When a moving shadow appears on a video transmission from a volcano, a volcanologist asks Mulder and Scully to investigate the incident.
Agents Mulder and Scully are recruited by Dr. Adam Pierce to accompany him into Mount Avalon, to investigate the death of a colleague of his – a seismologist named Phil Erickson. Pierce left the project a number of weeks ago, after arguing with project leader Daniel Trepkos. Mulder is concerned about Scully, considering her recent return from her abduction, but she is insistent that she is ready to return to work. The three of them travel to the remote Mt. Avalon research base by helicopter. While Pierce investigates the condition of the project's sabotaged equipment on the surface, the agents descend to the subterranean facility where the lights are out and all three members are hiding. In the dark, Mulder is attacked by engineer Jason Ludwig. After a brief, unbelievable claim that he mistook Mulder for Trepkos. Ludwing tells the other project members, systems analyst Peter Tanaka and graduate student Jessie O'Neil, that it's safe to emerge. The three of them tell the agents that Trepkos has gone mad and disappeared. Soon afterwards, Pierce is murdered by Trepkos outside.
Mulder looks at Trepkos' work, finding references to a new silicon-based lifeform existing inside the volcano. Tanaka shows signs of being seriously ill but refuses any help from Scully. When he starts convulsing, the agents try to take him out on a stretcher but he runs off into the woods, dying when a tentacle bursts out of his upper chest. Performing an autopsy, Scully believes that spores grew inside Tanaka's body but eventually outgrew his body, resulting in his death. Mulder contacts the CDC, to have them evacuate and quarantine the site. Mulder and Ludwig head into the volcano in search of Trepkos, who kills Ludwig with a flare gun and then burns his corpse.
Based on her research, Scully believes that the spore dies soon after exposure to the air and that one would have to be right next to it when it leaves its host for someone to be infected. Trepkos tells Mulder that Erickson pulverized a rock found in the volcano, resulting in them all being infected with the spore. Realizing that Scully (who is alone with O'Neil) may be at risk, Mulder convinces Trepkos to let him go and help her. O'Neil, with the spore about to burst from her throat, handcuffs herself to Scully. Scully manages to save herself by pushing O'Neil into another room and closing a door between them, just before the spores explode from her body in a dusty cloud. Mulder and Trepkos arrive soon thereafter. Mulder and Scully enter a month-long quarantine. Mulder tells the CDC that he and Scully were the only survivors while Trepkos heads into the volcano with O'Neil's body.
- This episode was inspired after the success of "Ice" from the previous season.
- A real-life fungus, Cordyceps , influences its hosts into promoting dispersal of its spores. However, the sporangiophore that Scully examines under the microscope is that of a Zygomycete, not an Ascomycete like the genus Cordyceps.
- The Mount Avalon in the episode is a fictional, and supposedly located near Bend, Oregon. The real-life Mount Avalon is in New Hampshire.
Cast and CharactersEdit
- Bradley Whitford as Dr. Daniel Trepkos
- Leland Orser as Jason Ludwig
- Shawnee Smith as Jessie O'Neil
- Tuck Milligan as Dr. Adam Pierce