Transcript of the DVD Audio Commentary by Chris Carter for 'Triangle'

[Transcribed by: X_Follower
Edited by: Libby]

Hi, this is Chris Carter, the writer and director of this episode, 'Triangle'. This was a overly ambitious episode actually and one that took a tremendous amount of extra planning and extra care and extra work for everyone involved. It was filmed in long takes, oners, that were put together artfully and made to look like real time so what you're seeing is actually edited film that pretends to be in one continuous long take through each act. And you can see where the... some of the edits are, if you pay very careful attention but our attempt was to disguise them. We begin here in the Sargasso Sea with the wreckage of a ship. This was actually filmed in a tank and here's Agent Mulder lying face first in the water. This was filmed in a tank that was used on the movie 'Titanic' among other movies. We're actually in the middle of a sort of desert here but you wouldn't know that because we never actually rise, the camera never rises above the water level.

[Main titles]

This is stock footage of stormy, stormy ocean with Mulder, David Duchovny, being pulled out of the sea. We're actually filming right off the edge of the Queen Mary here.

Just to give a little background - when I told the actors what we were doing, they were game and they wanted to do it, but they knew that they would have to learn their lines very well because they would be doing long takes as you see in this first take here. This is all continuous action, there isn't an edit in here but Mulder is hauled aboard the Queen Anne, which is the Queen Mary, and he is being brutalized by the British sailors who have found him in the sea, who believe he's a German spy, calling him Jerry.

There is an edit in this little area here to get Mulder upright to answer the questions and now he's going to be hauled roughly into the interior of the ship where once again we cut, but this was all long, long single takes that took a lot of rehearsal and ultimately a lot of very careful camera work and focus pulling. Dave Luckenbach really was, for me, a kind of co-director on this whole episode.

He, as the Steadicam operator, had the job of keeping the action framed in an interesting way and as you're coming into this hallway here there was another edit in the darkness there and another edit there on the swing pan Mulder brought into the hallway and taken to Captain Yip Harburg's room, the British captain.

Some of these actors where British and some were not, some were affecting British accents. I think the lead actor here, Trevor, is actually Australian, and Madison Mason who plays Yip Harburg is an American affecting an English accent. This was a really difficult scene for Bill Roe, they were all difficult for Bill Roe, but this one in particular because we're in 360 degrees here in the room here and he's got to light it and light in interestingly and we actually... he lit it in and then I would question his lighting, I thought it was too flat, and I thought it wasn't what I was looking for and he tore all the lighting out and we started again. It was very nervous-making because I think this was our first scene of the day and I think it took us until about lunchtime to actually get a shot off which is very nervous-making in episodic television because you've really got to be putting film in the camera and getting prints if you want to get your work done, so this was all a very anxiety-producing situation. David Duchovny was spot on, he had his dialog down perfectly and had to do this scene... I think we ended up shooting this scene it seems like a half a dozen times before we got it exactly right. You see, the camera needs to be a character here, it needs to be looking back and forth, anticipating the dialog, pushing in, keeping the framing interesting.

[Mulder tries to reassure the captain:
Mulder: Well, you can relax. There's no war going on. The world is at peace. There's a little trouble over at our White House, but that'll blow over, so to speak.]

There's a little cheap joke here about the White House and this is during the Clinton scandal, Monica Lewinski scandal, and it's a cheap joke that probably doesn't work now.

David is left alone in the room and all of a sudden he's confused about the time or he tells everyone else they're confused about the time because they're in the Devil's Triangle. Suddenly he hears a message over the radio which is Neville Chamberlain declaring war against Germany and in hearing this he realizes that it's not that he has come on to the ship in 1998 but that he's come on to the ship in 1939.

[Chamberlain's radio broadcast.]

There's a whip pan here and Mulder hears something at the door and all of a sudden for the first time we see that the characters - and there's a nice light change there, too, which was very difficult to do, this is continuous action - we see, we're going to see that some of the characters, that people of The X-Files are actually showing up now as characters, Nazi characters, that are very similar to the characters that they play and in terms of villainy in the series and this being a very edgy, edgy shot here (chuckles), very, very dark, done with a double actually, both Mulder and Spender here are doubled for this fight sequence and through some tricky camera work here in silhouette.

There's a cut right there, I have now Mulder finding that indeed it's Jeffrey Spender dressed as a Nazi. I got a chance to use some of my favorite 40s music here, too, or 30s and 40s music to transition scenes and it was kind of a thrill.

This was actually one of the less effective shots I did, I had to sort of span time here a little bit so it's a little bit of a pan across nothing while I get Mulder dressed or re-dressed and bring in the Nazis coming down the corridors, beautifully lit and shot corridors. Mulder enters in his Nazi uniform now in disguise.

Corey Kaplan did such an amazing job, our production designer on this episode, she was able to take what was already there which was quite beautiful and authenticate it, make it look as if it were a period, a completely period ship and it was not quite, there were some things, additions, lights, carpeting and so forth that actually made it look less like an actual period ship. There were little visual references to 'The Wizard of Oz' throughout including a billboard you saw, a posterboard you saw behind Mulder and here he ducks in to the ballroom as the Nazis... just eluding the Nazis who run past.

Camera functioning as a character here. Dave Luckenbach pushing in through the curtains and there's a cut and we're in the ballroom still as if it's continuous time. This was a very expensive scene because there's so many extras, the lighting took so much time and costumes and there are dancers here but I had actually only about I believe eight real expert dancers and everybody else had to be taught how to dance in the sort of period style. Mulder looks up and sees this singer on stage and recognizes her as we'll recognize her later on and now he bumps into Scully. Now, Mulder dressed in a Nazi uniform running into the Scully look-alike who's never seen him before in her life. This was very fun to shoot. You can imagine after five years of shooting Mulder and Scully as Mulder and Scully, the chance to make them somebody else and to use that conceit was a lot of fun, I think, for everybody.

[Mulder has been grabbed by some of the Nazi soldiers. "Scully" and her partner resume dancing.]

The man who we will come later to realize is Thor's Hammer, the scientist who knows about building an atomic weapon, we'll see him later on in the X-Files office.

[Mulder is dragged through the ship.]

Mulder is once again (chuckles) challenged, David is challenged physically here in these scenes, rough housed, handled roughly, taken outside above decks and hauled through the rain. The cameraman actually got upon to a... I had him rise upon to a platform here so we got a nice high angle that we wouldn't have achieved otherwise, so every time we see this angle changed here, you'll see that there's another cut, it requires some piece of machinery, piece of expertise, that's all done in continuous action.

[Mulder is brought to the wheelhouse. It's raining hard outside, water pouring down the windows.]

We hired some actual German actors for the Nazi roles so their voices sounded authentic, they spoke that thick German accent. We are actually in the wheelhouse of the Queen Mary right here and the water pouring off the sides is our water, we've created it with giant sprinkler systems, and what you're looking at really is take two of a very complicated sequence. Everyone had to hit their marks, say their lines properly and the camera had to work just so, and I would have probably done this a few more times that evening to get it just the way I wanted it and I have to say it turned out amazingly well in spite of fact that I only got to do it twice because the wheelhouse of the ship actually started to leak with all the water we were pumping down on it and the folks at the Queen Mary actually forced us to shut down so this was a stroke of just tremendous luck that we got what we got here.

You'll see in a moment the appearance of another X-Files... here's the Cigarette-Smoking Man, Bill Davis, as the head Nazi here and the appearance of another man who we last expect to see in Nazi dress, that being AD Skinner who I thought was somewhat less-recognizable with his hat on, but we gave him the little sort of Colonel Klink glasses. And this brings us to the end of an act.

Moving the episode now into the FBI.

[Scully is working at a desk in the bullpen when the Lone Gunmen arrive. They all move off a little way to talk but then realize another agent is staring at them, puzzled, so they move further away.]

For a lot of people this is their favorite act and I think it moves really well and it is... you'll see the, there's the man Scully was dancing with now working at the FBI, so everyone plays a dual role or most everyone. I think that the way the action moved here is… it worked, the concept actually of keeping this moving as one continuous take worked, and it worked because the Lone Gunmen knew their lines, they had spent the night before having a few beers and going over their lines so they were word-perfect, along with Scully who had to move the action not just by knowing her lines but she actually marches, she does a lot of very physical marching in and out of offices here and has to maintain a tone and keep her energy up through each piece of the film which all has to match tonally and in ever-rising, escalating sense of urgency.

[The Lone Gunmen need more information to help find Mulder. Scully walks off to begin her quest for that information.]

Mulder and Scully are actually out of the X-Files during the larger story arc here so this is Scully's office for now which is why we're not in the X-Files office, the X-Files office is being manned by Agent Spender who is Mulder's half brother and a villain - you've already seen him dressed in Nazi uniform.

[Scully goes to Skinner's office.]

This is Arlene Pileggi, Mitch Pileggi's wife playing Skinner's secretary. Scully going to get help from Skinner here who we've just seen in Nazi dress who offers her no help at all, similarly as he's done, he seems like a villain here as he appeared to us on the ship with Mulder when we last saw him at the end of the last act.

[Skinner says he can't help – he's not even her superior officer now.]

As we'll come to see, he's... well, he seems like he is an obstacle here, unwilling to become an ally.

[Skinner ushers Scully to his office door.]

Janet Reno on the wall, dates the picture – she's no longer in her job.

[Scully holds up the piece of paper of which she's written down what information she needs. Skinner takes it.]

I have saved at home these notes, this kind of funny little memorabilia, but you'll see that Gillian writes a note in Spender's office, the X-Files office, later on, and I don't know why but she had to write it on camera so when we wrapped the scene I took the note and I have kept it, it's one of my little pieces of the show.

[Scully leaves Skinner's office almost bumping into two other agents and heads off to the elevator.]

That was a tricky camera move there. The cameraman needed to get out of the office behind Gillian and get around her and in front of her and so we needed to create some obstacles, human obstacles. Now these elevator scenes are very tricky because the cameraman actually has to get inside with Scully in the elevator, make room, so he's got to squeeze in, keeping his framing, the focus puller here, he is, if the...

[As Scully leaves the elevator, she steps on another woman's foot.]

This is a trick. There was a cut there and I chose to have Scully step on the woman's toe to actually hide the fact that she is now completely separated from that last scene that she did, so being in the elevator and getting out of the elevator were actually shot as two different scenes.

[Scully goes to Kersh's office.]

The focus puller has a really difficult job here because each time the camera moves in and out and the subject matter, you know, changes its focus pulling, the focus puller has to be exact and if he's not, we get out of focus shots and we can't use those, so not only do the actors have to be great, not only does the cameraman have to be great, but the focus puller here has to be perfect and he was an incredible amount of the time.

[Scully has managed to get into Kersh's office, but just as she's about to explain the situation to him, she sees that the Cigarette-Smoking Man is in Kersh's office.]

Scully can get help from no one and she sees that now she's even betrayed Mulder's whereabouts and his plan, what he's done, to her superior and her arch-nemesis, the Cigarette-Smoking Man who we've already seen as the evilest of the Nazis on board of Queen Anne in World War II.

[Scully, in despair, leaves Kersh's office. Suddenly she remembers her cell phone.]

Scully going to the cell phone, running for the elevator and for the first time in a long time she can't get out on her cell phone, seems like that cell phone works everywhere but in the FBI elevator of all places. There's a cut here, every time that Scully gets in and out of the elevator we have to cut because we've got to be in a new place.

[Scully exits the elevator into the basement.]

We're in the X-Files basement here, X-Files office with Spender who's proven himself to be a weasel, as Scully says. He's no help at all but she browbeats him. This is a nice moment that Chris Owens created looking off, creating a moment so he's not just watching Scully's action but he's thinking and it was nice to be able to come off Scully to Chris Owens and he makes a moment of something that was really not a moment at all which was very important when the camera is always watching, there's no editorial, there's no chance to cut around anything, there's only what the camera sees and linear time.

[Spender has left the office. The phone rings and Scully picks it up. The caller is the Cigarette-Smoking Man, asking for Diana Fowley. Scully pretends to be Fowley.]

In the elevator scenes coming up, Scully moving in and out, here will be another cut as the camera focuses on the doors, we hold on the split and there you can see a slight move there if you notice it, a slight camera adjustment which is another cut where another scene... but the elevator door, elevator's actually stationed, it does not move although it appears to move and so while Scully's inside oftentimes when the doors open or at least twice while the doors are opening, Scully comes out, pops back in. Now, when the doors closed, we're still in real time and now the crew is out scrambling like crazy, set dec. is out re-dressing the same hallway as another hallway and this actually was really funny, this... we're in the same hallway now, different extras, different furniture, different everything. Oftentimes we went too fast and we would catch the crew with pictures in their hand and furniture, moving furniture, it was like a farce. That hallway changed three times during the course of that scene all running in continuous time.

[Skinner gives Scully the necessary information and leaves the elevator.]

This was, coming up, one of the most difficult scenes (chuckles) and I didn't realize how difficult it was for the cameraman when we jump out into the FBI parking garage and then the Lone Gunmen pull up in their van, the cameraman actually has to get on the van, in the van with them, sit down and we see Agent Spender running behind. The choreography of this, the timing and the camera difficulty... really it just was a superior effort by everyone to actually make this work in the time we had to make it work.

[Back on the ship.]

You're now in the bowels of the Queen Mary, being led along, Mulder being pushed along with the British soldiers, being led by the Nazi soldiers into the engine room. This was tight, really a tight squeeze for Dave Luckenbach and it was one of the first scenes that we shot, this may actually be the first scene that we shot and the difficulty kind of scared us all because getting this scene, making sure the camera functions as a character here, pushed into the action, made it feel alive and interesting throughout, in such close quarters was daunting and when we didn't get a shot off until lunch here, everyone having to get their lines right, the camerawork being right, the lighting being right, the introduction of new characters into the scene, the timing of that, it all was for television sort of bucking the odds that we could actually do what we wanted to do in the time that we had to do it, we couldn't fail, we could make mistakes but we could only make very few of them because we needed to get the work done.

[Crew members are arguing. Mulder tells them the ship isn't carrying a weapon, but that "Thor's Hammer" is a scientist, a man he saw in the ballroom.]

Now the plot thickens as the traitor is revealed. Mulder has now given the Nazis the information they need.

Mulder has a trick up his sleeve he believes, knowing where they are, in the Devil's Triangle, he was going to try to speak – you'll see another cut there through the steam – he's going to try to speak, to talk sense to. Now the man at the wheel who we'll recognize as AD Kersh, James Pickens, giving me his best Rastafarian accent. This was a really fun scene to shoot, these kind of angry mob crowd scenes, because it always felt like it filled the frame and it kept everything intense but it also felt at the same time like you, uh, when you got into these tight quarters you couldn't move the camera as much as you wanted to.

Mulder here trying to intervene.

[Mulder tells the crew members that they need to turn the ship around and go back in the direction they came from.]

The Queen Mary was this incredible resource and we had moved from Vancouver where we had been for five years and we all very nervous about the look of the show and if it could still be scary enough if we didn't have enough atmosphere which Vancouver had so much of, and what we found and what we learned real quickly was that there were so many resources available to us that we didn't have in Vancouver in terms of locations and things like the Queen Mary so this was one of the first episodes we did coming back from Vancouver to Los Angeles. It was just a treat to be able to get all this production value and something we couldn't have gotten in Vancouver.

See those whip pans and the cuts that are hidden there, tight quarters once again for the cameraman, having to scoot down, very, very narrow passageways, using the darkness here as places to cut. I believe through the first three acts, there were something like 17 edits so there were really only 17 shots through the first three-quarters of the picture and then there were more in the last act and that is because there were some camera tricks and things that required extra cuts but I think that there were a total of, it's either 34 cuts in the whole picture, or 17 plus 34.

[Nazi soldiers have dragged Mulder into the ballroom and pushed him to the floor in front of "Spender".]

Back in the ballroom here with Agent Spender or his Nazi counterpoint, and the Cigarette-Smoking Man speaking his best German which he practiced very hard for me, holding his cigarette as he always does, smoking a cigarette.

These scenes are shot with very wide-angle lenses, the camera is actually very, very close to the actor's faces because you want to encompass in these shots as much of this ballroom as possible which had been dressed so beautifully.

[A soldier walks past the crowd and pulls a man out of the group of passengers.]

This man who is shot here, stuntman, was the boyfriend of one of the assistant editors on the show, who just happened to fit the bill for white-haired gent who is the first passenger to be killed by the merciless Nazis.

[Back to Mulder, "Spender", and "The Cigarette-Smoking Man" as the camera circles them.]

It's just the amazing effort and attention to detail that the production folks, the art people on the show, Sandy Getzler in this case, the art director, were able to accomplish on a limited budget with limited time. This ballroom will actually change over and become a decrepit version of itself in a later scene.

["Scully" marches up to "Spender", arguing with him.]

Spender and Scully in a sort of allusion to the earlier scene where Scully had told Spender what to do and now Spender as the Nazi not bending to Scully's browbeating.

["Spender" draws a gun on "Scully", and Mulder intervenes.]

Mulder here, in a little lift from one of my favorite movies, 'Schindler's List', points to the dead man as the person the Nazis were looking for but it doesn't work, nice try.

[Again, "Spender" points his gun at "Scully". Outside the Queen Anne, a small boat, with Scully and the Lone Gunmen, draws close to the ship.]

This is an evening shot of the Queen Mary which turned out so beautiful, we just lucked out with the clouds and the sky and we're on a boat actually running beside the Queen Mary and having it all lit up as you see. We weren't able to empty the Queen Mary, so if you look very carefully you should be able to see that there are tourists or diners on board eating in the restaurants there.

[The screen slides to show the ballroom.]

And now the use of split-screen which actually are cuts in themselves but they make the action appear continuous with the sliding wipes. It's a very effective use of an optical to continue the sense of real time.

[The true Thor's Hammer has identified himself, despite the efforts of "Scully" and Mulder.]

All the extras here are in period costume, period jewelry if possible, and the make-up and wardrobe and hair departments all worked overtime, had extra staff, extra personnel in to make sure everyone looked authentic. These were actually some of the most beautiful scenes in the picture as you get a chance to see not just the environment but the extras so clearly.

["Scully" and Mulder are made to kneel down.]

Ah, there was a cut there, one of the more clunky cuts in the picture with the Nazis crossing in front of Mulder and Scully. There were framing problems and I just... it was one of the too obvious tricks for me.

[At that point, everyone realizes that the ship's engines have shut down. Sailors run into the ballroom and start fighting the Nazis.]

I didn't think of it until we got there, but they actually had a spotlight in the ballroom which actually came in handy for this scene so it actually gave it such an atmosphere that I actually had not imagined, so we lucked in to that. It was really a great thrill to stage these fight scenes and figure out how to put the cuts in them, and get the woman hitting the man over the head with the bottle, to keep the fighting interesting it had to look realistic and yet it was all staged fighting which sometimes doesn't look realistic.

[Scully and the Lone Gunmen are on the ship, in darkness, using flashlights.]

Once again the use of the wipe here, the optical wipe across to get us back to Scully and the Lone Gunmen who have now boarded the Queen Anne.

[They are walking down the lit but empty passageways.]

We imagine that they have boarded the same ship as Mulder, it looks in every way like the same ship as the one Mulder has boarded.

But we'll see that they'd actually boarded a ghost ship. Mulder is nowhere to be found.

[Back to the fight in the ballroom. Mulder and "Scully" escape by crawling under the tables.]

This is actually a scene that I had imagined with Mulder and Scully crawling on a floor with a lot more action and fighting around and I just couldn't figure out how to stage it because I didn't have the amount of extras or background or scope so it actually turned out being a little bit briefer and not quite as effective as I had imagined it.

Now the tricks will start. Mulder and Scully here are here in '39 trying to elude the Nazis and it looks like they are dead meat here...

[In a passageway, a Nazi solder orders them to stop.]

...until a shot is fired but no one's been hit but the Nazi, and now Skinner who's helped Scully in the FBI has now revealed himself to be a traitor to the Nazis, helping Mulder and Scully get away. Gillian's dress was specially designed actually by, the original design by Christine Peters who was the wardrobe designer on the episode.

[Mulder and "Scully" run off.]

I had seen an MTV video by the band Semi-Sonic and there was a clever use of split screen with people moving through the split screens so that was a, for me, an inspiration for this scene where both Scullys pass by one another in the same corridor and have a sense of one another but how could they when they seem to be in two different time periods.

[Back to Scully and the Lone Gunmen, still going through the corridors.]

All the staging and the switching here from period to period is done with stopping the camera, starting the camera, hold and freezing frame, optical tricks.

[Back to the fight in the ballroom.]

Scully and the Lone Gunmen now heading for the ballroom which you will recognize from the hallway hopefully, thinking we're going to walk into the ongoing fight and slowly revealing that it is 1998 and this is indeed a ghost ship. The changeover for this room from the ballroom you had just seen with the fight going on, beautifully appointed ballroom to this, that changeover had to take place in the course of hours while we did other work on the ship that night and that was the, I think, that was the art department's hardest challenge on the show, was doing things... it's almost like we were producing a play and I needed to move the scenery around while the actors were on stage.

[Mulder and "Scully" up on deck, Mulder trying to explain the situation.]

This was a really fun scene to shoot. Both David and Gillian were excellent in it and Gillian has to, not only do they kiss which Mulder and Scully had never done to this point in the show but Scully has got to land a punch on Mulder, and when she threw that punch I actually thought she had hit him originally, I mean, it seems so effective and it looks very effective here on film.

[The kiss.]

What a lot of people had been waiting for here.

Camera swings over and finds this stuntman, we've switched from Mulder to this stuntman, jumping 70-odd feet into the water beside the Queen Mary.

["Scully" throws a lifebelt over the rail.]

The split-screen, now we are in the tank where we began the picture, that same tank with the camera now slowly, with bubbles that we've added into the tank, slowly rising to the surface to find the same floating body that we saw in the beginning, and the boat that we've added to the tank, and the crew aboard that boat that we are actually in the tank or afloat on the tank pulling Mulder out of the water.

[Fade to black]

This was the only time-cut in the picture where we cut from one time to another and leads us to a long oner, single take, in Mulder's hospital room but there's a few more allusions to the 'Wizard of Oz' and the re-introduction of the players.

[Scully is at Mulder's bedside, the Lone Gunmen enter, followed by Skinner.]

This is one of few shots that was not operated by Dave Luckenbach, this was actually done off of a crane.

[After listening to Mulder's strange tale, the Lone Gunmen and Skinner leave.]

Mulder and Scully have not the most tender exchange, but sweet. And as we come around to Mulder, he delivers his line that we may have always imagined he would speak one day but has never spoken. It's met with rolling eyes. As we come around, though, we see that he's got the black eye, to prove it was all true.

[End titles]

The episode was nominated for several awards, one an Emmy for sound editing, it was nominated for a writing Emmy and for a directing Emmy as well.

The End