The X-Files Fans And Creators All Agree On The Show’s First Great Episode

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Once The X-Files hit its stride, this spooky show became an early example of appointment television. The first season was a bit rough, though, and modern fans often speculate about what the show’s first great episode was. As for The X-Files cast and creator, the answer is simple: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and Chris Carter all believe “Ice” was the show’s first standout episode.

Ice Was The First Great Episode

Before we get into what The X-Files creator and his two stars had to say about “Ice,” we need to briefly recap the episode. This story has Mulder and Scully investigating a murder-suicide at an Arctic base, but they soon must face the threat of ancient parasites who can take over people’s minds. It’s an episode filled with homages to The Thing, and it memorably channels the paranoia of that John Carpenter classic.

As far as episodes of The X-Files go, “Ice” is straightforward…it’s a bottle episode, which means we don’t even really see the icy environment around the base. The episode mostly plays on the strengths of the actors themselves, allowing us to see the true depths of how much Mulder and Scully trust one another. It is partially because of this that the actors have such strong praise for the episode.

Anderson Loved What Ice Did For Mulder And Scully

For example, The X-Files star Gillian Anderson said that a paranoid Mulder and Scully pointing guns at each other in “Ice”  made for “a very powerful scene” and “a wonderful jolt to our relationship.” Perhaps sensing the vibes of shippers everywhere, she also noted that when the two agents had to check each other for parasites, “It’s very provocative, the way the camera moves around us and the way the lighting is with a single light bulb and it’s swinging.”

Beyond giving the two X-Files leads some meaty scenes, she also praised “Ice” for clarifying for the cast and crew exactly what this ambitious new series could become. “It was really the first time since we started the show,” she said, “that I think we all had a very strong feeling of what it was that we were doing and what the potential was.” That collective feeling animated everyone, and Anderson remembers this as “the first time when we all just really came together and worked really, really hard and felt that we were making something important,” an episode “which really represented a turning point for us.”

Duchovny Rocked With Ice

The X-Files co-lead David Duchovny agrees with Anderson’s assessments, saying “I remember ‘Ice’ being one of those moments where we all refocused and (realized) we were making a really good show.” He recalls this easing any feelings of burnout or confusion among those working on the show, all of whom collectively decided to “keep going.” At one point, the actor summed up his feelings by saying that it was “the first really rocking episode,” a sentiment Chris Carter likes to repeat.

Carter Praised The Synergy

Speaking of Carter, The X-Files creator also loved “Ice,” and he just couldn’t stop praising the cast and crew for proving “what the series was capable of.” He, too, liked how the episode both changed and strengthened the Mulder/Scully dynamic, and he believes the episode represented some great synergy: “the cast, directing, and writing came together” for an episode whose story “worked even better as an X-file” than the Carpenter movie it borrowed from. The showrunner also specifically praised “the good writing” of both James Wong and Glen Morgan, who “just outdid themselves.”

The Perfect Claustrophobic Setting

As for Morgan and Wang, these early writers for The X-Files enjoyed the final cut of “Ice,” which gave them a chance to team up yet again with director David Nutter. The writers particularly praised the episode for the Arctic base set which managed to look impressively large in person and impressively claustrophobic onscreen. That claustrophobia was important to Nutter, who called this his favorite episode from season 1 and was pleased “that we were able to convey a strong sense of paranoia.”

Obviously, many fans of The X-Files would pick something other than “Ice” as the first great episode, but we think that the cast and crew are pretty persuasive. It’s a visceral episode that tells you everything you need to know about Mulder and Scully while still being friendly to new audiences. And as Duchovny might ask, is there anything more “rocking” than recruiting a new believer into the X-Phile fandom?