|War of the Coprophages||Credits||Gallery||Transcript|
"War of the Coprophages" is the twelfth episode of the third season of The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on January 5, 1996. Written by Darin Morgan and directed by Kim Manners, the episode is a "Monster-of-the-week" story, independent of the series' mythology arc.
Mulder gets caught up investigating what could be alien-mechanical cockroaches with metal bodies.
An exterminator in a basement lectures about the cockroach. He tells the home owner, an alternative fuel researcher named Dr. Eckerle, that he has a new method of extermination, a fungus that not only kills the infected roach, but is passed on to other roaches it comes into contact with. After the home owner leaves exterminator to finish the job, a particularly "arrogant bug" resists the fungus, so the exterminator flicks it to the floor and stamps on it. Immediately he feels something happening to his body, and he stumbles to the wall where more cockroaches appear covering his body as he falls to the ground. The home owner returns to find the exterminator on the floor covered in roaches.
Meanwhile Agent Mulder is in his car looking out for reported lights in the sky. He has a phone conversation with Scully with regard to his whereabouts when he is interrupted by a local sheriff. That too is cut short when the sheriff is called to the roach incident, the third such incident in a week.
He calls Scully to report on the three mysterious deaths, but she gives him a standard scientific explanation that many people are allergic to roaches and could've just died from anaphylactic shock.
There is another attack, this time on a young man, who was taking some 'home-brewed' drugs with friends; the insects crawl into his arms and he dies from mostly self-inflicted wounds attempting to get at the burrowing bugs. Again Mulder calls Scully from the scene, this time she puts it down to a drug-induced vision, but Mulder discovers a roach carcass that he thinks is actually made of a metallic substance.
After more roaches attack the medical examiner, the sheriff tells Mulder of a secret government experiment taking place locally. Again Mulder calls Scully, and this time she puts the death down to an aneurysm due to straining too hard while on the toilet. The doctor's blood shot eyes and dilated pupils confirm her suspicions. Mulder visits the government site, a two story house with "moving walls" due to the number of roaches crawling about. A government agent, Dr. Bambi Berenbaum of the US agricultural research service says they are studying cockroaches to find better ways to eradicate them.
Dr. Berenbaum tells Mulder she thinks that UFOs are actually insect swarms. He takes a call from Scully but hangs up after saying only, "Not now." There is obviously an instant sexual chemistry between Mulder and Dr. Berenbaum. Mulder phones Scully later that night from his hotel room and confesses he hates insects. Meanwhile Scully can't help ribbing Mulder over the Doc's first name (i.e. Bambi!!) Just then, he hears a scream and goes to a room down the hall to find a hotel guest dead and again covered in roaches. The death is put down to a heart attack, he gets the medical reports back and all of the attacks are put down to the method of death Scully had previously proposed to him, but on closer inspection the roach exoskeleton was indeed made of metal.
Dr. Berenbaum tells Mulder about a robotics expert who may know something about the roaches. Mulder visits Dr. Alexander Ivanov, a wheelchair-bound robotics specialist, who explains about his experiments based on insects. Mulder asks Dr. Ivanov if aliens might use robotic bugs to search Earth, he says it's possible, but when he shows the doctor the metallic roach legs he can't believe it, stating they're advanced way beyond his understanding, much to his dismay.
Scully arrives but the town is in mass panic; everyone is trying to leave as quickly as possible and fighting over quickly dwindling supplies at the supermarket. Scully calls Mulder with a new theory: that the roaches have been imported with manure used in methane experiments. When Mulder visits the methane plant, the now bug-crazed researcher shoots at Mulder believing he too might very well be a cockroach himself. Scully arrives at the plant (and is less than impressed with Dr. Bambi, who is waiting for Mulder outside), and begins searching for her partner. However, when she calls Mulder and his phone sounds like a roach, Dr. Eckerle shoots at Mulder again, quickly igniting one of the methane pipes, and, as the two agents flee, the building explodes. The two agents are unharmed, but humorously covered in manure.
The roach incidents stop, although the sheriff lists the other incidents (fires, car accidents, and so on) that came as a result of the town's panic. Meanwhile, when Dr.Ivanov comes by in the hopes of re-examining the robotic-roach specimens, he's disappointed they've disintegrated; but more than pleased to catch Dr.Berenbaum's immediate interest instead. As Mulder looks on pie-eyed at Dr.Bambi's exit, Scully quips on how "smart is obviously sexy", and jokes on the possibility of the two doctor's future offspring could have the solution to the robotic-roaches next earthly reconnaissance. Mulder responds with his own quip, that he never thought he'd ever be telling Scully that "she stinks".
Later, home alone, Mulder's report focuses on man's development; and how humanity might react if insect-like robots visited earth; or how the next advancement may be a species that does not have the emotion that holds back man and is simply reactive to the environment, like insects.
- The word "coprophages" actually means "dung eaters"; thus, this phrase could be used as a loose descriptor of cockroaches, the prime focus of the episode.
- Kim Manners was having trouble directing this episode because of cockroaches being cockroaches and scurrying around everywhere.
- When shooting the toilet scenes, Kim got infuriated, and jokingly stuck his head into the bucket the cockroaches were being kept in and told them what he wanted them to do. When he went to shoot the scene again, the cockroaches did exactly as he said.
- During Mulder's first meeting with Dr. Ivanov, a cockroach crawls over the screen, making it appear that the viewer's TV has become infested. The roach is still visible in the next cut shot; it was clearly added deliberately during post-production.
- Bobbie Phillips, playing Dr. Bambi, starred alongside David Duchovny in the Showtime anthology series Red Shoe Diaries.
- Tyler Labine and Nicole Parker, credited as the "Stoner" and the "Chick" respectively, return later in the same season in Quagmire.
- Scully is reading Breakfast at Tiffany's, a reference to David Duchovny's appearance on Celebrity Jeopardy. The Final Jeopardy question referred to this Truman Capote novel. Unfortunately, David guessed wrong and lost the game.
- Scully still has Queequeg, the Pomeranian from Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose.
- Scully's observation of "smart is sexy" in this episode has become an iconic term used to describe Mulder and Scully.
- Along with the roach running across the screen, there is a beetle chirp at the very end of the episode, just before the credits roll. And before that, Mulder deals with a software "bug" while writing his report.
- Scully used "Die Flea, Die!" to bathe her dog, Queequeg.
- Dr. Bambi Berenbaum is named after famous (and really funny) entomologist Dr. May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, who also keeps live insects in her desk.
- Dr. Jeff Eckerle (the man with the intense fear of bugs) is likely named after the creative consultant for Secrets of the X-Files, Part 2, Jeff Ecklerle; he would later serve as a writer/producer for the earlier seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
- The last name of Sheriff Frass can also be used to refer to caterpillar dung, or any insect feces.
- The name of the town, Miller's Grove, is a reference to Orson Welles' famous 1938 radio dramatization of the H.G. Wells novel War of the Worlds. Welles' version of the story had the martian invaders landing in Grover's Mill, New Jersey (randomly picked off a map). The broadcast caused widespread panic among Americans who believed that the world was truly being invaded by aliens, and scenes such as the one in the convenience store actually happened.
- As the sheriff drives off there is a visible reflection of the boom-mic in the rear driver side window 6:55
- In the hotel, just before shot goes from dead man to Mulder, the dead guy takes a breath.
- At 25:12, there is a close-up shot of the dead man's face, in hotel, his eyes are closed, but when Mulder sees him at 25:27, his eyes are open.
- Factual Error: In the pre-credits opening narration, Dr. Bugger waxes eloquent about the evolution and characteristics of the cockroach. He states that they appeared during the "Sirulian period". He probably meant the Silurian period, which ran from approximately 440 million to 415 million years ago. However, he is still in error, as the earliest cockroach fossils date from the Carboniferous period, some 55 million years later.
- Scully tells Mulder that Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet. However, this is an urban legend. Despite his name, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet, but did help to improve it with his patent for the floating ballcock among others. The toilet was actually invented by Sir John Harington, and later patented by Alexander Cummings. There was a man named Thomas Crapper (1836-1910), and he did own a company that made plumbing equipment ranging from manhole covers to, yes, flush toilets, but they were based on a design patented by a man named John Giblin. Flush toilets were common in Roman cities, and evidence of their design go back 4600 years to the ancient Indus valley city of Mohenjo-Daro. The word crap has nothing to do with Mr. Crapper.
- Scully mentions Ekbom's Syndrome as a reference to the stoner guy's belief he has cockroaches inside him. It's a very real syndrome (sometimes known as cocaine bugs, but more medically known as Delusional Parasitosis) where people think they have parasites inside their body, usually insects or worms. It can be exacerbated by use of certain stimulant drugs, most commonly cocaine or methamphetamine. The name derives from Karl Axel Ekbom, who published accounts of the disease in 1937. It is not to be confused with Wittmaack-Ekbom Syndrome, or the completely different condition of "restless legs syndrome", but often simply called Ekbom's Syndrome.
- The title is also a play on H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. Literally, it means "War of the Dung Eaters".
Cast and Characters
- Bill Dow (Dr. Rick Newton) previously played Dad in The X-Files episodes "The Jersey Devil" and Dr. Charles Burks in "The Calusari".
- Ken Kramer (Dr. Alexander Ivanov) previously played Dr. Terrance Allen Berube in The X-Files episodes "The Erlenmeyer Flask" and Dr. Browning in "3".
- Bobbie Phillips as Dr. Bambi Berenbaum
- Raye Birk as Dr. Jeff Eckerle
- Dion Anderson as Sheriff Frass
- Bill Dow as Dr. Rick Newton
- Alex Bruhanski as Dr. Bugger
- Ken Kramer as Dr. Alexander Ivanov
- Nicole Parker as Stoner Chick
- Alan Buckley as Dude
- Tyler Labine as Stoner Dude
- Maria Herrera as Customer #1
- Sean Allan as Customer #2
- Norma Wick as Reporter
- Wren Robertz as Orderly
- Tom Heaton as Resident #1
- Bobby L. Stewart as Resident #2
- Dawn Stofer as Customer #4
- Fiona Roeske as Customer #5