Pilot

Six years after the series finale, as I opened up the first boxed DVD set and began my trip down memory lane, I’m fascinated to discover how so many scenes and lines of dialogue remind me of pivotal moments in the series and I see them all as one.  It’s amazing to me that Chris Carter repeated the same things so often and they never lost their effect.  In fact, it is almost subliminal.  I never realize that so many threads that run to the very end of the show, to the season finale, were first introduced in the pilot.  Obviously, I knew that the last scene of the series revisited the hotel scene with Mulder and Scully from the first episode, but there were so many other things I’d forgotten.  The pilot was one big archetype for the more than 200 shows that followed.
 
Ah, yes.  The first meeting.  When Mulder emphasizes the word “Scully,” just to let her know he doesn’t necessarily think she comes in peace.  I suppose this is the last time that Scully ever knocks before entering the office.  That’s something that struck me in IWTB.  When Scully first entered the secluded house, I didn’t know she was living there with Mulder, but I did see that she was comfortable enough there that she didn’t bother knocking before entering his lair.  In retrospect, there’s something about their first meeting that seems classic and auspicious from the very start. It doesn’t feel like a show that is still stumbling to find it’s footing, as we watch unknown characters greet each other for the first time.  It already seems that we’re viewing the first encounter in a relationship that will be important.  Of course, I can say that 15 years after the fact, knowing what I know.  But I’ve seen pilots of other shows that became hits and that feeling of moment and gravitas isn’t in all of their pilots.  The first meeting between Mulder and Scully played like a flashback, rather than a pilot scene.  It felt like we were looking back on something that had already been established.  You can almost sense the future in their initial handshake.

It was strange to hear their voices sound so high and young.  Gillian’s was lilting.  The show became known for its robotic characters (famously lampooned on the Springfield Files episode of The Simpsons), but Mulder and Scully weren’t speaking in monotones in the Pilot.  They had an exuberance I had not remembered.  Scully smiled more easily.  Looking back, I can see the way the characters changed over the years is actually realistic, because what they experienced would naturally have immunized and hardened them a little.  It’s like the president aging after he’s been elected and taken office., the weight of his responsibility making him older, more somber than his years.  I see that in Mulder and Scully, even if the actors didn’t intend it.

The thing about the show is that so much of it is artificial.  That unreal dialogue that they speak and the unnatural way it’s delivered.  Sometimes they talk by rote, as if they’re reciting rather than expressing.  You’d think you would discard it as phony immediately.  But for me, although their words are stilted and unbelievable, the emotion in their eyes and faces is so genuine that I buy the dialogue.  I buy those people unconditionally.

I was trying to get a friend hooked on the show and she told me she was interested, but that she was afraid of aliens.  She said even if they’re fake looking aliens, they scare her anyway.  I told her not to worry.  That she wouldn’t see a real alien on the show, fake or not, for about 5 years.  I had totally forgotten there was an alien corpse in a coffin in the first episode!

One thing that stuck out to me as far as the MSR goes (Mulder and Scully relationship) is the way Mulder was taking pictures when Scully performed the autopsy and she ordered him to please stop pointing that flash in her face.  I’m not sure why that line was there and I don’t know quite what it says.  I guess it showed that Scully can draw boundaries, even though Mulder is the one usually in charge.  She did get to show her commanding side, as she pulled her gun on the Sheriff.  She identified herself as an agent and told him to drop his weapon.  The sheriff did not.  So, assertive Scully did not prevail, but I liked seeing her that early on in the show.

 
Later, when she’s examining Billy Miles and learns that Mulder has information that he’s been keeping from her, she leaves the hospital in a hurry.  Surprised, Mulder hurries after her and jokes about her not saying goodbye to the patient.  I’d forgotten that Scully walked away then, fed up, alienated.  It’s not unlike the (rather annoying) stance she took in IWTB, not to mention the (rather childish) way she ran away when she saw Mulder with Diana Fowley.

I’d forgotten that Cigarette Smoking Man was in the very first meeting that Scully was seen having with FBI supervisors.  Chris Carter says they lucked out with WBD.  They didn’t need the actor to speak, so they didn’t look for talent when they cast the role.  They just sought someone who could LOOK the part.  But they picked the right time, because when it got to a point when they wanted to give him dialogue and drama, William was more than up for the part.

I’d forgotten that Mulder mockingly called her “Dr. Scully” in that first show.  He called her “doc” in the last movie too. 

 
When Mulder knocked on Scully’s door to  ask if she wanted to go for a run, she said she was sleepy and even yawned.  He asked her if she figured out what the metal thing in the nose was and she said she wasn’t losing sleep over it.  She lied.  She didn’t go to bed after closing the door because she was still thinking about that thing. 

She’s striking a facade that early on.  I guess this is where, “I’m fine” is born.  Another thing we see in the pilot, that is repeated throughout the series is Scully in bed, but not asleep.  Awake, thoughtful.  Clock on the bedside next to her.  Mulder calls and says they need to talk.  Already he’s gone from thinking of her as the enemy sent to debunk him, to thinking of her as the partner he needs to make plans with.  She says ok they’ll talk tomorrow.  Her response is hard to read.  She’s not upset that he’s calling so late, yet not overly-anxious to speak with him to discuss the conspiracy he perceives.  She’s not reluctant, but not eager either.  There’s a strange ambivalence.  He told her he was not crazy and I think she believes that already, but does she suspect he’s paranoid?  It’s too early  to pinpoint what she feels about him or her new job.  Maybe we’re spying a woman at a cross-roads, just steps before she reaches a point of no return.  Lying there in the bed,  her countenance is impassive. 

 
I think the rain scene is more famous from the blooper reel than it is from Pilot.  When Scully finally finishes her sputtering, shivering sentence, that laugh we hear is Gillian’s not Dana’s.  Mulder is nodding and grinning, but I don’t know what his reaction means in terms of the plot.  Is Scully laughing because his theory, as she’s crazily articulated it, is ridiculous?  Is he laughing with her, at her, at himself?  Would the moment have played the same way if Gillian could have gotten it in one take? The finished scene reads like an outtake actually.
 
Mulder in the opening is everything he always is,  everything that David  is.  A jerk,: spitting out sunflower seeds , smirking, wisecracking, withholding.  Sensitive, solid, vulnerable, unbelievably intelligent, obviously trustworthy.  She tells him to trust her.  She already seems to trust him.  Flings herself into his arms after he diagnoses her mosquito bites.  He’s filled her head with unscientific nonsense and, against her will, a small part of her believes in it, because she already believes in him.  And I think already she’s fighting not just him and his zany suspicions but herself and that part of her so ready to be persuaded and influenced.
 
In Scully’s first scenes Gillian is . . . well, the most incredible thing that ever drew breath.  I could try to be thoughtful about it, but I  just don’t have too many viewpoints where that is concerned.

Looking at Mulder put his hand on Scully’s back as he tells her they are going back to their hotel or the way they lightly touch hands when they come together in the rain, it occurs to me that they became much stingier with physical contact during the course of the series  than they were in the Pilot.  Compared to what evolved, they almost seemed touchy-feely in the pilot by comparison.  I know in Squeeze he’s fingering her jewelry.  Yet, by the time we get to “Ice” I’m so surprised when he places his hand on her neck that it’s both chilling and sensual.  By the 7th episode, the characters have already practiced such an economy of touch that any suggestion of contact heightens the tension.  I’ve already been conditioned, after a few hours of shows, but in the pilot Pavlov’s dog is fed a bit.  It’s in the episodes to come that Chris Carter simply ring — well, just gives us a glimpse of — the bell.

Other things that carried on throughout the series that I noticed in the Pilot: 

1.  The calling each other, “Mulder!”  “Scully”  Yes, it’s a way of summoning, but for them its so much more.  Saying the other’s name is almost some kind of validation.  Anne Lindbergh wrote that she awoke from sleep and said “Charles” and she wasn’t really calling out to her husband, beckoning or making a request.  She simply thought that saying his name had its own meaning., “just Charles.”  And that’s how I feel when Mulder and Scully call each other.  They are both asking a question and receiving an answer when they say the other’s name.  Of course, they usually have a reason to address each other in such fashion, but so often they convey whatever message they have, with the name alone and no more.  For instance, in Requiem, when Scully walks into the office and sees Mulder huddled together with their enemies, she doesn’t ask what he’s doing or why he’s doing it.  She simply says, “Mulder,” and the word is both a question, a demand, of him and a denunciation of the others in the room.  The scene ends with her saying his name.  “Mulder” .  Scully?  It’s a question, a command, a search, a hope, a plea, a caress. a validation.  From the woods of the pilot to the cornfields of the movie, this namecalling carries such power.

2.  Scully told him he had to trust her.  And even in those first days after they meet, we can see that he is already beginning to.  Trust is a core theme, explored repeatedly even in that premiere season.  A ball they toss back and forth for 9 years.  YOU’RE the only I trust, she tells him later.  You’re the ONLY one I trust he responds some time after that (Wetwired).

3.  They had their first phone conversation.  He says, “Scully’s it’s me” for the first time.  She hangs up on him without saying goodbye, as they always do.

4.   After the blinding light comes and takes the girl from Billy Miles’ arms, Mulder’s first thought is Scully and he goes running to look for her.  He told her in the hotel room that getting to the truth about his sister was the ONLY thing he cared about and the series’ most thrilling ride is seeing how Scully not-so-slowly begins to  take priority for him, over Samantha.

5.  Bleeding from the nose. I’d forgotten that it happened in the Pilot.  When people discuss Orison and whether or not Mulder was yelling to Scully “don’t shoot” I think they overlook the fact that she was bleeding from the nose when he broke down the door.  He was already fearful for her safety, seeing her with the blood coming from her nose must have brought her abduction and cancer to the forefront of his mind, not to mention Unruhe.  It was like all of the times he had nearly lost her were flashing in front of his face.  I think that telling her not to shoot in that moment must have been the last thing on his mind.  At any rate, the blood from the nose is born in the pilot.  Chris hadn’t thought about the chip being placed at the back of the neck yet, back then.  But it’s amazing how the seeds for almost every major event and emotion expressed during the series were there from the beginning, right in the opener.

6.  Scully walking up to the desk and presenting her “evidence,” the metal communicator she took from the nose of the corpse.  She did the same thing , when she dramatically presented the bee to Blythe Danner’s character in FTF and I didn’t realize that that move came from the Pilot.  When the supervisors ask her what Mulder thinks, she pauses, considers, then says:  “Agent Mulder thinks we are not alone.”  She is not mocking him, not disloyal and doesn’t divulge some of the more personal things he’s revealed to her.  Still, even with that short sentence she gives those in control, insight and , in doing so, is less protective of Mulder than she will soon become.

 
7.   Of course, the writers pay homage to the scene in the hotel room when they spend the night talking in both Requiem and in The Truth.  What strikes me is how he basically shares his whole life story with her that evening.  In the years to come, we will be frustrated at what Mulder and Scully don’t say to each other (at least not on screen).  Each will be given a piece of the puzzle and we don’t see them divulge it to the other.  Not only do they keep things that would help them defeat the enemy to themselves, but they  are also largeely silent about what motivated them.  In this show, so much is hidden from the audience, but sometimes it seems like one partner knows even less about the other than the audience does.  So often, I’m wondering, “Did Mulder ever tell Scully what he learned from so-and-so?”  With Memento Mori, for example, Mulder learned a little from Scully’s diary, but does he know that Penny comforted Scully during the treatments.  Does he know that Penny said that she was with Scully during her abduction?  Probably not.  Scully wouldn’t want Mulder to know about that, because she didn’t want to deal with it herself.  But after 9 seasons of them not telling each other things, it was so refreshing to revisit the pilot and think that they spent a whole night revealing to one another.  Well, at least Mulder did. 
 
 
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