CTP Episode of the Day - 10.27.06 - Arcadia

Today's Cherished Episode: Arcadia (3x21)
Original Air Date: March 7, 1999
Written By: Daniel Arkin
Directed By: Michael Watkins

Residents of an upscale, uptight suburb are disappearing without a trace. Mulder and Scully go undercover -- as a "typical" married couple -- to investigate.

"Mulder, if we ever go undercover again I get to choose the names, okay?"

Some "Arcadia" Tidbits & Musings:

-- In ancient Greece, Arcadia was the name of a district famous for its rustic peace and simplicity. There are towns and cities by that name in twenty U.S. states.

-- The idea for the semi-comedic story -- the first X-Files written by first-year staff writer Daniel Arkin -- came partly from a 1991 incident in which Arkin, then an instructor at New York University, moved into a co-op apartment in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. "Our movers were late," said Arkin, "and we didn't start moving in until 4 p.m. Little did we know -- not having read all three hundred pages of our CC and R's -- that we were going to be fined for moving in after 5 p.m. It cost us a thousand dollars."

-- Over the following years, added Arkin, several of his more successful friends moved out of their apartments and older houses and into uptight planned communities -- a development that he frankly found "kind of frightening." In other words, good raw material for an X-File.

-- "The story definitely went through many incarnations," said Arkin, describing the typical collaborative marathon experienced by first-time X-Files writers. "My first idea actually dealt with some notorious person -- an infamous character or an accused criminal -- who moved into the planned community to the horror of the residents, creating a sort of 'bogeyman,' a manifestation of all their worst fears. I think it was Chris who suggested we turn the bogeyman into a monster. The theme of the 'Tibetan thought forms' was something I'd arrived at early on, so it was relatively easy to make that Gogolak's ability, give him some travel experience through the Far East where he could pick it up, and place the community over a landfill to give him some sinister material to work with."

-- Arkin added, "The idea of 'marrying' Mulder and Scully seemed to arise spontaneously at one of our many meetings. Someone said: 'We've never put them undercover together. If we're ever going to do it, why don't we do it in this episode?'"

-- After many drafts, staff rewrites, and polishes, Arkin's idyllic community was ready for immediate occupancy. Shortly before the Christmas hiatus, platoons of X-Files artists and technicians headed up the 101 Freeway toward "North Shore at Sherwood": an uncannily Arcadia-like gated community just north of the border between Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Inside this suburban Shangri-La -- in real life almost exactly as Daniel Arkin imagined it -- strictly color-coordinated mini-mansions marched in gently curved lines toward the security perimeter.

-- To amplify the feeling of numbing community harmony, set decorator Tim Stepeck purchased and installed thirty identical lampposts and thirty identical mailboxes. Production designer Corey Kaplan replicated the interior of the houses on the X-Files sound stage.

-- The episode was directed by Michael Watkins who also directed "Dreamland II," "Tithonus," "Amor Fati," "Sein Und Zeit," and "X-Cops."

-- To fill the vital role of Big Mike, casting director Rick Millikan worked hard to pry Abraham Benrubi loose from his recurring role of orderly Jerry Markovic on NBC's ER. "They were filming the final George Clooney episode at the time and they didn't want to let up on his schedule at all," said Millikan. "But there was a small window -- he had a few days off -- and we were able to squeeze him in there."

-- Once on the set, Berubi came under the aegis of make-up department head Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf, whose job it was to turn him in to the mauled and bedraggled apparition who emerges from the sewer to confront Scully. "It took four hours," said Montesanto-Medcalf, who used several prosthetic appliances and a head-to-toe application of dirt, red clay, glycerin, and a thickening agent called Cabosil to give him a "cracked and crusty" appearance. "But we had to watch out for his palms," she said, "because he had to grab Gillian later on and they didn't want any of this stuff on her face." Berubi was "a real trouper," Montesanto-Medcalf sald. "He had the stuff on him for maybe twelve hours without complaining." She added that Benrubi initially wanted to keep his makeup on to surprise his fellow attendees at a dinner party that night. "But about halfway through he realized he was looking really terrible," she said. "He told me, 'There's no way I can go to a party looking like this.'"

-- Makeovers of a slightly different sort were carried out by costume designer Christine Peters, who modified Mulder's and Scully's usual wardrobe to help them blend into their undercover assignment as Yuppie clones. "For David: Lacoste Izod alligator shirts, Dockers, Bass Weeguns," said Peters. "Gillian was a little tougher," Peters said, "because she had a 'look' that she didn't want to give up. She was very savvy that way. So we weren't going to see Gillian in jeans and a sweatshirt or Gillian in khakis and sneakers. So basically she wore the same kind of clothes she always wore, just in lighter colors. It was khaki and tan Tahari; it was mint green Calvin Klein. Obviously, it worked for her. She fit into the scenes without looking ridiculous."

-- Special effects supervisor Bill Millar remembered "Arcadia" particularly well for the fact that he was asked to completely modify Scully's "evidence video" - adding the framing lines and the digital counter to the shot -- at noon on the Friday before the show aired. "They wanted to show Scully's point of view rather than the Handicam's point of view," said Millar. "Luckily, the video playback guy had Scully's camera in the trunk of his car, and he was about five blocks from my editing facility because he was getting fitted for a tuxedo for the Director's Guild awards that night. He dropped it off within a half hour and we were finished only six hours later."

-- Property master Tom Day, however, had the last word in hard work -- and hard luck -- in the making of this episode. "When I read the script," he said, "I realized that the most important prop in the show would be that wood-chopping whirligig, and the last thing I thought I would have a problem finding. Well, I simply couldn't lay my hands on one. I went around to all the thirty different places in town where you might buy a whirligig, and all of them were totally filled with Christmas stuff. No whirligigs. A nightmare! Finally, I got hold of someone -- a friend of a friend of a person who worked on the show -- who had the exact thing in his yard. I borrowed it and had duplicates made."

-- "Then over Christmas vacation," added Day, "I got on an airplane with my family and flew to Mystic, Connecticut, to visit my mother-in-law. The first day there, we all went shopping in a little place called Mystic Village. There's a store that sold nothing but whirligigs. The little man chopping wood? They had a dozen of them."

-- As part of his work on this episode, researcher Lee Smith investigated the explosive properties of landfill; learned how to determine what garbage comes from a sewer (you look for a certain level of bacteria found in human feces); and obtained diagrams of sewer systems from cities and towns across the country. He hit a snag when he asked for one from New York City. "They laughed, they howled, they thought it was the funniest thing they ever heard," said Smith. "They said there was one guy -- he was 82 years old -- and he was the only person who even vaguely knew what was under the streets of New York. They were trying to get him to write it all down and draw diagrams before he died, because when he died, the knowledge died with him."

-- "Arcadia" was the 13th episode filmed, and should have aired right after the "Two Fathers/One Son" mythology episodes. (Mulder's line, "This is our first catch back on the X-Files," substantiates that. Airing of the episode was reportedly delayed due to problems with the special effects that created the monster.

-- "Gumby on Steroids." "Mr. Butterworth." "Fecal Fred." "The S**t Monster." These were some of the nicknames X-Files staffers gave to the creature that emerged from the sewer in "Arcadia." Creating the creature posted a major challenge. "The problem," said assistant director Bruce Carter, "was that although the basic concept was good, no one could really envision what this strange beast -- a psychologically manifested compilation of garbage -- should look like. Should it be a conventional monster, a creature that has somehow grown muscle and sinew through the force of Gene Gogolak's personality? Or should it really be made of garbage, covered with banana peels and coffee grounds and old bedsprings?"

-- Working under tremendous time pressure, special effects makeup supervisor John Vulich came up with a costume. "It was basically a foam rubber suit," said Vulich. "We poured urethane foam on it to give it a sort of bubbly appearance, then glued on some shredded rubber and coated it with gunk." During filming, the costume was worn by Roger Morrissey, a very tall actor with whom Vulich had worked on numerous previous occasions.

-- During successive waves of cutting, reediting, darkening, and visual effects jiggering, less and less of the monster became visible so that it became more of an unseen menace than an actual monstrous presence.

-- Big Mike refers to the monster as an "ubermenscher" which means a person with great powers and abilities, demigod, superman.

-- For the most part, the non-monster portion of the filming schedule went smoothly. "I enjoyed this episode," said Gillian Anderson. "I got a big kick out of sitting next to David and doing all the little things to pretend we were married. I also liked calling him 'Poopyhead.'"

-- Hardcore fans reacted especially warmly to Mulder and Scully's make-believe "marriage," which good-naturedly consummated some of their most heart-felt fantasies about the two characters without violating the bedrock tenets of their platonic relationship.

-- The pseudonyms used by Mulder and Scully for their undercover assignment in this episode were "Rob and Laura Petrie" after Rob and Laura Petrie from the Emmy-winning 1960s sitcom, The Dick Van Dyke Show, which starred Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore (although Mulder and Scully pronounced it "pee-trie", like the dish).

-- In the first act scene when Mulder and Scully arrived at their new home, after Mulder's line, "Honey, what do you think? Is this place us or what?" the closed captioning also said: "Check this out, sweetie."

-- Oopsie! After "Rob and Laura's" new neighbors help them move into their house, Mulder checked his watch and the date read "7". (BTW, his watch in "Monday," the episode aired before this one, indicated the day of the week instead of the date.) Just after that, the couple "got it on" (meaning their investigation), and while Scully was videotaping, she said it was February 24th. Later in the episode when Mulder was testing his theory with pink flamingos and orange juice, he checked his watch again and it read "9."

-- As noted above, Mulder said this was the team's "first catch back on the X-Files" (as the episode was originally supposed to air after "Two Fathers/One Son" in which Mulder and Scully were reassigned to the X-Files Division. This one doesn't rate an "oopsie," however, because the trip to Florida in "Agua Mala" could have been considered doing a favor for a friend (Arthur Dales), and the team wasn't on a case during the events of "Monday."

-- The name "Polizzi" painted on one of the neighborhood mailboxes was in honor of Lauren Polizzi, one of the art directors on design director Corey Kaplan's staff.

-- Since the 16th century, the caduceus has been the symbol of the medical profession. The insignia is a winged staff with two serpents twined around it, and is modeled on a staff carried by Hermes from Greek mythology which became a symbol for truce and neutrality. In earlier cultures, notably the Babylonian, the intertwined snakes symbolized fertility, wisdom, and healing.

-- To depict Cami Shroeder's dog Scruffy being ejected from the storm drain, the special effects department rigged up a small device to propel a rubber dog model through the air. No Chihuahuas were harmed in the making of this episode.

-- Oopsie! Scullys calls for a forensic team to "450 Autumn Terrace." The package delivered to the Klines way back in the teaser was addressed to something like "Clover Fields."

-- The word "tulpa" is from the Tibetan language and refers to any entity that attains reality solely by the act of imagination, not drawn out, written down or even verbally described. The entity becomes physical reality through intense concentration and visualization by its creator.

-- As noted above, Abraham Benrubi was a regular on ER when this episode was filmed. He's now a regular on the ABC series Men in Trees.

-- Peter White (Gene Gogolak) was probably best known for his long running role as Lincoln Tyler on the ABC soap All My Children.

-- Debra Christofferson (Pat Verlander) was Lila in the HBO series Carnivale.

-- Tom Gallop (Win Shroeder) had the recurring role of "Rob" on Will and Grace.

-- Tom Virtue (Dave Klein) appeared as Dr. Senderak in Return to Me with David Duchovny and made several guest appearances on Bonnie Hunt's sitcom Life With Bonnie. He also played Steve Stevens in the Disney series Even Stevens.

(Thanks to chrisnu for today's pics.)

Please share your first impressions, favorite (or cringe-worthy) moments, classic lines, favorite fanfic, nagging questions, repeated viewing observations, etc., as today we celebrate "Arcadia."