June 14, 2015
The X-Files 1.1, Pilot: The Truth Is Out There. Maybe. Probably Not
Summary: “The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts.” Suuuuuuure it is.
A woman in a nightgown runs through a forest at night. The wind kicks up, there’s a bright light, and a man appears. He approaches her as the light grows brighter. Eight to 12 hours later, the woman’s body is discovered in Oregon’s Collum National Forest. The police don’t find any signs of battery or assault, and they can’t figure out her cause of death. All they find are two raised bumps on her back. When she’s turned over, a detective IDs her as Karen Swenson, a former high school classmate of his son’s.
At FBI headquarters in D.C., Agent Dana Scully meets with Section Chief Scott Blevins. Two other men are in the room, one of them smoking a cigarette. Get used to him. Scully explains that she went to medical school but thought she could “distinguish [herself]” at the FBI. She’s asked if she’s familiar with Agent Fox Mulder. She is, but reputation only – that reputation being that he’s “spooky.” Blevins tells her that Mulder’s working on X-Files, cases that involve “unexplained phenomena.” Scully is being reassigned to that section, but is basically being asked to debunk it.
Scully proceeds to Mulder’s office for their historic first meeting (and our first glimpse of Mulder’s “I want to believe” poster). She claims she’s looking forward to working with him. Mulder, however, has already guessed that she’s there to spy on him. He’s read up on her and her undergraduate degree in physics, which won’t exactly apply here. He tells her about Karen Swenson’s death and asks if she can ID the marks on her back. Scully has a few suggestions but is stumped by the substance found on Karen. It’s also been found on other bodies with the same marks.
“Do you believe in the existence of extraterrestrials?” Mulder asks. Scully says no, based on logic. Mulder tells her that Karen’s the fourth person from her graduating class to die mysteriously. Out of logical, scientific explanations, Mulder thinks it makes sense to turn to the supernatural. Scully thinks Karen could have been murdered, and the investigation was botched. “The answers are there. You just have to know where to look,” she says. Mulder’s like, “Yep, that’s my job.”
The two fly to Oregon the next day, as Scully reads about Karen’s autopsy. Unlike the autopsies of her three classmates, hers wasn’t performed by the county medical examiner, Dr. Nemman. The plane experiences some major turbulence and everyone on board freaks out, except Mulder. He just thinks it means they’re in the right place. In the car, Mulder eats sunflower seeds while Scully notes that the case has already been investigated by the FBI. He says the other agents didn’t turn up any evidence.
Mulder’s impressed that Scully has noticed that Karen wasn’t autopsied by Nemman. She wonders if he’s a suspect. Mulder points out that it’s you know, their job to figure that out. He tells her that they’re going to get tissue samples from the other three victims to compare against Karen’s. Suddenly the car radio goes haywire. Mulder pulls over and spraypaints a big X on the pavement. He tells Scully it was “probably nothing.”
As Mulder and Scully arrive at the cemetery to collect samples from the exhumed bodies, Dr. Nemman shows up with a young woman. He makes her stay in the car while he confronts Mulder and Scully for implying that he missed something Karen’s classmates’ examinations. The Nemmans have been out of town, which might explain why he didn’t do Karen’s autopsy. His daughter begs him to let it go.
While the body of Ray Soames, the third victim, is exhumed, Mulder and Scully exposit that he actually admitted to killing the first two victims, but there was no evidence against him. Plus, he was previously treated for schizophrenia. He died after escaping from a psychiatric hospital, and his cause of death was listed as exposure, even though he was only outside for seven hours, and it was July. As Ray’s coffin is extracted, the machinery pulling it up drops it, and the coffin tumbles down a hill, cracking open. Inside is a corpse, but it’s not of someone of Ray’s build.
Mulder and Scully examine the corpse, which Scully quickly determines isn’t human. She thinks it’s a chimp or orangutan. Mulder’s like, “Those are types of aliens, right?” He admits to having the same doubts as Scully – he’s not crazy. Scully continues her examination, typing up her notes later on at a motel. She studies a gray object she found in the corpse’s nose. Mulder stops by to check on her progress and invite her on a run. She says she’s not losing any sleep over the object, which seems to be a lie.
The next day, Mulder and Scully visit the hospital where Ray was treated before his death. His doctor says he couldn’t grasp reality, and had some sort of post-traumatic stress. Some other patients with the same problems were his classmates. Two of those classmates, Billy Miles and Peggy O’Dell, are still in the hospital, having been in treatment for about four years. Scully wants to talk to them, but Billy’s in a persistent vegetative state and can’t talk.
The doctor explains that Billy and Peggy were both admitted after a car accident. Peggy is confined to a wheelchair but is verbal. However, she throws a fit when Mulder asks her doctor if they can examine her. While helping to restrain her, Mulder sees two marks on her back. Scully accuses Mulder of setting her up – she thinks he knew Peggy would have the marks. She asks what he really thinks is going on. Mulder says he believes the classmates were all abducted. Scully says there’s nothing to support that theory. He replies that she’s only looking for scientific support.
Scully continues that Karen was found in a forest not far from her home, so something may have been going on there. She and Mulder trek out there, and Scully collects a sample (if that’s what you call stuffing a handful of ash in her pocket). She and Mulder get separated, and when she goes looking for him, she sees a light like the one that appeared when Karen died. Just like with Karen, a man appears, but it’s the detective from the scene of Karen’s death. He tells Mulder and Scully that they’re on private property and forces them to leave. As they do, they see that the light is coming from the detective’s truck.
Scully shows Mulder the ash and wonders if the classmates were in a cult. She thinks the detective might know something. They drive back to the motel in the rain, and Mulder notices the hands on his watch spinning around. There’s a flash of light, and then the car loses power. He checks his watch, noticing that they lost nine minutes after the flash. This makes him cheer. They’re right by the X he made on the pavement. Scully tries to remind him that time can’t just disappear. Suddenly the car regains power.
Scully types up a report on her hilariously ’90s computer, stopping when the power at the motel goes out. She goes to take a shower instead, but as she’s undressing, she notices something on her back. She rushes to Mulder’s room and asks him to take a look at what she thinks are the same marks found on the bodies. He assures her that they’re just mosquito bites. Scully’s so relieved that she hugs him.
After she’s calmed down a little, Mulder tells her about his sister’s disappearance when they were children. When he joined the FBI, he read all the unexplained cases he could find, fascinated by them. He’s been trying to get access to classified government information, but someone has been keeping him from it. Mulder’s only been able to continue his work because he’s made connections in Congress.
He admits that he’s not sure if he can trust Scully, since she was sent to spy on him, but she assures him that she’s on his side. They both want answers. Mulder tells Scully that he’s undergone regression hypnosis, and has been taken back to the night of his sister’s disappearance. He remembers a bright light and the inability to get to his sister. He’s sure the government knows what really happened. Mulder’s closer than he’s ever been to the truth. Just then, someone calls to inform him that Peggy is dead.
The scene of the crime is a highway, where Peggy ran into traffic and was hit by a truck. Definitely odd circumstances for someone who supposedly needed a wheelchair to get around. Scully notices that Peggy’s watch stopped at 9:03, the same time her and Mulder’s car lost power. Before she can tell him, Mulder informs her that the autopsy bay was trashed and the corpse from Ray’s coffin was stolen. The agents go back to the motel and find it on fire, which means all their pictures, x-rays, and notes are gone. Suddenly, Nemman’s daughter, Theresa, arrives and begs for protection.
At a diner, Theresa tells Mulder and Scully that in the four years since she graduated, she’s woken up in the forest multiple times with no memory of going there. The same thing happened to her friends, and she’s scared that she’ll end up dead like them. Mulder realizes that Theresa was the one who called to tell him Peggy was dead. Scully guesses that Nemman knows what’s been going on. Theresa says he told her to keep quiet, promising that he could protect her, but she doesn’t think he can. She reveals that she has the same marks as the others.
Scully assures Theresa that she’s not going to die. Theresa’s body objects, and her nose suddenly starts bleeding. Just then, Nemman and the detective, whose name is Miles, arrive to take Theresa. Mulder realizes that the detective is Billy Miles’ father. Scully thinks Miles and Nemman destroyed their evidence and took the corpse in some sort of conspiracy. Mulder wonders what’s in the graves of the other two victims. They go to the cemetery, but the graves are empty.
Mulder announces that he thinks Billy’s responsible for everything. Scully reminds him that Billy’s comatose. Mulder points out that Peggy was in a wheelchair but ran onto the highway. He says that everything that’s happened fits with a case of alien abduction. When time stopped on the road, something took control, leading to Peggy’s death. Scully reveals that Peggy’s watch stopped at 9:03. Mulder thinks the classmates were led to the forest by some force that performed tests on them. Now Billy’s in control. Scully just laughs, because what else can you do?
The agents go back to the hospital, where Billy appears to still be comatose. But Scully finds dirt on his feet, indicating that he went to the forest. She takes a sample, telling Mulder that she’s sure it’s the same as the ash she took from the woods. She’s now sure that Mulder’s right about Billy being a killer, but he reminds her that she needs to get more evidence. They head back to the forest to get another sample of ash.
Detective Miles shows up as well, so the agents run to avoid him. Mulder hears screaming, but Miles stops him from going toward them. Mulder begs him to stop Billy from killing Theresa. Miles runs over to find a conscious Billy with an unconscious Theresa in the middle of swirling wind. Billy picks up Theresa and holds her up, seemingly as an offering to the approaching light. Mulder sees marks on Billy’s back. When the light vanishes, everyone is still present. The marks are gone from Billy’s back. Scully doesn’t know what happened; all she saw was the light. Mulder just tells her it was “incredible.”
At FBI headquarters, Billy gives a statement about how everything started. He and his classmates were celebrating their graduation in the forest when the light appeared. They were taken away for testing. Billy was ordered to collect his classmates for other testing sessions, and something was implanted in his head. But the tests didn’t work, and Billy’s afraid the light will come back. Mulder and Scully listen to the testimony, but the Cigarette Smoking Man leaves.
Blevins asks Scully about her case report, which doesn’t include any logical explanation for what happened. The FBI isn’t sure how to proceed with this sort of situation. Scully hands over the object she took from Ray, which survived because she kept it on her. The material it’s made of was tested and deemed unidentifiable. Blevins asks Scully what Mulder thinks. She replies that Mulder believes humans aren’t alone.
That night, Scully tries to sleep but can’t. Mulder calls to tell her that the paperwork they filed in Oregon is gone, so there’s no case against Billy. Meanwhile, the Cigarette Smoking Man (CSM from here on out) places the object Scully extracted from Ray in a container with other objects. The objects are held in a box, just one in a Pentagon storeroom full of boxes.
Thoughts: I’m super-pumped about recapping this show! More than I should be! Someone give me a tranquilizer!
I’d like to point out that Gillian Anderson was only 24 when the X-Files pilot was filmed, and FOX objected to her casting because she didn’t have a lot of experience. It’s been 23 years, and Anderson is a beloved actress with an Emmy for this show. Don’t you ever hate being wrong, FOX?
Note to actors playing characters who are supposed to be dead: Don’t move.