X – Files pilot part vii – the purpose of the scene

In his book Screenplay, Syd Field says:

The purpose of the scene is twofold: either it moves the story forward or it reveals information about the character. If the scene does not satisfy one or both of these two elements, then it doesn’t belong in the screenplay.


This scene is an example of how X-Files writer Chris Carter does both.


Mulder is lying horizontal, eyes closed, with headphones across three seats, while Scully sits in her seat upright, researching news articles.

First, Scully looks at a picture of a man in a student graduation uniform. The headline read: Former honor student’s body found in state park. Next, Scully flips the page to a picture of Karen Swenson, the girl whose death they are investigating. The headline: 4th tragic fatality befalls class of ’89.

The camera slow-mo zooms in on the inserted text: ‘autopsy, Dr. Nemman, untimely death.’

The plane shakes as it hits extreme turbulence. Scully breathes deeply, focusing on controlling her fear, while Mulder makes a joke, unperturbed.

(my transcription)

1.Moves the story forward

This information moves the story forward as it provides information which Scully and Mulder can use to join together the pieces of the puzzle and ultimately solve the mystery.

2. Reveals information about the character

The turbulence section exists only to show how different the two protagonists are. It reveals information about the characters. As the plane hits turbulence, Scully is scared and Mulder isn’t.

What do you think?

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