CTP Episode of the Day - 05.31.06

Today's Cherished Episode: War of the Coprophages (3X12)
Original Air Date: January 5, 1996
Written By: Darin Morgan
Directed By: Kim Manners

A number of deaths seemingly linked to cockroaches cause widespread panic in a small town.

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(Thanks to chrisnu for today's episode pics.)

SCULLY: Mulder, I think the only thing more fortuitous than the emergence of life on this planet is that, through purely random laws of biological evolution, an intelligence as complex as ours ever emanated from it. The very idea of intelligent alien life is not only astronomically improbable but at its most basic level, downright anti-Darwanian.

MULDER: Scully, what are you wearing?

Some "War of the Coprophages" Tidbits & Musings:

-- The idea for "War of the Coprophages" was born when Darin Morgan read about an artificial-intelligence researcher at MIT who built robots in the shape of large insects. He liked the idea of aliens sending robots to Earth, since people "usually think of that in terms of aliens with big heads." Morgan then wedded that idea with stories about mass hysteria, including a famous case from the '40s that he was going to have the sheriff discuss before ultimately cutting the scene to keep the episode from running long.

-- The episode paid homage to Orson Welles's famous 1939 radio drama, "War of the Worlds," which was adapted from the novel of the same name by H.G. Wells. The name of the town in the episode, Miller's Grove, mirrors that of Grover's Mill (New Jersey) in the radio drama. The mass hysteria in the town not only echoes that in the radio play, but also the real-life hysteria caused by the airing of the radio show, which many people thought was an actual alien invasion.

-- Holy crap! There are lots of "crappy" references in this episode, starting with the title: "coprophages" means "dung eaters." The sheriff's name "Frass" is a word used to refer specifically to caterpillar dung. Scully tries to impress Mulder with her knowledge about who invented the flush toilet -- Thomas Crapper. The candy Scully eats at the convenience store is called "Choco Droppings." And our favorite Agents are in deep doo-doo by the end -- no wonder they look "pooped"!

-- Animal trainer Debra Coe used approximately 300 cockroaches for this episode, during which there was only one casualty: one cockroach-actor died from old age.

-- The show kept the bugs in a "roach corral" to prevent them from infesting the studio and they behaved like true show-business troopers. "We were shooting the bathroom sequence," Kim Manners remembered, "and we let this cockroach out from underneath the camera, and the little sonofabitch ran right underneath the stall. I just said, 'Cut it! Print it!' Then we get the toilet paper roll, and the cockroach started at this end and walked all the way across the roll and went straight toward the actor," just as it was supposed to do.

-- Incredibly detailed plastic and rubber cockroaches were made for the show. "You could put one next to a real roach and no one would know the difference," said prop master Ken Hawryliw, whose department also worked for weeks creating "piles and piles" of bogus dung using an organic (but not *that* organic) substance. Similarly, all of the robots in Dr. Ivanov's lab were built from scratch, modeled after drawings of similar robots the crew was shown.

-- Describing the shot when the cockroaches are supposed to climb up on the toilet tank behind the guy who's sitting there, Manners said, "We couldn't hurt the cockroaches so we're saying to the handlers on the other side of the wall, 'Be careful, don't hurt them, but get them in there.' I had like five of them I wanted to run to the top of the tank. After about four takes as a joke I stuck my head in the bucket and said, 'Listen you little (expletive), I'm gonna give two cues: 'Camera action' and 'Action.' That's when you little (expletive) run to the top of the tank.' I said, 'Action!' and they were right there. It's a true story, and it worked."

-- The exterminator who dies at the beginning of the episode is named Dr. Bugger. Dr. Bugger was played by actor Alex Bruhanski who would return as bowling alley owner Angelo Pintero in Season 4's "Elegy."

-- Dr. Bambi Berenbaum is named for Dr. May R. Berenbaum, head of the Entomology Department at the University of Illinois and author of many books on insects. Dr. Berenbaum, who became an immediate subject of derision along the Internet after the episode originally aired, was played by actress Bobbie Phillips, who had a recurring role on the ABC series Murder One. Phillips also appeared in the movie Showgirls and the Showtime anthology series Red Shoe Diaries, featuring David Duchovny.

-- As if you needed any further proof of the genius of Darin Morgan, here is a portion of Morgan's original script describing Dr. Berenbaum:

MULDER'S POV--ENTOMOLOGIST EXTRAORDINAIRE Describing her like one of the insects she studies, DR. BAMBI BERENBAUM has luscious mandibles, a voluptuous pair of thoraxes, and a great ovipositor, all of which are accentuated by her tight-fitting flannel shirt, African safari shorts, and hiking boots. She stands with her hands defiantly on her shapely coxae (hips).

-- The robotics researcher, A. Ivanov, has a name similar to the great writer of sci-fi stories, I. Asimov. Dr. Ivanov is played by actor Ken Kramer, making his third appearance on the show. He was Dr. Berube in "The Erlenmeyer Flask" and Dr. Browning in "3."

-- Dr. Jeff Eckerle (the man with the intense fear of bugs) is likely named after the Jeff Eckerle who served as creative consultant for "Secrets of the X-Files, Part 2" and who would later serve as a writer/producer for the earlier seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

-- Actor Bill Dow who is usually seen as Mulder's buddy Dr. Chuck Burks appears as Dr. Newton in this episode. His first appearance on the show was also *not* as Dr. Burks; it was as the Dad dragged off by "The Jersey Devil" in the teaser of that episode. Dow appeared as Chuck in six XF episodes: "The Calusari," "Leonard Betts," "Biogenesis," "Rush," "Hollywood A.D.," and "Badlaa."

-- Nicole Parker (Redheaded Chick) and Tyler Labine (Stoner) returned later in the season to play the same roles in "Quagmire."

-- Maria Herrara, who played a customer in the convenience store, also had a role as a guard in Season 1's "Eve"; and Norma Jean Wick, who appeared as a reporter in the episode, also played a reporter in Season 1's "Space," and a newscaster in Season 5's "Folie a Deux."

-- The name of the television news reporter is Skye Leikin. This was the name of an AOL X-Phile whose screen name was Leikin Skye. She won the grand prize in an AOL trivia contest -- to get your screen name in one of the episodes.

-- The name of the experimental fuel research station Mulder visited was Alt-Fuel. The firm's motto was "Waste is a terrible thing to waste."

-- Many XF episodes contain references to Planet of the Apes and this one has two: during Mulder and Scully's conversation at the beginning of the episode, and during the conversation between Bambi and Ivanov at the end.

-- Scully certainly had a wild Saturday. She spent all day trying to reach Mulder by phone, she cleans her gun, eats a salad on her coffee table while she sits on the floor watching business news on TV, washes her dog, reads a book, and eats ice cream right out of the carton while researching cockroaches. No wonder Darin Morgan originally planned for Dr. Ivanov to be a real hunk so Scully would have someone to flirt with too.

-- The book Scully is reading during one of Mulder's telephone calls, Breakfast at Tiffany's, is a reference to David Duchovny's appearance on Celebrity Jeopardy! The Final Jeopardy question referred to this Truman Capote book; Duchovny guessed wrong and lost the game.

-- "Die! Bug! Die!" obviously brought to you by the same folks who manufacture "Die! Flea! Die!", Scully's dog shampoo of choice.

-- Gillian Anderson, who popped a cricket in her mouth during the making of "Humbug" in Season 2, happily pointed out that she was spared any further six-legged encounters in this episode. "The closest I got was the chocolates in the store. That was it," she said, adding that "War of the Coprophages" was one of her favorite episodes of Season 3, along with another Darin Morgan episode, "Jose Chung's From Outer Space."

-- Scully says that "smart is sexy" in reference to the two scientists, a phrase often used by the media to describe Mulder and Scully.

-- At the beginning of the episode, Mulder said he went away for the weekend because his apartment building was being fumigated. Judging by the size of the bug that he squashes at the end of the episode, the fumigating wasn't very successful.

-- Extremely Good Phone; Jealous!Scully; Queequeg; Mulder barechested, in boxers, in partially fastened jeans, and in the black turtleneck; girly screams; praying mantis epiphanies; and a cockroach hung like a club-tailed dragonfly. In a word, "War of the Coprophages" was CRAPTACULAR!

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

Polly