The X-Files (1996) – Sanguinarium, and Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man

Valerie Mayhew and Vivian Mayhew pen Sanguinarium,an episode that combines witchcraft and dark magics against the backdrop of a cosmetic surgery clinic. First airing on 10 November, 1996, this episode sees agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) called in to investigate a violent death during a run of the mill plastic surgery operation, and find a number of forces at work.

As the investigation continues leading them to a nurse, Rebecca Waite (O’Lan Jones) and a doctor, Jack Franklin (Richard Beymer), both of whom were present at an event ten years ago that saw the death of four patients, and one doctor.

The pair find a practising wiccan, who seems to be trying to save the victims/patients, all of whom seem to have a birthday relating to a Wiccan holy day, while someone else is crafting a blood sacrifice… but for what?

Much like an earlier encounter with demonic forces, this one ends with the case unresolved, because despite Mulder’s suspicions about what happened, he doesn’t know where to begin looking for Franklin.

And though it’s never said out loud, Mulder spends lots of time looking in the mirror and contemplating changes he would make, though nothing is said aloud. It’s a nice piece of character work, even as he gets drawn into an increasingly bloody affair.

Dark, fun, and plunging the agents into two conflicting, supposedly, paranormal forces and letting them figure out what is going on is just enjoyable.

Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man was written by Glen Morgan, and debuted on 17 November, 1996. Is it true, within the X-Files universe? Possibly, but it’s there in the title, musings…

Mulder and Scully are briefly heard in this episode, but aren’t seen, except in archival footage, while William B. Davis and Chris Owens take centre stage as the titular Cigarette Smoking Man. It seems Frohike (Tom Braidwood) of the Lone Gunmen may have found out some interesting tidbits from the villain’s personal history, and through the course of the episode shares them with the agents, and the viewer.

We glimpse his recruitment into a shadowy organisation in the early 60s where his first assignment is to kill JFK, and set up a patsy, his follow up assassination of Martin Luther King, his struggle to become a published author (and how that plays out) and a holiday season that sees he and Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin), whose first name is revealed to be Ronald, meeting to debate the execution of a recovered Extraterrestrial Biological Entity.

How much of it is true, and how much of it is false? That’s hard to say, and that’s intentional.

There’s a dark thread running through the story that sees the character constantly glancing at a picture of Elizabeth Mulder and her newborn son, Fox. Hinting at some troubling reveal in the offing.

There’s also a fun moment when I caught one of the headlines at the newstand when CSM goes to pick up his first published work, which has been serialised for an adult magazine… what of them reads, ‘Who the hell is Darin Morgan?’ – he has in fact wrote some of the funniest episodes of the series.

The episode also earned director James Wong an Emmy nomination.

The episode is densely packed with details about the assassinations, and the time periods, delighting nitpickers and fans alike as they waded through the story.

This is a great one, but the journey forward continues with The X-Files because the truth is out there…

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