Trevor (The X-Files)
|The X-Files episode|
Mulder examines the drastically burned face of Bo Merkle, one of Pinker's former acquaintances. Although many reviews derided the plot, Cinefantastique praised the show's fake corpses.
|Episode no.||Season 6|
|Directed by||Rob Bowman|
|Written by||Jim Guttridge|
|Original air date||April 11, 1999|
|Running time||45 minutes|
"Trevor" is the seventeenth episode of the sixth season of the science fiction television series The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on April 11, 1999 in the United States. The episode was written by Jim Guttridge and Ken Hawryliw, and directed by Rob Bowman. "Trevor" is a "Monster-of-the-Week" episode, unconnected to the series' wider mythology. "Trevor" earned a Nielsen household rating of 10.4, being watched by 17.6 million people in its initial broadcast. The episode received mixed reviews from critics.
The X-Files centers on a pair of FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) who work on cases usually, but not exclusively, linked to the paranormal, called X-Files. Agent Mulder is a believer in the paranormal, while the skeptical Agent Scully has been assigned by the FBI to debunk his work. However, the two have developed a close friendship. In "Trevor", Agents Mulder and Scully search for an escaped convict in Mississippi who was suspected of killing his prison warden under mysterious circumstances. They then set out to find and apprehend him, but in doing so, Agents Mulder and Scully quickly discover that he has the uncanny ability to pass through solid, conductive materials.
"Trevor" was co-written by Ken Hawryliw and Jim Guttridge, who developed a partnership after working on the television series Millennium. The episode was originally supposed to be set in Oklahoma, but was changed to Mississippi for budgetary reasons. In addition, many of the special effects used in the episode were created by conventional methods in order to not exceed the budget of the show; this included the removal of a scene that would have shown Pinker moving through the walls in a motel.
At a prison farm in Stringer, Mississippi, the prisoners are being made to prepare and fortify the prison for a series of devastating tornadoes, which are due to pass through within the next few hours. An argument breaks out between Wilson "Pinker" Rawls (John Diehl) and another inmate, causing Pinker to pin the other prisoner's hand to a wall with a nail. After reporting to the prison warden for the incident, Pinker is made to sit through the tornado in a tiny shack, referred to as "the box" by the prisoners and guards. After the tornadoes pass through the county, the prisoners and guards emerge from their shelters and discover that "the box" has been totally destroyed. One of the prison guards later finds the prison warden's body split in half around the waist, propping his office door shut from the inside.
Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) soon arrive to investigate. Scully performs an autopsy and concludes that the severing of the torso and severe burn marks could have been caused by the weather conditions at the time and that a substantial amount of the torso is missing from the severing. The prison guard who found the warden's body insists that it was the work of Pinker, but cannot bring himself to explain how Pinker did it. Mulder finds that a wall in the office has become extremely brittle and crumbles at the slightest touch.
Meanwhile, in Meridian, Mississippi, a woman and her boyfriend are watching the television when a news report describes the tornado killing Pinker as it hit the prison. The woman is visibly disturbed by the news. Elsewhere, it is revealed that Pinker is alive and has broken into a clothing store. He is confronted by the strip mall's private security guard and handcuffed. However, Pinker quickly slips out of the handcuffs and escapes, stealing the security guard's car. Later, Mulder inspects the handcuffs and finds that they too have become brittle like the wall at the prison, crumbling into dust. Meanwhile, Pinker begins to ransack the house of an old friend looking for something when the occupant returns. After a brief discussion with Pinker requesting the whereabouts of their mutual ex-girlfriend - the woman from earlier watching the television report - the man pulls a gun. However, as he tries to shoot Pinker, the bullets merely pass through him and Pinker kills him by apparently burning his face off. Mulder and Scully arrive shortly thereafter; Mulder examines the bullets embedded in the wall and finds that they, too, crumble into dust when compressed. He muses that Pinker, after being struck by lightning, must have developed the ability to pass through solid objects. Scully argues that Pinker cannot possibly defy the laws of chemistry.
Evidence leads the agents to track down the lady who was upset over Pinker's death, June. June's sister, Jackie, tries to warn her, but Pinker accosts her and her son Trevor. Mulder and Scully later discover Jackie, who tells the agents that Pinker has the ability to walk through walls. June changed her last name to avoid Pinker; the agents find her living with her new boyfriend and convince her to go into witness protection. Pinker, who was hiding in the agents' car, leaves a charred message on June's house wall, but the agents discover that glass, acting as an insulator to electricity, repulses Pinker's abilities. Scully deciphers a doctor's note and learns that Pinker is actually in search of his son, who he has not met yet.
June is placed into witness protection at a motel by the Mississippi Highway Patrol. However, Pinker kidnaps June after killing the state trooper assigned to guard her. Pinker discovers his child is actually Trevor, who has been living with Jackie for the past several years as her child. Pinker attempts to kidnap Trevor, but is confronted by Mulder, who is armed with a shotgun loaded with rubber bullets. Pinker manages to evade Mulder and continues to chase after Trevor and Scully, whom he quickly corners. Scully, using Mulder's glass insulator hypothesis, locks herself inside a telephone booth with Trevor. After failing to break into the telephone booth, Pinker sees his son trembling before him. Realizing that he does not want to scare his son anymore, Pinker decides to walk away. However, June appears and hits Pinker with her car; he passes through the metal components of the car, but not its glass windshield, and is cut in half as a result, killing him instantly. Mulder goes to June, who says she had to do it or else Pinker would have hurt Trevor. She then asks what he [Pinker] wanted, to which Mulder replies "Maybe another chance", causing June to cry.
"Trevor" was co-written by Ken Hawryliw and Jim Guttridge. Hawryliw had been The X-Files' property master while the show was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia (1993–98). Over the years, he had written several scripts in his spare time but had never submitted them to The X-Files writing staff. Eventually, he secured a job on Millennium, where he developed a friendship with Guttridge. Guttridge showed Hawryliw a script he had been writing that he wanted to submit for The X-Files. Hawryliw enjoyed the premise but felt it was not written in the X-Files style. Hawryliw thus proposed that the two form a partnership: Guttridge would develop the basic story and script and Hawryliw would help transform the story into an acceptable X-Files script. Hawryliw later explained that the idea to make Pinker search out his son came from a desire to humanize the antagonist: "There's this unique man who can walk through walls. Now, who would this ability best apply to? Well, a convict obviously—a guy in prison. But then we had to give him an even stronger, more compelling reason to want his freedom, and that was where his son came from".
After the episode was submitted, several re-writes were requested. Originally, the story was supposed to take place in a "conventional" state prison located in Oklahoma, but because securing such a set would cause the episode to go over budget, the writers decided to set the story on a Mississippi prison farm instead. Another scene, originally scripted to take place at a motel, featured Pinker taking a short cut through a wall. This scene was cut not only because it proved too expensive, but also because the writers were hoping "to shift the episode's emphasis from the supernatural to the emotional."
Casting and filming
When it came time to cast the part of Pinker, casting director Rick Millikan auditioned dozens of actors before reaching out to noted actor John Diehl, famous for his work in the television series Miami Vice, as well as the films Stargate (1994) and Nixon. Millikan explained that, "[Diehl] had been on my list to put into the show since Day One. [...] It turned out the producers like him too—he'd read for us a couple of times already—and we were able to get him in without even a reading".
Director Rob Bowman used a combination of "clever camera angles, strategic use of breakaway cement, and—in the case of Mulder's trunk lid—the miracle of auto-body repair substance Bondo" to avoid going over-budget. Bowman was most proud of the scene where Mulder nudges a wall, only to have it crumble in the shape of a man. He explained that, "the first time we did it, all we got was a big square hole [...] but we didn't want it to look like Bugs Bunny with his ears sticking out, either". Eventually, the crew was able to create a breakaway section that "suggested, rather than outlined perfectly", the shape of a human body. To subtly imply the direction through which Pinker traveled, hair department head Dena Green was instructed to backcomb Diehl's hair for any scene taking place after he had walked through a solid.
"Trevor" first aired in the United States on April 11, 1999. This episode earned a Nielsen rating of 10.4, with a 16 share, meaning that roughly 10.4 percent of all television-equipped households, and 16 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode. It was viewed by 17.6 million viewers. The episode aired in the United Kingdom and Ireland on Sky1 on June 27, 1999 and received 0.73 million viewers. The episode was the third most watched episode that week, being beaten by The X-Files episode "Milagro". Fox promoted the episode with the tagline "The walls are alive! How can Mulder and Scully chase a killer who can pass through anything?"
Critical reception to the episode was mostly mixed. 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 two stars out of five, calling it "The X-Files at its most generic". The two noted that the episode had only one good visual gimmick; the ability for Pinker to walk through walls, which, they argue, was never exploited to its full extent. Ultimately, the two conduced that, "'Trevor' is just a bit too disposable and routine to hold much interest". Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club awarded the episode a "C" and wrote that the story "almost works", but that it "focuses too much on the 'monster' and not enough on Mulder and Scully." He called the finished product "something that has a very manufactured quality to it". Furthermore, he criticized the name of the episode, noting that, since half-way through the episode no one has turned up with the name Trevor and the antagonist is obviously motivated by something instead of money, Pinker "must have a son". VanDerWerff did, however, positively compliment the death sequences as well as the corpses, calling the latter "nicely gruesome". In a comparative list between Fringe episodes and The X-Files episodes, UGO Networks writer Alex Zalben named "Trevor" as the least effective "walking through walls" story, being beaten by the Fringe episode "Safe".
Not all reviews were completely negative. Paula Vitaris from Cinefantastique gave the episode a moderately positive review and awarded it two-and-a-half stars out of four. Vitaris, despite criticizing the shaky science behind the tornado with the ability to allow someone to pass through matter, called the episode's special effects "superb": she later cited the "fake corpses" as the best examples. Tom Kessenich, in his book Examination: An Unauthorized Look at Seasons 6–9 of the X-Files wrote positively of the episode, writing, "With 'Trevor' [the show] offered solid proof to those who thought otherwise that The X-Files can still deliver a powerful [Monster-of-the-Week] when the mood strikes."
- Meisler, pp. 210–221
- Meisler, p. 221
- Meisler, p. 223
- 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 June 21–27, 1999", listed under Sky 1
- Trevor (Promotional Flyer). Los Angeles, California: Fox Broadcasting Company. 1999.
- Shearman and Pearson, p. 182
- VanDerWerff, Todd (7 October 2012). "'Trevor'/'Darwin's Eye' | The X-Files/Millennium | TV Club | TV". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
- Zalben, Alex (5 April 2010). "Fringe vs. The X-Files: Which Does Weird Science Better?". UGO Networks. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
- Vitaris, Paula (October 1999). "Sixth Season Episode Guide". Cinefantastique. 31 (8): 26–42.
- Kessenich, p. 53
- 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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