CTP Episode of the Day - 07.12.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Max (4x18)
Original Air Date: March 23, 1997
Written By: Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz Directed By: Kim Manners

Mulder and Scully get close to proving alien involvement in the crash of Flight 549. As they do so, they trigger a massive military disinformation campaign -- and the deaths of several friends and colleagues.

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

"I actually was thinking about this gift that you gave me for my birthday. You never got to tell me why you gave it to me or what it means ... but I think I know. I think that you appreciate that there are extraordinary men and women and extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals ... that what can be imagined can be achieved ... that you must dare to dream ... but that there's no substitute for perseverance and hard work ... and teamwork ... because no one gets there alone. And that, while we commemorate the ... the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifice of those who make these achievements and leaps possible."

"I just thought it was a pretty cool keychain."

Some "Max" Tidbits and Musings:

-- While not the most dramatically or emotionally gripping episodes of Season 4, "Tempus Fugit" and "Max" showcased the XF behind-the-scenes personnel at the peak of their creative powers. The two episodes were huge and more money was spent on them than any other episodes up to that time.

-- When the "plane crash" episode was conceived, it wasn't a problem that there was no story -- but it was a problem that there were no transportable airplane cabin interiors for rent, either in Los Angeles or Canada, that would simulate the effects of a violent decompression and swing open along its length to let in cameras and other equipment. So design and construction of a full-scale, completely rockable, shakable, and camera-accessible 737 -- a joint project of the art, construction, and special effects departments - began immediately. The final result was a full-scale cabin mock-up sitting atop a twenty-foot-high custom-built hydraulic gimbal unit that split open every six feet but could be reassembled seamlessly for filming at any point and from any angle.

-- Director Kim Manners recalled that the airplane was a really violent ride that traveled four feet in each direction and then rolled twenty-two degrees from side to side. It was so treacherous that the camera operators had to wear hard hats. Manners had 80 extras working on the scene where Max is abducted. "They made that show," he remembered. "Lisa Ratke, our extras casting girl, really pulled out all the stops on that one. She brought me some of the best talent ever. I mean, imagine saying to people, 'All right, now here's what we're gonna do. We're gonna put you on this airplane for three days, we're gonna shake the s--- out of you, and I mean violently.' And, oh yeah, we had little kids in there, too. I had four-year-old kids in that scene, and nobody ever complained. Nobody even got airsick -- they just got a little queasy every once in a while. The Chris said we should have some babies onboard, but I told him we couldn't have babies on that thing. We ended up using dolls instead of babies."

-- As Manners mentioned, shooting of the mid-air abduction scene (a portion of which was shown in the teaser of "Tempus Fugit," with the entire scene -- as imagined and narrated by Mulder -- shown in "Max") took three days. No computer generated images were used in the creation of this scene -- all the "magic" was created by the special airplane cabin specially built for these episodes and the stunt people who appeared to be sucked from the plane. For his airplane abduction scenes, Scott Bellis (Max) was rigged up in a harness, then yanked out by a crane through an opening in the cabin mockup. Then they did the same thing with a stunt man, "only they yanked him a lot harder," said Bellis.

-- Frank Spotnitz remembered that when he first saw the dailies of the mid-air abduction and the crash site, he laughed, not because there was anything funny about the scenes -- they were completely horrific -- and that's what got him so tickled. He was so proud of the efforts of the entire production staff in creating these scenes -- he was laughing with joy because he couldn't believe how successful the team had been.

-- Once back on the set and surrounded by many of the same people with whom he had worked on "Fallen Angel," Scott Bellis found little in his original concept of Max that needed changing. On "Fallen Angel," his instructions had been to make the audience like the character, and Bellis "made him neurotic, but not in an aggressive way that made him seem dangerous and dark." For "Tempus Fugit" and "Max," he made the choice to make the character slightly more serious. He spent much of his time working with the second unit on his posthumous videotape; he improvised the odd giggles and vocal mannerisms on the spot.

-- Scott Bellis's wife, actress Sandra Ferens, played a murder victim during the first season of Millennium.

-- Scully's bloody nose at the shooting scene is, I think, the first reminder of Scully's cancer since it was discovered in "Memento Mori" four episodes prior to this one.

-- Goodbye, Agent Pendrell. We hardly knew ye. Not even your first name.

-- The Season 4 DVDs include a deleted scene from "Max." The deleted scene shows Scully at the Air Force Reserve Installation waiting for Mulder to be released from custody. She fingers her cross, looks at it, then gets up and tells the person at the desk that she's been waiting for 2 hours. He picks up the phone to call someone, but just then a jeep pulls up outside with Prisoner!Mulder inside. What we saw in the episode picked up from there. In his commentary, Chris Carter explained that the scene was cut because it really didn't do anything to move the action forward; and when you have roughly 43 minutes to tell a story and advance the narrative, introspective and quiet scenes like the deleted scene are the first to be cut. (I have to say that I would have kept the scene in just because Mulder looks fabulous getting out of that jeep! < veg >)

-- My Mulder wears combat boots! Yum! And he should get a few more of those shirts with snaps. Sexy!

-- Everyone who's exposed to the radiation has nasty burns except for Mulder -- I guess that's the advantage of being the star of the show! Mulder only got a few bumps by his hairline -- now we know why he had that parenthetical hair all season -- to cover his radiation burns!

-- The song playing in Max's trailer is "Unmarked Helicopters," by Soul Coughing, which appears on the XF-inspired song compilation CD Songs in the Key of X.

-- Scully waxes poetic like she hasn't since the Conversation on the Rock in "Quagmire," and I love her comparison of Mulder and Max: That only they would appreciate living like that; kindred spirits in a deep, strange way; men with Spartan lives, simple in their creature comforts if only to allow for the complexity of their passions. And as he always does when Scully gets too close to the truth, Mulder deflects with humor.

-- According to his business card, Mulder's work phone number is 202-555-2350.

-- The mid-air abduction and impending crash is really spectacular on screen. Kim Manners said that he had never been in an airplane crash and it wasn't something he would ever want to experience -- but in staging the scene, he tried to imagine what he would do if put in that situation, and that's what he tried to bring to the scene. I often wondered if anyone watched this episode and was then brave enough to fly somewhere the next day.

-- When we get the "Mulder, it's me, where are you?" moment, he's at the Lariat rental counter.

-- Scott Garrett's question to Mulder ("Look out your window, Agent Mulder. You see the lights? Now, imagine if one of those lights flickered off. You'd hardly notice, would you? A dozen ... two dozen lights extinguished. Is it worth sacrificing the future, the lives of millions, to keep a few lights on?") is similar to a question asked of Joseph Cotton by Orson Wells in The Third Man regarding how he would feel if, while riding a Ferris wheel, one of the "dots" on the ground stopped moving.

-- As Skinner and Scully are meeting Mulder's plane, I always chuckle at the way one of those female agents runs down the hallway after them. She could really use a few pointers about running in high heels from Scully.

-- When Mulder asks Skinner the time, Skinner's watch says 10:56, a reference to Chris Carter's birth month and year (October 1956).

-- Oopsie! Mulder was quite concerned about the nine minutes he was missing, but he should have been a bit more surprised at how he was able to leap *forward* in time. When he glances at his watch, the date reads March 8; when this episode started, it was the morning of February 26.

-- Scully waxing poetic about Mulder's keychain birthday gift provides a nice bookend to this two-parter. And FWIW, in my estimation Scully does a pretty good job of summing up the meaning of the gift. Because, once again, when Scully gets too close to the truth, Mulder deflects with humor. It was definitely more than just a "pretty cool keychain."

-- Though he had few scenes, Scott Bellis was grateful for the work on "Tempus Fugit" and "Max," noting that he received a fine credit for his resume, some good scenes for his demo reel, occasional recognition on the street, and a few scattered fan letters -- most asking about the mechanics of how Max was levitated into oblivion. When he finished filming, Bellis said that he hadn't crossed Max Fenig out of his future plans. "Somebody told me once that the whole scene on the airplane was just Mulder's theory of what happened," said the actor. "So you never really know. Or do you?"

-- On the Season 4 DVD commentary, Kim Manners noted that TV directors rarely get the opportunity to do "feature" work, "but that's what Chris Carter hands you." He noted that "Tempus Fugit" and "Max" are prime examples of the type of work that isn't seen on other television dramas. "That's why Rob Bowman and I stay here," he said.

-- David Duchovny summed up "Tempus Fugit" and "Max" pretty well: "The episodes were fun to watch. They were full of big -- well, big production numbers. It's like Vegas; you bring all the show girls out, and all the hardware. Then you light 'em good and you get some real entertainment."

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

Polly