CTP Episode of the Day - 12.08.06 - William

Today's Cherished Episode: William (9x17)
Original Air Date: April 28, 2002
Written By: Chris Carter
Story By: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz and David Duchovny
Directed By: David Duchovny

Scully questions whether a disfigured man is really Mulder. But things become even more complicated when the mysterious stranger poses a threat to her son.

"You still don't believe it's him."
"You know a person in so many ways. Ways that a test can't even begin to know."

Some "William" Tidbits & Musings:

-- Once the decision was made midway through the season that Season 9 would be The X-Files last, the show's brain trust began to focus on how they would wrap up nine years of storytelling while leaving the characters poised to move into a film franchise. All unanimously agreed that one plot device in particular had to be dealt with: William.

-- "I thought the baby thing added an interesting storyline," said Gillian Anderson, "but it certainly added a level of complication to filming and to the show. And in the ninth season the question became how to involve Scully in the cases that were being investigated to a degree without the audience thinking, 'Well, where's the baby and why isn't she home with him?' And if she was with the baby, another segment of the audience was saying, 'We want her out in the field. We don't want her home with the baby.' It was a very fine balance that we had to play."

-- Those were just some of the reasons she show's producers knew that they couldn't have Scully and Mulder chasing aliens or monsters in a future movie with a toddler tagging along. "It was a problem we knew existed, and we couldn't figure out how we were going to handle it," said Carter. "Finally, having Scully give the child up for adoption seemed like the best way."

-- "We all discussed it and knew we wanted to bring some closure to that story as we were trying to do with everything else on the series," said executive producer John Shiban. "There was some debate about what to do and what the best thing to do was. That idea [giving William up for adoption] was from Chris and Frank. It would provide a safe place for the baby. I don't think anybody wanted to continue playing jeopardy for the baby any longer. It started to become painful for all of us."

-- "We knew that the fans would be asking why we had Scully go through the pregnancy arc to begin with if she was just going to give the baby up for adoption," said executive producer Frank Spotnitz. "And it was a legitimate question. I had a lot of reservations about that storyline and about her giving up the baby, and was not at all sure that it was the right thing to do. But in the end, I think it was the right thing to do, because it becomes unsavory. And I think everybody -- David and Chris, especially -- felt that the baby was going to be an obstacle to us in any future movies."

-- "The decision was very difficult," added Spotnitz. "But realistically, in no small way, it made it easier to one day do another movie. It freed us in what the movie could be in a way that you would not be free if the baby storyline had to be serviced. You'd just have to have another threat to the baby in the movie, and that would dictate the entire story of the movie. And that's something we knew we didn't want."

-- "I had actually approached David [Duchovny] about writing and directing an episode for the ninth season before I made the decision to end the show," Chris Carter explained. "But once that decision was made, I called David up and said, 'Well, the show's over and I'm making the announcement.' And David said, 'Congratulations, it was a good, long run.' I think we spoke sometime later about him returning for the finale, but during this conversation I told him since the show was ending I definitely wanted him to write and direct that episode we had talked about. When he ran out of time to write, he told me about a story idea he had, and I said 'I'll write something for you,' and so I wrote 'William' for him to direct."

-- "Chris had called me and asked me to write and direct one for the ninth season, and I said, 'sure, if I get an idea.' And then I just started trying to have an idea which usually consisted of drinking a lot of coffee, just thinking really hard, turning red-faced, sort of pressing," joked David Duchovny. "Finally, I got an idea about Mulder coming back in disguise to check up on Scully and the baby. The only thing standing in the way was that unless Mulder was going to use the Batman mask, where would he find a Hollywood make-up man -- somebody really good with latex -- to create his disguise so Scully wouldn't recognize him? Then I had this Cyrano story where Mulder was going to be deformed or disfigured but the question was how would he have done that to himself?"

-- "Everybody liked the idea about the deformity," Duchovny continued. "But around the time the idea was taking shape, we agreed that I would come back to do the final two episodes of the series [the two-part "The Truth"] and so I couldn't come back disfigured in this episode if I was going to come back as the non-disfigured Mulder a few episodes later. I had always looked for a way to bring back Chris Owens as Spender because I really liked working with him, and so things just evolved from there."

-- "David called me and we had this conversation about the fact that he was coming back to direct something and possibly coming back for the end of the show, and I was very excited," recalled Gillian Anderson. "I guess I didn't realize how much I was missing him and how much we needed his presence to make a necessary closure."

-- Chris Owens was truly the Man of a Thousand Faces on The X-Files -- well, maybe not a thousand, but at least three. He played everything from a young Cigarette-Smoking Man to the peanut-butter-eating Great Mutato ... and of course, "weasel boy" Agent Jeffrey Spender. The latter was long-believed dead, but returned to life for two of the last four episodes of The X-Files. It seemed fitting for Owens to return one or two "last times" and bring closure to Spender's story.

-- Chris Owens' return to The X-Files was prompted by a story idea by David Duchovny, who always thought Spender was a misused character and wanted to find a way to bring him back. "I first found out that they were thinking about bringing me back when my agent told me that Fox was asking about my availability," Owens said. "Then I received a phone call from David Duchovny saying he had an idea for an episode and wanted to bring me back. I said, 'Wow, that's great. But wasn't I shot?' David said, 'Uh, alien virus -- we're working it out. We'll have some fun. Well, you won't. You'll be under a lot of make-up."

-- Owens happily agreed to return for the episode "William" even if it did mean being in make-up for seventeen hours a day and even twenty hours the day he was in full body make-up. "Being asked back came out of the blue and was a complete surprise," Owens said. "A year and a half or two years before, I sort of expected it, but then the series went on and was ending and I thought, 'That's it.' When I got the call I was really excited first of all because I just assumed Spender really was dead and buried. And second because David was directing and that strongly appealed to me."

-- The fate of Owens's character Agent Spender was always left in doubt following an ambiguous meeting with the Cigarette-Smoking Man (Agent Spender's father) in which a gunshot was heard but no other reference was ever made to the fate of the character. For his part, William B. Davis said, "I always loved working with Chris. I was sorry to be told I had to shoot him." Fans were left to wonder and speculate as to what actually happened to Spender. "William" answered some of those questions.

-- "When we did the first make-up test, they worked on me for about three hours and then we walked across the studio lot to show Chris Carter," said Owens. "He said, 'Nope, I can still see Chris in there -- you've got to mess him up more. You'll need to do another test tomorrow.' And we did. On the third try, Chris was pleased and we were on our way."

-- During filming, Owens was just about the first person on the set every day. "There was nothing like arriving on the lot at 3:30 a.m. to begin the make-up process," he recalled. "Usually, there was only myself, two make-up artists, and a game production assistant making pots of coffee. You forge a bond in prosthetics. I remember David stepping into the trailer at one point and saying 'Sorry, buddy, we're going to have to shave you.' And they did. Legs, arms, and chest."

-- Owens recounted that he, David Duchovny, and Gillian Anderson weren't always sure about what was going on in "William." "In that particular episode, with David directing, there were a couple of scenes where Gillian said, 'David, what does this mean? I don't think I get what I'm supposed to be doing here.' And David would scratch his head and say, 'You know what, I'm not so sure either.' Then we would all sit around and David would make a suggestion, 'I think maybe this ...' His usual answer was 'She's confused and she's going back and forth.' The beauty of it was that Gillian would use that sense of uncertainty in the scene, as when she handed William to 'Breather' to hold 'for Mulder's sake.' You could see in her eyes that she felt compelled to do it but wasn't completely sure why. Gillian herself was confused, going back and forth, which was perfect for Scully. Then when I saw the episode it made perfect sense. She played confused and confused worked. It was a good choice. She is a wonderful actor."

-- Owens had high praise for Duchovny as a director saying, "He's an actor's director. The line about needing braces was David's idea and it was something Mulder would have said. And David being David, there had to be some reference to basketball. That's why I was in those bright red tennis shoes. The guy was directing. He had to make his statement."

-- Owens conceded that he was surprised at the vehement reaction of many fans to the decision that William be given up for adoption. "I know a lot of the fans were outraged," he said. "But, hey, I was just the deformed guy trying to save the world. Cut me some slack!"

-- While the episode dealt primarily with baby William, viewers were also given enough background on where Spender had been and what he had been through that it necessitated his return for the first part of the series finale. "I hoped I would be back for the finale, but I wasn't sure. I found out I was returning from the make-up department," Owens said. "They knew before I did! Always get in good with the make-up department. They know everything."

-- As for his time in the X-Files universe, Owens said that the most physically challenging part he played was that of the Great Mutato in "The Post Modern Prometheus." "The make-up for that took longer than the make-up for deformed Spender in 'William,'" Owens explained. "Gillian said that out of all the characters her daughter had seen, that one was a little too realistic for her. It kind of freaked her out, but I ended up playing blocks with her in full Mutato make-up. That was a little surreal." For the episode "Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man," Owens said he studied tape of actor William B. Davis smoking, until he got "the finger roll down just right." As for Spender, he was philosophical when he said, "I thought the two-parter and his demise was really good, though it would have been nice to hang around a while longer."

-- One of Owens's favorite memories of his time on The X-Files occurred while filming "William." "I was sitting across from Gillian waiting to do a scene," he said, "and someone slipped her something. Her entire being lit up. I asked her what it was and she answered, 'a brownie.' Watching her face as she chewed, I thought 'My God, I want whatever she's having.' It was almost orgasmic."

-- Over the course of the ninth season, several babies were used to portray William; but in this episode, William was played by twins James and Travis Riker.

-- "William" was the 17th episode of Season 9 filmed but aired 16th, prior to "Release" which brought closure to Agent Doggett with regard to the death of his son.

-- According to John Shiban, there was no significance to the white buffalo that was shown on the flag in the episode teaser and in the mobile the adoptive father made for William. "It was to set the stage and tell us where we were," Shiban explained. "People tried to read a lot of symbolism into it, but that wasn't the case. To give credit where credit is due, as I understood it, it was a creative choice by David Duchovny. He felt, 'I don't want to do a legend here. Let's do something a little more interesting.'"

-- The blue flag with red and white borders and a white buffalo in the middle is the Wyoming State Flag. The buffalo (or bison -- the Wyoming State mammal and often called the monarch of the plains) is centered on the flag and branded with the Great Seal of Wyoming. In the original design, the buffalo was facing away from the staff to symbolize the freedom with which the bison had once roamed the plains of Wyoming; but when the flag was first manufactured in 1917, the direction of the bison was reversed to provide better balance and it has remained so ever since. The colors of the flag are the same as the U.S. flag. The red border represents the Indians who knew and loved the country long before the settlers came and also the blood of the pioneers who gave their lives reclaiming the soil. White is the emblem of purity and uprightness over Wyoming. Blue, the color of the sky and mountains, is symbolic of fidelity, justice, and virility.

-- The social worker's comment in the teaser that the Van de Kamp house was "hard to find" was not in the original script.

-- Chris Carter seemed to delight in playing the "who's William's daddy" game throughout Season 9; but in *his* script for this episode, beneath the social worker's line "I want you to meet William," Carter's direction reads, "AS IN SCULLY AND MULDER'S CHILD." Yep, I think that's pretty clear.

-- In the original script, the time in the first legend of the first act is written as 10:56 p.m., which would have made it a "1013" reference (Chris Carter's birth month and year). But as it appeared in the episode, the legend noted 10:55 p.m. Do you think that change was intentional? < g > (No matter what time it was, the bigger question was what in the heck was William doing up at that time of night?)

-- In the first scene of the first act when Scully arrived home in her car with William in the back seat, she was singing Three Dog Night's Joy to the World to him, the same song she sang to Mulder while they were stuck in the forest in the Season 5 episode "Detour." There was no mention in the script of Scully singing anything during this scene; so whoever added this wonderful touch (I'm guessing Director Duchovny) gets a big thumbs up.

-- The time stamp on the first scene in the X-Files office, with Doggett doing push-ups is 11:21 p.m.; November 21 is Chris Carter's wife's birthday.

-- Doggett was not doing push-ups in this scene in the original script. He was simply sitting behind his desk reading files, "burning the midnight oil" as the script described it.

-- Scully arriving at the FBI building at 2:02 a.m. a bit disheveled and having to fix her pants cuff which was tucked in her boot was also a nice touch -- a great contrast to the usually impeccable Agent Scully who made many non-disheveled arrivals at the FBI building late at night or early in the morning.

-- The alias The Breather used, Daniel Miller, was a reference to David Duchovny's brother Daniel and to his mother's maiden name, Miller. (A little less than two months after "William" aired, "Miller" would become the middle name of David Duchovny and Tea Leoni's son Kyd Miller Duchovny, born on June 15, 2002. Called "Miller" by his parents, his first name "Kyd" is an homage to 16th-century English playwright Thomas Kyd.

-- When The Breather first mentioned Fox Mulder, Chris Carter's script direction said, "Scully fights focus and composure just hearing the name."

-- In the original script, after Scully asked The Breather to identify a picture of Samantha Mulder, she then asked him to identify the boy in another picture. "It's Mulder's half-brother, whose name was Jeffrey Spender," the character replied. "He was an FBI agent, like Mulder. He was killed right in this building. Shot by his own father." This part was most likely deleted from the final version so as not to tip the Spender hand too soon. Doggett asked if The Breather was right or wrong, but Scully did not answer, just told Doggett to transfer the man to Quantico (the line that appeared in the episode).

-- In the examination scene after Doggett insinuated that The Breather was Mulder, Carter's script direction noted that "we see in Scully's face and in her manner that she DOES NOT want to believe this is Mulder." When Scully leaned close to inspect The Breather's dental work, the script direction says, "Scully leans into the man, in what now becomes an almost intimate procedure. The Breather's raspy breaths landing on her. It's a weird moment for us and for Scully. Does she feel him, the way a lover or an intimate would know someone in disguise?"

-- Although David Duchovny was not credited as appearing in this episode, he was seen for a split second when Scully looked into the eyes of The Breather while examining him. Scully's "vision" of Mulder was not mentioned in the original script.

-- After Scully showed the files in her apartment to The Breather, he responded, "You trust me. Thank you." After that line, Carter's script direction noted: "It's a funny statement, because Scully has so many times said she trusts only Mulder. It shakes her a little."

-- The Breather told Scully he could not tell her where Mulder was per Mulder's wishes, for her safety and William's. Following that line, Carter's script direction said, "This silences Scully, because it sounds so much like what Mulder might do, or ask. But it makes her no less upset."

-- The Breather's line to Doggett, "Think that's going to scar?" while Doggett is cleaning him up was also a "Mulderism" added by David Duchovny.

-- The episode indicated that The Breather's and Mulder's DNA was an "exact match," but that would have been unlikely since Mulder and Spender were, at most, half-brothers.

-- During the shot when Scully, Reyes, and Doggett were sitting on Scully's sofa waiting for The Breather's sleeping pill to take effect, Doggett put his arm on the back of the couch and touched Reyes' hair -- a somewhat intimate gesture that would have been more appropriate had "William" aired in the filming order, after the events of "Release."

-- Chris Owens said that the scene where he was supposed to give the baby an injection was a bit nerve-wracking. "By the time we shot that scene, I'd been on set for 17 hours and up for nearly 24. David wanted to get the shot to look as real as possible, which meant doing it in one long shot. Here I was, blurry-eyed, and coming at this kid's head with a pointed object -- and I got pretty close to him with that needle. But luckily, everything went fine and there were no problems."

-- Chris Owens reported that one day on the set, cast and crew were watching the dailies of the scene where Scully revealed that The Breather was Jeffrey Spender (with Skinner, Doggett, and Reyes watching through the glass from outside the room). "Everyone was very quiet, watching the scene," Owens said. "Then, when Skinner came on screen, Mitch yelled out in fake terror, 'Hey, I'm bald!'"

-- During the confrontation scene between Scully and Spender, when Scully accused that he only wanted to get William, Spender's reply in the original script was not included in the episode: "Who would think such a beautiful plan could come from such ugliness." (Carter's script direction says that "Scully restrains herself from physically assaulting the man.")

-- There was also one piece of rather important dialogue in the original script during this scene that was not included in the final episode. After Spender told Scully the magnetite shot was "a gift," Scully responded, "Oh, and I should thank you for it?" Spender then said: "It's the key to everything. Your son is normal now because of it. His alien qualities turned off." The script direction following that line says, "Tears begin to run down Scully's cheeks. All her anger and bravado, her cool and righteous self-collection disappears."

-- In the final scene with William in his new home, Carter's script indicated that the Wife established in the teaser "is singing to him, and maybe there's a really happy piece of music she's singing to." The song chosen for this scene was Michael, Row the Boat Ashore, a traditional African-American spiritual from the Sea Islands of Georgia. It was first published in Slave Songs of the United States, by William Francis Allen et al., in 1867.

-- The song's refrain is, "Michael, row the board ashore, Hallelujah," and the lyrics describe crossing the River Jordan. The River Jordan is often used as a metaphor for death. According to Slave Songs of the United States, the "Michael" referred to in the song is the Archangel Michael. In Christian tradition, Michael is often considered a psychopomp, or conductor of the souls of the dead. In this case, it's possible the song was used to represent William crossing into a new life.

-- It's also possible that the song was suggested by Maggie Jacobson, David Duchovny's former girlfriend, and still good friend. She was an actress who appeared with him in his first film, New Year's Day, and in the first season X-Files episode "Born Again." Duchovny contacted her for help in selecting a song for his first directing effort, "The Unnatural." "Maggie is the only Jewish gospel singer in captivity," Duchovny said. "She teaches gospel workshops. She's a wonderful singer and has a great love of that music, which I don't know very well at all."

-- After describing William reaching for the buffalo mobile in the original script, Carter's final script direction is this: "What are we praying for? The mobile to turn? Or not? William continues to reach, but nothing happens. Not before we FADE OUT."

-- "I thought David did a really beautiful job on 'William,'" said Chris Carter. "The episode was a departure for us in that it was very 'talky.' He did a great job with it."

-- "The great thing about the solution we decided on was that it was a way to cure the baby in a very satisfying manner because it was a part of this revenge plot of Spender's," said John Shiban. "It left Mulder and Scully with a huge emotional burden, and you saw in the finale that they would carry that with them. It wasn't ignored by any means. But this was a family issue that had to be dealt with, and it provided a very, very emotional, touching scene in the series finale."

-- "I thought the solution we came up with was kind of Solomonic in its wisdom in the end," Frank Spotnitz said, "which is, it's true to Scully's character and the pattern of behavior that she had for nine years: that she sacrificed her own happiness for a greater cause. It was true to the tragic series of losses she endured over the course of the series, and I thought it was very moving in the end. It kind of helped us go forward with Mulder and Scully -- and whether there are movies or not, it serviced them -- and us, as storytellers -- in a good way."

(Thanks to chrisnu and about dd for today's pics and thanks to Haven member Follower for some of the information provided above.)

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