|The X-Files episode|
|Episode no.||Season 8
|Directed by||Rod Hardy|
|Written by||Steven Maeda|
|Original air date||April 29, 2001|
|Running time||44 minutes|
|List of The X-Files episodes|
"Vienen" is the eighteenth episode of the eighth season of the American science fiction television series The X-Files, and is the 179th episode overall. The episode first aired in the United States and Canada on April 29, 2001, on the Fox Network, and in the United Kingdom on June 7. It was written by staff member Steven Maeda, was directed by Rod Hardy, and forms part of the series' overarching mythology. The episode received a Nielsen household rating of 7.4 and was viewed by 11.8 million viewers. "Vienen" received mixed to positive reviews from critics, many of whom appreciated its hearkening-back to the older mythology of The X-Files.
The season centers on FBI special agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), her new partner John Doggett (Robert Patrick), and Scully's former partner Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), who work on X-Files—cases linked to the paranormal. In this episode, Mulder disobeys orders to stay away from the X-Files and finds himself stranded on a quarantined oil platform with Doggett. They soon discover that the crew has been infected with the black oil, an alien virus that Mulder and Scully have encountered many times before. Despite their dislike for each other, Mulder and Doggett team up and escape before the infected crew members are able to capture and kill them.
The episode was a series milestone, and features the last appearance of the alien black oil before the series finale, where it appeared via flashback—a plot device that plays a significant role in the series and in the 1998 X-Files movie. The oil effects were created using chocolate syrup and molasses. Principal filming for "Vienen" was carried out at three locations: an oil platform, an oil refinery, and on a specially-created set. The episode's title is a Spanish word meaning "they come" or "they are coming", and has been interpreted as foreshadowing the show's Super Soldier narrative arc. Elements of the plot have been compared to the ancient Greek religious and mythological figure Orpheus.
Simon de la Cruz, a worker on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, fatally stabs fellow crew member Ed Dell. Simon starts destroying the platform's radio equipment but is confronted by Bo Taylor, whose body begins to glow.
At FBI headquarters, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) tells John Doggett (Robert Patrick) about the murder and explains that ninety percent of de la Cruz's body was covered with apparent radiation burns. Galpex Petroleum, the platform's owner, officially attributes the burns to an explosion but Mulder suspects the involvement of black oil. Mulder and Doggett meet Galpex's vice-president Martin Ortega (Miguel Sandoval), who tells them that the company has discovered a large oil reserve in the Gulf. Alvin Kersh (James Pickens, Jr.) sends Doggett to the Gulf to investigate, but Mulder is already present when Doggett arrives. The agents meet Taylor, who claims de la Cruz tried to blow up the platform. Meanwhile, Dana Scully finds black oil in de la Cruz's skull during an autopsy—the oil is dead and seems to have been irradiated. She concludes that he may have had some immunity to the black oil because of his Native American heritage.
Doggett and Mulder find proof of black oil on the platform and quarantine it, but de la Cruz's friend Diego Garza is missing. Ortega threatens to bring back the crew unless the agents can provide proof of an infection. Doggett and Mulder search for Garza who, like de la Cruz, is a Huecha Indian, or an indigenous Mexican national. Mulder and Doggett later discover that somebody has set fire to the communications room. As the agents tackle the fire, Garza attacks Doggett and renders him unconscious. When he recovers consciousness, Doggett finds Garza cutting his arm to check for the presence of black oil.
Meanwhile, Kersh tells Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) that he is lifting the quarantine of the oil platform. Scully opposes the idea but she has no choice other than to obey. Scully then realizes that de la Cruz is immune to the black oil, and because of it, he suffered from radiation burns instead of infection. After he proves to de la Cruz that he is not infected, Doggett leaves to find Mulder but is attacked by Taylor. Mulder arrives and overpowers Taylor, and Mulder and Doggett barricade themselves in the communication room, and try to relay a message while the platform's crew surround them.
Scully receives Doggett and Mulder's message, and tells them that Kersh has broken the quarantine. Mulder destroys the platform's radio so that its black oil-infected crew cannot communicate with the aliens. Suddenly, the platform workers stop their attack and go outside. Doggett and Mulder go to the surface of the oil platform and jump off when they realize that the crew are going to destroy it. Mulder and Doggett are rescued by the helicopters Kersh has sent to break the quarantine. At the FBI, Mulder tells Doggett that he has been dismissed from the bureau.
Writing and filming
"Vienen" was written by Steven Maeda as a vehicle for Mulder to pass on the X-Files legacy to Doggett. Patrick compared Mulder to a Greek chorus and said that the episode was a "way to have Mulder give Doggett his blessing and pass him The X-Files baton." He later said that this move by the writers was an example of "how clever those guys are" because they "are aware of what's going on in the audience's head". The title, "Vienen," is Spanish; it is the third-person plural present indicative form of venir, which means "they come" or "they are coming".
The episode was directed by Rod Hardy, who directed the earlier season eight episodes "Roadrunners" and "Salvage". Hardy was offered the role after an unknown individual working on The X-Files saw his TBS remake of the film High Noon. Of the three episodes of the season, Hardy enjoyed directing this episode most due to its adherence to the series' mythology; he later described the episode as "classic X-Files." The eighth season was filmed out of order; "Vienen" was the sixteenth episode produced but the eighteenth aired, largely due to Duchovny's availability. Each episode of The X-Files usually took about eighteen days to film, including seven days for pre-production, nine for main unit shooting, and two for second unit filming. "Vienen" was produced in eleven days because the crew worked thirteen- to fourteen-hour shifts.
"Vienen" was shot in three locations, a studio in Los Angeles, a closed down CENCO oil refinery in Santa Fe Springs, and an offshore oil platform in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara. During the show's previous seasons, location manager Ilt Jones was required to scout for locations after scripts were submitted. Starting with the eighth season, he was allowed to undertake several "two-week scouting roadshow[s]" so that new and interesting locations could be written into the scripts before they were submitted. Jones discovered the oil platform and the refinery during his first scouting trip. Jones later said the oil platform was "his favorite example" of what the scouting trips were able to discover. Because the platform and refinery were scouted in advance, Jones was given six weeks to prepare the shoot—a "far cry" from the usual two. This also saved the series a considerable amount of money. Filming on the oil platform occurred between sunrise and sunset in one day. The film crew used Steadicams for filming on the oil platform because Rod Hardy noted that the floors were slick with oil and that the cameras "sort of fit and blend in quite well" on the platform.
Casting and effects
Miguel Sandoval was cast as Martin Ortega. Luis Villalta, who played Simon de la Cruz, had few lines in the finished cut but "was able to show the fear and terror in his face". The episode's casting and plot proved controversial when in early 2001, Hispanic activists complained about the often negative portrayal of Latinos on television, particularly in the Law & Order episode "Sunday in the Park with Jorge". In turn, the major broadcasters signed agreements that created a head of diversity at each network. When the episode's title and synopsis, which would involve a pair of "roughnecks from Mexico", were announced, some activists braced themselves for the episode, worrying that it would further propagate negative stereotypes.
The series' leading actors were required to film in three separate locations. Anderson's scenes were filmed solely on the show's sets in Los Angeles. Since her character did not accompany Mulder and Doggett, Anderson had no scenes with Patrick and Duchovny, except for the opening sequence that takes place in Kersh's office, which was also the first scene filmed for the episode. Most of Patrick and Duchovny's scenes were filmed on the oil platform and at the refinery, although several key scenes, including the destruction of the oil platform, were filmed on the show's set in Los Angeles. Patrick and Duchovny were flown between the three locations.
The episode featured the penultimate appearance of the alien black oil, which appeared via flashback—a plot device that played a large role in The X-Files—in the series' finale. Visual effects for the black oil were created with molasses, chocolate syrup, and computer-generated imagery. A scene showing black oil coming out of an oil worker's eyes, ears, and mouth was mostly filmed on a visual effects stage. Nine takes were needed to get the syrupy mixture to spill onto the correct places due to the uncontrollable nature of the substance.
While some scenes were filmed on location, others were recreated in the studio. Production designer Corey Kaplan was tasked with recreating the oil platform's control room, mess hall, and some operational sections. According to Jones, Kaplan either "magnified or amended what was there to make it photogenic." Kaplan said that creating the sets required "a brilliant piece of synergy between all [of the series'] departments". The scene in which the oil platform bursts into flame was created in the studio on the mock-rig set. The art department was tasked with creating the illusion of fire burning steel because the set was made of wood. The scene where Mulder and Doggett agree to jump from the oil platform on the count of two was designed to be a homage to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Patrick and Duchvony were filmed jumping against a green screen. Digital footage of the platform exploding was created, and the scenes were combined. Several of the effects in the sequence were actually filmed on the platform on the last night of shooting; scenes of its destruction were created in post-production via CGI.
Michelle Bush, in her book Myth-X wrote that the oil platform is named "Galpex-Orpheux", a reference to the ancient Greek religious and mythological figure Orpheus, who was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet. According to the myth, Orpheus's wife Eurydice was killed by a serpent. Hades, the god of the underworld—after hearing Orpheus' moving music—allowed Orpheus to retrieve his wife as long as he does not look back at her until they are safety out of the underworld. Orpheus fails, and his wife's soul slips back into the underworld. Bush compared Orpheus's otherworldly singing to the "broadband signal which is the catalyst for the events on the rig". In the episode, Mulder, Doggett, and the two Huecha Indians "wreck havoc" because of their fear, and the "black oil slips back to the underworld".
The episode's title attracted attention. Bush argues that while the Spanish word vienen means "they come", the episode does not explain who "they" are. She wrote that the verb could refer to either "the aliens" who are planning on colonizing the Earth or to "the humans that are disturbing the black oil". Douglas Kellner, in his book Media Spectacle, wrote that the episode features the second major hinting after "This is Not Happening" towards the series' "Super Soldiers" story arc, which is explored near the end of the eighth season and throughout the ninth; he argues that the title refers to the inevitable onslaught of the superior Super Soldier.
Ratings and release
Fox promoted Vienen with the tagline: "Nowhere to hide. No place to run", and the episode premiered on American television on April 29, 2001. It received a Nielsen household rating of 7.4, meaning that it was seen by and estimated 7.4% of US households and was viewed by 11.8 million viewers overall. The episode debuted in Ireland and the United Kingdom on June 7 on Sky 1, and was the channel's sixth-most watched program for that week with 0.52 million viewers. On November 4, 2003, the episode was released as part of the eighth season DVD box set. Vienen was later included on The X-Files Mythology, Volume 4 – Super Soldiers, a DVD collection including episodes involving the alien super soldiers arc.
Michael Liedtke and George Avalos of the Contra Costa Times were pleased with the episode and wrote, "The latest episode also contained many of the elements of a classic mythology episode. The stakes were huge and the heroes faced the greatest of hazards. The use of the oil rig created a sense of isolation for Mulder and Doggett, and the paranoia levels were sky-high. We still can't figure out why we haven't seen more episodes along the lines of " Vienen " during the past three seasons." Jessica Morgan from Television Without Pity awarded the episode a "B–". Tom Kessenich, in his book Examinations, gave Vienen a positive review, and wrote, "after watching 'Vienen', I can honestly say that for once of the few times this season, it felt good to be an X-Files fan again". Kessenich praised the significant development in Mulder and Scully's relationship and the return of the "fourth season version" of the black oil; the 1998 movie had dramatically altered the nature of the substance—infected hosts gestate aliens inside their bodies rather than merely being taken over.
Todd VanDerWerff from The A.V. Club named the episode one of the "10 must-see episodes" of The X-Files, and wrote that it "abruptly makes the series’ alien-conspiracy storyline relevant again." His review concludes, "[i]t's a fine example of a show past its glory days, nevertheless finding a way to make itself relevant again."
Not all reviews were positive. Robert Shearman and Lars Pearson, in their book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen, rated the episode two stars out of five and wrote that the installment's return to the black oil mythos seemed "out of date". They also wrote that Mulder and Doggett are "good at running away, which doesn't give either of them much dignity." Paula Vitaris from Cinefantastique gave the episode a negative review and awarded it one-and-a-half stars out of four. She wrote, "as action-adventure, 'Veinen' is so-so. Except for the big 'money shot' explosion at the end, it doesn't exploit the possibilities of the physical location." Meghan Deans of Tor.com ultimately concluded that "while 'Vienen' works hard to hit its marks—a classic villain, a battle of dudes—it can’t measure up to all that’s come before it." She surmised that "the transfer [from Mulder to Doggett] is functional, but the transfer is hollow." She did, however, applauded the return of the black oil, noting that she was "happy to have it back."
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