X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

3X24: Talitha Cumi / 4X01: Herrenvolk

Case Profile

A renegade cloned hybrid that can shapeshift and heal, Jeremiah Smith, tries to thwart the Syndicate’s greater Project that involves a colonization. After a meeting between the Cigarette-Smoking Man and Teena Mulder (Fox’s mom) that reveals a past connection and ends up in Teena having a stroke, Mulder finds an alien stiletto. Unable to use the stiletto against Jeremiah, the CSM calls for the Alien Bounty Hunter’s help. Jeremiah escapes and asks for Mulder & Scully’s help. The ABH hunts Mulder & Jeremiah while Scully discovers that the american population is being catalogued through smallpox vaccinations. Before being stopped by the ABH, Jeremiah shows Mulder transgenic plantations and hives of killer bees taken care of by young clones of Samantha. The Syndicate learns X is Mulder’s source and kills him; before dying, X points Mulder to his next source: Special Representative to the Secretary General of the UN Marita Covarrubias. The CSM summons the ABH’s help to heal Teena.

Field Report

With these two important (and humorless) episodes, restrospectively, we can already tell Carter & Spotnitz have planned everything from this point to Fight the Future, if not up to 6X12: One Son. Successful (cloned) hybrids, colonization, the Project, bees, everything is in place.

Duchovny’s input in the story of Talitha Cumi is most obvious in the scenes involving Jeremiah Smith: he likes to present himself as a healing messiah delivering humanity from the bonds they’ve been unconsciously entagled in by the Syndicate. Religious overtones and references to Dostoyevsky’s “Brothers Karamazov“, more specifically to the ‘Grand Inquisitor’ chapter, are obvious in the scenes where the CSM and Jeremiah discuss. The title of the episode itself, “Talitha Cumi”, is aramaic, said to have been spoken by Jesus Christ when he performed a healing miracle; it means “daughter rise”. Jeremiah-messiah uses his shape-shifting abilities to remind CSM of all the people he’s had killed throughout the years to preserve his work; the CSM-Inquisitor is very confident in his high place and the “Project” he places above him.

Who is Jeremiah Smith?

First, let’s get something clear: despite his abilities, Jeremiah is not an alien, not a being like the Alien Bounty Hunter. In the hierarchy he is very low: CSM: “You think you’re God? You’re a drone, a cataloguer, chattel” (chattel means personal property). We meet only one Jeremiah Smith, but Scully finds that there are at least 5 other Jeremiahs that look exactly the same, around the country: clones. The Jeremiahs are cloned alien/human hybrids, made in the same way the ‘Gregors’ and Samanthas were in 2X16: Colony & 2X17: End Game. Apparently, once they are viable, hybrids are cloned by the Syndicate so that they can be put to use, like the Jeremiahs, the young Samanthas and blond boys here. Hybrids are to be a slave race for the Colonists; they already are under Syndicate rule!

Starting from there, everything becomes clearer. Cloned hybrids are often assigned menial logistical and workforce jobs (see also 4X15: Memento Mori). They are otherwise useless — and dangerous if knowledge of their existence escapes to the public, which is what the chase of Jeremiah is all about. The Syndicate puts them to use as a ready workforce; they have few to no requirements or demands, contrary to real human workers, and they can easily infiltrate the society because of their human appearance. The Jeremiahs all work in the Social Security Administration, in the same way the ‘Gregors’ worked in abortion clinics.

But the Jeremiahs are ‘better’ hybrids than the ones previously encountered. They can heal others (and quite possibly themselves), they are immune to diseases (the killer bees), they read minds and can change their appearance, and there’s no reason to think they can’t breathe underwater or have green toxic ‘blood’ like the other hybrids. They can only be killed by a wound inflicted by the alien stiletto at the base of the neck. In all aspects, they are what we can call the ‘successful’ alien/human hybrid. But they’re still clones, and not hybrids created by gene therapy (see Cassandra Spender and 6X11: Two Fathers). They are not treated in any way special by the Syndicate, which indicates that the final product of the Syndicate’s efforts is not exactly beings of their likeness. By all means, they seem very close to the ABH. This adds to the confusion between hybrids and aliens, which is cleared out only with retrospective (see 5X13: Patient X and 5X14: The Red and the Black).

The ABH is treated with respect by the CSM; he is a real Colonist, infected by the Black Oil. Jeremiah is inferior, he is not a Colonist; he is not human either, as in Colony, hybrids are considered by others and themselves as a new race altogether. Note that on Teena Mulder’s hospital bed, the CSM has to convince the ABH of healing her. The ABH says “I need to know the reasons why this should be” as if he and CSM were equals. The ABH is not a tool of the Syndicate, they both answer to the “greater purpose” and the ABH accepts only after he is told this is done for the good of the Project (“So that the Project may proceed unabated“). Obviously the ABH can’t read the CSM’s mind (“I need to know the reasons why this should be.”). This is not true of Jeremiah, who perceives much that the CSM would rather hide; as a ‘successful’ hybrid, Jeremiah can read minds, which is an alien trait (see 6X01: The Beginning and 7X03: The Sixth Extinction). But if this ability is alien in origin, why can’t the ABH read minds? In 3X16: Apocrypha, Krycek infected by the Black Oil can’t read the CSM’s mind either. It would seem that those infected by the Black Oil don’t possess this ability, whereas those who have alien genes in their body makeup have it, whether they are grey aliens, shapeshifting aliens or alien/human hybrids. The Black Oil possesses a host but if it doesn’t have the biological infrastructure in hand, it can’t read minds; this infrastructure would be located in the temporal lobe for humans (5X20: The End).

Cloned hybrids have a tendency towards inobedience (Colony and Memento Mori). Jeremiah “no longer believe[s] in the greater purpose“, his insight into the preparations of the colonization and into the dark mind of the Syndicate elders have led him to renounce the Project that gave birth to him and to preach the good word of self-determination for everybody. He does that by showing his own super-human abilities by healing people publicly at that fastfood restaurant shooting, exposing at the same time the Syndicate’s work. This signs his death warrant; the CSM has him arrested and in line for execution. Note that among all the manpower the CSM uses to arrest Jeremiah in the Social Security Administration offices, we can see the man that we’ll come to know as the alien/human hybrid Dr. Calderon (5X05: Christmas Carol / 5X07: Emily) — or at least a clone of him. These two can easily be the same character and not a casting coincidence. Jeremiah uses the faces of people the CSM had killed for his “own selfish benefit” and the Project (Deep Throat and William Mulder) in order to make him feel guilty; but it’s only another selfish reason that sets Jeremiah free: the CSM’s cancer. The ABH then hunts him down; at the end, he most definitely kills Jeremiah and the Samantha clone at the end (though it happens offscreen, always to keep the possibility open for their return to the series! Frustrating, isn’t it?).

The alien stiletto

An even more confusing point is the famed alien stiletto. That’s what the CSM wanted of Teena Mulder, that’s what has been hiding in a lamp of the Mulder summer house in Quonochontaug for most likely up to 25 years (since 1973), indicating that the need for such a weapon was anticipated from back then. Teena points Mulder to it by writing “Palm”. Perhaps she really did mean “Lamp” in the first place, but her brain injury caused her to switch for similar-sounding words (a brain failure called non-fluent aphasia), something similar to what Scully argues (“[The stroke] could very well have affected her center of speech, her language.“). That, or the whole play on words is indeed a reference to the fact that a hybrid or an Alien Bounty Hunter is able to heal “using the palm of his hand“. The location and the word “lamp” were chosen by Bill and Teena Mulder as part of an enigma for anyone looking for the stiletto.

In 2X17: End Game we were told that an Alien Bounty Hunter could be killed with a simple gunshot to the base of the neck (that is not so certain), but that the stiletto is necessary for a hybrid. This isn’t inconsistent with what happens in Herrenvolk. Mulder & Scully don’t use their guns against the ABH in fear of being exposed to the toxin in the ‘green ‘blood’ (“You can’t use your gun!“). Mulder attempts to kill the ABH using his stiletto instead, but apparently misses the critical spot (he aimed too low, to the top of the back, but close enough to knock him out). Even if no established rules are broken, this is somewhat confusing.

Much of Talitha Cumi centers around the importance of this stiletto. The CSM wants to recover the Mulders’ stiletto so that he can use it on his own, he would like to be independent of any alien help and deal with Syndicate incidents internally. He fails to get it from Mulder’s mom; X fails to get it from Mulder. Without it, the CSM has to summon the alien Colonists and call the exterior help of the ABH, who appears to be a ‘police’ of the Colonists. More toward making the Syndicate responsible for its own actions will be done in 4X15: Memento Mori and 5X07: Emily.

Smallpox Eradication Program

The Jeremiahs’ work in the Social Security Administration databases include the cataloguing of large quantities of alphanumerical sequences. While Mulder is the field agent, Scully uses her science to figure out what they’re for — she’s very passionate about it because she finally gets evidence that passed “the test of science“. The data concerns something that Mulder & Scully have already found traces of since back in 2X25: Anasazi. An entry of the Social Security data looks like this:


As X tells Scully, the letters “SEP” mean “Smallpox Eradication Programme“. This was a very real World Health Organization programme that aimed at the complete eradication of the variola virus (that causes smallpox disease) through systematic and obligatory inoculation of the world population. SEP began on January 1, 1967; by 1980, smallpox was declared as the first disease ever vainquished by human medicine! The last samples of the virus survive today in laboratories; fears of terrorism and scientific studies for potential future outbreaks of similar virii have fueled the debate over their final destruction. More on SEP in 4X09: Tunguska / 4X10: Terma and 4X21: Zero Sum.

The string of 20 letters is, dixit Scully, instanlty recongisable by a scientist as a “protein amino acid sequence“. Proteins (plant, animal, monocellular) are made of amino acids, and there are 20 standard amino acids in the animal kingdom, a combination of which makes a protein. A specific gene in the DNA, of a virus or of a human, codes for a specific sequence of amino acids. Pendrell finds “30 different variations” of 20-letter sequences; Scully identifies all of those as proteins of the cowpox virus, “the virus used to inoculate humans against smallpox“. Indeed, cowpox is less lethal than smallpox and was the basis for the smallpox vaccine (“It’s one of the inoculants used in smallpox vaccines.“). The vaccination uses a small amount of cowpox, against which the human body could fight back; after this, the human immune system would be much more prepared to identify and destroy virii similar to cowpox, ie smallpox. And indeed, the letters sequence seen on screen really are of a cowpox protein! (thanks to XF scientific advisor Anne Simon).

The second strain of 3 letters and 12 numbers does not repeat itself, “each one is different, an infinite number of variations” (well, not exactly infinite: 17,576e15 variations to be exact, but compared to the world population it should be enough :)). Scully experiments on herself and the more-than-eager Pendrell: “I had a biopsy taken from the smallpox vaccination scar on my upper arm“, and through a process called immunohistochemical staining, she was able to obtain the “three-dimensional picture of the
location of a protein
“, her very own “cowpox structural protein number six.” What differs from individual to individual is the pattern with which the virus is located within the  vaccination scar — a very twisted way, but let’s say not outside the realm of extreme possibilities. The location is then translated into letters and numbers with this second string; each string corresponds to a single human being.

Thus the databases compiled by the Jeremiahs can be used to identify a person from his or her “records of smallpox inoculations“, “some kind of genetic marker ” or “tag“. This is the exact process used by Victor Klemper and other scientists of Project Paper Clip during the 1950s (as seen in 2X25: Anasazi / 3X01: The Blessing Way / 3X02: Paper Clip) to identify hybrids post-mortem. We have also seen that the medical records stored in the Strughold Mining Facility (3X02: Paper Clip) contain a “smallpox vaccination certificate“, quite possibly coupled with these reference tags. The work of the Jeremiahs might have been to copy the physical data contained in the Strughold Mine into a digital form, or to compile a database updated in real time with the data provided by the Social Security, which is in turn used to update the files in the Strughold Mines. The records in the Mine date back from the beginning of the 1950s, keeping records of anyone born in the USA since then; the “SEP” cataloguing could only have begun in 1967, but American citizens were inoculated before the WHO program. Incidentally, inoculation stopped after 1980, which makes it quite a narrow timespan — but let’s not stick to real world formalities, SEP was a real program that reached the lives of every living person all over the world.

The Project: colonization, bees and pollen

Jeremiah escapes and, maybe from reading CSM’s mind or from knowledge of Samantha’s backstory, contacts Mulder and Scully. He is willing to “explain everything“, he knows about Samantha, he seems to be the key, but of course in the end we don’t learn as much as we would’ve wanted to (strange for the X-Files!). Multiple references are made to the “Project“, the “greater purpose“, what seems to be the most important operation for the Syndicate. The CSM: “the outcome [is] inevitable. The date is set.” As Mulder understands, this is about “colonization“. X: “When the time comes, when the truth is finally determined, its [the stiletto’s] value will soar.” This indicates that when the colonization begins, troops of alien/human hybrids, immune to the alien virus, will be the workforce and security force. For any human resistance to stand a chance, a stiletto will be necessary (“It’s the only way we can kill them“). A secret war is being prepared, it is necessary to silence Jeremiah to keep it secret. This distinction between the inferior hybrids and the superior, genetically pure, Colonists, such as the ABH, is what the title of the episode refers to. “Herrenvolk”, literary “the Lords people” or “master race” in German, was a name the Nazis used for the ‘pure’ Aryan race. Nazism, genetic purity and vichyist collaborationism are undercurring themes for the entire XF mythology. Once he’s reached them, the ABH most definitely kills Jeremiah and the Samantha clone at the end (though it happens offscreen, always to keep the possibility open for their return to the series!).

So what do we learn of the nature of the Project after all? Jeremiah takes Mulder to the Canadian (Alberta) countryside. In the middle of nowhere, there are fields of flowers of a species unknown to biologists according to Jeremiah. Bees fly around the flowers unhindered. Giant bee apiaries stand next to the fields. The “agrarian workforce” is composed of several young hybrid clones of Samantha and of a blond boy (young clones of Kurt Crawford, as we learn in 4X15: Memento Mori), all created from “serial ovotypes“, Jeremiah specifies, ie created by batches. Their single task is to take care of the fields and bees; they are self-sufficient; a very American Gothic-like atmosphere permeates the farm settlement. “You’re looking at the future, Mr Mulder.” Of course nothing of this makes sense yet, but in light of Fight the Future, we understand. Jeremiah says the flowers are grown for their “pollen“; the bees pollinate the flowers and carry some of their pollen with them. As the very rapid death of the electricity company repairman shows, these bees are deadly, carrying a very toxic substance. This could be the alien virus as in Fight the Future, but it’s more likely a very deadly strain of the smallpox virus, as in 4X21: Zero Sum; the cable repairman who is stung dies and doesn’t gestate an alien. Jeremiah, the Samantha clones and the ABH are immune to its effects, just as they must be able to heal themselves; Mulder is not, and to prevent him being stung he covers himself in gas. Marita tells Mulder the flowers were identified as ginseng; so these are genetically modified ginseng, modified to carry an artificially created deadly strain of smallpox. The concept of bees carrying a virus and spread to the population is the heart of the Project as Mulder will learn later on. As the ABH says, “He [Jeremiah] shows you pieces, but tells you nothing of the whole“.

X’s death and Marita Covarrubias

During Talitha Cumi, relations between Mulder and X come to an all-time low. After Mulder pointing a gun to X (3X23: Wetwired), they now fight each other over the stiletto. X has always been secretive and wanted to reveal the truth to Mulder bits by bits, gradually. When Scully digs into the SEP records, X tells her “You’re going in the wrong direction“, “Don’t unlock doors you’re not prepared to go through” and “Leave it alone“: SEP is further deep into the truth than what X is prepared to reveal to her. But still, X cares about Mulder and would still be an informant and ally if things hadn’t gone wrong. The CSM suspected that X was Mulder’s source from 3X23: Wetwired. In Herrenvolk, the First Elder comes up with a trap, “a simple planting of information to see where that information flows“. The information that Teena’s life may be in danger is fed only to X; X falls for it when he goes to tell Scully (“Protect the mother.“). X is shot by the Grey-haired Man (seen in 3X21: Avatar, and later in 4X15: Memento Mori) and dies in Mulder’s own hallway.

His dying message, the letters “SRSG” written in blood, points Mulder to the United Nations Organization. He enquires about the Alberta fields to the different “Special Representatives to the Secretary General” until he gets the appropriate response. At first glance, Marita Covarrubias is no different than the others. She tells him “I can tell you that farm has been abandoned. The crops you described were left to die, but they have been identified as ginseng. No evidence of beehives or bee husbandry was found.” Only that the picture she hands Mulder is all the opposite: Samantha clones still farming the flowers, the apiaries are still intact and taken care of. The words are all lies, the picture is the truth: Marita is covering up for the Syndicate only in appearances. Mulder was supposed to be made to believe that his visit to the farms was the cause for their destruction, but Marita gives him evidence he wasn’t supposed to see. The room was probably bugged and the conversation doesn’t incriminate Marita, but they both know: Mulder learns of her double allegiance and finds the successor of X. In 4X04: Teliko, in Mulder & Marita’s second meeting, Mulder makes a reference to that: “You made an overture to me. You left an opening.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man and Teena Mulder

We know that the CSM is very selfish and is known to place personal interests over those of the Syndicate (the DAT tape case in 3X02: Paper Clip). When Jeremiah senses that the CSM has lung cancer, the CSM prefers not to take any risks and let himself be healed, even if that means releasing Jeremiah and endangering the Project. The Cancer Man is no more! (at least for a little while given his puffing rate) But we see a whole new side of him with his conversation with Fox’s mom at the Mulders’ cottage in Quonochontaug, Rhode Island. This meeting has many insinuations and implications; the CSM is surprisingly poetic and self-praising to Teena (“He was a good water-skier, your husband. Not as good as I was, but… that could be said about so many things…“). “We used to have so much to say to each other. So many good times at the Mulders’ summer place. Your kids, young and energetic.“: the CSM and Teena seem to have had an affair back in the ’60s-’70s, probably on Bill’s back. And what ups the ante even more is the CSM’s near-confession to Mulder: “I’ve known your mother since before you were born, Fox.” Note the use of “Fox” while usually he refers to him as “Agent Mulder“. The big villain as the hero’s father? The identity of Fox Mulder’s father will be hinted one way and the other for several episodes before finally setting on good old C.G.B. Spender (7X04: Amor Fati). The CSM is upset with Teena’s condition, he visits her at the hospital, stands by her bedside, looks at her with sorrow. But he doesn’t want any of his real feelings to be known. He keeps his face straight to the First Elder. As Mulder failed to have Jeremiah do it, the CSM asks the ABH to heal her and comes up with the excuse of “the fiercest enemy is the man who has nothing left to lose” to justify this. Behind this cold conspirator we know, there are feelings and fears.

Surveillance Recodings

Talitha Cumi

CSM & Jeremiah meeting one:
CSM: “This now becomes a responsibility. The thing I’m now called upon to put right and put down. Certainly you expected nothing less.”
Jeremiah Smith: “I’m not ashamed of my actions.”
CSM: “Ashamed? You’re not allowed the luxury of human weakness in penitence. You’re not allowed to put your indulgences ahead of the greater purpose.”
Jeremiah Smith: “I no longer believe in the greater purpose.”
CSM: “Then your fate is just.”
Jeremiah Smith: “My justice is not for you to mete out. You may have reason, but you have no right. You have no means either.” [“to mete” means “to measure”, as in meter]
CSM: “You presume to dictate duty to me? Have you any idea what the cost of your actions is? What their effect might be? Who are you to give them hope?”
Jeremiah Smith: “What do you give them?”
CSM: “I give them happiness and they give us authority.”
Jeremiah Smith: “The authority to take away their freedom under the guise of democracy.”
CSM: “Men can never be free because they are weak, corrupt, worthless and restless. The people believe in authority. They’ve grown tired of waiting for miracle and mystery. Science is their religion. No greater explanation exists for them. They must never believe any differently if the project is to go forward.”
Jeremiah Smith: “At what cost to them?”
CSM: “The question’s irrelevant and the outcome inevitable. The date is set.”
Jeremiah Smith (as Deep Throat): “At what cost to them for your own selfish benefit? How many must die at your hand to preserve your stake in the project?”
CSM: “I’m not impressed by your miracles or moved by your trickery. Your justice will be meted out.”
Jeremiah Smith (as Deep Throat): “By whom this time and by what tool?”
CSM: “By those who possess the tool of your destruction.”

CSM: “The date is set.”

CSM & Jeremiah meeting two:
CSM: “It’s only a matter of time now.”
Jeremiah Smith: “You put me in a cage within a cage. Why are you so afraid of me?”
CSM: “I’m not.”
Jeremiah Smith: “Yes, you are. You live in fear. That’s your whole life.”
CSM: “You don’t know anything about me.”
Jeremiah Smith: “I know everything about you. You think the miracles I perform are the extent of my power.”
CSM: “You think you’re God? You’re a drone, a cataloguer, chattel.” [“chattel” means “personal property”]
Jeremiah Smith: “What you’re afraid of is they’ll believe I am God.”
CSM: “Well, it doesn’t matter. Most of them have ceased to believe in God.”
Jeremiah Smith: “Why?”
CSM: “Because God presents them with no miracles to earn their faith.”
Jeremiah Smith: “You think when man ceases to believe in miracles, he rejects God?”
CSM: “Of course.”
Jeremiah Smith: “You rule over them in God’s name.”
CSM: “They don’t believe in Him, but they still fear Him. They’re afraid not to because they’re afraid of freedom.”
Jeremiah Smith: “And you give them happiness.”
CSM: “We appease their conscience. Anyone who can appease a man’s conscience can take his freedom away from him.”
Jeremiah Smith (as William Mulder): “And if you can’t appease their conscience, you kill them. But you can’t kill them all. You can’t kill their love, which is what makes
them who they are, makes them better than us, better than you.”

CSM: “You talk. I’m not one of you.”

Jeremiah Smith (as William Mulder): “No. All you want is to be a part of it, is to be one of the commandants when the process begins. (He morphs back to normal.) But you are wrong.”
CSM: “Oh? Am I?”
Jeremiah Smith: “Yes. You are dying of lung cancer.”
CSM: “It’s a lie.”
Jeremiah Smith: “You think it’s a lie?”
CSM: “You want to save your life.”
Jeremiah Smith: “And you?”

Jeremiah Smith: “I can explain everything to you.”


Scully: “Scully.”
Mulder: “Scully, it’s me.”

Jeremiah Smith: “You’re looking at the future, Mr Mulder.”

Jeremiah Smith: “You have a chance here to understand something so much greater, to comprehend it, to expose it.”
Mulder: “Well, then explain it to me. Explain it to me now!”

Alien Bounty Hunter: ‘Everything dies.”
Marita Covarrubias: “Not eveything dies, Mr Mulder.”

Scully: “Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it.”

E.T.C 2004-2007

Comments are closed.