Because cinema is not the only thing in the life of a cinephile, a new nostalgic rendezvous on Large Screen: the cult episode, which will return to a choice piece from a remarkable series. New stopover with X Files : Arctic Projectseason 1 episode 8.
This is one of the first very cult episodes of X Files : Arctic Project (Ice), episode 8 of the first season of Chris Carter’s series, broadcast in 1993 in the United States and a year later in France on M6. A fine example of the famous “bottle episode”, which refers to episodes produced with the intention of limiting expenses with the minimum number of actors, sets and effects, and therefore often associated with behind closed doors.
Project Arctic, therefore, takes place largely in a scientific base in Alaska, where a team of scientists killed each other in mysterious circumstances. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are sent there to investigate, accompanied by three scientists and a pilot. They discover a sinister laboratory with a dog, which will bite the pilot and contaminate him. The team then discovers the existence of a parasite similar to a worm, brought to the surface by drilling in the ice of the past, and capable of infiltrating living beings to change their behavior and make them aggressive.
Any coincidence is not fortuitous: the episode resembles to be mistaken The Thing by John Carpenter, from the 1938 short story The Beast from Another World by John W. Campbell, adapted in 1951 under the title The Thing from Another World and produced by Howard Hawks.
Screenwriter Glen Morgan came up with the idea of Project Arctic by reading an article about the discovery of an organism dating from 250,000 years ago in the ice of Greenland. Alaska is chosen to justify the involvement of the FBI. With co-writer James Wong (the duo behind the memorable Tomsepisode 3 of season 1, which will be successful in the cinema with Final destination seven years later), he takes advantage of this lead to meet a financial requirement: the budget for the series is exceeded and the production seeks to limit costs with a closed session.
The episode should have been reserved for the end of the season, in order to take advantage of the natural snow in Vancouver where X Files was filmed the first few years, but filming was timed earlier to better control the budget. The irony being that Arctic Project will ultimately cost much more than expected, far from the bottle episode hoped for by the production.
The bridge with The Thing is obvious and assumed: Graeme Murray, credited to the decoration department of Carpenter’s cult film, occupies the same type of position on the episode. Chris Carter, creator of X Filestherefore does not hide these sources of inspiration: he uses them to test the relationship between the two agents, and test their mutual trust very early in this first season.
After contaminating the pilot, who does not survive the express intervention to get rid of it, this space worm capable of taking control of its host thus turns the characters against each other. The formula is classic and diabolical: paranoia in a high-risk environment, which pushes everyone to doubt the other, to protect themselves from the wolf hidden among the sheep, even if it means taking on the role in the eyes of the group. The opportunity to discover Felicity Huffman, almost 10 years before Desperate Housewivesand Xander Berkeley, 8 years before his memorable role in 24 hour clock.
The plot, unsurprisingly, allows the duo of heroes to take their appointed roles: Mulder is quickly convinced that the worms are aliens, who have come with a meteor buried in the ice of Alaska, while Scully sees only ‘a super-parasite to exterminate without question. She therefore seeks to destroy them and stop the contamination, while he thinks it is necessary to understand and study the thing for a possible future alien invasion. The episode’s conclusion, where the duo learns that the entire base has been destroyed by the military, will be one of many, many elements placed to support the US government’s plot.
Project Arctic did not only conquer the spectators: he remained as one of the most significant for the actors and the team. Gillian Anderson would later say: “It was really the first time since the beginning of the series that we really had the clear feeling of seeing what we were doing, and seeing the potential of the series. It was the first time that we were really all together, to work very hard and tell ourselves that we were doing something important”. David Duchovny confirms: “I remember Project Arctic was one of those times when we all realized we were doing a really good show”. And more than 20 years later, the episode remains indeed a very good vintage for fans of X Files.