CTP Episode of the Day - 06.21.06

Today's Cherished Episode: The Rain King (6x07)
Original Air Date: January 10, 1999
Written By: Jeffrey Bell
Directed By: Kim Manners

In rural Kansas, thousands of drought-stricken citizens are being forced to enrich the town drunk -- who seems able, through mystical means, to control the weather.

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

"It seems to me that the best relationships -- the ones that last -- are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is ... suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with."

Some "Rain King" Tidbits & Musings:

-- Season 6: X-Files light. Long on whimsy and wry humor, short on monsters and masterminds, and any real threats to Mulder and Scully, this episode -- filmed in the fall but not aired until the second week in January -- came in for particularly sharp criticism on the Internet. "I know it wasn't a favorite on-line, but I loved it," said Frank Spotnitz. "I mean, it was a little broader than what we usually do, but it was a very sweet story and everyone was charming in it. It worked for me."

-- "The Rain King" was the first X-Files script assignment for new staff writer Jeffrey Bell. A former graphic designer and photographer, his only previous screen credit was for Radio Inside,a 1994 independent feature starring Elisabeth Shue. Bell wasn't interested in working in television; but he was a huge fan of The X-Files so in the spring of 1998 he requested a meeting with the 1013 Boys and pitched three ideas, one of which became "Rain King."

-- 1013 bought "Rain King" as a freelance script and over the next few months, Bell worked with Frank Spotnitz, John Shiban, and Vince Gilligan "boarding" the story on index cards. In August they pitched the final board to Chris Carter, and when Bell returned home from the meeting, he had a phone message that they wanted him on staff that year.

-- According to Bell, many aspects of the story changed during the writing and rewriting process and the relationship between weatherman Holman Hardt and the FBI agents -- the true heart of the story -- became considerably stronger. He credited Spotnitz and Shiban for being very helpful in bringing Mulder and Scully into the story in a way that echoed thematically what was going on in the story itself. Bell explained, "Here you have a guy who's affecting the weather because he's repressing his true feelings. And who better to help him than two people whose emotions are repressed and never express their feelings for each other." Cute that Mulder and Scully are mistaken for a "couple" several times in this episode.

-- To shoot the scene where the heart-shaped hailstorm sends Daryl Mootz skidding into his disastrous Valentine's Day accident, Kim Manners and the second unit crew journeyed up Interstate 5 to a location just right for such an operation. "It was a very lonely road," Manners said. "Way up the Grapevine, north of L.A. in the middle of nowhere, and so lightly traveled that the Caltrans highway officials shut the road down completely" for filming of the scene. The hailstorm was created by two 40-foot flatbed trucks with huge ice crushing machines on the back; Daryl Mootz's 1966 Mustang was filmed while 12 guys on the trucks sprayed crushed ice at the car. Manners had a hard time getting the exact crash shot he wanted and they filmed the scene over and over. Finally, just before sunup, Manners determined he had "three little pieces of film to edit together" to create the crash he wanted.

-- Corey Kaplan's art department created an instant high school reunion by decorating a soon-to-be demolished school gym in nearby Culver City with the appropriate "over-the-rainbow" themed streamers and posters.

-- To secure an appropriate location for Kroner, Kansas, locations manager Ilt Jones headed 50 miles north of L.A. to the town of Piru, a tiny, time-warped community of dusty-looking wood frame houses, one of which -- an abandoned meat market that according to construction coordinator Duke Tomasick smelled pretty awful -- was turned into headquarters for "The Rain King."

-- As Mulder and Scully take their long walk down the street in Kroner, they pass "Vince's Diner," possibly a reference to writer Vince Gilligan.

-- In charge of the office's interior was set decorator Tim Stepeck, who installed a series of weird indoor fountains and oversize tomato plants -- most of which went unseen in the final cut. To Stepeck's disappointment, most of the cute-as-a-button homemade handicrafts in Sheila Fontaine's apartment didn't make it to the screen either.

-- Actor Clayton Rohner was turned into the one-legged Darryl Mootz by the team of property master Tom Day and costumer designer Christine Peters. Day came up with a properly fitting prosthetic leg and kneepad; Peters custom-made the button legged pant and painful behind-the-back harness that attached to his belt loop and pulled his real foot up and out of sight.

-- The rendition of the Carpenters' song "Rainy Days and Mondays" that plays on both Daryl's and Sheila's radios in the opening scene was actually a cover version -- Richard Carpenter not being amenable to licensing the original -- sung by vocal artist Sally Stevens, who also warbled "Jeepers Creepers" in "Triangle."

-- The other songs used in the episode were the original versions: "Rock the Boat" by The Hues Corporation, "The Things We Do For Love," by 10CC, and "Over the Rainbow," by Judy Garland.

-- The "flying cow" effect actually looks a little amateurish compared to usual XF effects standards (IMBO), but it was a complicated process. Step One: Well before the filming of "Rain King" started, Ilt Jones approached the owner of the Sierra Palona Motel in the Santa Clarita Valley town of Canyon Country, and asked whether he'd like to let some guys from The X-Files chop a big hole in his roof -- and get a free brand-new roof afterward. That sounded good the innkeeper. "The fun part," explained Duke Tomasick, "was calling local roofers for estimates and explaining just what kind of damage they'd be repairing for us."

-- Step Two: Sometime later, special effects producer Bill Millar hired a herd of cows and a cow wrangler, put them in a rented field in the seaside town of Costa Mesa, then photographed them for digital reference. Later, back at his computer, he animated one of these cows to create the shot of it being sucked upward.

-- Step Three: Mulder's motel room was reproduced exactly on one of the X-Files Fox Studio sound stages, and a 500-pound model cow, a cow puppet basically, was filmed inside it. All went smoothly until Bill Millar arrived on the set. "I stepped onto the stage just in time to see a brown cow falling through the roof of the set. It was a spectacularly good shot, but it had nothing to do with the script, which said a black-and-white cow falls through the ceiling. So I asked everyone why the cow had changed color, and nobody seemed to know anything. All I knew was that I had to go back and re-render my own into a brown one. And in a hurry."

-- Speaking of flying cows, Kim Manners said that if he had to do it all over again, he would go back and change one small but significant detail of "The Rain King." "I screwed up big time," said the director, "which I realized while I was driving along the Ventura Freeway two months later. When that cow dropped through the ceiling, I should have had David ad lib 'Got Milk?'. I'm still pissed at myself that I didn't."

-- Thanks to the "crashing cow," M&S were forced to share a room, and that's one of those missing scenes that I really wish we'd gotten to see. I would have *loved* to see Mulder and Scully getting ready to go to bed in the same small room, sort of like It Happened One Night.

-- The timeline for this one is "all shook up" (to quote the singing King). The episode takes place six months after Valentine's Day (which would place it in August), and as noted above was filmed in the fall, but it aired in January. That's why Holman is talking about rain instead of snow in Kansas. This is also another in a long line of "X-File-ish" cases that Mulder and Scully investigated while they were officially off the X-Files. Just the week before Scully was chastising Mulder for ditching her and his responsibilities to run off and chase demon-baby X-File cases that he fished out of the shredder, but this week he seems to have talked her into willingly joining him to investigate an X-File. I suppose it's possible that M&S were legitimately sent to look into this case of a rainmaking swindler, but Mulder classifies it as an X-File right up front.

-- Kroner, Kansas, was named for Paul Kroner, writer Jeffrey Bell's college roommate at the University of Cincinnati.

-- Oopsie! There were sure a lot of mountains surrounding the airport where Mulder and Scully landed even though they were supposed to be in northeast Kansas.

-- Victoria Jackson (Sheila) was the third Saturday Night Live alumnus to appear on The X-Files in Season 6. She was in the cast of the NBC show from 1986 through 1992.

-- Dirk Blocker, who played the Mayor, is the son of the late Dan Blocker, the beloved Hoss Cartwright on the long-running classic western Bonanza.

-- Jeffrey Bell stayed with The X-Files through the end of Season 8. He went on to serve as writer, producer, and director on the series' Angel and Alias.

-- Clayton Rohner (Darryl) appears in the Pilot of Day Break, a new series about a cop who's framed for murder and has to go on the run to prove his innocence. The show stars Taye Diggs and Mitch Pileggi and is scheduled as a mid-season replacement series on ABC. The Pilot was directed by Rob Bowman and the series is co-executive produced by Rob Bowman and Jeffrey Bell.

-- For some inexplicable reason, "The Rain King" was the highest rated episode of the season, slightly higher than the season premiere "The Beginning" and much higher than the season finale, "Biogenesis."

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