Kersh was once a military jet pilot and was sent to Vietnam during the Vietnam War. There, before night vision and fly-by-wire were commonly used by the military, he and fellow pilots would fly night sorties ten feet above the treetops at six hundred miles an hour. All he and the other pilots had was an idiot gauge and their wits. Some of the pilots claimed they only knew their altitude by the smell of the enemy's rice pots beneath them. (TXF: "Within")
- The United States involvement in the Vietnam War lasted from the early 1960s to 1975, placing these events within that period. Kersh's date of birth is unclear, although actor James Pickens, Jr. was born in 1954, so it seems likely that Kersh may have fought in Vietnam during the early 1970s, prior to the war's conclusion in 1975.
- Kersh, as played by James Pickens, Jr., does not appear in The X-Files Movie but the film provides a source for the name "Office of Professional Review", subsequently abbreviated as "OPR" in episodes of the series. For information regarding a possible cameo appearance of Kersh in The X-Files Movie, see the Background Information section below.
Supervising Mulder and ScullyEdit
In 1998, Kersh attended an OPR hearing at which he sat with other high-ranking FBI officials, including the speaker at the proceeding, Assistant Director J. Maslin. Special Agents Fox Mulder, Dana Scully and Diana Fowley were also present.
At AD Maslin's instruction, Kersh was given supervisory responsibility for Agents Mulder and Scully while they underwent an upcoming probationary period. The duration was intended to test whether Agent Mulder would comply with orders to cease all material association with the X-Files, as investigation of those cases had been assigned to Special Agents Fowley and Jeffrey Spender. (TXF: "The Beginning")
Though Kersh assigned Mulder and Scully to conduct routine background checks on suspects possibly guilty of domestic terrorism in southern Idaho, the agents left that state without notifying him or seeking his permission to do so. (TXF: "Drive") After Mulder was taken hostage, Kersh contacted Scully at night, from his office on the third floor of the FBI's headquarters, and condescendingly asked how southern Idaho was. (TXF: "Drive", "Triangle") When Scully replied that she and Mulder had received news of a situation in Nevada which they had both strongly felt required their immediate attention, Kersh claimed he was eagerly awaiting her report on the matter and announced that agents of the Bureau's Las Vegas field office would be available to assist her in recovering her kidnapped partner.
- "Triangle" establishes Kersh's office as being on the third floor of the FBI's headquarters. It is unclear when he was first provided with his office, though it first appears in "Drive".
After Scully returned to the FBI's headquarters with Mulder, Kersh informed them of the expenses they had amassed, one of which was as a result of Mulder's efforts to keep his life-threateningly endangered captor, Patrick Garland Crump, alive. Kersh intended to bill Scully, however, instead of Mulder. Much to both agents' frustration, Kersh reassigned them to their previous task of conducting background checks, believing that the sooner they realized they were done investigating X-Files, the better for them both. (TXF: "Drive")
Soon after, Kersh was visited in his office by both Scully, who desperately required some valuable information from him, and the Cigarette Smoking Man, the first of his two visitors. Though Scully was keen to exit the office when she saw the Cigarette Smoking Man there and dismissed her own need for information, Kersh took a note, on which an intelligence system was scribbled, from her hand before she left.
- It is unclear whether Kersh discovered the nature of the information on the note, only that the Cigarette Smoking Man did so.
Along with the Cigarette Smoking Man, Kersh later met with Agent Spender, who had been directed by Scully to locate a 1939 luxury liner positioned near Bermuda. The three men were talking to each other on the same floor as Kersh's office when Scully, with a cell phone to her ear, emerged from an elevator that she quickly re-entered upon seeing them. Kersh and the other two men remained where they were and later once again saw Scully exit an elevator - this time, with Assistant Director Walter Skinner, who shouted at her with a warning to never ask him to break policy or protocol - before she re-entered the elevator.
In fact, Scully required information to aid her search for Mulder, who had become lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Skinner had given her this information between the two times that she was seen exiting an elevator but, since he had been discouraged from having any contact with her, he had pretended that he was angered by her in an effort to fool Kersh and the other two men. (TXF: "Triangle")
Scully and Mulder later visited Area 51 in Nevada, where government agent Morris Fletcher switched identities with Mulder, though their physical appearances remained unchanged. In the morning of the next day, Kersh received a phone call from the Pentagon demanding that the agents be reprimanded for trespassing on the top-secret military base. Kersh's relationship with "Mulder" immediately became less strained than the relationship he had shared with the real Mulder, as Morris Fletcher was keen to make a good impression and to follow orders. Kersh decided not to penalise the agents after "Mulder" apologised for Scully and himself disregarding Kersh's direct order to avoid any line of investigation pertaining to the X-Files.
After Scully became puzzled by a phone call she had received from the real Mulder, however, she returned to Nevada, a fact that Kersh soon learned. He once again called her from his office, this time to warn her that, if she did not follow his every instruction, she need not bother returning from Nevada. Acting under Kersh's orders, Scully co-operated in a stratagem in which several soldiers arrested the real Mulder. (TXF: "Dreamland") Nevertheless, once she returned to the FBI's headquarters, Kersh dismissed her from the FBI on a two-week suspension without pay.
Mulder and Morris Fletcher ultimately managed to return to their rightful bodies, but no-one involved in the incident retained any memory of the events that had since transpired. Scully even told Mulder that they had "slipped under Kersh's radar" and that their "little field trip to Nevada" had gone unnoticed. (TXF: "Dreamland II")
Later, Kersh received a call from Wayne Weinsider, who complained that Mulder was harrassing him. Kersh reacted by calling Scully into his office and rebuking Mulder's behavior while she was there. When Scully contacted Mulder and asked how he wanted her to respond, he told her to relay false information that he was conducting a background check on someone. (TXF: "Terms of Endearment")
In 1999, Kersh met Peyton Ritter, an agent from the FBI's New York office who had, while helping to update his office's case filing system, discovered several bizzare post mortem photographs each taken by New York police photographer Alfred Fellig. Kersh believed that Agent Ritter had a promising career ahead of him but warned him about Scully and Mulder. After once again calling Scully into his office, Kersh introduced her to Agent Ritter who, at the Assistant Director's instruction, described the specifics of the case to her and subsequently left the room. Kersh admitted he was keen to assign Scully to the case in the knowledge that it would provide more challenge to her than running background checks. Though she immediately offered to investigate the case with Mulder, Kersh ordered her to work with Agent Ritter instead.
While consequently investigating Alfred Fellig, Agent Ritter sent Kersh frequent progress reports, which were mostly appreciative of Scully. However, after the agents began to disagree on whether Fellig was guilty or innocent of murder, Agent Ritter revealed to Scully that Kersh had warned him about her and Mulder, and threatened that, if she ultimately ruined his case, he would ensure that Kersh learned what had happened. Eventually, Alfred Fellig was killed by Agent Ritter, invalidating any argument concerning the photographer's innocence and, additionally, any need for Agent Ritter to complain to Kersh about Scully. (TXF: "Tithonus")
After Mulder and Scully voluntarily investigated a case involving AD Skinner, the Assistant Director abruptly concluded their investigation by reminding them that they were to perform their duties "as directed by AD Kersh and only AD Kersh". (TXF: "S.R. 819") The agents were later indefinitely suspended by the FBI.
Kersh was saddened and extremely shocked when he learned that almost every member of the Syndicate, as well as members of their families (including Agent Spender's mother), had been burned to death at El Rico Air Force Base. He complied with a request by Agent Spender to hold a meeting in his office with Agents Mulder, Scully and Spender, as well as AD Skinner. At the meeting, Kersh exhibited considerable compassion for Agent Spender losing his mother and tried to determine an explanation for the deaths. Kersh was persuaded by Spender to realize that Scully, to an extent, and Mulder could perhaps help explain the deaths and that they could be valuable sources of information, even if occassionally cryptic. (TXF: "One Son") After Agent Spender packed up his office, where the X-Files were stored, due to his regret that he had caused Mulder and Scully to be suspended from the FBI, the agents were reassigned to the X-Files, ending Kersh's tenure as their supervisor. (TXF: "One Son", "Arcadia") He was replaced by AD Skinner. (TXF: "Arcadia")
Acting as Deputy DirectorEdit
In 2000, Kersh was appointed a Deputy Director's position in the FBI, necessitating that he be moved to a new office and giving him executive powers not only over FBI Agents but also AD Skinner. As Mulder had recently gone missing in Bellefleur, Oregon, Kersh organized a manhunt for him conducted by an FBI task force. He chose to assign Special Agent John Doggett as the task force leader.
Kersh constantly oversaw the manhunt from his office, once warning Scully and AD Skinner - who were convinced that Mulder had been abducted by a UFO in Bellefleur - that they would lose their jobs if they were responsible for any information about aliens or alien abductions becoming public. Skinner did admit, while Agent Doggett was taking a statement from both him and Scully in regards to Mulder's disappearance, that he had witnessed Mulder's abduction but Doggett, at Scully's request, did not report Skinner's account and Kersh consequently never learned of it.
Despite claiming at one point that he was only after "the truth", Kersh's motives were considered suspect by both Skinner and, later, Doggett; they both believed that the new Deputy Director had intentionally set Doggett up to fail, as the only way he would accomplish his task would be to accept the truth that Mulder had been abducted, though Kersh would ruin him if he put any information about aliens or UFOs in a report he was to submit.
After Doggett nevertheless included accounts of several encounters with an alien bounty hunter in his report, Kersh claimed that he believed the report was highly doubtful and likened it to "a piece of pot-boiled science fiction". He told Doggett not to return until he had some answers. Doggett was subsequently assigned to the X-Files, partnered with Agent Scully who was already assigned to those cases. (TXF: "Within", "Without")
- It is not clearly established that Kersh was responsible for Doggett's assignment to the X-Files, though it does seem probable.
- Kersh studies several photographs at the end of "Without", which he also does at the end of "One Son".
After every member of a religious cult, except for the leader, was murdered as well as FBI Agents James Leeds and Angus Stedman (who had both been conducting stake-out on the cult's leader), Kersh held a meeting in his office that Skinner, Doggett, another agent and Gene Crane - an agent who had been a member of Doggett's task force - also attended. Kersh and the other FBI members studied the history of the cult leader, Anthony Tipet, who had believed that hallucinogens would lead him to a higher plane of being but had since gone missing. Kersh asked several questions about the murders but was frustrated that there was no way to explain the complete lack of forensic evidence without accepting the belief that the cult leader had somehow indeed reached a higher plane, a theory that Kersh characterized as preposterous. He complained that neither Doggett nor Scully was providing him with conclusions before the meeting ended.
As Scully was on leave, Doggett continued to work on the case with Skinner. After they found Tipet attempting to commit suicide and he was subsequently hospitalized in a coma, Kersh congratulated Doggett for his work on the case. Though Doggett protested that the case was not over because there was still no forensic evidence, Kersh dismissed Doggett's concerns due to his faith that the murderer had been caught. Tipet did not regain consciousness and later died in hospital. (TXF: "Via Negativa")
After Mulder's deceased body was found lying in a Montana field, Kersh attended his funeral in Raleigh, North Carolina. Other attendees of the ceremony included Scully and her mother, Doggett, Skinner and the Lone Gunmen.
Three months after the funeral and slightly more than six months after his promotion, Kersh wrote a letter to the FBI's Director that cited Doggett's commendable efforts in Mulder's recovery and recommended that Doggett be considered for advancement. Kersh also thanked AD Skinner and asked him to write a letter officially transferring Doggett off the X-Files. The Deputy Director revealed his decisions to Doggett, who did not immediately accept the transfer and instead chose to take time to consider it, believing that Kersh was secretly attempting to simplify closing the X-Files by decreasing the number of agents assigned to those cases.
Kersh stayed up all night to watch the first sunrise he had seen from his Deputy Director's office. He met with Doggett twice; after learning that Doggett had exhumed Mulder's body, which was actually alive although it showed signs of post-mortem, Kersh encouraged Doggett to accept his job offer and to stop attempting to recover Mulder, though he later learned that Doggett had been with Scully and again met with him to communicate his disappointment with the agent's career decisions, aware that the X-Files office would soon likely be "awful crowded". (TXF: "DeadAlive") Indeed, after Mulder was fully revived in hospital and he returned home, an application was submitted to Kersh by Scully, requesting Mulder's reinstatement to the X-Files. (TXF: "DeadAlive", "Three Words")
While watching a televised news report regarding the death of US Census worker Howard Salt (who had been intruding on the White House when he had accidentally been shot by his own gun), Kersh was visited in his office by Skinner and Doggett. He told them of Scully's application, admitting that he planned to deny the request, and showed them evidence that Doggett and Scully had made more arrests on percentage during their time on the X-Files together than Scully and Mulder had made over seven years. Kersh pressured Doggett and Skinner to tell Mulder he was off the X-Files but, when Doggett resisted, Kersh threatened to close the X-Files department. The meeting ended when Skinner and Doggett left Kersh's office on their own initiative.
Skinner later met with Mulder, who found it difficult to accept that Kersh wanted to put him behind a desk, and Scully, who suspected that Kersh wanted Mulder to quit the FBI. Both Skinner and Mulder believed that the Deputy Director's motive was to punish them all, with the exception of Doggett. Skinner told Mulder that Kersh was not planning to close the X-Files but was intending on keeping them open with Doggett running them.
After Mulder became interested in Howard Salt's death, he and Scully entered an FBI evidence storage room, where Scully told him that, if he was caught, Kersh might use the fact he had entered the room as cause for his dismissal. (TXF: "Three Words")
When Mulder resurfaced in 2002, Kersh was under pressure from the military to rig Mulder's trial for the murder of Knowle Rohrer. After presiding over the trial and delivering obviously questionable rulings, Kersh (along with the other members of the tribunal) delivered a guilty verdict. However, he later helped Mulder escape the detention facility along with Skinner and Doggett, stating that he himself was "doing what [he] should have done a long time ago." Subsequently, Skinner attempted to contact him at FBI Headquarters, to no avail. (TXF: "The Truth")
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Main article: Kersh's Assistant
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"Cigarette Smoking Man"Edit
Main article: Cigarette Smoking Man
Main article: Walter Skinner
Main article: Brad Follmer
Main article: Toothpick Man
Alvin Kersh was played by James Pickens, Jr..
According to Frank Spotnitz, the creation of the Kersh character was due to the writers desiring to create another of the several characters in the series who put pressure on Skinner. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies)
The casting of Pickens in this role was, according to Spotnitz, "another great find". Spotnitz continues, "So many times over the course of the series we just got so lucky with the actors that we cast in these guest parts and just kept bringing them back because they were so wonderful. That's what happened with William B. Davis as the Cigarette-Smoking Man and with Nick Lea as Krycek, and with Mitch Pileggi as Walter Skinner, and that's what happened here with James Pickens. Just a fantastic actor, not at all like this person, really transformed himself to play this part." ("DeadAlive" audio commentary)
Pickens prepared for this role by observing several of Kersh's real-life counterparts at the FBI's Los Angeles office, where – according to the actor – the most useful thing he learned was that most of the people at Kersh's level had been with the Bureau for twenty or twenty-five years and had not reached their positions in the FBI hierarchy by taking their work less than seriously or bucking the system without good reason. (The End and the Beginning: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 5)
One of several FBI officials at the Office of Professional Review hearings in The X-Files Movie looks suspiciously like Kersh and it is not entirely clear whether the character is meant to be Kersh or another mustached African-American male member of OPR.
The script of "The Beginning" describes Kersh as, "African American (40s) with a military bearing."
Frank Spotnitz thought that, for a viewer who had weekly been watching The X-Files' sixth season, there was a great sense of gratification when – in the final moments of "One Son" – Spender essentially withdraws and tells Kersh that Mulder has been right, all along, precisely because the last thing that Kersh wanted was for Spender to behave in this way. ("One Son" audio commentary)
The script of "Within" includes a reminder of Kersh that states, "We may remember him as the Assistant Director who enjoyed a brief supervisory roll [sic] over Mulder and Scully when the X-Files were shut down. He replaced Skinner as their boss."
Doggett actor Robert Patrick recognized that his own character and Kersh were "both military men – Air Force, Marines." Patrick (who had some similarities with Pickens in both their backgrounds, including the fact that they were both from Ohio) thought that, as Kersh, Pickens would "come in each week and just nail his stuff" regardless of what else was going on, and director Kim Manners agreed with this opinion of Pickens' performances as Kersh. ("Within" audio commentary) Similarly, Frank Spotnitz thought that "Robert Patrick and James Pickens really had a chemistry, loved playing scenes together. And I think their scenes together were some of the finest ones in the last two years of the show." ("DeadAlive" audio commentary)
Because the script of "Within" does not specify the identity of an unseen person who (in that episode) slides a file about Gibson Praise under Doggett's door, Kim Manners later had to ask the writers who the mysterious visitor was; the director was told by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz that the unseen person was actually Kersh. Robert Patrick asked the same question of Manners, around this time, but the director – not yet sure of the answer and hoping to avoid looking like an idiot – never gave the actor an answer. Patrick thought the reason that Manners was being purposefully secretive was that the director wanted Patrick to still be in wonderment as to the mysterious visitor's identity, as a device for the actor to aid his performance. Manners later teased Patrick that the reason he had not answered the question was that he had not liked Patrick at the time, prompting the actor to ask what he had done to annoy Manners on the first night of filming the episode, before the director finally admitted to Patrick what had actually happened. ("Within" audio commentary)
As was typical of the actors on The X-Files, James Pickens, Jr. and William Devane both understood that underplaying the scene of "The Truth" in which Kersh has a conversation with General Suveg, prior to Mulder's trial, would give some reality to the scene's somewhat ridiculous content. Director Kim Manners thought this was true of the actors in not only this scene but almost other every scene of The X-Files and was grateful for this aspect of working on the series. ("The Truth" audio commentary)
- "The Beginning" (Season 6)
- "One Son"
- "Within" (Season 8)
- "Via Negativa"
- "Three Words"
- "Nothing Important Happened Today" (Season 9)
- "Nothing Important Happened Today II"
- "John Doe"
- "The Truth"