REPOST -- CTP Episode of the Day - 04.11.06 - Two Fathers

Today's Cherished Episode: Two Fathers (6x11)
Original Air Date: February 7, 1999
Written By: Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz
Directed By: Kim Manners

As a prelude to the colonization of Earth, Syndicate scientists successfully create a human-alien hybrid. The slave-race prototype is abductee Cassandra Spender, who returns, reveals many secret conspiracies and connections -- and plunges Mulder and Scully into a climactic battle for global domination.

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"Cassandra Spender is, indeed, the mother of Agent Jeffery Spender and the ex-wife of C.G.B. Spender. But there's something that you're going to be surprised to find out. She was first abducted in 1973 on the night of November 27."

Some "Two Fathers" Tidbits and Musings:

-- As many X-Philes might remember, the sweeps period of February 1999 was an important moment in the history of the series. For weeks, the network and producers had been hitting the airwaves and magazine stands with promises of "full disclosure." In the two-week period just prior to February 7, FX ran all the mythology episodes in order during a two-week "X-Travaganza" marathon. The mid-point of the sixth season would, according to the promotional materials, explain the mythology and make sense of it all.

-- But X-Philes had heard those promises before. "Explaining it all" -- putting Mulder and the conspiracy into the proper context -- was the supposed function of the X-Files movie, Fight the Future. Because Fight the Future was written when the series was slated to end with the fifth season, long before the fifth season was actually made, the subsequent decision to continue the series meant that the mythology needed to be further complicated to keep the overall series moving forward.

-- "I think we ran into a problem," said co-executive producer Frank Spotnitz, who co-wrote the "full disclosure" episodes as well as the movie with Carter, "when they advertised the movie with the tagline 'The Truth is Revealed.' I didn't object, but it crossed my mind then what a dangerous idea that was to say, because everybody's idea of the truth was a different thing. To my mind, the movie delivered the truth about what was going on in the conspiracy very explicitly. But it wasn't the truth that a lot of other people were thinking the movie was going to reveal. They might have been expecting the truth to be about something else, like Samantha. The truth meant something different to everyone who watched the show."

-- "I think the fans were frustrated because the studio's ads ['The Truth is Revealed'] implied that everything was going to be tied up," said David Duchovny. "And then it wasn't."

-- "The mythology had gotten so thick and dense, with so many conspiracies and betrayals, that the episodes had become too talky, too tough," said Rob Bowman (who directed the second part of the two-parter, "One Son"). "Even the fans were having trouble keeping up with the mythology episodes."

-- Duchovny acknowledged the mangled mythology was "hard on people who just tuned in occasionally." And it made attracting new fans nearly impossible -- a problem illuminated by the movie, which focused exclusively on the conspiracy rather than showcasing one of the series' other specialties, the more accessible stand-alone stories featuring creepy genetic mutants and the like.

-- Not surprisingly, Chris Carter didn't consider the conspiracy confusing, just complex. "It's not as complicated as you think," he said in a sixth season interview, maintaining that the conspiracy was believable *because* of its complexity.

-- Although its very respectable $187 million worldwide take was a testament to the show's powerful fan base, Carter and Spotnitz admitted that since the movie failed to lure X-Files virgins to the franchise, it was something of a disappointment. "I hoped we would have reached more non-fans," said Spotnitz, who found stringing two seasons together creatively confining. "I'm looking forward to the next movie because I anticipate the show will be over and we'll be free to reinvent ourselves." (Since XF2 is looking more and more like a possibility, perhaps Spotnitz will get his wish.)

-- Carter and Spotnitz hatched their plan to eliminate the Syndicate -- and relaunch the series in a fresh mythological direction beginning with the "Two Fathers/One Son" two-parter and culminating in the season-ending "Biogenesis" -- in late September 1998. "I never claimed to be revealing more in the movie than I did," Chris Carter insisted. "But I think if there was any trouble with the movie, it was that we promised so much and then we didn't deliver all of it. With 'Two Fathers/One Son,' we wanted to deliver a lot, and all at once, in these two episodes."

-- "We didn't know until shortly before [Chris and I wrote the two-parter] that we were going to do it," Spotnitz said. "But after the movie, when we sat down to do the next mythology show, it felt like the right time. We realized we had reached a critical mass, and that to complicate it further -- to dangle another piece of the puzzle -- was just too much. And so we got excited suddenly at the idea of everything coming to a head. It didn't seem expected to us."

-- A big factor in deciding to unravel the conspiracy in the middle of the sixth season was Chris Carter's plan at that time to end the series at the close of the seventh season, and he could hear the clock ticking toward the series finale. "I was thinking today, I have another 28 episodes left," Carter said in an interview to promote "Two Fathers/One Son." "We've got to prepare for a big unravel. We figured it would be better to explain the conspiracy now, and make that last arc more emotional and action driven, with less baggage to carry." (Too bad Carter didn't stick to that plan.)

-- "We realized after the movie that we had explained a lot about aliens and the history of aliens but what we had not explained was the conspiracy and the history of the conspiracy," Spotnitz said. "Why did Samantha Mulder get abducted? What did Cigarette Smoking Man have to do with it? What was the shameful secret that William Mulder, Mulder's father, was part of? And we felt the time had come to address all of those. So we devised this two-part episode which came to be known as 'Two Fathers, One Son.' And the inspiration more than anything else was The Godfather Part 2".

-- "We thought, 'are we going to carry on with this conspiracy and continue to complicate it? Or are we just going to do something no one expects and go ahead and blow up the conspiracy?'" Spotnitz continued. "And that seemed like the far more interesting path to take. So what we attempted to do in 'Two Fathers' and 'One Son' was answer more questions and we drew back to the very beginning, to the pilot episode of The X-Files, with this alien fetus that had provided genetic material that was crucial to the project, and bring it all to an end, which is what we did. We killed off the members of the Syndicate and left the Cigarette-Smoking Man with his life's work in ruins."

-- Though Carter and Spotnitz denied it, most X-Philes suspected that part of the decision to snuff the conspiracy was also financial; after moving production to Los Angeles, eliminating the Syndicate meant that the show would not have to shuttle a lot of Canadian actors (who played the members of the Syndicate) to and from the United States for mythology episodes.

-- Nazi references peppered episodes since the first season (as in Purity Control, the name for the hybridization project), but they proliferated in the movie, which established the Syndicate as a sort of Vichy government, collaborating with the aliens to save their own sorry hides. The two-parter continued that story line, with the faceless aliens fulfilling the role of the Resistance. Asked about the tidy metaphor, Spotnitz said, "Chris's vision for the show -- which all of us acknowledge -- is that what we're dealing with is so ridiculous that you need to do everything to make it seem believable, like analogies to things we know to be true."

-- Much of Carter and Spotnitz's story was to be told in flashback, with several important scenes (only a fraction of which survived in the final cut) set in the early 1970s and peopled with younger versions of Bill Mulder, the Cigarette-Smoking Man, Dr. Openshaw, the Elders, and others. "It didn't work on several levels," said Spotnitz. So the writers decided to give the Cigarette-Smoking Man a narrative monologue instead -- which was filmed and edited under classic X-Files levels of extreme last-minute pressure; production on "Two Fathers/One Son" had wrapped before CSM's narrative scenes were filmed.

-- "One of the things that has always bothered me about TV shows is that as they got older, everybody started to become a good guy," said Spotnitz. "All the conflict was gone because everybody had been rationalized. Having CSM reveal the reasons why he did what he did was not a desire to make him good -- just a way of understanding his character. He was still just the worst guy you could imagine."

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-- "For the scenes that were supposed to be set in the 1970s, Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf [head of the makeup department] and her team did a really elaborate makeup job on Bill Davis, Peter Donat, and Veronica Cartwright, as well as a lot of the members of the Syndicate," said director Kim Manners. "But it just didn't work. That's when the decision was made -- more or less at the last minute -- to scrap most of the flashback scenes."

-- The episode teaser was filmed at a train yard in Long Beach, California.

-- Kim Manners revealed that the Faceless Rebel Aliens were always played by stuntmen. "With the makeup on, they couldn't see," Manners said. "We used stuntmen so that if they fell down, they wouldn't hurt themselves."

-- "Bill Davis knew how to work that cigarette," Manners said during his DVD commentary on "Two Fathers." "The cigarette and the lighter almost became two different characters."

-- "I like to keep things flowing as I direct," Manners said while describing the camera pan from CSM's first narrative scene into the next scene in the X-Files office. "I like to just give the camera some movement and take the audience into the next story point."

-- In publicity interviews for the episode, Mitch Pileggi confessed that neither he nor the character he played, Walter Skinner, "had a handle on the conspiracy." For the two-parter, Pileggi stuck to his usual method of preparation: "I just read my parts and play it as if I don't know what's going on. It's always a surprise to me when I watch the shows."

-- "I'm happy that Mitch saw that as a positive," joked David Duchovny. "You know, whatever works for you ... I can't believe he told people that."

-- "When we shot 'Two Fathers,' we were still trying to get adjusted to all the sunlight we had for the daytime exterior scenes," said Manners. "I think it took us most of the sixth season to get used to the fact that the sun was suddenly out on The X-Files."

-- But ironically, rain disrupted the filming of one "Two Fathers" scene. "We were supposed to shoot the scene of David playing basketball on the building's rooftop," Manners explained. "In downtown L.A., there's a building that had a basketball court on the roof. But it was raining when we got there so we had to shoot the scene inside. It was so noisy with all the dribbling on the wooden floor that all the dialogue between David and Gillian in that scene had to be looped in later."

-- "Of course, David loved the scenes in 'Two Fathers' because he loved to play basketball," Manners recalled, "and he was an excellent basketball player. He played often on the set, whenever we had a break for lunch or something, he would be throwing the basketball around. One year he bought each member of the crew a basketball as a gift."

-- "During the first five years of the show, we only had so many establishing shots of the Hoover Building," Manners said. "Each week that was probably the most agonizing decision -- 'what shot of the Hoover Building are we going to use now?' So after five years, we finally put producer Paul Rabwin on an airplane and sent him back to Washington, D.C., to shoot some fresh shots of that building."

-- The Season 6 DVDs include a deleted scene from "Two Fathers" which took place just before the scene where Cigarette-Smoking Man visited Dr. Openshaw in the hospital. In the deleted scene, CSM stopped outside Cassandra's hospital room and watched her while the door was open as the FBI agents guarding her switched shifts. "It was a very easy scene to cut," said Frank Spotnitz. "It didn't add anything to the episode, so it was cut mostly for time. Also, the actress playing the female FBI agent [Valarie Pettiford] was wearing a wig that we weren't thrilled about, so that made the decision even easier. In the end, it trimmed a few precious seconds that we could use elsewhere."

-- The scene between CSM and Dr. Openshaw (in the hyperbaric chamber) was one of Kim Manners' favorites.

-- Oopsie! The legend said the Second Elder's home was in Silver Springs, Maryland; but the correct name of the D.C. suburb is Silver Spring.

-- The scenes in the Second Elder's home were filmed in a real house in a "very upscale, very expensive neighborhood in Los Angeles," recalled Kim Manners. "I was very nervous about shooting there because we had to have a fire inside the man's house. But the special effects guys pulled it off very well."

-- But while recording his "Two Fathers" commentary for the special Colonization DVD release, Manners noticed a production mistake in that fire scene for the first time. "You can see the special effects guy running in with his rig just as the camera was pulling back," Manners laughed. "Just before the scene fades out, you can see the top of the rig coming in and that had the switch for the fire. Wow, I just saw that for the first time."

-- "Two Fathers" revealed that the Faceless Rebel aliens could also shapeshift.

-- The green Jello close-up "was an insert shot that Paul Rabwin did," said Manners. "I wasn't planning to start the scene there, but when I saw the final cut with that edited in I loved it so I kept it in. Just for a moment, before you see that it's Jello, you have no idea what that is or where you are."

-- The sign outside Cassandra’s hospital room door said, “No Visitors. Quarantine," but that didn't stop Scully from walking right in.

-- If you want to see the wig that scared Frank Spotnitz into cutting that earlier scene, the actress playing the FBI Agent guarding Cassandra was still wearing it when Scully entered Cassandra's room.

-- Interestingly, Cassandra hugged both Scully and Mulder when she was reunited with each of them -- but she did not hug her son Jeffrey when they were reunited at the beginning of the episode.

-- Manners believed that the scene where Cassandra told Scully that whatever was done to her was also done to Scully had a profound impact on the rest of the series. "Earlier in the episode Scully was beginning to buy into the fact that Cassandra may have been abducted by aliens," Manners said. "Cassandra was in a wheelchair, and now she was walking. She said the aliens cured her. When she said that the same tests were performed on Scully, that scene platformed the remaining four seasons of The X-Files -- the rest of season six and seasons seven, eight, and nine -- because we never did really know whether Scully's child was part alien or purely Mulder's child. So I think that scene platformed the balance of the series."

-- "One of my trademarks as a director is that I love to get low with the camera and shoot up," said Manners, "and that requires a little more money." Why? "Because most television sets don't have ceilings on them. But we established that all of our sets would have a ceiling on them and that we would light from the floor instead of lighting from above. No top lighting on The X-Files! It's just something we decided early on -- that we didn't want to top light anybody. So our sets always had ceilings on them and we could get down nice and low and look up. It's a beautiful angle."

-- Nicholas Lea, whose character Alex Krycek was an important part of "Two Fathers/One Son," admitted he read the script for the two-parter "and then it needed to be explained to me about four times. Other than that," he laughed, "it was really clever. But that was kind of like the norm on The X-Files. You read a script, then called someone to explain it."

-- The Season 6 DVDs include another deleted scene from "Two Fathers" that producer Frank Spotnitz was extremely sorry to cut from the final version of the episode. The deleted scene was an exchange between Krycek and Cigarette-Smoking Man which took place right after the Syndicate meeting scene. "We ended up cutting it primarily for time," Spotnitz explained, "but it was also a little awkward. You went from the Syndicate meeting right to a scene between CSM and Krycek. So where did the rest of the Syndicate go? But I was sorry to lose it because I liked what it did for the relationship in the mythology. It really sets up the fact that CSM had three sons: Mulder, the heroic, rebellious son; Spender, the weak son CSM thought he could manipulate; and Krycek, not CSM's biological son but certainly his prodigy who wanted CSM's love and approval. That's how the titles of the episodes emerged. You had 'Two Fathers' -- Bill Mulder and CSM. Who would be the chosen 'One Son'?"

-- "Krycek was really the only one who wanted to carry on the mantle, and CSM would not have him," Spotnitz continued. "Tragically for CSM, because if he had accepted the alliance with Krycek, everything might have turned out differently. But CSM didn't think Krycek was worthy."

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-- The deleted scene was "just a nice thing for Krycek's character because there was some vulnerability to Krycek in the scene that you just never get to see otherwise," said Spotnitz. "This was one of the instances you cross in network TV where you have to bring the episodes down to a certain running time -- this was a painful deletion."

-- Following is the dialogue between CSM and Krycek in the deleted scene:

Krycek: I watch you. I see the way these men listen to you. They respect you. They fear you. They all know it's you who has gotten them here. I learn from you. But there is so much more. You built this project and I know someday you'll have to pass it on.

CSM: You see nothing, Alex. If you want to learn something, you'll learn to keep your mouth shut. I've already chosen someone.

Krycek: I do see things, you know. Things that you might want to be aware of. Mulder's been to see Cassandra.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  ~

It is a shame that the scene was cut, because it goes a long way in explaining why Krycek turned on CSM so vehemently later on. Krycek practically begged for the opportunity to be the "one son," and got a nasty rejection.

-- "This was one of my favorite things about directing The X-Files," Kim Manners said while commenting on the scene where Mulder and Scully sneak into the X-Files office to use the computer. "I loved to do these tight two-shots with David and Gillian, with their faces that close together, that tight in the same frame of film. I always found something very fascinating about it. They just looked great together. It was fun to compose them in a tight frame of film."

-- Jeffrey Spender's middle name was revealed to be "Frank." Named after Spotnitz? Quite possibly.

-- Manners chuckled as he re-watched the second scene in the gym where Mulder was shooting baskets when Scully entered with her box of information. "All net on those shots," Manners laughed. "All net."

-- "If you look closely at the photograph of the young Bill Mulder and CSM that Scully showed Mulder," Manners joked, "you'll realize why we cut out almost all of the flashback scenes. They just didn't work."

-- "This was a really fun episode to shoot," recalled Manners, "because at the time, everybody on the crew was trying to guess whether CSM was really Fox Mulder's father. But Chris Carter wouldn't tell us! So we all had to wait until it was revealed later on down the line."

-- During his DVD commentary, Manners recounted the famous X-Files story about how the "pffft" sound effect for the alien stiletto weapon (which CSM gave to Spender) was recorded by Paul Rabwin after hours and hours of electronic tinkering failed to capture the right sound. "And many seasons later we still used that same sound that Paul originally recorded," Manners said. Then he jokingly asked, "I wonder if Paul Rabwin got a residual check every time we heard that noise in the series?"

-- "I always laugh when I watch the shot where Jeffrey walked up to the Second Elder's house," Manners said, "because when we shot that, the neighbor across the street had just put peat moss on his lawn and it really stunk! And then we wet everything down and that *really* kicked up the smell."

-- Lack of continuity? Neither Jeffrey Spender nor Alex Krycek was affected by the dead alien's toxic green goo.

-- "The disintegrating alien was played by a stuntman who had some makeup on," Manners explained, "but then they took the film to the CGI [computer generated images] lab and they added the foaming and pulsing into the effect. Early on in the show it was much more difficult to shoot scenes like that, but later we would just shoot some minor things and all the rest was added by computer."

-- "Nick Lea did a wonderful job in all his scenes," Manners said. "Krycek was such a great character and it was always such a pleasure to work with Nick."

-- At the end of this episode Cassandra wanted to end her life because her existence as the first alien/human hybrid signaled the beginning of alien colonization. In Greek the name Cassandra means "Prophet of Doom."

-- Gibson was "the one"; Cassandra is called "the one" in this episode, and later on, Mulder will be designated as "the one." The 1013 Boys seemed to have a tough time figuring out just who "the one" was. They had the same difficulty with pinning down the "key to everything."

-- "The final scene was a tough scene to shoot," said Manners. "You have to work very hard on scenes like that to make them believable -- to not go over the top. We had to walk a very fine line, and I think Veronica did a great job in keeping it believable."

-- In her long career, Veronica Cartwright had worked with the best -- Alfred Hitchcock, William Wyler, Rod Serling. She had done it all: movies, television, theater. She had been a child actor, a leading lady, and an award-winning supporting actress. She had starred in comedies, dramas, horror films. But she could not get over the public's reaction to her four-episode arc on The X-Files.

-- "People stopped me on the street!" said Cartwright. "They asked me, 'Are you dead?' 'Are you alive?' 'Were you abducted?' 'Are you crazy?' 'Could you really have been married to that creep who smokes those cigarettes?'" In all those encounters Cartwright responded that she believed Cassandra Spender was telling the truth; that the multiple abductee was indeed a selfless representative of homo sapiens, willing to sacrifice her life to derail a very real alien conspiracy.

-- Cartwright also felt that working with the X-Files company ranked with her most interesting career experiences in or out of Hollywood. "Remember when my character was abducted from that bridge?" she asked. "Well, they had me in this wire harness dangling over the special bridge set they built for six hours. But that wasn't the whole story. Originally, they were going to put me in a special seat for that shot, so I had to go to the special effects place where they could make a -- well, anyway, I had to be on all fours on this table while they put Baseline all over me, wrapped me with bandages, and then covered everything with goop. Then I had to wait until it all dried, and they pulled everything off me. In the end, they didn't wind up making the seat. But who cares? Somewhere in Vancouver, there's an exact mold of my ass!"

-- For her role in "Two Fathers/One Son," Cartwright received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. She was nominated in 1998 for the same award for "Patient X" and "The Red and the Black."

-- Once & Future Retreads: In addition to Veronica Cartwright, many of those who appeared in "Patient X/The Red and the Black" were also seen in this episode, including Chapelle Jaffe (Dr. Patou), Klodyne Rodney (Medic), Michael Suchanek (Young Jeffrey Spender), Derek Versteeg (M.P.), and Jenn Forgie (Nurse) who was also Ed Jerse's ex-wife in "Never Again." Don S. Williams (Elder #1), George Murdock (Elder #2), and John Moore (Elder #3) appeared in numerous episodes and in "Fight the Future."

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(Thanks to chrisnu, about dd, and gertie for today's pics.)

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

Polly