner. Unsympathetic, by-the-book, Skinner nevertheless commands the screen, and Pileggi's chemistry with Duchovny and Anderson is apparent from the start." In addition, Cinefantastique terms the scene depicting Mulder and Scully sitting in a parked car on stake-out as "one of the best scenes all year," and proceeds by stating, "Funny, yet full of tension, that one small scene took their partnership yet another step further, revealing something both about Mulder and Scully."
  • In his reference book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium and The Lone Gunmen, writer Robert Shearman rates this episode 4 and a half out of 5 stars. He critiques, "The plot goes a bit awry, but the moments are excellent. Because it's an episode with a lot of continuity baggage [....] it's hard to spot that maybe its true legacy is that here is the first time that The X-Files tries its hand at comedy. It's a jet black comedy, to be sure, but no less funny for all that [....] Morgan and Wong are savvy enough to realise we've already seen Tooms kill people in grisly ways in 'Squeeze' – and so all that's left in the sequel is to see him being foiled instead [....] But what's brilliant about the comedy is how unsettling it still is: even more than in 'Squeeze', watching Tooms contort through bars makes the brain struggle to match what's being presented so plausibly with what we know is impossible [....] This story doesn't offer the same shocks as 'Squeeze', but it does provide instead greater and subtler surprises. Less obviously a horror story than its predecessor, it feels somehow more sophisticated, an examination of what the series' clichés are, and where the series will go from here. And it's brimming with confidence. The story itself may not be up to much – it's more a series of set pieces, and very little investigation – but for its breezy macabre wit alone, this is that rare thing: a sequel which is better than the original." Shearman cites Mulder and Scully's stake-out as possibly the best of all the scenes, enthusing, "It's funny, it's touching, it's true – and it's the best we've yet seen Duchovny and Anderson perform together."
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