The X-Files

Season 1 Episode 24

The Erlenmeyer Flask

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM May 13, 1994 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
471 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

When Deep Throat points out a news story about a fugitive who apparently drowned, Mulder and Scully cannot see what makes the case special but they follow it up anyway. With Deep Throat's insistence, they discover evidence of secret government project code-named Purity Control, which uses human test subjects and infects them with extraterrestrial DNA. However, the evidence and everyone who has seen it is quickly being eliminated.moreless

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  • groups within groups...

    welcome to the mythos.
  • Alien DNA being put in human test subjects

    The first X file season finale was a fantastic end to the season and it starts when a fugitive escapes the police and already you could tell that he wasn't normal after he was shot and hit with a stun gun.Then deep throat contacts Mulder and tells him about what has happened and that he is onto something big but Mulder can't quite figure out what it is.The answers they was looking for is the doctor who owned the car that the fugitive was driving.The doctor had something called purity control to create alien/human hybrids.When Mulder found the subjects the government was using they would try to cover it up when they destroy the subjects and kill the fugitive and the blood did something to Mulder and the government kidnapped Mulder.This then caused an exchange that caused Deep Throat to be shot and killed by a member of the government who had been seen throughout the episode.When Deep Throat died this meant that Mulder's best help to uncover the truth was gone as he has helped them so much throughout the season.Even worse after that the X files had been shut down.The alien used to trade Mulder was put into the pentagon by the mysterious smoking man.This was also the first episode not to say the truth is out there in the opening credits because it said Trust no one which was Deep Throats last words.This has left lots of questions for season 2 and I just can't wait for it.moreless
  • The Erlenmeyer Flask

    PERFECT! Finally came the long awaited "season finale" of the first season of one of television's most brilliant of all time, and came full of scientific theories, conspiracy and a lot of sci-fi thriller to chew nails and thinking brain. The villainy this time is on account of the secret forces of government, able to kill anyone or distort any facts so that your interests are kept secure. There are quotes about the famous "Human Genome Project," one of the most coveted project of mapping human genes, there are unexplained disappearances and deaths "accidental," is the best that the series can provide in all its magnitude. Theories are built very well placed here, revealing the government experiment in cells of a tissue to catch alien (do not know how or when it was obtained), with two new nitrogenous bases beyond the four unique in nature and yet possessing chloroplasts and other organelles and deploy in humans, genes whose change and mutate into something so unknown and evolved than current technology would not be able to handle. Mulder and Scully, in complete vulnerability, are highly monitored and controlled indirectly, making them the proof and evidence, and letting loose more questions in the air handling. This does not mean that Scully had his first contact with the alien race and Deep Throat, who before being killed by an undercover agent, whispers the famous phrase "trust no one." All the characters are great, the plot expands in a conspiracy and frightening pace, finally everything is so clean, so that ended up being the best episode since the beginning of the season.moreless
  • The Erlenmeyer Flask

    The Erlenmeyer Flask was a perfect episode and season one finale of The X-Files. I really enjoyed watching because there was a lot of character and plot development significant to the entire series. It was awesome seeing the episode begin with a high speed chase and a little mystery. I loved how all the best elements of the show were pulled together to create a very entertaining story. I loved watching Scully find the fetus. This was definitely the best episode so far and I certainly look forward to watching what happens next season!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • "Mulder, I'm warning you. If this is monkey pee, you're on your own.". An immortal line from Scully in this season 1 finale. At last we have Chris Carter's personal philosophy spelled out for us literally in the tagline: it's a cold world out there, one where enemies wear a friendly face and even a friend can be suspect.moreless

    "The Erlenmeyer Flask" opens with a car chase straight out of "Bullitt", follows with police beating a suspect a la Rodney King, and includes such ripped-from-the-headlines story elements as the Human Genome project, and toxic blood overpowering a paramedical team. Chris Carter mixes elements from "Bladerunner", " The Fugitive", and "Apocalypse Now" to draw a dark and forbidding picture as the first season of The X-Files comes to an end. Unfortunately, the end result is sometimes as confusing as it is delicious.

    A waterfront car chase ends with a suspect being shot right before he leaps off a pier into the harbor, leaving traces of green blood behind. Mulder is awakened that night by Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin), who tells him only that Mulder should look into it. Mulder and Scully are left to bumble around awhile trying to figure out what, if anything, they are supposed to be searching for. The murder of a research scientist finally lands them a real clue when Mulder stumbles across an Erlenmeyer flask labeled Purity Control. She and the research microbiologist whose help she enlists are stunned to find themselves looking at cloned viruses containing what appear to be DNA sequences which include a fifth and sixth base pair. The microbiologist tells Scully that such material, "by definition, would have to be extraterrestrial." At last, Dana Scully holds concrete evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial life in her hands.

    At this point, one would expect Mulder to be more than a little interested in this discovery, but instead he is tracking down the fugitive Dr. Secare from the first act. Why Mulder would be pursuing a human being when Scully has the proof in her hands he's been looking for escapes me, but he doggedly pursues the human fugitive, on a trail which leads him to a warehouse full of DNA research tanks and their human occupants. We discover that the fugitive used to be in one of these tanks when Deep Throat finally appears to Explain It All To Mulder and Scully and urge them to put together the evidence which will expose this experiment in alien/human hybridization. Of course, he waits until the tanks are taken away by the secret "black ops" organization he has somehow failed to warn Mulder about: thus Mulder must endanger his life by searching further for Dr. Secare, and Scully must go back to the lab to secure evidence she didn't know was in jeopardy.

    If it seems I am a little down on Deep Throat, there's a reason. There are some wonderful story elements in this episode, important pieces of the puzzle Mulder has been working on for years. This episode is clearly intended to be a seminal story, one from which many other storylines will branch. All the elements are here, the images are right, and there is a certain (erratic) flow to the story line. Some of the elements are too pat, too convenient: Mulder's discovery of the most crucial clue, the Purity Control flask, being the most obvious. But ultimately, everything lurches along because Deep Throat is playing puppet master not only with Mulder and Scully, but with us. I was ready to shoot Deep Throat myself by the second act. His cryptic clues and elusive hints were clearly designed to mislead and tease the audience, not to inform Mulder. There is no reason for him to be so ambiguous, so mysterious. Scully's anger at Deep Throat "yanking your chain", as she tells Mulder, started echoes in my own head. At some point the man has to step forward and speak plainly, but when he finally gets around to it, it is too late. The evidence is gone and the fugitive is in hiding. By now matters are so far deteriorated that Mulder is taken hostage and Scully must acquire and then give away the only solid evidence she has ever held--an actual alien fetus.

    We get a strong, exceptionally well done Dana Scully in this episode, one who works as hard as Mulder, in her own field, to solve the mystery. Her growing fear and astonishment as her research uncovers the grotesque beauties of alien-DNA hybrid cells reflects the challenge to her world view that Dana Scully is undergoing, a challenge she meets with proper humility. One wonders if Mulder would ever tell Scully that his stubborn adherence to a particular tenet of faith may possibly have been flawed, as she does in Act Three. As it is, I was hoping to see more of her reaction to the discovery of the alien fetus; even after she had to trade it for Mulder's life, she would remember having found it, seen it, held it in her hands. What would her reaction be to this tremendous discovery? Surely she would be shaken to her core, but we get no hint of her response. Her subsequent behavior would seem to indicate a substantial memory loss on her part. Still, her concern for Mulder, her forthright courage in infiltrating a top secret installation to steal his ransom, and her outspoken distrust of Deep Throat give Dana Scully more depth and power in this episode than we will see again for a while. It is a wonderful characterization, as it usually is when Carter writes the script.

    The visual beauty of this episode, due to cinematographer John Bartley's magical use of muted color and shadow, makes this a dark feast for the eyes. The indelible image of the men at the clandestine lab at 1616 Pandora Street, sleeping in their green amniotic fluid like grown fetuses awaiting rebirth, is worth the rest of the entire episode. But the gritty realism of the opening car chase, the darkness that makes Mulder's own front yard a menace as he speaks with Deep Throat, and the exotic beauty of the alien DNA cells on the computer screen, take the viewer into a world of surreal if serene imagery that plays with our heads far more effectively than the sometimes contradictory dialogue. And Mark Snow's music is given even more of a role than usual: there are two minutes in Act Four, when Scully discovers the alien fetus, where there is no dialogue at all, only Snow's evocative and compelling score to give an otherwise mundane discovery scene suspense and terror. I must mention the wonderful scene at the end of the episode, where Mulder calls Scully and tells her the X-Files are closed. His voice choked with unshed tears and anger, Duchovny gives us a Mulder who has been shocked out of his customary cool by this blow. It was totally human and believable.

    There are some marvelous minor touches here. We finally get to hear the voice of the elusive Danny, Mulder's inside informant in the Bureau. The number 1056 crops up once again on a key, reminding us of Chris Carter's birthday (October, 1956). Mulder dials up Danny by punching out "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the telephone. Of course, classical mythology students will recognize references to the myth of Pandora's box and the Promethean myth (Zeus Storage) as Scully finds concrete proof not only of extraterrestrial life but of a research project tampering with the stuff of life itself.

    The death of Deep Throat was a surprise, but doesn't compare with the closing of The X-Files, a truly risky move on Carter's part. The constituent parts of this episode are stunning in many ways, advancing the mythos of the X-Files significantly. The imagery is classic X-Files, setting new standards for a show already miles beyond standard TV fare. Intelligent, well-written, and thoughtful, it nevertheless has too many seams showing and too weak a beginning to warrant a perfect score.moreless
Lindsey Ginter

Lindsey Ginter

Crew-Cut Man

Guest Star

Anne De Salvo

Anne De Salvo

Dr Anne Carpenter

Guest Star

Simon Webb

Simon Webb

Dr Secare

Guest Star

Jerry Hardin

Jerry Hardin

Deep Throat

Recurring Role

William B. Davis

William B. Davis

Cigarette Smoking Man

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (10)

    • Film: Journey to the Centre of the Earth

      The movie that Mulder is watching in his apartment is the 1959 movie Journey to the Centre of the Earth. The movie was directed by Henry Levin and based on the classic novel by Jules Verne.

    • Goof: Base pairs aren't made up of nucleotides, as the molecular biologist stated, they're as the name states a pair of bases either cytosine and guanine or adenine and thymine in DNA. A DNA nucleotide is a nitrogenous base connected to a sugar (deoxyribose in DNA), a phosphate group and one of the four bases.

    • Principal setting: Washington D.C.

    • In the establishing shot of the Fort Marlene facility it is clearly a 2-3 story building. Once Scully gains access and enters the elevator, however, she proceeds to the 7th floor.

    • Plot Hole: When explaining her findings about the bacteria found in the Purity Control Erlenmeyer, Scully says "they (the bacteria) also contain something that looks like chloroplasts, plant cells". That's not correct, chloroplast is an organelle found inside plant cells and eukaryotic algae that conducts photosynthesis.

    • Conspiracy Info: We learn the Conspiracy has alien tissue, and is seeking to create an alien/human hybrid.

    • Plot Hole: On analyzing the bacteria Scully provides, Dr. Carpenter describes the presence of two extra nucleotides and comes to the conclusion that the DNA in question must be extraterrestrial. She overlooks the possibility that it could be artificial.

    • Continuity: We see that Mulder's apartment has a buzzer to let people in. This buzzer would disappear in later seasons as everybody would just come knocking on agent Mulder's door.

    • Plot Hole: How did Scully smuggle the alien fetus out of Fort Marlene? The scene leading up to the discovery of the fetus clearly shows that this a very high security facility.

    • Continuity: In "Colony", we learn that the alien blood is poisonous and will kill the host unless he is chilled very quickly, but Dr. Berube's attic doesn't look very cold.

  • QUOTES (11)

    • Deep Throat: Roswell was a smoke screen, we've had half a dozen better salvage operations.

    • Deep Throat: no one.

    • Deep Throat: Calling it a night, Mister Mulder?
      Mulder: My mother usually likes me home before the streetlights come on.

    • Scully: You don't know that this isn't just a game with him. He's toying with you. Rationing out the facts.
      Mulder: You think he does it because he gets off on it?
      Scully: No. I think he does it because you do.

    • Mulder: As far as I can tell, he wouldn't pull over for a moving violation.
      Scully: Well, that ought to put him in the Ten Most Wanted list.

    • Dr. Carpenter: Agent Scully.
      Scully: Oh, Dr Carpenter, I fell asleep.
      Dr. Carpenter: I've done some work. These are the DNA sequences from the bacteria sample you brought in. You seem to know something about molecular biology. Do you know what you're looking at?
      Scully: Yeah, I think these are genes.
      Dr. Carpenter: Right. They're called base pairs. Each pair is made up of something called a nucleotide. Only four nucleotides exist in DNA, four. And through some miracle of design that we have yet to fathom, every living thing is created out of these four basic building blocks. What you're looking at is a sequence of genes from the bacteria sample. Normally, we'd find no gaps in the sequence. But with these bacteria we do.
      Scully: Why is that?
      Dr. Carpenter: I don't know why. But I tell you, under any other circumstances my first call would have been to the government.
      Scully: What exactly did you find?
      Dr. Carpenter: A fifth and sixth DNA nucleotide - - A new base pair. Agent Scully, what you are looking at, it exists nowhere in nature. It, would have to be by definition... extraterrestrial.

    • (Mulder's cell phone is ringing.)
      Crew Cut Man: Your cellular phone's been ringing off the hook.
      Mulder: (moaning) I'm a popular guy. Why don't you answer it for me?
      Crew Cut Man: Oh, I don't like talking on the phone. I have this thing about unsecured lines. When you feel like talking though, let me know.
      (Mulder's cell phone suddenly stops ringing with a suspense tone.)

    • Scully: Okay, Mulder. But I'm warning you, if this is monkey pee, you're on your own.

    • Scully: What are you going to do?
      Mulder: I'm... not going to give up. Not as long as the truth is out there.

    • Mulder: It's over Scully.

    • Mulder: You know, from day one, this has always been on your terms. I've gone along. Been the dutiful son. But maybe this time, we can just cut out the Obi-Wan Kenobi crap and you can save me the trouble.
      Deep Throat: I fear you've become too dependent on me.
      Mulder: Let me tell you something. I've got plenty to do without chasing down your vague leads or trying to decode your circular logic. Maybe it's you who's become too dependent on me... on my willingness to play your games.
      Deep Throat: Mister Mulder?
      Mulder: What?
      Deep Throat: Don't give up on this one. Trust me. You've never been closer.

  • NOTES (7)

    • This is the first time we see an alien body.

    • Ken Kramer, the man who played Dr. Berube, re-appears in the later episode "3" as Dr. Browning.

    • When Jerry Hardin (Deep Throat) received his copy of the script, a note from series creator Chris Carter was attached to it. The note said: "Nobody ever dies on The X-Files".

    • The main hallway of Fort Marlene was later recycled into the FBI's main hallway.

    • The episode received a nomination for an Edgar Award, an honor presented by the Mystery Writers of America.

    • The tagline for this episode changes from "The Truth Is Out There" to "Trust No One." This phrase is spoken by Deep Throat with his dying breath.

    • The first season finale ends pretty much the same way as the first episode of the series: Scully waking up and the clock changing from 11:21 to 11:22 and Cigarette Smoking Man stores the alien fetus in the huge vault beneath the Pentagon as he did with the implant in "Pilot".


    • Mulder:...doing a Louganis out the window...

      The reference is to famous Olympic diver, Greg Louganis, who was a world-class diver, but is probably best known for a disastrous dive when he hit his head on the board on the way down, the outcome of which could have been very serious indeed.

    • Carpenter: We've come a long way from Colonel Mustard in the Den with the Rope haven't we?

      An obvious reference to the popular board game, Cluedo (or Clue as it was renamed in America), where people have to discover whodunnit, where and with what! In England the Den would have been the Study. The allusion is to the fact that we no longer have to take a best guess, but that science can pinpoint the culprit based on a number of factors, such as fingerprints, DNA etc.

    • Movie Reference: Raiders of the Lost Ark

      The final scene, where the Cigarette Smoking Man places the box containing an important item on a storage shelf in a vast warehouse space in the Pentagon filled with nondescript boxes, is very reminiscent of the final scene of the 1981 movie. In that movie, the first to feature the Indiana Jones character, the crate containing the Ark of the Covenant is placed on a storage shelf in a vast warehouse space in an unnamed government building. In both cases, the scene makes the point that the government is covering up important scientific finds and storing them out of the reach of the public.

    • Location: Zeus Storage, 1616 Pandora Street

      According to Greek classical religion, Pandora was the first woman. Zeus, the King of the Gods, was angered because Prometheus stole fire and gave it to mankind. Zeus ordered the Gods to create a woman as a punishment for mankind. Pandora is credited (or blamed) for opening a box and releasing a host of troubles on the world.

    • Mulder: The man we met yesterday kept this place like he was waiting for the people from Good Housekeeping to show up.

      Good Housekeeping is a women's magazine which was founded in 1885.

    • Lacerio: I know it's not Silence of the Lambs, but it's what we do.

      Silence of the Lambs is a novel by Thomas Harris which was successfully adapted for the big screen in 1991 by Jonathan Demme. The movie stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins and tells the story of an unexperienced FBI agent, Clarice Starling, who is sent to interview the imprisoned sociopath Hannibal Lecter in order to advance her investigation of another serial killer.

    • Scully: He was working on the Human Genome Project.

      The Human Genome Project (HGP) was initiated in 1989 as an effort to map the human genetic code, and it continues to this day.

    • Mulder: Why don't we just cut out the Obi-Wan Kenobi crap.

      Deep Throat acting like Obi-Wan Kenobi is taken from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, where Obi-Wan appears every now and then to give Luke some advice and guidance.