|The X-Files episode|
|Episode no.||Season 6
|Directed by||Daniel Sackheim|
|Written by||John Shiban|
|Original air date||January 17, 1999|
|Running time||45 minutes|
"S.R. 819" is the ninth episode of the sixth season of the science fiction television series The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on January 17, 1999 in the United States. The episode was written by John Shiban, and directed by Daniel Sackheim. The episode helps to explore the series' overarching mythology. "S.R. 819" earned a Nielsen household rating of 9.1, being watched by 15.7 million people in its initial broadcast. The episode received mixed to positive reviews from critics.
The show centers on Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) who work on cases linked to the paranormal, called X-Files. Mulder is a believer in the paranormal, while the skeptical Scully has been assigned to debunk his work. In the episode, Mulder and Scully have 24 hours to save Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) from a biologically engineered disease. In order to combat the disease, Scully looks for a medical answer, while Mulder searches for the culprits behind the attack on Skinner's life. To aid him in this task, Mulder visits Senator Matheson, whom he hopes can help him find who is responsible before time runs out.
Before the writing of "S.R. 819", the writers for The X-Files felt that the character of Walter Skinner was becoming too "expendable". John Shiban, the writer of the episode, decided to re-work Skinner back into the series' mythology by crafting the episode around him. Mitch Pileggi had to endure long bouts of make-up application, a process that he admitted he "hated". The nanobots in the blood sample were designed on a computer and then rendered for the final footage.
The episode opens with Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) unwell and horribly discolored in hospital. His veins are a sickly purple hue and are pulsating ominously. Suddenly, he goes into cardiac arrest and the doctors pronounce him dead.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Skinner loses a boxing match after experiencing a dizzy spell. He is discharged from the hospital but Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) witness a bruise on his ribs growing. After trawling through security footage from the entrance to the J. Edgar Hoover Building, Scully recognizes a physicist by the name of Dr. Kenneth Orgel, who advises the Senate subcommittee on ethics and new technology, who stopped Skinner in the hall that same morning. Mulder and Skinner travel to the physicist's house but find he is being held hostage. Mulder apprehends one of the kidnappers, who does not speak English. They release him since he has papers showing diplomatic immunity. Mulder does a background check on him anyway.
The background check leads Mulder to Senator Richard Matheson (Raymond J. Barry), which results in a dead end. Scully discovers Skinner's blood sample and, after checking, she finds that Skinner's blood contains multiplying carbon. Meanwhile, Skinner ends up in hospital following a gunfight in the FBI parking garage. Mulder and Scully reunite at the hospital, where Mulder tells Scully that Skinner was investigating a health funding bill called S.R. 819. Later, the physicist dies of the same carbon blood condition from which Skinner is sick.
Skinner remembers having seen, on numerous occasions, a bearded man who showed up suspiciously and who is actually running the scheme. He saves Skinner and sacrifices one of his own men. The case is closed and Skinner is, once again, aggravated with the agents, ordering them to report exclusively to Assistant Director Alvin Kersh (James Pickens, Jr.). The bearded man was actually Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea), a rogue FBI agent who formerly worked for the Syndicate, who continues to control the potentially debilitating nanotechnology in Skinner's system.
The character of Walter Skinner had evolved over the course of The X-Files' sixth season. At the start of season six, however, the producers and writers felt that Skinner's character was becoming "expendable". With their transfer away from the X-Files division, Mulder and Scully saw less and less of their former boss. Originally, John Shiban, the writer of the episode, wanted to infect Mulder with nanobots. However, he decided that since the audience knew Mulder would not be killed, this plot would not be very effective. In order to compensate for this loss, Shiban decided to re-work Skinner back into the series mythology by putting him in Mulder's place. Shiban, inspired by the 1950 noir film D.O.A. and its 1988 remake which he jokingly called "[two] pretty bad movies", decided to craft an episode of The X-Files around the conceit of "a guy who's been poisoned [and] has only a short time to live and has to use that time to find out why and by whom he's being murdered".
Shiban began crafting his story by borrowing a nanobot plot that had been considered by various writers for several seasons. Shiban and the rest of the writers made it a point to give Alex Krycek control over Skinner. In this manner, Skinner once again became a mysterious character, one whose true loyalties were being tested. Shiban noted that, "[Krycek's control] gives Skinner an agenda that Mulder doesn't know about [...] Which was something we ultimately used again in the seasonender [sic], and will carry us into next year".
Filming and effects
Originally, a "time-consuming" fight scene between Skinner and Krycek was supposed to take place. The scenes were cut because of time-constraints and budgetary reasons. However, Skinner's boxing match proved easy to stage. Mitch Pileggi, who had boxed competitively in college, went for "refresher course[s]" at the Goosen Gym in Los Angeles. He later remarked, "It makes me happy that some people will assume there was a stunt double in the ring. There wasn't! [...] We both had a pretty good time". Location manager Ilt Jones called "S.R. 819" the "damn parking lot episode". He was tasked with finding the variety of parking lots used in the episode. He later joked that, "I started to wake up screaming about barriers and parking tickets and entrances and exit ramps".
Pileggi had to endure long bouts of make-up application. To create the principal illusion of monstrous veins, long black faux-veins were glued onto his face, arms, and torso. Pileggi, who had had to endure little to no make-up during the early seasons, noted that, "They did a beautiful job and [the veins] looked awesome, but man, I hated it! I really don't know how those guys on Star Trek or Babylon 5 can stand having that done to them every day. I just wouldn't work if that's what it took". To show the nanobot infection progressing, special effects makeup supervisor John Vulich used two different make-up sets. The two sets were then mixed together electronically in post-production to give the effect of disease progression. The nanobots in the blood sample were designed on a computer and then cloned with an animation program. Composer Mark Snow's score for the episode was inspired by Daniel Sackheim's "big-time feature-like action".
Broadcast and reception
"S.R. 819" first aired in the United States on January 17, 1999. This episode earned a Nielsen rating of 9.1, meaning that roughly 9.1 percent of all television-equipped households were tuned in to the episode. It was viewed by 15.7 million viewers. The episode aired in the United Kingdom and Ireland on Sky1 on May 2, 1999 and received 690,000 viewers, making it the second most watched episode that week. Fox promoted the episode with the tagline "He has 24 hours to solve his own murder... or die." The episode was nominated for three 2000 Emmy Awards by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore). The episode was later included on The X-Files Mythology, Volume 3 – Colonization, a DVD collection that contains episodes involved with the alien Colonist's plans to take over the earth.
The episode was met with mixed to positive reviews from critics. Tom Kessenich, in his book Examination: An Unauthorized Look at Seasons 6–9 of the X-Files wrote positively of the episode, saying, "'S.R. 819' re-established some wonderful conspiracy overtones and perhaps set the stage for more interesting developments in the future. It touched base with the very roots The X-Files sprung out of and did so in strong fashion." Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club gave the episode a moderately positive review and awarded it a "B". He enjoyed the plot, calling it "fun", praised the twist ending, and called the nanobot makeup effects "legitimately terrifying". He did, however, write critically of Skinner's role in the episode, noting that his lack of presence made the entry a "disappointing one". In addition, VanDerWerff criticized the fact that the teaser shows Skinner dying; he wrote that "[t]here’s very little gas in the idea of Skinner dying" and that most of the viewers knew he would not die.
Paula Vitaris from Cinefantastique gave the episode a mixed review and awarded it two stars out of four. Vitaris cited severe problems with "Skinner's emotional journey" as the main detractors for the episode. Robert Shearman and Lars Pearson, on the other hand, awarded the episode two out of five stars in their book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen. The two, despite writing positively of the "traditional X-File" feel, called the episode "a return to the sort of murky storylining which promises so much but delivers so little".
- Meisler, pp. 120–132
- Meisler, p. 132
- Hurwitz and Knowles, p. 159
- Meisler, p. 133
- The X-Files: The Complete Sixth Season (booklet). Kim Manners, et al. Fox.
- Meisler, p. 294
- "BARB's multichannel top 10 programmes". barb.co.uk. Retrieved 1 January 2012. Note: Information is in the section titled "w/e April 26 – May 2, 1999", listed under Sky 1
- S.R. 819 (Promotional Flyer). Los Angeles, California: Fox Broadcasting Company. 1999.
- Kim Manners et al. The X-Files Mythology, Volume 3 – Colonization (DVD). FOX.
- Kessenich, p. 30
- VanDerWerff, Todd (4 August 2012). "'S.R. 819'/'Omerta' | The X-Files/Millennium | TV Club | TV". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
- Vitaris, Paula (October 1999). "Sixth Season Episode Guide". Cinefantastique. 31 (8): 26–42.
- Shearman and Pearson, p. 175
- Hurwitz, Matt; Knowles, Chris (2008). The Complete X-Files. Insight Editions. ISBN 1-933784-80-6.
- Kessenich, Tom (2002). Examination: An Unauthorized Look at Seasons 6–9 of the X-Files. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 1-55369-812-6.
- Meisler, Andy (2000). The End and the Beginning: The Official Guide to the X-Files Season 6. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-107595-7.
- 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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