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War of the Coprophages

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The X-Files episode The-X-Files-2-32
Roach
Series: The X-Files
Original Airdate: January 5, 1996
Production Number: 3x12
Date(s): Unknown
Written by: Darin Morgan
Directed by: Kim Manners
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"War of the Coprophages" is the twelfth episode of the third season of The X-Files.

SynopsisEdit

Mulder gets caught up investigating what could be alien-mechanical cockroaches with metal bodies.

SummaryEdit

An exterminator in a basement lectures about the cockroach. He tells the home owner, an alternative fuel researcher named Dr. Eckerle, that he has a new method of extermination, a fungus that not only kills the infected roach, but is passed on to other roaches it comes into contact with. After the home owner leaves exterminator to finish the job, a particularly "arrogant bug" resists the fungus, so the exterminator flicks it to the floor and stamps on it. Immediately he feels something happening to his body, and he stumbles to the wall where more cockroaches appear covering his body as he falls to the ground. The home owner returns to find the exterminator on the floor covered in roaches.

Meanwhile Agent Mulder is in his car looking out for reported lights in the sky. He has a phone conversation with Scully with regard to his whereabouts when he is interrupted by a local sheriff. That too is cut short when the sheriff is called to the roach incident, the third such incident in a week.

He calls Scully to report on the three mysterious deaths, but she gives him a standard scientific explanation that many people are allergic to roaches.

There is another attack, this time on a young man, who was taking drugs with friends; the insects crawl into his arms and he dies. Again Mulder calls Scully from the scene, this time she puts it down to a drug-induced vision, but Mulder discovers a roach carcass that he thinks is actually made of metal.

After more roaches attack the medical examiner, the sheriff tells Mulder of a secret government experiment taking place locally. Again Mulder calls Scully, and this time she puts the death down to an aneurysm due to straining too hard while on the toilet. The doctor's blood shot eyes and dilated pupils confirm her suspicions. Mulder visits the government site, a two story house with "moving walls" due to the number of roaches. A government agent, Dr. Bambi Berenbaum of the US agricultural research service says they are studying cockroaches to find better ways to eradicate them.

Dr. Berenbaum tells Mulder she thinks that UFOs are actually insect swarms. He takes a call from Scully but hangs up after saying only, "Not now." There is obviously an attraction between Mulder and Dr. Berenbaum. Mulder phones Scully later that night from his hotel room and confesses he hates insects. He hears a scream and goes to a room down the hall to find a hotel guest dead. The death is put down to a heart attack, he gets the medical reports back and all of the attacks are put down to the method of death Scully had told him, but the roach exoskeleton was made of metal.

Dr. Berenbaum tells Mulder about a robotics expert who may know something about the roaches. Mulder visits Dr. Alexander Ivanov, who explains about his experiments based on insects. Mulder asks Dr. Ivanov if aliens might use robotic bugs to search Earth, he says it's possible, but when he shows the doctor the metallic roach legs he can't believe it.

Scully arrives but the town is in mass panic; everyone is trying to leave as quickly as possible. Scully calls Mulder with a new theory: that the roaches have been imported with manure used in methane experiments. When Mulder visits the methane plant, the researcher shoots at Mulder believing he is a cockroach. Scully arrives at the plant (and is less than impressed with Dr. Berenbaum, who is waiting for Mulder outside), and begins searching for her partner. However, when she calls Mulder and his phone sounds like a roach, Dr. Eckerle shoots at Mulder again, and, as the two agents flee, the building explodes.

The roach incidents stop, although the sheriff lists the other incidents (fires, car accidents, and so on) that came as a result of the town's panic. Mulder's report focuses on man's development; the next advancement may be a species that does not have the emotion that holds back man and is simply reactive to the environment, like insects.

Background InformationEdit

General InformationEdit

The word "coprophages" actually means "dung eaters".

Kim Manners was having trouble directing this episode because of cockroaches being cockroaches and scurrying around everywhere.

When shooting the toilet scenes, Kim got infuriated, and jokingly stuck his head in where the bucket the cockroaches were being kept and directed them what to do. When he went to shoot the scene again, the cockroaches did exactly as he said.

During Mulder's first meeting with Dr. Ivanov, a cockroach can be seen crawling over the camera, making it appear that the viewer's TV has become infested. The roach is still visible in the next cut shot, suggesting it was added deliberately during post-production.

Bobbie Phillips, playing Dr. Bambi, starred alongside David Duchovny in the Showtime anthology series Red Shoe Diaries.

Tyler Labine and Nicole Parker, credited as the "Stoner" and the "Chick" respectively, return later this season in Quagmire.

Scully is reading Breakfast at Tiffany's, a reference to David Duchovny's appearance on Celebrity Jeopardy. The Final Jeopardy question referred to this Truman Capote novel. Unfortunately, David guessed wrong and lost the game.

Scully still has the Pomeranian from Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose.

Scully's observation of "smart is sexy" in this episode has become an iconic term used to describe Mulder and Scully.

Along with the roach running across the screen, there is a beetle chirp at the very end of the episode, just before the credits roll.

Scully used "Die Flea, Die!" to bathe her dog, Queequeg.

Dr. Bambi Berenbaum is named after famous (and really funny) entomologist Dr. May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, and who also keeps live insects in her desk.

Dr. Jeff Eckerle (the man with the intense fear of bugs) is very likely named after the Jeff Eckerle who served as a creative consultant for Secrets of the X-Files, Part 2 and who would later serve as a writer/producer for a couple of the earlier seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

The character name Sheriff Frass: Frass is the word used to refer to, specifically, caterpillar dung, or I suppose in a stretch, any insect feces.

Name of Town: Miller's Grove
The name of the town is a reference to Orson Welles' famous 1938 radio dramatisation of the H.G. Wells novel War of the Worlds. Welles' version of the story had the martian invaders landing in Grover's Mill, New Jersey (randomly picked off a map). The broadcast caused widespread panic among Americans who believed that the world was truly being invaded by aliens, and scenes such as the one in the convenience store actually happened.

Bill Dow makes an appearance as Dr. Newton. Dow is best known by fans as Dr. Burks, who is a recurring character.

GoofsEdit

As the sheriff drives off there is a visible reflection of the boom-mic in the rear driver side window 6:55

In the hotel, just before shot goes from dead man to Mulder, the dead guy takes a breath.

25:12 there is a close-up shot of the dead man's face, in hotel, his eyes are closed, but when Mulder sees him at 25:27 his eyes are open.

Factual Error: In the pre-credits opening narration, Dr. Bugger waxes eloquent about the evolution and characteristics of the cockroach. He states that they appeared during the "Sirulian" period". He probably meant the Silurian period, which ran from approximately 440 million to 415 million years ago. However, he is still in error, as the earliest cockroach fossils date from the Carboniferous period, some 55 million years later.

Scully tells Mulder that Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet. However, this is an urban legend. Despite his name, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet, but did help to improve it with his patent for the floating ballcock among others. The toilet was actually invented by Sir John Harington, and later patented by Alexander Cummings. There was a man named Thomas Crapper (1836-1910), and he did own a company that made plumbing equipment ranging from manhole covers to, yes, flush toilets, but they were based on a design patented by a man named John Giblin. Flush toilets were common in Roman cities, and evidence of their design go back 4600 years to the ancient Indus valley city of Mohenjo-Daro. The word crap has nothing to do with Mr. Crapper.

AllusionsEdit

Ekbom's Syndrome Mentioned by Scully as a reference to the stoner guy's belief he has cockroaches inside him. It's a very real syndrome (sometimes known as cocaine bugs, but more medically known as Delusional Parasitosis) when people think they have parasites inside their body, usually insects or worms. It can be exacerbated by use of certain stimulant drugs, most commonly cocaine or methamphetamine. It's named after Karl Axel Ekbom who published accounts of the disease in 1937. Not to be confused with Wittmaack-Ekbom Syndrome, which is restless legs syndrome, a completely different condition, but often also called simply Ekbom's Syndrome.

This is also a play on H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. Literally, it means "War of the Dung Eaters".

CastEdit

Starring

Guest Starring

Co-Starring

Featuring

ReferencesEdit

Doctor; Bambi Berenbaum; Miller's Grove; Massachusetts; dung; methane gas; looting; razor blade; exoskeleton; aneurysm; Choco Droppings; Breakfast at Tiffany's; Die Bug Die; Queequeg; United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); entomologist; Alt-fuel

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