Season 1

1x06 Ghost in the Machine

Air date: 10-29-93
Writers: Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon
Director: Jerrold Freeman
Editor: James Coblentz
Director of Photography: John S. Bartley, C.S.C.
Documented Phenomenon: Artificial Intelligence

Episode summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

At Eurisko World Headquarters in Crystal City, Virginia, a high tech firm, Brad Wilczek is confronting CEO Benjamin Drake. Brad is upset over the cut backs in Research and Development after a stock holders meeting that didn't go well. Brad storms out of the office and warns that Drake will regret this decision. Drake is typing at a computer and transcribing an audio tape memo dictated by Drake, the CEO reveals changes to Eurisko, that Wilczek has resigned, that one of the projects to be terminated is the C.O.S. Project, Central Operating System. A video monitor panel is intercepting data on Benjamin Drake, who mentions that the systems performance has been a disaster over the last three quarters, projecting losses are well into 1994. While this is occurring, a video camera is monitoring the man and the COS panel is watching him. Drake closes the laptop he is working on, stands up and crosses the room to get his business jacket, he hears water running in the bathroom and investigates. His office bathroom floor is flooded with water, while he tries to put his hand in the basin to shut the faucet down, the phone rings from the bathroom countertop, there's no answer but an automated time announcement. Suddenly, the bathroom door automatically shuts before Drake can react and the lights go out. Drake walks over and shakes the door. He pulls out and tries to use his sliding door key and it won't activate. He pulls out a metal key from his pocket and inserts into a metal key hold beside the door key consol, there's a high bust of electricity and Drake is thrown across the bathroom and into the mirror, shattering it as he falls. A camera zooms in and an electronic voice on the COS panel states, 'file deleted'.

Back at FBI Headquarters a man is looking for Mulder while the agents are picking up some coffee from a concession tray. The man is Jerry Lamana, a former partner of Mulder's in the violent crime division. Mulder tries to be modest while the concession man gives them the amount, Jerry offers to buy the both of them lunch. They meet in Mulder's office while Lamana explains a case he's on, the electrocution of Drake, which looked like an elaborate booby trap. Nancy Spiller is heading the investigation, who was a forensics instructor at the academy, Scully jokes about Spiller having a negative reputation. Lamana mentions taking the liberty of mentioning Mulder name to participate with the squad. Mulder points out that he is no longer on general assignment, Jerry looks disappointed and reveals he's somewhat desperate, Drake was a good friend of that attorney general and he could use a success right now. Lamana tells Mulder he wouldn't ask if it wasn't important.

While walking towards the Eurisko building, Scully asks about what happened, Mulder explains they had different career goals and that Jerry ran into a bad break while working hate crimes in Atlanta, a video camera follows them. Jerry had misplaced a key piece of evidence that lead to a federal judge's attack, the judge losing both hands and an eye. Scully says nothing as they enter the elevator. An female automated voice asks them what floor they are going on, while Mulder comments about a politically correct elevator. After several stops, the elevator stops, Scully uses the elevator phone for security, when she reveals her name, the elevator starts up, the COS system uses her name and pulls up her phone number. Jerry shows them a chip panel on the elevator door where the servo has been tampered with, causing the electrocution. There's no evidence that the servo switch was manipulated manually, nor is there any prints. A black man approaches the crime scene and admits that the servo could have been tampered with manually, but that someone would have to override the COS, the system that regulates the entire building. Lamana introduces Claude Peterson, the building systems engineer who discovered Drake's body. Mulder asks how the system could be overrided, Peterson explains the access codes would have to be broken, Mulder requests a list of all the people with such know-how, while a camera is monitoring them, Peterson is a little nervous he's being suspected as he explains he's a glorified super, Mulder asks if the COS monitors all phone calls. As Peterson leaves, Mulder points out to Lamana that the phone is off the hook, Drake was probably talking with someone before the accident, Jerry is humored by Mulder's keen observation.

Back in FBI Headquarters, Mulder is looking for his profile notes when Scully enters their office, after 3:00. They have to attend a meeting where Lamana presents his case profile, Scully realizes its Mulder's profile, Mulder is upset but tries to be dismissive. Lamana uses that final incoming phone call from Drake to point out that whoever set the trap, wanted to make sure Drake took the bait. Spiller is impressed with Lamana's profile, Later on Mulder confronts Jerry about it, accusing him of going into his office and taking his notes, Jerry doesn't deny it but downplays the fact, Jerry is dismissive as he walks away. Scully approaches and explains she spoke with Peterson who can only give them one name, Brad Wilczek, as the prime suspect. Scully points out that Wilczek despised Drake, but Mulder argues that it seems too obvious, too brazenly egomaniacal. Scully retorts that it is fully consistent with Lamana's 'excellent profile'. Mulder and Scully arrive at the Wilczek residence, which is a modern, affluent house. Mulder sarcastically observes what Wilczek's 220 I.Q. and his $400 Million severance settlement has bought him this luxury. A video camera follows them to the door as Brad opens it and allows them in once the agents identify themselves, Wilczek doesn't seem surprised to see them.

Wilczek asks them to take off their shows as they walk with him. Brad explains that there are two types of people in the tech industry, neat and scruffy. Drake fit into the neat category as Scully points out. Scully observes that Wilczek had a different vision for the company, as he explains he started out of his parents garage at 22, Wilczek explains the meaning of the word Eurisko, Mulder observes it means 'I learn things' to which Brad corrects him, 'I discover things'. Wilczek accuses Drake of being a short sighted power-hungry opportunist. Brad demonstrates his prototype for a smart home, the house is as safe as Fort Knox and as energy efficient as an igloo. Eurisko was two years ahead of its competitors when Drake killed the project. Mulder asks if this system is related to the system at the corporate offices, to which Wilczek replies it's a variation on a theme. Mulder then asks how many people know the system well enough to override it, 'not many', Wilczek replies. Upon another question, Wilczek points out that any data travelers, electro-wizards, techno-anarchists could have hacked into the system, that anything is possible. When Scully asks if he could have done it, Wilczek admits he could have, observing that's the reason why the agents are there, but he points out scruffy minds like puzzles, but they usually don't commit murder.

Scully writes her field report on her computer, she observes genius as the ability to connect the unconnected, she speculates if Brad Wilczek is a genius, admitting he has a predilection for elaborate game playing, an intimate knowledge of the Eurisko building and a demonstrable motive for killing Drake. She wonders if Wilczek is so clever, how could he be nailed? She ends her report dated, October 24, 1993. She turns off her computer and gets up, turning off her light in her apartment, after she goes into her room, her computer turns back on, the modem connects and the COS pulls data, as well as her field report records, there's a reference to Viet Nam creating a parental rift and speculation that Drake was a father figure whose approval Wilczek sought. The COS comments in its electronic voice, 'file opened.' Back at FBI headquarters, Scully and Mulder listen to past lectures Wilczek had on audio tape, Lamana enters their office, Jerry asks for Mulder's forgiveness while Mulder points out that he would have helped Lamana with the profile. Lamana points out that Mulder doesn't understand, since Atlanta's incident, Jerry is on six months probation, having to file daily reports like a new agent. Mulder tries to console him, 'it could have happened to anybody' Mulder reasons, Jerry retorts it wouldn't have happened to Mulder, Jerry observes Mulder was too busy dazzling his supervisors. Scully interrupts, when she has their attention, she explains that they are using a computer spectrogram from the Georgetown biometrics lab. It can identify individual speech patterns. She replays the phone message Drake received before his death, she then plays lectures Wilczek gave at the Smithsonian, there is a match, in spite of the fact the voice was altered electronically. Scully is convinced Wilczek killed Drake to Lamana's satisfaction, she suggests getting a warrant from Judge Benson. Jerry realizes that someone has to make certain that Wilczek has to stay put, Mulder offers to go with him, but Jerry insists to go alone.

Wilczek is trying to get into the COS system at Eurisko from his home computer, with constant access denied. Wilczek leaves his home with Lamana trialing him. Wilczek goes to the Eurisko building, rushing past the guard as Brad takes an elevator. Lamana enters the main floor and identifies himself with the guard. Wilczek enters the COS mainframe room and works on a computer, the COS greets him and Wilczek is puzzled how the computer has equipped itself with a voice synthesizer, Brad asks what is his user level as the COS replies that it is now at the discretion of the COS. Meanwhile, Jerry has entered an elevator. Lamana's entrance is revealed to Wilczek as Brad looks on helplessly as the COS plays a cruel game. Wilczek runs to a system breaker and tries to shut down the system but to no avail. At the 29th to 30th floor, the elevator becomes stuck, the elevator door opens to a blank wall and then it starts to violently drop as Lamana falls to the floor, Wilczek screams to the COS to not do this. The elevator crashes as the COS casually replies, 'program executed' to Wilczek's shock.

Mulder reviews the surveillance video in shock over his friends death, while switching to the video of Wilczek at the system breaker. Scully enters their office and consoles Mulder, to which Mulder states he thinks Wilczek didn't do it to her surprise. She points out that Mulder been through a lot, yet Mulder insists that Wilczek is smarter than to pose for the camera to cover up evidence. Scully tells her partner that Wilczek had just signed a confession to Mulder's surprise. Mulder drives to the Wilczek residence to find Defense Department agents surrounding the house. A man explains that the house is a crime scene and Mulder will have to leave, even after Mulder shows his badge and explains he ordered a subpoena, this man explains that his subpoena has been obviated, overruled with a code five clearance, Mulder is asked to leave, which he does reluctantly.

Mulder waits for Deep Throat at a plaza, who reluctantly agrees to meet with him. The man stresses that Mulder must respect the terms of their arrangement in the future. Mulder asks why the defense department is interfering with the Wilczek investigation. Deep Throat answers with a question and Mulder speculates they are interested in Wilczek for software. Deep Throat explains that Wilczek has thumbed his nose at Defense contracts involving weapons applications. Deep Throat asks Mulder what he knows about Artificial Intelligence, to which Mulder answers his belief it was only theoretical. 'It was until two years ago,' Deep Throat replies as he mentions Helsinki where a chess playing computer beat a grandmaster, he explains it was Wilczek's program, developing the first adaptive network, a thinking machine. It's regarded as a 'holy grail' for some at the department of defense. Mulder visits Wilczek at the Federal Detention Center in Washington, D.C. Mulder asks why he's willing to spend the rest of his life in prison when Wilczek is innocent, Wilczek plays that he's guilty, trusts Mulder and explains he's not protecting the machine. Wilczek mentions the WW II Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, how Oppenheimer regretted giving such technology to the government. Mulder retorts that Oppenheimer never denied responsibility for his actions, Wilczek retorts that Oppenheimer's mistake was handing it over to an immoral government, Wilczek insists he won't make the same mistake, even if his machine has killed people. Mulder is indignant as Wilczek comments about the lesser of two evils, then Mulder proposes a third option. Mulder asks him to explain how to destroy Wilczek's machine.

Mulder explains to Scully elsewhere that Wilczek will create a virus that will destroy the COS. Scully is doubtful believing that Wilczek is using Mulder by creating this story, Mulder explains the machine killed Drake out of self preservation. Scully argues that that level of artificial Intelligence is decades away and not possible. Scully implies that Mulder doing this out of guilt for Jerry, that he should talk to someone, Mulder agrees as he walks away, while Scully is dismayed. Mulder visits Wilczek at the prison and smuggles in a laptop computer and asks Wilczek how much time is needed. Late at night, Scully is sound asleep at her home when the phone rings, she answers and can tell it's a modem tone. She races to her computer which has been activated, she calls her offices, gives out her I.D. number which is 2317-616, and asks for a quick trace on a number, 202-555-6431. She explains someone is accessing her computer. Meanwhile, Mulder arrives at the Eurisko building, he opens his trunk just as Scully's car pulls up. Scully explains that someone has been scanning her computer files and that it's coming from the Eurisko building. 'It's the machine', Mulder replies mentioning the Trojan horse as he pulls out a Virginia Eurisko license plate. They enter the garage gate, the plate is scanned, the gate opens as they start to drive in, the traffic barrier drops before the steel gate crashes down on the car's front window.

Mulder and Scully get out of the car, turn off the damaged horn, and decide to take the stairs as a precaution. As they are about to reach the twenty ninth floor, the lights go out, they are blind as they turn on their flashlights. Scully is about to reach the door when Mulder tells her to stop. He pulls out a screwdriver and uses it to connect with the door key, there's an electrical explosion as they move away, the door won't open as Mulder explores his options. Noticing a camera watching them, Mulder covers it with a cloth. They decide to use an air vent that Scully climbs up in, after Scully starts to crawl through a maze of narrow steel vents and out of Mulder's reach, the ventilator activates just as the stairwell door opens to reveal Mr. Peterson. In the airshaft, the wind current begins to become stronger as Scully struggles, she starts to be swept away by the current, tumbling down the shaft until she can see large rotor blades. She grabs onto an adjacent shaft and hangs on for life, she loses her flashlight into the blades. Petersen tells Mulder that the machine has been acting all crazy, surges, shut offs as he explains why he is there. Mulder asks for where the B port is as Peterson shows him, Mulder opens an panel and inserts an electronic device into a computer plug, while the mainframe screen indicates 'access denied'. Meanwhile Scully takes out her gun to disable the device driving the wind blades.

All the while, the device Mulder has inserted begins to work, he now has access to level seven user code as he runs to install the virus. Peterson reveals himself to be a department of defense employee as he's drawn a gun. Peterson explains he's been trying to access the CPU for over two years as he asks Mulder to surrender his gun. Peterson orders Mulder to give him the diskette and to walk away from the consol, just as Mulder hands the diskette, a disheveled Scully appears, gun in hand. Peterson is forced to drop the gun and warns Scully she's compromising her sworn duty, that this machine is full of valuable scientific research, Mulder warns that they won't be able to handle it any better than Wilczek, that the machine is a killer. Peterson warns her that she will be held accountable. Scully tells Mulder to put in the disk, which he snatches from Peterson as he puts it in the hard drive. The COS pleads to not do this as its voice synthesizer becomes a jumble of voices and the mainframe screen becomes a maze of gibberish, The A.I. shuts down, gone before it pleads. 'Brad, why?', Scully lowers her gun, exhausted. The building's lights activate on every floor.

Mulder develops proof sheet photos in a lab, while Scully writes her field report, pointing out that Lauren is estranged from her family. She also points out that there was a strong relationship between Lauren and Mr. Graves. She questions if her relationship with her former boss had to do with Mr. Graves' suicide, as well as the connection with the death of her two attackers. Scully is convinced the answer lies in finding Lauren's accomplice. Mulder sees a ghostly image of a man in the window of Lauren's house. With the aid of computer enhancement, it is seen to be Mr. Graves. Scully is surprised, but Mulder points out that Howard Graves is not necessarily alive.

Mulder speaks with Deep Throat, mentioning checking with Congressman Klevenaugh as well as the Attorney General's office regarding Brad Wilczek. 'You won't find him,' Deep Throat replies as he explains that Wilczek is now in the middle of what is called 'hard bargaining'. Mulder rationalizes that Wilczek won't deal as Deep Throat points that Wilczek confessed to two murders and that Mulder destroyed the only evidence that could have exonerated him. Deep Throat points out that there nothing else that Mulder could have done unless he was willing to let the technology survive he replies with a smile. When Mulder asks if the department of defense has found anything, Deep Throat explains that Wilczek virus was thorough, leaving no trace, the machine is dead, Deep Throat says as he walks away. Department of Defense scientists have taken apart the machine, as Peterson explains to his superior on a phone that nothing has been found. After finishing the call, Peterson points out they have six hours before they have to consign it to the metal shredder as he walks away. On a board behind Peterson, a small panel starts to light up; a camera becomes active and watches as Peterson comments that he'll figure the machine out, even if it kills him. The machine has come back to life with Peterson as its next intended target.

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

  • There's one question one should consider in relation to the Department of Defense and their interest in Wilczel's A.I. software. Why wouldn't the same division of the Department of Defense have a similar interest in the Artificial Intelligence technology in Kill Switch and First Person Shooter? In retrospect, Wilczek's Central Operating System seems limited and benign as a defense system; when you consider that the A.I. technology Mulder and Scully would encounter four years later in Kill Switch, could control a satellite laser system. In addition, the artificial Intelligence entity that they confront in First Person Shooter, would seem like something the Department of Defense would have a similar interest in. Yet in both instances there's no indication the Department of Defense pursues the creators of the later Artificial Intelligence systems.
  • It's a little unclear if Claude Peterson works for a division of the Department of Defense that is, in effect, a CIA division. During the Virginia incident's at Eurisko, Peterson has already been in deep cover for two years as the building systems engineer before his exposure. His presence as an employee probably started after the Helsinki chess tournament. Were there other Eurisko employees or corporate managers who knew of Peterson's indentity? Were there employees that were compliant of informing the Department of Defense of Wilczek's discovery?
  • The episode's title comes from philosopher Arthur Koester's seminal, existential novel from 1967, which dealt with Mankind's evolution. The title was also used by the rock band, The Police for their 1981 hit album, which featured cover art work of the band member's likeness displayed with a LED pattern. One could speculate weather art director Graeme Murray's, or Set Decorator Shirley Inget's use of LED counters on the Central Operating System's panel could have been a creative nod to The Police album art?
  • In hindsight, another missed opportunity concerning the show's writers, if The Lone Gunmen had been introduced into the series earlier, it would have been an entertaining opportunity to see their reaction to Mulder's involvement with Wilczek. We can surmise that the Gunmen were probably well aware of Wilczek's history and would have idolized his presence. In light of the fact that we know that Mulder's meeting of Byers, Langly, and Frohike took place in 1989. He had known of them for enough time that he probably quietly consulted them, once Mulder realized Wilczek was a key suspect in the case.
  • At the time of the episode, the use of Artificial Intelligence in practical applications of every day life seemed less probable. Yet, as has been documented through AIAA's history, there have been some amazing strides in Artificial Intelligence research since 1999. So much so, that we can already see more and more evidence of A.I. technology being used on a yearly basis. The notion of 'smart homes' or offices environments regulated by computers, isn't improbable anymore. While Ghost in the Machine may be somewhat pedestrian as an episode, it is probably the most probable scenario to actually happen in the series history.

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

While Ghost in the Machine explores a fascinating subject, it never really fulfills the potential of ideas available on the topic of Artificial Intelligence. Even writer Howard Gordon and Fox executives have acknowledged that the episode feels too pedestrian for an X-File. The episode feels somewhat self conscious, as well as the COS not being as well defined as the iconic Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey or Demon Seed. Eventually even Steven Spielberg's A.I. � Artificial Intelligence would find a more defined and interesting way of exploring the subject. The other problem lies in the characters of Mulder's former partner, Jerry Lamana and Brad Wilczek. Both characters suffer from not being very sympathetic, Lamana, while well intended, cannot overcome his carelessness and immaturity. Wilczek, while idealistic is very flawed; he comes across as too full of his own hubris to measure much compassion for others. Neither character is developed enough, thus, the fate of both characters seems inconsequential to the audience.

One great asset of the episode was Mark Snow's score. He uses a leitmotif theme, a technique which links melodic phrases with individual characters or story elements that are repeated, to represent the Artificial Intelligence with the use of percussion and electronic textures. His score adds an atmospheric and unsettling texture to Ghost in the Machine. Due to the shows air time schedule in the first season, on Friday nights, the wrap hour was usually about 2 a.m. This caused an interesting development to occur while filming one Friday night. That morning they started filming in Burnaby's Central Park, then moved to film inside the Burnaby Public Library parkade, this was followed by interior scenes inside the Library administration area. The exterior sidewalk / plaza of the library was vacant at the time and it was determined it would be a perfect venue for the 9 P.M. airtime. About forty chairs were placed in front of a forty-inch television as the crew watched, while nearby traffic slowed at the sight of the crew watching the television outside a Library.

The complex that was used for the Eurisko Building location was the Metrotower complex, the second complex at 4720 Kingsway in Burnabay. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIC) occupied one floor of this building. For the scene at the end after the COS has died and the building light's come back to life on each floor. The crew went outside at the Metrotower and sent a surge of power to each floor of the high rise. This was achieved by the Tower's engineer, who programmed via cellular phone, the sequential lighting of each floor.

Actor Wayne Duvall, who played Mulder's ex-partner, the unfortunate and doomed Jerry Lamana, is the nephew of actor Robert Duvall. Wayne Duvall has had a varied film and television career starting in the early nineties. His most recent feature work includes the television film Their Eyes Were Watching God. Mr. Duvall appeared with David Duchovny in Evolution, other recent appearances include Love Liza and Emmett's Mark. His other feature appearances include O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Deep End of the Ocean, The Fan, Apollo 13, Disclosure, and Falling Down. His television appearances include JAG, Law & Order; Criminal Intent, CSI, The West Wing, Judging Amy, Nash Bridges, Diagnosis Murder, ER, Picket Fences, MacGyver and Matlock.

Rob Labelle, who played Brad Wilczek, had been an actor and a director, as well as appearing in a range of noted television and feature films. This year he completed work on the upcoming releases Chaos and Bob the Butler. His other feature films include Hoods, Memorial Day, Jack Frost, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, What's Love Got To Do With It, The Temp and Man Trouble. Mr. Labelle was a series regular on First Wave. Playing Eddie "Crazy Eddie" Nambulous for four years, as well as directing two episodes for that series. His other television appearances include The 4400, Da Vinci's Inquest, Smallville, The Dead Zone, Mysterious Ways, Star Trek; Voyager, Dark Angel, NYPD Blue, Lois & Clark, Murphy Brown, Married...with Children, and Quantum Leap.

Actor Blu Mankuma, who played the opportunistic Claude Peterson, has had a varied career since the late seventies. Mr. Mankuma made another appearance on the X-Files season five episode Mind's Eye. His recent feature film work includes The Santa Clause 2, past feature appearances includes The Russia House, Bird On A Wire, Look Who's Talking, The Stepfather, and High Stakes. Television movie appearances include Jack, Call Me; The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss, Ladies And The Champ, Creature, Intensity, and Final Descent. Regular television appearances include The Collector, The Dead Zone, Breaking News, Stargate; Infinity, The Outer Limits, First Wave, Da Vinci's Inquest, Madison, MacGyver, Wiseguy, and 21 Jump Street.

Episode synopsis and notes: Matt Allair
Page Editor: XScribe

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