REPOST - CTP Episode of the Day - 04.26.06 - Soft Light

Today's Cherished Episode: Soft Light (2x23)
Original Air Date: May 5, 1995
Written By: Vince Gilligan
Directed By: James Contner

An experiment in dark matter turns a scientist's shadow into a form of instant death.

"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you, Scully."

-- "Soft Light" was notable as the first X-Files episode penned by Vince Gilligan. At the time, it was one of the first scripts to come from outside the X-Files staff.

-- "I wasn't sure I could do drama," Gilligan recalled, considering himself a comedy writer before writing that first X-Files script. But he wanted to give it a shot because, according to Gilligan, "I loved the show. I was a fan of the show before I was ever a part of it."

-- Gilligan set the story for "Soft Light" in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. He was raised in Farmville and Chesterfield County, Virginia, and graduated from Lloyd C. Bird High School in 1985. He received a B.F.A. in film production from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts; and in 1989, received the Virginia Governor's Screenwriting Award for his screenplay Home Fries, which he wrote for a college screenwriting class. The movie based on Gilligan's screenplay was released in 1998 and starred Luke Wilson and Drew Barrymore. Gilligan also wrote the film Wilder Napalm, which starred Deborah Winger and Dennis Quaid and was directed by Glenn Gordon Caron, best known as the creator of the hit series Moonlighting, Now and Again, and Medium.

-- Although Gilligan's script was accepted by 1013 Productions, substantial revisions were made, particularly as the story pertained to the character of X, who wasn't featured at all in the original draft. Once it was decided that the scientist's fear of a "brain suck" should be more than just paranoia, the writers needed a means of conveying him into the hands of those who wished to study him, and X seemed to be a natural choice. "It had been a long time since X had done anything," said Frank Spotnitz, who was among those who worked on the rewrite, "and the character really needed to grow." The episode showcased X's ruthlessness and dedication to his own agenda, in contrast to the more benevolent presence of Deep Throat.

-- The title of the episode referred to the type of light that Dr. Banton needed so that he wouldn't cast a shadow - "soft light."

-- Timeline: This episode began on March 31, 1995. (This information comes from the scene at the railway station, when Mulder said Banton was there on March 31st, and Scully indicated that the 31st was the night that Patrick Newirth, the man who died in the teaser, disappeared.)

-- This was the only X-Files episode directed by James A. Contner. Contner had previously directed series like 21 Jump Street and Commish and went on to direct numerous episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel among many others. Recently, he has been directing many of the Jane Doe and McBride movies for the Hallmark Channel.

-- Oopsie! In the teaser, when Dr. Banton was in the hall pounding on the hotel door, he was heavily lit by the lamp. Yet when the man looked through the peephole there was little light, but again when the camera was in the hall, there was a lot of light.

-- Gilligan's status as "fanboy" came through in his maiden effort, as his script provided some wonderful moments of continuity: the victim in the teaser was an executive with the Morley Tobacco Company, the brand of the Cigarette Smoking Man; Scully suspiciously eyeballed the grate in the hotel room, to which Detective Ryan said, "You don't think anyone could have squeezed in there?" (a nod to "Squeeze" and "Tooms"); and Mr. X mentioned his fist fight with Skinner that occurred in "End Game."

-- In this episode, Scully completely rebuffed Mulder's suggestion of spontaneous human combustion, noting there was "no scientific theory" to support that scenario. But in the season 6 episode "Trevor," Scully was the one to suggest spontaneous human combustion, claiming that there had been "several well-documented cases." Perhaps she had a change of opinion.

-- Since Gilligan considered himself to be a comedy writer, it's no surprise that his first effort contained quite a bit of humor, something that would become a Gilligan trademark in the future. For example, the Mulder/Scully exchange in the first scene when Detective Ryan said to Mulder, "I've heard a lot about you," and he said (to Scully), "We'll talk later." It was a warm moment followed by a nice Scully smile. There were also lots of great Mulderisms about prophylactics and paranoia, Scully got a good line about a utility belt for Mulder's birthday, and Mr. X got into the comedy act as well when Mulder said Banton believed the government was out to get him, and Mr. X noted, "It's tax season. So do most Americans."

-- Oopsie! In the scene at the train station, one of the trains read VIA Rail, which only runs in Canada.

-- Oopsie! In the scene where Dr. Banton confronted the two police officers in the alley near the train station, his shadow killed both men. However, when his shadow killed the second officer, it switched positions from when it killed the first officer; the shadow changed from being projected behind Dr. Banton to being in front of him. This was impossible, since Banton had not moved enough for his shadow to face a different way.

-- This episode marked one of the few times during the series that Scully acknowledged the difficulties of being a woman in her profession. She corrected Mulder for assuming that the killer was a man, and talked a little about the "boy's club." She said she was so afraid of being perceived as weak because of her physical size and gender that she had overcompensated in the other direction throughout her life and career. To his credit, Mulder recognized her as a good agent, telling her "You never put yourself ahead of your work."

-- The outtakes from a scene between Mulder and Scully in their car (before they headed off to review the train station tapes) provided a hilarious salty Season 2 blooper reel highlight. "Jesus!" said Duchovny, "That leaves us with three hours ... three days of train station videotape to cross-reference, and hopefully find out who this mother****er is!" To which Anderson loudly replied, "That's assuming that we're looking for a mother****er!"

-- By the time this episode aired, Mulder and Scully were carrying standard FBI issue weapons, the Smith and Wesson 1076. But their choice of weapons changed continuously during the first two years of the series. In the "Pilot," Mulder carried a Taurus 92 automatic, firing 9mm rounds. Scully carried a Bernadelli 7.65. Mulder later switched to a Glock 19 and Scully changed to a Walther PPK 7.65. In the first few episodes of the second season, they both carried Sig Sauer weapons: Mulder carried a Sig Sauer 226 and Scully a 228.

-- Mr. X's choice of weapon in "Soft Light" and in "One Breath" was a Sig Sauer P228, a highly compact model.

-- Mulder commented that he was "sure that Robert Oppenheimer got similar reassurances from his government." Oppenheimer was an American physicist and the scientific director of the Manhattan Project. Today, he is seen as "the father of the atomic bomb."

-- At the end of the episode, Mulder told X he would not be X's, or the government's, stalking horse. A stalking horse is someone or something whose role is to become the focal point for, or the initiator of, a debate or challenge. In reality, however, their leadership role may be an illusion, and the stalking horse is really working to promote a challenge or debate that will benefit a third party whose identity remains a secret. The term is probably most often used in the realm of politics, but the term originally derived from the practice of hunting, particularly of wild fowl. Hunters noticed that many birds would flee immediately on the approach of humans, but would tolerate the close presence of animals such as horses and cattle. Hunters would slowly approach their quarry by walking alongside their horses, keeping their upper bodies out of sight until the flock was within firing range. Animals trained for this purpose were called stalking horses.

-- The shot used to establish the site where X met Mulder at the end of the episode was used before in "Sleepless."

-- Detective Ryan was vaporized into a little pile of ash, but was apparently buried in a huge casket.

-- Perplexing timeline: At the beginning of the episode, Scully said that Detective Ryan was one of her students when she taught at the Academy (between 1990 and 1992, when she was assigned to the X-Files). However, at the end of the episode, Detective Ryan's burial marker reveals she is only one year younger than Scully.

-- The X-Files was notorious for its in-jokes contained in each episode, and Gilligan would eventually become one of the best at tossing in a reference to his long-time girlfriend, Holly Rice, in every episode that he wrote. However, this was his first effort and there do not appear to be any "Holly" references in "Soft Light."

-- Tony Shalhoub (Dr. Banton) turned an unforgettably funny guest appearance as an Italian waiter into a regular cast role (as cabbie Antonio Scarpacci) on the NBC comedy series Wings, which ran from 1990 to 1997. Shalhoub created the character in a guest shot in the show's second season, and became a regular cast member in the third season. Shalhoub landed the Wings role in the first audition he had after arriving in Los Angeles from New York.

-- Shalhoub spent his early life in Green Bay, Wisconsin. His father emigrated from Lebanon to the United States as a 10-year-old orphan, later marrying Shalhoub's mother, who herself emigrated from Lebanon. When Tony, the youngest of 10 children, was just six, he was introduced to the theater, in a school production of The King and I. He graduated from Green Bay East High, and then graduated with a bachelor's degree in drama from the University of Southern Maine before progressing to the Yale School of Drama, which he left with a Masters in 1980.

-- After a time in the American Repertory Theatre, Shalhoub moved to Broadway where he met his future wife, Brooke Adams, whom he married in 1992. Upon marrying her, Tony adopted Brooke's own adopted child, Josie Lynn; and the couple had another daughter, Sophie, in 1993. He had roles in both Men in Black films and other features including Thirteen Ghosts, Honeymoon in Vegas, Addams Family Values, and Galaxy Quest.

-- Shalhoub's most famous role, however, is his current one -- as the obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk in the USA series Monk. That series made him a star and earned him five straight Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series between 2003 and 2007. Shalhoub won the trophy in 2003, 2005, and 2006, along with a Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

-- Shalhoub resides part-time in his hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and is a Green Bay Packers season ticket holder.

-- Once & Future Retreads: In addition to Steven Williams (Mr. X), Kate Twa (Kelly Ryan) was the female half of the shapeshifter in "Genderbender." Kevin McNulty (Dr. Davey) was Agent Fuller in "Squeeze" and later in "Apocrypha." Robert Rozen (Doctor) was Dr. Alton Pugh in "Small Potatoes." Donna Yamamoto (Night Nurse) was a Female Agent in "Kitsunegari." Forbes Angus (Government Scientist) was the Tissue Bank Technician in "Shadows," an M.D. in "The Blessing Way," a Security Guard in "Small Potatoes," and the Funeral Director in "Bad Blood." Guyle Fraizer (Officer) also played an Officer in "3." Steve Bacic (Officer #2) was Agent Collins in "Pusher" and a SWAT Commander in "Folie a Deux." Craig Bruhanski (Security Guard) was a Guard in "The List" and the Saw Operator in "Gethsemene."

-- "Soft Light" was just the beginning of Vince Gilligan's association with the show he loved. He wrote or cowrote 30 episodes (as well as six episodes of The Lone Gunmen), directed two of his own scripts, and worked his way up the show's production hierarchy to eventually serve as an Executive Producer. Some of the series' most beloved episodes came from Gilligan's pen, including "Pusher," "Bad Blood," and "Small Potatoes." The latter was included on the TV Guide list of the 100 Best TV Episodes of All Time.

-- Gilligan felt that in the long run, his experience writing for feature films before joining The X-Files was extremely beneficial. "It was sort of tougher on some of the people who came from TV, because they were used to working in a different way," he said. "It seemed on the whole to be easier -- 'easier' being a relative term -- on people who had written feature scripts, people who had that background, whether the film got made or not."

-- In the very early days of the show, most of the writers and producers -- Gilligan included -- did admit to following ongoing discussion of the show and individual episodes on the Internet, though their emphasis on such comments cooled a bit as the show's audience grew. Though thousands participated in chat rooms and online sessions, millions more watched the show every week and its creators wanted to be cautious not to skew the show based on what might be the opinion of a highly vocal minority. "You had to realize the greater proportion of people watched the show and enjoyed it but didn't ever post anything on the Internet," Gilligan said. "I remember on 'Soft Light' ... half the postings were about some really mod pair of sunglasses that Mulder was wearing in the funeral scene at the end. I thought, 'What's that about?' It was something that was interesting to read, but not something you based future storytelling decisions on."

-- "I feel very fortunate about the episodes I've worked on or rewritten," recalled Gilligan. "There are some I'm not as proud of. But I can honestly say there's not a single episode of this series that I would abscond with and bury in the middle of the woods. I'm just so proud to be a part of this series that was great before I got here, and to the end, nine years later, was still great. It was a show I was a fan of before I ever had anything to do with it, and I'd still be a fan of it today if I'd never joined the staff. I think it was a strong show regardless of anything I ever did, but I'm also proud of what I did while I was there as well. I'm very proud of The X-Files, and I'm biased I'll admit, but I hope it will have a place in TV history."

(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 "Soft Light."