Conduit (The X-Files)
|The X-Files episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Daniel Sackheim|
|Written by||Alex Gansa
|Original air date||October 1, 1993|
|Running time||44 minutes|
"Conduit" is the fourth episode of the first season of the American science fiction television series The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on October 1, 1993. It was written by Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, directed by Daniel Sackheim, and featured a guest appearance by Carrie Snodgress as the mother of an abducted teenager.
The show centers on FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) who work on cases linked to the paranormal, called X-Files. In this episode, Mulder and Scully, when investigating the possible alien abduction of a teenage girl, find that the missing girl's younger brother may be capable of receiving satellite transmissions, and that her mother may also have been party to a UFO encounter over twenty years earlier. Mulder finds himself becoming emotionally attached to the case due to its similarities to his own childhood experiences, when his younger sister Samantha was abducted from their home.
The episode, although not directly tied to the series' ongoing story arcs, provides more information on how Fox Mulder's younger sister, Samantha Mulder, had been abducted as a child; a plot thread which would go on to become one of the more prominent of the series. The episode was filmed in British Columbia, with Buntzen Lake being used as Lake Okobogee.
At a campground at Lake Okobogee [sic] National Park in Sioux City, Iowa, Darlene Morris witnesses a flash of light outside of her RV. When she ventures outside to find her young son, Kevin, he claims that his teenaged sister, Ruby, has vanished.
In Washington, FBI Division Chief Scott Blevins informs Dana Scully that, unbeknownst to her, Fox Mulder has requested travel expenses to Sioux City based on a tabloid article about Ruby's disappearance. Blevins also shows Scully an X-File on the disappearance of Mulder's sister Samantha. When Scully asks Mulder about the travel expenses, he explains that Lake Okobogee was the scene of a series of UFO sightings in 1967; Darlene Morris, then a member of a Girl Scout troop, was one of the witnesses.
When Mulder and Scully travel to Iowa and meet the Morrises, Mulder observes Kevin writing down binary code on a piece of paper; Kevin claims they are coming from static on a television screen. After submitting Kevin's code for analysis, the agents meet with the local sheriff, who tells them that Ruby was a juvenile delinquent who likely ran away. They also meet a young woman, Tessa, who says that Ruby had gotten pregnant and was planning to run away with her boyfriend, Greg Randall. The agents are unable to find Greg at the bar where he works; however, his boss tells them about UFO activity at Lake Okobogee.
Kevin's code is revealed to be part of a Defense Department satellite transmission. NSA agents ransack the Morris household, looking for any other documentation that might supposedly compromise national security. After the Morrises are taken into custody (which causes Darlene to lose her trust towards Mulder and Scully), Mulder examines the charred roof of their RV, prompting him to head to Lake Okobogee. There, the agents discover sand turned to glass and a burned tree line, indicating the presence of a massive heat source. Upon encountering some white wolves, Mulder and Scully find Greg Randall's body in a shallow grave.
On his person, they find a note in his wallet that eventually leads Scully and Mulder to conclude that it was Tessa, not Ruby, who was pregnant. Under interrogation, Tessa confesses to killing Greg but denies Ruby was at Lake Okobogee that night. Mulder and Scully return to the Morris' house, and, finding it deserted, discover the binary-covered pieces of paper laid out across the living room floor, forming an image of Ruby's face. The agents return to Lake Okobogee, where they find Darlene and Kevin in the nearby woods. A motorcycle gang appears, and as Mulder hurries to rescue Kevin from their wake, Scully discovers Ruby nearby.
Ruby is then seen in a hospital bed, with Kevin by her side. When questioned about her experience, she says she was told by an unnamed group not to say anything. Darlene also refuses to cooperate any further, given the ridicule that she faced after her experiences. Back in Washington, Scully listens to a tape of hypnotic sessions in which Mulder recalls the night his sister vanished. Mulder, meanwhile, sits in a church, crying as he looks at a picture of his sister.
The episode was filmed in British Columbia, with Buntzen Lake being used as Lake Okobogee. Several crew members became lost in the surrounding area after the van responsible for installing signage got lost itself. The mural of Ruby made up of binary code was designed by assistant art director Greg Loewen and Vivien Nishi, who hand-wrote all the numbers on the mural.
Co-writer Howard Gordon said of the episode, "Alex [Gansa] and I made an effort to play to our own strength, which is character. We thought this was an interesting place to reiterate Mulder's quest for his sister. We set out to tell a simple abduction story, which was played out behind the shadows. We wanted to create an air of tension. With everything that happened, we wanted to explain what it could be. At every point, everything can be explained. Was she taken or killed by her boyfriend, who she was seeing against her mother's wishes? Is it Twin Peaks or an alien abduction? That was the theme of the show." Gordon and Gansa were afraid that series creator Chris Carter would not like the script, but Carter liked the script and approved the episode they wrote.
Gordon praised the episode's ending, saying "I think we're most proud of the ending: Mulder's quest is re-established (and Daniel Sackheim directed it beautifully) with Mulder sitting alone in a church with only his faith. The story, again, was fueled by Mulder's belief and emotional connection with this case. Another girl taken from her family. And, in a way, the little boy who is the conduit, who is also perhaps touched by the aliens, is essentially Mulder. These little touches the fans seem to respond to. It was difficult for us, but in the end satisfying. It came out of frustration on our parts, and creative uncertainty".
Producer Glen Morgan felt that the episode's writers, Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, "have a better character-dramatic sense", adding that he believed the episode "really helped define Mulder". Chris Carter felt the episode's highlights were the ending and the realization by Scully that Mulder may not be a crackpot, feeling it was very important to the show in establishing its point of view. He also felt that the episode proved effective at highlighting that the series was told from Scully's point of view, citing instances of the character "pulling Mulder back" from his fringe theories and emotional attachment.
Broadcast and reception
"Conduit" premiered on the Fox network on October 1, 1993, and was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on October 10, 1994. The episode earned a Nielsen household rating of 6.3 with an 11 share—meaning that in the US, 6.3 percent of television-equipped households, and 11 percent of all households actively watching television, were watching the program. It was viewed by 5.9 million households.
In a retrospective of the first season in Entertainment Weekly, "Conduit" was rated a B, with the episode being described as "excellent for background" for the series, though it was noted that Duchovny gave "a performance that makes wood look lively". Keith Phipps, writing for The A.V. Club, reviewed the episode positively, rating it a B+, feeling that the episode worked well to expand on the motivations of the two lead characters, noting that "the work done here will pay off well later". The episode has been seen as laying the foundation for the recurrence of Fox Mulder's obsession with finding his missing sister, which would come to be one of the main plot threads of the series.
Duchovny's portrayal of Fox Mulder in this episode has been cited as an example of the character's reversal of traditional gender roles—his openness and vulnerability when dealing with the similarities between the Morris case and that of his sister casts him "in a pattern typically engendered as female". He represents a break from past archetypes, with his "emotional and empathic balance" providing a contrast to previous male detectives in fiction.
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- Chris Carter (narrator). Chris Carter Talks about Season One Episodes: Conduit (DVD). Fox.
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