|The X-Files episode|
|Original Airdate:||November 17, 1996|
|Date(s):|| December 24, 1991
|Written by:||Glen Morgan|
|Directed by:||James Wong|
Mulder and Scully are told a speculative history of the mysterious person they know as the Cigarette Smoking Man.
In this episode, Lone Gunman Melvin Frohike (Tom Braidwood) finds a tell-tale magazine story supposedly revealing the history of The Smoking Man (William B. Davis). The episode illustrates his possible involvement in several historical events and assassinations, although the reliability of the source is unresolved at the end of the episode.
The Smoking Man, armed with a sniper rifle and surveillance equipment, spies on a meeting between Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, and the Lone Gunmen. Frohikeclaims to have discovered information about the Smoking Man's mysterious past, stating that his father was an executed communist spy and that his mother died oflung cancer, causing him to be raised in various Midwest orphanages.
The narrative changes to 1962. The Smoking Man is an Army captain stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He talks to a friend and fellow soldier, Bill Mulder, who shows him a photo of his infant son, Fox. The Smoking Man is summoned to attend a meeting with a general and several strange men in suits. They assign him to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. In 1963, posing as a "Mr. Hunt", the Smoking Man frames Lee Harvey Oswald and shoots Kennedy.
Five years later, the Smoking Man writes a novel entitled Take a Chance: A Jack Colquitt Adventure, using the pen name "Raul Bloodworth". After hearing Martin Luther King, Jr. give a speech criticizing America's attitude towards the distribution of wealth at home and social revolutions abroad, the Smoking Man meets with a group of men, including J. Edgar Hoover. The Smoking Man convinces the group to have King assassinated and volunteers to perform the task. Shortly thereafter, a publishing company rejects his novel.
In 1991, the Smoking Man meets with subordinates, discussing his orchestration of the Anita Hill controversy and the Rodney King trial. He orders that the Buffalo Bills not win the Super Bowl. He further reveals his drugging of a Soviet goalkeeper to ensure the outcome of the "Miracle on Ice" hockey match. One of the Smoking Man's subordinates invites him for a family dinner. Although flattered, the Smoking Man declines the invitation and states that he is scheduled to visit family. He is next seen walking past Fox Mulder's office.
Later, while at home, the Smoking Man receives an urgent phone call from Deep Throat, who meets him near the site of a UFO wreck. An alien from the UFO is alive. Deep Throat and Smoking Man reminisce about the multiple times they changed the course of history. They flip a coin over who is tasked to kill the alien survivor. Deep Throat loses, and thus reluctantly shoots the alien.
A few months later, in March 1992, the Smoking Man attends the meeting where Scully is assigned to the X-Files and eavesdrops on the agents' first meeting. In 1996, he receives a letter telling him that his novel will be serialized in the magazine Roman a Clef. He types up a resignation letter, and excitedly finds the magazine at a newsstand. However, he finds that the ending has been changed. Bitter, the Smoking Man sits on a bench with a homeless man, giving a monologue on how "life is like a box of chocolates". He tears up his resignation letter and leaves the magazine at the bench.
Back in the present, Frohike tells Mulder and Scully that what he's told them is based on a story he found in a magazine he subscribes to. He leaves to verify the story. As he leaves, the Smoking Man has a clear shot. However, he decides not to kill him and quotes the last line from his unpublished novel: "I can kill you whenever I please, but not today".
- In the original script, the Cigarette Smoking Man actually shot Frohike to death at the end of the episode. Although this version of the ending was actually filmed and several takes of it were shot, Chris Carter had Morgan and Wong change the episode's conclusion because, according to CSM actor William B. Davis, if Frohike survived, the CSM's enigma remained. The episode's production crew subsequently discovered that the footage of the original ending had mysteriously disappeared. Director James Wong later jokingly considered the highly unlikely possibility that the Lone Gunmen themselves had made the footage disappear. (The X-Files Season 4 DVD)
- There was some concern among the production crew, before filming of this episode began, that the dramatic impact of the Cigarette Smoking Man would be diluted by the story focusing on him, since virtually no personal information about the character had previously been revealed.
- According to Frank Spotnitz, a lot of the fans failed to pick up on the subtlety that the version of past events in this episode was only a possible history of the Cigarette Smoking Man and not necessarily his definitive one. Frank Spotnitz chose to believe that the Cigarette Smoking Man's actual history differed from these events.
- David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, as Agents Mulder and Scully, appear in this episode only in voice-over and archive footage. Although some people thought this episode was written as a way to give the lead actors a week off, the episode was one of the first ideas that Glen Morgan and James Wong had when they returned to The X-Files television series, after their departure to work on their own series, Space: Above and Beyond. The production crew simply realized that they could produce the episode without the actors' participation and everyone was fine with this. The situation allowed Duchovny to spend a week in Los Angeles, a fact that he later cited as one of the prime reasons that the episode had been one of his favorites in the season and Gillian Anderson also named it amongst her favorites from the year.
- Bill Davis was happy that this episode would focus almost entirely on his mysterious character but, like many, he was initially puzzled at the seeming contradictions in the script. He found it easier to accept that someone might claim responsibility for the death of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King than the idea that a person had kept the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl Hell. The actor's task of finding the fine line between tragedy and comedy also proved to be a challenge. Chris Carter had to speak with Bill Davis on several occasions and spent hours with him on the telephone, talking about the character, because the actor felt that the episode really made the character something that it wasn't. Carter tried to explain to Davis that, even if a person's mission in life is to be a destroyer, that person still has hope in the back of their mind that they can be a creator and that this vanity was suddenly the Cigarette Smoking Man's vanity. Carter believed that Glen Morgan and James Wong were also attempting to express this message, that it was clearly evident in the episode and that this aforementioned vanity of the Cigarette Smoking Man made him "sort of a silly person". Davis acknowledged Carter's assistance with the performance in this episode.
- According to Davis, James Wong's direction was also a big help because Wong told the actor to play against the fact that many of the stage directions pointed toward farce and to instead let the situation play out. The director also helped Davis with his character's miserable speech in which the CSM compares life to a box of chocolates; Davis was initially "almost Shakespearean", when he prepared the scene and played it for the first time, but, according to Davis, Jim Wong made him "toss it off more, and it worked out fine. (I Want to Believe: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 3)
- This episode is the only one in the series that provides a possible name for the "Deep Throat" character - Ronald.
- There are several references to the film Forrest Gump in this episode, notably the "Life is like a box of chocolates" speech. Like Gump, CSM is present in and influences a great deal of recent historical events, but unlike Forrest, he ends up embittered by his experiences.
- The Cigarette Smoking Man's hobby as a writer in this episode was influenced by Howard Hunt being described as a writer in the film All the President's Men. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies) Aside from being one of several films that had a general influence on the creation of The X-Files, the same movie also specifically inspired the series' creation of the "Deep Throat" character, the practice of an "X" being taped to Mulder's window to contact the "X" character and the design of the set for the Dallas field office in The X-Files Movie.
- CSM's line about how he ensured that the Buffalo Bills would never win the Super Bowl as long as he is alive has become part of the Buffalo Sports Curse.
- Chris Owens appears as the young CSM, as he had done in other episodes. In season 5 and 6 he played Special Agent Jeffrey Spender, who is later revealed to be CSM's son.
- The scene where the young CSM is first recruited to assassinate JFK is reminiscent of the scene in which Martin Sheen is given his mission to assassinate Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz in the film Apocalypse Now (1979). The scene may also reference The Day of the Jackal, since CSM and the Jackal both count Rafael Trujillo and Patrice Lumumba among their successful past missions.
- On one of the covers in the newsstand where the Cigarette-Smoking Man picks up a copy of 'Roman à clef' bears the cover line "Where the hell is Darin Morgan?". This is a reference to the departure of Darin Morgan from the writing staff of The X-Files.
- Walden Roth, the editor who finally buys the Cigarette-Smoking Man's story, is named after Dana Walden, 20th Century Fox's head of drama, and Peter Roth, president of the Entertainment Group for Fox Broadcasting Company.
- Lee Harvey Oswald calls young Cancerman "Mr. Hunt". In reality, E. Howard Hunt wrote a number of espionage thrillers under a pseudonym at the same time that he worked for the CIA and was supposedly in Dallas when JFK was assassinated. His name has been batted around by JFK conspiracy theorists for many years.
Roman à clef The title of the magazine to which the Cigarette Smoking Man submits his stories is Roman à Clef. The literal translation of this French phrase is "novel with a key." It is a novel in which real events are written up as fiction. The key referred to is not in the text, but in the reader's knowledge of the actual events being described under the guise of fiction. Two well-known romans à clef are Primary Colors, a book supposedly based on William Clinton's presidential campaign, and the film Citizen Kane, a fictionalized account of the life of newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst.
Space: Above and Beyond
There are several references to Morgan and Wong's former series "Space: Above and Beyond" in this episode:
1. The Cigarette-Smoking Man's first novel is called 'Take a Chance'. This is the catch phrase from the series.
2. Certain cases are 'classified compartmentalized. This is a level of secrecy invented by Morgan and Wong for their show.
3. The main character in the Cigarette-Smoking Man's novels is named Jack Colquitt. This was also the name of a soldier in the "Space: Above and Beyond" episode 'Who Monitors the Birds?'.
Cancerman's aliases when meeting with Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray are based on supposedly real people. According to some conspiracy theorists, Oswald kept a correspondence with a "Mr. Hunt" before the assassination, and numerous people have named a co-conspirator in the slaying of Martin Luther King Jr. as "Raoul", which Ray calls Cancerman in this episode.
Morgan Weisser (Lee Harvey Oswald) played Lt. Nathan West in Morgan and Wong's Space: Above and Beyond. In season 4, the main cast of S:A&B appeared on The X-Files; Tucker Smallwood in "Home", Kristen Cloke in "The Field Where I Died" and Rod Rowland in "Never Again." Morgan and Wong said that "they were showing their actors off."
Frohike refers to a "CSM-25" filter to prevent people from listening in on their story. CSM is an abbreviation for "Cigarette Smoking Man".
CSM pulls out stationery for Endeavor International Press that lists an address as 389 La Cienega Blvd., Pasadena. La Cienega Blvd. runs through a large portion of Los Angeles, but it goes nowhere near Pasadena.
In the sequence involving the JFK assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald denies having killed Kennedy as the police drag him out of the theater. While he may have done this, it should be noted that Oswald was initially arrested for the murder of Officer J.D. Tippet; he was only accused of Kennedy's murder later on.
This episode contradicts the season 3 episode 'Apocrypha' where young CSM was seen in the 1950s with Bill Mulder as already a shadowy agent and smoking. This episode has CSM still a young man and not part of the Syndicate in 1963, and does not smoke yet.
In other episodes the name of The Lone Gunmen's newsletter is "The Lone Gunman", but in the shots of their office door it has a sign saying 'The Lone Gunmen. Publishers of "The Magic Bullet" newsletter'.
- David Duchovny as Special Agent Fox Mulder (voice)
- Gillian Anderson as Special Agent Dana Scully (voice)
- Morgan Weisser as Lee Harvey Oswald
- Chris Owens as Young Cigarette Smoking Man
- Donnelly Rhodes as General Francis
- Tom Braidwood as Melvin Frohike
- Bruce Harwood as John Fitzgerald Byers
- Jerry Hardin as Deep Throat
- Peter Hanlon as an Aid
- Dean Aylesworth as Young William Mulder
- Paul Jarrett as James Earl Ray
- David Fredericks as J. Edgar Hoover
- Laurie Murdoch as Lydon