The X-Files

Season 1 Episode 7

Ghost in the Machine

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Oct 29, 1993 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
523 votes

By Users

Episode Summary


A new intelligence gropes its way to life in the depths of wires and circuit boards - only to find itself perched on the edge of immediate extinction. When it fights back, killing Mulder's former partner in the process, he and Scully must find a way past its considerable defences.


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  • An interesting take on AI

    As someone who works in the field of computer science, I enjoyed the storyline and the nerdy humour laced with metaphors and stereotypes. I also enjoyed the protagonist's performance, but despite his intended facetious tone he felt a little too stereotypical (and even cheesy at times), which permeated into the episode. PS: Bonus points for use of the word "obviated".
  • this is a classic

    Cyber tech, AI, and close to sci fi, this could have been an episode of Person of Interest, People take Mulder for a fool, but he is so smart. Deep Throat makes an appearance, love that character.
  • File Deleted...

    Look at the proliferation computer-based technology in the early 90's--look at a "2001" allusion--and you have a cheesy and thoroughly entertaining episode.
  • A Pre-Pentium Supercomputer!

    The idea of a supercomputer works great if we're thinking of the future, but it was certainly a fantasy in the DOS 5 i386 technology of 1993. Yet, it's already been established that anything goes in this first season, no matter how unlikely it might be, so there's really nothing surprising going on. This computer is considered "smart", but its solution to its problems is to just kill people. Apparently, Wilczek took the time to program killing and stalking routines into the system, but not common-sense interaction with its human guardians; of course, we're supposed to believe that the system came up with these routines on its own because it's so . Well, no matter how smart it is, it couldn't possibly turn on Scully's PC through dial-up--if her PC was off, the modem wouldn't work at all. Yet, this brilliant supercomputer couldn't even prevent a virus from being loaded into its own system! And we're treated to fake dramatic scenes as Spooky scrurries to upload the virus. Dude, just cut the power to the building, battery backup in those days was very short-lived, and the supermeancomputer wouldn't have access to other components of the building such as cameras.

    THIS EPISODE WANTS US TO BELIEVE IN: Homicidal artificial intelligence that uses '90s technology.


    It was good to see Deep Throat again though. Continuity is a great thing for a show like this; otherwise it's nothing more than a Monster-of-the-Week series. Which is about all we've had so far.moreless
  • Ghost in the Machine

    The profusion of technology and artificial intelligence wins frightening proportions in this irregular episode of "X-Files," for last half hour, the story was not so engaging, there were great moments of horror and the two protagonists had fallen apart. But everything changes from the final 15 minutes in a claustrophobic experience very well done and full of twists (Scully is caught up in the pipe, almost being sliced alive!). Here, Mulder finds an old friend, who takes advantage of the goodness of our hero, but soon it will completely change his fate, for worse (!). Of course, parallels to Kubrick's masterpiece, "2001 - A Space Odyssey," can be traced from the idea of the killer robot, even thoughts as human becoming submissive to their own machines and creating self-control the point of self-preserving, something that is possible only in rational beings and instinctive. If not for the final fifteen minutes, it would be two stars, but all improved at the end of the episode and made decent.moreless
Wayne Duvall

Wayne Duvall

Agent Jerry Lamana

Guest Star

Rob LaBelle

Rob LaBelle

Brad Wilczek

Guest Star

Blu Mankuma

Blu Mankuma

Claude Peterson

Guest Star

Jerry Hardin

Jerry Hardin

Deep Throat

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (6)

    • Episode Title: The Ghost in the Machine May also be derived from the title of the book The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler, which also inspired the album by the band the Police and the franchise and cyber-punk anime series Ghost in the Shell.

    • Scully uses her gun for the first time in this episode. She uses it to stop the fan blades in the vent shaft.

    • Revealing Mistakes: Toward the end, when Mulder and Scully are climbing the stairs of the building to get to the main computer headquarters, Gillian Anderson trips on one of the stairs just before the lights go out.

    • Revealing Mistakes: When the elevator plunges to the ground floor, Agent Lamana appears to be pushed to the floor by the G-Forces when in reality he should have been stuck to the ceiling.

    • Factual Error: It is not possible to remotely disable an elevator's emergency brakes. The only way to cause them to fail is to physically sabotage them or remove them.

    • Continuity: Scully picks up the phone in her bedroom and hears the modem working, then goes into the living room to see someone accessing her computer, but then she picks up the phone and calls for a trace when that phone should be busy also.

  • QUOTES (14)

    • Deep Throat: You won't find him.
      Mulder: They can't just take a man like Brad Wilczek without an explanation.
      Deep Throat: *They* can do anything they want.
      Mulder: Where is he?
      Deep Throat: In the middle of what we in the trade call "hard bargaining".
      Mulder: Wilczek won't deal. He'll never work for them.
      Deep Throat: Loss of freedom does funny things to a man

    • Scully: So the machine killed Drake out of self-defense?
      Mulder: Self-preservation. It's the primary instinct of all sentient beings.
      Scully: Mulder, that level of artificial intelligence is decades away from being realized.
      Mulder: Then why was our government trying to usurp Wilczek's research?

    • Mulder: You're afraid of the government but you're willing to accept the risk that your machine will kill again.
      Wilczek: The lesser of two evils.
      Mulder: What about a third option. You created that machine. Now you tell me how to destroy it.

    • Mulder: I need to know why Brad Wilczek is the subject of a code five investigation. What the Defense Department wants with him.
      Deep Throat: What do you think they'd want with the most innovative programmer in this hemisphere?
      Mulder: Software.
      Deep Throat: For years, Wilczek has thumbed his nose at any contract involving weapons applications. He's a bleeding heart.
      Mulder: What kind of software?
      Deep Throat: How much do you know about artificial intelligence?
      Mulder: I thought it was only theoretical.
      Deep Throat: It was, until two years ago. You remember Helsinki, the first time that a chess playing computer ever beat a Grand Master? That was Wilczek's program. And the rumor was that he did it by developing the first adaptive network.
      Mulder: An adaptive network?
      Deep Throat: It's a learning machine. A computer that actually thinks. And it's, ah, become something of a holy grail for some of our more acquisitive colleagues in the Department of Defense.

    • Scully: Some see genius as the ability to connect the unconnected -- to make juxtapositions, to see relationships where others cannot. Is Brad Wilczek a genius? I don't know. But I do know this for certain. He has a predilection for elaborate game playing. He has an intimate knowledge of the Eurisko building and he has a demonstrable motive for killing Benjamin Drake. The question remains. But if he is so clever how do we nail him?

    • Mulder: Could someone have hacked into the system?
      Wilczek: Well, not your average phone freak, that's for sure. But there's plenty of kooks out there. Data travelers, Electro wizards, techno anarchists. Anything's possible.
      Scully: Could you have done it?
      Wilczek: Of course. I designed the system. That's why you guys are here, isn't it? I'm your logical suspect.
      Scully: You don't seem too worried.
      Wilczek: It's a puzzle, Miss Scully, and scruffy minds like me like puzzles. We enjoy walking down unpredictable avenues of thought, turning new corners - - but as a general rule, scruffy minds don't commit murder.

    • Wilczek: What are you talking about? I'm guilty.
      Mulder: I know you're innocent. You're protecting a machine -- the Central Operating System at Eurisko.
      Wilczek: If I'm protecting anything, it's not the machine.
      Mulder: Then what?
      Wilczek: After the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- Robert Oppenheimer spent the rest of his life regretting he'd ever glimpsed an atom.
      Mulder: Oppenheimer may have regretted his actions but he never denied responsibility for them.
      Wilczek: He loved the work, Mr. Mulder. His mistake was in sharing it with an immoral government. I won't make the same mistake.

    • Wilczek: It's a puzzle, Miss Scully, and scruffy minds like me like puzzles. We enjoy walking down unpredictable avenues of thought, turning new corners, but, as a general rule, scruffy minds don't commit murder.

    • Mulder: In your opinion, how many people know the system well enough to override it?.
      Brad Wilczek: Finally, the bonus question. Not many, is the answer.

    • Scully: Brad Wilczek? We're with the FBI.
      Brad Wilczek: What took you guys so long? Oh, and do you mind taking off your shoes.

    • Mulder: This is what a 220 IQ and a $400,000,000 severance settlement buys you.

    • Scully: Must be for the visually impaired.
      Mulder: How do you like that? A politically correct elevator.

    • Brad: They make me wear shoes all the time. What else do you want from me?

    • Scully: How come you two went your separate ways?
      Mulder: I'm a pain in the ass to work with.
      Scully: Seriously.
      Mulder: I'm not a pain in the ass?

  • NOTES (4)

    • An early version of this episode's script had Lamana and Mulder recalling the bachelor party Mulder threw for his friend.

    • Scully says her FBI ID# is '2317-616'. 616 is the area code for Grand Rapids, Michigan; where Gillian Anderson went to High School.

    • Writer Howard Gordon once said that this episode qualifies as one of his biggest disappointments.

    • This is the second episode in which Deep Throat appears. Originally, that character was only supposed to be in one episode. Later it was decided to add him on as a recurring character.


    • Plot & Characters: Tron

      The relationship between Brad Wilczek and Benjamin Drake is the inverse of that portrayed by Ed Dillinger and Dr. Walter Gibbs in the 1982 movie Tron. The difference is that in Tron, it was the executive (Dillinger) that created the rogue program. In an opening scene, Dillinger tells Gibbs, "Encom isn't the business you started in your garage anymore." Another similarity is work theft. In this episode, Agent Jerry Lamana steals some of Mulder's profile files. In Tron, Dillinger steals video game files from Kevin Flynn.

    • Wilczek: I started Eurisko out of my parents' garage. I was 22 years old. I'd just spent a year following around the Grateful Dead.

      The Grateful Dead was an American jam band formed in 1965 in San Francisco. The band had a devoted fan base who called themselves Deadheads.

    • COS: What are you doing, Brad?

      This line from the Eurisko computer and the way it sounds and speaks is reminiscent of Hal 9000, the insane computer from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    • Episode Title: Ghost in the Machine

      The title is a phrase coined by philosopher Descartes as a way to explain consciousness. The ghost is our soul, the machine is our bodies.