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The "Cigarette Smoking Man" (often referred to as "Cancer Man") is a fictional character on the American science fiction television series The X-Files. He serves as the arch-nemesis of FBImarker Special Agent Fox Mulder. Although his name is given as C.G.B. Spender in the show, fans continue to refer to him as the "Cigarette Smoking Man" because he is almost always seen chain-smoking Morley cigarettes and because he, like other series villains, has multiple aliases.

Although he utters only four audible words in the entire first season of the show, the "Cigarette Smoking Man" eventually develops into the series' primary antagonist. In his early appearances, he is seen in the office of Walter Skinner, Mulder and his partner Dana Scully's boss. He works for a government conspiracy only known as the Syndicate, who are hiding the truth of alien existence and their plan to colonize Earth. He is eventually killed by a missile fired from a helicopter in New Mexicomarker.

The "Cigarette Smoking Man" is portrayed by Canadian actor William B. Davis. When Davis first received the role, the character was written as "just another" extra for the pilot episode. He eventually returned for small cameo appearances during the first season, making frequently more appearances during the second season. Davis never received an award for his portrayal alone, but he was nominated for ensemble awards.

Character arc

Within the series, the birth date of the "Cigarette Smoking Man" is never revealed, though conspiracy theorists known as The Lone Gunmen believe he was born during the early 1940s in Baton Rouge, Louisianamarker. Much of his background is revealed in the fourth season episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man". He is said to have grown up an orphan, his father having been executed by electric chair in Louisiana for treason for working as a Soviet spymarker, and his mother having died of lung cancer from smoking. In 1962, he was stationed along with Bill Mulder at a US Army Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolinamarker. He was known for having a long history in black ops and American intelligence. He was involved in the training of Cuban rebels in the Bay of Pigs and the murder of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King as revealed in "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man". In his first appearance in the series, he oversees FBI agent Dana Scully's debriefing, and later disposes of evidence Mulder and Scully had brought back from their investigation of an alien abduction. With the "Cigarette Smoking Man" hiding truth from the public, Mulder seeks to reveal it to the public and the truth about the disappearance of his sister, Samantha. This leads to a rivalry that lasts until the end of the series.

In later seasons, it is revealed that he is a member of an unnamed group known as the Syndicate, a shadowy organization within the United States government. The episode "Two Fathers" reveals his birthname or alias as C.G.B. Spender, and that he was formerly married to Cassandra Spender, with whom he had a son, Jeffrey Frank Spender. He recruits FBI Special Agent Diana Fowley to be a subordinate of his because she has a close relationship with Mulder. In "One Son", Jeffrey finds out that his dad, the "Cigarette Smoking Man", forced his mother Cassandra to undergo medical treatments that led to several nervous breakdowns during his childhood years. When the "Cigarette Smoking Man" finds out, he kills Jeffrey. Knowing of the colonization plan, the Alien rebels return to Earth to try to persuade the Syndicate to join their side against their war with the Colonists. Not believing in the strength of the Alien rebels, the Syndicate members meets at El Rico Air Base to be transported to a spaceship to survive the colonization. But the rebels appear instead of the Colonists and kill all remaining chief members of the Syndicate. Together with Fowley, he escapes the destruction of the Syndicate. Later in the sixth season, there is more evidence that suggested that the "Cigarette Smoking Man" is Mulder's biological father. Eventually in "The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati", Fowley comes in disagreement with him. Because of his plans to kill Mulder, Fowley helps Scully in her investigation to locate Mulder, which leads to her death. After the destruction of the Syndicate, the "Cigarette Smoking Man" started to operate as he wished. However, his cancer resurfaced, and he became wheelchair-bound. In the end, Alex Krycek and Marita Covarrubias betray him in the episode "Requiem", throwing him down a flight of stairs, where they presume him to be dead.

Until the ninth season episode, "William, the "Cigarette Smoking Man" is presumed dead until Spender reappears. It is learned that his attempted murder of his son failed, which led him to subject his son to terrible experiments. In the series finale, "The Truth", Mulder and Scully travel through remote New Mexicomarker and reach a pueblo where a "wise man" reputedly lives. It is in fact the Cigarette Smoking Man. He is shown to be in the same condition as when he disappeared, but has degenerated further. He lives a primitive life in hiding from the "New" Syndicate. He tells Mulder and Scully all he has left to reveal (including the fact that the aliens are scheduled to invade in 2012), and shortly after is finally killed by a missile shot from a helicopter ordered by Knowle Rohrer.

Characterization

Kim Manners, a director of several X-Files episodes, said that the "Cigarette Smoking Man" was the show's version of "Darth Vader. Some X-Files fans have categorized the "Cigarette Smoking Man" as "evil", making him out to be the villain. Carter on the other hand, once called him "the devil", which was received mixed by fans. Other fans, along with the portraying actor, see him as a "hero", as he is forced to make choices others do not.

On the surface, it may seem that the "Cigarette Smoking Man" merely tries to hide information from Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, but there is much more to him. He is involved in the Syndicate, a shadow organization which includes members of the United States government that exists to hide from the public the fact that aliens are planning to colonize Earth. Smoking Man often ruthlessly protects the secrets of the conspiracy, and serves as the main antagonist to Mulder, who has an equally consuming devotion to reveal the truth in the first seven seasons. Although his actions can be described as monstrous for the most part, his stated justification is a desire to prevent the alien colonization for as long as possible, and he is at times shown working towards that goal, particularly in connection with developing a vaccine to protect people from the "black oil", a parasitic agent which the alien Colonists use to propagate themselves.

Development

"I tried to put myself in the character’s shoes and see the world from his point of view. After all, villains don’t think they are villains."
William B. Davis talking about his character.


When first casted for the role, portraying actor William B. Davis thought a show about the paranormal wouldn't last for long. Before joining The X-Files cast, Davis had not smoked a cigarette in twenty years. For the first two episodes he appeared in, he smoked "real" cigarettes, but later changed to herbal cigarettes, giving the reason that it was "dangerous" for his health. In at least one early script draft from the "Pilot", a Special Agent named Lake Drazen is present at the meeting near the start of the episode, having chosen Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) for an assignment to evaluate the validity of Fox Mulder's (David Duchovny) work on the X-Files. The scene was eventually deleted and replaced, many staff members hints to that Drazen became the Cigarette Smoking Man.

Kim Manners said that it seemed all the prominent pieces created for The X-Files was created by "accident". According to Manners, Davis was nothing more than an extra leaning on a shelf. At the start, the producers of the show was not sure about making the "Cigarette Smoking Man" the main antagonist. Paul Rabwin commented once that he didn't know if Davis could handle the role, because he was not sure if he was a "good enough" actor for the role. Manners later commented that Davis knew that the "Cigarette Smoking Man" had two different characters, the first being the one played by Davis and the second was the cigarettes. He further stated that the cigarette smoke could tell a "whole story" by itself, thanks to Davis' talent.

Fans of the series were active in debating if the "Cigarette Smoking Man" was actually dead after the events of the season five premiere "Redux". In his first response, Chris Carter said he had left clues in the episode, and he later officially announced that the character would appear in The X-Files movie. In one of his last comments on the matter, he said "Not that we haven't brought deceased characters back before, in flashbacks or more paranormal ways. The great thing about The X-Files is that anything can happen."

The "Cigarette Smoking Man" is the only character in the series, in addition to Mulder and Scully, to appear in both the first episode, "pilot" and the last, "The Truth" of the series. Portraying actor William B. Davis was listed as CIA Agent in the first season episode "Young at Heart", instead of his usual character, the Cigarette Smoking Man. Actor Chris Owens for a time portrayed the Cigarette Smoking Man as a young man in flashbacks. He later plays his son, Jeffrey Spender. Young Cigarette Smoking Man was first played by Craig Warkentin, with Davis's voice dubbed over in "Apocrypha".

Reception

While not being nominated for any of his work alone on The X-Files, William B. Davis and several other cast members were nominated in the category "Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series" by the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 1997, 1998 and 1999 but did not win. The character was regularly voted "The Nastiest Villain" on television polls during the 90s. According to portraying actor, the character had garnered protest from "pro-smokers". Entertainment Weekly writer Jennifer Armstrong cited the character as an example of the old tradition of only having "bad guys" smoking on television.

Davis was included in Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Biggest Emmy Snubs, the list's author saying that the "Cigarette Smoking Man"'s presence was as important as "black oil, alien implants, and Scully's skepticism". The Malaysian newspaper the New Straits Times called the "Cigarette Smoking Man" one of the most "intriguing" character of the show. However, Christianity Today said that the mystery behind the "Cigarette Smoking Man" had evaporated by the late season episodes. Likewise, Ken Tucker from Entertainment Weekly felt that "the monotonous evil of Cancer Man" had "become actively annoying" in later seasons of the show, being that his lurking presence did not seem as mysterious anymore. Salon reviewer Jeff Stark felt the show was at its best when you "didn't exactly know the motivations of the Cigarette Smoking Man".

References

Notes

  1. Kowalski and B. Davis 2007, pp. 142–143.


Bibliography



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