Invocation (The X-Files)

"Invocation" is the fifth episode of the eighth season of the American science fiction television series The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on December 3, 2000. The episode was written by David Amman and directed by Richard Compton. "Invocation" is a "Monster-of-the-Week" story, unconnected to the series' wider mythology. The episode received a Nielsen rating of 8.2 and was viewed by 13.9 million viewers. Overall, the episode received mixed reviews from critics.

The X-Files episode
Episode no.Season 8
Episode 5
Directed byRichard Compton
Written byDavid Amann
Production code8ABX06
Original air dateDecember 3, 2000
Running time44 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
  • Erich Anderson as Doug Underwood
  • Maggie Baird as Sharon Pearl
  • Barry Cullison as Sheriff Sanchez
  • Rodney Eastman as Ronald Purnell
  • Jake Fritz as Luke Doggett
  • Kim Greist as Lisa Underwood
  • Colton James as Josh Underwood
  • Kyle Pepi & Ryan Pepi as Billy Underwood
  • Leslie Sachs as Lisa Underwood's friend
  • Sheila Shaw as Marcia Purnell
  • Steve Stapenhorst as Principal
  • Jim Cody Williams as Cal Jeppy[1]
Episode chronology
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The X-Files (season 8)
List of The X-Files episodes

The series centers on FBI special agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and her new partner John Doggett (Robert Patrick)—following the alien abduction of her former partner, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny)—who work on cases linked to the paranormal, called X-Files. In this episode, a little boy mysteriously reappears after having been kidnapped for ten years. However, he has not aged one bit after his disappearance. While the case stirs up painful memories for Doggett, suspicion stirs that the boy is not all he seems.

"Invocation" would introduce both the character of Luke Doggett, the deceased son of John Doggett, as well as a story arc involving his father trying to solve his murder. A majority of the episode was filmed in Pasadena, California.


In 1990, Billy Underwood goes missing at a school fair in Dexter, Oklahoma. Ten years later, Billy's mother Lisa Underwood is called to the local elementary school. She learns that Billy has mysteriously re-appeared at the school, but does not seem to have aged in the decade he was missing.

Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and John Doggett (Robert Patrick) arrive at the police station to see Billy. Doggett interviews the boy, who seems to be mute. In attempt to get Billy to speak, Doggett keeps his backpack from him. This infuriates Lisa and leads Scully to question Doggett’s expertise in child abduction cases. Scully suggests that Billy is an alien abductee, but Doggett believes Ronald Purnell, a local delinquent, may have been involved in the boy's disappearance. Doggett questions Purnell, who expresses confusion when the agent suggests that he should meet Billy. As Doggett sits in his car, he pulls out a photo of his deceased son, Luke.

When Billy is returned home, his brother and father are uneasy about his presence; Lisa is blind to these problems. While Lisa and her husband argue about Billy, he wanders into his brother’s room holding a knife. Lisa finds a bloody knife in his brother's bed the next morning, although the boy is unscathed. Billy stands in the room staring at Josh. Forensic analysis shows the blood to be Billy's, although there are no injuries on him. The knife bears a symbol that Billy drew while being interrogated by Doggett, which was also drawn by a psychic investigator ten years earlier. Meanwhile, Cal Jeppy shows up at Purnell's trailer and hassles him. Purnell goes into the woods and digs up a skull. Later, Jeppy blackmails Purnell into silence over something related to Billy.

Scully and Doggett bring the psychic, Sharon Pearl, to meet Billy. After touching Billy, Pearl says that she feels powerful forces acting through him, and that she senses emanations from Doggett as well. She then goes into a seizure, the mysterious symbol forming on her forehead. Scully and Doggett later notice Purnell drive up to the Underwood home. Purnell panics when he sees Billy in his car, but after a short pursuit, Purnell is arrested. The agents fail to find Billy in the vehicle. Elsewhere, Josh Underwood is abducted at a gas station while looking at a horse trailer. The symbol appears on the trailer.

After interrogation by Doggett, Purnell confesses to snatching Billy in 1990 on behalf of someone else. Doggett recognizes Purnell was also a victim, and with enough prodding, gets a name: Cal Jeppy. The police and the two FBI agents go to Jeppy’s home and find Josh in a compartment under the floor of his horse trailer. Doggett chases Jeppy into the woods, catches him, and discovers the skull of Billy that Purnell dug up earlier. As the Underwoods stand over the shallow grave of their long dead son, Doggett express incredulity that the case's conclusion was an instance of justice from beyond the grave and laments an inability to explain it; Scully reasons that the body is explanation enough and that the important thing is that Josh Underwood was saved from the same fate.[2]


Many of the episode's scenes were filmed in Pasadena, California.

"Invocation" was written by producer David Amann, and marked his fifth script contribution to the series. "Invocation" was the first of two episode of The X-Files to be directed by Richard Compton; he would later go on to direct the eighth season episode "Medusa".[3] Although the episode was the fifth aired in the season, it was actually the sixth one filmed, as evidenced by its production number.[1][4] A majority of the episode was filmed in Pasadena, California. Many of the extras from the episode auditioned via General Casting, a casting agency.[5]

In the episode, Doggett is told by a psychic that his very own son was kidnapped and murdered; thus, "Invocation" would mark the first appearance of Luke Doggett, the son of John.[6] Luke's story would develop into an arc featuring Doggett trying to find out the truth about his son's murder. Robert Patrick noted "['Invocation' started] a very important arc, because you start to see the vulnerability of the Doggett character, what drives him. That's where we first realize something's happened to him. There's a tragedy that's involved with him."[7]

The song that Ronald Purnell sang to Billy to keep him quiet and that was featured as a backmasked message on Scully's tape-recorder is a traditional African American lullaby from the American South called "All the Pretty Horses".[8]


"Invocation" first aired on Fox on December 3, 2000.[4] The episode earned a Nielsen household rating of 8.2, meaning that it was seen by 8.2% of the nation's estimated households.[9] The episode was viewed by 8.27 million households,[9][nb 1] and 13.9 million viewers.[10] The episode ranked as the 41st most-watched episode for the week ending December 3.[9] The episode aired in the United Kingdom and Ireland on Sky1 on March 8, 2001 and received 0.64 million viewers, making it the eighth most watched episode that week.[11] Fox promoted the episode with the tagline "How can a child disappear for ten years... and not age a single day? Tonight, a family's miracle may be a gift from hell."[12]

Television Without Pity writer Jessica Morgan rated the episode a B–, and, despite the moderate praise, finished her review with the statement, "I miss Mulder."[13] Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club awarded the episode a "B–", writing that it is "an okay entry that’s kept from being completely forgettable by some memorable shots […] and some decent Scully/Dogett banter."[14] Handlen held a mixed feeling toward's Doggett's backstory, noting that its introduction "does push the character in ways that undermine some of his strongest traits".[14]

Robert Shearman and Lars Pearson, in their book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen, rated the episode two-and-a-half stars out of five. The two praised Amman's ability to "elicit real-world reactions out of fantastical situations".[15] However, Shearman and Pearson took issue with the way Doggett's backstory was extrapolated. They noted that Doggett had been portrayed, up to the point in the series, as a "solid and reliable" character. However, "Invocation" sees him "[break] protocol and [behave] like a bully" because of a case reminiscent of that of his deceased son's, a situation that, the authors reason, is too similar to Mulder's own search for the truth about his sister, Samantha.[15] Paula Vitaris from Cinefantastique gave the episode a mixed review and awarded it two stars out of four.[16] Vitaris bluntly wrote, "'Invocation' is a masterpiece, but only if you grade it on a 'Roadrunners' bell-curve."[16] She elaborated, calling it "a run-of-the-mill stand-alone, a combination of 'Revelations' and 'The Calusari'"[16]


  1. ^ At the time of airing, the estimated number of households was 100.8 million.[9] Thus, 8.2 percent of 100.8 million is 8.27 million households.


  1. ^ a b "The X-Files - "Invocation"". Fox Broadcasting Company. 12 December 2001. Archived from the original on 7 February 2002. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  2. ^ "Invocation". BBC Cult. BBC. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  3. ^ Hurwitz and Knowles, pp. 236–240
  4. ^ a b The X-Files: The Complete Eighth Season (booklet). Kim Manners, et al. Fox.CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ Fraga, p. 186
  6. ^ Richard Compton (Director); David Amann (Writer). "Invocation". The X-Files. Season 8. Episode 5. Fox.
  7. ^ Hurwitz and Knowles, p. 189
  8. ^ "The X-Files - "Invocation" - Research". Fox Broadcasting Company. 3 December 2000. Archived from the original on 29 December 2001. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d "Television Ratings". Associated Press Archive. Associated Press. 5 December 2000.
  10. ^ Canton, Maj. "The X-Files – Series – Episode List – Season 8". TV Tango. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  11. ^ "BARB's multichannel top 10 programmes". Retrieved 4 January 2011. Note: Information is in the section titled "w/e March 5–11, 2001", listed under Sky 1
  12. ^ Invocation (Promotional Flyer). Los Angeles, California: Fox Broadcasting Company. 2000.
  13. ^ Morgan, Jessica (3 December 2000). "Invocation". Television Without Pity. NBCUniversal. Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  14. ^ a b Handlen, Zack (October 19, 2013). "'Invocation'/'Redrum' | The X-Files/Millennium | TV Club". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
  15. ^ a b Shearman and Pearson, p. 232–233
  16. ^ a b c Vitaris, Paula (April 2002). "The X-Files Season Eight Episode Guide". Cinefantastique. 34 (2): 42–49.


  • Fraga, Erica (2010). LAX-Files: Behind the Scenes with the Los Angeles Cast and Crew. CreateSpace. ISBN 9781451503418.
  • Hurwitz, Matt; Knowles, Chris (2008). The Complete X-Files. Insight Editions. ISBN 1933784806.
  • Shearman, Robert; Pearson, Lars (2009). Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen. Mad Norwegian Press. ISBN 097594469X.

This article incorporates material derived from the "Invocation" article on the X-Files wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License (May 11, 2012).

External linksEdit