CTP Episode of the Day - 07.28.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Paper Clip (3x02)
Original Air Date: September 29, 1995
Written By: Chris Carter
Directed By: Rob Bowman

Mulder and Scully seek evidence of alien experimentation by Nazi war criminals while Skinner tries to bargain with the Cigarette Smoking Man for their lives.

"I was a dead man. Now I'm back."

Some "Paper Clip" Tidbits & Musings:

-- As explained in the episode, "Paper Clip" was the code name for the project to bring Axis power scientists to America after World War II. Convinced that German scientists could help America's postwar efforts, President Harry Truman agreed in September 1946 to authorize "Project Paperclip," a program to bring selected German scientists to work on America's behalf during the "Cold War." However, Truman expressly excluded anyone found "to have been a member of the Nazi party and more than a nominal participant in its activities, or an active supporter of Naziism or militarism."

-- Unable to use a real white buffalo calf for this episode, the crew was forced to photograph a very light-colored calf and bleached it optically in postproduction.

-- No matter how many times I see Mulder kick in his own apartment door in Act 1, my heart still melts at the way Scully looks at him. On the negative side, how do you face your boss the next day at work after pulling a gun on him? < g >

-- Ditto for the scene at the elevator. "I just knew."

-- Staging was critical during filming of the Lone Gunmen's scene in this episode as Rob Bowman had to deal with five actors (Anderson, Duchovny, Haglund, Harwood, and Braidwood) in a relatively confined space. After Bowman aligned them one way, Duchovny suggested an alternative in handling the shot, demonstrating the give-and-take very prevalent on the XF set, and various configurations were tried. During rehearsal, Dean Haglund kept calling the Nazi scientist "Kempler" instead of "Klemper" and Duchovny had a hard time not laughing each time Braidwood (who came up to about Duchovny's chin) approached him to give Mulder a welcome back hug. Duchovny told Braidwood he should try to act the way Spock did when he discovered that Kirk was still alive in an episode of the original Star Trek series, "Amok Time." "That's what you want to be doing," Duchovny said, and that's the way Braidwood played it.

-- The set for the Syndicate's meeting place was very impressive, with moody green walls and painted fixtures made to look exactly like expensive wooden paneling and marble counters. One crew member called in "The nasty old gentlemen's club."

-- Walter Gotell (Victor Klemper) is no stranger to clandestine work, having played General Gogol, head of the KGB, in half a dozen James Bond movies. He passed away in May 1997.

-- The Strughold Mining Facility -- any relation to Strughold in the movie?

-- The abandoned mining company building featured in this episode was actually next door to the quarry where "Anasazi" was filmed. The building served as headquarters for the rock quarry.

-- Oopsie! Klemper gives Mulder and Scully a big hint, pointing them toward the mining company in West Virginia, and even hinting at the access code. He asks, "Do you know what Napier's Constant is?" and Scully replies, "Yes." But apparently Chris Carter didn't. When the agents get to the mining company, they start entering the number "27828" as the access code, explaining that Napier's Constant is the base for all natural logarithms. This is true; however, Napier's constant is 2.71828, so the 5-digit code should have been 27182, not 27828.

-- "Lots and lots of files."

-- In another example of the show's staggering attention to detail, the props department generated two drawers' worth of medical files using real DNA samples that were borrowed from a lab.

-- Samantha Ann Mulder's file indicates that her birthday is 11/21/1965 (she shares a birthday with Chris Carter's wife).

-- But Oopsie! In Season 1's "Conduit," Samantha's birthdate was listed as 1/22/1965 in her abduction file, and her middle initial was listed as "T".

-- When Mulder peels the label off Samantha's folder, he finds his own name underneath, revealing his birthday to be October 13, 1961 (sharing a birthday with Chris Carter). Mulder's discovery indicates that perhaps Mulder was the original target of the abduction, not his sister.

-- According to Chris Carter, the idea that Mulder -- not Samantha -- was the original target for abduction, and that Samantha was in essence "traded" for Mulder, was David Duchovny's idea. "It's character-altering," said Carter. "It's like finding out that your parents are not your parents." (Added 08.20.06)

-- The "aliens" glimpsed briefly running past Scully were mostly played by eight- and nine-year-old children, who quickly tired of their Halloween getups and soon began complaining. "They are so excited at first," noted Chris Carter, who also used kids in the suits during "Duane Barry," which he directed. "Then you get those costumes on them and about a half-hour later they're saying, 'Can I go home now?'" On the Season 3 DVDs Dean Haglund noted that the show usually used little girls from a local dance school to play the aliens. He said that boys tended to get fidgety and started punching each other which ruined the costumes, so girls did a much better job.

-- What special effects chief David Gauthier called "the mother of all mother ships" was actually a 180-foot wide truss, adorned with 6,000 pounds of lighting, which the special effects crew managed to fly 275 feet in the air on a massive crane, creating the image of light streaming through from the outside. Because the contraption wobbled, however, the actual craft seen briefly by Mulder coming over the mountain ended up being entirely computer-generated, another case of visual and special effects working hand in hand.

-- I've always loved the "dancing flashlights" as Mulder and Scully try to find each other in the mine before they make their escape.

-- Mulder pretty much lays out the XF mission statement: Why they killed my father. What happened to my sister. And what they did to Agent Scully.

-- Stunt coordinator Tony Morelli, the show's "all-purpose bad guy," was one of the two men who joined Krycek in assaulting Skinner in the stairwell. Mitch Pileggi is fond of pointing out that his character did get a few licks in before being overcome, and that it took three men to subdue him. For his part, Nicholas Lea playfully joked about giving his off-screen pal a rematch somewhere down the road.

-- Since watching this episode, have you ever looked at your smallpox vaccination scar the same way?

-- Mulder asks WMM "Why her? Why not me?" when trying to find out why his sister was abducted instead of him. This was the exact same question he asked CSM about Scully's abduction.

-- Although the episode does shed more light on the circumstances surrounding Samantha's abduction, Chris Carter was quick to point out that "You're still not sure by whom." The story clearly implies military/government complicity with alien abductors, which became part of the literature in that realm.

-- Chris Carter said that he liked the mythic elements in Mulder being told that he had in a sense become his father. This was one reason that Duchovny likened the narrative course of these episodes to another trilogy, Star Wars, as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark. There's also a touch of Sophie's Choice in the abduction of Samantha Mulder and the revelation about how and why she, and not her brother, were taken.

-- No wonder Mulder's mom eventually had a stroke, what with her son always popping in unannounced in the middle of the night.

-- Mitch Pileggi still considers this one of the show's finest episodes, especially savoring the rather cathartic moment when Skinner tells CSM to "pucker up and kiss my ass." "That will be one of my favorite lines forever," Mitch said. The scene was always used to introduce Mitch Pileggi at XF conventions and never failed to draw enormous applause from the fans in attendance.

-- Carter liked the notion of using something as low-tech as the Navajo oral tradition as a means to "buy Mulder and Scully some insurance" and undermine the CSM high-tech government apparatus.

-- The last scene with the empty bed is so wonderful. Great acting all around. The scene really reaffirms that they truly united now. That which does not kill them only makes their bond stronger. Both have now lost their fathers; and the sister of each was sacrificed so that they might live (referencing back to Albert's line that "for something to live, another thing must often be sacrificed." Scully confirms that she is fully vested, that Mulder's quest has now become hers. And a hug. Awww. Sniff.

-- "Paper Clip" carried a memoriam to Mario Mark Kennedy, 1966 - 1995, a major fan of the show who'd organized online sessions on the internet. Kennedy died as a result of injuries he received in a car accident shortly before the start of Season 3.

-- Once and Future Retreads: Martin Evans ("Right Hand") was a Majordomo in "Apocrypha" and Dr. Hartman in "Sanguinarium." Robert Lewis (ER Doctor) played a police officer in "The Jersey Devil" and "Duane Barry." Tony Morelli, as noted above one of the men who beat up Skinner, also played a cop in "Genderbender" and Lord Kinbote in "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'."

-- To me, this trilogy had three themes: betrayal, loss/sacrifice, restoration. In "Anasazi," Mulder felt betrayed, by his father, and even by Scully (at least in his drug-addled brain). But when Scully saved his life and his sanity, she restored his trust in her. "The Blessing Way" in particular highlights loss and sacrifice. Mulder lost his father and very nearly lost his life, Scully lost her job, her partner, her sense of security (upon finding the chip in her neck), perhaps a bit of her faith, and ultimately her sister. In "Paper Clip," the two heroes are restored, to each other, to themselves ("I need something to put my back up against." "I feel the same way."), and to their quest ("I've heard the truth, Mulder. Now what I want are the answers.

-- This was the XF very first trilogy; and remains one of its best.

(Thanks to chrisnu for today's episode 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 "Paper Clip"!