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Schizogeny

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"Schizogeny"
The X-Files episode
Episode no. Season 5
Episode 9
Directed by Ralph Hemecker
Written by Jessica Scott
Mike Wollaeger
Production code 5X09
Original air date January 11, 1998
Running time 44 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Season 5 episodes
List of The X-Files episodes

"Schizogeny" is the ninth episode of the fifth season of the science fiction television series The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on January 11, 1998. It was written by Jessica Scott and Mike Wollaeger, directed by Ralph Hemecker, and featured guest appearances by Bob Dawson, Myles Ferguson, Katharine Isabelle, Chad Lindberg, and Sarah-Jane Redmond. The episode is a "Monster-of-the-Week" story, unconnected to the series' wider mythology. "Schizogeny" earned a Nielsen household rating of 12.9, being watched by 21.37 million people in its initial broadcast. The episode received mixed to negative reviews, with several critics calling it the worst episode of The X-Files.

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. Mulder is a believer in the paranormal, while the skeptical Scully has been assigned to debunk his work. In this episode, Mulder and Scully become convinced that a greater evil may be lurking in the community when a teenager is suspected of murdering his father.

"Schizogeny", written by first-year staff writers Scott and Wollaeger, became humorously known as "The Killer Tree Episode" amongst the cast and crew. Many of the scenes shot for "Schizogeny" were filmed on a real orchard named Hazelgrove Farms near the small town of Fort Langley, British Columbia. The episode utilized various post-production techniques, in order to clear up vocal issues and to censor one line, which Fox's standards and practices department had issues with.

Plot[edit]

In Coats Grove, Michigan, teenager Bobby Rich is berated by his stepfather Phil for not finishing his lawn work outside the house. Bobby runs into a nearby orchard and Phil gives chase. When Bobby's mother, Patti, follows them into the orchard, she discovers Phil's body partially buried, seemingly drowned in mud. Kneeling beside Phil is Bobby, his eyes wide with terror.

Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are assigned to the case. At the scene, Scully hypothesizes that Bobby dug the pit that trapped his stepfather, and speculates that he had an accomplice. Patti tells Scully that, from her point of view, it appeared as if Bobby was attempting to help Phil out of the orchard pit when he died. She also reveals that her son has anger management issues and has been undergoing therapy for several years. When Mulder and Scully meet with Bobby's therapist, Karin Matthews, she describes Bobby as the victim of physical abuse. Mulder expresses his belief that Bobby is not to blame for Phil's death.

Bobby tells a fellow student, Lisa Baiocchi, that she must stand up to her overbearing father just as he had done with Phil. When Lisa returns home, a window explodes and a shadowy, arm-like appendage grabs her father by the throat after he demands she stop seeing Bobby. His lifeless body is discovered lying on the ground outside the house. Though Scully concludes that Mr. Baiocchi died as the result of being pushed out the window, Mulder discovers evidence suggesting he was pulled out by an outside force. Later, the agents learn that Lisa is another one of Karin Matthews' patients.

Mulder finds a small splinter of fresh wood embedded in Mr. Baiocchi's neck, and matches the fragment to a tree outside the Baiocchi home. A short time later, the agents are approached by a man named Ramirez, who claims that the trees are all dying because of a "very bad man." Meanwhile, Karin invites Lisa to stay at her home until her aunt can pick her up the following day. As Lisa listens from her bedroom, she overhears an argument between Karin and a male voice. When she descends into Karin's root cellar, she discovers the skeletal body of a man. Terrified, Lisa turns towards the door, only to have the door close and lock.

Mulder discovers that Karin's father was pulled from the mud of an orchard twenty years earlier. Ramirez tells him that the death brought about an end of a blight affecting the trees. Later, Mulder digs up Mr. Matthews' casket and finds it filled with roots, his body missing. When Lisa's aunt, Linda, arrives at Karin's house to retrieve her niece, she is attacked and killed by an unseen force as tree branches sway in the wind above her. Karin enters the root cellar, and is revealed to be the source of the male voice Lisa heard earlier, due to her having Dissociative personality disorder brought on by abuse from her own father.

When Mulder and Scully search Karin's house, they come upon the corpse—belonging to Karin's father—in the root cellar. They then find Lisa, frightened but unharmed, in the kitchen. Karin drives to Bobby's house and chases him into the orchard. Suddenly, Bobby is dragged downward into the mud. While attempting to rescue the teenager, Mulder simultaneously encourages Karin to break the cycle and to fight the voice inside her head. A tendon-like root snakes out of the mud and begins to drag Mulder downward. Ramirez appears, his axe in hand, and decapitates Karin, killing her. Mulder and Bobby are released by the unseen force.[1]

Production[edit]

Conception and writing[edit]

"Schizogeny" was written by first-year staff writers Jessica Scott and Mike Wollaeger, who had previously worked on The X-Files in non-writing jobs. Due to the episode's tree-based conceit, it eventually became known as "The Killer Tree Episode" amongst the cast and crew.[2] Executive producer Frank Spotnitz noted that "Schizogeny" underwent an abnormally lengthy writing process and was edited several times. He later said that the episode "went through many, many incarnations and versions."[3] The title is a reference to the scientific term for asexual reproduction.[3]

Casting[edit]

A picture of a man's head
Chad Lindberg was cast as Bobby Rich.

When it came time to cast the character of Bobby Rich, Chad Lindberg, who played a cystic fibrosis sufferer on the medical drama ER, was chosen. Katharine Isabelle, who portrayed Lisa Baiocchi, was the daughter of Graeme Murray, the production designer for The X-Files. Kate Robbins, who portrayed Lisa's aunt Linda, had previously appeared in the third season episode "D.P.O."[3]

Several lines in the episode were re-recorded. During post-production, editors feared that Rich's mumbly voice would make it hard for viewers to understand what he was saying, so he was brought back in to re-record his dialogue, which was then dubbed over the footage. In addition, during the scene wherein Mulder tells Scully Bobby's nickname at school, the original version featured Mulder saying "Dickweed". Fox's standards and practices department made the show change the name to "Dorkweed", which required David Duchovny to re-dub his line.[3]

Set and score[edit]

Many of the scenes shot for "Schizogeny" were filmed on a real orchard named Hazelgrove Farms near the small town of Fort Langley, British Columbia.[2][3] Other shots, mostly involving the sinking mud scenes, were shot on a soundstage at Lion's Gate Studios that was fitted with over 200 hazelnut trees.[2] The mud pit was made out of a large tank filled with peat moss, mud, and water.[2] The mixture was heated so that the actors would not be uncomfortable during the sinking scenes.[3] The shot that called for Karin Matthews' lifeless body to sink into the mud required a stunt woman to be slowly lowered into the pit.[3] The crew found it necessary to supply her oxygen during the shot because of the depth of the pit.[3] Toby Lindala and her art department created all of the props used in the episode, including the moving tree roots and the skeletal remains of Karin Matthews' father.[3]

Several of the sets were chosen because of their proximity to large trees. Lisa's house, for instance, was built next to a large willow.[2] An additional tree limb that was more than twenty feet long was attached to the real tree to give it a more menacing feel.[2] The tree limb that attacked Mulder's car was a branch of a massive tree that had fallen on a nearby plot of public land. The producers secured permission from the Canadian government and hoisted the tree with a crane and then dropped it onto a former police cruiser. Nigel Habgood, the series car coordinator, was able to refurbish the cruiser and it was later used in the episode "Kill Switch."[3] Mark Snow, composer for the series, was particularly proud of the music he wrote for the episode, noting that the story was a "dark tale with a wonderful aura about it."[3] He credits this ominous feel to woodwind instruments.[3]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

"Schizogeny" premiered on the Fox network on January 11, 1998.[4] This episode earned a Nielsen rating of 12.9, with a 19 share, meaning that roughly 12.9 percent of all television-equipped households, and 19 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode.[5] It was viewed by 21.37 million viewers.[5]

The episode received mixed to negative reviews from critics, with several reviewers dubbing it one of the worst episodes of the series. Francis Dass of the New Straits Times Press referred to it as "one of the weaker episodes" of the fifth season.[6] The A.V. Club reviewer Todd VanDerWerff gave "Schizogeny" a D–, and wrote that "'Schizogeny' just might be the very worst episode of The X-Files", noting that "the tone [of the episode] is off."[7] Furthermore, VanDerWerff felt that "the more Scott and Wollaeger try to continue explaining this and tie it into the idea of child abuse, the less it attains any of the power or tragedy they want it to have."[7] Starpulse, in a run-down of the best and worst episodes and villains of the series, named the killer trees the worst monster-of-the-week and wrote, "[Schizogeny] proved that even the X-Files' writers can come up completely dry on their scary creeps sometimes."[8] Critical Myth's John Keegan gave the episode 4/10, and, while praising the "interesting concept" of the episode, concluded that it was filled with "odd inconsistencies, [and] is definitely not one of the better episodes of the season."[9] 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 wrote positively of the first part of the episode noting that "director Ralph Hemecker [brings] the eeriness to the fore, and [makes] this a more honest-to-truth scary slice of X-File than has been offered in ages."[10] Shearman and Pearson, however, argued that the episode's references to Psycho and its "lack of explanation" result in the episode approaching "nonsense."[10] Paula Vitaris from Cinefantastique gave the episode a mixed review and awarded it two stars out of four.[11] She wrote that, "the plot of 'Schizogeny' is more tangled than the episode's paranormal root system, but underneath lies some powerful themes."[11]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Meisler, pp. 112–124
  2. ^ a b c d e f Gradnitzer, p. 166
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Meisler, p. 125
  4. ^ The X-Files: The Complete Fifth Season (booklet). R.W. Goodwin, et al. Fox. 
  5. ^ a b Meisler, p. 284
  6. ^ Dass, Francis (20 April 2000), "A Late 'X-Files' Collection", New Straits Times, New Straits Times Press, retrieved 20 May 2012 
  7. ^ a b VanDerWerff, Todd (11 May 2011). ""Schizogeny"/"Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  8. ^ Payne, Andrew (25 July 2008). "'X-Files' 10 Best Episodes". Starpulse. Retrieved 20 December 2011. 
  9. ^ Keegan, John. "Schizogeny". Critical Myth. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Shearman and Pearson, p. 132
  11. ^ a b Vitaris, Paula (October 1998). "Fifth Season Episode Guide". Cinefantastique. 30 (7/8): 29–50. 

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]