|The X-Files episode|
Mulder is ravaged by unnatural aging.
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Rob Bowman|
|Story by||Howard Gordon|
|Teleplay by||Howard Gordon
|Original air date||March 10, 1995|
|Running time||45 minutes|
"Død Kalm" is the nineteenth episode of the second season of the American science fiction television series The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on March 10, 1995. The story was written by Howard Gordon, the teleplay was written by Gordon and Alex Gansa, and the episode was directed by Rob Bowman. The episode is a "Monster-of-the-Week" story, unconnected to the series' wider mythology. "Død Kalm" earned a Nielsen household rating of 10.7, being watched by 10.2 million households in its initial broadcast. The episode received mostly mixed-to-positive reviews.
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 the episode, Mulder and Scully are called in when a boatload of survivors from a U.S. Navy destroyer escort are found. What particularly catches Agent Mulder's attention is that all of these sailors appear to have aged many decades in the course of a few days. Mulder and Scully travel to Norway where they find a civilian fisherman who is willing to take them to the ship's last known position.
"Død Kalm" was written to make use of the show's access to a navy destroyer that had previously featured in "Colony" and "End Game." The episode was originally intended as a way to give the production crew a rest after several demanding episodes had been shot, but the episode became one of the more difficult to film during the second season.
In the Norwegian Sea, chaos erupts on board the USS Ardent, an American destroyer escort. Due to mysterious yet unspecified events, half of the Ardent's crew board lifeboats and abandon ship against the captain's orders. Eighteen hours later, they are spotted by a Canadian fishing vessel; however, in that short span of time, the young crew members have undergone rapid aging.
Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) visit the ship's sole surviving crew member, Lt. Harper, who has been quarantined at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Scully finds that Harper, despite being in his twenties, has aged to the point of being unrecognizable. Mulder explains that the Ardent vanished at the 65th parallel, a location with a history of ship disappearances. Mulder believes that a "wrinkle in time" exists there, and that the Ardent was the subject of government experimentation related to the Philadelphia Experiment from World War II.
In Norway, Mulder and Scully get Henry Trondheim (John Savage), a naval trawler captain, to take them to the Ardent's last known location. After crashing into the bow of the Ardent, Mulder, Scully, and Trondheim find signs of advanced corrosion, even though the Ardent is only a few years old. Below decks, the party finds the mummified remains of several crew members. They also find the wizened commanding officer of the Ardent, Captain Barclay, who claims that "time got lost" after his ship encountered a "glowing light" in the ocean. Trondheim's boat is stolen and his first mate is murdered.
Trondheim is later attacked by a Norwegian pirate whaler named Olafsson, who has not aged despite being on the ship for the past two days. Mulder, Scully, and Trondheim eventually begin to age unnaturally. Scully develops a theory that the Ardent is sailing near a metallic object beneath the ocean, and that it has caused free radicals to rapidly oxidize their bodies and age them. When Mulder notices that the ship's sewage pipe is the only one not corroded through, the agents realize that something from the ocean contaminated the Ardent's potable water and led to the aging; Olafsson's men remained unaffected due to their consumption of recycled water from the sewage system. Desperate to survive, Trondheim kills Olafsson after he reveals the secret, and sets out to keep the water for himself.
Scully learns from blood tests that the contaminated water causes rapid cellular damage and dramatically increases sodium chloride in the body. She tries to ration the drinkable water amongst the three, but discovers Trondheim attempting to hoard what little that remains. Trondheim locks Scully out of the sewage hold, forcing her to use minuscule supplies to keep Mulder alive. The corrosion eventually eats through the ship's hull, flooding the hold and drowning Trondheim, who cannot unseal the hatch. The agents both lose consciousness shortly before Navy rescuers arrive at their former ship. Scully comes to at the hospital, where she is told that her written observations on the case helped naval doctors reverse their aging and save Mulder from near-certain death. Scully says that she wants to return to the Ardent for more research, but the doctor tells her that the ship sank shortly after their rescue due to the flooding.
Series creator Chris Carter asked Howard Gordon to write "Død Kalm" because the X-Files had been given access to a Canadian navy destroyer for the previous episodes "Colony" and "End Game." The episode was originally intended as a way to give the production crew a rest after several "demanding" episodes had been shot. Before the script had been finished, Carter mentioned that he believed the episode would be a "great rest for everyone."
In the book The Unofficial X-Files Companion, N.E. Genge notes that aspects of the episode bear striking resemblances to the Philadelphia Experiment, the alleged naval military experiment. Indeed, the episode contains several mentions and allusions to the experiment.
HMCS Mackenzie, a decommissioned Canadian Forces destroyer, was used for interior and exterior shots as USS Ardent. The ship had previously been used to shoot interior scenes for the climax of the episode "End Game". The ship was repainted in order to more closely resemble an abandoned ship, a technique Graeme Murray referred to as "paint-aged." Originally docked at New Westminster Quay, the ship was relocated to the more remote location of Barry Point to avoid night lights when filming exterior shots of the ship. The move cost the show approximately $10,000. Mackenzie, once the lead ship of its class, was stripped and scuttled shortly after filming ended and now serves as an artificial reef off the Georgia Strait.
In order to ease filming, the producers sought out a set that could portray both a bar and a hospital, a task initially dubbed "impossible." However, Jericho Sailing Club in Vancouver later stood in for both the Norwegian bar and the hospital to which Mulder and Scully are taken. The cast and crew of "Død Kalm" reportedly found the dual-set "amazing." The location of the set was only a short distance away from where David Duchovny was living. The producers subsequently decided to try to find possible locations closer to where the main stars were living in order to ease future filming.
Broadcast and reception
"Død Kalm" premiered on the Fox network on March 10, 1995, and was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on January 16, 1996. This episode earned a Nielsen rating of 10.7, with an 18 share, meaning that roughly 10.7 percent of all television-equipped households, and 18 percent of households watching television, were tuned into the episode. It was viewed by 10.2 million households.
"Død Kalm" received mostly mixed to moderately positive reviews. Entertainment Weekly gave "Død Kalm" a B, noting that, "Despite clumsy makeup, isolation pays off again, and Mulder and Scully get to try a little tenderness." Todd VanDerWerff from The A.V. Club, despite noting his original dislike for the episode, awarded it a B rating and wrote, "This episode works, almost in spite of itself. There are so many nice little moments here [...] it's a script that pauses from the constant horror the show had been serving up for several episodes in a row to just tell an unsettling, ultimately moving tale of two friends who look into the abyss and somehow don't fall."
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 three-and-a-half stars out of five. The two noted that, while the episode's premise "brims over with atmosphere", the ending of "Død Kalm" was extremely lacking. Shearman and Pearson argued "that if the writers can only devise a plot which paints them into a corner so awkward there's no realistic way they can get out, then they shouldn't write the story at all." The two also criticized the episode's make up. They noted that "Scully looks like a credible old lady, Mulder rather more like a man wearing several layers of latex."
- Lowry, pp. 207–208
- Lowry, p. 209
- Lowry, p. 208
- Genge, p. 194
- Gradnitzer p. 73
- Lovece, p. 157
- Gradnitzer p. 74
- The X-Files: The Complete Second Season (Media notes). David Nutter, Daniel Sackheim, et al. Fox. 1994–1995.
- Lowry, p. 249
- "X Cyclopedia: The Ultimate Episode Guide, Season 2 | EW.com". Entertainment Weekly. 29 November 1996. Archived from the original on 21 October 2004. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
- VanDerWerff, Todd (June 27, 2010). ""Død Kalm"/"Humbug"/"The Calusari"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- Shearman and Pearson, p. 48–49
- Genge, N.E. (1999). The Unofficial X-Files Companion. Crown Trade. ISBN 0-517-88601-4.
- Gradnitzer, Louisa; Pittson, Todd (1999). X Marks the Spot: On Location with The X-Files. Arsenal Pulp Press. ISBN 1-55152-066-4.
- Lovece, Frank (1996). The X-Files Declassified. Citadel Press. ISBN 0-8065-1745-X.
- Lowry, Brian (1995). The Truth is Out There: The Official Guide to the X-Files. Harper Prism. ISBN 0-06-105330-9.
- Shearman, Robert; Pearson, Lars (2009). Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen. Mad Norwegian Press. ISBN 0-9759446-9-X.
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