CTP Episode of the Day - 05.18.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Kaddish (4x12)
Original Air Date: February 16, 1997
Written By: Howard Gordon
Directed By: Kim Manners

Someone -- or something -- is killing the members of an anti-Semitic gang. To find the truth, Mulder and Scully delve into the ancient canons of Jewish mysticism.

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

"That seems pretty redundant, doesn't it? Messing up somebody you already killed?"

Some "Kaddish" Tidbits & Musings:

-- A "kaddish" is a traditional Jewish mourning prayer for the dead that is recited in daily synagogue services by relatives of the deceased for eleven months following the day of burial. The prayer is also repeated on the anniversary of death. A mourner recites the Kaddish and a quorum responds in unison with appropriate phrases. The quorum consists of at least ten Jewish males who are over the age of 13.

-- "Probably every Jewish writer who's passed through here has pitched a Golem episode," said Howard Gordon who finally got the green light to write the episode in his fourth -- and last -- year on the show. The key to getting the Golem on its feet, so to speak, was connecting the monster to the heartbreaking relationship between Ariel and her dead husband.

-- Gordon said that in the end, this was something created not out of revenge, or the notion of "an eye for an eye," but out of love. To serve as a thematic contrast, Gordon played up the element of anti-Semitism and intolerance, but decided early on not to mirror the actual situation in Brooklyn, which involved tension, sometimes erupting into violence, between Orthodox Jews and their African-American neighbors. "On my first stab at this I made the protagonists black," Gordon said, "but then I realized that black anti-Semitism is a very subtle and difficult subject and not what I needed in my dramatic structure. I needed straw dogs -- characters whose bigotry was unbridled and excuseless. This was also what the network wanted, and I didn't put up much of a fight, because I think they were right."

-- To research the state of American bigotry, Gordon contacted the Anti-Defamation League, which sent him the hate literature that was reproduced -- with only minor alterations -- to serve as the products of Curt Bjunes' print shop.

-- According to several historical accounts, the myth of the Golem inspired Mary Shelley when she wrote Frankenstein.

-- A twelfth-century communal wedding ring was used by the rabbi, a survivor of the Holocaust, who married two of Gordon's good friends.

-- To play Jacob Weiss, the producers went after Ron Leibman (Kaz), but when he was not available the role went to David Groh, best known as Valerie Harper's husband Joe on Rhoda. Groh caused a minor crisis when (due to a communications mix-up) he shaved off his natural beard before leaving for Vancouver.

-- To play Ariel Luria the producers chose Justine Miceli, a young actress best known for portraying Detective Adrianne Lesniak from 1994 to 1996 on ABC's NYPD Blue. Miceli was not Jewish, but one of her best friends was married to an Orthodox Jewish man. About a month before she was cast in the part, Miceli visited her friend's house when the family was celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkoth. The couple's rabbi told her, "Maybe one day you'll play a Jew. You've got the soul for it."

-- Upon winning the part, the friend's rabbi taught her the absolutely correct Hebrew pronunciation of the Jewish prayers she was to recite. Unfortunately, this was not the same pronunciation taught to her by an on-set expert hired in Vancouver. But many of her Jewish friends who saw her in the part told her the accent wasn't bad "for an Italian broad."

-- "Kaddish" had another technical advisor, a Hasidic rabbi who was an avid fan of the show, but who, for cultural and religious reasons, didn't want news of his addiction to get around. Kim Manners remembers that crew members would have to leave a message for the rabbi without saying they were from The X-Files, and then the rabbi would call them back and provide information. Eventually, the cat got out of the bag and he didn't help anymore.

-- No Jewish congregation in Vancouver would rent out their synagogue for filming, so an empty Protestant church was rented and production designer Graeme Murray designed a new interior that was literally built and dressed overnight.

-- A snafu occurred when a Hebrew translation of the Ten Commandments was needed to hang above the fake synagogue's altar. The show's Hebrew translator was unavailable to help -- she had the day off because it was a Jewish holiday. The art department ended up faking it.

-- Even more frustrating was the absolute refusal, during Mulder and Scully's graveyard scene, of the mystical Jewish book to burst into flames on cue -- and when it finally did, to burn with a sudden flame so huge that David Duchovny had to fling the specially rigged book to the ground and dash out of camera range. Duchovny and Anderson literally spent hours working with the second unit on that one brief scene; and as we all know, their adventures eventually became a highlight of the show's Christmas gag reel. "They don't make burning books like they used to."

-- Mark Snow, who is Jewish, said he enjoyed composing several clarinet, violin, and cello solos for the show's score. He borrowed J.S. Bach's "Little" Fugue in G Minor for one of the synagogue scenes. "The aim was to wind up somewhere between a Klezmer band and Schindler's List," Snow said.

-- Isaac Luria, the murder victim, was named for the famous rabbi Isaac Luria. Luria is credited as the father of Jewish mysticism, and a major contributor to the body of mystical knowledge known as the Kabbalah.

-- Harrison Coe, the actor who played Isaac Luria, appeared in three other X-Files episodes: in uncredited appearances in "Apocrypha" and "Unusual Suspects," and as Dave the Butcher in "Chinga."

-- Detective Bartley is named for XF cinematographer John Bartley.

-- Although this was the 12th episode of the fourth season filmed, it was the 15th aired. The reason: when "Leonard Betts" (4x14) was slotted for the 12th week -- crucial post-Super Bowl time slot -- it meant that Scully's cancer would be revealed, and TPTB decided that "Never Again" (4x13) and "Memento Mori" (4x15) should directly follow "Leonard Betts." So "Kaddish" was pushed back, and that explains why M&S are back to business as usual even though they've just learned that Scully has cancer.

-- "Kaddish" was dedicated to Lillian Katz. She was Howard Gordon's maternal grandmother, a wife and mother who worked in New York City as a newspaper clipper for Warner Brothers. She died at age 43 before Howard Gordon was born, but she loved show business, was an avid reader of the trade newspapers, and took her kids to the movies or to a Broadway play whenever she could. The night that "Kaddish" aired would have been her 89th birthday.

-- For me, "Kaddish" is quite interesting. The first time it aired, I think it suffered from following the highly emotional "Memento Mori" and also from being aired out of order. But as a stand-alone forgetting the cancer arc, I find it quite entertaining. It also takes on a different significance in light of Mulder's resurrection in Season 8. It's a quiet but powerful episode that gets better with age.

-- And parenthetical hair at its finest. Who could ask for anything more?

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

Polly