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The Erlenmeyer Flask

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The X-Files episode The-X-Files-2-32
Erlenmeyer4
Series: The X-Files
Original Airdate: May 13, 1994
Production Number: 1x23
Date(s): May 8, 1994
Written by: Chris Carter
Directed by: R.W. Goodwin
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"The Erlenmeyer Flask" is the twenty-fourth episode of the first season of The X-Files.

SynopsisEdit

Stakes are high during this thrilling conclusion as the agents get closer to the conspiracy and learn their dark secret.

SummaryEdit

In Ardis, Maryland, a high-speed police chase unfolds at a waterfront. The driver of the car is Dr. William Secare. Although he is shot, Secare escapes into the water, and the police find green blood on the spot where he was shot.

Soon afterwards, Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin) approaches Fox Mulder with Secare's case, saying he is of major importance to reveal the truth. When investigating the case, Mulder and Agent Scully visit Dr. Terrance Berube (Ken Kramer), a scientist working in Gaithersburg, Maryland whose car was involved in the Secare incident. That night, "Deep Throat" meets a second time with Mulder, and insists he continue on the case, despite Mulder's uncertainty on what he's supposed to be looking for.

That night, Dr. Berube is met by the "Crew Cut Man", who kills him and makes the death look like a suicide. While investigating the crime scene, Mulder finds an erlenmeyer flask labeled "Purity Control", which he gives to Scully. Scully takes the flask to Georgetown University, where she meets Dr. Anne Carpenter (Anne De Salvo), who examines the contents. Meanwhile, Mulder heads to Berube's house and finds keys for a storage facility. Dr. Secare calls Dr. Berube's office, but Mulder answers the phone feigning to be Berube. Secare tells him about the secret government project which Mulder wants to reveal to the public. In the meantime, the "Crew Cut Man" eavesdrops on the conversation. Secare collapses during the phone call. A bystander calls an ambulance. A poisonous gas emits from Secare's body when the paramedics perform a needle decompression. Secare gets up and flees from the ambulance.

Tanks Hybrids Zeus Storage Erlenmeyer Flask
Tanks found by Mulder.
KLessardAdded by KLessard

Mulder arrives at the storage facility and finds five men suspended in tanks, as well as a sixth empty tank. Dr. Carpenter reveals that the "Purity Control" flask contains a sample of bacteria that doesn't exist anywhere in nature and can only be described as extraterrestrial. Meanwhile, Mulder is pursued when he leaves the storage facility but escapes. He returns the next day with Scully. By then, however, the room is completely empty. "Deep Throat" arrives, revealing that Berube was experimenting on humans with extraterrestrial viruses. Six terminally ill volunteers were experimented on, and all had begun recovering. When it was ordered that they be destroyed, Berube helped Secare escape.

Scully returns to Georgetown University, only to find out that Dr. Carpenter and her entire family have been killed in an automobile accident. Mulder returns to Berube's house and finds Secare in the attic, and tries to convince him to leave, but Secare is then shot to death by the "Crew Cut Man".
Dana Scully Erlenmeyer Flask Alien Fetus
KLessardAdded by KLessard
Mulder passes out from exposure to the gas escaping from Secare's wound, and is captured. "Deep Throat" meets Scully outside of Mulder's apartment and says that he may be able to make a deal with the people who captured Mulder. He gives Scully the credentials necessary to enter the High Containment Facility at Fort Marlene, where Scully finds an alien fetus contained within liquid nitrogen. Scully meets "Deep Throat" on a bridge. He refuses to let her be the one to make the deal, so he presents the fetus to the "Crew Cut Man", who shoots him seconds later. Mulder is released from the "Crew Cut Man's" van as he drives off. Scully tends to Deep Throat, who utters his last words before dying: "Trust no one".

Several weeks later, a despondent Mulder calls Scully to inform her that the X-Files have been shut down. Meanwhile, in a scene mirroring the conclusion to the pilot, the Smoking Man stores the alien fetus in the massive evidence room within the Pentagon.

Memorable QuotesEdit

"Trust... no... one...."

- Deep Throat to Agent Scully

Background InformationEdit

Story and ScriptEdit

  • This episode evolved over a lengthy period of time. Chris Carter explained, "'The Erlenmeyer Flask', which is the season-ender for year one, was something that I had thought about all year long [....] For me, it was the result of a year-long learning experience." Carter was interested in exploring a theme of genetics. "I had been wanting to do a story about alien genes and alien hybrids," he revealed, "and the idea that there were scientists who were using this material from aliens that had been collected or recovered or salvaged, and trying to mix them with human DNA." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: The Erlenmeyer Flask", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) Carter also wanted this season finale to be an extremely memorable tour-de-force. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 50)
  • The scene where Dr. Secare poisons the paramedics while being operated on was inspired by actual news headlines regarding the real-life case of Gloria Ramirez, a Los Angeles woman who reportedly emitted toxic fumes while having blood drawn in February 1994. "You can make the connections, but they weren't perfect connections," observed Chris Carter. "It wasn't like you might see in another show, where they exactly recreate the woman who's brought in and when they open her up, these fumes come out. I wanted this to be a little bit different, obviously. This guy's got alien blood in him. I wanted to speculate a little bit about what this might be." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 58) Concerning the news story, R.W. Goodwin added, "Chris kind of put that together and said, 'Well, that's a great thing for aliens, you know? Aliens probably have that,' and so that's what led to this sequence, with the alien gasses escaping from the body and blinding our poor paramedics." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • The scene wherein Mulder discovers rows of tanks which contain human-alien hybrids floating in water arose from a televised news report Glen Morgan had recorded and shown to Chris Carter. The program was about a cow that was alive underwater. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 58)
  • According to Chris Carter, one reason why this episode concludes with the death of Deep Throat was that Carter, having found the character's supply of information to Mulder had been done in a highly "systematic and predictable way," had become "interested in exploring new ways of Mulder getting his information." (X-Files Confidential, p. 34) Furthermore, Carter wanted to reinforce, by killing off Deep Throat, a sense that "anyone is expendable" on the series, a means of keeping viewers guessing about what twists and turns might occur. ("Deep Throat" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features; The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 156) Carter explained, "I wanted everyone who watches the show to say to themselves, 'I better watch carefully because anything can happen.' No one is safe. Nothing is sacred. Trust no one." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 45) Actor Jerry Hardin suspected he aided the conception of this plot point, believing it to be the writing staff's reaction to him having tried to pressure them into making Deep Throat a regular part. (X-Files Confidential, p. 34) Carter denied this theory, however, saying he hadn't decided to kill the character off until late in the first season. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 45)
  • Closing down the X-Files Unit in this season finale and thereby separating Mulder and Scully provided a way to work around, through the start of the next season, the fact Gillian Anderson was pregnant. The shut-down of the X-files, though, was not conceived as a response to Anderson's condition. "I knew I wanted to close down the X-Files anyway," Chris Carter revealed. This plot point was actually devised as a way of bookending the season, considering the FBI was – according to Carter – attempting to close down the X-files in the pilot episode. Carter recalled his thinking at the time; "Get to the end of the first season, why not make them successful?" He wrote the plot development into this episode with the intention of having the files be reopened in the following season. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 45) However, their deactivation in this episode sparked concern from Fox. Offered Glen Morgan, "That was another case where we had to fight the network. They said, 'Closing the X-Files is completely unacceptable. We will not air it because people will believe the show's been canceled.' My response was, 'It's your job to let them know it hasn't, and this is the best way to end the season.'" (X-Files Confidential, p. 76)
  • This episode's script went through three drafts. These were dated 8th, 14th and 18th April 1994.

Cast and CharactersEdit

  • Gillian Anderson appeared in this outing while heavily pregnant. Estimated R.W. Goodwin, "I think she was in about her fourth month or something." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features) Appearing herein at a time in her pregnancy was a struggle for Anderson. She later reflected, "To have a life inside you and pretend that you don't – as well as all the hormonal things that were happening at the time – was very difficult during that episode." (Sci-Fi Universe, Vol. 2, No. 10, p. 21)

Filming LocationsEdit

  • The Zeus Storage warehouse at 1616 Pandora Street was actually located at 1616 Pandora Street. "I had come up with an elaborate address that had some kind of strange significance to genetics," Chris Carter recalled, "and we got to the location and they said, 'So, you want us to paint a sign for this place, and it's supposed to say this, this, and this,' and I said, 'No, you know, I think 1616 Pandora is actually a better address.' It [the scene in which Mulder finds lots of tanks] was an opening of Pandora's Box, in a way, so I thought [...] [the address] was very useful." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season 1 Episodes: The Erlenmeyer Flask", TXF Season 1 DVD special features)
  • The exterior of Mulder's apartment was represented by an apartment building called The Wellington, located at 2630 York Street, Vancouver. At first, the bridge where Deep Throat is killed was chosen to be the northbound half of Vancouver's Cambie Street bridge. Partly because R.W. Goodwin was concerned that location might appear isolated, Vanterm Overpass – on Vancouver's Clark Drive – was instead selected, with an overview of the scene from atop an adjacent series of grain elevators at the United Grain Growers facility. The Pentagon warehouse featured in the final scene was the Open Learning Agency at 4355 Mathissi Place, Burnaby, which had originally been scouted for the series' pilot episode. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), pp. 49-51)

ProductionEdit

The Erlenmeyer Flask shooting schedule
The cover of this episode's shooting schedule.
MulderAdded by Mulder
  • This was the first episode directed by R.W. Goodwin, a co-executive producer on the series. He found this installment to be very demanding, realizing this when he first read the script. "It was just packed to the top with action and effects and odd and weird goings-on," he reflected. ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features) With Goodwin having been made responsible for directing the installment, the script provoked a feeling of "stark terror" in him. ("Behind the Truth: The Erlenmeyer Flask", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) Goodwin divulged, "'Erlenmeyer Flask' was a huge challenge for a filmmaker, because there were so many diverse elements in terms of chases and action and suspense and effects." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 58)
  • This episode was challenging for all involved in its production. Recollected R.W. Goodwin, "In terms of a challenge, and coming at the end of the season – after a real long, tough time – this was a very difficult show, demanding physically, mentally, and every other way [....] At the end of a very long year, the cast and crew were so tired, yet they all took a deep breath and just said, 'Here we go, guys,' and they gave the finale a two-hundred-percent effort. There's not one department that fell down." (X-Files Confidential, p. 77) Speaking from the perspective of the art department, Art Director Graeme Murray agreed, "That was a big show for us [....] That was a big set show." (X-Files Confidential, p. 76) Location Manager Todd Pittson concurred by saying the number of not only locations but sets too, including "five large builds on our soundstages," meant the episode's requirements were "extraordinary for a fledging television series." (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 49)
  • Much of the car chase in the teaser was shot by a second unit crew, directed by J.P. Finn. "We had such a busy, hectic day shooting that whole opening chase and the fight and the dive into the water, all of that stuff that we had to do," stated R.W. Goodwin. ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • The biggest challenge with two of the scenes in which Dr. Berube appears was trying to motivate monkeys, caged in Berube's lab, to react crazily on cue. "Among other things, the room was quite warm and the monkeys had been there for a little while," explained R.W. Goodwin. "I mean, it wasn't uncomfortably warm, but warm enough so that there was this extremely ripe odor permeating this room." Goodwin was pleased with the performances of the animals. "The monkeys actually did a pretty good job. I mean, it was a bit of trickery here and there, staging it and shooting it in such a way that you could piece it all together, but all of the little moments that were required, somehow they managed to pull it off for us." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • The night-time scene in which the underwater manhunt for Dr. Secare is called off, observed by him, includes a shot where a police boat moves past the camera and a pan down to the water reveals the man raising his head out of the water. One ultimately unused method was briefly experimented with, filming the shot in real time, in Versatel Shipyard. R.W. Goodwin explained, "We actually had this actor reading through to, on a crane that we had under the water that we had levered, so that we could actually raise him up out of the bay, but the timing of it wasn't quite right. It worked [...] but the timing wasn't right. It was all done as one shot, so I had to take him back later and shoot that piece of his head coming up out of the water in a [four-foot] tank on the stage." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • So the shot could be filmed, Secare actor Simon Webb had to face the fact he had a phobia of water, which the production unit hadn't initially known about. "And so here this poor guy – actually the first night – spent all that time in the cold, icy waters of North Vancouver, hiding, crouching down so that he could be lifted up by the crane, up to make his big reveal on the surface of the water," R.W. Goodwin reported, "and he spent the whole night just absolutely terrified at the prospect of having to do that [....] Even in the little four-foot tank on stage he was just as frightened of that, so that's what you call going beyond the call of duty." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • A shot of Mulder looking at a key, having just entered the Zeus Storage warehouse, was filmed with a dolly zoom. R.W. Goodwin used this camera effect to give the shot "kind of [...] an odd effect, a little bit of mystery thing as Mulder is looking at the key." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • R.W. Goodwin observed the assignment of including hybridized men inside the liquid-filled tanks "offered an interesting challenge." He elaborated, "The question was, 'How do we do this?' The first one of the thoughts was we would create these bodies out of plastic or some form, just to sculpt them and then make them, but that proved to be not only expensive but probably not very effective." It was afterwards that Goodwin decided upon the solution of using divers. "We had provided them with a breathing tube so that between takes they would breathe and they would take a deep breath and then they'd put the tube down, they'd hide it when we were ready to make a take." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features) Because all the divers were naked, there was a lot of women who suddenly seemed interested in the filming and many of them visited the set. ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features; The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 53)
  • While filming the chase sequence in which Mulder is pursued, R.W. Goodwin learned David Duchovny could run remarkably fast. "He had to jump a fence and run down the alley [....] I think we possibly used stuntmen in one big wide shot going over the fence but, for the most part, this was all David and the problem we had here was keeping up with him. I had a golf cart to start with and he just passed that like, you know, a bolt of lightning and, ultimately, I ended up having to be on a regular pick-up truck that could travel up to fifty miles an hour," Goodwin laughed, "just in order to keep up with him." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • A set built for this episode was the attic where Dr. Secare is shot by the Crew Cut Man. This environment was constructed due to the difficulty of finding a real attic with enough room for a film crew and their equipment. ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • Signs of the effects from the alien toxic gas around Mulder's eyes and mouth were portrayed by David Duchovny wearing makeup. R.W. Goodwin relayed, "This was apparently very painful [...] or at least very uncomfortable, for David; he had to wear it for quite a while." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • The Fort Marlene storage room from which Scully removes an alien fetus was built especially for this episode. "This whole little set was designed and everything just for this one moment [in the episode]," clarified R.W. Goodwin. ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • Although several tests with the alien fetus prop in liquid nitrogen resulted in the extraterrestrial feature merely frosting over and steaming, the combination of the dry ice together with hot studio lights – on the day the prop was needed for production – meant the alien fetus repeatedly broke apart. ("Behind the Truth: The Erlenmeyer Flask", TXF Season 1 DVD special features; "The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features) The production personnel found this after the first take involving the fetus. ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features) R.W. Goodwin and Make-up Effects Supervisor Toby Lindala consequently became very nervous about whether they would manage to achieve the shot. ("Behind the Truth: The Erlenmeyer Flask", TXF Season 1 DVD special features; "The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features) Lindala made repeated, frantic attempts to glue the prop back together and, at one point, he had just moved out of shot when, immediately thereafter, a chunk of the alien's head went blasting off in a certain direction. ("Behind the Truth: The Erlenmeyer Flask", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) The production unit finally managed to capture the footage they required, as they fortunately had one back-up of the fetus prop. ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • Part of the reasoning why the Cambie Street bridge was not used as the filming location for Deep Throat's death scene was that R.W. Goodwin wanted to shoot a high-angle master shot for the scene, something that was not obtainable on or near that bridge. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 49) Goodwin fully planned the filming of the scene prior to its production, which took place in April 1994. "My plan [...] [was] to shoot this high scene, get down on the bridge and shoot this dialogue scene, the little piece with the two of them at the car where she's not going to give him the [fetus] [....] Then we [would] go and do all the physical stuff that was needed for the whole sequence." (X-Files Confidential, p. 77) However, the filming was delayed by the arrival of policemen. "What happened was, the night we shot that scene, we had a little scene to shoot somewhere else and we had to move over to this bridge. The plan was to get there an hour before it got dark so we could block the scene [....] We got to the location to block the scene. One end of the bridge was handled by the Vancouver police, and they didn't show up." (X-Files Confidential, p. 77) Elaborated Goodwin, "It was a really difficult experience for me because what happened was this particular bridge that we chose was sort of under the jurisdiction of two different authorities. On one side was the Port of Vancouver and the other side was the City of Vancouver, and in order for us to shoot there, we had to have some Port policemen with us as well as some City policemen with us [...] and we were not allowed to shut this bridge down until the officers arrived." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • R.W. Goodwin prepared to film the overview of the scene. "So I ran up to the top of this huge factory building that was nearby to get this big high shot that sort of gave us the wide sweeping view of everything. We were all ready to shoot as soon as the policemen got there and then it was just a race against time." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features) To acquire maximum production value from the location, Director of Photography John S. Bartley requested more lighting for the grain elevators themselves. This required special HMI lights with sealed electrical boxes to minimize the danger of highly flammable grain dust coming into contact with a spark or electrical current. A row of lights was placed at the foot of the elevators to add to the existent yard lighting and give depth to several of the reverse shots on the overpass itself. Additionally, a cameo net was thrown over a railcar parked under the overpass to hide its clearly Canadian markings. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), pp. 49-50)
  • By the time the required policemen arrived, R.W. Goodwin had lost an hour of potential filming time. (X-Files Confidential, p. 77) As time was short, he realized that, in the worst case scenario, he could shoot the close-ups for the scene on a stage or somewhere else and that the close-ups were the only parts of the scene he could film elsewhere. (X-Files Confidential, p. 77; "The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features) "I could fake the night," Goodwin supposed, "because it's not that big an area to cover, so I shot all of the wide stuff like the van coming up the road and the meeting on the bridge and all of that sort of thing first, and saved the close-ups to the very end." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features) As a result, the actors, in Goodwin's words, spent a long time "running back and forth and getting shot and dropping dead and doing all the things they had to do." (X-Files Confidential, p. 77)
  • The filming of Deep Throat being shot to death was intentionally demonstrated from Scully's perspective. Stated R.W. Goodwin, "I really felt it was important to get a real clear point of view, and the point of view was Scully. I wanted it to be extremely shocking when she saw Deep Throat shot. I wanted that to be completely unexpected, like Hitchcock killing off Janet Leigh in Psycho [...] and so I designed it all to be done that way." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 58)
  • The only casualty of the evening's shoot was the cameo net which had been hurled over an obviously Canadian-marked railcar parked beneath the Vanterm Overpass. At some point in the early hours of the morning, this railcar and numerous others were abruptly shunted down the railway line, taking the netting with them. Although the crew still had studio work on their schedule following the shoot at the Vanterm Overpass, the filming there constituted the team's final day on location for the production of the first season. The crew celebrated the occasion with champagne at sunrise. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files) pp. 49-50)

Continuity and TriviaEdit

  • This is the first episode of The X-Files in which the words "The truth is out there" do not appear at the end of the opening credits sequence. Instead, the words "Trust no one" are used, as they are Deep Throat's last words.
  • Certain elements first established here went on to become significant parts of The X-Files' mythology, such as genetic experiments, noxious alien blood, government conspirators, alien babies and cut-throat assassins. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, pp. 50 & 52) Chris Carter expressed, "I think that it was an episode that really, I feel, established a mythology: what the government may be up to, how they may be in cahoots with the aliens." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: The Erlenmeyer Flask", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) R.W. Goodwin concurred, "This was the beginning. I mean, I guess we had some, you know, elements of the mythology through the first season, but this 'Erlenmeyer Flask' was the first, was the one that really sort of ramped it all up and really kind of churned up, you know, the pot, everything." Goodwin contemplated this episode as being "just the beginning" of a theme about black ops groups and secret agendas, hidden within the intelligence community and the government. ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • A scene from the 1959 film Journey to the Center of the Earth can be seen and heard near the start of this episode, in the scene where Mulder awakens on his couch and answers a phone call from Deep Throat.
  • Chris Carter believed discovering alien bacteria was an important step for the ongoing development of the Scully character. "For the first time, I think, we have Scully in a situation where she has a scientist, someone like herself, a doctor, say to her, 'You're looking at something that is... essentially extraterrestrial,'" observed Carter, "and it's a big, big moment for her." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season 1 Episodes: The Erlenmeyer Flask", TXF Season 1 DVD special features)
  • It is unknown how Scully managed to smuggle the alien fetus out of the high-security facility where it was held, why she didn't keep it under liquid nitrogen, and exactly what happened to the Erlenmeyer flask referenced in the episode's title.
  • The final two scenes of this episode are, combined, an allusion to the end of the first episode, "Pilot", intended to bring the story of the first season full-circle.
  • This is the first episode in which the alias "Deep Throat" is used. Scully establishes the term, when she calls her and Mulder's informant "this Deep Throat character."
  • Even following his murder in this episode, the recurring character of Deep Throat continues to make multiple reappearances on the series. For instance, archive footage of his death scene from this installment is shown in Season 2's "Red Museum" and the series finale, Season 9's "The Truth".
  • The Erlenmeyer flask from this episode features again in the Season 6 episode "One Son".

ReceptionEdit

  • Chris Carter was extremely proud of this outing. "'Erlenmeyer Flask' brings back nothing but good memories," he reminisced. "It just has terrific images in it; it really brought the series in its first year full circle. It was successful in doing what we wanted to do, which was to close down the X-Files [....] I think it led us into the second season in a very interesting way." (X-Files Confidential, p. 76) In fact, Carter deemed this episode highly important to the whole Mythology of The X-Files. He related, "I think that it may have been, really, the signature Mythology episode; not only a sign to the audience of what we were capable of, but certainly a realization for me, of where we could take this show if we explored these different avenues of government conspiracy and turn it into more than just flying saucers. It became about mankind and about science and the misuse of it." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: The Erlenmeyer Flask", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) Carter was particularly delighted with this episode's final few moments. He observed, "The storytelling is circular anyway. So to get to the end of the season and come right back to where you began–I'm so proud of that!" (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 58)
  • R.W. Goodwin likewise held this installment in high acclaim, at one time citing it as his favorite episode. "It was the best script by far," he opined. When it came time to direct this outing, he had a mix of not only terror due to it being as challenging as it was but also "elation at this fabulous script." ("Behind the Truth: The Erlenmeyer Flask", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) "Everything about that episode is absolutely first class," he raved. "The acting, the art direction, the camera work. There's nothing in it that isn't the best you can get, and that's really a credit to a lot of very talented people." (X-Files Confidential, p. 77) One aspect Goodwin was impressed with was the set for the water-filled tanks, of which he commented, "That was a hell of a set." (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 53)
  • Graeme Murray held "The Erlenmeyer Flask" in high regard too. He remarked, "That was [...] pretty interesting; a show where the script really inspired everybody to do the best job they could do." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 76-77)
  • This installment was also a highlight for Composer Mark Snow. He commented, "It was a big, big show, it was a very exciting score and that's my favorite score." ("The Truth About Season One", TXF Season 1 DVD special features)
  • This episode achieved a Nielsen household rating of 8.8, with an audience share of 16. This means that roughly 8.8 percent of all television-equipped households, and 16 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode. It was viewed by 8.3 million households. These viewing figures were the highest in the first season of The X-Files. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 248) R.W. Goodwin called this installment "one of the episodes that sort of helped kick us up into kind of hit status." Goodwin remarked, "It was interesting because [...] a lot of people watched this [...] and apparently enough people were intrigued by it [to bring them back]." ("The Erlenmeyer Flask" audio commentary, The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 - Abduction special features)
  • The fact that, outside of the US, an Erlenmeyer flask is referred to as a "conical flask" is a source of considerable confusion to non-US fans, owing to the obscurity of the word "Erlenmeyer". In Brazil, the episode was renamed "Jogo de Gato e Rato", which loosely translates as "Cat and Mouse Game", in a direct allusion to Mulder and Deep Throat. The "Erlenmeyer Flask" referenced in the episode title is often incorrectly thought to refer to the metal holder containing the alien fetus. In fact, it refers to the glass flask containing the black liquid labeled "purity control", found in Dr. William Secare's laboratory. The alien fetus is removed from a vacuum flask instead, by Scully.
  • Many viewers were shocked by the death of Deep Throat in this episode. R.W. Goodwin found it, similar to the death of Janet Leigh in Psycho, had an intense affect on the audience. (X-Files Confidential, p. 34) Said Chris Carter, "Glen [Morgan] told me he got a message on his machine when the show ended, a woman with a shaky voice saying, 'What have you done?' They couldn't believe we had killed off a very popular character and closed the X-Files." (X-Files Confidential, p. 76)
  • Cinefantastique (Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 58) rates this episode 3 and a half out of 4 stars. The magazine comments, "'The Erlenmeyer Flask' is tremendously exciting and tremendously depressing [....] Duchovny, Anderson and Hardin make [...] for an exceptional acting ensemble, each with memorable scenes. Visually, 'The Erlenmeyer Flask' is [...] one eye-filling scene after the other: the frozen alien fetus, the warehouse full of glowing, womblike tanks and the hybrids floating within; Deep Throat as he pleads with Scully for the package that will take him to his death (Hardin is terrific in his final X-Files performance)." The magazine additionally characterizes the depiction of Deep Throat's death as "a scene of appallingly swift and matter-of-fact violence" and goes on to say, "The episode's weaknesses come in several illogical turns of the plot–this story needed at least an hour and a half to play out. But the plot holes slip by as the fast-paced story progresses inexorably to the shocking climax on the bridge, and the heartwrenching coda: Mulder's phone call to Scully telling her the X-Files have been shut down. Duchovny gives a beautifully judged, on-the-edge-of-tears performance in this scene."
  • In his reference book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium and The Lone Gunmen, writer Robert Shearman gave this episode 4 out of 5 stars. He described the change of the tag line to "Trust no one" as "a real shock," and continued, "It signifies that however familiar the trappings of the episode, something off-kilter has taken place. And so it turns out to be. On the face of it, there's so much here that feels like an echo of what we've already seen [....] 'The Erlenmeyer Flask' promises new information, but delivers only scraps. But what's clever about it is that it makes us feel we're watching the same series through a sudden harsher light, with all the tricks and clichés of the show coming back and biting. It makes it a disquieting experience, one in which we get our first sense of the power of Mulder's opponents [....] You get the impression that Mulder and Scully are in no position to promise anything, that they've only been allowed to carry on with their work this long because they hadn't quite upset the status quo enough to be worth bothering with – but that now they've drawn attention to themselves, they can be easily squashed. Conceived as a possible finale to the series, this would have been a brave, even nihilistic conclusion. What's remarkable is that this isn't as depressing as it ought to be. There's a real sense of wonder to the episode, as Chris Carter pours on the moments of revelation [....] Did I say revelation? Well, maybe not [....] More is suggested than is ever explained [....] Chris Carter's script almost falls over itself with its excitement to talk about genome projects and DNA experiments, and barely finds the space to provide a connecting narrative. The reason why this episode works almost because of this, rather than just in spite of it, is because it has a dynamism behind it which feels so fresh. The plotting unravels by the end [...] [but] the rush of non-explanations that the episode seems to offer the audience are thrilling stuff, because you can honestly feel that to get these table leavings of truth, the series' format has been wrecked."
  • Following its introduction in this episode, the motto "Trust no one" became a catchphrase for The X-Files and Jerry Hardin, who used it while signing autographs for fans in Glasgow. "I signed a bunch of young chicks' backs and arms and necks with, 'Trust no one, Jerry Hardin,'" he remembered. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 53)
  • The night shoot in which R.W. Goodwin filmed an exhausted Gillian Anderson but came away pleased with the results had a subsequent effect on Goodwin. "It taught me a lesson," he declared. "If I'm in a similar situation, I'm going to do the same thing exact thing." (X-Files Confidential, p. 78)

CastEdit

Main Cast

Guest Starring

Co-Starring

Featuring

ReferencesEdit

Syndicate Operatives; Purity Control;

The X-Files Season 1
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Roland
Next episode:
Little Green Men
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