Tag Archives: Chris Owens

William 9×17: You say it as if you have a choice.


William63.jpg

Stop, the love you save may be your own.

Reportedly, the idea for Scully to give William up for adoption was mandated by Carter and Spotnitz. Duchovny, Anderson, and executive producer John Shiban were not happy with this turn of events, due to them being parents and feeling that the action was not realistic, but “grudgingly consented”. – Wikipedia (William)

We have reached the high point of my Season 9 frustration, or the low point of my fandom, however you choose to look at it. I warn you now this will be long.

For all intents and purposes, baby William is gone, Carter said. After all, you can’t have Scully and Mulder chasing aliens 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,” he said. “This seemed like the best way.”

“A problem”? And whose fault was that?

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’s 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 for all of us painful. – John Shiban

YES.

“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.

YES.

“And it was a legitimate question.”

YES.

“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.”

Again, whose fault was that?

“The decision was very difficult,” added Spotnitz. “But realistically, in no small way, it made it easier to one day do another movie.

Here’s the thing everyone seems to be missing: It doesn’t matter how well you write the movie if no one wants to see it.

We have to follow you to the theater, remember?

And as painful, unsavory, frustrating and problematic as the storylines surrounding William have been, nothing is worse than after all that taking him suddenly away with a flimsy excuse. This is the kind of story choice that turns people off. All this buildup about William as the second coming and then, boom. He’s gone.

The job the latter half of Season 9 was burdened with was wrapping up emotional loose ends. That’s fine as far as it goes. But if a movie franchise was a goal, then the stories should actually be ramping up towards something epic.

Instead this has a note of finality and there’s no presented reason to wait and see what happens to the budding Mulder brood. Don’t put a period where there should be a comma. If you are going to get rid of William, make it temporary. Give your audience hope, somehow, of a reunion. Or, how about we just let William be a normal baby? He’d be older by the movies anyway! Let him go to grandma’s if he needs a place to hide out.

Like so many unpleasant surprises this season, I had no idea what was coming when “William” first aired. But just like with “Jump the Shark” (9×15), as soon as we hit the end of the teaser, I knew. Last time, I freaked out. This time, I freaked out… and threw my hands over my head in both contempt and surrender. Why shouldn’t one more thing go horribly wrong?

I think it’s safe to say I was too upset to look at the episode objectively, but this time I gave it the old college try. And you know what? Other than the end result being such a source of frustration, the episode is otherwise a pretty good one. It’s quiet with a lot of exposition, but it manages to be surprisingly emotional.

David Duchovny’s back directing and I think he makes some great choices here. Gillian Anderson and Jeffrey Owens also do an impressive job acting, especially Gillian as a thoroughly confused and conflicted Scully. And I’m happy to find out what became of Spender. That, at least, is a welcome surprise here right before the end.

The scene where Scully examines Spender/Miller/Mulder is easily the best in the episode. It’s shot very intimately, intimately enough to let us know that despite her protests, Scully wonders if this might be Mulder too. I try to remind Scully that the network wouldn’t waste David Duchovny’s face like that, but I’m not sure she hears me.

Eventually, grand scheme working according to plan, Spender worms his way to William and injects him some magical form of magnetite. Et voilà! No more Super Baby, no more messiah.

And why does he do it? To save the world? To condemn the world? No, to stick it to his dead(?) dad. And, of course, to get rid of the prophecy plot because even 1013 doesn’t know what to do with it anymore.

The deus ex machina nature of these machinations is frustrating enough, but I could deal and would even be relieved to see the cosmic child plot go no matter how it went. But then… the adoption. Scully lets Spender get into her head and makes a permanent, life-altering decision because of it. 

Scully’s baby has been under threat for a long time now. If anything, she’s recently found out that the Super Soldiers don’t actually want to harm her baby, though they do want him for their own purposes. Why would she suddenly decide to give William up based on the word of Spender who is a confirmed liar like his father before him?

And let’s say danger will rear its seven heads from time to time. We’re supposed to believe the Super Soldiers are everywhere and they are legion. They can’t find a baby on a farm? They found a pregnant Scully out in the middle of nowhere before in “Existence” (8×21). They will eventually find William in Wyoming too. You’re really telling me Mulder and Scully aren’t better equipped to protect him than Farmer John?

“God has His reasons and His ways.”

So does Chris Carter, but it’s much harder to submit to his.

Verdict:

If you’ll allow me, I’d like to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in the book of 2 Kings, lived a woman we only know as the Shunamite woman. She was a barren woman, but she had long ago made her peace with that. She was also a good woman, a god-fearing woman, a pleasant woman. And she was married to a man older than Sean Connery.

One day she asked Sean Connery saying, “Honey, you know the prophet has to travel through our area quite often. Wouldn’t it be nice to add a guest room he could stay in? We’ve been talking about fixing the house up anyway.”

So Sean Connery agreed because, like all wise wives, she allowed him to think it was his idea. The addition was built and the prophet Elisha stayed in it and found it quite a bit more comfortable than the Holiday Inn. Grateful for her unsolicited generosity, the prophet asked the Shunamite woman if there was anything he could do for her, any way he could help her. After all, she’d been such a blessing to him. But the Shunamite woman said no, she had everything she needed, thanks ever so.

Then the prophet’s servant spilled the beans: Not only was the Shunamite woman barren, her husband was older than Sean Connery. Surely a child, a child would bless her.

The prophet then goes back to the Shunamite woman and tells her that he will pray to God and God will give her a son. But the Shunamite woman protests. After all, she’d made her peace with being childless long ago. She couldn’t stand to get her hopes up for nothing. But sure enough, soon she had a baby boy.

Sean Jr. grew up healthy and strong, but one day when he was still a young boy, he got a headache, and he sat on his mother’s lap all day. And in the evening, he died. The Shunamite woman took him and laid him on his bed and locked the door behind her. Then, instead of the minivan, she asked her husband for the keys to the Mustang. She had a quick errand, she said, nothing to worry about. 

The Shunamite woman gunned that engine and drove straight to the prophet. After speeding through many a stop sign, she barged into his office unannounced. “You gave me this child. I didn’t ask for him,” she said. “You gave him to me and you give him back.”

The prophet, of course, complied.

My point is simple. William was not our idea. We didn’t ask for him. We were fine without him. But you, Dear 1013, brought him into this. You brought him into this and I’d like him back… please.

B

Snippets:

The above is the Salome Paraphrase Version of the Bible. Not available for purchase.

I was in denial for a while after this. I really thought Mulder and Scully would search for ways to get their baby back, or that his adopted parents would be killed by the Super Soldiers and there would be a rescue mission.

Chris Owens got the worst makeup jobs on this show.

Even after having watched and knowing what Spender is really up to, it’s hard to see someone do things they shouldn’t to a baby.

The Mulderisms that Spender makes are an especially nice touch.

It actually would have been more compelling if William were taken and Mulder and Scully had to get him back.

See what happens when you make a baby, Chris? All subsequent decisions have to be filtered through the lens of parenthood. That includes parent writers.

And then she sang “Joy to the World” just to torment us all.

What verification do we have that the injection worked? ‘Cause no, a still mobile doesn’t count.

The decision doesn’t make instinctive sense. A mother would sooner go into hiding with her baby than give him up.

I watched Independence Day, however much Mulder may have desecrated the poster. It is possible to have youngins running around and still have an epic alien battle.

We now have DNA evidence that Mulder isn’t Bill Mulder’s son, but Cigarette-Smoking Man’s.

I do like hearing “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore” at the end. That’s a sweet, sentimental touch. Ergo, it must’ve been David Duchovny’s.

If Spender’s telling the truth, and William was the one thing the aliens needed to effect colonization, then we can all pack it up and go home.

Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man 4×7 – This isn’t the ending that I wrote.


You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

“No one would kill you, Frohike. You’re just a little puppy dog.”

Oh, if he only knew.

Mssrs. Morgan and Wong are back in a slightly different format this time. Rather than co-writing, Morgan authors the script while Wong sits in the director’s chair. In fact, for his directing debut Wong would go on to win the Emmy for Best Direction. That’s no mean feat.

As they would in all four of their offerings this season, Morgan and Wong try their best to think outside of the frame of a typical X-Files episode, in this case changing up both form and content. Besides giving us an almost Shakespearean play quite clearly delineated into four acts, there’s a fluctuating tone to the tale so that we’re never quite sure from one act to the next whether we’re watching a history or a parody, if this is CSM’s view of himself, Frohike’s view, or the view put forth by the seedy magazine Frohike nabbed the story from.

Even more significantly, this is the first episode where David Duchovny doesn’t make an onscreen appearance. He’s essentially limited to a book-ending set of voiceovers. Gillian Anderson narrowly misses this technicality by appearing in a single scene in flashback. At first watch, I remember missing Mulder and Scully. Over a decade later, I appreciate getting a more in depth look at such a fabulous character.

Certainly CSM deserves it by now.

Part I – An Extraordinary Man

Here’s where everything starts going Forest Gump on us. We always knew CSM was a significant man behind the scenes, but just how significant is he? Well, it turns out that he was the lone gunman that day on Dealey Plaza. Oh, and he didn’t always smoke cigarettes.

Actor Chris Owens makes his X-Files debut here. He would go on to play CSM again in flashback, as well as two other memorable characters, The Great Mutato and Jeffrey Spender. He plays the role with such seriousness that you can believe in this young CSM, that he wasn’t always evil, just pragmatic and ambitious, and that it was a downhill spiral from there.

Part II – A Jack Colquitt Adventure

And now we jump forward in time to CSM the would-be Civil Rights activist, AKA author Raul Bloodworth.

This CSM has successfully and speedily climbed his way up the middle management ladder of the netherworld. Young though he is, he’s powerful enough to chastise J. Edgar Hoover to his face. It seems that the F.B.I. has been under his control since long before Mulder and Scully came into play.

But what’s striking is how typically unfulfilling his day job is. He spends his nights typing pathetic manuscripts living off of beer, cigarettes, and unfulfilled dreams. And while his job description requires that he root out Communism in all its forms, he secretly sympathizes with liberal dreamers, thinking so highly of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that he honors him with a more… personal assassination.

At this point, I’m starting to believe we’re hearing less of Frohike’s news article while more of CSM’s sense of self-importance is creeping in.

Part III – Buffalo Wants it Bad

If we thought CSM was stuck in a crappy boardroom job before, now his position has rusted into the downright mundane. CSM has successfully defeated the Communists. But like every man who reaches the pinnacle of his profession and finds there’s nowhere else to go, he’s left weary and unfulfilled. He goes from killing presidents to rigging football games because, well, what else is there to do? Now it’s hard to see this as anything but a parody.

Getting to see Deep Throat again is a real treat. And their brief, opaque and slightly comical conversation is the highlight of the whole episode. It’s hard to put much stock in their talk, however, as some points don’t agree with the larger mythology arc. But since this is fantasy anyway, you can take and leave what you will.

Part IV – Pack of Morleys

And now, like any great hero, it’s time for CSM to have his heart broken.

I love that they work in that flashback to the “Pilot” (1×79), where CSM was more an enigmatic if ominous presence rather than the Darth Vader that he’s become. This way we can consider who he was and who he’s come to be.

He’s no longer an idealist. He’s not even a realist. He’s just a middle-aged man stuck in a shallow life whose memories of youthful dreams grow duller with every year.

I remember at the age of 14 how my best friend and I found that monologue hilarious. In fact, I had it memorized… and tacked up on my wall. That’s 14 for you. Always drawn to the innocent and uplifting.

Now it’s a bit tedious, and, dare I say it? It tries too hard. It’s amazing how our tastes change.

Conclusion:

Originally, the title was supposed to be “Memoirs of a Cigarette Smoking Man”, reflecting Morgan’s intention that this be a true account of CSM’s past. Chris Carter came in and added both ambiguity in the title and in the narration. Not only can we not be sure of the accuracy of CSM’s memories, we can’t even be sure the plot is being driven by CSM’s mind or by Frohike’s.

The seriousness of the story was supposed to be driven home by the killing of Frohike at the end of the episode, a plot point that 1013 Productions justifiably balked at. While I enjoy that Morgan and Wong weren’t afraid of thwarting the party line, the desire to kill off Frohike represents a serious misjudgment of the tone of the series. Sure, Chris Carter liked to claim that no one’s really safe on The X-Files. But then, he also likes to say that no one ever really dies on The X-Files either. Just like Deep Throat in this episode, ghosts return without warning.

Why? Because Deep Throat’s presence adds value to the series’ development at this point? No. Because the fans love him and nostalgia is a powerful force.

Even aside from emotional reasons, killing Frohike would have ill fit the tone of the episode, which lent itself to something just short of a parody. Taken as a whole, it makes CSM, as Chris Carter so appropriately put it, “sort of a silly person.” I’m not so sure he can be silly and frightening at the same time, despite the fact that Morgan’s goal was to make CSM a real threat again:

“I told Chris, ‘Look, the Cancer Man is becoming a bore. When you get to episode one hundred and he and Mulder have the guns to each other’s heads, I’m not going to worry, because the Cancer Man has never done anything. I’m telling you right now, you’ve got the Cancer Man as a wuss ball. He’s nothing. He’s got to do something dangerous.’”

Maybe they missed that CSM had both men exposed to the Black Oil’s radiation killed and his henchman, Luis Cardinal killed in “Apocrypha” (3×16). Or that he keeps trying with all sincerity to kill Krycek. Or that he just had X killed in “Herrenvolk” (4×1).

The truth is, whatever the pile of murders on his conscience, the audience will never seriously believe that he’ll kill either Mulder or Scully. We’d have no show if he did. It’s enough to show that he’s willing. Suddenly turning things deadly serious by killing Frohike would have lent credence to the whole tale, which would have made some obvious issues of cannon more of an issue.

Besides, Morgan and Wong created the Lone Gunmen. Why so eager to kill one of them off? (As an aside, it’s interesting how in television you can create something only to find that it’s no longer yours. Not only do they characters take off on their own based on an audience’s response and interpretation of them, but production companies and film studios end up having more of a say in their future than you do.)

The best thing about this episode is that it’s clever, in both form and content. Is it great? I can’t quite call it that because I still get bored at moments, but I appreciate what Morgan and Wong were trying to do here. Once again, they’re pushing the boundaries of the show. In that regard, it’s not as successful as “Home” (4×3) but it’s surely not as polarizing as “The Field Where I Died” (4×5)… thank goodness.

At times the story is a little bogged down by the nitty gritty of History. Because of this, it moves slowly. And there’s nothing paranormal to speak of save for a fleeting view of a dying alien. But looking back on the history of the show, it’s nice to have this change of pace, if only to prove that The X-Files could do it.

B+

Comments:

Whatever details Morgan and Wong may have missed, there’s a nice thread of continuity with Deep Throat. He mentions having served in Vietnam and in “Little Green Men” (2×1), Mulder claims to have seen his funeral at Arlington Cemetery. That explains that.

Even the acts are filmed in different colors. Saturated 1960’s hues for the Kennedy assassination, black and white for the second act, reflecting the majority of photos of the Civil Rights era.

Questions:

Who is CSM writing a letter of resignation to? How do you resign from The Syndicate? Do they have a payroll? And why is he purposefully leaving a paper trail??

Best Quotes:

William Mulder: My one year old just said his first word.
Smoking Man: What was the word?
William Mulder: JFK.
Smoking Man: Catch you later, Mulder.

———————–

Smoking Man: What I don’t want to see is the Bills winning the Super Bowl. As long as I’m alive that doesn’t happen.
Third Man In Black: Could be tough, sir. Buffalo wants it bad.

————————

Smoking Man: So did the Soviets in ‘80.
Third Man In Black: What? You saying you rigged the Olympic hockey game?
Smoking Man: What’s the matter? Don’t you believe in miracles?

————————

Deep Throat: I’m the liar, you’re the killer.
Smoking Man: Your lies have killed more men in a day than I have in a lifetime. I’ve never killed anybody.
Deep Throat: Maybe I’m not the liar.

————————

Smoking Man: Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you’re stuck with this undefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there’s nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while there’s a peanut butter cup or an english toffee but they’re gone too fast and taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits of hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. If you’re desperate enough to eat those, all you got left is an empty box filled with useless brown paper wrappers.

————————

Smoking Man: I can kill you whenever I please… but not today.