CTP Episode of the Day - 05.23.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Milagro (6x18)
Original Air Date: April 18, 1999
Story By: John Shiban & Frank Spotnitz
Teleplay By: Chris Carter
Directed By: Kim Manners

A struggling young writer obsessed with Scully seemingly has the power to make his grisliest fantasies come true.

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

"I made a mistake myself. In my book I'd written that Agent Scully falls in love. But that's obviously impossible. Agent Scully is already in love."

Some "Milagro" Tidbits & Musings:

-- "Milagro" is Spanish for "miracle."

-- "It's amazing how all-consuming a writer's life is. When you're job is to write, you're always writing. I find myself thinking about scripts and plots and characters when I'm in traffic, when I'm on my way to the doctor's office, all the time. The real challenge is keeping it from crowding out your real life. Because it wants to." -- Frank Spotnitz

-- "All of us here spend a lot of long days and late nights trying to dig into the darker recesses of our imaginations. In many professions, not just writing, I think there is the big problem of getting so close to your work that it becomes more real to you than your family or home life. That possibility certainly scares me. And that's what The X-Files is all about, I think; finding the things that scare us. And the things that scare us the most are the things we know are really a part of us." -- John Shiban

-- No wonder that these two writers came up with the idea for "Milagro" -- the episode dealing with "a writer's horror story" as described by Shiban. The idea was born one day in January 1999 when Shiban and Spotnitz were sitting and talking about the peculiar stresses and demands of their jobs. It suddenly seemed an easy fit to do a story about someone who imagines things so well that they come to life or become real. Shiban said, "The image of someone pulling out his own heart will be familiar to anyone who's ever agonized over a novel or a script." Shiban and Spotnitz were very proud that this was the first XF episode that told the story from inside another character's head (not Mulder's or Scully's).

-- Because of complicated scheduling problems and Chris Carter's temporary unavailability -- he was writing the pilot episode of his new series Harsh Realm early in the year -- Spotnitz and Shiban plotted and boarded the bare bones of "Milagro" and then handed it over to Carter who made his own additions and deletions while writing the teleplay. "Chris's great contributions," Spotnitz said, "were the gift of faith and healing coming from Christ, and also the beautiful turn at the end, where the writer, Padgett, proves he does have love in his heart by giving his own life to save Scully's."

-- When the script was finished and distributed in mid-February, it was immediately recognized for its distinctiveness. "It was so intimate, so quiet," said director Kim Manners. "No big explosions or supernatural stuff, just two people looking into each other's eyes -- and Scully being drawn toward this man like a moth to a flame. A sexual excitement underneath everything. A psychodrama. Very cool."

-- But Manners saw two potential problems in translating the script to the screen: (1) that Scully, in being attracted to Padgett, would look merely like a sex-starved woman making an irresponsible choice; and (2) that Padgett, in spinning out his tale of writerly obsession, would come off as an obviously unbalanced psychotic. The first pitfall was solved by suggesting to Gillian Anderson that Scully, although somewhat attracted to Padgett as a man, was predominantly driven by an intellectual and professional curiosity about the writer's intense personality and bizarre pursuits.

-- The second problem was solved by choosing John Hawkes to play Padgett. The part, in fact, had been written expressly for the actor; some weeks earlier, Hawkes had auditioned for the lead guest role as Pinker Rawls, the man who could walk through walls, in the previous episode "Trevor." While not deeming Hawkes right for that part, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz noticed a dignity and simplicity in his bearing that would prevent the protagonist of "Milagro" from becoming a caricature."

-- John Hawkes appeared with DD in the feature film, "Playing God." He also worked with DD's wife, Téa Leoni, in her sitcom "The Naked Truth," and with Vince Gilligan in the feature film "Home Fries," which Gilligan wrote. He also guest-starred in a Season 1 episode of Millennium. Hawkes will next be seen in this summer's theatrical release, "Miami Vice," opening July 28.

-- The name Phillip Padgett was also the name of the character Nicholas Lea (Krycek) played on his appearance in the SciFi series, The Burning Zone (in the episode "The Hall of the Serpent"). Lea played a cult leader and evil psychic-surgeon. Coincidence? Probably not.

-- Kudos to Kim Manners who used the camera much like a stalker in this episode, with extreme close-ups of Scully's lips, eyes, and legs, and lots of different camera angles. She-of-the-perpetual-pantsuit Scully also spent a lot more time in a skirt in this episode which helped cement her image as "sexual" rather than "scientific" being.

-- This episode marks the third appearance of Angelo Vacco, Vancouver production assistant turned actor, in an X-Files episode. He played the ill-fated 16-year-old Romeo killed in "Milgaro." He was previously seen in Season 2's "F. Emasculata" and Season 3's "Talitha Cumi," and would also appear in Season 9's "Improbable." Vacco also had a small part in DD's movie, Evolution. (And from today's "It's a Small World After All" files: another actor who appeared in Evolution [as lothario Barry Cartwright who met his end on the golf course] was Gregory Itzin who's been giving a chilling performance as President Logan in this season's 24.)

-- Two carefully selected Los Angeles-area churches, selected to stand in for the one in which Scully encounters Padgett (and the painting of "The Divine Heart" -- actually a new work commissioned by production designer Corey Kaplan based on the real story of Saint Margaret Mary and the Revelation of the Sacred Heart) pulled out before filming began, and a frantic late search had to be launched for a replacement. The church used looks like the same church used later in Season 7's "Hollywood A.D."

-- Similarly frustrating was a search for a suitable graveyard. Most Southern California "memorial parks" are of the Forest Lawn variety, with marker plaques sunk flush into the ground. It took locations manager Ilt Jones several days of hard scouting to find a serviceable cemetery -- with old fashioned vertical tombstones -- in Altadena, a quiet suburb east of Los Angeles.

-- In the cemetery scene, the camera lingers on a tombstone engraved with the names "Diana and Nicholas Salinger," which were the names of the deceased parents of the kids on FOX's Party of Five.

-- The last name of the psychic-surgeon in the episode is "Naciamento"; an alternate spelling (Nascimento) is Portugese for "birth" (and the character is Brazilian where they speak Portugese). Another variation (Nacimento) is Spanish for birth.

-- In his score for "Milagro," composer Mark Snow used the recorded sound of a human heartbeat several times as a percussive element.

-- The index cards that Phillip Padgett pins to his wall in "Milagro" are covered with "plot points" from the T.S. Eliot poem "The Wasteland." That's the poem that begins ... "April is the cruelest month ..." (the phrase Mulder uttered in "D.P.O.").

-- Seeing the Hegal Place address on Padgett's mail that Mulder pilfers reminds me that it is probably a reference to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the German philosopher who proposed that truth is reached by a continuing dialectic (the exchange of logical arguments).

-- "Mr. Popularity." That makes me laugh. That's the pot calling the kettle "Mr. Popularity."

-- The mysteries of Mulder's apartment continue (it's an X-File in itself!). Padgett was able to listen in to Mulder's living room from his living room through the vent. But shouldn't Mulder's kitchen have been on the other side of Padgett's vent?

-- Thanks to the Writer's observations, it appears that Scully has lived in Georgetown and driven the same car since 1993.

-- Enquiring minds want to know: Did Mulder just swallow that toothpaste in his mouth when he answered the door? Toothpaste with a caffeine chaser? Yuck!

-- "... an errant strand of titian hair behind her ear ..."? There's a fanfic joke in here somewhere, but I can't quite seem to find it.

-- The MSR has always been best defined by others, and to me, Padgett's revelation that "Agent Scully is already in love" is a defining MSR moment, because finally someone speaks it out loud, not in a joking way, or mistaking them for a couple, but saying it flat outright to their faces. And although Scully says nothing, Mulder's very slight sideways glance at Scully says it all. He has been wearing his feelings on his sleeve for a while, and this is perhaps his first clue that Scully might feel the same, even if it has to be pointed out by someone else.

-- After Padgett returns to his apartment after being held in jail, he removes his shoes. I've always thought that was interesting, since later we see Scully with her shoes off and that's what ultimately delays her from joining Mulder in going after Padgett.

-- Speaking of Scully's missing footwear, I love the shot of Scully lounging on Mulder's couch, as it's a wonderful contrast to the bedroom scene in Padgett's apartment. Sitting on Padgett's bed, she was tense and nervous. Here, sitting on Mulder's "bed" (at least until recently), she is relaxed and comfortable shoes off, head back, eyes closed. Long before "all things," I think this is exactly where Agent Scully found her true path.

-- A few "tee-hee" moments during the big ending: I find it no wonder that Padgett's character couldn't cut it as a "real" surgeon since he appears to be trying to extract Scully's heart through her belly button. And I think it's funny that Mulder's neighbors are obviously so used to the shenanigans going on in his apartment that a woman screaming bloody murder doesn't even rate a curious onlooker.

-- Over the years, many have said that Scully's hysterical reaction upon coming to after her ordeal is not true to the character; that she wouldn't allow Mulder to see her fall apart so completely in racking sobs, clawing at his back to draw him closer. I think that's exactly the point. Though there were subtle signposts in season 6, "Milagro" was the turning point that put their relationship on a new level. This experience changed both of them, and for the first time Scully was not afraid to let Mulder inside her heart. And whether it was luck or expert planning, it was a stroke of good fortune that "The Unnatural" followed on the heels of "Milagro." Scully opened her heart in this episode, and Mulder charmed his way into it in "The Unnatural."

-- I always hoped that perhaps one day an X-File episode would end with Scully doing the naked pretzel with a handsome guy on a bed in a comfortably furnished fourth floor apartment. Maybe one did, but of course, we didn't get to see it. Oh well. Just like Mulder: "I imagined it."

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