One Of X-Files' Best Episodes Would Have Been Very Different Without The Dick Van Dyke Show

In the episode of "The X-Files" called "Bad Blood," Agents Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) have to get their story straight after Mulder murders a young man (Patrick Renna) believing him to be a vampire. Know immediately that "Bad Blood" is one of the rare comedy episodes of "The X-Files," and that it is deeply beloved by X-Philes the world over. Indeed, /News listed it as the best episode of the series, replacing the show's usual funereal tone with one of whimsy. This is an episode wherein Mulder, when knocked in the head, uncontrollably begins singing "Theme from Shaft."

"Bad Blood" is told in a pair of flashbacks, telling slightly different versions of the same event, "Rashomon"-style. Scully recalls investigating a series of mysterious cattle exsanguinations in Texas and is careful to relate Mulder's behavior as cavalier and condescending. She also notes that there was no evidence of vampires. When Mulder tells the same story, he's demure and gentle. He also recalls that the local sheriff (Luke Wilson) had buck teeth, a feature he didn't have in Scully's version. In both versions, Scully and Mulder depict themselves as the clear-thinking hero and the other as a hanger-on. 

It seems that the original teleplay for "Bad Blood," written by longtime "X-Files" producer Vince Gilligan (who penned 31 episodes of the show), was originally conceived as a spoof of the hit nonfiction NBC series "Unsolved Mysteries." In Andy Meisner's book "Resist or Serve: The Official Guide to the X-Files, vol. 4," Gilligan admitted that he wasn't able to get the "Unsolved Mysteries" angle to work properly, and began to panic.

Luckily, he was reminded of a "Rashomon"-inflected episode of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" called "The Night the Roof Fell In," and everything fell into place.

The Night the Roof Fell In

"The Night the Roof Fell In" was written by John Whedon, the grandfather of Joss Whedon. In the episode, Rob (Van Dyke) and Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) have an explosive argument. They later separately relate the details of the argument to a friend, and in their respective retellings, events are very different; in their own tellings, the teller stages themselves as the "hero." It's a fun sitcom version of the celebrated Japanese fable

Vince Gilligan was evidently very fond of this episode and needed it when the first draft of "Bad Blood" fell through. 

His first idea wasn't bad. He noted that he aimed to hire Robert Stack, the actual host of "Unsolved Mysteries" to appear in the spoof. The idea was that audiences would see a typical "X-Files" mystery through the salacious eyes of an early-'90s docu-drama, complete with new, overwrought music and bad performances given by re-enactment actors. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson would be given the week off, and new stars would give hammy performances in their stead. It's a fun idea, and Gilligan noted that the lead actors liked the idea of taking the week off. 

Gilligan admitted, though, that he couldn't write it well. He was on Christmas break, working during his vacation, and the clock was ticking. He ended up asking for help from fellow producer Frank Spotnitz. It was Frank who thought up the "Van Dyke" connection. Gilligan said: 

"... I just couldn't figure out how to do it. [...] And now it was a week before Christmas and I said, 'Oh, man, I'm screwed.' And as we were sitting there banging our heads against the wall," [...] Frank suddenly remembered-of all things-an episode of the old 'Dick Van Dyke Show.'"

Vampires are easy to understand

When Gilligan found his "hook," he knew that the story itself couldn't be too complicated; it wouldn't be possible to introduce audiences to a brand new monster while also affecting a multiple-perspective structure. His solution was to employ a supernatural monster that audiences could understand. Vampires were easy to wrap your head around, so vampires became the monster of the week. Gilligan said: 

"I just thought it was a cool way to tell a story. And I wondered if I could do that. [...] I also realized that if you're going to tell a story this way, the way you're telling it is the gimmick-not the story you're telling. And because of that, and because you really only have half the time as usual, I thought the best approach would be to tell a very simple paranormal story, one that everybody understood. So I thought 'Vampires — hell, everybody gets that.' And you know, we'd only told one other vampire story before, really."

Gilligan is referring to the episode "3" wherein Mulder uncovered a trio of would-be vampires operating in Los Angeles. Mulder ended up having a brief fling with a woman named Kirsten (Perrey Reeves), one of the potential vampires in question. That episode, however, was steamy and operated by its own complex vampire lore. "Bad Blood" plays by the classical vampire rules; blood drinking, immortality, and stakes through the heart. 

It turned out well. Anderson went on record, saying, "It's one of our best ones ever." She loved how well she and Duchovny availed themselves, seeing as they both had to play "altered" versions of their characters. 

Everyone else loved it too. "Bad Blood" is a classic.