Mulder and Scully encounter a man who is afraid of his own shadow.
The episode beings at the George Mason Hotel in Richmond, Virginia. As an elderly man in his room prepares for bed, Chester Banton exits the elevator. Chester seems nervous, and keeps looking over his shoulder. He continues down the hallway before knocking on a door and attempts to talk to the man inside. The man initially ignores him, but finally walks over to the door. As he does this, Chester's shadow slides under the door and the elderly man is yanked downward into a strange, vortex-like blue puddle. Chester Banton panics as the blue puddle begins to burn and char. He flees the scene.Scully and Mulder arrive on the scene, as Scully tells Mulder that there have been several similar incidents in the past. Detective Kelly Ryan, a former student of Scully's from the FBI Academy, has asked the agents to assist her on her first case, involving these mysterious deaths. Detective Ryan tells them that the most recent victim is Patrick Newarth, who works for Morley Tobacco. He apparently had been discovered missing at 6 AM. The doors and windows were locked. Ryan shows them the remains of Mr. Newarth, which is only a burned patch of ash on the floor. Ryan tells them that the patch is mostly carbon, with potassium and traces of minerals. Mulder theorizes that Newarth was standing in front of the door, looking through the peephole. Detective Ryan is instructed to compare Mr. Newarth's prints against fingerprints found on his lightbulb, which is faulty.
Scully asks if Mulder is blaming Spontaneous Human Combustion for Mr. Newarth's death. They discuss this briefly before they board the elevator and arrive at the residence of Margret Wysnecki, the previous 'missing person'. Mulder notes that the Wysnecki's porch light is out, and he screws it back in to turn on the light. They enter the house and find a similar patch on the floor. Scully notes that Margeret was involved with tobacco production, as was Mr. Newarth. They dismiss any connection when they read that the first victim, Gail Ann Lamburgh was an engineer for Polarity Magnetics. Mulder digs through the trash and finds a train ticket, dated for the same date that she disappeared. Mulder suggests that the victims are being hunted.
A tired-looking Chester Barton is seen at the train station, seated at a bench. He walks slowly while smoking a cigarette, still looking behind him every few steps. He enters the alleyway and the lights flicker as he walks by. A police car rolls up and the lights dim. When the officer gets out, Chester flees, but is cut off by a second car. Chester warns them to stay away, but Officer Barney moves too close and is reduced to ashes. When the second officer comes close, he too is burned to a blue puddle of energy. Chester flees the alley in terror.
Mulder, Scully and Kelly investigate the scene, and Kelly suggests that it's a cop-killing case and that she is indirectly responsible. She tells Mulder that the fingerprints had no match in the database. Mulder is unwilling to share any of his theories on the case. Mulder suggests looking at the train station security cameras. Mulder points out a man who always seems to sit at the same spot on the train station, staring at the floor. Mulder recognizes the Polarity Magnetics logo on his jacket.
Scully and Mulder investigate Polarity, which appears to have been closed up. They meet Chester Barton's business partner, Christopher Davey. Davey tells them that Chester has been missing for five weeks. He assumed that Chester had died, as he was involved in a terrible lab accident.
Polarity Magnetics invented things with magnet uses, but Chester used that to fund his theoretical studies into dark matter and subatomic particles. He had been working with a particle accelerator, bombarding an Alpha-particle target with Beta-particles, in essence, negative and positive particles. The countdown had been started when he realized he had miscalculated something and the countdown couldn't be stopped. There was time to make the change, but Davey had left the room when Chester ran in to make the change. When Davey left the room, the door locked behind him, trapping Chester inside. Inside the accelerator is a man-shaped mark on the wall. Christopher Davey theorizes that the particle accelerator burned Chester's shadow into the wall. He also believes that Chester survived because the particles had no mass and therefore passed through his body, like an extremely powerful X-ray.
Scully notes that the burnt wall is a similar substance to what was found at the crime scenes. Mulder admits that he is less convinced of human combustion.
Meanwhile, Scully and Mulder are at the train station, but Chester Banton is nowhere to be found. Mulder is seated in his spot, trying to figure out what he was staring at. Scully suggests that the blast affected his mind, and that it was repetitive behavior. Mulder interrupts Scully to tell her that the spot in the train station has hardly any shadows cast on it because the air is diffused. Meanwhile, Chester enters and sees the agents. He flees and they give chase into the subway system.
Chester tells Mulder that 'it will kill you', and Mulder shoots the lights above the man's head, getting rid of his shadow.
Chester is taken to Yaloff Psychiatric Hospital in Piedmont, where the psychiatrist tells Mulder that Chester insisted on being in a room with soft light, which would not make many shadows. Chester tells the agents that they wouldn't understand what was going on. He tells them that his shadow is like a black hole, splitting molecules, splitting atoms and pulling out electrons, reducing matter into pure energy. He explains that he went to see Gail, and as he stood in the doorway, she suddenly disappeared. He wants to discover the secrets behind his shadow before "they" (the government) do. He pleads with the agents to let him out, but Detective Ryan instructs them to stop interrogating the subject.
Detective Barron asks the agents why they are investigating the case, and Scully tells them that they aren't there on business. Barron believes that the case is solved, but Mulder accuses Barron of not knowing anything about the case. Mulder only tells Detective Ryan that he needs soft light.
Mulder speaks with X, asking him about Dr. Banton. X asks where he is being held, and then tells Mulder that he cannot interfere with the case, stating that he has nothing to gain from the case. At Yaloff Hospital, the lights flicker once more and X informs the secretary that Dr. Banton is being transferred early because of the power outage. X goes to Dr. Banton's room with two attendants, and he pleads with them to leave him alone. The light turns on and the two attendants are killed instantly. X stays away from Dr. Banton's shadow, and allows him to flee the hospital.The agents investigate the scene, and Mulder suggests that there is government involvement. Mulder tells Scully that Dr. Banton only wants to control his shadow, and that he's gone to the only place where he can, Polarity Magnetics. He instructs Davey not to turn on the lights, and leads him to the particle accelerator, pleasing with him to destroy the dark matter. At that moment, Detective Ryan bursts in, aiming her gun at Banton. Despite Banton's warnings, she advances on him, leading to her death. Banton leads a dumbstruck Davey to the accelerator, begging him to help him destroy himself. Davey locks the lab, but doesn't turn on the accelerator, revealing that he worked for the government. Davey goes to phone a contact, but is shot by X. Mulder and Scully arrive afterwards, finding Ryan's remains. The accelerator goes off at that point, and someone has been atomized in the chamber. Scully theorizes that Banton killed himself, but Mulder reminds her that the chamber is sealed from the outside.
Mulder calls for X again, and accuses him of lying. Mulder breaks contact with X, who then proceeds to tell him that he didn't kill Banton. A funeral is held for Kelly Ryan. Mulder notes that Christopher Davey has been missing since Banton's apparent death. He suggests that Banton wasn't the one who was killed in the particle accelerator. The episode ends as X enters a facility where Dr. Banton is being held for experiments.
- When Mulder and Scully encounter detective Kelly, Scully looks at an air vent and Kelly says "You don't think someone could squeeze in there?" Mulder responds "You never know." This is a reference to the season 1 episodes: Squeeze and Tooms.
- Scully, upon discovery of the second unscrewed lightbulb at 8:00: "Darkness covers a multitude of sins" reference to the Bible passage "Love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8)
- The third victim: Patrick Newirth, worked at Morley Tobacco; the same fictional brand the Cigarette Smoking Man, Diana Fowley and Monica Reyes smoked. The same company was also responsible for several deaths in the season 7 episode Brand X.
- The second victim, Margaret Wysnecki, worked at Laramie Tobacco; another fictional brand. This is likely an homage to the fictional tobacco company featured in The Simpsons.
Cast and CharactersEdit
- Kevin McNulty (Dr. Christopher Davey) previously played Special Agent Brian Fuller in The X-Files episode "Squeeze".
- Forbes Angus (Government Scientist) previously played Tissue Bank Technician in The X-Files episode "Shadows".
- Tony Shalhoub as Dr. Chester Ray Banton
- Kate Twa as Kelly Ryan
- Kevin McNulty as Dr. Christopher Davey
- Steven Williams as X