CTP Episode of the Day - 08.31.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Chimera (7x16)
Original Air Date: April 2, 2000
Written By: David Amann
Directed By: Cliff Bole

Mulder investigates the death of a housewife in a sleepy small town and discovers deep, dark secrets and a monstrous evil, while Scully gets down and dirty on a stakeout.

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Scully: "Mulder, when you find me dead, my desiccated corpse propped up staring lifelessly through the telescope at drunken frat boys peeing and vomiting into the gutter, just know that my last thoughts were of you ... and how I'd like to kill you."
Mulder: "I'm sorry, who is this?

Ellen: "Do you have a significant other?"
Mulder: "Um ... not in the widely understood definition of that term."
Ellen: "Well, the right woman will come along and change all that. Don't miss out on home and family, Mr. Mulder. With all the terrible things you must see in your work -- well, it could be a refuge for you."

Some "Chimera" Tidbits & Musings:

-- Websters defines "Chimera" as 1) from Greek mythology, a fire-breathing she-monster usually depicted as a composite of a lion, a goat, and a serpent. 2) A foolish fancy. 3) An organism, especially a plant, with tissues from at least two genetically distinct parents." The word is Greek for "goat."

-- This was director Cliff Bole's first directing assignment since Season 5's "Bad Blood." He also directed Season 4's "Small Potatoes" and would return in Season 9 to direct "Jump the Shark."

-- Writer Steve Maeda recalled that "Chimera" originally started out as a story about a subterranean monster and was called "Subterranean Monster Blues."

-- Like Season 6's "Arcadia," "Chimera" was a compelling examination of the evil that lies beneath a prototypical white-bread suburban existence. But whereas "Arcadia" supplemented its horror with a generous dash of humor, "Chimera," with the exception of the scenes of Scully trapped on a sleazy hotel stakeout, is a straight-ahead scare, complete with a Lovecraftian monster.

-- Chris Carter saw "Chimera" as a chance to do something bold and new. "The concept was someone's anger taking on a form. The image of the crow has always been scary and there was definitely some potential in standing suburbia on its head. We really wanted to bust pretense and perception and expose the underbelly of a white-bread community.

-- These noble intentions were immediately challenged by a complex X-Files production schedule in which both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were in preproduction on their respective directed episodes ("Hollywood A.D." and "all things"). Consequently, even before the first draft of "Chimera" was written, the production team was faced with tailoring a solid story premise around limited appearances by both stars.

-- Greg Walker, who worked on the story with credited writer David Amann, recalled that part of their problem was solved "when David stepped up and said he had a way to do it." Amann explained that Duchovny's idea was to have Mulder carry the bulk of the story and to budget in just one day's availability by Anderson into a secondary tale "that starts out with Mulder and Scully on a stakeout looking for a serial killer before Mulder goes off to investigate a case in the 'burbs." A couple of inconspicuous telephone conversations between Mulder in suburbia and Scully on the stakeout filled out Anderson's seeming constant presence in the episode.

-- "Chimera" was written in a burst of twelve-hour days that saw the initial basic storyline develop a surprising number of facets. Walker described the finished script as "a suburban parable about perfection. It ends up being about a woman who wants to control the world around her." Amann saw it as "an interesting Jekyll-and-Hyde story."

-- Rick Millikan's task -- to fill out the cast with normal-looking suburban people -- was not an easy one. "The show necessitated casting perfect people. But it's not that easy to find white-bread normal-looking people. We've used so many people over the years that it's gotten harder and harder to find them."

-- Once filming commenced, director Cliff Bole discovered that it's tough to get ravens to behave, let alone act on cue. Which is why Paul Rabwin recalled that they ultimately decided to get African crows, which are more amenable to television work, to double for the ravens in pivotal scenes. "We got two crows. One was very good at cawing and one was good at hopping." Most birds in the raven and crow families are not able to be kept in captivity. The African crow has a white band around its neck, however, and the strip had to be dyed black to resemble a raven.

-- The opening backyard party sequence was shot in a local Los Angeles backyard. But when it came to shooting the spooky, tree-lined element, producer Harry Bring recalled that they ran into a snag. "The backyard was just not scary-looking enough. So we looked around and found some trees on the grounds of a museum in Hollywood that were perfect."

-- Paul Rabwin remembered that the end of that sequence, in which the woman is attacked by the monster, also had to be reworked. "Originally we wanted to show a mirror image of the woman being attacked by the monster, but it didn't really sell. So we glued candy glass onto a piece of plywood, angled the wood, and set the camera on that angle and so we got to see the attack through the shattered fragments."

-- A five-hour make-up job and a full body suit turned one of stunt coordinator Danny Weselis's stuntmen into the monster alter ego of the housewife. The monster is seen in all its glory during the climactic fight scene between it and Mulder that was done in equal parts by Duchovny and a stuntman.

-- Writer David Amann's wife Michelle Deschamps is mentioned in this episode. The little girl in the teaser is named Michelle, and the psychiatric hospital featured is the Deschamps County Hospital.

-- The strip club that Scully is staking out was shot on what is known as Mulberry Street on the Fox Studios lot. The street, which resembles a New York block, was built for the 1969 film Hello Dolly. The show NYPD Blue regularly shot their exterior scenes on Mulberry Street.

-- Michelle Joyner played the woman who wanted the perfect life, Ellen Adderly. Her daughter Katy in the episode was played by Joyner's real-life twin sons.

-- Actress Gina Mastrogiacomo who played Jenny Gurgich passed away on May 2, 2001, of an infection of the heart. This X-Files episode was her last TV acting role.

-- Wendy Schaal (Martha Crittendon) is the daughter of actor Richard Schaal, who was once married to Valerie Harper (Rhoda). Wendy currently provides the voice of Francine Smith in the Fox animated series American Dad.

-- Fans of obscure genre films had a field day with this cast. Michelle Joyner's first film was the horror anthology Grim Prairie Tales. Gina Mastrogiacomo first came to be noticed in the movie Alien Space Avenger. John Mese was in the movie Night of the Scarecrow, and Wendy Schaal appeared in Creature.

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(Thanks to chrisnu for today's episode 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 "Chimera"!

Polly