CTP Episode of the Day - 08.15.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Syzygy (3x13)
Original Air Date: January 26, 1996
Written By: Chris Carter
Directed By: Rob Bowman

Two high school girls born on the same day are involved in a series of deaths thanks to an odd alignment of the planets that causes strange behavior in all the townspeople, including Mulder and Scully.

"Sure. Fine. Whatever."

Some "Syzygy" Tidbits & Musings:

-- The title, as explained in the episode, is an astronomical term for an alignment of three bodies of the solar system along a straight or nearly straight line.

-- This episode originally aired on January 26, 1996, which closely followed a real syzygy of Mars, Mercury, and Uranus (just like in the episode) -- although January 9 had the best alignment of the planets.

-- "Syzygy" begins the alarming three-season trend of one word episode titles that begin with "S" and end with "Y" (followed by "Synchrony" in Season 4 and "Schizogeny" in Season 5).

-- Comity, the name of the town where the episode takes place, literally means "social harmony" or "courtesy." A big clue that things in this episode are a bit off kilter occurs as we watch Mulder and Scully enter the town and on the other side of the intersection we see a road sign that says "Leaving Comity" (so once Mulder and Scully enter, social harmony goes out the window). As the agents leave the town at the end of the episde, the camera passes the road sign that states "Entering Comity" (thankfully true again, since everything goes back to normal after they leave).

-- Among the great exchanges: "You don't suppose she's a virgin, do you?" "I doubt she's even a blonde."

-- Terri and Margi attend "Grover Cleveland Alexander High School" which is a reference to the only incorrect answer (or question) that David Duchovny gave during regular play on his celebrity Jeopardy appearance. The answer was: "This president was named for the reverend Stephen Grover, of Caldwell, New Jersey" and Duchovny answered, "Who is Grover Cleveland Alexander?" (The correct answer/question was "Who is Grover Cleveland?" (In defending his answer, Duchovny said later that he thought he was still on the Sports category, and confused the pitcher (Alexander) with the president (Cleveland).) Duchovny lost the game in Final Jeopardy, where the final answer/question was "Breakfast at Tiffany's" -- the book Scully was reading in "War of the Coprophages."

-- "First off, Iíd like to apologize for my partnerís rude behavior, she tends to be rather rigid, but ... but rigid in a wonderful way, not like she was today."

-- There are a few references to the X-Files video game in this episode: The motel in the game is the Comity motel, and the lead character in the game, Craig Wilmore, is mentioned as one of the basketball players during practice. The actor who plays the basketball player, Jordan Lee Williams, provides the voice of Agent Craig Wilmore in the 1998 X-Files video game.

-- After the Death by Bleachers incident, Scully arrives at the gym at 5:10 a.m. What time was basketball practice?

-- It's no wonder our XF timeline is so screwed up: Scully says that she has been working with Mulder for two years. The date that M&S are paired up in the "Pilot" episode is March 6, 1992, which would make it at least four years since she was assigned to the X-Files.

-- "Syzygy" provides us with some insight in the Mulder/Scully perspective -- To Scully, it's a "ditch." To Mulder, it's just "following up a lead."

-- Principal Bob's comment about "naked movie star games" is likely a reference to the McMartin preschool case, which created a panic and hysteria similar to that experienced by the townsfolk in "Syzygy." In 1983, the mother of a child attending the McMartin preschool in California complained to the police that her son had been sexually abused by members of the McMartin family, who operated the preschool. Following the accusation, several hundred children were questioned, and eventually, 360 children were identified as having been sexually abused. A moral panic followed, touching off a witch hunt in which network news shows claimed that sexual abuse in schools and day-care centers was nationwide and rampant. Some of the children's accusations were bizarre, including a story about a game called "Naked Movie Star" in which they were photographed nude. No pornography was ever found; and experts agreed that questioning tactics by those investigating the case may have created false-memory syndrome in the children. After six years of criminal trials, no convictions were obtained, and all charges were dropped in 1990.

-- The cross dressing doctor, R. W. Godfrey, has a name that is quite close to that of co-executive producer, R. W. Goodwin.

-- Love the "hallway moment" (one of many in the history of these two) which is a trip to the woodshed for Mulder as he gets called on the carpet by Scully for his behavior. I loved the way Duchovny sank into the wall after her dressing down. That's love.

-- Perhaps the biggest X-File in this episode is why anyone would attend Terri and Margi's birthday party.

-- It's the little things that count: Smoking!Scully's ashtray is perched atop her motel room's Gideon Bible. And I love Mulder trying to get a different channel on his TV by moving the remote to odd angles. Watching the suave and debonair Agent with the Cool Exterior turn into an insecure and fumbling teenager bewildered by Detective White's advances is also a hoot.

-- The musical interlude (accompanying the Keystone Kops movie on the TV) is "Sabre Dance," written by Armenian composer Aram Khatchaturian (1903-1978). It was written in 1942 for the ballet Gayane.

-- The script originally called for Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange to be playing on every channel as Mulder and Scully played with the remote controls in their motel rooms, but the footage proved so expensive, the producer settled for clips of the Keystone Kops, which in retrospect worked better in Chris Carter's eyes. "As is often the case, what you're compelled to use is better than what you (initially) wanted," he observed, reflecting the show's philosophy of making the most of available resources.

-- Scully has seemingly rediscovered her Wonderbra as her boobs look ginormous in this episode.

-- The scene where Scully asks Mulder why he always has to drive, and he responds by ribbing her about her height and inability to reach the pedals, grew out of long-time nitpicking by fans about such matters, among them the fact that Mulder usually drives the car. Carter made the exact same joke about Gillian Anderson's "little feet" long before the episode aired at an XF convention in Pasadena, California. "Those are comments that have come on the Internet from the beginning," said Gillian Anderson (who thought the line was "hysterical." "The fans were always picking apart aspects of the show that had nothing to do with the show per se," she said.

-- Madame Zirinka tells Mulder that the events occurring because of the alignment of the planets are "bad like an Irwin Allen movie." Irwin Allen was a television and film producer nicknamed the "Master of Disaster" for his work in the disaster film genre. He produced the 1972 version of The Poseidon Adventure and produced and co-directed 1974's The Towering Inferno. Allen was also responsible for the 1960s TV series Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants, and Swiss Family Robinson.

-- What's a little game of "one-upmanship" between best friends? And as Terri reminds us, "best friends are supposed to stick together, right?"

-- When Mulder brings Margi into the police station, the time is 11:48 (Chris Carter's wife, Dori Pierson, was born 11/21/48).

-- After the stroke of midnight, Mulder and Scully are back in synch again, even shouting the "put that gun down!" line together.

-- Another priceless moment: our heroes getting in the car to leave Comity, with Mulder squeezing into the passenger seat with no leg room, as Scully adjusts the driver's seat to accommodate her little legs.

-- Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Detective White) is the granddaughter of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, who started DC Comics (home of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman). Unfortunately the Major was financially squeezed out of the company so the family has no connection with DC Comics today.

-- Lisa Robin Kelley (Terri Roberts) played Laurie Forman on That 70's Show.

-- The "Two Guys" from the comedy sitcom Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place made guest appearances on the XF: Ryan Reynolds in this episode playing Jay "Boom" DeBoom, and in Season 6, Richard Ruccolo playing Agent Peyton Ritter in "Tithonus."

-- Garry Davey (Bob Spitz) was a four-time retread, also playing Hunter in "Eve," Dr. Keats in "Roland," and a Captain in "End Game." Davey is also the Artistic Director for the William B. Davis Centre for Actor's Study.

-- Other Once and Future Retreads: Denalda Williams (Zirinka) also played Marilyn in "Irresistible." Gabrielle Miller (Brenda Summerfield) played Paula Gray in "Our Town." Tim Dixon (Dr. Richard Godfrey) played Bob in "Duane Barry."

-- When "Syzygy" aired, some hard-core fans on the internet were critical of the episode, not realizing that Mulder and Scully's uncharitable and at times hostile behavior toward each other partly stemmed from the planetary forces that also affected Margi and Terri. "Chris wanted to keep it kind of abstract," admitted director Rob Bowman.

-- Carter remained somewhat bemused by reaction to the episode. "There were all sorts of hints that no one got, apparently," he noted (beginning with the camera panning past the road sign that said "Leaving Comity" mentioned above, and lines like "relationships are gonna suck"). "That's one of the risks you run, that people become so hopeful and familiar and comfortable with something that when you turn it on its head, they don't understand it." Others got it but simply objected because of their desire for Mulder and Scully to get together on a more social level. At least one group of fans in San Francisco savored the show, printing up tee-shirts that featured the show's most famous line.

-- When it originally aired, "Syzygy" had the misfortune of following "War of the Coprophages," which for some fans was one too many satiric and offbeat (not to mention Jealous!Scully) episodes in a row. But taking it out of that context and viewing it simply as a stand-alone episode, "Syzygy" has some genuinely funny laugh-out-loud moments and Duchovny and Anderson seem to enjoy poking fun at their on-screen personas and the relationship between the two characters. And if nothing else, it gave you hope that one day the usually in synch Mulder and Scully would solve the mystery of the horny beast. Sure. Fine. Whatever.

(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 "Syzygy"!