In an Arctic research station, Mulder and Scully are threatened by primordial ice worms that cause their hosts to become dangerously paranoid and violent to each other.
ARCTIC ICE CORE PROJECT
ICY CAPE, ALASKA
250 MILES NORTH OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE
An isolated research station, with a dimly lit window, endures a harsh snowstorm. The compound's interior is in a state of mess, with tell-tale signs that some form of mayhem has taken place here. A thermometer shows the temperature to be below -30°C and a digital clock reads 8:29 a.m. A dog searches through a plastic bucket and then, whimpering, walks past a dead body. There is another body, although only an arm hanging off a desk can be seen. A man who is wearing only pants and whose his torso is bloody looks around, while carrying a gun. He turns to a communications device and camera, in front of which he takes a seat. Continuing to look into the camera, he twice repeats the words, "We're not who we are," and then says, "It goes no further than this. It stops right here, right now...." He is suddenly attacked from behind by another man, Campbell, and a struggle commences, ending with both men pointing a gun at each other. Instead of the men shooting one another, however, each man turns his own gun on himself. From outside the facility, two gunshots can be heard.
Mulder and Scully are watching older footage of the Arctic Ice Core Project crew celebrating recent success with drilling down into an ice sheet. The team's leader, John Richter, is the bloodied man who ended up shooting himself. Mulder explains the research team was basically studying "the structure of the Earth's climate back to the dawn of man." According to Mulder, no problems of any kind were reported… until a week after the previous transmission, when the next one was received: the transmission recorded by Richter, earlier. The footage remains unexplained. Mulder jokes their FBI superiors think they are "either brilliant or expendable," because he and Scully are the ones who drew the assignment. Scully asks about the possibility of events being a result of cabin fever but Mulder dismisses this, stating the scientists "were top geophysicists," thoroughly trained and examined. The agents are scheduled to leave for Nome, Alaska today, where they will meet with three scientists familiar with the Ice Core program, and then head north to the Icy Cape. Mulder says the National Weather Service predicts a three-day window before the next Arctic storm.
In a small hangar at the airport, a man is listening to a football game on headphones. Apparently, his team just scored. Scully and Mulder arrive, puzzled by the football game; the man explains it's just one of his all-time favorite games he has taped. The man introduces himself as Denny Murphy, professor of geology, UC San Diego, one of the crew. Soon, they are joined by the rest of the team, Doctors DaSilva and Hodge. The latter asks all the crew to show some sort of identification because he wants "to make sure we are who we say we are." After each member shows his or her own ID, Hodge challenges any of them to guess why are heading to the base. Murphy speculates that their job descriptions should give some explanation, whilst Dr. DaSilva makes a remark about Mulder and Scully, being FBI, probably knowing more than the rest of the group. A jeep drives into the hangar and the driver steps out, introducing himself. He is the last member of the team: the pilot, Bear. He refuses to give Hodge his credentials.
Later, a light airplane flies over snow-covered hills.
The team arrives at the compound. The electricity is off and the place appears deserted. The newcomers see dead bodies lying on the floor. Mulder asks Bear if he can get the power on and says that, before they remove the bodies, the crime scene must be documented. Scully proceeds with photographing. Mulder opens a refrigerator containing drilling samples which Murphy immediately retrieves to preserve. The team continues to investigate the compound, and the generator is restarted.
While with Dr. DaSilva, Mulder is suddenly attacked by the same dog which was in the base when two men shot themselves. The rest of the team hurry toward the animal and Bear rescues an unbitten Mulder from the dog but, during the struggle, is bitten, himself. The group finally manages to sedate the dog, which the team then studies. Dr. Hodge immediately dismisses the possibility of rabies, since none of the classic symptoms are present. Yet, black nodules — swollen lymph nodes — are found, which Dr. DaSilva identifies as possible symptoms of bubonic plague. Scully observes the dog also has a skin irritation around its neck, as if the animal was scratching off its own hair. While looking at the trauma, there's a sudden movement of what is apparently a foreign object under the dog's skin, startling the group.
In the bathroom, Bear is bandaging his wound when suddenly he is struck by a sharp pain under his right armpit. Looking at a mirror inside the room, he discovers he now has the same black nodules as the dog had; ergo, he is infected.
Having finished the autopsies, Scully tells Mulder and Bear that it's obvious members of the science crew killed each other. Bear inquiries whether black nodules were found on the autopsied bodies, to which Scully responds in the negative. Bear, knowing he has the nodules, queries further whether this means that nodules had nothing to do with the condition which caused the crew to kill each other. Dr. Hodge enters the room, saying he wouldn't rule it out; he says he re-examined the dog and found the nodules have disappeared, which could mean the spots are symptoms of some disease at an early stage. Bear appears more and more anxious after hearing this.
Mulder finds a piece of paper repeatedly scribbled with the sentence, "We are not who we are." He consults Denny, the geologist, regarding some satellite remote sensing photographs. Denny identifies one of the photographs as showing the depth of the Icy Cape area's ice sheet to be about 3,000 meters in thickness. Mulder shows him another piece of data he has found, which demonstrates the research team discovered the depth of the ice sheet was twice that. Denny adds that the numbers appear to indicate the team was digging inside a meteor crater.
In the other lab, Dr. Hodge and Scully are arguing about something when Mulder and Dr. DaSilva enter. Scully has apparently discovered parts of ammonium dioxide in Richter's blood. Hodge claims this impossible, since ammonia would vaporize at human temperatures. Although no evidence of any such toxins has been found in the ventilation machinery, Murphy has discovered it in the ice samples, and even more evidence therein. He explains he has found a remarkably high ratio of ammonia to water in the ice core. Meanwhile, Bear quietly enters the room, still becoming increasingly agitated. Mulder postulates a foreign object introduced into Earth's environment might be responsible for the otherwise impossible amount of ammonia on the planet. Advised by Murphy to do so, the agents take turns to look in a microscope which magnifies a micro-organism of some sort. Scully concludes the same thing is present in Richter's diseased blood. She hypothesises that it's a larval stage of a larger organism but Hodge criticizes this theory. DaSilva likewise doubts the notion that the organism could have survived in the ice for a quarter of a million years, though Mulder posits the creature might live like that.
Bear confronts the others, criticizing their discussion over "some bug" as futile, because Scully's autopsy clearly showed the men killed themselves, and seems desperate to leave. Though Hodge agrees with this plan, Mulder refuses, insisting proper quarantine procedures should be followed in case the organism is infective. Bear points out that, even if the deceased crew succumbed to some kind of infection, they themselves haven't and he refuses to wait around until they do. He proceeds to pick up his gear. After Dr. Hodge further approves of the observation that the team seem safe to leave, Dr. DaSilva notes the dog did bite Bear. Appealing against this, Bear shouts about Mulder having also been attacked. Scully suggests the only resolution is to conduct a medical test to determine whether anyone in the crew is infected, and then proceed. Bear strongly refuses the test and proceeds to pack his belongings in order to fly back to Nome. In his absence, the team takes a vote: Bear must be forced to take his test. After his return, Mulder, now holding a gun, explains to him the crew's decision. He appears to comply, but instead uses his stool sample flask to hit Mulder and attempts to escape. He is restrained, however.
As Bear starts having convulsions while the others grapple with him, the team sees the same movement under the skin previously seen in the dog. Dr. Hodge decides to cut the parasite out, because now, it, being exposed, is attempting to kill the host. The parasite is removed, a worm which simultaneously squirts a black substance out of its body, and put into storage. Mulder contacts the airport and requests evacuation due to the serious biological hazard. Yet, the station is currently impossible to reach because of an unpredicted snowstorm. He returns and asks if Bear is in any condition to fly, because they have a very short time frame to evacuate the base, but Scully informs him Bear is dead, a situation Mulder sees for himself, though the worm is still alive.
Dr. Hodge remarks the organism is similar to a tapeworm but otherwise extremely unlike any organism he knows of. He is also unsure of the precise means of infection. Scully returns after re-examining the bodies, reporting she found the worm in every single one of them but that only one of these worms is still alive. The difference is that the worms were not attached to the spinal column, as seen previously, but were in the hypothalamus, deep in the human brain. Hodge speculates that, since the hypothalamus produces the neurotransmitter acetylcholine – which can produce violent, irrational behavior – there might be a connection with the aggression exhibited by the worm's hosts. Hodge suggests the parasite doesn't kill its hosts until it's removed, at which point it secretes a toxin. Mulder postulates the parasite may have caused the members of the previous team to kill one another and that, by killing themselves, Richter and Campbell could have been trying to save other humans from the infective organism.
Scully is re-examining the bodies, in case she missed anything. Mulder enters the morgue and suggests they and the other team members get some sleep, since they are "all wired and hypersensitive." Scully, on the other hand, says she doesn't want to waste a minute until she finds out how to kill the parasite. To her surprise, Mulder disagrees with killing it, since it could be living proof of a theory that alternative life design can evolve in an ammonia environment at extremely low temperatures, for instance on other planets. Conversely, Scully is concerned with the possibility of the parasite reaching densely settled areas or that it might cause herself and Mulder to end up with the same fate as Richter and Campbell, "with guns to our heads." The agents loudly continue to debate whether to destroy the organism.
Back in the lab, Murphy puts on his headphones again whereas DaSilva and Hodge wonder what the argument is about. Hodge is sure that Mulder and Scully, being government agents, knew more about the situation than they revealed to the rest of the team. He also mentions that Bear's infected blood did get on Scully, yet, as Dr. DaSilva notes, it also got on him. They, accompanied by Murphy, leave the lab with the intent of confronting the agents.
The group meets in a storage room. Hodge notes that Scully seems a bit on edge, implying that she might be another host. She irritatedly reacts but Mulder prevents the argument from going further. Fear and tension is already running high in the group, and Mulder recommends they all get some sleep. Hodge is skeptical any of the group could manage that and persuades the team that each member be checked for spots.
All appear okay and proceed to their quarters, yet tension is still present. As Mulder says goodnight to Scully, he reminds her the spots on the dog disappeared. Scully enters her room and blocks the door with a heavy desk, Murphy attempts to calm himself with one of his taped football games, Hodge is making a list of possible infected people (finding that each might be exposed), DaSilva is lying in bed yet also showing signs of anxiety and Mulder is sitting on his bed, putting his gun on a desk.
Mulder suddenly awakes, apparently after having a nightmare. He hears a door open and footsteps that follow. He dresses and picks up his gun in order to investigate. All of the doors are closed except for Murphy's, whose room is empty, only his Walkman laying on the bed. Mulder continues investigating, is startled by the infected dog (which is now in a cage) and notices blood dripping from a closed freezing unit in the main science room. When Mulder opens the compartment, Murphy's body falls out of the unit, his throat having been cut. The rest of the team appear and Hodge immediately assumes Mulder killed him. Mulder concludes one of the other members killed Murphy and that at least one of them is infected with the parasite. The conflict of suspicion escalates until he and Scully are pointing guns at one another. Mulder backs down and allows the team to contain him in a locked room. Before Scully locks him in, he warns her he'll be safer in here than her outside.
Scully enters the main lab, finding both DaSilva and Hodge asleep at their desks. She attempts to check DaSilva's neck but Hodge stops her, wakening DaSilva. Hodge points out to Scully that, since she's the only one with a gun, the rest of them don't stand a chance if she does become infected. She removes the clips from both her gun and Mulder's, then throws them outside. Hodge and the women argue about what should happen with Mulder, Hodge trying to exclude him from the team out of fearing he is infected but Scully arguing for them to help Mulder if he is, which DaSilva concurs with. Scully attempts to contact the airfield but the com-system is down, due to the storm outside.
DaSilva and Hodge continue to work on the parasites. By accident, DaSilva puts an infected blood sample on another infected sample, instead of on an uninfected sample as Hodge requested. They furiously yell at each other, but Scully takes a look at the combined samples and watches both parasitic larvae kill each other. She places two living, mature worms, held in jars filled with ammoniac solution, next to one another. The three survivors then observe aggressive behavior between these two worms. Hence, Scully comes to the conclusion that none of the parasites will tolerate another of its kind occupying the same host. She and Hodge agree that, by introducing a parasite in an already infected host, they can kill both worms and thereby cure the infected. Conducting the test on the infected dog proves them right (after which they release the dog from its cage).
Scully, Hodge and DaSilva take their last remaining parasite to Mulder, intending to cure him with it. When Scully privately examines him, though, she finds no sign of parasite on his neck. Mulder examines Scully and also finds her uninfected, so now it's either Hodge or DaSilva who murdered Murphy. They both disbelieve the agents stating they have found one another to be uninfected and, after a brief struggle, Scully is locked inside the holding area whilst Hodge and DaSilva continue with the procedure on Mulder. It is at the last instant, just before DaSilva introduces the worm, that Hodge sees movement on her neck, thus exposing her as Murphy's murderer and the person who was infected all along. She flees, screaming and pushing Mulder out of her way. He then rushes to free Scully and they hurry after DaSilva. Frantic, she grabs one of the guns of the previous team from an evidence bag, but is overpowered by Mulder. He and Scully wrestle with DaSilva on the ground, while Hodge introduces the parasite into her body. After experiencing convulsions, her muscles finally relax, Scully assuring her the infection is ended.
On the strip of Doolittle Airfield, DaSilva is taken into an ambulance in a biohazard suit, watched by Mulder, Scully and Hodge, who stand nearby. After the vehicle drives away, Hodge announces DaSilva and the dog will be quarantined. He also explains that himself, Mulder and Scully have been determined as clear of infection. Mulder plans to return to the Icy Cape area, now fully prepared and with proper equipment, so the parasites can be further studied. Hodge notifies them that, the moment everyone was evacuated from the Ice Cape station, the entire place was torched, either by military or the CDC, so there's nothing left for Mulder to find there. After Hodge departs, Mulder comments the worms are still buried deep in the ice, which is where Scully believes he should leave them.
- This episode was initially inspired by an article in Science News about, in Glen Morgan's words, "these guys in Greenland who dug something 250,000 years old out of the ice." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, pp. 118-119) The incident had namely involved the Greenland Ice Project and what the scientists had discovered, frozen in the ice, had been worms. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, p. 15) The team had been drilling down to obtain some ice cores. "We thought, 'That's perfect. What if we do that?'" James Wong recollected. (Starlog, issue #210, p. 63) Morgan elaborated, "That ice had basically been the same for a quarter of a million years and so we said, 'Wow! What could be down there?' So with 'Ice', it was that article [that gave us the idea] [...] and also that worms are just horrible!" (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, p. 15)
- Alaska was chosen as the setting for this episode so that the FBI would have a reason to become involved. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 119) The episode was conceived as a bottle show, written to take place mostly on one set, which was due to a budgetary concern regarding The X-Files at about this point in its history. (X-Files Confidential, p. 50) Glen Morgan explained that a primary influence on this installment was "the fact that we needed a contained set because we were really over budget." (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, p. 15)
- This episode borrows heavily from John Carpenter's movie The Thing and the short story on which it was based, Who Goes There?, by John W. Campbell (who the character of Campbell may have been named in homage to). Series creator Chris Carter stated about this outing, "It was inspired by The Thing, as anyone who knows the genre will tell you." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Ice", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) Although Glen Morgan and James Wong once admitted there are similarities between this episode and The Thing, the writing duo attempted to avoid comparisons while devising this installment. (Starlog, issue #210, p. 63) Morgan pointed out, "Just because we set it in the Arctic doesn't make it a Thing rip-off." (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 8, p. 31) In addition to the Arctic setting, the element of paranoia in The Thing had the biggest influence on Morgan and Wong when they developed this episode. According to The X-Files Magazine (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, p. 17), a reference to a footballer called Foukes in this outing was an homage to The Thing, as a character in that film has the same name. However, the name herein is actually "Fouts".
- In writing this episode, Glen Morgan and James Wong wanted to devise a story focusing on Scully. "We wanted to put her on the spot," stated Morgan, "get her in a situation where we would have to ask to what degree did she trust Mulder." To do this, the writers felt they had to put her in a situation where she was responsible for him. The writing duo then worked backwards out of this idea, as it had other implications for the storyline, and thought up the moment where Scully checks if Mulder has been infected. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26)
- Having worked out where they wanted to take Scully in the structure of the story, the writers asked themselves where Mulder was at the same points in the storyline and what interesting things they could do with the character. This resulted in the pair of writers imagining the concept of Mulder being the first to lower his gun in a scene where he and Scully suspiciously aim their weapons at each other. "That was just to show how much he had come to trust her from the pilot," expressed Glen Morgan, "where you go, 'To what degree does this guy trust this partner?" (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26)
- The first draft of this episode's script was submitted on 15th September 1993. The script gives Hodge's first name as Lawrence and refers to Murphy as having the first name "Randy" rather than "Denny", though DaSilva's first name is "Nancy" in both this draft and the final version. The same draft refers to the airport in this episode as "Jimmy Doolittle Airfield", a reference to American aviation pioneer Jimmy Doolittle, and the airport is said to be in the Alaskan state of Council instead of Nome.
- This episode was atypical in its fewness of locations used. The Icy Cape Research Compound was built on a soundstage at the Molson Brewery facility. Doolittle Air Field was actually Delta Air Park at address 4187 - 104 Street, Delta. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 37)
- The production personnel of The X-Files originally intended to wait until later in the show's first season before producing this episode, so they could take advantage of the possibility there might be snow in Vancouver at that time. However, the making of this installment had to be moved ahead in the schedule of the first season, due to the series having become over-budget. "So we had to do it all inside," explained James Wong. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26; The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 8, p. 31) The installment ended up still being filmed in Vancouver, though in late autumn. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 8, p. 31)
- Upon receiving the script for this episode, R.W. Goodwin was immediately struck by the question of how the show's creators were going to make it look convincing enough. (X-Files Confidential, p. 50) The outing required minimal but nonetheless essential special effects. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, p. 16)
- For cast and crew alike, the production of this episode was a pivotal time in the making of the series. "It was really the first time since we started the show," stated Gillian Anderson, "that I think we all had a very strong feeling of what it was that we were doing and what the potential was for the show [....] It was the first time when we all just really came together and worked really, really hard and felt that we were making something important." (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, p. 17)
- This was the first installment of The X-Files that involved major work by Makeup Effects Artist Toby Lindala. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 118) It was likewise the first episode which Animal Trainer Debbie Coe worked on. ("Behind the Truth: Ice", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) This installment additionally features the first contributions which Production Designer Graeme Murray made to the series.
- This was also the first episode directed by David Nutter. However, it was not the first production on which Nutter collaborated with Glen Morgan and James Wong. (X-Files Confidential, p. 49) "He gave it his all," Chris Carter said about the director. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 43) Nutter felt it was vitally important to try to "scare the hell out of" both the audience and the actors, with the fear portrayed on screen relating with the tension of the viewers. (X-Files Confidential, p. 49)
- The scene which is set at Doolittle Air Field was filmed on 29 September 1993. It was a clear, sunny day at Delta Air Park, although the characters were meant to look cold. The cast consequently donned down-filled winter wear but no tell-tale hint of breath was visible during the filming. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 37)
- Graeme Murray, who had worked on John Carpenter's version of The Thing, created the entire Arctic complex seen in this installment. (X-Files Confidential, p. 50) Glen Morgan and James Wong were surprised by the set. "It was much bigger than we thought," Morgan attested. (Starlog, issue #210, p. 63) The set also helped the actors access the mindsets of the characters they were playing. Gillian Anderson explained, "The way the set was built was like a bunker almost. We felt like we were really in that place, as opposed to many of the sets, which are three-quarters walls. This was the Antarctic – for all we knew, that's where we were shooting. And it was cold." Anderson went on to specify this was because the Molson Brewery studio didn't have heating. (X-Files Confidential, pp. 50 & 49)
- The dog featured in this episode was the father of David Duchovny's own dog, Blue.
- Three methods were used to create the effect of the alien worm. These were actual live meal worms, rubber props and a CGI model. (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38; "The Truth About Season One", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) Both of the latter style of worms were designed to move realistically. ("The Truth About Season One", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) Xander Berkeley spent much of this episode's production walking around the set with either of the two practical versions of worms on the end of a pair of forceps and pretending to pull them out of people's ears. (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38) Toby Lindala was extremely nervous when a prosthetic device he was using to create the effect of the alien worm beneath skin started to tear. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 118)
- The scene in which a worm is pulled out of Bear's neck was a difficult one for the production crew to film. Exactly how to convincingly show the worm emerging from Bear's neck was a source of puzzlement. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 37) Noted R.W. Goodwin, "It was one of those things where going in to it you didn't know how you were going to do it. What I was deathly afraid of was that we would do something that looked so cheesy that it would just take away from the story." (X-Files Confidential, p. 51) This was despite the effect being done at a time in the series when the crew was generally becoming increasingly confident about how to actualize whatever had been scripted. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 37) The effect was achieved with help from the show's resident makeup artist. Recollected Goodwin, "Toby Lindala really saved us [....] Toby came in and said, 'Let me try something,' and he actually created a process in which he created false skin that went over the real neck of the person." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 50 & 51) The fabricated neck was latex foam rubber and even contained faux "blood." (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38) Lindala also built a channel for the worm to go into the fake neck. "Actually right there on the actor's neck you could see the worm," Goodwin commented. "It was disgusting, but it was cool." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 50 & 51) Xander Berkeley agreed the neck appliance "looked great." (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38)
- One scene, lasting approximately four seconds and involving the alien worm, was made intentionally long, as the producers anticipated that Fox's standards and practices department would edit the sequence. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 119) The scene was the one in which a worm is extracted from Bear's neck. The production team filmed enough to make sure that at least some of the footage would make it through to the episode's final version. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, p. 15)
- Even though this episode was conceived as a money-saving exercise, it really didn't end up saving finances. Said Chris Carter, "We got such production value, and production value costs money." (X-Files Confidential, p. 50)
- The production personnel's belief that the unnecessarily long scene would be edited turned out to be incorrect. The scene was included in its entirety of about four seconds. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 119)
- According to Xander Berkeley, a shot of him slicing the neck appliance with a scalpel was removed because it was considered too gruesome. "Unfortunately, everyone got grossed out by the whole thing when they looked at the dailies," he recalled, "so, they decided not to put it in the episode." (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38)
- Near the end, Scully virtually repeats a line said by John Richter earlier in the episode. Richter says, "It stops right here, right now," but Scully changes the line to, "It all stops right here, right now." When the line is repeated, it is said in a completely different context.
- Gillian Anderson once commented on how this episode broke new ground as regards the relationship between Scully and Mulder, saying, "It was [...] the first episode where Mulder and Scully had to confront each other [at gunpoint] [....] [and] that scene where we check each other in the room is the first time that you really see Mulder and Scully touching each other." (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, p. 17)
- Mentions of a footballer named "Fouts" in this episode are references to Dan Fouts. He played for the San Diego Chargers, Morgan and Wong's favorite football team.
- Not only is Doolittle Airfield a reference to Jimmy Doolittle; the airport's setting of Nome, Alaska is where he spent his youth.
- The fact that the creative personnel of The X-Files liked the story idea for this episode was one reason it was moved ahead in the schedule of the first season. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26) However, executives at the Fox network initially disapproved of its conclusion. Glen Morgan revealed, "They said it was all wrong, that the third and fourth acts were horrible. They wanted us to have the [alien] disease brought into the world. There was a lot of fighting." (Sci-Fi Universe #10, p. 36)
- The production crew found the effect of a worm being removed from Bear's neck was highly effective. "We looked at it, and we went, 'Oh, my gosh,'" R.W. Goodwin remembered. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 37)
- Watching this episode had a re-energizing effect on the cast and crew of The X-Files. "I remember 'Ice' being one of those moments," reported David Duchovny, "where we all refocused and (realized) we were making a really good show. Let's keep going." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 40)
- Glen Morgan and James Wong were quite pleased with this episode. They particularly liked the set for the Arctic research station. Despite its enormity, Morgan once opined that, on film, the set nevertheless conveyed a sense of claustrophobia. (Starlog, issue #210, p. 63)
- David Nutter was happy with this installment as well, citing it as his favorite segment of Season 1. ("The Truth About Season One", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) "To me, the real great thing about 'Ice' is that we were able to convey a strong sense of paranoia," he remarked. "It was also a great ensemble piece. We're dealing with the most basic emotions of each character, ranging from their anger to their ignorance and fear. The episode also showed a real trust between Mulder and Scully. It established the emotional ties these two characters have with each other, which is very important." (X-Files Confidential, p. 49) Nutter expressed this installment was his favorite "because of the visual style and the excitement I was able to do there; to peel-the-onion, so to speak, of the Scully/Mulder relationship [so that] we were able to look into it deeper." (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 8, p. 31) Summing up his feelings about the episode, Nutter concluded, "It was an interesting show because all the actors, all the characters were pretty much in one location, and it was really fun to kind of stretch Scully and Mulder into places they really hadn't been to before." ("The Truth About Season One", TXF Season 1 DVD special features)
- Graeme Murray once described "Ice" as "a very tense and exciting episode." (X-Files Confidential, p. 50)
- R.W. Goodwin was likewise proud of this outing. He enthused, "Everyone delivered, and it's a classic episode." (X-Files Confidential, p. 51)
- Chris Carter also highly approved of this installment. "It really showed what the series was capable of," he commented, "and that's a testament to the good writing of Jim and Glen." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 40) Carter elaborated, "They just outdid themselves on this show, as did director David Nutter [....] I think they wrote a great script and he did a great job directing it, and we had a great supporting cast. I think that the cast, directing, and writing came together." (X-Files Confidential, p. 49) Additionally, Carter said, "I think it [the main plot] worked even better as an X-file [than as The Thing]. It pitted the characters of Mulder and Scully against each other in a way that was, I think, very interesting and a new look at their characters, early on in the series. It's the stuff of great drama and to see it resolved as it was resolved, in a rather strange and weird way, with [one of] these Arctic worms [...] nearly put in Mulder's body, was [...] just good stuff and actually, I think, pulled off rather believably [....] I think, as David Duchovny says, it was one of our first 'rockin' episodes.'" ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Ice", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) Carter specified this installment as being joint lead in his favorite episodes from Season 1 (along with "Beyond the Sea"). ("The Truth About Season One", TXF Season 1 DVD special features)
- In a review of this episode published in the New York Daily News on 8 October 1993, writer David Bianculli commented, "I can safely say this episode of X-Files turns out to be one of the more potent and creepy hours on network TV in quite a while–with a scene or two virtually guaranteed to make you squirm, and with a story line worthy of honorary passage into The Twilight Zone." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 253)
- This first season episode is the only one whose initial broadcast was not on a Friday. Instead, it was originally aired on a Wednesday.
- This episode achieved a Nielsen household rating of 6.6, with an audience share of 11. This means that roughly 6.6 percent of all television-equipped households, and 11 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode. It was viewed by 6.2 million households. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 248)
- The lack of snow in this Arctic-bound installment was one criticism repeatedly made by Internet-based X-Philes. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 8, p. 31) However, the episode has remained popular with fans over an extended period. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, p. 17)
- Cinefantastique (Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26) rates this episode 4 out of 4 stars. The magazine criticizes, "Superficially, the Arctic setting may make this appear a retread of The Thing, but in 'Ice', the threat doesn't kill and replace you, it just takes over your mind. Gripping and tightly-wound, this is a study in claustrophobia, paranoia and trust, and is the first X-Files episode where everything–story, visuals, directing and acting (including the guest stars)–fires on all cylinders. Morgan and Wong and first-time director David Nutter screw the tension up to an unbearable level, resulting in an explosive finale. Duchovny and Anderson are superb together, and make us really believe that Mulder and Scully are not only a team, but truly are beginning to trust each other."
- Upon initially reviewing this episode, The X-Files Magazine (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 8, p. 31) commented, "Arguably a little too reminiscent of the icy John Carpenter horror flick The Thing [...] 'Ice' nevertheless has enough genuinely chilling moments to make it not only its own show, but also one of the first season's, er, coolest." In a subsequent issue of the same publication (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, pp. 15, 16 & 17), Kate Anderson admitted the episode's similarities to The Thing from Another World and John Carpenter's The Thing but went on to contend, "In the hands of the tour de force writing partnership of Glen Morgan and James Wong, 'Ice' becomes a successful and unique thriller in its own right. A mini-masterpiece, wonderfully dramatic and atmospheric, with Morgan and Wong injecting fresh life into a still new body. 'Ice' is probably one of the most memorable and scary episodes from the first season [....] [The] teaser succeeds perfectly, pulling the audience into the plot immediately [....] From the prologue to the dramatic climax in act four, suspicion, paranoia and fear are rife [....] 'Ice' brandishes a fine supporting ensemble. The well-crafted co-stars are used to their full potential as they are an essential ingredient to the plot, emphasising the tight, claustrophobic atmosphere as each character turns against the other [....] With its non-cliched characters and gloomy cinematography, it remains to this day one of the most rewarding and memorable episodes." The same issue of the magazine additionally described the outing as "pivotal to the story and the essence of The X-Files." The magazine called the stand-off between the pair of FBI agents "riveting, [...] dramatic and tense" as well as "one of the most uncomfortable moments from the first season." The publication also referred to the scene in which Mulder and Scully check each other's necks for signs of the parasite as "extremely revealing" and proceeded to comment, "Sensual, this moment is even slightly erotic, thanks to the tantalising camera movements and subdued lighting." The X-Files Magazine Yearbook 2002 (p. 66) cited the same scene as one of the two agents' twenty most romantic scenes in the entire series.
- In his reference book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium and The Lone Gunmen, writer Robert Shearman scored this episode 5 out of 5 stars. Shearman questioned the popularity of this outing, given its extreme likenesses to The Thing. "It must be because however derivative 'Ice' may be, it finds a way of taking its borrowed material and finding within it something which defines The X-Files," Shearman reckoned. "This must surely be the most influential episode ever made [....] And what Morgan and Wong so skilfully extract from The Thing is its desperate paranoia and its fear of identity loss. 'We are not who we are' is the chilling statement that runs through this episode, and there is surely no better mantra that sums up the entire series. It's the more cynical flipside of 'The truth is out there.' What makes 'Ice' so extraordinary is the way that, for the first time in the series, it makes Mulder and Scully not mere observers of the unexplained. The X-Files will always work best once it realises the most satisfying stories are the ones where our leads are the story, not just commentators upon it [....] And it's the way in which Mulder and Scully are made afraid of each other, yet come through the experience with even deeper loyalty, that makes 'Ice' such a pivotal story. On the surface it's a yarn about arctic worms, but it's really about how much Mulder and Scully can trust each other. This story is such a claustrophobic slice of horror that it's easy to forget how witty Morgan and Wong's dialogue is, and how well-rounded the supporting characters are." The book also refers to this episode's guest cast as "terrific."
- Somewhat echoing the plot of this installment, the frozen worms found by the Greenland Ice Project actually came back to life. "It was after we wrote the episode that we found it out, which was a little scary," admitted James Wong. (X-Files Confidential, p. 49)
Cast and CharactersEdit
- The cast of this episode integrated well together. Gillian Anderson expressed, "We had some great actors to work with." (X-Files Confidential, p. 49) Hodge actor Xander Berkeley enjoyed his time with both Anderson and David Duchovny. (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38) Duchovny and Berkeley specifically developed a close rapport. "He and I sort of hit it off like long lost friends," reported Berkeley. "I remember that we had a day off so David, Felicity Huffman and I went off and climbed a nearby mountain. We laughed the entire day [....] The two of us just clicked immediately and had a great time working together." (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38)
- Gillian Anderson approved of this episode's plot. (X-Files Confidential, p. 49; The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, p. 17) She commented, "It was a strong sense of confinement and paranoia that was involved that really gave the episode an edge [....] It will always stick in my mind as being one of our strongest episodes and one which really represented a turning point for us." Anderson also called the scene where Mulder and her own character of Scully confront one another with guns "a very powerful scene" and "a wonderful jolt to our relationship." Regarding the intimate scene in which the agents check each other for signs of the parasite, Anderson opined, "It's very provocative, the way the camera moves around us and the way the lighting is with a single light bulb and it's swinging... Then for her to start to walk away and him to stop her, there's a moment of fear and tension in that because you don't know if he's going to attack, if he has been infected by this parasite. I think there was a huge element of fear in that scene, and through the whole episode in general, because [nobody knew] who to trust." (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 31, p. 17)
- David Duchovny dubbed this installment "the first really rocking episode." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 28)
- Xander Berkeley likewise had high regard for the way this outing is constructed, remarking, "I thought it was kind of interesting the way that they structured this story." Berkeley also noticed a connection between Hodge and Mulder, because they both have "an innate distrust of anybody connected with the federal government [...] and in the long run it sort of sets up a link between [them]." (TV Zone Special #21, p. 38)
- Aside from portraying John Richter in this outing, Ken Kirzinger was also the show's stunt coordinator at one point. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 8, p. 31)
- Xander Berkeley as Dr. Hodge
- Felicity Huffman as Dr. Nancy Da Silva
- Steve Hytner as Dr. Denny Murphy
- Jeff Kober as Bear