Mulder and Scully encounter a religious healer who seems to have the power to perform miracles.
Crowds gather at an apartment fire as an EMT carries out a burnt dead man on a stretcher. A firefighter tells the EMT to go help a women who needs oxygen. As the firefighter turns to leave, a man and his young son unzip the body bag and say a prayer to raise him from the dead. Seeing this, the fireman begins to tell them to go away as the man is dead when the boy's father tells him, "then the boy can do no harm, now can he?" Meanwhile, the boy continues saying the prayer, causing the burnt man to return to life as the fireman leaves.
Ten years later, Scully shows Mulder a videotape which shows the man and the boy, now a teenager, have opened up a church called Miracle Ministry and are about to heal a woman with a malignant tumor on her spine. Scully pauses the tape to give Mulder some information and is surprised when he has already heard of Reverend Calvin Hartley and his adopted healer son Samuel Hartley. Local authorities are beginning to think the reverend and his son are a scam and have been trying to shut the ministry down. Mulder finds this curious and asks Scully why. She responds with "Murder. Watch the tape."
The tape continues showing the Reverend explaining what is about to happen to his amazed audience. Scully stops the VHS again to explain to Mulder that twenty minutes after Lucy was "healed", she was rushed to the hospital only to die mysteriously. Despite knowing this is not an official X-File, Mulder and Scully hop a flight to Kenwood, Tennessee.
Once there, they visit the tent Miracle Ministry to witness for themselves the faith healing powers of Samuel Hartley. However, he does not make an appearance. They meet the Reverend outside after the sermon where they learn that Samuel is missing. Calvin Hartley tells them he can not help and drives them off in his Cadillac. As this is happening, Sheriff Maurice Daniels walks up to them and gives them the autopsy report for Lucy Kelly. Sheriff Daniels goes on to tell them that more people related to the ministry have died but no autopsies were performed due to Miracle Ministry interference.
They arrange for the bodies to be exhumed; however, in the process of digging the bodies up, a group of the ministry's followers, who caught word of what was going to be done at the cemetery, show up and demand that the graves not be disturbed. Mulder and Scully begin to explain the importance of the autopsies when the Sheriff interrupts with news that Samuel's car was spotted downtown.
Sheriff Daniels, Mulder and Scully enter a seedy bar to find Samuel Hartley smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer while sporting various cuts and bruises all over his face. The sheriff lets Samuel know he is going to be arrested for suspicion of murder, but Mulder asks for a few minutes with him first. Samuel admits guilt of murder and explains that he "muddied the water" of his faith because of pride and weakness, and now his gift has been corrupted. Scully doubts the young man, saying there's something missing in his story. Samuel, in retaliation, tells Mulder of a great pain Mulder has related to a sister. Intrigued, Mulder asks him to continue, but an unnerved Scully calls the Sheriff over to their table to officially arrest Samuel.
During Samuel's trial, a swarm of locusts come in the court room and forces everyone to leave. Mulder and Scully are summoned to see the Reverend who is adamant that his son is innocent. While in counsel with Reverend Hartley, Mulder sees a little girl through the window and excuses himself. He exits the building to try to find the little girl, but she's gone. He then looks up and sees Samuel staring down at him through the window. Later that night, Scully and Mulder attend as Samuel returns to his ministry and attempts to heal a woman in a wheelchair. However, she suffers a seizure and dies, which leads to Samuel's second arrest. During the service Mulder sees the little girl again and tries to follow her, but loses her in the crowd. The ministry tries to deter the family from getting an autopsy, yet Scully changes their minds. Scully questions Mulder about who he was chasing, knowing that Samuel's words have influenced him. Mulder reveals that he thinks he has seen his sister, Samantha, twice. Scully performs an autopsy which reveals the woman died of cyanide poisoning. Mulder visits Samuel in jail and asks him if he poisoned the woman. He asks for more information about Samantha, but Samuel taunts him. Mulder asks the sheriff to release Samuel, but the sheriff refuses. After Mulder leaves, the sheriff has two men fatally beat Samuel in his cell. Later the sheriff tells Mulder and Scully that Samuel instigated a fight. They go back to the court room and find evidence that the swarm of locusts, which were actually common grasshoppers, was guided by someone to the courtroom through the building's ventilation system.
At his home, Vance, who has been the faithful assistant to the Reverend, is confronted by a ghostly vision of Samuel, who accuses him of betraying the church and perpetrating the murders. Vance confesses and blames his bitterness at having been resurrected with such a scarred and deformed visage. Mulder and Scully, who have been able to trace a large purchase of grasshoppers to Vance, arrive with the sheriff to find the man dying of cyanide poisoning from his own glass of water. The sheriff tells Vance to get his clothes on because he was under arrest. He tells them of Samuel's visitation and confesses before falling dead.
As the agents prepare to finish work on the case, they receive a phone call to say that Samuel's body has gone missing from the morgue, and witnesses have seen him walking around, badly bruised. Later, Sheriff Daniels is picked up from his home, by one of his deputies, to be questioned by the district attorney over Samuel's death. As Mulder and Scully leave Tennessee, Samuel's ministry closes down, and Mulder sees one last vision of his missing sister before he gets into their car.
SEMICOLON-SEPARATED LIST OF ITEMS/LOCATIONS REFERENCED IN EPISODE (BUT NOT LINKED TO IF ALREADY LINKED IN SUMMARY OR GUEST STARS SECTIONS)
- This episode was the first to be written by Supervising Producer Howard Gordon without his long-time writing partner, Alex Gansa, who had left the series to spend more time with his family. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 18, p. 48) The episode turned into the first collaboration between Gordon and Executive Producer Chris Carter. Remembered Carter, "Howard came to my house and said, 'Help me out,' so we went to my living room and put up this bulletin board and in a matter of hours we came up with this story. Then Howard and I split up the scenes. I probably wrote about 45% and he probably wrote about 55%. It was a blast, because Howard and I had never written together before. We had a great time. And I think it set the tone and laid a foundation for what is our [...] relationship [in the second season]." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 50) Gordon likewise noted, "We had a lot of fun." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 49) However, he added, "It was one of those times when we were rushed and in crisis, and we wrote it fairly quickly." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 50)
- Religion featured strongly in the themes which Chris Carter and Howard Gordon chose to write about, Gordon wanting to treat fundamentalist religion in a respectful way. He recounted, "We said, 'This is a show about belief, about possibilities' [....] I think there's a power of faith, and so we set out right away to not do the obvious, which would be to make these people into buffoons. In a way, it was a kind of Jesus story [....] Our premise was, what if a prophet or someone with special powers was set down on Earth? What would happen to him?" (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 50) Reflected Carter, "We wanted to do something with the bright side of the paranormal, and of course we had to contrast it against the dark side, with this kid who had been able to heal people with his hands and believed he had lost his gift." (X-Files Confidential, p. 67)
- The focus on faith led to the concept of including Mulder's missing sister, Samantha, in the storyline. Gordon specifically believed that "if it was going to be an episode about faith, every time we talk about faith, a good subject is Mulder's sister. We thought about what would be a way for this story to directly impact on Mulder. What if he comes in contact with the character who has this gift, this power, who can look into him and see what's in the deepest part of his soul? It was an opportunity to revisit that. Could this guy with his power tell Mulder something he didn't know? It was another piece in the sister puzzle. Chris and I were wondering, 'Is this thing going to work?'" (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 50)
- This episode's script went through five drafts. These were dated 24th, 30 and 31 January as well as 2nd and 3rd February 1994.
- Reverend Calvin Hartley's house was depicted using both the exterior and interior of 24990 River Road, Fort Langley, situated high on a bluff in the Lower Mainland. The town of Steveston was also visited by The X-Files' production staff while this episode was being shot. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), pp. 45, 46 & 43) Dekalb County Courthouse – a building in Decatur, Georgia – was clearly used for an exterior view of Kenwood County Courthouse, the building where Samuel Hartley goes on trial.
- Trying to make this episode's variety of filming locations seem like environments in the American South was challenging for Art Director Graeme Murray. "Setting up the tent and getting that Southern atmosphere in Vancouver was kind of interesting," he explained. "That episode was kind of difficult to put together logistically. There were a lot of different little places, and trying to get that Southern atmosphere was a little tough. It was a real location show." Murray specified this episode "was particularly like" all the locations had to be close to three or four other filming sites which the production crew intended to film on the same day, due to the ever-present time constraints. He concluded, "Putting it all together was very tricky." (X-Files Confidential, p. 69)
- This is the second of two first season installments which Director Michael Lange worked on, the other being "Young at Heart". He began work on this episode the very next day after completing the filming of that earlier installment. (TV Zone, issue 79, p. 27)
- Though this outing is generally believed to be scary in a thought-provoking way through its religious themes, the fact the creative personnel believed the episode includes no particularly frightening scenes was a subject of some debate among the group. Stated Michael Lange, "I remember Chris [Carter] being rather concerned about this [....] Chris and I talked a lot about trying to make the episode scarier and I just kept saying to him, 'It's already so bizarre and frightening that I think anything you do will make it scary.'" (TV Zone, issue 79, p. 27)
- This episode tasked Co-Executive Producer R.W. Goodwin with ensuring all the Southern accents sounded genuine and consistent. Even though the installment was set in the South of the United States of America, Goodwin had to take into account that the episode was filmed elsewhere and that the cast of performers came from a mix of locales such as Vancouver as well as the South. He called the difficulties with accents "the problem with 'Miracle Man'" and went on to say, "That, for me, was one of the bigger challenges [....] I hired a dialect coach to help even it all out so it didn't sound like they [the actors] were coming from fifteen different parts of the South." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 68–69)
- The scheduling of the scenes showing faith-healing ceremonies inside a tent was impacted on by the fact Michael Lange was permitted to use the extras for merely half a day. "So I had to film all their scenes first," he specified. The sheer numbers of people and lights heated the tent to an extreme degree. (TV Zone, issue 79, p. 28) All these scenes were filmed in only one day, which turned out to be a memorable experience for Lange. (X-Files Confidential, p. 68) He noted, "It was a pretty intense day but a lot of fun." (TV Zone, issue 79, p. 28) Lange further mused, "I, myself, have a kind of skepticism about all these faith healers, but by the end of that day I could see how people would be drawn into it, because it's very compelling. There were some very inspirational things in there, and everyone became so infused with this fervor that you really could understand how it could all happen. It doesn't happen often on TV that you can explore an area of the human experience and feel it that much." (X-Files Confidential, p. 68)
- Filming the scene in which an insect swarm fills a courtroom was an unusual challenge, involving 2000 locusts and 10000 crickets. Michael Lange remembered, "It was quite a disgusting day [....] The locusts, I found out, had these sort of clingy feet [...] and leave these little brown stains [on people]. I never asked what they were but I can only imagine. It was very difficult to get out of clothing and we ended up buying a lot of clothes from the extras." (TV Zone, issue 79, p. 28)
- Filming Reverend Hartley's estate involved, in Todd Pittson's words, "a big night-lighting setup, lightning, and wind machines." Pittson recalled, "On the day of filming, I arrived early in the morning to find the property unexpectedly blanketed in snow. The locations, special effects, and greens crews got to work, steaming and raking and sweeping snow off the large front lawn, since the first shot was to be a wide establisher of the house with the reverend's Cadillac collection lined up in the driveway. Steaming, which was the quick solution, only turned the lawn into mud and had to be abandoned in favour of the more laborious process. Greensman Frank Haddad was quick to point out that, while there had been no report of snow in the Lower Mainland the previous evening, the bluff on which we now stood was a good 200 feet above sea level, which would explain the strange appearance of snow at our location." (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), pp. 45–46)
- Though this episode includes examples of diegetic gospel music, Composer Mark Snow was not involved in the creation of these recordings. He clarified, "There was a lot of gospely, organy, evangelist Bible-thumping stuff that I didn't do. So the score was about 20 minutes or so, and that's unusually light [for episodes of the first season]." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 50)
- This episode was subject to some network-influenced editing. Noted Michael Lange, "We had a bit of controversy in this episode." (TV Zone, issue 79, p. 27) He further explained, "Some of the things I put in were actually pulled back by the [Fox] network when they saw it [....] There was one scene where Samuel was beaten up by the guys in the jail cell and was killed, as we find out in the next scene. I had this one image that I shot, which was the silhouette of him against the wall with the bars, and he actually had taken a crucifix pose, and that of course went bye-bye. Even the bold Fox network couldn't handle that one." (X-Files Confidential, p. 68) Lange concluded, "That never quite made it on the air. I think they cut it somewhere before he gets into the full crucifix position." (TV Zone, issue 79, p. 28)
- A legend which describes the building where Samuel Hartley's trial takes place reads "Kenwood County Courthouse". However, the exterior of the building shown is labeled "Dekalb County Courthouse", with distinctive "U"s that look like "V"s on the inscription.
- Chris Carter and Howard Gordon were ultimately very pleased with how this installment turned out. Gordon commented, "In the end, we think it really did [work]." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 50)
- Michael Lange thought highly of this installment, too, saying, "I really enjoyed the episode." (TV Zone, issue 79, p. 27) He elaborated by musing, "On an intellectual level, it really dealt with the subject of God – the power of God – and the power of man in kind of a neat way. There were a lot of things to think about, working on it as a director, and also for the viewer. If you want to go along with it, it can really take you to some neat places." (X-Files Confidential, p. 68)
- Conversely, Co-Executive Producer Glen Morgan wasn't satisfied with how this episode portrays fundamentalist Christianity. "To tell you the truth, there are a lot of people for whom it's their faith, and I would like to have had a little more respect towards that," remarked Morgan. (X-Files Confidential, p. 68)
- This episode achieved a Nielsen household rating of 7.5, with an audience share of 13. This means that roughly 7.5 percent of all television-equipped households, and 13 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode. It was viewed by 7.1 million households. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 248)
- The first UK broadcast of this installment on Sky One attracted 0.42 million viewers. This placed the episode as the fourth highest rated satellite show of the week. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 18, p. 48)
- This installment received high praise from some fans. Michael Lange opined, "The fans really did [like it]." He suspected the positive viewer response caused Chris Carter to ultimately like the outing, as well. (TV Zone, issue 79, p. 27)
- Cinefantastique (Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 50) scores this episode 3 out of 4 stars. The magazine further comments, "Scott Bairstow delivers a powerful portrayal of Samuel's inner doubts and torments, and the jail scene between Mulder and Samuel is one to remember."
- The X-Files Magazine (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 18, p. 48) called this episode an "unflattering [portrayal] of 'alternative' religion" and went on to say, "While the script [...] is ostensibly about the dangers of putting one's faith in faith healers, the episode is more satisfying when dealing with the respective beliefs of the agents themselves. Mulder's faith that he will someday find his sister is really counterpointed by Scully's belief in Catholicism."
- In his reference book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium and The Lone Gunmen, writer Robert Shearman gave this outing 3 and a half out of 5 stars. He critiqued, "The religious debate on offer here is something of a camouflage, I think. At its heart, this is a tragic tale of a man who has a great talent [but loses it] [....] It's a classic idea [....] And it humanises this tale which, with all its religious themes, could easily have been distancing – fundamentally, each of us fears that we will never achieve anything great, or even worse, that the greatest of our achievements are behind us [....] To put at the centre of a story an examination of what special powers can do to a man is hugely refreshing. For the most part, too, it's a good story well told, and it's great to see Mulder and Scully acting in concert during an investigation." Shearman criticized the episode's exploration of the way Mulder has defined himself by the abduction of his sister, the writer commenting, "It's here [...] that the story gets a bit stuck, with Mulder having visions of little girls all over the place. Subtlety would have been so much more effective – the passion with which [David] Duchovny questions Bairstow about his 'pain' is so much more successful than the sequences in which he starts chasing minors in red dresses. But unsubtlety is the direction the episode takes [....] There's still lots to enjoy here. Somewhat surprisingly, the Evangelists are not held up to the ridicule one might expect, and though their faith is never endorsed it is still treated without cynicism."
- Todd Pittson's next-door neighbor who appeared in this outing later allowed her house to be used as a filming location for the episode "Piper Maru". (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), pp. 101 & 99)
Cast and CharactersEdit
- Scott Bairstow read this episode's script before being cast as Samuel Hartley. According to Howard Gordon, Bairstow found he "loved" the script. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 50)
- At first, very few background actors were deemed appropriate for the scenes which take place in a Miracle Ministry tent. "Originally, they wanted to give me 50 extras and I told them there was no way I could sell audiences on this guy's popularity with just fifty extras," noted Michael Lange. He went on to recall that he eventually persuaded his superiors to allow him 250 extras. (TV Zone, issue 79, p. 28) In another interview, however, he claimed, "We had three hundred extras." (X-Files Confidential, p. 68)
- An actress who appeared in this episode was a next-door neighbor of Location Manager Todd Pittson. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 101)
- R. D. Call as Sheriff Maurice Daniels
- Scott Bairstow as Samuel Hartley
- George Gerdes as Reverend Calvin Hartley
- Dennis Lipscomb as Leonard Vance
- Walter Marsh as Judge Hamish Purdy
- Campbell Lane as Hohman
- Chilton Crane as Margaret Hohman
- Howard Storey as Fire Chief
- Iris Quinn Bernard as Lillian Daniels
- Lisa Ann Beley as Beatrice Salinger
- Alex Doduk as Young Samuel Hartley
- Roger Haskett as Deputy Dennis Tyson