CTP Episode of the Day - 12.12.06 - Fire

Today's Cherished Episode: Fire (1x11)
Original Air Date: December 17, 1993
Written By: Chris Carter
Directed By: Larry Shaw

Mulder and Scully encounter an assassin who can start fires with the touch of his hand.

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"I was merely extending her a professional courtesy."
"Oh, is that what you were extending?"

Some "Fire" Tidbits & Musings:

-- The meaning of the episode title is fairly obvious, as the villain of the piece was able to conduct fire.

-- "Fire" also referred to the Convenient Plot Device tossed into the episode: the revelation that Mulder was afraid of fire. But like so many other X-Files "convenient plot devices" over the years, this fear was never mentioned again (except in fanfic).

-- Chris Carter had been warned about the expense and problems that could arise when working with fire, though the only real glitch involved a scene where David Duchovny suffered a burn severe enough to leave a scar on his hand and Mark Sheppard (Cecil L'Ively) suffered a slight burn on his face.

-- The character of Phoebe Green -- played by Amanda Pays, whose credits included The Flash and Max Headroom -- was considered as a possible recurring role on the series, owing to Carter's admiration for the actress and his love of Sherlock Holmes. Carter was intrigued by the idea of incorporating a Scotland Yard detective into the show.

-- Forgive the puns, but the "Phoebe as Mulder's ex-flame" angle was apparently added after shooting on the episode began to try and add a few "sparks" to the story. The character was originally supposed to be a Scotland Yard detective seeking Mulder's assistance on the case. Sheppard apparently did not care for the addition of that sub-plot and nicknamed the character "Feeble Green."

-- The chemistry "didn't work as it might," Carter said, and scrapped plans to add the Scotland Yard character to the cast -- though Phoebe did achieve the desired effect by becoming a character, as Carter put it, "who fans on the Internet loved to hate."

-- The name "Phoebe" is a Greek name, meaning "the shining one," an appropriate title for a woman sending Mulder into fire. This was also reinforced by Mulder's assertion that "Phoebe is fire." It is the feminine form of "Phoebus," another name for Apollo, the fiery sun god.

-- When Phoebe Met Scully ... the script did not include Phoebe's whisper to Mulder, "She hates me."

-- The British lord Malcolm Marsden was named after the show's chief hairdresser.

-- "Fire" contained a number of references to Sherlock Holmes:

(a) Phoebe made a reference to a "three-pipe problem." This was an expression used in the novel The Red-Headed League which featured Sherlock Holmes. It referred to the fact that one had to sit and smoke at least three pipes in order to solve a case with the information one had gathered.

(b) Scully called Mulder "Sherlock" and he called her "Watson." Dr. Watson was the faithful friend and colleague of Holmes (and Scully is also a doctor).

(c) Scully asked Mulder if "the game is afoot," an expression used many times in the Sherlock Holmes novels, meaning that the mystery had begun.

(d) Phoebe Green reminded Mulder of the fact that they once had a tryst on the tombstone of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle was the creator of the character of Sherlock Holmes.

-- Oopsie! The digital display of Scully's watch was set to 4:22 while the hands read 5:05.

-- Mulder's comment about having to "spend the night in the rubble" of his friend's house that burned down to keep away the looters was not in the script. The script indicates his fear of fire stemmed from his friend's house burning down when he was a kid.

-- As aired, the scene where Mulder told Scully about his fear of fire ended with his comment, "Sooner or later a man's got to face his demons." But two interesting lines that followed were cut from the final version. SCULLY: A word of advice: When you do, try and keep both feet on the floor. MULDER (mock effrontery): You know me, Scully. I'm a monk. [Mulder just kept unfolding like a flower, didn't he? < g >]

-- Mulder's line, "I'm cursed with a photographic memory," has also provided much fodder for fanfic. But in the script, the line is, "I'm blessed with a good memory."

-- Mark Sheppard's frustration with building up the Phoebe Green storyline was undoubtedly due in part to the fact that it forced the cutting of some of L'Ively's storyline. For example, a portion of Scully's voiceover about the profile of the suspect was cut which then severed a thematic link to Mendelssohn's Wedding March which L'Ively was humming as he went about his business in the climactic scene in the Cape Cod house. (Sheppard's enthusiastic humming was featured quite prominently in the Season 2 gag reel.) The tune Sheppard was humming no longer made sense since this part of Scully's voiceover was cut: "Though he may be academically retarded with below average intelligence, his crimes are often very clever and elaborately planned. In some cases, the arsonist will refer to the buildings or objects that he burns as the 'bride' or the 'girlfriend.' The setting of the fire he calls 'the wedding.'"

-- Although the reason for Sheppard's choice of tune was eliminated, Sheppard found that it did prove his bona fides to on-line X-Files fans when he first went into an AOL chat room shortly after the second season began. "'What was the song' they were asking me," he recalled, "and I realized that they knew more about the show than I did."

-- Mulder's bed-bouncing in the hotel room is not part of the script, though Scully's cold-water telephone call is. (The script notes indicate "He hadn't figured Scully's appearance into his night's activities.")

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-- Following the scene where viewers first see Mulder in his tux, the script notes go like this: "As elegant as Lady Marsden might be, Phoebe is without a doubt the most attractive woman in attendance. Mulder, looking at her. If he had any willpower or indecision about Phoebe, the evening is now a fait accompli. She looks irresistible."

-- Although I'm not sure if the same song is used in the episode, the script notes indicated that the song Mulder and Phobe dance to should be "a slow romantic tune -- These Foolish Things Remind Me of You." The most famous version of the song was recorded by Frank Sinatra, but it has also been covered by Billie Holliday, Sarah Vaughn, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Aaron Neville, Rod Stewart, and Michael Buble.

-- The script contained an exchange between Mulder and Phoebe that did not appear in the episode as aired. After Phoebe's line, "That doesn't mean there won't be any fires to start," (which in the script is "any fires to put out"), the following discussion takes place as Mulder and Phoebe dance:

MULDER: Elegant couple, the Marsdens.

PHOEBE: Lovely children. Frightening that anyone might wish them harm. (beat, as she studies Mulder) Ten years, Mulder. You've barely changed. I'm surprised somebody hasn't scooped you up.

MULDER: How do you know they haven't?

PHOEBE: Really, darling. You underestimate my investigative skills. Do you think I'd have gone to all the trouble if you were?

MULDER: Yes. (Phoebe smiles, lays her head on Mulder's chest.)

PHOEBE: I've thought about you often. Have you thought about me?

MULDER: (takes a breath) Nah. (Mulder can feel Phoebe smiling. She knows he's lying.)

-- In the episode as aired, Phoebe only said "I've thought about you often" before Scully arrived, watched Mulder and Phoebe impatiently, saw L'Ively, looked back and saw Mulder and Phoebe kissing, turned away and saw L'Ively had disappeared, then ran up to announce the hotel was on fire. In the script, before they kiss, Mulder and Phoebe have one more exchange:

PHOEBE: What are you thinking?

MULDER: How incredible that it took 350 years for someone to solve Fermat's last theorem. (Phoebe takes her head off Mulder's chest, smiles impetuously.

PHOEBE: Same thing I was thinking. (And they kiss. Softly, tentatively at first. Before the flood gates open.)

-- That Mulder! What a romantic!! Fermat's last theorem is one of the most famous theorems in the history of mathematics. It states that it is impossible to separate any power higher than the second into two like powers (i.e., the sum of two cubes is not a cube). Despite how closely the problem is related to the Pythagorean Theorem, which has infinite solution and hundreds of proofs, Fermat's subtle variation is much more difficult to prove. Still, the problem itself is easily understood even by schoolchildren, making it all the more frustrating and generating perhaps more incorrect proofs than any other problem in the history of mathematics. No correct proof was found for 357 years, until it was finally proven using very deep methods by Andrew Wiles in the summer of 1993. Wiles devoted seven years of his life to cracking the theorem. All the other theorems proposed by Fermat were proven, either in his own proofs or by other mathematicians, in the two centuries following their proposition. The theorem was not the last that Fermat conjectured, but the last to be proven.

-- After the fire, when Mulder awoke the next day, he script notes were as follows: "Close on Mulder, shirtless, under the covers of the romantic four-poster bed with the lacy pillows. A woman's hand enters frame, gently caressing his forehead. Mulder opens his eyes, groggily. He coughs a little, trying to focus on -- angle to include Scully -- slowly coming into focus. Not the woman he was expecting to end up in this bed with."

-- The famous "black silk boxer shorts" scene was originally a "Jockey underwear" scene. The script notes said: "Mulder coughs some more. He pulls the covers away, rolls out of bed, wearing only his jockey underwear, heading into the bathroom."

-- For what it's worth, Gillian Anderson reported that David Duchovny wore only black satin boxers for their famous Rolling Stone cover photo shoot.

-- When L'Ively went up in flames toward the end of the episode as aired, he said, "You can't fight fire with fire." But in the script, L'Ively's line was "You -- you ruined my wedding night," which had to be changed since that theme was excised (as noted above).

-- In the script, the final voiceover was Mulder's, but in the episode it was Scully who provided the episode wrap-up.

-- In her voiceover, Scully referred to "X-Files number 11214893" -- 11/21/48 is Chris Carter's wife's birthday, and the episode was filmed in 1993.

-- Scully noted in her voiceover that L'Ively had fifth and sixth degree burns over his entire body. In classical medical literature, there were six degrees of burns, but generally, only the first three degrees are still commonly used by the public. In fifth-degree burns the muscle is irretrievably lost, and in sixth-degree burns the bone is charred. Carter also referred to fifth and sixth degree burns in Season One's "Fallen Angel."

-- The footage of Scully typing at the end of the episode was used for a third time in Season One. It was first seen in "Squeeze" and reused in "Shadows," then appeared again here -- except this time, it was run backwards.

-- In the original script, the scene between Mulder and Scully in the X-Files office followed Scully's voiceover accompanying shots of L'Ively in the hospital (where he said he was dying for a cigarette). The exchange between Mulder and Scully was basically the same in the scripted version and the aired version, except that the aired version ended with Mulder's reprise of the line "Ten to one you can't dance to it" (referring to the second tape Phoebe left). In the scripted version, following that line Scully said, "Well, never let it be said that you wouldn't walk through fire for a woman, Mulder," to which Mulder replied, "And never let it be said I wouldn't do it for you again, Scully." [She smiles. They exit. And we fade out. The End.]

-- "I'll tell you what's weird about my job," said Mark Sheppard in an interview that took place nearly ten years after his appearance as Cecil L'Ively in Season One's "Fire." "We all take it very seriously. We're all in this trying to make a world, and adhere to a set of rules that don't really exist. They only exist in the minds of the writers, the creators, and the actors -- and the fans. We're trying to make this as real as possible. I think that's why The X-Files worked, because of how much everybody put into it. Everybody wanted it to be good!"

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-- Sheppard followed his role as Paddy Armstrong in the controversial drama In the Name of the Father with an audition for The X-Files. "I still have the appointment slip," he recalled. "They wanted to know if I could do an American accent -- that was very important. They found actors who could do the American or the English, but not both. They wanted it to be realistic."

-- Sheppard also demonstrated the sleight of hand that Cecil L'Ively used to impress the two young boys -- a trick that he actually did on camera. "I learned the magic trick for palming the cigarette," he said. "I actually did that at the audition. In the episode, I actually did it in one take, but for some reason they ended up editing it so it looked weird. I knew how to do a 'French drop' with a coin, so on the first day I arrived in Vancouver, I had my wardrobe fitting then went back to the hotel. I took a stick of chewing gum, folded it in half lengthways, and worked out how to palm it for six hours!"

-- Sheppard quit smoking six years before filming "Fire," so he smoked Honey Rose herbal cigarettes all the time. "It was weird to have to fake it," he commented.

-- Of course, Cecil L'Ively didn't bother with anything so mundane as a lighter -- he was able to light his own cigarettes simply by thinking about it. Sheppard, however, needed assistance from the special effects department. There were only three of those cigarettes made," he pointed out. "This was the early days of The X-Files when they didn't have a fortune, and on that episode the stunts were pretty big. The cigarette was the first stunt we did. There were three of them with an incendiary device in the end of the cigarette, and a copper wire that ran out into the side of my mouth. We could then hide it down one side of my face. I asked the special effects guys to show me how the cigarette worked. They said that they only had three, but I insisted, and they finally agreed. One of them put one in his mouth, lit it -- and it blew up! They were very embarrassed, and fixed them all, taking the magnesium charge out to make it lighter."

-- If the episode was being made several seasons later, a lot of the fire would probably be created with computer graphics, making it much safer for the actors on the set. In 1993, that wasn't an option. "It was all real fire on the episode," Sheppard said proudly. "It wasn't computer fire. There were real flames everywhere. That was me in the hotel corridor -- and I got a nice tan on the top of my head! If you watch the episode really closely, you can see me drop. As the stuntman playing Mulder dove out of the way, I was at the end of the hallway. The camera was on me, and they only had the one hallway, which they had to blow up at the end. We get there, they blow it up, and suddenly it gets amazingly hot. You see me drop to my knees as Mulder dove to the right because I was afraid that my hair was catching on fire. Entertainment Tonight was filming us, and all you could hear after the stunt finished was 'Cut -- did we get the take?' I was going, 'You bastards, you burned my head!' It was a very real fire, and very frightening."

-- One fire stunt that didn't make it as far as the studio floor was a further display by L'Ively of his powers. "There was a quarter mile of white picket fences catching fire," Sheppard remembered, "and other stuff got taken out. It kept getting pared down before we shot it."

-- Sheppard was keen to do as much of his own stuntwork as he could. "When I showed up for the audition, the guy from Stunts Canada showed me a video of his arm on fire outside his garage, and asked if I would be willing to do this stunt. I said, 'If I don't get to do this stunt, I'm not going to do this thing.' He was like, 'Oh, great!' When I was being lit up and prepped, there were guys three feet away from me who would put me out in a second. But it was still scary. Fire's a very powerful thing. My arm was on fire in the bar. I light the bar on fire with my arm, and all the rest of that stuff."

-- The only stunt that was not performed by Sheppard was the full body burn, which was carried out by a stuntman. "He had actually done full body burns for me three times, on three different shows," Sheppard commented. "He's a great guy. He has a lot thinner eyebrows than he should! He's a superb stuntman. He spent 20 minutes with me beforehand working out what my actions would be so he could match it, then I had to match the screen mask -- the copy of my face that he was wearing -- in the close-up, which was also done live, not with CGI. They let me do everything else, but they wouldn't let me do that. They lit him up with rubber cement, which is the hottest burning explosive, and exploded him with propane. He went for 28 seconds on this burn, and they shot it with three or four cameras. When they got to the end and put him out, they found out that he didn't have any oxygen -- and he'd gone for 28 seconds like that."

-- As is often the way with television production, the first scenes of the episode were actually recorded last. "We shot that teaser at the weekend, on the sixth day of a five day shoot," Sheppard said. "We ran out of time and because I'd done so much overtime already, I was feeling very generous. So we went off to this house and shot it at the weekend. They slapped the beard on me, and we filmed it with minimal crew. It was the only way that we could finish the episode."

-- Sheppard remains proud of his association with the series, as well as appearing at number 14 in an X-Files magazine poll of the show's Top 20 Villains. "Think about how many villains there had been," he said. "There was something special about that first season. They were new, and they didn't really have their audience. They made their audience on the back of the first season, and it was really exciting to be part of that."

-- Since his X-Files appearance, Sheppard has been a busy actor, most recently appearing in three episodes of Medium as the very nasty Dr. Charles Walker. He also appeared in the fifth season of 24 as Ivan Erwich, the "Yellow Tie Man."

-- Amanda Pays has been married to actor Corbin Bernsen (L.A. Law) since November 1988. The couple has four sons.

-- Larry Shaw directed this episode as well as Season One's "Fallen Angel." Most recently, Shaw has directed numerous episodes of Desperate Housewives.

-- Once & Future Retreads: Lynda Boyd (Woman in Bar) was Elizabeth in "F. Emasculata." Alan Robertson (Grey-Haired Man) was Roosevelt in "Teso Dos Bichos."

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(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 "Fire."

Polly