The X-Files

Season 3 Episode 12

War of the Coprophages

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Jan 05, 1996 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
370 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Widespread panic is caused in a small community after numerous deaths are linked to killer cockroaches and a government agricultural agency is discovered to have set up a secret experiment involving insects.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • suprisingly suspenseful

    By the first death, I was a skeptic. Could cockroaches really make good villains? But astoundingly, this suspenseful episode is one of the best X-Files I've seen. Early on, I unconsciously stood and moved closer to the screen, and didn't realize I had gotten up till I noticed myself wringing the remote later on. Perhaps the originality of the episode's villains heightened its suspense, and the actual genius of for example Dr. Barenbaum's theory of UFOs officially got around my skepticism. The humor at the end got me too.

    Nothing against Mulder, but I respect Scully more because she's more commanding, realistic, and grounded. It's bothersome to see her take a back seat so often to Mulder. Here she's relegated more or less to catty love-interest, inasmuch as an X-Files character can be. Hope to see more of her in future.moreless
  • War of the Coprophages

    War of the Coprophages was another perfect episode of The X-Files. I really enjoyed watching because the story was fun, scary and intriguing. Cockroaches are interesting from a scientific standpoint but I don't care for them in my house. The story had action, drama, suspense and if your afraid of bugs then some moments that which would make you cringe. Dr. Bambi was a great character and it was funny watching Mulder interact with her. Scully was awesome in this episode as well, and I loved how her and Mulder kept back and forth on the phone. The ending was pretty good. I look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • Her name is Bambi?

    Mulder goes to Massachusetts, to investigate reports of UFO activity and finds a town cowed by cockroach attacks. Mulder confronts artificial roaches, a factory making fuel out of dung, and an attractive entomologist named Bambi. Scully, worried about Mulder, gets caught up in a fleeing crowd and winds up covered in dung with Mulder.

    The episode is obviously a parody, and is filled with moments both brilliant and farcical. Fans will be hurling one-liners culled from this episode at one another for a long time to come. But these moments, charming as they are taken individually, add up to less than a whole.

    "War of the Coprophages" reads like a fanfic, a story written by a fan about his or her favorite show. As such it incorporates some of the worst excesses of that genre: indulgent self-references, sophomoric humor, and shallow characterization. Writer Darin Morgan leaves no pun unturned, no sight gag ignored. He cannot resist the sly in-joke, and there are several times when he should. If he cannot dazzle us with brilliance and subtlety, he is not above bathroom humor. Or insult: Mulder's parting remark to Scully, "You smell bad", is just mean-spirited. We got the return of Scully's dog, we got the personal phone calls in the middle of the night, we got David Duchovny wandering around in various states of undress, and we got Scully acting jealous. Is this "The X- Files" or a Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie?

    The trouble with "Coprophages" was only partly with the individual elements of the story: much of the problem was the overall tone. There is a fine and dangerous line between black humor and sophomoric smirking. The tongue-in-cheek approach is funny once, amusing twice, and tedious a third time.

    This is no denigration of Darin Morgan's talent: his genius lies in setting up scenes where the payoff is either a visual cue. Scully scavenging "bug" candy in the ruins of the store was a very clever reference to the actual bug she ate in Humbug. And I think we all enjoyed the "cockroach" that crawled across our screens at home. : )

    Overall, this episode threw in everything including the bathroom sink, yet fails to achieve a coherent line. But seeing a casual Scully at home made up for my lack of interest in the plot. Frankly, I would have prefered just an hour at home with Scully as she goes about her daily routine. lolmoreless
  • Bugs are fun!

    Another of Darin Morgan's guilty little pleasures, "War of the Coprophages" not only finds the programme in very healthy, playful mode, but it also harbours some interesting little subplots beneath the veneer of comedy. Above all, it seems to be a generous nod of the head towards Orson Welles' infamous 1930s broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" which many listeners assumed was real and which caused panic in the streets. There's a similar air of hysteria to the small town featured here, as you can tell by the hilarious scene where Scully takes control in a supermarket. Of course it helps the episode's effectiveness in that it deals with one of our greatest fears – bugs. They don't have to be big and threatening for them to be scary. And if anything this episode will go down in X Files history for just one line: "Her name is Bambi?"

    In keeping with the playful tone of the episode, director Kim Manners throws in some cheeky little stylistic touches. Whether he's shooting up from the bottom of a sinkhole or over a toilet roll, he's clearly having as much fun as his cast. Nowhere is this better exemplified by the trick shot when Mulder is having a conversation with Dr Ivanov and a bug scuttles across the screen over their faces. It doesn't need to be there, but it's a funny little extra. Both Duchovny and Anderson are also having some fun here, despite sharing only 3 short scenes together. Her aforementioned repetition of the Bambi line, and the scene in the supermarket are testament to her skill. But just watch how alert Duchovny is as a comedic actor in his first scene in Dr Berenbaum's lab and he finds himself almost accidentally touching her breasts. Mulder's state of flummox at being confronted by an intelligent, beautiful woman is all the more amusing when you consider that he is confronted by such a woman every day at work. And his deadpan delivery when he answers the phone to Scully ("Not now") is priceless stuff. Scully's role in this episode is a reinforcement of the necessity to have her on the X Files. Every time Mulder rings her up to report back on the investigation, she responds with an utterly plausible explanation of events. And her reaction to Mulder's theories is very funny too. But Morgan is having a very naughty little pop at the X Files iconography with Scully here, by giving her probably the most portentous speeches she's ever had to expound in the course of the series. And how amusing that he chronicles her downtime at home as being spent cleaning her FBI issued weapon. (Queequeg's cameo appearance is also a nice touch, a rare example of consistency.) There's also an amusing in-joke at Duchovny's expense when we see Scully reading "Breakfast at Tiffany's", the question that lost him the competition when he appeared on an American game show. But underneath the slew of such in-jokes and lightness is a very interesting thread quietly disproving all Mulder's theories on extra-terrestrials and paranormal occurrences. Scully does it every time she speaks to him on the phone – and for once she is borne out to be completely correct in her medical appraisals of the various victims – while the enticing Dr Berenbaum quietly pooh-poohs the whole UFO theory by claiming it to be merely swarms of insects. To cap it all then Dr Ivanov further casts doubt with his theory that the metallic cockroaches are actually extra-terrestrial scouting machines and not the extra-terrestrials themselves. Either way, Mulder doesn't seem too ruffled by this all-round concerted effort to make him look foolish, seeing as he does a fairly good job of doing that all by himself. Either way, how apt that an episode about rogue insects should literally end with one of them being crushed by an X File. Congratulations to Darin Morgan for his third episode which, like its predecessors, is a delicious treat for fans and regular viewers alike. 9/10moreless
  • Another awesome episode written by Darin Morgan

    I've found over the past three season of The X-Files that there are some writers who write specific types of episodes. For instance, you can usually count on Darin Morgan to write a incredibly dark, intriguing and hilarious episode, sometimes combining all three in the same scene. He wrote last season's Humbug, which was just as funny as it was horrifying. And with this episode, we find the connection between Mulder and Scully growing even deeper than before, while also giving us a serious topic with a dark and humorous twist.

    The premise is basic for the most part, but the components that grow to make up the episode are what make it the most memorable. Cockroaches start invading a town and apparently killing people, and Mulder gets caught in the middle, even though he was only in the town to investigate possible UFO sightings. For a majority of the episode, Mulder and Scully are split up, and this leads to some awesome conversations between the two, filled with their usual humor, jokes and serious talk. Meanwhile, while Scully shoots down all of Mulder's theories, Mulder meets a slew of strange people: a man who works with alternate fuels who is terrified of the cockroach infestation, a beautiful USDA agent named Bambi (what's up with that?) and a scientist in a wheelchair who specializes in making mechanical bugs. Very strange, but it all works out in the end due to Darin Morgan's deft hand at writing.

    The ending was explosive and only reiterates how great Mulder and Scully's relationship is. It seems as if this was almost hinting at a liking between the two, or at least something where Scully was feeling jealous. It was fun to watch Scully poke fun at Mulder for talking to a doctor named Bambi. All around awesome episode that shows that Darin Morgan has a good eye for a specific type of episode.moreless
Bobbie Phillips

Bobbie Phillips

Dr. Bambi Berenbaum

Guest Star

Raye Birk

Raye Birk

Dr. Jeff Eckerle

Guest Star

Dion Anderson

Dion Anderson

Sheriff Frass

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (10)

    • Scully used "Die Flea, Die!" to bathe her dog, Queequeg.

    • Principal Setting: Miller's Grove, Massachussets

    • Dr. Bambi Berenbaum is named after famous (and really funny) entomologist Dr. May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, and who also keeps live insects in her desk.

    • The same teenagers seen in this episode experimenting with a home made drug lab appear later in the season in the episode "Quagmire."

    • As the sheriff drives off there is a visible reflection of the boom-mic in the rear driver side window 6:55

    • In the hotel, just before shot goes from dead man to Mulder, the dead guy takes a breath.

    • 25:12 there is a close-up shot of the dead man's face, in hotel, his eyes are closed, but when Mulder sees him at 25:27 his eyes are open.

    • Scully tells Mulder that Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet. However, this is an urban legend. Despite his name, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet, but did help to improve it with his patent for the floating ballcock among others. The toilet was actually invented by Sir John Harington, and later patented by Alexander Cummings.

    • Factual Error: In the pre-credits opening narration, Dr. Bugger waxes eloquent about the evolution and characteristics of the cockroach. He states that they appeared during the "Sirulian" period".

      He probably meant the Silurian period, which ran from approximately 440 million to 415 million years ago. However, he is still in error, as the earliest cockroach fossils date from the Carboniferous period, some 55 million years later.

    • Dr. Jeff Eckerle (the man with the intense fear of bugs) is very likely named after the Jeff Eckerle who served as a creative consultant for Secrets of the X-Files, Part 2 and who would later serve as a writer/producer for a couple of the earlier seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

  • QUOTES (16)

    • Dr Alexander Ivanov: The interplanetary explorers of alien civilisation will likely be mechnical in nature. Yes, anyone who thinks aliens visitations will come not in the form of robots, but in living beings with big eyes and grey skin has been brainwashed by too much science fiction.

    • Dr. Eckerle: How do I know you're not a cockroach?
      Mulder: I assure I'm just as human as you are, if not more so.
      (Mulder's mobile phone rings, the tone sounding similar to a cockroaches' chirp)
      Dr. Eckerle: You ARE one of them!

    • TV News Reporter: Police are asking that if you see any cockroaches, don't panic. Simply notify the local authorities and evacuate the area immediately.

    • Mulder: (speaking on cell phone) Scully, if an alien civilization were technologically advanced enough to build and send artificially intelligent robotic probes to the farthest reaches of space, might they not have also been able to perfect the extraction of methane fuel from manure, an abundant and replenishing energy source on a planet filled with dung-producing creatures?
      (Dr. Bambi looks at Mulder; Scully is stunned)
      Scully: Mulder, I think you've been in this town too long.

    • (After ducking from an explosion of fecal matter, Mulder and Scully get up from their hiding place completely covered in dung)
      Mulder: Crap.

    • Mulder: Where are you?
      Scully: I'm at a convenience store on the outskirts of...civilization.

    • Dr. Bambi Berenbaum: You differentiate species by their genitalia.
      Mulder: Is he abnormal?
      Dr. Bambi Berenbaum: He's hung like a shrub-tail dragonfly!

    • Scully: Bambi? Her name is Bambi?

    • (Mulder and Scully, covered in dung from the methane plant explosion, watch as Dr. Berenbaum and Dr. Ivanov go off together in enthusiastic conversation)
      Scully: Smart is sexy. Well think of it this way Mulder -- by the time there's another invasion of artificially intelligent dung-eating robotic probes from outer space, maybe their uber-children will have devised a way to save our planet.
      Mulder: You know I never thought I'd say this to you Scully..... but you smell bad.

    • (outside the methane plant)
      Scully: Let me guess... Bambi?
      Dr. Bambi Berenbaum: Fox told me to wait out here while he checked inside first. Should I come along with you?
      Scully: (ejecting her ammo clip) No... this is no place for an entomologist. (she reloads her clip and heads toward the plant)

    • Dr. Bambi Berenbaum: (to Mulder as he's about to enter the methane plant) Well, be careful. We don't know what these cockroaches are capable of - if they're even cockroaches.

    • Dr. Bambi Berenbaum: Does my scientific detachment disturb you?
      Mulder: No. No, actually I find it...quite refreshing

    • Mulder: It took forever for me to realize that it was no leaf.
      Scully: A praying mantis?
      Mulder: Yeah, I had a praying mantis epiphany and, as a result, I screamed. Not, not a girly scream but the scream of someone being confronted by some before unknown monster that had no right existing on the same planet I inhabited. Did you ever notice how a praying mantis' head resembles an alien's head? The mysteries of the natural world were revealed to me that day but instead of being astounded I was repulsed.
      Scully: Mulder, are you sure it wasn't a girly scream?

    • Scully: Mulder, you're not thinking about trespassing on government property again, are you? I know you've done it in the past but I don't think this case warrants...
      Mulder: Too late. I'm already inside.

    • Mulder: It appears that cockroaches are mortally attacking people.
      Scully: I'm not gonna ask if you just said what I think you said because I know it's what you just said.

    • Scully: The very idea of intelligent alien life is not only astronomically impossible, but at it's most basic level downright anti-Darwinian.
      Mulder: Scully... what are you wearing?

  • NOTES (8)

    • (Shown on the Behind the Scenes of X-Files Season 3)

      Kim Manners was having trouble directing this episode because of cockroaches being cockroaches and scurrying around everywhere.

      When shooting the toilet scenes, Kim got infuriated, and jokingly stuck his head in where the bucket the cockroaches were being kept and directed them what to do.

      When he went to shoot the scene again, the cockroaches did exactly as he said.

    • Scully's observation of "smart is sexy" in this episode has become an iconic term used to describe Mulder and Scully.

    • Along with the roach running across the screen, there is a beetle chirp at the very end of the episode, just before the credits roll.

    • Scully still has the Pomeranian from Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose.

    • During Mulder's first meeting with Dr. Ivanov, an escaped cockroach can be seen crawling over the camera, making it appear that the viewer's TV has become infested.

    • Bobbie Phillips, playing Dr. Bambi, starred alongside David Duchovny in the Showtime anthology series Red Shoe Diaries.

    • Tyler Labine and Nicole Parker, credited as the "Stoner" and the "Chick" respectively, return later this season in Quagmire.

    • Scully is reading Breakfast at Tiffany's, a reference to David Duchovny's appearance on Celebrity Jeopardy. The Final Jeopardy question referred to this Truman Capote novel. Unfortunately, David guessed wrong and lost the game.


    • Ekbom's Syndrome
      Mentioned by Scully as a reference to the stoner guy's belief he has cockroaches inside him. It's a very real syndrome (sometimes known as cocaine bugs, but more medically known as Delusional Parasitosis) when people think they have parasites inside their body, usually insects or worms. It can be exacerbated by use of certain stimulant drugs, most commonly cocaine or methamphetamine. It's named after Karl Axel Ekbom who published accounts of the disease in 1937. Not to be confused with Wittmaack-Ekbom Syndrome, which is restless legs syndrome, a completely different condition, but often also called simply Ekbom's Syndrome.

    • Thomas Crapper:
      Scully: (On the phone with Mulder) Did you know that Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet?
      This is a commonly held belief, but it's not entirely true. There was a man named Thomas Crapper (1836-1910), and he did own a company that made plumbing equipment ranging from manhole covers to, yes, flush toilets, but they were based on a design patented by a man named John Giblin. Flush toilets were common in Roman cities, and evidence of their design go back 4600 years to the ancient Indus valley city of Mohenjo-Daro. The word crap has nothing to do with Mr. Crapper.

    • Character Name: Sheriff "Frass"

      Frass is the word used to refer to, specifically, caterpillar dung, or I suppose in a stretch, any insect feces.

    • Episode Title: War of the Coprophages

      This is also a play on H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. Literally, it means "War of the Dung Eaters".

    • Name of Town: Miller's Grove
      The name of the town is a reference to Orson Welles' famous 1938 radio dramatisation of the H.G. Wells novel War of the Worlds. Welles' version of the story had the martian invaders landing in Grover's Mill, New Jersey (randomly picked off a map). The broadcast caused widespread panic among Americans who believed that the world was truly being invaded by aliens, and scenes such as the one in the convenience store actually happened.