CTP Episode of the Day - 08.22.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Via Negativa (8x07)
Original Air Date: December 17, 2000
Written By: Frank Spotnitz
Directed By: Tony Wharmby

Working without Scully's input, Doggett and Skinner try to avert the mysterious murder spree of a drug-induced, religious cult leader who leaves no trace of evidence at the crime scenes.

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"You just saved my life, Agent Scully."
"I just woke you up, Agent Doggett."

Some "Via Negativa" Tidbits & Musings:

-- The episode title "Via negativa" means "by way of negation." It is the method, originating in Neo-Platism, of understanding God by listing predicates or attributes that are not God's. It is the opposite of "via affirmativa," which means "by way of affirmation." It is a Latin phrase that refers to the darkest path taken en route to enlightenment and is described as "negative path wherein salvation or enlightenment is achieved less by direct discovery and affirmation of the truth than by seeing through the veil of Maya, the pseudo-truths that we mistake for it; less through knowledge (gnosis) of the one true faith than by transcending the counterfeit creeds that stand in the way of any genuine salvation by faith and by grace; and less by direct discovery of the true self than by fighting free of the false selves that are its masquerades."

-- The episode begins with a warning -- "Due to some graphic violence, viewer discretion is advised." This was the last episode aired before Christmas 2000, so it's always nice to have those warm and fuzzy episodes right before the holidays. < g >

-- The idea for "Via Negativa" came to Frank Spotnitz while he was on his first ever rafting trip with a group of friends and a friend of a friend, "a guy I didn't know very well. This guy said there was an image that really freaked him out -- opening a tube of toothpaste and having blood come out. And I thought, wow! That is a weird image, but that's impossible. How could you create that story? There was no real-world scenario I could come up with where that would happen. So I started thinking of dreams and nightmares. And then the story actually came to me very quickly about a cult trying to reach a higher plane and instead stumbling on a lower plane, a darker plane. Or what if the higher plane is a darker plane? What if we think we're reaching up and we're reaching down?"

-- "I knew I couldn't have much of Scully," Spotnitz said, "because we didn't have Gillian Anderson for this episode. So it became a writing challenge. We had this brand new character and we didn't have our recurring character so what do you do with the story?" In this case, Spotnitz called upon the old stand-bys -- Skinner and the Lone Gunmen -- to pick up the slack. "I was eager to use the Lone Gunmen characters and to have them meet Doggett," Spotnitz said. But Spotnitz also felt the Scully-lite episode was "a bonus, a big plus for Robert Patrick -- for his character and for the actor."

-- But Spotnitz's solution to explain Scully's absence in "Via Negativa" was a perfect example of a recurring problem with Season 8 -- creating a situation off-screen that took our attention away from the action on-screen. Having a Scully-lite episode to give Gillian Anderson a break was fine; but insinuating there was a problem with the baby -- the one still viable link to Mulder (in most of our minds, anyway) -- was the wrong way to go about it.

-- This was the first episode directed by Tony Wharmby; he directed six more during Seasons 8 and 9.

-- Tabernathe iboga is an ordinary-looking shrub found in a small area of West Africa. Despite its common appearance, in those few nations that know of it, the plant is worshipped as the source of spiritual knowledge and as a tool for accessing the wisdom of the ancestors. The root bark, scraped off, ground into powder, and eaten, contains one of the most powerful, long-lasting and mysterious psychedelic agents. Over the last few decades, iboga has developed a following in the U.S. and Europe, where it is known as ibogaine and is being promoted as a potential cure for treating addiction to heroin and other drugs.

-- The Scully-lite episode did give Mitch Pileggi a chance to step into the spotlight; and he and Robert Patrick had a good chemistry working together. IMBO, this was a Season 8 Skeptic/Believer (Doggett/Skinner) match up that actually worked.

-- The call Tipet made from the pay phone was made at 10:12 p.m., one of many 10:12 references in Season 8 (I believe to show that Season 8 was just a tad out of synch for 1013).

-- Andre Bormanis was named after writer Frank Spotnitz's childhood friend. "I'd known Andre since grade school in Phoenix, Arizona," Spotnitz said. A scientist who formerly worked for NASA, Bormanis went on to become a science consultant for "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and a consultant to The Planetary Society. "I just looked for a way to kill him on the show," joked Spotnitz.

-- When Doggett and Skinner show their badges to Dr. Bormanis, Skinner's badge is upside-down.

-- About Dr. Bormanis's "death by rodent," supervising producer Paul Rabwin explained, "We spent the whole day shooting inserts of rats. We had 500 rats there. They scattered to the walls, they were getting under the bed, they were getting under the toilet. They literally had the trainers throwing rats out saying 'get them in the middle; we want to see the rats!' I'll tell you a dirty little secret about visual effects," Rabwin continued. "We spent a great many hours painting out rat droppings in that shot [of the rats swarming over Bormanis] because that's all you saw on the floor."

-- It was nice to hear *someone* reminisce about Mulder, even though I would have rather heard the Lone Gunmen discussing what they had been doing to find him. But Langly recreating the Mulder Ceiling Pencil Toss was a nice touch.

-- The full names of Byers and Frohike were established in Season 5's "Unusual Suspects"; but while Langly's first name -- "Ringo" -- was included in an early script of that episode, it was never mentioned in the final version. In "Via Negativa," Doggett is told that Langly's first name is "Richard." (The first name of "Ringo" was used in The Lone Gunmen series. Richard was also the first name of another famous Ringo -- Ringo Starr, drummer for The Beatles. His real name was Richard Starkey.

-- The eye and the pyramid shown on the reverse side of the one-dollar bill are in the Great Seal of the United States. The Great Seal was first used on the reverse of the one-dollar Federal Reserve note in 1935. The Department of State is the official keeper of the Seal; and they believe that the most accurate explanation of the pyramid is that it symbolizes strength and durability. The unfinished pyramid means that the United States will always grow, improve, and build. In addition, the "All-Seeing Eye" located above the pyramid suggests the importance of divine guidance in favor of the American cause. The inscription "annuit coeptis" translates as "He (God) has favored our undertakings," and refers to the many instances of Divine Providence during our government's formation. In addition, the inscription "novus ordo seclorum" translates as "A new order of the ages," and signifies a new American era.

-- The Doctor Directory printed on the "Washington National Hospital" letterhead contains the names "C. Carter, D. Scully, C. Kaplan" -- for Chris Carter, Dana Scully, and Production Designer Corey Kaplan.

-- In addition to his acting roles, Keith Szarabajka (Anthony Tipet) has done a lot of voice work in cartoons and video games. He might be best remembered for his recurring role as Mickey Kostmayer in the 1980s series The Equalizer. He also had a recurring role as Daniel Holtz on Angel.

-- Once & Future Retreads: Wayne Alexander who played Agent Arnold in "The Beginning" and "Monday" plays a Senior Agent in this one. Kirk B.R. Woller reprised his role as Agent Crane (first seen in "Within/Without") in this episode.

-- This was one of Robert Patrick's favorite episodes, "because we had a chance to really be vulnerable and do some things that we don't normally do."

-- "Via Negativa" was pretty creepy; but I found its purpose to be twofold. First, it helped Agent Doggett realize that sometimes there is more to it than just "good police work," and that maybe there is something to these "extreme possibilities" after all. And secondly, this was the first episode to start with the letter "V" (followed later in Season 8 by "Vienen"), thus allowing X-Philes everywhere to breathe a sigh of relief that the X-Files Alphabet Game would have its own sense of closure. And the alphabet deserves closure. Just like anyone.

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(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 "Via Negativa"!

Polly