Colonist (The X-Files)

Colonist (The X-Files)
Colonists TXF.jpg
The colonists in 1973 when they forged their alliance with the Syndicate
First appearance "The Erlenmeyer Flask"
Last appearance "This Is Not Happening"
Portrayed by Various actors
Affiliated with Syndicate
Other alien races

The Colonists are an extraterrestrial species in the science fiction television show, The X-Files, as well as the first X-Files feature film. The mystery revolving around their identity and purpose is revealed across the course of the series. In the series' plot, the Colonists are collaborating with a group of United States government officials known as the Syndicate in a plan to take over the Earth and "colonize" it, hence their name.


Origin and plans

According to the series mythology, an extraterrestrial lifeform, known in the series' mythology simply as the Colonists, were originally present on Earth in the early stages of human evolution. They highly resemble the well-known "grey aliens" in their mature form. In their immature stage, they are more yellowish colored, tall, and very aggressive. This form is sometimes referred to as the "reptilian" form due to the fangs, claws and scalelike texture of their skin. This immature form is a protective stage, able to viciously defend itself from birth. This outer skin is eventually shed when the alien develops into its mature form. They are a symbiotic species as their blood contains an intelligent virus-life force (similar in texture to crude oil), which can either take over a host's body or incubate within other life forms, including humans. Once infected with the gestational form of the Black Oil virus, a human host gestates the immature alien form after 96 hours (or sooner if the surrounding temperature is raised significantly), killing the host in the process.

The aliens were forced to abandon the planet during the last ice age as their viral lifeforce is inactivated by extreme cold. Upon their departure, they leave behind underground deposits of the Black Oil virus ready for their return. The virus apparently contains the aliens' genetic blueprints, awaiting reconstitution when the master species returns to Earth. Whilst away from Earth, the Colonists evidently sought out life throughout the universe in an effort to subdue other species and take over the universe.[1] The Colonists eventually returned to Earth in 1947 where one of their ships crashed in New Mexico due to exposure to magnetite in the surrounding rocks. Shortly after this event, a select few power brokers, mainly in the United States and the Soviet Union (though some also came from other nations) first learned of the Colonists' plot to retake the planet.[2] These men eventually formed the Syndicate.[3]

The Syndicate threatened to destroy the earth with nuclear weapons, thereby resulting in the planet becoming uninhabitable to the Colonists due to extreme cold. As such, humanity was spared immediate invasion, and The Syndicate began negotiations with the Colonists. In 1973, an alliance was created and an agreement was reached that a small group of humans would be allowed by the Colonists to survive by becoming alien-human hybrids.[4] The date for recolonization was set for 2012 so that both sides could work on creating an alien-human hybrid before the arrival of the Colonist fleet. These hybrids, if successful, would serve as a slave race for the Colonists - the Syndicate and other chosen humans would receive the hybrid genes and be spared.[5] In exchange for the Syndicate's cooperation, the Colonists handed over alien embryos as a source of genetic material for the hybrid experiments, as well as allowing limited military use of their technology and resources (such as the Alien Bounty Hunters),[6] and promising that the heirs of the Syndicate members, who were turned over to the Colonists as an act of good faith, would survive the takeover.[4] Meanwhile, both sides had a secret. The human conspirators would attempt to develop a vaccine for the alien virus in an effort to save all of humanity. The Colonists pretended that mass infection of humanity by the Black Oil would make them a controlled slave race, but in reality the Black Oil would "birth" new alien beings within the human hosts resulting in repopulation rather than recolonization.[7]

Alien-human hybrids

A hallucination of the alien colonization by Fox Mulder

Early attempts to create alien-human hybrids were pioneered by German and Japanese scientists shortly after World War II, and for some time during the Cold War. However, these often met with failure, and the Syndicate started to rely more on their own scientists. According to the Alien Bounty Hunter, in the 1950s, Soviet geneticists found a unique genetic anomaly within identical twins. The Colonists and Syndicate scientists used this to eventually develop human clones with alien elements and partial hybrids, but they were still ultimately inferior.[8] Hybrids of this type include Samantha Mulder, Kurt Crawford, the Gregors, Ernest Calderon, and Dr. William Secare. Child and adult versions of Samantha and Kurt are also seen. These clones have the same caustic greenish blood of the aliens, have greater muscular strength and higher physical endurance levels than most normal humans, and can breathe underwater. In addition to their intended use by the alien colonists, the Syndicate is occasionally seen using these clones to perform various tasks, such as research and physical labor.[9]

The pinnacle of the project is Cassandra Spender (Veronica Cartwright), mother of Jeffrey Spender (Chris Owens) and ex-wife of the "Cigarette Smoking Man" (William B. Davis). Cassandra is a hybrid created through a process other than cloning, and worked on by both the Syndicate and the aliens themselves, although the exact methods used to transform her are never fully revealed. The experiment presumably began when she, along with other family members of the Syndicate, were turned over to the colonists in 1973.[10] For years, Cassandra was under the mistaken impression that she was to be an emissary of the aliens to spread a higher spiritual understanding to humanity,[1] but after her final abduction in the late 1990s she comes to realize the truth.[10] She is killed, along with most of the Syndicate, by the alien rebels.[4]

"Super Soldiers"

With nearly every Syndicate member dead, the Colonists began to clear up any evidence of alien life and began to create human replacements called "Super Soldiers," on which the Colonists had been working covertly as an alternative slave race should the hybridization experiments be unsuccessful.[11][12] To create Super Soldiers, the Colonists infect humans with a new strain of their virus, which slowly destroys and then rebuilds the body of the host. This process seems to involve a lengthy surgical procedure on abductees as opposed to simple infection (as with the black oil).[13] As they have normal red blood and can replace individuals within powerful positions, they provide an ideal way for the Colonists to infiltrate humanity to ensure that the plans for colonization are uninterrupted. They are identifiable however by small spiny protrusions on the backs of their necks or by detailed analysis of a blood sample which shows their DNA exists as a complex with iron. Although they cannot shapeshift, Super Soldiers are practically unstoppable. They can survive being crushed by a garbage compactor,[14] decapitation, and can rip through steel with their bare hands.[15] The only known way to kill them takes advantage of their metallic biochemistry: their bodies are torn apart by the magnetic fields present near large deposits of magnetite ore.[16] The Super Soldiers quietly fill the positions of power previously occupied by Syndicate members and rarely use human conspirators. By the end of the series they have virtually replaced the Syndicate and they have chased Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) out of the FBI so that they can no longer investigate the X-Files and interfere with their plans. They are currently preparing for the final invasion in 2012.[5]

Other alien races

Alien Bounty Hunters

Character arc

Alien Bounty Hunter
Alien Bounty Hunter TXF.jpg
An Alien Bounty Hunter as seen in "Without", which would mark their final appearance on the show
First appearance "Colony"
Last appearance "Without"
Portrayed by Brian Thompson
Various actors
Affiliated with Colonists

The Bounty Hunters are members of a shape-changing alien species conquered by the alien Colonists. As a slave race to the Colonists, they are tasked with policing their plans and tracking down and eliminating any threats. The bounty hunters have green blood which contains a retrovirus that is lethal to humans. The alien blood can burn through most surfaces like an acid, and would kill a normal human if exposed for too long to its noxious fumes. The alien blood would cause a normal human's blood to coagulate into a jelly-like substance, but its effects could be neutralized by extreme cold. They could also only be killed by piercing a small area at the base of the neck. The bounty hunters carried a kind of alien stiletto-like weapon to accomplish this task, though it could be used to kill them as well. Once dead, their bodies would rapidly dissolve into a pool of their severely acidic blood, which would eventually evaporate.

It should be noted that the Alien Rebels, those aliens that opposed the plans of the alien Colonists, are of the same species as the Bounty Hunters. The distinguishing characteristic was that these Rebels had all of their (visible) orifices sealed shut in an effort to avoid absorption of/infection by the parasitic black oil; this led to a somewhat grotesque appearance. In the latter seasons of the X-Files, the role of the Bounty Hunters on Earth has largely been taken over by the Super Soldiers, human replacements capable of withstanding incredible amounts of damage.

Conceptual history

In the two-part episodes "Colony" and "End Game", Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz along with some help from David Duchovny created what would become a recurring character named the Alien Bounty Hunter. According to Carter, Duchovny came to him and said "wouldn't it be great if we had like an alien bounty hunter?" Carter was positive towards the idea and acted upon it.[9] The actor Brian Thompson auditioned for the role in a casting session, where he was competing with another actor. Spotnitz and Carter did not have much time to cast this character, but they knew this casting would be important since they intended the character to become a recurring character. Thompson was chosen according to Spotnitz because he had a very "distinctive look" about him, most notably his face and mouth. After casting him, they told Thompson's agent that he needed a hair cut, because he was originally envisioned as a US Air Force pilot who'd been shot down. When Thompson came to Vancouver, Canada there had been some "misunderstanding" between them, and he hadn't been told of the hair cut. So the hairstyle seen in this and every episode since was a "compromise" between Thompson and the producers.[17]

Black oil

Character arc

Black Oil
Vienen TXF.jpg
A black oil infected as seen in "Vienen"
First appearance "Piper Maru"
Last appearance "Vienen"
Affiliated with Colonists

Purity, more commonly referred to as black oil, and called the "black cancer" by the Russians, is an alien virus that thrived underground on Earth, in petroleum deposits. The virus is capable of entering humanoids and assuming control of their bodies. It has sentience and is capable of communicating. It was revealed to be the "life force" of the alien colonists, which they seemingly used to reproduce their kind, as well as infect other alien races in order to conquer the universe.

The Syndicate in cooperation with the alien Colonists developed a delivery mechanism that would be used to introduce the virus into an unsuspecting public upon colonization. Africanized bees, extremely aggressive bees that would sting indiscriminately, would carry the Black Oil virus through a transgenic corn crop (engineered to carry the virus and to attract these bees). The bees would be released on colonization and the infected human beings would become a slave race. The Syndicate, however, secretly tried to create a vaccine to protect themselves, which they codenamed "Purity Control." While the Purity Control project ultimately fails, a rival Russian shadow group was successful in developing a weak vaccine which eventually fell into the hands of the Syndicate.

The plot to cooperate with the alien colonization plan was implemented with the aim of being given access to the black oil for the transgenic corn, in order to perform experiments with it in an effort to try and develop a vaccine. This attempt was semi-successful, as the "weak vaccine" administered to Scully while in the Antarctic alien ship was able to cure her infection and cause the entire ship to depart its underground residence.

Conceptual history

Some fans have speculated that the original concept of the black oil was influenced by the parasitic ice worm creature seen in the season one episode, "Ice". The two concepts do share several similarities. In the episodes they are featured in, suggestions are made that both lifeforms came to Earth from space via a meteor. They are also both seen to infect their hosts and manipulate their hosts' behaviors, creating a mood of paranoia. Additionally, one of the parasitic worms in "Ice" can be seen squirting a black, oily substance in a scene where it is extracted from a human host. This substance is referred to as being a poison but it does look similar to the black oil.[9]

The on-screen appearances of the black oil was done by visual effects. They were created by putting them digitally on the surface of the cornea. At the time of its conception, Mat Beck was the Special Effects Supervisor. The crew went through various iterations to find the two "right" types of fluids. According to David Gauthier, they created a black oil mixed with acetone, which he believed gave the substance a more globular look.[9]

The season eight episode, "Vienen", marked the last appearance of the black oil in the series. Molasses and chocolate syrup was used for the visual effects of the black oil. The scene with the black oil coming out of the mouth, ears and eyes was mostly done on a visual effects stage. It was shot nine takes to get the oil to spill on the right places.[18]


Alien rebels
First appearance "Patient X"
Last appearance "One Son"
Affiliated with Colonists

There also exists a faction of aliens who actively oppose Colonization. They are the same species as the Alien Bounty Hunter(s), free from the effects of Black Oil infection. The Rebels are distinguished by their grotesque appearance: the orifices on their face are morphed shut (to avoid absorption of the parasitic black oil). Colonization has apparently begun in the Rebels' home environment, but members of this species are spared gestation to become Bounty Hunters for the Colonists' ongoing conquest efforts.[19] Although enemies of the Colonists, the Rebels can also be hostile to humanity; they carry prod-like weapons that can quickly incinerate a human and do not hesitate to use them. They burn abductees with chips in their necks at abduction sites in attempts to prevent colonization from proceeding.[1]

The Rebels themselves have a vested interest in keeping the Colonists from finding out that a successful hybrid has been created. While the Rebels had an opportunity to destroy the hybrid, Cassandra Spender, they choose to let her survive in the hopes that the Syndicate will join them in fighting the Colonists. If they refuse, Cassandra can be used to expose the truth and the conspiracy. The Rebels go so far as to infiltrate the Syndicate and bring up the possibility of fighting the Colonists. However, it is decided by the Syndicate that fighting the Colonists would be futile.[10] At this point, a fully working vaccine has not been created, and it is therefore decided that the best thing for the Syndicate to do is to comply with the original deal and turn over the hybrid to the Colonists in the hope that they are spared the resulting takeover. Before this can be done however, the Rebels kill all but a few members of the Syndicate in addition to Cassandra, the only living successful alien-human hybrid, before the Syndicate is able to send a signal to the Colonists. Without a successful hybrid, the timetable for the Colonist invasion will not be forwarded and the date set for colonization remains December 21st, 2012.[4]


  1. ^ a b c "The Red and the Black". Chris Carter, Writ. Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 14, season 5.
  2. ^ "E.B.E.". William Graham, Writ. Glen Morgan & James Wong. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 17, season 1.
  3. ^ "Travelers". William Graham, Writ. John Shiban & Frank Spotnitz. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 15, season 5.
  4. ^ a b c d "One Son". Rob Bowman, Writ. Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz. The X-Files. FOX. No. 12, season 6.
  5. ^ a b "The Truth". Kim Manners, Writ. Chris Carter. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 19-20, season 9.
  6. ^ "Deep Throat". Daniel Sackheim, Writ. Chris Carter. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 2, season 1.
  7. ^ "Piper Maru". Rob Bowman, Writ. Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 15, season 3.
  8. ^ "Nisei". David Nutter, Writ. Chris Carter, Howard Gordon & Frank Spotnitz. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 9, season 3.
  9. ^ a b c d Spotnitz, Frank, Carter, Chris, Shiban, John, Manners, Kim and Gordon, Howard among others (2004). Threads of Mythology (DVD). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. 
  10. ^ a b c "Two Fathers". Kim Manners, Writ. Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz. The X-Files. FOX. No. 11, season 6.
  11. ^ "Provenance". Kim Manners, Writ. Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 9, season 9.
  12. ^ "Providence". Chris Carter, Writ. Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 10, season 9.
  13. ^ "Deadalive". Tony Wharmby, Writ. Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 15, season 8.
  14. ^ "Existence". Kim Manners, Writ. Chris Carter. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 21, season 8.
  15. ^ "Nothing Important Happened Today". Tony Wharmby, Writ. Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 1-2, season 9.
  16. ^ "Trust No 1". Tony Wharmby, Writ. Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz. The X-Files. Fox Broadcasting Company. No. 6, season 9.
  17. ^ Spotnitz, Frank (2005). Audio Commentary for "End Game" (DVD). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. 
  18. ^ Hardy, Rod (2005). Audio Commentary for "Vienen" (DVD). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. 
  19. ^ "Patient X". Kim Manners, Writ. Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz. The X-Files. FOX. No. 13, season 5.

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