Transcript of the DVD Audio Commentary by R.W. Goodwin for 'The Erlenmeyer Flask'

Transcribed by: Libby
Edited by: Libby & X_Follower

Hi, I'm Bob Goodwin. I directed this episode, 'The Erlenmeyer Flask', which was our season finale the first year, and one of the episodes that sort of helped kick us up into kind of hit status there.

[A car is being driven at high speed, followed by a police car. The chase goes into a shipyard, narrowly missed by a train, and ends on a pier. The suspect tries to flee but is caught by the police officers. A fight ensues, more police officers arrive. The suspect is tazered to no effect, and is then shot. He falls from the pier into the water, disappearing from view.]

This opening piece, here, all these shots of these cars chasing each other with the train, and flying over the tracks, and stuff, a lot of those were shot by J.P. Finn, who was our line producer and he directed this big piece of the second unit, did a great job, got a lot of excitement. This was a place called Versatel Shipyard, which was an abandoned shipyard in north Vancouver, as you could have seen in that last shot there, it has a beautiful view across the water in downtown Vancouver. Since then, of course, it's been mostly dismantled and now is being rebuilt as luxury condominiums and that sort of thing, but at the time it was perfect for us, it was a great spot for us to stage this exciting chase and fight and eventually this character, who's called Doctor Secare, played by an actor named Simon Webb who was a local man in Vancouver. He seems to have inhuman strength and, you know, the ability to withstand anything including the tazer gun and to elude the police that were coming at him, he just simply dove into the bay. Really exciting teaser, it was one of the most exciting ones.

This episode was the first episode I directed. I was with the show for five years as co-exec producer and exec producer and was lucky enough to direct about nine episodes altogether, but this was my first one and when I read the script I was, sort of, had two completely mixed emotions. I was absolutely thrilled because the script was just incredibly well written and, you know, Chris Carter wrote it, but it was also extremely difficult, it was just packed to the top with action and effects and odd and weird goings-on.

[The main titles, with a different tag.]

'Trust No One'. I think that's the first time we didn't use 'The Truth Is Out There'.

[Mulder is asleep on his couch. His television is showing "Journey to the Center of the Earth".]

I love that clip. James Mason and Pat Boone in an old technicolor movie.

[He is awakened by a phone call from Deep Throat, who suggests changing the TV channel. Mulder does so, and watches a news broadcast from the shipyard about the chase.]

Deep Throat - he'd been on all that first season, he was Mulder's sort of link to the nefarious goings-on, the government and hidden forces behind them were plotting. So now, we saw the guy dive into the water, but it's now nighttime so it's some time later and he's still not appeared.

[Mulder is showing Scully the tape he made of the newscast.]

This next little sequence which was, you know, beautifully shot -

[Mulder prints off a screen capture, with one dark-suited man shown clearly.]

Lindsey Ginter was one of our early bad guys, here we called him the Crew-Cut Man, and again like all of our bad guys, extremely nice guy, you know, very gentle soul.

[Mulder prints off another screen capture. He thinks there's some detail they're not seeing. Scully wonders if Deep Throat is yanking Mulder's chain.]

And you probably see that Gillian at this point is a few months pregnant. This was shot in May, I believe, April/May and she gave birth to Piper four months later.

[Back at the shipyard, Mulder shows the print of the Crew-Cut Man to the police officer in charge. Divers are still searching for the missing man.]

Again this was one of those scenes that was serendipitous because of that beautiful sky, you know, the sunset and fading in the background. Of course, we were all in blind panic because we had such a busy, hectic day shooting that whole opening chase and the fight and the dive into the water, all of that stuff that we had to do, that we were just fighting to not lose the light here at the very last minute.

[Mulder and Scully have gone to the car pound to look at the car the suspect was driving.]

You see, Mulder is a clever guy, you know, nothing gets past him.

[Mulder compares the car to one of his screen capture prints.]

Look at this, he's gonna make a... something, a discovery that probably none of us would make.

[There's a sticker on the windscreen of the car in the print but there's no sign of it on the car in the pound. Later, in the basement office, Scully views the print under a magnifying glass and identifies it as a caduceus.]

OK, we got our first clue, it's a caduceus and he was probably a doctor.

[Mulder had the tape enhanced and identifies a partial plate. He phones Danny for help in identifying the plate.]

I think Danny was David Duchovny's brother's name, so Danny became this unseen character that we called all the time for stuff.

[Danny has found the information and Mulder and Scully visit Dr. Berube in his animal laboratory.]

Here was a scene - this is a guy named Ken Kramer, a really good actor, played Doctor Berube, and the big challenge in this scene is we had all these monkeys that we had, had to be all crazy on cue. Among other things, the room was quite warm and the monkeys had been there for a little while, I mean it wasn't uncomfortably warm, but warm enough so that there was this extremely ripe odor permeating this room.

[Scully gets too near one of the cages and the monkey reacts angrily.]

The monkeys actually did a pretty good job, I mean it was a bit of trickery here and there, staging it and shooting it in such a way that you could piece it all together, but all of the little moments that were required, somehow they managed to pull it off for us.

[Mulder and Scully leave and Dr. Berube returns to his work.]

This guy looks a little untrustworthy, doesn't he? Of course, I don't think you can trust anybody on 'The X-Files'.

[Mulder suggests checking with the doctor's housekeeper about the car. Scully objects, saying that it's absurd, relying on a clue that's based on nothing but speculation.]

So again, now, Deep Throat is obviously deeply involved in whatever this mythology, this secret goings-on that somehow Mulder is insistent upon uncovering.

[Mulder returns to his apartment building where Deep Throat intercepts him outside and says Mulder's commitment has diminished. Mulder asks for more information, but Deep Throat says under the circumstances he has given all he can.]

So, you know, Deep Throat was this sort of enigmatic guy who for some reason would dole out just as much information as he wanted to and then stop and withhold information so that his motives were always very questionable and of course somebody, you know, would wonder why or how you could trust such a guy, so Mulder played it right, he sort of played it as he could.

[Mulder questions whether Deep Throat has become dependent on Mulder's willingness to play his games. Deep Throat urges Mulder to keep going as he's never been closer but doesn't tell Mulder what he's close to.]

You see, he just keeps urging him along, trying to persuade him to discover something even though he doesn't know what it is. And here we are back with our monkeys and this was a challenge getting our monkeys to all act crazy and nuts like that. They probably had good reason because in comes the Crew-Cut Man.

[Dr. Berube denies knowing where the suspect, Secare, is and the Crew-Cut Man attacks and kills him.]

Now if you sort of do the chronology here, I think two days had passed because it was a daylight when the strange man jumped into the bay, and then we saw sunset and then it was daylight again and now it's night again, so this is the second night and the guy has been gone, disappeared in the water, ever since.

[Back at the shipyard, the search is called off. As the divers return to land, Secare surfaces.]

For this sequence, we actually designed a method to shoot the scene in real time in the real place. In other words, the actor, Simon Webb who played Doctor Secare who has now been in the water for at least two days, we actually had this actor reading through to on a crane that we had under the water that we had levered so that we could actually raise him up out of the bay, but the timing of it wasn't quite right. It worked, he came up and, you know, it was a fascinating shot, but the timing wasn't right, it was all done as one shot so I had to take him back later and shoot that piece of his head coming up out of the water in a tank on the stage. What we didn't know when we cast him in the part and later found out was that he had a phobia about water, he was absolutely terrified of it, and so here this poor guy, actually the first night spent all that time in the cold, icy waters of north Vancouver, hiding, crouching down so that he could be lifted up by the crane, up to make his big reveal on the surface of the water, and he spent the whole night just absolutely terrified at the prospect of having to do that. And then, unfortunately, it didn't really work so we had to bring him back and put him in the water, and even in the little four foot tank on stage. He was just as frightened of that, so that's what you call going beyond the call of duty.

[Mulder and Scully are investigating the crime scene in Berube's lab. Mulder looks at various pieces of equipment, then picks up an Erlenmeyer flask labeled "Purity Control".]

That, see, is the Erlenmeyer flask, that's where we get the title of the episode. Purity Control - now that isn't cryptic, that doesn't lead to some interesting thoughts.

[Mulder asks Scully to analyze the liquid in the Erlenmeyer flask, to which she responds: "Okay, Mulder, but I'm warning you. If this is monkey pee, you're on your own."]

No, it wasn't monkey pee, we had enough of that already, we had enough of the real deal.

[Mulder goes to Berube's house.]

So now Mulder has to go to Doctor Berube's house to see what he can see.

[Mulder rings the doorbell, but there's no response.]

And Mulder being Mulder, doesn't really have to follow the rules, I mean, technically I suppose he has to have some kind of a search warrant to actually go into this house but for him it's easier just to sneak in the back window.

[Scully has gone to Georgetown University and consults a biologist. A screen attached to a powerful microscope shows what the biologist has found in the Erlenmeyer flask.]

Now these, I think, were real, I think these were viruses there or something. Paul Rabwin managed to find these for us somewhere in L.A. but they were something odd but something real that we felt looked alien enough.

[Back in Dr. Berube's house.]

So he's been in this house for quite a while. I guess he still hasn't found anything but now suddenly he's getting something that's going to help.

[Mulder finds an itemized phone bill, showing many calls to the same number. He phones Danny for help in identifying the name and address for that phone number.]

Look, there's Danny again, good old Danny.

[Through the window behind Mulder, a van can be seen driving up and parking on the street.]

So this was, of course, a tiny bit of a challenge, finding a location that would work right for this so that we could stage the scene in such a way that that van could pull in behind and this microphone was a creation of the props department.

[The phone rings but it's not Danny, it's Secare using a payphone. The driver of the van, the Crew-Cut Man, points a microphone at the house and listens to the conversation. Secare collapses and a passer-by picks up the dropped phone and fails to tell Mulder where Secare is.]

No, but, listen, don't hang up the phone, no, don't, tell him where you are before you - oh. Isn't that just like him.

[The phone rings again and this time it's Danny. Mulder then notices the van. Danny gives Mulder the address: Zeus Storage, Pandora Street.]

Oh, oh my goodness. So now the plot thickens even more. So this next place, this Zeus Storage, you know, that Mulder's been led to, this offered an interesting challenge.

[In an ambulance, paramedics who are treating Secare determine that he has a pneumothorax and push a cannula into his chest. The air that is expelled is noxious.]

Oh, this sequence here, this was an ambulance, actually Chris got this idea because of a real event in L.A., a woman was brought into the emergency hospital someplace, I think Lakewood or something like that, and when they went to, I guess, intubate her or something, and they had to break through her skin, she suddenly emitted some noxious gas that actually knocked out the doctors and the nurses in the room. I'm not sure they ever found out what it was all about, but Chris kind of put that together and said, 'well, that's a great thing for aliens, you know, aliens probably have that,' and so that's what led to this sequence with the alien gasses escaping from the body and blinding our poor paramedics.

[The ambulance comes to a halt. Secare recovers sufficiently to escape from the ambulance.]

For a skinny little guy, this doctor, boy, he sure is a tough guy.

[Scully phones Mulder who tells her that Secare is still alive.]

What is nice is them all in Georgetown Microbiology Department to stay up so late and help her out, but...

[Scully tells Mulder that what has been found is some kind of bacteria, each containing virus, and Berube may have been cloning them.]

'Cloning them' - so this was the beginning, I mean I guess we had some, you know, elements of the mythology through the first season, but this 'Erlenmeyer Flask' was the first, was the one that really sort of ramped it all up and really kind of churned up, you know, the pot, everything, and it was interesting because we got, you know, a lot of people watched this and we kept building our rating all through the season and apparently enough people were intrigued by it because when we came back at the beginning of the second season there was suddenly a whole lot more people watching than we were used to.

[Mulder has arrived at Zeus Storage.]

Zeus Storage, Pandora Street, maybe that's a box that they shouldn't open. So Scully, you know, her skepticism is being shaken. This shot here is a zoom in dolly out which kind of gives an odd effect, a little bit of mystery thing as Mulder is looking at the key, but we had to create this room now, this lab, where he's going to go into this room and find some very mysterious things going on. This was a set that we built on the stage, I designed it so that I could do all the shots I needed to do, you'll see a big crane shot towards the end, but it was a challenge to figure out to do this one, because what he sees is a room with all these tanks and in these tanks are what appear to be a bunch of naked men. What we're finding out is that they're cloning, they're making clones of these alien hybrids. And the question was how do we do this, do we... the first one of the thoughts was we would create these bodies out of plastic or some form, you know, just to sculpt them and then make them, but that proved to be not only expensive but probably not very effective, so ultimately what I decided to do was we hired a bunch of guys who were scuba divers and they were used to, you know, spending a lot of time under water and, you know, without a problem, and they weren't averse to coming in and getting naked, so we had these naked men in these tanks and we had provided them a breathing tube so that between takes they could, you know, they would breathe and they would take a deep breath and then they'd put the tube down, they'd hide it when we were ready to make a take, and it became a very popular set, especially the ladies in the office, there seemed to be an awful lot of people interested in filming at that particular time.

[At Georgetown University, the biologist tells Scully that her research has shown that the bacteria have two extra DNA nucleotides, not found in nature, so would have to be extraterrestrial.]

I'm not sure she ever quite says it right - "extraterrestarol", "extraterrestrial". Keep in mind this is the first season and Scully is very skeptical of all of this alien nonsense that Mulder is believing in. So, did she say that right or not? "Extraterrestrial". Anyway, here comes Mulder.

[Mulder leaves Zeus Storage. The van drives up. Crew-Cut Man and another man get out and Mulder walks away. A third man approaches him and Mulder runs.]

This is the sequence where I first discovered how fast David Duchovny can run, he's a very athletic guy and this was a big chase sequence and he had to jump a fence and run down the alley. He, again, doesn't like to use stuntmen, he likes to do everything himself. I think we possibly used stuntmen in one big wide shot going over the fence, but for the most part this was all David and the problem we had here was keeping up with him. I had a golf cart to start with and he just passed that like, you know, a bolt of lightning and ultimately I ended up having to be on a regular pick up truck that could travel up to 50 miles an hour just in order to keep up with him running down that alleyway. And then there was something else, that was a lesson I learned because when David was supposed run, he ran, he didn't hold back, he didn't want to hold back and he didn't hold back so it was up to us to figure out ways to keep up with the guy.

[Mulder has returned to his apartment. The phone rings it's Scully.]

You can see here that Scully, oh excuse me, that Gillian is starting to show just a little bit of her pregnancy.

[Scully tells Mulder that the bacteria could be extraterrestrial. She collects him from his apartment and they drive to Zeus Storage.]

So, another one of these great X-Files moments, he's going to take her back and show her all the naked guys and, yeah, you see we kept her in some coats and things to kind of keep her covered up over there, she was starting to show a little bit, I think she was in about her fourth month or something.

[Before they enter the building, Scully tells Mulder that she was wrong, that she'd always trusted science but now doesn't know what to believe.]

Nice moment between the two of them, you know, clearly we're seeing the evolving of the character of Scully as she's starting to at least be open to more of the ideas that Mulder has been espousing. And here we go, now finally he has the proof, he's gonna show her just exactly what these people are doing - or, is he?

[Mulder unlocks the door, but the room is now empty. Scully asks what happened to the bodies, which Deep Throat answers: "God only knows."]

There he is. Boy, that guy Deep Throat, he just shows up at the oddest places at the oddest times.

[Deep Throat says he doesn't know what happened to them, but there are secret groups at the highest levels of power.]

Of course, this is just the beginning of this theme within the intelligence community, government, there are these black groups, these hidden secret agendas going on, and God knows what they're all about, but they're there. And Mulder now... he knows that, he's always known that. His job is to uncover it.

[Deep Throat says that experiments with humans and extraterrestrials have been going on for years, that the tissue has been available since 1947 but not the technology.]

Human-alien hybrids were created in this very room and as we'll see over the next few years, the program has gotten only bigger and bigger and bigger.

[Deep Throat says that Secare was a volunteer as he was dying from melanoma cancer, and he and the other patients recovered from their illnesses but had acquired inhuman strength and the ability to breathe underwater.]

So that's why that little skinny guy was able to stay under water and all that, he has inhuman strength, he can breathe under water.

[Deep Throat explains that Secare wasn't supposed to have survived, that a living hybrid would be too great a liability, especially if he needed medical procedures.]

So Scully is obviously having trouble with this, but it's hard for her to deny it, I mean she's... knows that a lot of these events have occurred.

[Deep Throat says Mulder and Scully have to put together everything they have found and they must find Secare.]

So Deep Throat's an interesting character, it's like she said, 'you didn't give us much to begin with and now you give us so much'. It is a little unclear what his motives are but clearly they're not completely up and up.

[While Mulder looks for Secare, Scully goes back to Georgetown University where she learns that the biologist and her family have been involved in a car accident and the biologist is dead.]

And once again, part of this over-reaching conspiracy, the doctor who found that alien virus is killed with her whole family in a mysterious car accident. And now Mulder is back to Doctor Berube's house but something's wrong here.

[Mulder hears a sound from upstairs. He eventually locates Secare hiding in the attic.]

This attic, of course, was a set that we built on stage because it's very difficult to find an attic in a real house that has the room to stage a scene and get a crew in with their cameras and lights and all that sort of stuff, so this was built. But here's a very good example of how this ongoing aspect of aliens and their blood being toxic to humans, has this terrible effect on people.

[Secare attacks Mulder who assures him that he'll protect him.]

Oh, no, he won't protect him.

[A shot rings out. Crew-Cut Man has shot Secare. Crew-Cut Man is wearing a gas mask. Noxious gas emanates from Secare, affecting Mulder who collapses.]

Not good.

[The clean-up operation is underway. Mulder is on the floor, hands bound, showing signs of the effects of the noxious gas around his eyes and mouth.]

Well, once again, Mulder came very tantalizingly close to solving the mystery but was stopped at the last minute by the bad guys. This was apparently very painful, this makeup, or at least very uncomfortable for David and he had to wear it for quite a while.

[Scully arrives at Mulder's apartment block. Deep Throat appears. He says that Mulder won't be killed because he's too high-profile. He says there still is evidence, it would be difficult to obtain but Scully might succeed, and it could be used to trade for Mulder.]

So what do you do in a situation like this. You got a guy you can't trust, but on the other hand you don't have anything else to do. I mean, you're sort of up against a wall, so poor Scully, she's kind of got to forward with what he's suggesting. She's got to save Mulder's life.

[Scully goes to the high containment facility at Fort Marlene.]

Another one of those great X-Files moments where Scully makes this discovery here in this secret lab where she's managed to get false ID and get herself in. Of course, once she's through that door she doesn't have any guarantee she's ever going to get back out again. And again, this next sequence is kind of an example of how talented our craftspeople were on the show, props and art department and that sort of thing, because they had to create this wonderful little creature in this cool little container. And again, this was one of those moments where I was, as a director, getting nervous about whether or not we were going to be able to pull it off because what we found was that we had to use dry ice to create the effect of the smokiness coming out of the container but what that did was it had a very sort of adverse effect on the prop itself. And we found after the first take that pieces of it were starting to break off and flake off and that sort of thing, but fortunately we had a back-up, one back-up, and we got the shot.

[Eventually Scully reaches the required floor where she is asked by a guard for the project password which she doesn't know.]

"Purity Control", "Purity Control".

[She suddenly realizes.]

Good work. That Erlenmeyer flask proved to be worth its weight in gold.

[The guard lets her in. She enters a room where there are glass-fronted cabinets containing canisters.]

Now here we are. So this whole little set was designed and everything just for this one moment and this was where we discovered that we were in danger of not getting the sequence because this little object in this container was being frozen by the dry ice and was breaking and cracking and falling to pieces. But, as you'll see, we got lucky and we got a couple of shots that made it work great.

[Wearing thick gloves, she opens a door marked "Purity Control". She slides out the canister and opens the lid. She pulls out a container holding an alien fetus.]

That little alien baby.

[Later that night, Scully is parked on a bridge and Deep Throat drives up to trade the alien fetus for Mulder.]

So this sequence here, which is the last sequence in 'Erlenmeyer Flask', and again another one of our season finales with, you know, the great ending. It was a really difficult experience for me because what happened was that this particular bridge that we chose was sort of under the jurisdiction of two different authorities. One side was the Port of Vancouver and the other side was the City of Vancouver, and in order for us to shoot there we had to have some Port policemen with us as well as some City policemen with us, and I had planned the entire night because it was done in late April, and in April the nights are getting pretty short because we're pretty far north in Vancouver so it didn't get dark until late and it was going to get light very early, and unfortunately the police officers who were supposed to be with us were not there and we were not allowed to shut this bridge down until the officers arrived. So I ran up to the top of this huge factory building that was nearby to get this big high shot that sort of gave us the wide sweeping view of everything. We were all ready to shoot as soon as the policemen got there and then it was just a race against time, and I think the sequence came out great, I mean I was really happy with what we got and it seemed to work well in the show, but this closeup of Gillian, this was her only dialogue in the whole scene and I had held off on her close-up because I knew that in the worst case scenario these close-ups I could shoot on a stage or, you know, somewhere else, I could fake the night because it's not that big an area to cover, so I shot all of the wide stuff like the van coming up the road and the meeting on the bridge and all of that sort of thing first, and saved the close-ups to the very end. In point of fact by the time we shot Gillian close-up the sky was already starting to lighten. And she was upset because, you know, rightfully so, she had been waiting all night long to do her dialogue and she was very tired by the time we got to it, but I promised her if it didn't work, you know, if it was not acceptable, that we'd reshoot it and I, you know, would make sure that she looked great. Well, as it turned out she was just fantastic, I mean, she was just wonderful in the scene.

[The Crew-Cut Man arrives in his van. Deep Throat gets out of his car and hands over the alien fetus. Crew-Cut Man then shoots him. Mulder is pushed out the back of the van.]

And here again, this is one of these moments that people sort of always remember about 'The X-Files' because this was the first time a regular character, Deep Throat, was killed, just completely shocking to people, it was the shock, how can you kill off a regular character on the show? And of course he says the famous words:

[Scully runs over and checks Mulder, then Deep Throat. Deep Throat's last words: "Trust, trust no one."]

"Trust no one" - well, that's good advice especially if you're an FBI agent named Scully or Mulder. Trust no one. And there's that wonderful ending shot.

[A bird's eye view of the bridge and the city lights beyond.]

[Later, Scully is in her apartment, in bed.]

This is of course the ending of this episode, is a moment that will occur more than once over the course of the years, but it's one of the first times that Mulder's been confronted with this thing and was one of David's first emotional moments and he was just real good at it, really really good at it.

[Her phone rings. It's Mulder to tell her that the X-Files has been shut down.]

So, can this all be true? Kill Deep Throat and now they're going to shut down the X-Files.

[Mulder says he can't give up as long as the truth is out there. Elsewhere, Cigarette-Smoking Man deposits the alien fetus in a box containing many others. He exits the room which has a sign on it showing it is in the Pentagon.]

"The truth is out there". And of course this nice moment is recreation of the scene in the pilot, where Cigarette-Smoking Man had gone in the pilot into this warehouse and now of course he's putting the fetus of the alien. And at this point we don't even know who this mysterious man is, except he's in the Pentagon.

The End