CTP Episode of the Day - 05.09.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Dreamland II (6x05)
Original Air Date: December 6, 1998
Written By: Vince Gilligan, Frank Spotnitz, John Shiban
Directed By: Michael Watkins

Mulder is thrown in jail at the Area 51 compound but is released when it is discovered that the flight data recorder he stole was a fake. Scully comes to her senses and realizes that the Mulder she sees isn't who he really is and heads back to Nevada to help the real Mulder. Meanwhile, the mechanism that caused the body swap is rapidly snapping back, undoing everything in its wake and Mulder and his alter ego must race to put themselves back where they belong.

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(Thanks to chrisnu for today's episode pics.)

"Baby me and you'll be peeing through a catheter."

Some "Dreamland II" Tidbits & Musings:

-- This was the first directing effort for Michael Watkins. He would go on to direct some of the series' shippiest episodes in Seasons 6 and 7.

-- We get just a brief glimpse of Mulder's personnel file in the teaser, but we learn quite a bit. We learn that Mulder's Social Security Number is 123-32-1321 (that was also his driver's license number -- which at that time in Virginia was the norm), that he started with the FBI on 10/24/1986, and that his mother's maiden name was Teena Kiupers. And he won an Award for Public Service from the FBI at some point. We also learn that the FBI keeps pretty nice photos of their agents in their files. Too bad Mulder didn't fare as well with his photo in Season 8.

-- We learn a little about The Lone Gunmen Newspaper in this episode as well. Their motto: "The Newsletter for Those Who Want to Stay Informed and Alive." Published monthly for one dollar an issue, $10 a year, or $25 for three years. What a bargain!

-- The scraggly desert gas station could not be rented. It had to be built from scratch, a collaboration of the construction, art, and special effects departments. Set decorator Tim Stepeck located a gas station in Los Angeles about to go out of business, bought up its gas pumps and other fittings, and shipped them off to the location site. The fixtures and other merchandise inside the store were obtained from restaurant supply houses, cooperative food manufacturers, and loading up shopping carts with canned goods and groceries from discount supermarkets. The last scene filmed there was of the gas station exploding -- it had been rigged to do so in a spectacular manner throughout the construction process. Then all remnants of the gas station were removed and the roadsite was restored to its previous desolate state. Overall, the show filmed at the site for about two days, and then it was as if the whole thing never existed.

-- By contrast, Area 51 was "built" by visual effects producer Bill Millar and his associates, who created the secret base's aircraft on their Macintosh computers. The only "practical" part was the base's front gate, shot at a fence at the San Bernadino county line 120 miles from L.A. They opened and closed the fence and drove the white Cherokee through it. All the rest was matte paintings and make believe.

-- To create the illusions of gravity warped individuals fused into rocks and floors, special effects makeup supervisor Jon Vulich made extensive molds of the affected actors' body parts; stuck the faces, arms, and torsos into specially constructed holes in the set, then attached silicon body pieces of "feather" the pertinent parts of their body onto the solid surface. For the Gila monster with its head stuck in a rock, they used a real Gila monster and a fake rock made of padded clamshell fiberglass.

-- Fifty-eight year old actress Julia Vera was fitted with special clouded contact lenses to complete the illusion of making her look 75. Nearly blinded by the lenses, she took five tries before she could flick her cigarette butt into Mulder's lap in the jail cell scene. Vera credits her winning the role of the Hopi woman inhabited by the personality of a young Air Force pilot partly to the speech patterns she learned during a stint in the U.S. Army.

-- The "mandroid army' scoffed at by Fletcher is a sly flashback to the season 3 episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space".

-- This is the first episode in which we see Mulder's bedroom.

-- Scully says to Mulder-in-Morris's-body, "I'd kiss you if you weren't so damn ugly" which is what Zira (Kim Hunter) said to Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes.

-- This is the fourth episode to have a "John Gilnitz" reference ("John Gilnitz" is a conglomeration of the three writers' names (John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, Frank Spotnitz). Fletcher comments that Saddam Hussein is really a dinner theatre actor named "John Gilnitz."

-- The Little A'Le'Inn is an actual cafe off Highway 375 the "Extraterrestrial Highway" in Rachel, Nevada. But it's much smaller and not as well decorated as the one in "Dreamland II."

-- Gillian Anderson found the two-parter's Fletcher/Mulder bodyswitch alternately fun and difficult to deal with. Not so much because it was hard to keep the characters' identities straight but because it was hard to act with her long-time partner as if she and the actor -- and his character -- were nearly strangers. "I found it easy to treat McKean like Mulder -- after all, I've been dealing with Mulder for five and a half seasons," Anderson said. "But the other way around? Treating David like McKean's character? That was a challenge. I have this intense history with David. There's a lot of energy and chemistry between us, and I had to work hard to not fall into those patterns while I was dealing with him as if I didn't know him. In the end, I think we pulled it off. But it was very tricky, very interesting."

-- Chemistry? Yes, I'd say so. Never more apparent than the beautiful goodbye scene in the desert. One of their best. Mulder knows how to say it with sunflower seeds. Best gift since the keychain.

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

Polly