CTP Episode of the Day - 11.23.06 Existence

Today's Cherished Episode: Existence (8x21)
Original Air Date: May 20, 2001
Written By: Chris Carter
Directed By: Kim Manners

With otherworldly factions in pursuit, Mulder and the agents race to safeguard the birth of Scully's child.

"From the moment I became pregnant, I feared the truth ... about how ... and why. And I know that you feared it too."

"I think what we feared were the possibilities. The truth we both know."

Some "Existence" Tidbits & Musings:

-- The episode title of both parts of this two-parter ("Essence" and "Existence") come from Mulder's voiceover in the teaser: "We call it the miracle of life: Conception. A union of perfect opposites. Essence transforming into existence, an act without which mankind would not exist and humanity cease to exist."

-- "Existence" also received a viewer warning: "Due to some violent content, parental discretion is advised."

-- "I love dripping water," director Kim Manners noted, referring to "Existence's" opening shot. "I use dripping water a lot in my episodes. It sets a great tone and a great rhythm."

-- The stainless steel vertebrae fished from Billy Miles' remains was the only part of the vertebrae shown in the teaser that was real. The piece was placed on the exam table in a precise location so that a drill motor could be used from underneath the table to spin the piece around. Visual effects supervisor John Wash used the small piece of vertebrae as a model to "paint" the rest of the replicating vertebrae, and used the initial placement as a "mark" to create the rest of the vertebrae around that first piece through computer generated images.

-- The Season 9 DVDs contain a deleted scene that followed the spinning vertebrae shown in the teaser. In the scene, the Pathologist's Assistant returns to the morgue and finds Billy Miles' remains spilled on the floor. As the Assistant bent down to investigate, the viewer saw the shadow of the newly regenerated Miles leaving the morgue. The scene was cut for time.

-- During his DVD commentary for "Existence," director Kim Manners revealed that he directed the sequence added to the Season 8 opening titles of Mulder falling away from the camera, suggesting Mulder's absence in an abstract way. "It's called a 'descender,'" Manners explained. "The actor is attached to a cable, dropped backward 36 feet, and the cable stops him just before he hits the floor." Manners mentioned that David Duchovny did the stunt himself and "really enjoyed doing it."

-- Speaking of the opening titles, Season 8 differed from all other seasons of The X-Files in one unique way: It had absolutely no tag line changes throughout the entire season. Every other season had at least one. Which season had the most? It was a tie -- Season 4 and Season 9 both had four.

-- In the original script, Scully and Reyes were to drive to a deserted farmhouse in which all the action of Scully giving birth would take place. But Kim Manners asked for the location to be changed in order to spread the scenes out and add more drama. "We ultimately shot those scenes in an old Western town at Paramount Ranch," Manners said. "We changed the script to explain that it was a ghost town because the healing waters associated with the town had dried up." The change allowed Manners to spread out the action and make Scully's impending delivery "much scarier."

-- The building Reyes selected in which to set up the Water from the Rock Maternity Ward had "Water from the Rock: Exodus 7:16" painted on the window. Exodus 7:16 reads: "And thou shalt say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear."

-- Manners applauded the set decorators for the excellent job they did dressing the sets to make the buildings and rooms appear as if they had been deserted for quite some time, including the "miles of cobwebs that were blown in." "Supposedly Reyes cleaned all that up to make a nice place for Scully to give birth," Manners joked. "I told Annabeth [Gish] that before joining the FBI, Reyes must have worked for the Molly Maids."

-- Kim Manners said that while he was enjoying the "new" mythology, and "bad-guy" characters like Knowle Rohrer, he really missed working with the "syndicate" and the actors who played its members. "John Neville, Bill Davis, Don Williams. I really miss them all," he said. "I loved shooting those scenes. Rob [Bowman] set the tone for the way we did that. A big face in the foreground and shady faces in the background. When the show moved from Vancouver, the syndicate took on a different look and it was never the same after that."

-- Manners noted that the Biblical references in the episode (such as the bright star in the sky, "swaddling" for the baby, the alien replicants serving as the "shepherds" witnessing the baby's birth, and the three Lone Gunmen bearing gifts) were quite intentional.

-- The Season 8 DVDs contain another deleted scene from the episode. It followed the scene between Doggett and Rohrer (in which Rohrer tried to find out where Scully had gone) and showed Mulder and Krycek discussing the Supersoldiers with Mulder questioning how Krycek knew so much about them. Frank Spotnitz noted the scene added no new information and was cut strictly for time constraints. "As I recall, there were a lot of little trims for this episode," Spotnitz said. "It ran long and every second counted."

-- A steel arm was used in the scene where Billy Miles punched his hand through the elevator door, hitting Skinner. "The arm was very heavy and the scene was actually quite dangerous to shoot," Manners said. "We needed to use Mitch [Pileggi] instead of a stuntman to make it look real, but if Mitch had moved even an inch or two as the arm came through the door, he could have been badly hurt or killed."

-- The elevator scene sent Skinner to the hospital, and Kim Manners noted that it was hard to keep a straight face on the set the day the hospital scene, with Mulder at Skinner's bedside, was shot. "There was quite a bit of joking about the 'feminine napkin' that Skinner was wearing on his forehead," Manners said.

-- Looking at the stitches Mulder sported in this episode and in "Essence" made Kim Manners wonder how Mulder and Scully would look if they were shown with all the scars they had accumulated over nine years from their various wounds and injuries. "They'd look like the Elephant Man!" he laughed. Luckily, he added, "They sure heal good, don't they?"

-- The infamous "whale song" scene between Reyes and Scully was of course a Chris Carter creation. "A friend had given me this Paul Winter album when I was a kid," said Carter, "and it had whale sounds incorporated into the music. It was always a sort of interesting thing and it was probably kooky. But I just thought it was much like Reyes' character to appreciate that."

-- "Annabeth really suffered a lot of wrath for doing that whale song scene," Kim Manners recalled. "At the time, I told her if the acting thing didn't work out, she could become a marine biologist. But she was a trooper. They gave her a tape of whale songs, and even though it was embarrassing for her standing in front of the whole crew making a fool of herself, she did it. That's really what acting is all about."

-- Gish did not have much experience working with firearms, so before filming "Existence" she was sent off to the firing range with a shooting expert to work on her form. "She had a habit of closing her eyes when she was shooting blanks," Manners said. "So we got her some special gun training where she worked with live ammunition at the shooting range. After that, she did a great job."

-- The scene where Reyes' faced down the Game Warden's truck was accomplished using a crane shot, with the crane swooping down, the truck (attached to a cable) driving straight toward the camera, and the stuntwoman filling in for Annabeth Gish stepping out of the way at the last second. "The cable attached to the truck only lets the truck go so far," said Manners. "But the truck kept getting closer and closer and it looked like it wasn't going to stop. It did -- but only about six inches from the camera lens. If we had hit that camera, it would have cost us about $60,000."

-- The scenes in the underground parking garage were shot in Century City, across the street from the Fox studio.

-- "Robert [Patrick] and I had a good time working together," David Duchovny noted. "He's a really nice guy and a good actor. It was different because the center of the show had been a male-female relationship, Mulder and Scully, for so many years. And in some of my scenes with Robert, especially the ones in 'Vienen,' there was a different kind of energy -- a buddy energy. It made me regret that we hadn't done it earlier. Maybe we should have brought Skinner [Mitch Pileggi] into the mix a little more fully so you could have had Mulder and Skinner or Mulder and Doggett going off and doing the buddy thing, then coming back and have Mulder and Scully or Scully and Doggett or Scully and Skinner. It would have made for a less claustrophobic feel for the actors. Then again, you don't fix it if it's working."

-- "For some reason, we shot the scene where Reyes and the Game Warden dragged Billy Miles' body around over and over and over again," recalled Manners with a laugh. "I don't remember why, but I remember that the girls were really getting tired." On his DVD commentary, Manners shared the directing trick that when a camera shot comes from "underneath" a body laying on the ground (to focus on a person kneeling beside it), the body is actually on an elevated platform a few inches off the ground and the camera shoots over the body's shoulder. "In that shot, when someone is kneeling next to the body," said Manners, "you can't tell that the body is not on the ground on the same level as the person next to it. I don't know why, you just can't."

-- Scully's having a contraction??!!?? Get some water! Get some clean sheets! Get some whale mood music. But most importantly ... GET MULDER!

-- When Doggett followed Rohrer into the FBI building to see who he was meeting with (Kersh) and then went to Skinner's office to call Mulder, Manners noted that "it appeared Doggett was in different hallways, but he wasn't. We use the same hallway set, but just change the set dressing around so the viewer thinks the actor is in a different place."

-- Manners was very glad to be able to work with Nicholas Lea one more time. "Nick was always great," he said, "and he and David worked so well together; they just had this amazing chemistry. I really loved the way they played their last scene together. This episode was David's swan song, and I thought it was a great way for him to go out."

-- "The music added so much to the series," Manners noted. "Mark Snow really understood the series and he really understood storytelling. The things he does with the music make the finished product 10 times better. The show would have been nothing without him -- and he did it all at his house, all of it done electronically."

-- "I think Krycek's last scene was one of the best scenes I've ever directed," Manners said, "and it's definitely one of my favorite scenes to watch." Manners noted that it was his idea to use the computer generated slow-motion bullet to kill Krycek. "We were taking out one of our most prominent, most important villains," he said. "And I thought for that reason it needed to be spectacular. So I convinced them to spend the extra money to do the CGI."

-- Bye, bye, Ratboy! You made us love to hate you!

-- "I loved the way David played the scene after Skinner shot Krycek," Manners laughed. "He just walked away. Like 'okay, Krycek's dead, time to move along.'"

-- Manners said that he had joked "a lot" with Gillian Anderson during the entire pregnancy arc in Season 8, "and believe me, that really came in handy while we were shooting the scene where the baby was born."

-- The chase in the FBI building was originally written as a foot chase through the halls of the Hoover -- Rohrer and Crane pursuing Doggett and Skinner. But Kim Manners "thought it was too much like the Keystone Cops, so I suggested a car chase through the parking garage. I thought it would be a lot more exciting, especially against the scene of Scully giving birth. I think in the end I was right."

-- Oopsie! Doggett had his gun in his hand when he uttered his famous "I'm prepared to use force" line; but when he ran into and down the stairwell, the gun was no longer in his hand. When he exited the stairwell into the parking garage and found Skinner, his gun was back in his hand again.

-- In some of the shots of the car chase in the parking garage, it really was actor Kirk B. R. Woller (Agent Crane) and not a stuntman hanging onto the outside of Skinner and Doggett's SUV. "To get the shots of Crane fighting with Doggett through the window, we tied Kirk to the side of the SUV," Manners explained. "Of course, when Skinner scraped him off by hitting the concrete column," Manners chuckled, "well, that was a dummy."

-- "We shot in the parking garage for four days," Manners said, "and we were all getting a little punchy by the time we were done -- breathing all that carbon monoxide. But we got the last shot finished just as the sun was coming up on the last day. In fact, when Skinner's SUV peels out of the garage, you can see that the sky is lighter in the distance as the sun starts to rise. But I was really pleased with the end result. I think the car chase worked out wonderfully."

-- When Mulder arrived at Democrat Hot Springs via helicopter, you might have noticed that instead of landing, the helicopter hovered while Mulder exited. This was because the scene was shot at a State Park, "and you can't land a helicopter in a State Park," Manners explained. "I don't know why, but it's the law in California. So we just had the helicopter hover there so we didn't break the law."

-- It was always my theory that the starlight that guided Mulder to the end of his journey represented Samantha. (Obviously, I was as sappy as Chris Carter by this point in the show. < g >)

-- Manners called the "two-shot" of Doggett and Reyes pausing in Kersh's office doorway at the end of their confrontation with Kersh "the birth of the new season, of the new series. I set up that shot at the end of that scene specifically to focus on them, to convey that this was the future."

-- I have to give Manners credit; the first time I saw this episode and that particular shot, that was my feeling exactly. I saw something in that shot that made me decide to give the new kids a chance in Season 9. And I truly believe that if Mulder and Scully had exited the show together at the end of Season 8, and The X-Files had basically "started over" in Season 9, the show would have had a better shot at survival.

-- Though we saw Scully enter Mulder's apartment with a key numerous times over the series' history, "Existence" was the first time we saw Mulder enter Scully's apartment with a key. (And he put it back in *his* pocket!)

-- In an interview just after he left the series, David Duchovny was asked if there was any part of Mulder that he never got to explore as an actor. "The issue of Mulder's disappearance was never dealt with on an emotional level," he said. "Here was a guy who was abducted, we think. At least that's what *I* think, and I'm playing the guy. And nobody seemed interested in that when he came back. It was, 'Oh boy, you look bad,' and then, 'Here's another case. Want to take a look at this?' What I would have enjoyed playing as an actor was working through the difficulties that being abducted might have created inside the character. I don't think that's an opportunity we would take in the movies, though. It would just be reworking something from the past that not everybody would be aware of."

-- As Kim Manners described it, "The last scene was the scene the fans had waited eight years for."

-- "Scully's baby was played by my son Jerry," said John Shiban. "It was really a special moment to have him brought on set, and have Mulder and Scully, the characters who I'd lived with for so long, to be holding this little baby in awe and for it to be my son. It was just amazing."

-- "Jerry was only a few days old when he played William. Only a few days old and Shiban already had him working," joked Manners. "I think he got his own trailer too."

-- Although Mulder's middle name was William, and Scully's father and brother were named William, she told Mulder that the baby was named after his father. In Old Irish naming patterns, the first son is traditionally named after the father's father.

-- On the DVD commentary, Kim Manners said, "Interestingly, we established Jerry as William MULDER in this scene, but when we came back for Season 9, Jerry was a monster so we couldn't use him anymore. We had to cast babies that looked like Jerry. They say that all babies look alike, but let me tell you, all babies do not look alike."

-- "We all knew [the kiss] had to happen," said John Shiban. "This was going to be it. This was the culmination of their relationship. We'd been playing all year. Is Mulder the father of the baby or is he not the father? And this was our way, without actually saying it. The love that we always hoped was there is there."

-- "Here we were giving everyone what they had longed for," added Chris Carter, "what they had been teased about, what they had been cheated of in the movie, what they had been given in a kind of bogus scene in Season Six. We gave them the real thing here, we gave them a passionate kiss. And I think David and Gillian were up for it. I mean, I saw them. They were kind of giddy and giggling before it happened, and it was hot."

-- Carter may have agreed that the kiss was the right decision after the fact, but the moment was written as another forehead kiss in the script. He was finally talked into using the passionate kiss by David Duchovny and Kim Manners.

-- And Manners and Duchovny were right. It was a perfect and fitting final image of this partnership, this relationship, this friendship, this "union of perfect opposites," with a baby who represented the future and the hope of mankind nestled between them.

-- "My last day was very emotional," recalled David Duchovny. "My very last day was running shots and little bits of action that we had to do for the last few episodes. I was with Mitch. Chris came down to the set. Chris and I spoke. We had to work together. All that other stuff [the lawsuit], in the end, really is business. What we do on The X-Files is business, and yet it's a creative process. If Chris and I aren't speaking, that's a big deficit, a big gap. We had to be adults. We're paid to do a job. And that means speaking to each other."

-- "But my second-to-last-day, when I shot my last scene with Gillian, was very emotional and very sad," Duchovny said. "I really *hadn't* pondered the weight of eight years coming to a close until I was in the middle of the scene and realized that this would be the last time I was going to do Mulder and Scully on the show. It was sad and very heavy, but not depressing. It was an acknowledgement of a lot of time, effort, and love."

-- Kim Manners' DVD commentary about the final scene goes exactly like this: "This was David and Gillian's last scene together and we shot it on the last day. As they come together to kiss, you will see the camera pull back out the door and that was the last shot of David and Gillian together. And we wrapped, and David and Gillian stood in that room together alone and held each other for a good five minutes. They didn't talk, they didn't move, they just held each other, with tears running down their faces. It was a very touching moment and one I will never forget. And I think we got the kiss in one take."

-- I always say that I would have preferred it if the show had ended after Season 7, but only if this had been that ending. (Ending the show with Mulder abducted and Scully knocked up wouldn't have been a satisfying conclusion to me.) But having the show end right where "Existence" did would have been perfect. (And as noted above, I would have been much more willing to give a new cast a try knowing that Mulder, Scully, and baby were together and fairly happy.)

-- I've also always said that having Mulder become a father was the perfect ending for that character, an important part of bringing his story to a close. Fox Mulder's quest was never about proving the existence of extraterrestrials or uncovering government conspiracies against the American people. It was never even really about finding his sister specifically. It was about restoring what was lost on that fateful night in 1973 -- his family. That dream was denied him, as he lost first his father, then his mother, and eventually learned that Samantha had died long before he even started searching for her. This final moment brought Mulder full circle -- the son became the father and had a chance to succeed where his father failed. I've always felt that the "truth" in this story was synonymous with "love" and Mulder finally found the "truth" that was out there, the "truth" that eluded him for so long. His quest was finished. And this was how it should have been left.

-- "At a certain point, you need to close chapters and open new ones," said Frank Spotnitz. "'Existence' was that point for us."

-- "We were heading forward into a David Duchovny-less, Mulder-less X-Files, and it was a funny place to be," added Chris Carter. "It was sweet and sad, but I think that everyone rallied and did a great job. And I think that the work that we did on 'Existence' made it possible for David to return, made him want to return, at the end of Season Nine."

-- Once & Future Retreads: Nicholas Lea returned in the recurring role of Alex Krycek. Adam Baldwin was Knowle Rohrer in this episode, "Per Manum," "Three Words," "Nothing Important Happened Today II," and "The Truth." Zachary Ansley played Billy Miles in this episode as well as in the "Pilot," "Requiem," "DeadAlive," and "Essence." Kirk B. R. Woller played Agent Crane in this episode and in "Within/Without," "Via Negativa," and "Essence."

(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 "Existence."

Happy Thanksgiving!
Polly