Look for him in the shadows, this man who seems emblematic of the dark forces within government and who has access to the inner sanctum of the Pentagon’s archives (how creepy is that?).
A former child actor, William Davis spent most of his professional life teaching and directing, working at the National Theatre with the likes of Laurence Olivier, Albert Finney, and Maggie Smith, before returning to Canada and joining the CBC. Twenty years later, while taking a course to hone his teaching skills, he rediscovered his love of acting. Then came the role of the Smoking Man.
Called “Cancer Man” by nemesis Mulder, Smoking Man is the most dangerous kind of villian: the sort who believes that his actions are necessary to save the world.
“I never wanted to make the FBI the bad guy,” explains Chris Carter. “As an institution, they are at arm’s length from the more shadowy government, who is really pulling the strings. So I see Cigarette Smoking Man not as the ultimate bad guy, but a middleman, who radiates this aura of silent menace. “As he tells Mulder at gunpoint, he has “no wife, no children, some power,” and that “I’m in the game because I believe in it.”
Commanding and intimidating without saying a word, perhaps the actor’s greatest thespian tour-de-force is to make such a convincing nicotine fiend– a non-smoker, Davis puffs on herbal cigarettes during the shooting. But his habit has led to an interesting theory proffered by one of his students, who thinks he is actually an alien being who thrives on carbon monoxide.
The Nick-name: The name “Cancerman” is first used by Mulder in “One Breath.” (“Black-lunged son-of-a- bitch” is his other favorite name for him, and Mulder calls him “Old Smoky” in “The End.”) Later, Scully and even Skinner have come to use it. The pseudonym he uses himself is Raul Bloodworth, and Lee Harvey Oswald calls him “Mr Hunt.” Even though he’s Jeffrey Spender’s father, this doesn’t mean that his name is Spender. However, one alias he definitely uses is C.G.B Spender. (Cyril? Clarence? Clint?)
Background: (All from “Musings..”) He “appears” on 20 August 1940 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His father was executed for treason, having aided the Nazis. His mother died of lung cancer, leaving him an orphan. He then grew up in orphanages around the country. He then joined the army, which is where he met Bill Mulder.
Before “Blessing Way” he looked as if he was the leader of whatever conspiracy it is that is trying to suppress Mulder’s work. However, from season 3 onwards we learn that he is only one of a group of men. He is their “associate in Washington,” and often manages to get things wrong and has lie to them about it. In “Redux” he complains that he was “cut out of the loop” on surveillance of Mulder. Seeing his influence slip away, he tells the Elder that they need his expertise, and that Mulder is his alone. They are not convinced, for he is later shot and (apparently) killed – by an assassin called Quiet Willy (!). Not that any of us believed this one for a moment….
So no-one was at all surprised when the resurfaced in “The Red and the Black,” hiding out in a cabin in a place called North Hatley, in Quebec. How he escaped death is not yet known.
“The End” sees him reunited with the rest of the Consortium, both sides prepared to forgive and forget (though no doubt still with lots of hidden agendas)
He speaks fluent German, but needs a translator to help him with the Japanese.
Address: 900 W Georgia Street, at the time of “One Breath.” Did he move after Mulder found him? Perhaps, but the room does look rather similar in “Apocrypha.” It is a barren room – television, and not much else. In “One Breath” he is watching a war movie. In “Musings….” the letter from the publisher is addressed to Mr. Raul Bloodworth / 555 Brooksbank Ave, Apt. 24 / Washington, D.C. / 20091″
Cigarettes: His mother died of lung cancer, and he himself refused to smoke when he was young. He started smoking after Kennedy’s assassination, picking up Lee Harvey Oswald’s cigarettes. These are Morleys, in a packet that looks rather like Marlboros. (In a nice touch, the businessman killed in the teaser of “Soft Light” worked for Morley, though, despite it being a large company in the X-Files world, no-one else seems to smoke them. Just the sight of a Morley wrapper is enough to tell Mulder that CSM is involved in something, even when he thinks CSM is dead, as in “The End”) His lighter is inscribed “Trust no one.”
In “Talitha Cumi” we find that he does indeed have lung cancer, but he is then cured by Jeremiah Smith, in return for his freedom. This is nice example of Cancerman putting his own interests above the “project,” despite what he says to the contrary.
Interests: He is a good water-skiier (as is William B Davis, who plays him). In “Talitha Cumi” he reminds Mrs Mulder that he used to go water skiing with Bill Mulder at their summer house. Bill Mulder was good, he says, but he was better.
He is also, if Musings is to be believed, a thwarted author. He writes novels (typing on an old-fashioned type-writer) which no-one wants to publish. “Take a Chance” was brutally rejected in 1968. “Second Chance,” about alien assassination, was eventually published it is in a seedy magazine (“Roman a Clef”), but the ending was changed.
The few times we see him in his apartment, he is sitting alone, watching television, despite the fact that he expresses a decided preference for reading books over watching movies.
The paternity issue: The fact that Cancerman could be Mulder’s father, or maybe Samantha’s father, has been hotly debated. “Redux II” offers some sort of answer, but we have no way of knowing yet if this is the final one, so all other possibilities are still open. Internally, the evidence we have to go on is:
“Talitha Cumi:” Cancerman to Mrs Mulder: “I thought we might at least allow ourselves to reminisce,” he says, with a puff of smoke. “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. I remember water skiing down there with Bill. He was a good water-skier, your husband. Not as good as I was, but then that could be said about so many things, couldn’t it?” She looks odd, and firmly tells him she’s “repressed all that.”
Later in “Talitha Cumi” he tells Mulder “I’ve known your mother since before you were born, Fox,” before enquiring after her health. In “Herrenvolk” he sits by her bedside stroking her hand, and gets her healed, though he makes up some cover story about this being for the benefit of the project.
Then, in “Musings….”Cancerman is seen carrying around a picture of Mrs Mulder and little Fox, and says he’s going to visit “family” before lurking at Mulder’s office door. He also cries over a picture of Samantha and Fox, when he believes Mulder is dead (in “Redux”) and is carrying the same picture later when he is shot.
By the time of “Demons,” even Mulder seems to have considered the possibility that Cancerman is his father. He asks his mother outright, but earns only a slap rather than an answer.
“Redux II” seems to settle the question. Cancerman introduces Mulder to Samantha – or, at least, a woman whom he claims to be Samantha, and whom Mulder believes to be Samantha. Samantha calls Cancerman her father, and says that he and Mrs Mulder had protected the rest of the family from this truth. Cancerman seems to be a fond father – he strokes her hair and she doesn’t flinch away or anything – although he has lied to her, pretending to be searching hard for Fox, while all along, of course, he has known exactly where he is.
So there we are, for now….
Whatever we decide on the paternity issue, he does seem to genuinely care about Mrs Mulder, but there’s nothing so far to prove if this was romantic or if it was consumated. When he carries around a picture of Mrs Mulder and baby Fox, it could be as a reminder of the family he could have had, if his life had been different. Unless anything else is revealed, it’s up to us.
What we do know now, though, is that various Mulders are not the only children he may have fathered in his young and virile days. In “The Red and the Black,” he is seen writing a letter to his son, Jeffrey Spender, writing as if Spender is supposed to know who he is (it’s signed “your loving father,” and says he is hoping for a reconciliation) – a letter that Spender refused to read. However, although his father lived with him and his mother until he was 11, Spender doesn’t recognise CSM in “The End,” when CSM tells him he’s his father and urges him to join him.
And the Navajo story he goes on about – about two warrior brothers seeking out their father…. Could this be Spender and Mulder….?
By the time of “The End,” CSM seems to have given up on Mulder and be focusing on Spender instead as the person he wants to join him. In “The Beginning,” he calls Spender “son” liberally, and congratulates him on doing everything he asked. He is now positively gleeful about destroying Mulder, saying how “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill what he stands for. Not unless you first break his spirit. That’s a beautiful thing to see.”
But, then, by “Two Fathers,” barely months later, he’s slapping Spender around, saying how he pales to Fox Mulder and how pathetic he is. Make your mind up, man…
And then he kills him. Apparently.