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"Young at Heart" is the sixteenth episode of the first season of The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on February 11, 1994. It was written by Scott Kaufer and Chris Carter, and was directed by Michael Lange. The episode is a "Monster-of-the-week" story, separate from the series' Mythology arc.


Mulder must stop an elusive stalker who he captured in his youth, but who seems to have remained the same age.


In 1989 in Tashmoo Federal Correctional Facility , a prisoner, Joe Crandall, hears screaming from the doctor's office. Inside, he finds prison doctor Joe Ridley operating on fellow prisoner John Barnett. While Ridley tells Crandall that Barnett is dead and threatens to kill him if he talks about it, Barnett blinks at him.

In the present, agent Fox Mulder is notified by his former supervisor Reggie Purdue about a note from a jewel store robbery stating "Fox can't guard the chicken coop". Mulder recognizes the message as being from John Barnett, the man whom he helped catch on his first case. While Barnett supposedly died in prison four years earlier, the note appears to definitely be from him. Purdue shows Dana Scully a video of Barnett's capture years earlier. Mulder had a clean shot on Barnett but couldn't fire on him due to him having a hostage, a violation of FBI regulations. Mulder's hesitation resulted in Barnett killing both the hostage and a fellow agent. Mulder flashes back to testifying at Barnett's trial. Scully looks into his cause of death and finds that despite it being listed as heart attack, he went to the doctor due to an infection of his hand (from the underlying wound he received when Mulder shot him) and had no history of heart problems. Later Barnett leaves Mulder another note in his car along with photos of him and Scully.

Mulder and Scully visit the prison where Barnett died and meet with Crandall, who tells them that Ridley cut off Barnett's hand, but he wasn't actually dead. Mulder receives a call from someone who appears to be Barnett. Later, Barnett strangles Purdue with his deformed hand. Scully looks into Ridley and finds that his medical license was revoked in 1979 due to malpractice and performing medical experiments on patients without permission. Ridley was experimenting on children with progeria, a disease that causes premature aging. Mulder believes that Ridley found a way to reverse the aging process. That night Scully suspects someone is in her house; however, Barnett retreats when Scully finds Ridley waiting at her door.

Once Mulder arrives Ridley explains that he found a way to reverse the aging process with Barnett. To test his theory, he cut off Barnett's hand and grew him a new one from salamander cells. While sponsors within the government appeared, Barnett ended up stealing all of his research. Mulder meets with Deep Throat, who admits to this, and says that the government is negotiating with Barnett to purchase the research. Scully hears someone dialing into her answering machine and has the FBI fingerprint lab check it, only to find Barnett's fingerprint on it. After Barnett calls again, Mulder decides to set up a sting at Scully's friend's cello recital which Barnett learned of from his access to her answering machine.

That night agents wait at the cello recital for Barnett's arrival. Barnett, who goes completely unnoticed due to his young age, is posing as a piano tuner. Barnett shoots Scully in the chest then flees, taking the cellist hostage. This time Mulder doesn't hesitate and shoots, killing him. Scully is revealed to be wearing a bullet-proof vest, and was unharmed. In a hospital, doctors unsuccessfully attempt to keep Barnett alive while a mysterious CIA agent, which turns out to be the Cigarette Smoking Man, grills him for information. Barnett takes the location of the research to the grave. A closing shot reveals it to be in a storage locker in a transit station, waiting to be found.



Background InformationEdit


  • In the lead-up to the writing of this installment, Scott Kaufer called upon Chris Carter – the creator of The X-Files, an Executive Producer on the series, and a long-time acquaintance of Kaufer's – with the suggestion of writing an episode together. "As soon as I got the series up and going," said Carter, "he came to me, but I would have gone to him anyway [....] We discussed reverse aging [as a concept for an episode], and we stumbled onto the progeria idea. He wrote a draft, and then I took it, and I rewrote it and added some elements, including the salamander hand." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 49)
  • This episode's script went through four drafts. These were dated 4th, 10th, 11th and 18th January 1994.
  • Much thought went into designing the salamander hand in this episode. One Saturday, Chris Carter called Director Michael Lange about this subject, wanting to meet with Lange and the prop master for breakfast the next day, to decide on exactly how the hand should look. On the Sunday morning, the group met for a breakfast which lasted at least two hours. Part of this duration was spent eating, though most of the time was taken up with looking at hundreds of amphibious hands in an encyclopaedic-type book about amphibians, a large publication which was a couple of inches thick and which the prop master had brought with him. The group finally chose an amphibious hand they believed would look right. (TV Zone, issue 79, p. 27)
  • The filming of this episode did not veer far away from the script. Michael Lange noted, "I think I stayed fairly close to the original draft." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 64-65)
  • When filming the scene in which John Barnett – using his salamander hand – strangles Agent Purdue, preparations were made for Fox's standards and practices department objecting to it. "We knew at the time that there potentially might be some controversy over this scene," explained Michael Lange. "Because of that Chris made sure that I got plenty of angles on the killing so that we could tone it down as needed." Lange described most of the coverage he shot for this scene as "fairly brutal." (TV Zone, issue 79, p. 27)
  • Requiring supposedly old black-and-white footage of Dr. Joseph Ridley and a child with progeria, Co-Producer Paul Rabwin contacted the Progeria Society. The X-Files' production crew then brought Courtney Arciaga, who had the disease, from San Diego to Vancouver. With Michael Lange directing, the footage was then shot. Co-Executive Producer R.W. Goodwin, who was involved in filming the scene, reminisced, "It was a very, very touching moment for us all [....] On an individual basis, when we contacted the parents [of Arciaga] we found out they were big fans of the show, as was the little girl. It was almost like a 'Make a Wish' kind of thing: it was wonderful." (X-Files Confidential, p. 65)


  • This episode features numerous links to the novel Frankenstein. These include the idea of a doctor creating a monster as the result of unauthorized experimentation, the fact that the doctor explains his history and reasoning to a supposed neutral observer, the opening scene of a supposedly dead creature opening its eyes and the salamander limb that is grafted to the corpse, which echoes the novel's depiction of different bodies grafted together. Indeed, Dr. Joseph Ridley even admits in one scene that people referred to him as "Doctor Frankenstein" in the past.
  • When John Barnett dies in hospital near the end of this episode, it is the first time in the series that Mulder has been directly responsible for a death.


  • Michael Lange ultimately felt proud of this episode. "I liked the script very much [....] I liked it because it had a lot of good spookiness to it. To me, the intriguing part was the doctor's research into being able to reverse the aging process, which I wish we could have explored more." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 64 & 65)
  • R.W. Goodwin and Michael Lange – both fathers of several children – valued the way this episode enabled them to further awareness of progeria. "We felt it was good because it made the disease visible," Goodwin expressed, "so it helped create more public awareness of it." (X-Files Confidential, p. 65)
  • This episode achieved a Nielsen household rating of 7.2, with an audience share of 11. This means that roughly 7.2 percent of all television-equipped households, and 11 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode. It was viewed by 6.8 million households. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 248)
  • Cinefantastique (Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 49) gives this episode 2 and a half out of 4 stars and comments, "'Young at Heart' is one of those solid, above-average X-Files episodes that are enjoyable, round out the characters, yet are not the top of the series."
  • The X-Files Magazine (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 16,  p. 31) characterizes this episode, without the inclusion of the salamander hand, as an "already chilling tale" and the hand itself as "unforgettable." The publication goes on to state, "The two actors who play [...] John Barnett are perfectly cast as two sides of the same coin, and Christine Estabrook's infatuation with Mulder provides amusement in an episode otherwise devoid of emotion."
  • In his reference book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium and The Lone Gunmen, writer Robert Shearman scored this installment 2 out of 5 stars. He critiqued, "The first half of the episode is really very good, enlivened by an exciting and comprehensible revenge plot, and a terrific performance by David Duchovny at his most paranoid and guilt-ridden. For a while it's really not an X-File at all, beyond the mystery concerning why an apparent dead man is making threats upon Mulder and his friends. It's well directed and tense, and even though it plays like a fairly standard cop movie, complete with courtroom flashbacks and hapless FBI agents getting offed because of a rookie's hesitation, it's convincing and engaging. Then, suddenly, things get very odd. It becomes a government conspiracy episode [....] It mutates into a story of peculiar and unexplained science [....] And it all gets unnecessarily operatic [....] All of this makes the story strangely top heavy, and more than a little pretentious. Mark Snow doesn't help with a score that wants to echo The Omen, with lots of choirs going nuts singing in Latin around every corner. And what gave the episode its hook, a chance to see a more personal side of Mulder as he is forced to face his youthful demons, gets sacrificed as it strains to be about global concerns [....] I like the flirty handwriting expert, though."

Cast and CharactersEdit

  • The CIA Agent who tries to obtain information from Barnett while doctors attempt to save him near the end of this episode is played by William B. Davis. Davis made many appearances in The X-Files television series as the recurring character the "Cigarette Smoking Man", whom other episodes establish as having many aliases. It is not specified whether the character Davis played in this episode is intended to be the same recurring character. The episode's script does not make this connection but official publication The X-Files Magazine (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 16,  p. 31) does.


Main Cast

Guest Starring



External Links Edit

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