CTP Episode of the Day - 11.08.06 - First Person Shooter

Today's Cherished Episode: First Person Shooter (7x13)
Original Air Date: February 27, 2000
Written By: William Gibson & Tom Maddox
Directed By: Chris Carter

Mulder and Scully enter a violent video game to trade bullets and photon blasts with a deadly game vixen who does not play by the rules.

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"What kind of moron gets his ya-ya's out like that?

"I don't know about you, Scully, but I am feeling the great need to blast the crap out of something."

Some "First Person Shooter" Tidbits & Musings:

-- "First Person Shooter" is a phrase used to describe games like Quake and Doom -- games where you see the action through your game-character's eyes (first-person perspective), and your main goal is to shoot your weapon and take out your opponents, bad-guys, etc.

-- This was the second episode written by William Gibson and Tom Maddox; the first was Season 5's "Kill Switch." William Gibson was a Nebula and Hugo-award winning author of science fiction novels including Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and several other works that established him as the founder and master of the "cyberpunk" school of sci-fi writing. Tom Maddox was a novelist, essayist, and head of the writing program at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, as well as a good friend of William Gibson.

-- Gibson and Maddox's story idea for this episode, much like "Kill Switch," drew on the dark side of the high-tech, glamorous cyberworld, combining corporate greed and the concept of violence as entertainment into a claustrophobic, cutting-edge, visceral, visual exercise.

-- "William Gibson and Tom Maddox always got us into trouble," said Frank Spotnitz. "They always came up with these great ideas that were always hard to execute."

-- Part of that problem was translating the writers' expansive concepts, which worked fine in their novels, into forty-four minutes of television airtime. Spotnitz remembered that the process of crafting the "First Person Shooter" script was a slow one. "Their idea was ultimately changed somewhat to fit the concept of an X-File. We worked with them on the first two acts and then they went away and came back to us with two more acts."

-- But the biggest challenge in "First Person Shooter" soon became budgetary. The sheer visual weight of the episode threatened to make it go drastically over budget. Consequently, production designer Corey Kaplan saw the cyberterrain as a personal challenge. "Being a big William Gibson fan, I thought, 'How do I do this justice?' I'd like to brag that we created everything you see out of our own heads. But the reality is, initially, we had some video game companies send us some virtual game layouts. But we decided that we were not going to simply copy existing designs. Finally our approach was to draw some pretty pictures. We concentrated on very minute strokes and details. Everything on that episode had a price tag. It was damned expensive for a TV show."

-- But for all the visual flash and special effects firepower, Carter knew that "First Person Shooter" was going to live or die on the charisma and believability of the virtual game huntress Maitreya (also known as Jade Blue Afterglow). "You would think that you could toss a rock anywhere in Los Angeles and hit ten of those girls," said Carter. "But one of the toughest parts of casting that episode was the character of Jade Blue Afterglow."

-- Casting director Rick Millikan soon found out how tough a task it would be. "I looked at everybody: strippers, adult video entertainment ladies, erotic thriller/direct-to-video type actresses. Chris really wanted a hot-looking woman but, obviously, she had to be able to do a lot of the physical things. I had known Krista Allen for years. There was this little wholesome quality about her that initially bothered Chris. But as we went through the rest of the choices, she actually ended up being the right person."

-- "It's kind of a standing joke in The X-Files that we never cast stunningly attractive people -- not that we cast unattractive people. I think we have a very attractive cast," said Frank Spotnitz. "But we never cast people that look like Jade Blue Afterglow. We don't. We try to cast people who look like everyday people, by and large, because one of the aesthetics of the show is that it should all seem very real. So we were enjoying the novelty of casting a part where it was important that the person looked like a sexpot."

-- Apparently, a last-minute change was made to the script, because in the press release for this episode, the character was actually named Jade Blue Cockburn.

-- Locations were predictably spread out. The action-packed opening sequence and much of the cybershootout sequences were shot in the more industrial part of downtown Los Angeles. The final showdown on Western streets was shot in the often-used dusty back roads of Valencia, California (where it apparently rained 400 inches a day since Scully seemed to be caught in a downpour while facing down the cyberbabe).

-- A downtown Los Angeles warehouse area, complete with a long straightaway and surrounded on either side by six-story buildings, served as the backdrop for the opening sequence in which the trio of cybergeeks meet their fate. It also put stunt coordinator Danny Weselis through the proverbial wringer. "I had fourteen stuntmen on Kawasaki 600 racing bikes riding down a corridor firing gas-powered machine guns. I was coordinating heavily with Bill Millar, who needed certain things for the visual side. We had to create fireballs so that he could coordinate with his effects to make players disappear from the game. There was lots of gunfire and hundreds of squibs. We also had doubles for Mulder and Maitreya for their martial arts fight. We had a sword master on set to teach Krista how to use a sword and a gymnast (Dana Heath) to double Krista for the scene where Maitreya does a series of handsprings."

-- "We had the obligatory Sharon Stone leg-crossing homage in the episode," said Chris Carter. "And so when you're telling the cameraman where to put the camera, down here, looking up at her skirt, everybody gets a little bit nervous, including the actress I'm imagining, because it's a very risqué camera angle. And then you have the actress do it several times wearing next to nothing. And I have to say, for the first two or three times she did it, everybody kind of held their breath, and then it was no big deal. It was as if she was, you know, eating a sandwich."

-- "That shot was actually kind of difficult because I kept getting the timing wrong," said Carter. "I didn't know whether I wanted her to deliver the line before she crossed her legs, during crossing her legs, or after she crossed her legs. And so I think I had her do it about 20 times, not being able to make up my mind. So I'm sure she became an expert leg-crosser."

-- Gibson and Maddox were longtime fans of the Lone Gunmen and deliberately featured them in "First Person Shooter." Bruce Harwood said he was grateful for the work ... and it was most definitely work. "We did a lot of hard running, over and over. I know I felt terribly out of shape and ended up giving myself a charley horse. One thing I always wondered about was how the Gunmen made their money, and this was the first time we had a clue that they did this sort of game programming thing on the side."

-- "We heard, 'You're stuck in a virtual reality game,'" explained Dean Haglund. "And then we saw all the cool guns and the outfits. Well, we got our outfits in the trailer and it was the whole action thing vest. And, 'Oh, cool, we can hardly wait till we get our guns!' And then we realize, oh wait, we were stuck in the virtual reality game without weapons. How pathetic. We were all looking forward to being action heroes. Of course, Mulder had to come in and save our butts."

-- The scope of production of "First Person Shooter" predictably manifested itself in an extremely tight production schedule. "We were still cutting the show on Saturday afternoon, the day before the show was set to air," said Spotnitz. "The show just barely made it to air."

-- Gillian Anderson enjoyed the episode, despite its reliance on big guns and raging testosterone. She liked the opportunity to show Scully wearing heavy metal and firing oversized weapons. "But it was kind of tricky. That episode was filmed at a time in the season when there was still a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. It was an interesting feeling on the set with all these guys running around with big guns, just blasting away."

-- The scene involving Maitreya astride a tank was added in postproduction at the suggestion of visual effects coordinator Bill Millar. "He kept sweetening it for Chris," explained Spotnitz. "The whole scene just kept getting bigger and bigger." Recalled supervising producer Paul Rabwin: "At one point, I think Bill Millar was talking to Chris. Chris was saying, "I want her to appear in military garb and fire an Uzi." And I think Bill, literally as a joke, said, 'Why not put her in a tank?' and of course Chris said, 'Gee, that's a great idea.'"

-- Much of the opening action sequence was shot at the famed Rykoff food distribution company, one of the oldest buildings in downtown Los Angeles. Rykoff was the uncle of X-Files producer Paul Rabwin.

-- Mulder and Scully must have been pretty popular with the L.A. County Sheriff's department since they worked together in this episode and on the episode prior to this one, "X-Cops." In fact, perhaps Mulder and Scully stayed on in L.A. as guests of the department, and that's why the dead body was still on the floor when they arrived for "First Person Shooter." Otherwise, it had to lay there waiting for the duo to make their way across the country after being called in by the Lone Gunmen.

-- The door that led to the "game world" was supposed to appear heavier, but the actors forgot to fake it while filming.

-- "Maitreya" means "loving one" in the Buddhist religion.

-- Maitreya says "Watashiga korekara surukotowo yurushitene" to Musashi just before he loses the game. It is Japanese for "Forgive me for what I am about to do."

-- Although the name Musashi seems to be a somewhat common Japanese name, game-guru Daryl Musashi may have been named for the popular SquareSoft game "Brave Fencer Musashi." "Musashi" is also a series of books written in the 1930s about a Ronin, or rogue Samurai. (They were last reprinted in 1985 in the United States.) He is the literary epitome of the Samurai who holds no allegiance to a Lord and the best of the best.

-- Reportedly, David Duchovny did not want to do the "hand-biting" scene in the police station and tried to talk Carter out of it, but the director insisted. At least it was an appropriate Mulder touch that he closed the blinds to shut out the voyeurs.

-- Langly and Frohike tried to build a "kill switch," possibly as an homage to that other episode written by Gibson and Maddox.

-- Mulder reprised his "bring it on" Mulderism first uttered in Season 6's "Arcadia."

-- We knew that calling Scully "baby" could result in one having to pee through a catheter. In "First Person Shooter," we learned that it might also result in "counting your teeth."

-- Oopsie! Mulder dropped his sword after saying "that's not really fair, is it?" but it is back in his hand when Cyber!Scully appears to save the day.

-- Luckily Mulder wisely didn't call Scully "baby," but he certainly looked like he wanted to when he first saw her in her Game Outfit Complete with Big Gun. Duchovny's facial expressions are always dead-on, and this one was no exception: a cross between "my hero(ine)" and "oh yeah (baby) you can do me right here."

-- Although the script was written by Gibson and Maddox, I'd be willing to bet that the final voiceover was written by Carter. It certainly had his fingerprints all over it, and IMBO, it's probably the worst voiceover in the series' nine-year history. It's a puzzlement that the same person can write something as deep and beautiful as the opening voiceover in "Memento Mori" and something as shallow and baffling as "if the taste of victory is sweet, the taste of virtual victory is not Sweet 'N Low." Huh?

-- Interestingly, the closed captioning on the episode indicated that the ending voiceover was supposed to be delivered by Scully.

-- I always imagine that the computer generated image of Scully as voluptuous vixen shown at the end of the episode was the product of the Boys at 1013 fulfilling their deepest, darkest immature hormonal fantasies about the character they created. The 1013 team fashioned one of the most intelligent female characters on network television, but sadly, they also probably imagined this was the Scully that existed under those FBI tailored suits -- complete with thong, lace-up bustier, and f***-me heels.

-- Krista Allen was known for her roles as Shelley on The Bold and the Beautiful, Billie Reed on Days of Our Lives, and Jenny Avid on Baywatch Hawaii. She also appeared in the television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

-- Michael Ray Bower (Lo-Fat) played Danny in the David Duchovny film Evolution.

-- Constance Zimmer (Phoebe) had recurring roles in Joan of Arcadia (Sister Lilly Waters), In Justice (Brianna), Entourage (Dana Gordon), and Boston Legal (Claire Simms).

-- Once & Future Retreads: Matthew Sutherland (Records Clerk) had a small role in "Theef."

-- "First Person Shooter" won two Emmy Awards -- for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Dramatic Series and for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Dramatic Series. It was also nominated for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Dramatic Series

-- Many X-Philes absolutely detested this episode, and it's not one of my favorites, but I kind of liked it in a way. It was visually interesting (even though the game itself seemed quite boring), had some nice playful Mulder and Scully banter, and (to fulfill my deepest hormonal fantasies) Mulder in a codpiece. "That's entertainment," Mulder said, and he summed it up nicely, though "That's mindless entertainment" might have been more accurate. But X-Files episodes were generally so cerebral that I didn't consider a little mindless entertainment to be such a bad thing every now and then.

-- The prime example of why I do like this episode is that if it had come three or four years earlier, Scully would have found Mulder's frequent displays of boyish exuberance quite annoying. But at this point in Season 7, it was very apparent that she found Little Boy Mulder and his ya-ya's quite charming. She smiled warmly and affectionately every time his youthful enthusiasm bubbled to the surface. And if that's not evidence that Love Was In the Air, then I don't know what was. And to me, that was reason enough to like "First Person Shooter" just a little bit.

-- And I bet Mulder got more for his birthday than one of those vests. < g >

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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 "First Person Shooter."

Polly