Miracle Man (The X-Files)

"Miracle Man"
The X-Files episode
Miracle man samuel.jpg
Samuel Hartley, the titular miracle man
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 18
Directed by Michael Lange
Written by Chris Carter
Howard Gordon
Production code 1X17
Original air date March 18, 1994
Guest stars
Episode chronology
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List of The X-Files episodes

"Miracle Man" is the eighteenth episode of the first season of the American science fiction television series The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on March 18, 1994. It was written by Howard Gordon and series creator Chris Carter, directed by Michael Lange, and featured guest appearances by R. D. Call and Scott Bairstow. The episode was a "Monster-of-the-Week" story, unconnected to the series' wider mythology. "Miracle Man" earned a Nielsen household rating of 7.5, being watched by 7.1 million people in its initial broadcast; and received mixed reviews from critics.

When FBI special agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) receive a video tape of a faith healer whose latest patient died mysteriously, the agents come to believe the healer's ministry may be covering up several murders.

Contents

Plot

In 1983, a young boy pushes his way past an emergency crew to open a body bag, before telling the severely-burnt body to "rise up and heal". He is reprimanded by one crew member, but the boy's father convinces those present to allow him to continue. As he does so, the body inside the bag begins to revive.

Ten years later, Dana Scully shows Fox Mulder a videotape of a religious service led by the now-grown Hartley, who has become an evangelical faith healer for a ministry run by Calvin. The video shows the second of two supposed healings which later left the patient dead. The agents arrive at Tennessee to find Samuel missing, though he later turns up drunk at a bar, his faith shaken by what has happened. The agents doubt his ability, but he is able to convince Mulder that he knows the latter has lost a sister—Samantha—at a young age. Mulder has been seeing visions of Samantha, and continues to see them. Samuel is arrested, but at his bail hearing the courtroom fills with a swarm of locusts, allowing him to escape.

Once freed, Samuel returns to his ministry and attempts to heal a woman in a wheelchair. However, she begins to suffer a seizure and dies, leading to Samuel being rearrested. An autopsy reveals the woman died of cyanide poisoning, whilst Mulder and Scully find evidence that the swarm of locusts, which were actually grasshoppers common to the area, was guided by someone to the courtroom through the building's ventilation system. Mulder believes Samuel to be innocent, though before he can convince Maurice Daniels, the town sheriff, of this, the sheriff allows two men to beat Samuel to death.

At his home, Leonard Vance—the burnt man who had been revived in the prologue, and who has become a vocal member of the ministry—sees a ghostly vision of Samuel, who accuses him of betraying the church and being guilty of the murders. Vance confesses and blames his bitterness at having been resurrected with such a scarred and deformed visage. Mulder and Scully, who have been able to trace a large purchase of grasshoppers to Vance, arrive to find the man dying of cyanide poisoning from his own glass of water. He confesses to the agents before falling dead.

As the agents prepare to finish work on the case, they receive a phone call to say that Samuel's body has gone missing from the morgue, and witnesses have seen him walking around, badly bruised. Meanwhile, Sheriff Daniels is visited by a deputy, who arrests him for questioning by the district attorney over Samuel's death. As Mulder and Scully leave Tennessee, the Miracle Ministry is being closed down, and Mulder sees one last vision of his missing sister before he gets into his car.

Production

"Miracle Man" was the first episode of The X-Files written by Howard Gordon without the aid of his long-term collaborator Alex Gansa.[1] The pair had worked on several other series before The X-Files,[1] and had also contributed the episodes "Conduit",[2] "Ghost in the Machine",[3] "Fallen Angel"[4] and "Lazarus"[5] to the series so far. Series creator Chris Carter recalls being asked to collaborate on the episode, saying "Howard came to my house, and said, 'Help me out,' so we went to my living room and put up this bulletin board and in a matter of hours we came up with this story".[6] Originally the script had called for more overt religious imagery, though censors at Fox objected to depictions of faith healer Samuel being beaten to death whilst in a cruciform pose, leading to scenes being cut.[7]

Exterior shots of the town were filmed on location in Steveston, British Columbia—a location which had previously been used in the earlier first season episode "Gender Bender".[8] Scenes set in the home of Reverend Hartley were shot in a mansion in the Langley area, with the crew taking advantage of an old filled-in swimming pool in the building to set up the necessary equipment.[9] All of the scenes set in the faith healer's tent were filmed in one day, and involved over three hundred extras. Producer R. W. Goodwin felt that the greatest difficulty in creating the episode was the challenge in finding enough actors in the Vancouver area who could portray a convincing Southern United States accent, leading to the hiring of a dialect coach to prevent the cast from sounding "like they were coming from fifteen different parts of the South".[10]

Broadcast and reception

"Miracle Man" premiered on the Fox network on March 18, 1994, and was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on January 26, 1995.[11] The episode earned a Nielsen household rating of 7.5 with a 13 share, meaning that roughly 7.5 percent of all television-equipped households, and 13 percent of households watching TV, were tuned in to the episode.[12] A total of 7.1 million households watched this episode during its original airing.[12]

In a retrospective of the first season in Entertainment Weekly, the episode was rated a B-. Scott Bairstow's guest role was praised, though it was noted that "an ultimately contrived plot and a stereotypical Bible-thumping Southern milieu make for a case more suited to Jessica Fletcher than Mulder and Scully".[13] Zack Handlen, writing for The A.V. Club, described it as "a largely predictable story that hits all the middle-of-the-road marks", finding the religious imagery to have been used to little effect.[14] Matt Haigh, writing for Den of Geek, felt that the identity of the killer was one of the few endings amongst first season episodes that he had found genuinely surprising, though he attributed this to the episode's focus on Mulder's personal history.[15] The use of Mulder's visions of his sister Samantha as a motivation for his actions in this episode has been seen as "opening up" the overarching search for the truth about her through the series.[16] The plot for "Miracle Man" was also adapted as a novel for young adults in 2000 by Terry Bisson.[17][18]

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b Lowry, p.142
  2. ^ "Conduit". Daniel Sackheim (director); Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa (writers). The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. October 1, 1993. No. 1, season 1.
  3. ^ "Ghost in the Machine". Jerrold Freedman (director); Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa (writers). The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. October 29, 1993. No. 7, season 1.
  4. ^ "Fallen Angel". Larry Shaw (director); Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa (writers). The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. November 19, 1993. No. 9, season 1.
  5. ^ "Lazarus". David Nutter (director); Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa (writers). The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. February 4, 1994. No. 15, season 1.
  6. ^ Edwards, p.67
  7. ^ Cantor, p.228
  8. ^ Gradnitzer and Pittson, p.43
  9. ^ Gradnitzer and Pittson, p.45–46
  10. ^ Edwards, pp.68–69
  11. ^ Robert Mandel, Daniel Sackheim, et al (1993–1994) (booklet). The X-Files: The Complete First Season (Liner notes). Fox. 
  12. ^ a b Lowry, p.248
  13. ^ "X Cyclopedia: The Ultimate Episode Guide, Season 1 | EW.com". Entertainment Weekly. November 29, 1996. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,295174_4,00.html. Retrieved August 6, 2011. 
  14. ^ Handlen, Zack (July 24, 2008). ""Young at Heart" / "E.B.E." / "Miracle Man" | The X-Files/Millennium | TV Club | TV | The A.V. Club". The A.V. Club. http://www.avclub.com/articles/young-at-heartebemiracle-man,13096/. Retrieved August 6, 2011. 
  15. ^ Haigh, Matt (November 24, 2008). "Revisiting The X-Files: Season 1 Episode 18 - Den of Geek". Den of Geek. Dennis Publishing. http://www.denofgeek.com/television/151164/revisiting_the_xfiles_season_1_episode_18.html. Retrieved August 6, 2011. 
  16. ^ Parish, p.136
  17. ^ Bisson, Terry (2000). Miracle Man: A Novelization. HarperEntertainment. ISBN 0061066176. 
  18. ^ "Miracle Man: A Novelization (Book, 2000)". WorldCat. http://www.worldcat.org/title/miracle-man-a-novelization/oclc/45305212&referer=brief_results. Retrieved August 6, 2011. "…based on the teleplay written by Howard Gordon and Chris Carter" 

References

  • Cantor, Paul A (2003). Gilligan Unbound: Pop Culture in the Age of Globalization. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0742507793. 
  • Edwards, Ted (1996). X-Files Confidential. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0316218081. 
  • Gradnitzer, Louisa; Pittson, Todd (1999). X Marks the Spot: On Location with The X-Files. Arsenal Pulp Press. ISBN 1551520664. 
  • Lowry, Brian (1995). The Truth is Out There: The Official Guide to the X-Files. Harper Prism. ISBN 0061053309. 
  • Parish, Jane (2001). The Age of Anxiety: Conspiracy Theory and the Human Sciences. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 0631231684. 

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