The Ferguson Syndrome
|"The Ferguson Syndrome"|
|Episode no.||Season 1|
|Directed by||Matt Reeves|
|Written by||Richard Hatem|
|Original air date||January 27, 2003|
The series begins at the grave of one Sister Alice Fulton (1834–1861). Workers are exhuming the bodies there in the cemetery, preparing them to be moved before the end of the year. After an accident, Alice's coffin spills open in front of a trapped worker, revealing the corpse of a woman whose eyes are as white as snow, and whose body has simply not decayed one day since her death over 140 years ago.
Paul Callan is dispatched to investigate. The absence of decay in Sister Fulton's body can be a sign of her ascension to Sainthood, and Paul is there to investigate on behalf of the Catholic Church. He finds that this preservation is due to chemicals in the soil, going so far as to have another grave exhumed to prove this, before leaving for the Archdiocese. Paul confides in his mentor, Father "Poppi" Calero, that he has become disillusioned with disproving 'miracles', and is convinced to take time off to rediscover his faith.
During his time off, Paul has a dream of himself and a young boy on a train. As the train goes by, Paul notices a water tower with the words "God is Coming" spray-painted onto it. As the young boy tosses a baseball into a glove, the sound becomes louder until he looks up at Paul with his red eyes, tearing up with blood. The boy tells Paul, "I'm waiting for you".
Three months later, Paul is working in the desert to build homes for the poor when he is contacted by Poppi, asking him to Ferguson family on behalf of the Monsignor. On arriving, Paul encounters a child, Tommy, who he previously saw in a nightmare. Tommy suffers from Fanconi anemia, a rare genetic blood disorder with no cure. However, Tommy is claimed to have cured a woman of cancer and another of blindness, although a local doctor indicates that both were undergoing treatment at the time.
Tommy's father arranges for Tommy to heal an infant with a weak heart. When doing so, he passes out. Paul figures out that Tommy's illness is not anemia, but is caused by healing others; they get better while he gets worse. Paul has a dream where Tommy is hit by a train.
Awakening to find Tommy's mother sneaking him out of the house, Paul follows their car and sees a water tower at the side of the road with the words "God is Coming" written on it. Distracted by this, Paul looks back in time to see he is about to ram the Ferguson's car into the path of an oncoming train. He swerves around the car, and Paul's car is hit by the train, leaving him in a state of near-death. Tommy gives his life to heal Paul, and Paul witnesses words forming out of his own blood: "God is now here". After Tommy's funeral, Paul learns that the case would not be investigated further, despite the evidence, and that Poppi had not contacted him to take the case. He is contacted by a mystery man who appeared at the accident site, who indicates that Paul's witnessing of the blood-words has only happened to six other people, all of whom saw "God is Nowhere". Paul is given the contact details for a group called "Sodalitas Quaerito".
Visiting the address given, Paul is greeted, and enters the building.
"The Ferguson Syndrome" was the first produced episode of Miracles. The pilot was originally written by Michael Petroni as a screenplay for Touchstone, but was later adapted into a teleplay for ABC by Richard Hatem. Petroni and Hatem are credited as writers of the episode, as well as the creators of the series, despite Petroni having no further involvement with the series after the pilot. Some scenes of the pilot, such as the scene at the cemetery where Paul tells the priest that apricots have preserved all the corpses, was retained nearly verbatim from Petroni's original screenplay. Hatem liked the scene because it set up Paul Callan's back story, and explained why Paul was growing frustrated with his work by continuously disappointing people who truly believe in miracles from God.
The pilot episode was directed by Matt Reeves, who met Richard Hatem while they were in college together. Reeves previously co-created the television series Felicity with J.J. Abrams, one of the co-creators of ABC's successful drama series Lost. Tamara Taylor, who guest-starred in this episode as Dr. Linda Qualey, would later have a recurring role on Lost as Susan Lloyd. Maggie Grace and Sam Anderson, who both guest-starred in the episode "Mother's Daughter", would also go on to have regular roles on Lost. Filming of this episode overlapped with the last day of production on Felicity.
Reeves was immediately intrigued with the idea of doing a "horror show". Reeves first met Skeet Ulrich in Filmore, California while filming the dream sequence where Paul tries to save Tommy from an oncoming train as blood rain downs from the sky. He described Ulrich as a "soulful guy" who really connected with the character of Paul Callan. He also recalled seeing Ulrich "shivering to death" after filming in the blood rain for four hours.
Matt Reeves credited Dennis Stuart Murphy, the producer of Miracles, for pushing the show beyond its limits. His "bring it on" attitude helped make the show cinematically superior by always wanting to make a task "tougher". One such example is the train crash, shot in pre-production, which was the first shot filmed of the pilot. Executives at one point during production suggested to the producers that the train crash should be removed, to resolve the show's budget issues. The producers refused, as the train crash was deemed too pivotal to the plot of the episode, as well as the mythology of the series.
Another scene (the audition scene for Scott Allan Campbell's character), where Tommy Ferguson's father Robert gives his take on his son's illness, was never filmed due to budgetary reasons. The scene was set in the Fergusons' basement, where it was explained that before Tommy fell ill, he and his father worked on a model train set, which was modeled after their town of Cottonwood, Arizona. Observant viewers would have taken note of the water tower and train that were included in the model.
The scenes following the train crash were filmed very late at night, and were shot in a soundstage to allow for controlled rain. During filming, Ulrich remained in character by lying in a very comatose state. Richard Hatem recalled that "he just lay there, suffering". Almost immediately after, the last scene of the pilot was filmed at approximately 5:00 in the morning, where Paul watches Tommy playing outside. Matt Reeves says that while Ulrich is giving a "soulful look", part of his expression is fatigue and exhaustion after a long night of filming. The church in which Tommy's funeral is held had previously been used in an episode of The WB's Charmed, and was later used in the 2005 Fox drama Point Pleasant.
- Main Cast
- Guest Cast
- Hatem, Richard (2005). Miracles complete series DVD commentary for the episode "The Ferguson Syndrome" (DVD). Shout Factory.
- Reeves, Matt (2005). Miracles complete series DVD commentary for the episode "The Ferguson Syndrome" (DVD). Shout Factory.