Season 2

2x04 Sleepless

Air  Date: 10-07-94
Howard Gordon
Rob Bowman
Stephen Mark
Director of Photography:
John S. Bartley, C.S.C.
Documented Phenomenon:
Super Soldiers, Sleep Deprivation, PTSD

Episode summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

The episode begins with a bird’s eye view of New York City at the synchromystically notable time of 11:23 pm. A man’s apartment becomes engulfed in flames regardless of his attempts to put it out and calls for assistance that do not quite beckon help until it is too late. The man is Doctor Saul Grissom. He dies on floor six, apartment six-zero-six. The firemen who run up the stairwell to his apartment in an attempt to save him, come across another man, Augustus Cole, visibly a Vietnam veteran with a scar on the back of his neck.

Next, Mulder is sent a mysterious tape inside of a newspaper with an article about the now dead Grissom circled. The tape contains audio of the 911 call made by Grissom, and Mulder uses it to see if he can look into it personally, while meeting with Skinner. Skinner essentially tells him that it could be a red-herring type of lead and he should continue FBI busy-work. While Mulder listens to tapped phone tapes, a rookie agent by the name of Krycek makes his way on to the scene and hands Mulder a file. Krycek announces it’s his case, and that Mulder has to work with him. Even though Krycek presents him with some helpful details, Mulder tries to lose him and has to convince him that they will work together, in order to do so. He actually sends Krycek to get the car and goes in the other direction.

Scully is teaching a class involving an autopsy when she receives an emergency call from Mulder convincing her to do an autopsy on Grissom. Meanwhile Mulder investigates Grissom’s past as an insomnia expert. He was doing work that could be applied to altering people’s dreams…Krycek pretends to be upset that Mulder left him and tries to convince him that he believed in Mulder’s work “back at the academy” when his peers would otherwise make fun of Mulder. Mulder is unfazed. “Oh, stop it or you’ll hurt my feelings.” When Mulder and Krycek make it to Scully, she explains that the results of the autopsy are “It’s almost as if his body believed it was burning,” explaining that the body did not show evidence of external attack. Krycek shows his weak stomach (evidence that he is “green”).

Across town, another Vietnam vet gets a visit from the “Preacher Man” Augustus Cole. In their conversation the man reveals he is suffering from a hyper-sleepless-induced PTSD state during which he sees the faces of the people they slaughtered in Vietnam. While talking to Cole, he sees those faces while Cole recites bible verse from the unforgiving darkness leading to the visions revealing M-16s (Vietnam era rifle) and they fire on him until he drops. Mulder and Krycek come to the conclusion that both men were trained at Parris Island for a thirteen-man squad called J-7. Mulder and Krycek go to visit Cole in a high intensity psych ward where the doctor accuses Cole of disturbing the other patients’ sleep patterns. He then refuses to answer Mulder about how that would even be possible and opens the door to Cole’s room, revealing that Cole is mysteriously gone. When the doctor confirms the sign-in sheet with a nurse, it seems he let Cole out (in some altered state of consciousness where Cole perhaps had control of him.)

Mulder gets a call from his contact who suggests he can help with the case if Mulder meets him and comes alone. “Who are you?” “Who I am is irrelevant.” He gives him data from a top secret military project related to sleep eradication on Ellis Island, born of the idea that sleep is a soldier’s greatest enemy, a thirteen-man squad that had a four hundred-plus kill record, and evidence that Cole hasn’t slept in forty years. Mulder is told that the truth is still out there and it couldn’t be more dangerous. After Cole is seen robbing a store, Mulder and Krycek try to find him as two police man shoot each other, obviously tricked by Cole into doing so.
Scully examines Cole’s condition, how he needs serotonin found in antidepressants, which he needs to replace, being as he is going without sleep. Mulder theorizes that along with clinical application of electricity to the temporal lobe, this may give Cole control over reality as one can control one’s own dreams. Scully jokes that Mulder’s new field partner must be a great replacement. Mulder and Krycek go to the only living member of the team (other than Cole) to ask him a few questions. The man explains that the program was sold to them as giving them the ability to live two lives if they could go without sleep, and they could do endless patrols. Then they started making up their own missions and refused to take orders, resulting in indiscriminate killing of women and children. Krycek seems to know more than anyone for some reason.

The man relays that Cole was always bent on making them pay for their crimes, often reading from the bible and talking of Judgment Day. On the way out, Mulder explains that Cole sees himself as a kind of avenging angel. Mulder and Krycek rush to a train station where Mulder is tricked into thinking he gets shot by Cole. The police help Mulder review video footage to find that a mysterious car is parked at Track 17. Meanwhile Cole has the scientist who made them what they are tied to a post. The man sees his creations approach and gather scalpels from a bible as Cole makes the sign of the cross. By the time the two agents arrive in the darkened building they can hear the man screaming.

They find his glasses and eventually him, hardly alive. Krycek calls for back-up. Mulder finds Cole and tries to reason with him. “…Shoot me,” Cole says, “I’m tired.” “I know,” Mulder tells him. “No man, you don’t know. You have no idea…blood’s boiling in my veins…” “What the military did to you was wrong…” Mulder rebuts when Cole replies “They cut out a part of my brain! They made me into somebody else.” Cole looks beyond Mulder to an approaching Krycek who refuses to lower his gun at Mulder’s insistence and shoots Cole, who is making him see a bible instead of his firearm.

Krycek later shows up at a Syndicate meeting proving his initial allegiance and explains “Scully’s a problem.”

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

  • The introduction of Mr. X is rather character-revealing; he’s guarded, cynical, with very much a survivalist instinct. This is in contrast with the relaxed attitude of Deep Throat in many episodes from the previous season. It should be fairly evident that Deep Throat must have been higher up in the echelon of the Syndicate, and might have even believed he could skirt assassination by his colleagues if they learned that he was Mulder’s informant. X’s survivalist instincts would allow him to survive for three years, and following his demise, Marita Covarrubias would replace him, and in her own way would eventually pay a dear price for her involvement, in spite of her willingness to be more of a pawn of the Syndicate. – Matt Allair
  • This episode of course introduces Alex Krycek who would go on to have one of the most interesting character arcs in the series. Initially a naïve pawn of the Syndicate, he would go on to become one of their greatest rivals and a thorn in their side. He would become driven by self-interest, and would work with wherever the prevailing winds would blow, until his demise by Walter Skinner. – Matt Allair
  •  There are some thematic connections that are of interest, as pointed out by Frank Zero. Within pop culture, one could view black characters in various films as magicians, guiding the main protagonist to a realization. X informs Mulder about the world, and is trying to wake him up. This paraelle can be seen in The Matrix – Morpheus informing Neo, or in Bruce Almighty with Morgan Freeman teaching Jim Carrey. This idea is reinforced with the casting of Tony Todd as Augustus Cole. Todd has countless examples in his filmography of playing characters who affect dreams. Most noted are Candyman, Platoon, and Wishmaster – a film that also features a sequence wherein a character believes he dies in a fire. Frank has further added: In Night of the Living Dead we don’t get many clues as to his identity. When he kills the first zombie he makes a sign of the cross. He holds the moral and intelligent high ground throughout the film. In his role as Augustus Cole in The X-Files he is referred to as “Preacher Man” where he is manipulating dreams and reality and he is cast in Vietnam, like his role in Platoon. In The X-Files he is bringing back the dead and can’t sleep. He also makes the sign of the cross while killing his handler. – Matt Allair / Frank Zero
  • Actor Stephen Williams has offered an interesting and telling observation about X’s rage: “He was giving Mulder all the information he needed; Mulder just wasn’t processing it properly. I think that’s one of the things that drove his anger.” The comment about processing it properly is interesting when you consider how astute, and on the mark Mulder’s instincts usually are. Therefore, was Mulder’s inability to process the information driven unconsciously as a form of denial? When you consider the scope of the agenda, and that it would eventually turn to be apocalyptic, could it be that Mulder instinctually knew some of the answers but wasn’t wiling to face the truth? Therefore this inability to process would make sense, and be a very human trait. –Matt Allair
  • The episode touches on some interesting ideas, and raises questions about the importance of sleep, and perhaps the vital importance of dreaming. Mulder has referenced the work of C.G. Jung before, and the episode perhaps helps to illustrate the collective unconscious in action. Jung argued that dreams, and dream analysis was the primary way to understand the unconscious, that dreams were a natural phenomenon, and that the images were symbolic of conscious and unconscious mental processes. Jung further explained that our psyche regulates itself by a process of compensation. Jung believed that creative ideas could come through dreams. Thereby, this raises the question if dreams can really manifest themselves into reality. This question touches on Jung’s view of Synchronicity. In both views, synchronicity and dreams share a similar role, to shift a person’s egocentric consciousness to great wholeness. – Matt Allair / Frank Zero
  • Saul Grissom resonates with Gus Grissom who died of a controversial internal fire while working at NASA aboard the Apollo 1 test launch. – Frank Zero

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

Howard Gordon would have his solo writing debut with this episode based on a two-week bout of insomnia he experienced. Alex Gansa had already scaled back his involvement as a writing partner by the start of the second season*. Chris Carter had commented, as cited in The Unauthorized X-Files Challenge: “I really love that show…It’s a great idea, well executed…Production-wise, I think there’s a lot of suggestion of violence there rather than what you see. You’re shown what’s going to happen, but you don’t actually see it.” Howard Gordon had further commented on the episode: “The idea occurred to me: What if a guy couldn’t sleep? What if there was a guy who hadn’t slept in 25 years? Chris had the idea for a super soldier. I married the idea of the super soldier to a sleepless soldier.”** While Chris Carter was prepping himself to direct “Duane Barry”, he walked onto the “Sleepless” set to observe Rob Bowman’s work, during the climatic ending where Cole engineers his demise. It was also during the climax that Rob Bowman utilized Xenon $7500 flashlights in the warehouse when Mulder and Krycek try to stop Cole. To illuminate the dark location, foil was strategically placed in certain areas as reflectors for the flashlights to bounce off of to reveal the actors’ faces.

Director Rob Bowman had some trouble with the actors who played the Vietnamese killers in one of the soldiers hallucinations could not speak English, because of this, Bowman had a difficult time getting them not to look at the camera and crew. The director had commented as a favorite aspect of the episode – the ending where Krycek reports to C.G.B. Spender: “It was a very fun, scary scene for me because he seemed to be so confident there, none of which he showed [earlier] in the episode.”** Location manager Todd Pittson recounted a rare instance where the production crew was denied access to a location. While searching for a construction site to introduce Mr. X. The manager for the new General Motors Place facility (now home to the NHL’s Canucks and NBA’s Grizzlies) was approached by the team for permission to use the location, and the reaction was initially positive, several production meetings were conducted, and this went far enough to a ‘point of no return’, location agreements had been signed, insurance certificates issues, sets had been constructed, and locations dressed. The director had blocked off his shots. Somewhere in the process, the site owners had different ideas, someone in the ownership hierarchy decided that the site manager should act as the intermediary between themselves and the production company. Pittson was informed there was a “problem” with the location agreement, it was negotiated and resolved.***

The location of Kay’s Dinner was in fact Two-Jays Café on West Pender St., Vancouver, a location that was chosen for its great exterior appearance and spacious interior. However, due to the seedy nature of the area, a cleaning crew in special suits was sent in to clean and disinfect the neighboring streets and alleys. The Bronx station was found at Via Rail Terminal, 1150 Station St. in Vancouver. The heritage structure was built between 1917 and 1919 on land reclaimed on False Creek. The building was memorable for its ornate neoclassical style and the old barber shop, which closed after forty years of business. The production had to work around the existing schedules of the train station. Assistant location manager, Ainslie Wiggs, had recalled an interesting incident: “It was Friday around 1a.m. and the entire crew was exhausted after four days of location filming. We had been filming on the platform with seventy extras, when first assistant director Vladimir Stefoff called me over to camera.” It appeared that an extra was being belligerent. Ainslie asked the extra to leave, taking the man in her arms when “The next thing I knew, he’s swinging at me and I’m ducking a punch.” At which point, several crew members and assistants intervened, marching the man out of the main entrance. The man continued to berate crew members and the police arrived to take him away and several of his friends, who had been spotted earlier on surveillance video vandalizing another station. In addition to this incident, Bob Goodwin arrived on the set and privately berated director Rob Bowman about the delays.***

Lastly, the V.A. Medical Centre was located in two areas: Willow Pavilion (Basement / Third Floor) and the Vancouver General Hospital in West 12th Ave, Vancouver. The show had previously filmed at several other hospitals and Vancouver General had been the exception. If a hospital had an empty ward–or better yet, an empty floor–the odds were good that a deal could be negotiated for filming  Available space was always difficult to predict and would depend on the month-to-month phenomenon of the need for beds. Howard Gordon had wanted to utilize a new location to play scenes at a veterans hospital in New Jersey. Liaison Rick Lowe was anxious to bring The X-Files production team to the location, and after a survey, it was decided to utilize the tunnels underneath the pavilion for the sequence where Mulder and Krycek talk to a doctor. While the crew loved the look of the area, the location wasn’t used again due to the lack of a freight elevator, which meant that construction materials had to be pre-cut to fit the regular elevator, or carried up three flights of stairs. At one point, while the crew ignored the weight restrictions, producer J.P. Finn, production designer Graeme Murray, and construction coordinator Rob Maler became stuck between the ground and basement floors, and were thusly teased by the crew for ignoring the rules.***

Other aspects of the episode have been noted by Howard Gordon, while explaining the casting of Nicholas Lea. “I created him largely because Gillian was pregnant and we had to write around her pregnancy,” and further described the character as a “Jimmy Olsen type guy who is eager to please. The last thing in the world you would think is that he is a mole.”**. Nick Lea has recalled: “They were casting this part, and it was supposed to be three episodes to begin with, and it ended up being seven years,” further observing “There was something heroic in his stick-to-itiveness. It’s just that his point of view was a little skewed.”** Actor William B. Davis had noted his first experience of working with Nick Lea, aside from noting that Director of Photography John Bartley had gotten a little carried away with the smoke while lighting the closing sequence, that the actor might have been intimidated by Davis, stating, “when I finally saw the episode it was clear that he had lots of skills. He gives a wonderful performance. Maybe he was so into the character that he was properly terrified of the Smoking Man.”*****

Actor Steven Williams recalled on getting the role of Mr. X in a British X-Files magazine issue from 1997: “I went in and read for the role, like everybody else, and simply nailed it with the intensity, the persona, my acting ability – all of that, combined with the fact that these guys knew me and were comfortable with me. I was X. When I entered that room and when I left that room, I was X.” Williams further commented “I really knew very little about him. It was very frustrating. The information they gave me was more about his attitude than about the character. When you audition, they give you sides [script pages] to read, and it was a certain demeanor they were looking for. He was kind of icy, cold, bureaucratic, and very businesslike, but with a little tinge of compassion. The one connective thread he has with Mulder is through the Deep Throat character who got killed. They both knew this man. Deep Throat was either a good friend or a mentor to Mr. X. I’m there because I feel a responsibility to carry on Deep Throat’s work with Mulder.”****

Wililams had further elaborated “It was originally going to be a woman, so when I went in to read for it, it was an odd read–I’m asking these guys [the producers], ‘who is this guy? What do you want me to do with this guy?’”** That woman, actress Natalya Nigolitch was someone Williams knew from his days in Chicago theatre: “She’s a fine actress, it was just that the marriage of the actress and the role was not a good one [and] no reflection on her acting abilities whatsoever.” Chris Carter has noted “We wanted someone who had a much different persona than Deep Throat. And when you choose to go with a strong, very powerful actor like [Williams], you get a different feel.”**** Frank Spotnitz has observed “Of all the sources, Steven Williams was my favorite, because he was not only a source, he had attitude, he was angry, he was dangerous, he was not trustworthy, and he was a character of action.”**

Steven Williams was born in Memphis, Tennessee. During the Viet Nam war, Steven served in the US Army, and discovered talents with boxing and became the divisional champion of the US Army Boxing Team, middleweight. Moving to Chicago, he eventually became a model, and started getting acting roles in the Chicago Theatre scene. He was nominated in 1977 for a Joseph Jefferson Award for actor in a principle in a musical for “Joplin” at the St. Nicholas Theatre Company in Chicago. His first significant feature film appearance was in The Blues Brothers. He followed this with roles in Doctor Detroit, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Missing In Action, Better Off Dead, House, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Corrina Corrina, Van Hook, and The Call. His television appearances include Dallas, The A-Team, Remington Steele, The Equalizer, Hill Street Blues, 21 Jump Street, L.A. Law, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, NYPD Blue, Stargate SG-1, Monk, Criminal Minds, Desperate Housewives, and Supernatural.

Actor Tony Todd, who played Augustus Cole, “Preacher”, was pursued by the casting directors for the role, and since The X-Files was one of the series he was interested in, the role was arranged quickly. Todd has observed during several interviews: “I don’t necessarily see Cole as a villain. He is someone whose brain has been tinkered with and from what I could see, he just wants to be put out of his misery. In that final confrontation he’s actually holding a Bible. He uses his psychic abilities to make Krycek think it’s a gun and that’s why he shoots him. Augustus wants to go to sleep, so that adds a touch of poetry to the part.” Todd has further added, while admitting that he identified with his character: “Actor’s don’t get a lot of sleep, but then I do my best thinking, not drinking, at night.”****

Tony Todd has appeared in a number of films, his most iconic being the role of Daniel Robitaille, the man who became The Candyman in the Bernard Rose / Clive Barker production of the same name. One of Todd’s first notable role was Sergent Warren in Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986), a role he won after performing in Johnny Got His Gun at New York’s Westbank Theatre where Stone met him backstage and offered the role of Warren. He was also involved in a remake of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1990), and The Crow (1994) and Wishmaster (1997). Born in 1954, Washington D.C., he attended The University of Connecticut on a scholarship, which in turn lead to a scholarship at the renowned Eugene O’Neill National Theatre Institute. Mr. Todd appeared in a number of conservatory and repertory theatres, yet has managed to find time to teach playwriting to high school students in the Hartford public school system. Todd’s other varied feature film work includes Lean On Me, Bird, Final Destination, and Hatchet II. His television work includes Werewolf, 21 Jump Street, MacGyver, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Law & Order, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Smallville, Criminal Minds, Stargate SG-1, Boston Legal, 24, and The Event.

Actor Jonathan Gries who played Salvatore Matola has enjoyed a long history since the mid seventies. The son of noted writer / producer Tom Gries, he was born in Glendale, California, and his first feature film appearance was in More American Graffiti. Other feature appearances included Real Genius, The Monster Squad, The Grifters, Get Shorty, The Maze, Men In Black, Napoleon Dynamite, The Astronaut Farmer, and Taken. His television appearances include The Jeffersons, The Twilight Zone, Cagney & Lacey, Falcon Crest, Jake and the Fatman, Quantum Leap, Martin, Seinfeld, The Pretender, CSI: NY, Lost, Cold Case, Psych, Hawaii Five-O, and Supernatural.

*The Truth is Out There: the Official X-Files Guide to the X-Files. by Brian Lowry, published by Harper / Prism © 1995
** The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, The Myths and The Movies by Matt Hurwitz and Christopher Knowles, published by Insight Editions © 2008
*** X Marks The Spot: On location with The X-Files by Louisa Gradnitzer & Todd Pittson, published by Arsenal Pulp Press © 1999
**** Beyond Mulder And Scully by Andy Mangels, published Citadel Press © 1998
***** Where There’s Smoke by William B. Davis, published by ECW © 2011

Synopsis and Review: Frank Zero
Additional Review and Production Notes: Matt Allair
Page Editor: XScribe

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2x01 Little Green Men
2x02 The Host
2x03 Blood
2x04 Sleepless
2x05 Duane Barry
2x06 Ascension
2x07 3
2x08 One Breath
2x09 Firewalker
2x10 Red Museum
2x11 Excelsis Dei
2x12 Aubrey
2x13 Irresistible
2x14 Die Hand Die Verletzt
2x15 Fresh Bones
2x16 Colony
2x17 End Game
2x18 Fearful Symmetry
2x19 Død Kalm
2x20 Humbug
2x21 The Calusari
2x22 F. Emasculata
2x23 Soft Light
2x24 Our Town
2x25 Anasazi