|Original Airdate:||November 5, 1993|
|Written by:||Glen Morgan and James Wong|
|Directed by:||David Nutter|
In an Arctic research station, Mulder and Scully are threatened by primordial ice worms that cause their hosts to become dangerously paranoid.
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 walks past a dead body. There is another body, although only an arm hanging off a desk can be seen. A man appears, wearing only pants, his torso bloody, looking around and carrying a gun. He turns to a communications device and camera, in front of which he is seated. 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 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 station, two gunshots can be heard.
Mulder and Scully are watching older footage of the Arctic Ice Core Project crew cheering, because apparently after a couple of frustrating months, they are proud to report that about half an hour before the transmission was recorded, they surpassed the previous world record for drilling down into an ice sheet. Mulder explains the research the team was doing: basically, studying the structure of Earth's climate back to the dawn of man. The work was apparently a success and no problems of any kind were reported… until a week after the previous transmission, when the next one received. It was the transmission shown in the teaser. After seeing the tape, Scully inquires about what happened there, and Mulder explains that no one has been able to reach the station yet because of bad weather. He jokes that their superiors in the FBI either think they are brilliant or expendable, because Mulder and Scully are the ones who drew the assignment. Skeptical Scully immediately inquires about the possibility of events being a result of cabin fever but Mulder dismisses it, claiming that these were top geophysicists, trained for the work and, among else, thoroughly medically examined, including their psychological make-up. They are supposed 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. National Weather Service predicts three day window before the next Arctic storm.
A man is listening to a football game on headphones. Apparently his team just scored. Scully notes that there's no football on Wednesdays, but the man explains that it's just one of his all-time favourite 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 crew, Dr. DaSilva and Dr. Hodge, the latter showing slight signs of paranoia, demanding of all of the crew to show some sort of identification because he "[wants] to make sure we are who say we are." After each member shows his identification, he asks whether anyone wants to take a guess as to why are they going to the base. Dr. Murphy sees two federal agents, a medical doctor, geologist and a toxicologist as a plausible explanation, whilst Dr. DaSilva makes a remark about Mulder and Scully, being FBI, know more than the rest of the group. A jeep drives in the hangar, and we're introduced to the last member of the team: the pilot, Bear. He himself doesn't react to Dr. DaSilva's request for credentials, saying plainly that if the fact that he's the only pilot willing to fly them to Icy Cape isn't enough of a credential, they can walk. We see the footage of a light airplane flying over snow covered hills.
The team arrives at the compound. The electricity is off and place appears deserted. Dead bodies are seen on the floor. Mulder asks Bear if he can get the power on. Mulder says that before they remove the bodies, the crime scene must be documented. Scully proceeds with photographing. Mulder opens up one of the refrigerators containing drilling samples which Dr. Murphy immediately retrieves to preserve. The team continues to investigate the compound, and generator is restarted. Suddenly the dog seen in the teaser appears and attacks Mulder. The dog is sedated, but during the struggle Bear is bitten. 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. The dog also has a skin irritation around his neck, as if he was scratching off his own hair. While looking at the trauma, there's a sudden movement of what is apparently a foreign object under the dog's skin. In the bathroom, Bear is bandaging his wound, when suddenly he is struck by a sharp pain under his right armpit. After looking at the mirror, he discovers he now has the same black nodules as the dog had; ergo, he is infected.
After finishing the autopsies, Scully states that it's obvious members of science crew killed each other. Bear makes an inquiry 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 that he wouldn't rule it out. He re-examined the dog and nodules have disappeared, which could mean that the spots are symptoms of some disease at an early stage. Bear appears more and more anxious after hearing this. Mulder and Scully continue collecting evidence, former finding another piece of paper scribbled with "We are not who we are" sentence. He contacts Denny, the geologist, regarding some satellite remote sensing photos. Denny identifies the photograph as Icy Cape area, that it approximates the depth of the ice sheet to be about three thousand meters thick. Mulder shows him another piece of data he has found, which shows that the research team discovered that the depth of the ice sheet was twice that depth. The numbers appear to indicate that the team was digging inside a meteor crater. In the other lab, Dr. Hodge and Scully appear to be arguing about something when Mulder enters. Scully has apparently discovered parts of ammonium dioxide in one of the diseased men's blood. Hodge claims this impossible because ammonia would vaporise at human temperatures. Dr. DaSilva reports that she has checked all the ventilation machinery and found no evidence of any toxins. Dr. Murphy, on the other hand, has found something in the ice samples, and apparently that's not all there is. He has found high ratio of ammonia to water in the ice core. Earths atmosphere could never produce such amounts, even quarter of a million years ago (unless a foreign object was introduced into that environment, Mulder comments). Murphy tells them to look in the microscope and Mulder, being the first one, sees a micro-organism of some sort. After Scully takes a look at it she concludes that the same thing is present in one of the diseased blood. She hypothesises that it's a larval stage of a larger organism. Now Bear appears again, more and more agitated, saying Scully's autopsy clearly showed those men killed themselves, that there's no need to chase around some bug and that they should get the hell away from there. Mulder refuses, saying that they might be facing a possible infective organism and that proper quarantine procedures should be followed. They can't risk bringing back the plague. Bear continues by saying that yes, maybe the deceased rescue crew came down with something, but they haven't and he ain't waiting around until they do. He proceeds to pick up his gear. After a brief discussion between Dr. Hodge and Scully, Dr. DaSilva notes that dog did bite Bear. Scully then suggests that the only resolution is to conduct a medical test to determine whether anyone in the crew is infected, and then proceed. Bear refuses the test and proceeds to pack his stuff 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 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 and 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, attempts to kill the host. The parasite is removed and stored while Mulder contacts the airport and reports that they have serious biological hazard, requesting immediate air pick-up and quarantine procedure. 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 that Bear died after the procedure. The parasite releases a toxin into its victim if surgical removal is attempted.
Dr. Hodge observes that the organism is similar to a tapeworm as it has a skull equipped with suckers and hooks, but otherwise completely unfamiliar to any organism he knows of. He is also unsure of the means of infection: it could be anything, body fluids, touch, air... Scully returns after re-examining the bodies reporting that she found the worm in every single one of it, but only one still alive. The difference is that the worms were not attached to spinal column as seen previously, but were in hypothalamus, deep in the human brain. Hodge speculates that since the hypothalamus produces the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which can produce violent, irrational behaviour there might be a connection with what happened to the previous team.
Scully is re-examining the bodies in case she missed anything. Mulder enters the morgue and suggests she get some sleep since they are all wired and hypersensitive and it wouldn't be a bad idea to give themselves a fresh start. Scully on the other hand says she doesn't want to waste a minute until she finds out how to kill the parasite. Mulder disagrees with killing it, since it could be a living proof of a theory that alternative life design can evolve in an ammonia environment (say other planets) at extremely low temperatures. On the other hand, Scully is concerned with the possibility of the parasite reaching densely settled areas or cause them the same fate as with the previous team. In another room, 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 go to confront the agents and meet them just as Scully is suggesting that all the bodies and the worms should be taken out and incinerated in order to contain the problem. Hodge notes that Scully seems a bit on edge, almost suggesting that she might be another host. She violently reacts but Mulder prevents the argument from going further. Fear and tension is already running high in the group, and they should all get some sleep. Hodge agrees, but demands that each member be checked for spots. All appear OK and proceed into their quarters, yet tension is still present. As Mulder says his good night to Scully, he mentions that the spots on dog did disappear. Scully enters her room and blocks the door with a heavy desk, Dr. Murphy attempts to calm himself with one of his taped football games, Hodge is making a list of possible infected people (and in his usual paranoid approach, finds that each could be exposed), DaSilva is lying in bed yet also showing signs of anxiety and Mulder is seen 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 Dr. Murphy's, whose room is empty, only his Walkman laying on the bed. Mulder continues investigating and notices blood dripping from one of the freezing units in the main science room, in which he finds Murphy's body, his throat being cut. The rest of the team appear and Hodge immediately assumes Mulder killed him. He denies claiming he didn't have any of the symptoms when Hodge examined him. He also refuses Scully's request for Hodge to give him a blood test, fearing he might be the one exposed and could doctor the evidence. He also refuses to show his back, because, being suspicious that either one or all of them could be infected, he isn't going to turn his back on anyone of them. Hodge attempts to grab some metal stick (as a weapon) but stops after Mulder points a gun at him, yet the next instant, he has Scully's gun pointed on himself. He 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. He also points out that Scully is the only one with the gun and that the rest of them don't stand a chance in case she is infected. She removes the clips from both her and Mulder's gun and throws them outside. 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 mistakenly puts an infected blood sample on another infected sample instead of an uninfected as Hodge requested. They both burst in anger, but Scully takes a look at the combined samples and discovers that both parasites have killed each other. After placing two living, mature worms they hold in jars filled with ammoniac solution next to one another, they also see aggressive behaviour between them. One parasite won't tolerate another in a host and does to another same thing he does to a human if removal is attempted. Thus by introducing a parasite in an already infected host, they can kill both of them, and cure the infected. The test on the infected dog proves them right. They now have one more parasite remaining, and thus decide to cure Mulder. Yet when Scully examines Mulder, 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 is the host. Hodge doesn't believe Scully and after a brief struggle, Scully is locked inside the holding area whilst he 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 the one who was infected all along. She flees and grabs one of the guns of the previous team from an evidence bag, but is overpowered by Mulder, while Hodge introduces the worm in her.
Mulder, Scully and Hodge all stand on the strip of the Doolittle Airport in Nome, whilst DaSilva is taken into an ambulance in a biohazard suit. They have all had blood tests and have been proven negative to infection. Mulder claims that he is going back to the place, now prepared and with proper equipment, in order to procure a worm sample (to give science supporting evidence of alternative life design, presented in the sub zero temperatures), but learns from Hodge that the moment they were evacuated from the Ice Cape station, the entire place was torched, either by military or CDC, so there's nothing left for him to find.
Story and ScriptEdit
- The initial concept for this episode was influenced 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 team of scientists 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)
- 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). Stated Chris Carter, "'Ice' was inspired by The Thing, as anyone who knows the genre will tell you." (X-Files Confidential, p. 49) 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)
- 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)
- 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)
Cast and CharactersEdit
- Gillian Anderson felt portraying scared behavior on-screen came easily to the cast of this episode. "It was very intense," she recollected. "There was a lot of fear and paranoia going on. We had some great actors to work with." (X-Files Confidential, p. 49)
- 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, 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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, p. 37)
- This episode features the first contributions which Production Designer Graeme Murray made to the series. 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 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 and he built a channel with this worm in it. Actually right there on the actor's neck you could see the worm. It was disgusting, but it was cool." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 50 & 51)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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 aired in its entirety of about four seconds. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 119)
- 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)
- 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. "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)
- 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, enthusing, "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 [....] I think it [the main plot] was 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 very interesting and a new look at their characters early on in the series. It's the stuff of great drama." (X-Files Confidential, p. 49)
- 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)
- 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)
- Cinefantastique (Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 26) rates this episode 4 out of 4 stars. The magazine critizes, "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."
- 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 Greenland Ice Project actually discovered frozen worms that later 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)
- 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.
- Xander Berkeley as Dr. Hodge
- Felicity Huffman as Dr. Nancy Da Silva
- Steve Hytner as Dr. Denny Murphy
- Jeff Kober as Bear