CTP Episode of the Day - 07.18.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Sleepless (2x04)
Original Air Date: October 7, 1994
Written By: Howard Gordon
Directed By: Rob Bowman

Mulder is assigned a new partner, Alex Krycek, and they investigate a secret Vietnam-era experiment on sleep deprivation that is having deadly effects on surviving participants.

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

"Must be nice not having someone question your every move, poking holes in all your theories." "Oh, yeah, it's ... it's great. I'm surprised I put up with you so long."

Some "Sleepless" Tidbits and Musings:

-- The inspiration for this episode came from two sources: (1) an idea that Chris Carter had for a Season 1 episode about what makes the perfect soldier; and (2) a two-week bout with insomnia suffered by writer Howard Gordon. Gordon made his solo writing debut on this episode.

-- "Sleepless" featured the first appearance of two characters that would come to play major parts in the X-Files mythology: Alex Krycek and Mr. X. (The voice of "X" was heard over the phone but not seen in "The Host.")

-- Chris Carter explained that with the X-Files closing at the end of Season 1, Mulder would be losing not just Scully but someone for Mulder to play off of. So it was decided that the show would introduce a young FBI agent, very determined and ambitious, to be Mulder's partner and fill the void that Scully had left. Howard Gordon wrote the character of Krycek knowing that the character would ultimately turn out to be bad. "He was to be woven into the story for an arc," Gordon said, "and if he worked out -- great; and if he didn't, then he could always die."

-- Howard Gordon remembered the performance of Nicholas Lea as the nightclub Romeo in the Season 1 episode "Genderbender," and thought he would be right for the part of Alex Krycek. Rob Bowman, who directed both "Genderbender" and "Sleepless" agreed, noting Lea was a strong choice for the fresh out of Quantico, chip on his shoulder kind of guy that Krycek was supposed to be.

-- The name of "Krycek" comes from the Russian and Czech word "Krysa" meaning "Rat." This may be one of the reasons why fans affectionately refer to the character as "Ratboy."

-- It was also decided at the beginning of Season 2 that a character to replace Deep Throat would be created, though the new character would be a reluctant giver of information and have a different agenda.

-- The new character of Mr. X was just "X" in the original script, but when it came time to shoot the episode, it turned into Ms. X, with actress Natalija Nogulich cast in the role. But after shooting just one scene (where Mulder meets his new informant in the huge warehouse), Chris Carter, Glen Morgan and Jim Wong decided the chemistry just wasn't right. So they turned to 21 Jump Street veteran Steven Williams who had a long association with Morgan and Wong as well as other crew members who'd worked on that series. Because of the series' shooting schedule, it wasn't possible to bring David Duchovny back to reshoot the scene with the new Mr. X, so the crew filmed Steven Williams's close-ups of the scene and then matched them with the close-ups they had already shot with Duchovny. They did a great job of melding the two scenes together to make one, but in some close-ups of Mulder, you can see the actress's hair shadow for a just a second.

-- When Scully's class is interrupted by the news that there is a phone call for her, the caller's name (it's actually Mulder) is given as Dr. George Hale. George Ellery Hale, Sc.D., Ph.D., LL.D. is of course one of Mulder's frequent aliases and perhaps one of his heroes. In "Little Green Men," Mulder tells Scully that Hale believed that his best ideas were whispered into his ears by elves, and that his (Mulder's) own life had been a struggle to hear, believe and verify what his own elves were trying to tell him. Hale was one of the most influential astronomers of all time. He won numerous scientific awards, founded two observatories and mentored Edwin Hubble, discoverer of the expanding universe phenomenon and namesake of the space telescope.

-- On the "Sleepless" commentary on the Season 2 DVDs, Chris Carter describes Mulder as "quietly and suddenly pining for his partner." That description just makes my little shipper heart go pitty-pat for some reason.

-- In addition to Krycek and Mr. X, this episode also marks the debut of another very important "character" for the X-Files: The Big Ass Flashlights. In directing the X-Files, Rob Bowman said that one of his biggest challenges was to find a way to have plenty of exposure in absolute blackness. To create that exposure, he hit upon the idea of using Xenon flashlights which created a tremendously powerful tunnel of light so that there would be blackness on the edges of the screen and two sort of surgical spotlights in the center of the screen looking for things. While shooting the warehouse scene at the end of "Sleepless," Bowman discovered that crushed pieces of tinfoil could be placed strategically along the area where a scene was to be filmed in darkness; and when the actors hits the pieces of tin foil with the high-powered flashlight beams, it provided a splash of light on their faces which allowed the camera to record their reactions within the scene. So Bowman found the "exposure" he was looking for; instead of just seeing the actors in silhouette in a darkly-lit scene, he found a way to light the actors and still maintain the "spooky" feel of the show. The show continued to use the "flashlight and tin foil" method for many, many episodes.

-- Those special Xenon Big Ass Flashlights didn't come cheap: $7,500 each.

-- Tony Todd (Cole) played the title role in the three Candyman movies. He also appeared as Worf's brother Kurn in Star Trek: The Next Generation. At the end of "Sleepless," Tony Todd's character contemplates suicide by jumping onto a rusty, sharp pole from 40 feet. This is exactly the same way Tony Todd's character died in the movie The Rock.

-- Jon Gries (Salvadore Matola) was a regular on the series The Pretender and played Uncle Rico in the film Napoleon Dynamite.

-- Once and Future Retreads: Don Thompson (Henry Willig) also appeared as Holtzman in "Conduit" and as Lt. Col. Victor Stans in "The Walk." He also played one of the terrorists behind a ghoul mask in "The Pine Bluff Variant." Michael Puttonen (Dr. Pilsson) played the Motel Manager in "Deep Throat," the Conductor in "731," and Martin Alpert in "Elegy." Paul Bittante (Lt. Reagan) played a cop in "Paper Hearts." Like Nic Lea, Michael Kosterman also appeared in "Genderbender" in the same role he played in "Sleepless" -- Detective Horton. He also appeared as Fornier in "The List" and in "Travelers" as the Sheriff. Kosterman also had several guest roles on Millennium and appeared on The Lone Gunmen TV series.

-- Chris Carter was preparing to make his directorial debut with "Duane Barry," the next episode to be filmed after "Sleepless," so he visited the set to watch Rob Bowman work. As Bowman set up a particularly intricate shot, Carter began to realize just how much he *didn't* know about directing.

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

Polly