CTP Episode of the Day - 08.03.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Gethsemene (4x24)
Original Air Date: May 18, 1997
Written By: Chris Carter
Directed By: R. W. Goodwin

When a controversial scientist claims to have discovered evidence of extraterrestrial life, Mulder and Scully find their lives -- and belief systems -- in grave peril.

"It's an awful long way to go for a hoax." "If you're gonna go, why not go all the way?"

Some "Gethsemene" Tidbits & Musings:

-- Chris Carter's usually subtle religious references weren't so subtle in this episode. The Garden of "Gethsemene" was, of course, the place where Jesus went on the night before he was crucified to pray, to keep vigil, and to struggle with his fate (Matthew 26:36-46). It was here that his disciples "abandoned" him as they could not stay awake and "watch with him for one hour." And it was here that Judas Iscariot betrayed him. "Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners" (Matthew 26:45). The title is a reference to Scully's apparent betrayal of Mulder.

-- The episode tagline was changed to "Believe the Lie," a line that is spoken three times in the episode.

-- In order to give viewers and actors alike the feeling that the action was indeed taking place in a frigid wilderness, an entire set -- one of the most expensive and elaborate in XF history -- was built by Rob Maier's construction crew inside a refrigerated building originally designed to hold pork loins and TV dinners. Several truckloads of lumber went into the construction of the set; the entire framework was covered with 10,000 square feet of Styrofoam and "ice dressed" by spraying the whole assemblage with water.

-- The thermostat inside the windowless 70 x 20 x 30 foot warehouse storage space in Burnaby, just east of Vancouver was set at 21 degrees below zero, Farenheit, and everyone involved in the shooting was required to dress very warmly. (Still, David Duchovny joked, "I think I left a couple of toes on that soundstage.) But no one anticipated that the company's two carefully frozen ice blocks (one a spare) containing Toby Lindala's latex aliens -- intended, of course, to be dug out of the ice by the mountain climbers -- would literally explode from the extreme cold. As a fallback, director Bob Goodwin substituted a urethane plastic-enclosed alien, designed for the warm-bath autopsy scenes, built by David Gauthier's special-effect crew.

-- The other major logistical challenge posted by "Gethsemene" was the filming of its outdoor mountain scenes. To producer J.P. Finn's extreme frustration, the shooting schedule had to be juggled repeatedly because story weather and whiteouts around nearby Mount Seymour hindered visibility, mobility, and helicopter operations. (This was in early May, a season when melting snow and bare ground seemed a more likely problem.)

-- Compounding these difficulties was the fact that "Gethsemene" was the last episode of the season. Since the actors and most of the other personnel would be released at an agreed-upon date, adding additional filming days was extremely difficult.

-- Also worthy of several Extra Strength Excedrin: the fact that the lead actors, facing only a brief vacation before filming of the XF motion picture was to begin, were nearly exhausted.

-- Some of the dialogue of the scientists in the opening and closing scene was indistinct -- but could not be easily rerecorded, because most of the people in those archival scenes were dead.

-- Although Scully's brothers had been mentioned occasionally and were seen as teenagers in flashback in "Beyond the Sea," this was the first time one of them put in an appearance in the show. Pat Skipper, who played Bill Scully, Jr., had previously appeared in "Memento Mori" (and gave an exceptionally emotional performance), but because that episode also ran long, his scene was totally excised. So he appeared again -- for the first time -- in "Gethsemene."

-- Unfortunate actor James Sutorious playing dead in the alien autopsy bath, had to lie motionless underwater for more than a minute. Visual effects supervisor Laurie Kallsen-George had to painstakingly erase his tiny air bubbles in postproduction. (She also digitally added a thin scum of blood to the surface of his bathwater.)

-- Mulder mentions the Piltdown Man Hoax. Piltdown Man was the name given to human remains found in 1908 at Piltdown Common, Sussex. They were supposed to belong to a Piltdown man who lived 200,000 to 1,000,000 years ago. For forty years they were considered one of the archaeological finds of the century: A fragment of jaw and a part of a skull that could prove man evolved from the apes, the bones of the "Missing Link." Not. In 1953, a group of scientists attempted to use the new method of fluorine testing to get a more exact date on the bones. The test showed that the jaw was modern and the skull only 600 years old. Additional analysis confirmed the jaw was that of an orangutan. Both pieces had been treated to suggest great age.

-- In genetics, a "chimera" is an organism consisting of two or more tissues of different genetic composition, produced as a result of a mutation, grafting, or the mixture of cell populations from different zygotes - a hybrid. In Greek mythology, a "Chimera" was a fire-breathing she-monster, described as having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail, or an imaginary monster made up of grotesquely disparate parts. (Hence the Season 7 Episode.) "Chimerical" means created by or as if by a wildly fanciful imagination -- an excellent moniker for our own Cathy.

-- Scully mentions the Law of Occam's Razor. This is a scientific principle that states that other things being equal, the simpler of two explanations is usually the correct one.

-- Michael Kritschgau is named for a former drama teacher of Gillian Anderson's.

-- John Finn was introduced as Michael Kritschgau in this episode and reprised the role in four more episodes. He can currently be seen as John Stillman in the CBS series Cold Case.

-- Once and Future Retreads: In addition to Pat Skipper (Bill Scully, Jr.), and John Finn (Michael Kritschgau), Matthew Walker (Dr. Arlinsky) played Dr. Ronald Surnow in "Roland." Charles Cioffi (Section Chief Blevins) returned in the same role for the first time since "Conduit." He also appeared in the "Pilot." Steve Makaj (Scott Ostelhoff) was Frank Kiveat in "D.P.O." and a patrolman in "Ascension." Nancy Kerr (Agent Hedin) played Mulder's nurse in "Folie a Deux." Barry W. Levy (Dr. Vitagliano) was a Navy doctor in "Apocrypha." Arnie Walters (Father McCue) returned in "All Souls." Rob Freeman (Detective Rempulski) was Marshall Sim in "Christmas Carol." Craig Bruhanski, who cut the alien out of the ice block, also had small roles in "The List" and "Soft Light." (Many of these actors also appeared in the second and third parts of this trilogy, "Redux" and "Redux II.")

-- The first cut of "Gethsemene" was 12 minutes too long. "We took out a lot of hiking through the mountains," said story editor John Shiban. "Gethsemene" was also completely reedited by Chris Carter just two days before its air date. Carter's reediting undid much of the already frantic post-production work accomplished the preceding week, so Lori Jo Nemhauser (in her second year as associate producer) worked around the clock supervising the final stage of postproduction. After the final color corrections were made and a final check of the sound and titles, a final close viewing of "Gethsemene" was done, in real time, from beginning to end. Satisfied with the final product, Nemhauser made three high-quality tape copies: one for American broadcast, one for Canada, and a spare "safety master." The tapes were picked up by a messenger on May 18, 1997, at 5:46 a.m. to be delivered to the nearby Fox Broadcast Center -- to be broadcast to X-Philes everywhere that same evening.

-- But apparently something went right: The season-ender earned one of the highest ratings of the season -- and amazingly, set off a nationwide buzz of speculation as to whether Mulder was really dead. For instance, an article in the Wall Street Journal (headline: "The Truth is Out There, And So Are Some of These Fans") chronicled fans' theories as to the method behind Mulder's alleged madness. A few weeks later a cartoon that ran in The New Yorker showed a deeply depressed man lying on a psychiatrist's couch. "I see no problem with a limited period of grief," said his bearded shrink, "as long as you keep in mind that Agent Mulder was a fictional character."

-- Even Chris Carter was amazed by the response. He didn't complain, though, as it was a good sign that viewers would tune in en masse to the two-parter that would begin the fifth season.

-- "The whole plot line of 'Gethsemene' revolved around a hoax," said Carter, "but there were actually huge revelations in the show. And it was amazing that we could get people to believe that Mulder would actually kill himself because his belief system was stolen from him."

-- In a recurring XF theme, "Gethsemene" certainly pointed to Mulder serving in the Jesus role in CC's little allegory. Like Jesus, Mulder knew what it was like to be misunderstood; he knew what it was like to be abandoned; and he knew what it was like to be betrayed. It appeared he was about to be "crucified" by the F.B.I. In the garden, Jesus said about his disciples, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." As "Gethsemene" ended, Mulder's spirit was no longer willing; he was a broken man, he had lost his faith (in the truth), and was about to lose the remainder of what he held dear (Scully). And if we believed what we saw, it appeared that he had lost his life as well in one final act of lonely desperation.

-- We knew the kids were off to make a movie and it sure seemed likely that Mulder would survive this turn of events, but Chris Carter liked to keep us guessing. For those without internet access in 1997, he made it pretty easy to believe the lie. < g >

-- On a side note, David Duchovny's secret fiancée Téa Leoni visited him on the set during the filming of "Gethsemene." And a week after filming of his scenes was completed, David Duchovny and Téa Leoni were married -- on May 6, 1997, at 6:30 p.m., at Manhattan's Grace Church (David's mother was a teacher at the Church School).

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

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