REPOST - CTP Episode of the Day - 03.27.06 - One Breath

Today's Cherished Episode: One Breath (2x08)
Original Air Date: November 11, 1994
Written By: Glen Morgan and James Wong
Directed By: R.W. Goodwin

Scully is found alive but in a coma, and Mulder must fight to save her life.

"Why don't you just drop your cynicism and your paranoia and your defeat? You know, just because it's positive and good doesn't make it silly or trite. Why is it so much easier for you to run around trying to get even than just expressing to her how you feel? I expect more from you. Dana expects more. Even if it doesn't bring her back, at least she'll know. And so will you."

Some "One Breath" Tidbits and Musings:

-- Title: The episode title comes from the phrase spoken by Scully's father in his soliloquy to his daughter: "Hello, Starbuck. It's Ahab. People would say to me, 'Life is short. Kids, they grow up fast,' and 'Before you know it, it's over.' I never listened. For me, life went at a proper pace. There were many rewards ... until the moment that I knew ... I understood that I would never see you again ... my little girl. Then my life felt as if it had been the length of one breath, one heartbeat. I never knew how much I loved my daughter until I could never tell her. At that moment, I would have traded every medal, every commendation, every promotion for one more second with you. We'll be together again, Starbuck. But not now. Soon."

-- Timeline: No specific date is given within the episode, but Mulder turns the calendar to November in the episode "3," and "Firewalker" begins on November 11th. Thus, Scully was returned sometime in early November 1994, three months after she was abducted.

-- According to Glen Morgan, the writers set out to make "One Breath" David Duchovny's "Beyond the Sea," to try to give Mulder more character rather than just having him breaking down doors to solve the mystery. Morgan and Wong had intended for "Little Green Men" to provide Mulder with that depth of character, but that episode didn't turn out quite as they intended.

-- The episode teaser featured Scully as a child (with voiceover by Sheila Larken as Mrs. Scully) with her two brothers. The voiceover referred to Dana, Melissa, and Bill Jr. by name; the script indicated Scully's other brother was named "Charles."

-- "'One Breath' was one of the most popular episodes on the show and really it's not an X-File per se," said Chris Carter. "It's really an exploration of Mulder's caring for Scully. The episode begins in a way that I never imagined an X-Files episode beginning, which was a kind of dreamy reminiscence by Scully's mother about Scully's childhood and about her realizing that things die and about the sadness and sorrow that comes with death, and it set up the episode in a frightening way because they were looking at Agent Scully's headstone there, prepared for her to die as well. It was a very soft but beautiful opening for the show, something we hadn't done before."

-- The tombstones of both main characters made an appearance in the show (before either character had died), Scully's here in "One Breath," six seasons before Mulder's would appear in Season 8's "Within."

-- It seemed odd that Scully's mother would order a tombstone describing her daughter as "Loving Daughter and Friend" as opposed to "Loving Daughter and Sister." Interestingly, the inscription on Melissa's tombstone (shown in Season 3's "Apocrypha") reads "Beloved Sister and Daughter."

-- Oopsie! The inscription on Scully's grave marker includes a quote from the Bible, "The Spirit is the Truth" (another curious choice by Dana's mother!), 1 John 5:07. However, this statement actually comes from the previous verse, 1 John 5:6, which reads: "This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ, not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth." 1 John 5:7 reads: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one."

-- The tombstone Bible inscription cites "1 John 5:07" as the source; but this would be a highly unusual way to reference a single-digit Bible verse. It should have been inscribed as "1 John 5:7."

-- The scenes set at Northeast Georgetown Medical Center (where Scully was returned) were filmed at B.C. Children's Hospital, 4480 Oak Street.

-- In advising Mrs. Scully about Dana's criteria for terminating life support, Dr. Daly mentioned the Glasgow Outcome Scale. The Glasgow Outcome Scale is a scale that assesses the outcome of serious craniocerebral injuries, based on the level of regained social functioning. The five categories of the original scale are: dead, vegetative, severely disabled, moderately disabled, and good recovery.

-- Gillian Anderson gave birth to her daughter Piper on September 25, 1994, by C-section, just 10 days before coming to the set to film this episode. She was still a bit wobbly and exhausted, and she spent most of the episode in bed in a hospital gown, occasionally falling asleep while filming some of her scenes.

-- "The mythology of the series didn't really blossom until the unexpected event late in the first season, which was the real-life pregnancy of Gillian Anderson," recalled co-producer Frank Spotnitz. "That event forced the X-Files to be serialized in a way I don't think it was ever intended to be serialized. Suddenly there had to be an arc of stories that dealt with the fact that Scully was going to be gone for who knew who many episodes."

-- "We knew we had a window where we had to write her out," added co-producer Howard Gordon. "Fortunately, this was a show about abduction, so we abducted her.

-- "There was talk of actually making her have an alien baby, which would have been a terrible idea," said Chris Carter. "So what we ultimately decided to do was to shoot around her pregnancy and her pregnant stomach. Then we had her abducted, Gillian went off and had her baby, and then she came back in this episode."

-- Melinda McGraw made her first appearance as Melissa Scully in "One Breath." Melinda worked with writers Glen Morgan and James Wong when she played Detective Cyd Madison on The Commish, and the role of Melissa was written specifically for her. The producers considered making Melissa a romantic interest for Mulder, but later nixed the idea. Melinda can next be seen as Barbara Gordon in the new Batman film, The Dark Knight.

-- Melissa's introduction scene in the original script was a bit different than the one in the episode. Here is the scene as it appeared in the script:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Light sparkles, bending inside a slowly spinning crystal. The crystal is lowered onto Scully's chest. A female hand holds the stone over Scully's heart. The respirator HISSES.

MELISSA SCULLY, 29, looks down upon her younger sister. Melissa is dressed in a long flowered dress with a subtle crystal necklace. There is a level of sadness to Melissa, but it is not from her sister's condition. She seems to have a certain peace about the situation. Melissa holds the rock over Scully's heart and closes her eyes. In the background, Nurse Owens is tending to someone in the room.

MULDER enters, approaching the bed. He studies Melissa.


Without opening her eyes, Melissa extends the crystal to Mulder. He reaches for it, then pulls his hand away from the heat. Melissa slowly opens her eyes, enigmatic.

MELISSA: I've been told not to call you "Fox".

MULDER: By who?

MELISSA: Dana, just now.

Mulder eyes her, curious.

She talks a lot about you.

MULDER: She never talks about you.

Melissa smiles at Mulder, but once again turns sad at the probably truth.

MELISSA: Probably not.

MULDER: Who are you?

MELISSA: My name's Melissa.

Margaret Scully enters the ward and is surprised to see Melissa. There is tension between the mother and daughter, but it is subtle as both sides try to hide their feelings.

Hi mom.

Mulder turns, surprised.

MULDER: You're Scully's sister?

MARGARET: Thank you for coming, dear.

MULDER: (to Margaret) She said she talked to Dana, just now.

Margaret is dubious.

MELISSA: And I didn't even ask her for money.

Margaret is not pleased. Mulder moves to the EEG machine.

MULDER: If she had spoken to you, the EEG would have moved.

Melissa shakes her head, "not in that way".

MELISSA: Her soul is here.

She gently moves her hands out over her sister's body. Margaret turns away, upset.

MARGARET: Would anyone like coffee?

Mulder and Melissa shake their heads "no". Margaret leaves.

MELISSA: Dana's choosing whether to remain ... or move on.

Mulder looks over the area, then to Melissa.

You don't believe ... but you want to. You want to believe more than ever.

He looks to her, close to nodding in agreement.

You can feel her. Here.

She closes her eyes and holds her hand over Scully's body. Mulder moves to the bed, holding out his hand.

CAMERA FOLLOWS HIM, however, THE CAMERA MOVES BEYOND Mulder toward Scully, PUSHING IN on her eyes. CLOSER... CLOSER...



Waves lap against the hull of a small wooden rowboat, matching the rhythm of the respirator.


sits on the boat. She wears a black Victorian coat. Her expression is blank as she looks towards the shore. On the dock, stands Mulder and Melissa continuing their conversation from the hospital. In fact, their SOUND PRESENCE is the same as if they were standing over the hospital bed.

Nurse Owens stands behind them by herself on the dock.

MULDER: She's not here.

MELISSA: Your anger ... your hurt ... is blocking the emotions you need her to feel.

MULDER: She's gone.


Mulder steps back. Melissa takes his hand, he pulls his hand away.

MELISSA: She needs you.

MULDER: I need to do more than just wave my hands in the air.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

-- The scenes of Scully in the rowboat were filmed at Rice Lake in the Seymour Demonstration Forest.

-- "That image of Agent Scully in that boat in the like was one of those classic images," said Chris Carter. "I think it was so symbolic of being tethered to something very tenuously and the chance that you could be cut adrift, that you could slip into the unknown ... into the abyss. So it was not just a beautiful image cut also a very symbolic one, I think."

-- Mulder put a masking tape "X" on his window for the first time in this episode to try and make contact with his informant "X." He previously used a blue bulb in his desk lamp to try and summon Deep Throat.

-- Oopsie? The date at the top of Scully's chart (that Frohike smuggled from the hospital in his pants) curiously said "01/01/94."

-- Langly's comment about "hopping onto the internet to nitpick the scientific inaccuracies of Earth 2" was a nod to the internet X-Philes who worked tirelessly to nitpick the facts of the show.

-- Earth 2 was a sci-fi series that ran during the 1994-1995 season on NBC. The series was set 200 years in the future at a time when Earth's pollution had forced humans to live in confining space stations and produced a generation of children who were sick from the lack of a normal environment. An intrepid group of adventurers known as the Eden Advance team hijacked a spaceship and set off to set up a colony on an unspoiled distant planet that promised a new beginning - Earth 2. The show was produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Studios, and featured two actors whose names would become better known later in their acting careers: Rebecca Gayhart (who is also married to Eric Dane of Grey's Anatomy) and Rockmond Dunbar (C-Note on Prison Break and Kenny Chadway on Soul Food).

-- According to Michael Duggan, one of Earth 2's producers, the Earth 2 nod was a "welcome to the neighborhood" message from Chris Carter. Carter and Michael Duggan were good friends.

-- The "newest Lone Gunman" "The Thinker," first mentioned in this episode and later seen in "Anasazi," was modeled after fan and America Online member Yung Jun Kim (also known as "DuhThinker") who had a vast knowledge of various things related to the show.

-- Nurse Owens was named after Glen Morgan's grandmother.

-- The scenes in the hospital laundry room (where the Overcoat Man who stole Scully's blood was executed by X) were filmed in the Hotel Vancouver's laundry room.

-- Dr. Daly mentioned Karen Ann Quinlan while discussing removing Scully from a respirator with her family. Karen Ann Quinlan was an important figure in the history of the right to die debate in the United States. When she was 21, Quinlan fell unconscious after coming home from a party, and lapsed into a persistent vegetative state. After she was kept alive on a ventilator for several months without improvement, her parents requested the hospital to discontinue active care and allow her to die. The hospital refused, and the subsequent legal battles made headlines and set significant precedents. Not only was the case groundbreaking legally, it was remarkable for its rare appeal to religious principles. Because she and her family were Catholics, several principles of Catholic moral theology were critical in deciding the case and thus influencing a development in American law, an influence replicated around the world. The case is credited also with the development of the modern field of bioethics and of advance health directives. Although Quinlan was removed from active life support in 1976, she lived on in a coma for almost a decade until her death from pneumonia in 1985.

-- Skinner tried to stand up to the Cigarette-Smoking Man by pointing out the "Thank you for not smoking" sign on his desk; but in order to be taken seriously, perhaps he should have removed the ashtrays that were placed around his desk and office.

-- "The character of Skinner in his interaction with the Cigarette-Smoking Man I think points up the politics of the show in the way the mythology is setting up with Skinner as both as an antagonistic and an institutional figure," explained Chris Carter. "He's got to function as an FBI Agent and as Mulder and Scully's ally and so his relationship, his sparring with the Cigarette-Smoking Man and not allowing him to smoke in his office, speaks to his alliances and allegiances with Agent Scully and his hatred of this man that he cannot vanquish, that he cannot get rid of, that he has to tolerate and this is defiance of that."

-- Mulder referred to Cigarette-Smoking Man as "Cancerman" for the first time in this episode (in Skinner's office after the CSM had left).

-- Mitch Pileggi loved to refer to the character of the Cigarette-Smoking Man as "Cigarette Butt."

-- William Scully's speech to his daughter had personal significance for both Glen Morgan and James Wong, who both had daughters. Glen Morgan told his mother that if he ever died before his time, she should show that scene to his children.

-- Scully said in "Beyond the Sea" that her father was a Captain in the Navy, but when he appeared to her in this episode in a dream-like state, he was wearing the stars of an Admiral, perhaps attributable to Scully's idolization of her father.

-- This scene between Mulder and Melissa was in the script but cut from the final version of the episode:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


The needle, which has been nearly flat, suddenly records activity.


Scully, no longer with a tube over her throat, remains alive, comatose. Nurse Owens looks over her, smiles.

OWENS: You're doing well on your own, sweetheart. We're all behind you.

She walks away. Melissa appears and kisses Scully on the head. Melissa looks around, then lights a stick of incense and directs the smoke toward Dana.

Mulder enters with an expression of doubt.

MELISSA: The hospital doesn't allow incense in the I.C.U.

MULDER: What about lava lamps and Vangelis CD's?

MELISSA: Is that how you break down The New Age?

MULDER: There are a lot of good beliefs in it, I'm just cautious of the cash motive.

She nods, understands.

MELISSA: So, you believe in an afterlife?

MULDER: All I'm sure of is ... if there's a rock 'n roll Heaven, you know they got a helluva band.

She eyes him.

MELISSA: How 'bout some coffee? (poking fun at herself) Or I have some Gota Kulu tea.

MULDER: Sure, that'll go good with a jelly donut.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

-- The address where the Cigarette-Smoking Man could be found, provided to Mulder in a pack of Morleys, was 900 West Georgia Street. That was the address of the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver, located across the street from the Vancouver Art Gallery.

-- While other members of the Syndicate were often shown living in posh surroundings, CSM was usually shown living in a sparsely furnished, dimly-lit, small apartment or hotel room, as he is in this episode: drinking, smoking, and watching old black and white war movies on television.

-- CSM's comment to Mulder, "I've watched presidents die," foreshadowed Season 4's Morgan and Wong script, "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man."

-- "Prior to 'One Breath,' the Cigarette-Smoking Man was kind of a dark figure who sort of lurked around in the shadows and didn't do much more than smoke cigarettes," said "One Breath" director Robert Goodwin. "I mean, he really didn't have much dialogue prior to that, you know. And to be truthful, I didn't know if Bill Davis ... later I learned he was an incredible actor, he taught acting, he had an acting school, but at that time I didn't know anything. All I knew was he was a guy they brought in to smoke cigarettes. So here we had this incredible scene where Mulder came into his apartment, with a gun to his head, and basically Mulder was going to blow him away because he's sure the Cigarette-Smoking Man had something to do with Scully's disappearance. And Bill was fantastic."

-- "There were two characters in the Cigarette-Smoking Man," recalled Kim Manners. "There was the Cigarette-Smoking Man played by the actor Bill Davis, and then there was the cigarette. And if you watch closely ... again, this I owe to Rob Bowman, he knew that the cigarette was its own character, and the lighter could also become a character. And you could tell a story just by a little smoke in the foreground. You didn't even have to see Bill yet, it was like the downbeat and Mark Snow would come in, you knew this was not going to be good because the cigarette smoke was there."

-- "Bill knew exactly when he did it," said Script Supervisor Helga Ungurait. "And he would do the first take and he would take a puff and he'd talk a bit, and then do the blowing out at a certain time. And the second take, I would be keeping track of the puffs, when he puffed, so 'cut, print, move it on; Helga, print take two and four.' I would go up to him and say, 'So we're printing take two' and he'd go, 'When did I first puff?' I would tell him the word and he would match himself perfectly."

-- "The Cigarette-Smoking Man was the Darth Vader of The X-Files," Kim Manners said. "Again, like so many things on the show, everything that was given birth, seemed to be given birth for, because it was an accident almost. And now suddenly this man who was nothing more than an extra leaning against a file cabinet became the lead villain on the show."

-- Mulder's signature on his resignation letter was different than the signature on his FBI ID shown in the opening credits. Mulder also needed to go back to Typing 101: he put a period after his typed signature.

-- Mitch Pileggi acknowledged that "a lot of people kind of fell in love with Skinner" during the scene where the A.D. tore up Mulder's resignation and discussed an out-of-body experience he had in Vietnam which helped explain Skinner's support of Mulder and his work. Pileggi said that the powerful scene won over many viewers, "especially people who weren't sure about him."

-- Pileggi used the bits and pieces of Skinner's history that the writers provided -- like the Vietnam story told in this episode -- to create his own vision of the character's back story. "I always figured that he came up through the ranks," said Pileggi, "starting out in the field, doing pretty much the type of work that Mulder and Scully were doing. He could no longer get too involved with all that, but I thought he was trying to direct Mulder. He was a bit like the stern father with the disobedient son, wasn't he?"

-- Asked if he drew on any personal experience for the scene between Skinner and Mulder, Pileggi said, "I wasn't in Vietnam, but I was of that age, though. I had a high lottery number and I was also going to college and I didn't go. I had a lot of friends that went, I had a lot of friends who were killed, and I had a lot of friends who came back from Vietnam and were terribly affected by it. I have a friend who was a tunnel rat over there who is still dealing with it. Tunnel rats were usually pretty small guys who went down into the tunnels and flushed the Viet Cong out. My friend did that and he's still dealing with it to this day, and that was a long time ago. But I've talked to people like that. I didn't specifically got out and research anything in particular for that scene, but I just recalled a lot of conversations with him and remembered how he was, and talking to other people who had been in Vietnam and stuff like that. I just tried to immerse myself in as much of that as I could. And then just played the scene. I just took what they gave me and played the character as I thought he would react in those circumstances. And they pretty much left me alone."

-- When Melissa arrived at Mulder's apartment and knocked, the "2" was missing from the apartment number on his door.

-- This was the version of Mulder's goodbye speech at Scully's bedside that appeared in the script:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Scully lies in the bed. It is uncharacteristically quiet in the ward. It is relatively dark. Only pickets of illumination shine from desk lamps and headboard lights.

Mulder pulls up a chair alongside his friend. He isn't teary nor does he look directly at her, but it is from the bottom of his soul.

MULDER: The first time I saw you Scully ... I hated you. I couldn't let you see it ... but ... when they told me they had assigned another agent ... I knew you were put on to be a watchdog. I resented you in my life ... and now ... now I can't imagine my life without you.

He now looks at her, thinking of something more to say. But he's said it all. Mulder leans back in the chair, sitting by her side.

CAMERA MOVES, PULLING BACK. Mulder and Scully appear as if they were the only two people in the universe, as the darkness surrounds them.

Above her bed is a wall clock. It is 8:27pm.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

-- When Mulder returned from the hospital after his goodbye to Scully to find his apartment ransacked, the script did not call for him to cry. David Duchovny did this himself and did the scene in one take.

-- "The effects in this episode were minimal but memorable," recalled Chris Carter. "The scene where Scully is in her bed, going from the forest to the hospital room, or the hospital room to the forest, was a blue screen shot but it was actually going to be very complex and ended up being very easy in the end. I think it was done as a very sophisticated dissolve from one location to another, but that was the wizardry of Mat Beck who was the special effects supervisor and it worked beautifully. It was evocative of the dream-like quality of the whole episode."

-- The Superstars of the Super Bowls videotape wasn't the gift that Mulder gave to Scully in the original script of "One Breath." (And he also had a gift for Scully's sister Melissa.) Here's the dialogue from the last hospital scene as it was originally written; one of Scully's lines from this dialogue directly relates to the original dialog in Mulder's goodbye speech that wasn't used in the final version of the episode.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Scully lies in a hospital bed in her own room. She is weak and pale. An I.V. is still inserted into her arm. Flowers and cards surround the head of her bed. Margaret Scully sits next to her daughter, Melissa is also in the room. There is a knock at the door. Mulder opens and peeks inside. He carries two small plastic bags. Scully is too weak to react.

Mulder smiles at Margaret.

MARGARET: Hello, Fox.

SCULLY: Not Fox. Mulder.

Mulder smiles.

MULDER: How do you feel?

SCULLY: Mulder, I don't remember anything ... after Duane Barry ...

MULDER: (gently) Forget it.

Mulder places one bag on the nightstand by Scully.

I brought you a present. A CD box set of the Essential Recordings of Elvis Presley from the 1950's.

SCULLY: I knew there was a reason to live.

He hands Melissa the other bag.

MULDER: And these are the Essential Elvis recordings of the 1960's.

MELISSA: I'll invite him over for a listen.

Mulder looks to Scully, gently placing a hand on her arm.

MULDER: I know you need rest. I just wanted to say hi.

She nods, closes her eyes, seemingly lost to sleep. Margaret and Melissa exchange glances with Mulder who takes another look at Scully before gesturing with a short wave. As he starts to leave ...

SCULLY: Mulder...

He pauses.

I look forward to getting back to work.

Mulder nods and starts to exit.

And I can't imagine it without you either.

He's floored, but would never show it. He reaches into his pocket to place something in her hand.

MULDER: I've been holding this for you.

She's too weak to look. He begins to exit, CAMERA PUSHES IN to her hand, IN CLOSE, to REVEAL her tiny gold cross necklace.

HOLD, for a beat ...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

-- Actress Ellen Bledsoe (Nurse Wilkins) recently had a small role in the film Things We Lost in the Fire which also featured David Duchovny. She played one of the attendees at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

-- Once & Future Retreads: Don Davis reprised his role as Captain William Scully; he first played the role in "Beyond the Sea." Jay Brazeau (Dr. Daly) was Professor Varnes in "Lazarus." Lorena Gale (Nurse Wilkins) was Ellen Bledsoe in "Shadows" and the Attorney in "Elegy." Ryan Michael (Overcoat Man) was Agent Cameron Hill in "Unrequited."

-- "Gillian's real-life pregnancy caused this happy accident that became this story arc," said Frank Spotnitz. "And there is a beautiful irony in all that because ultimately Gillian Anderson's real-life pregnancy led to the story line about Scully not being able to have a baby and then miraculously by the end of the series having a child. And all of that was a wonderful sort of blur of real life and fiction, because one would not have happened without the other. If Gillian Anderson had not had Piper in season two of The X-Files, the show never would have evolved the way it did."

(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 "One Breath."