First appearance: “Tooms”
Last appearance: “My Struggle IV”
Name: Walter Sergei Skinner
Job: Assistant director
Date of Birth: remains unknown
Eye colour: brown
Hair colour: brown (near bald)
Height: 6 foot 2
Weight: 200 lbs
Martial Status: Married to Sharon (divorced?)
Badge Number: not listed
Skinner is an Assistant Director. In real life, this would make him a member of senior management (or HBO – a High Bureau Official). As one of the nine Assistant Directors he’d be concerned largely with policy. He would only very rarely get involved directly in a case, and then only one very high profile ones. If he is, indeed, the Assistant Director in charge of Criminal Investigation, he is in charge of 80 percent of the agents, nearly all the publicly-known cases, and seven sub-divisions, including Violent Crimes, Organised Crime and Drugs. He is some half a dozen steps in the management ladder above Mulder and Scully so his personal involvement in their cases is very unusual. But then it is to be assumed that other units in his division aren’t in the habit of getting threatened by cigarette-smoking men who lurk in his office.
Assistant Directors are members of the Executive Conference – top executives who meet together in the executive dining room at HQ for breakfast every Thursday morning, and discuss developments and plans. It’s widely known, amongst top executives, that the best way to get something done is to corner the relevant Assistant Director at breakfast and ask him, rather than going through the proper channels.
Every week, each Assistant Director prepares a file for the director, giving a rundown on major cases. The file is blue-covered. Inside, on light green paper, is the information that can be made public. All other information, on other colors of paper, can not be. At the back of the file is a rundown of how the agents are being used, also showing what percentage are working on cases that can be classed as “high priority.”
His job – in the show: Skinner is an Assistant Director, though we seldom see him doing anything other than supervising Mulder and Scully. We do see him occasionally doing something bigger, such as in “The Field Where I Died” and “The Pine Bluff Variant,” when he is in charge of a large team.
In “The Beginning,” it must be stressed, Skinner hasn’t been demoted. He is still exactly the same as he ever was. He is still, presumably, in charge of the X-Files division. Mulder and Scully get a new boss because they have moved, into the responsibility of another Assistant Director, Kersh.
Background: [The computer game says “University of Texas (BA degree)”]
For some theorising, written before this little fact was revealed, this following section (in inverted commas) was posted by Gil Trevizo on fictalk and is quoted with permission.
“Skinner would have had to go to college, as it’s been a requirement since J Edgar Hoover took over the Bureau in the ’30s. It was by replacing the old corrupt ex-cops with fresh-faced college boys that Hoover cleaned up the FBI.
“Skinner was a Marine when he was 18, so it’s a safe bet that he joined out of high school (or got drafted — Marines were drafted after 1966) and went to college after his tour of duty. The standard tour for a Marine was 13 months, after which I believe the Marine only had a few months of base duty Stateside and was discharged. So Skinner could’ve started college when he was 19 or his early twenties — if he only served one tour.
“Skinner could have re-upped for an extended tour (add six more months) or return for a second tour after spending a few months Stateside. Skinner could probably keep that up for three or four years or so, but it was highly unusual for combat personnel to remain in Vietnam past their tour, so the powers-that-be would get antsy about having someone so salty still in the field and eventually not let them come back, unless Skinner was into something special like Force Recon or MACV-SOG, and even then he probably wouldn’t serve more than four tours. There was one MACV-SOG man who served four tours and had to be tricked into returning Stateside.
“I honestly can’t say whether Skinner would’ve been the type to re-up. The drug use is no indication, as their were heads in both the gung- ho and slacking outfits, it was so prevalent late in the war. I guess it depends on how you see Skinner — I’ve always thought of him being special ops because it might have exposed him to the kind of thing that’s in the X-Files (ie. Deep Throat’s murder of an alien brought down by Marines over Hanoi). (Keleka’s note: If he did re-enlist, he probably wouldn’t have had time to go to college and rise through the Bureau to become Assistant Director by 1993.)
“As for where Skinner went to college, according to the X-Files game, he graduated from the University of Texas.
In Vietnam: In “One Breath,” Skinner tells Mulder how, on his eighteenth birthday, he volunteered to join the Marine Corps in Vietnam. “I did it out of blind faith. I did it because I believed that it was the right thing to do. I don’t know – maybe I still do.” Three months in to his tour a ten-year old boy covered in grenades walked into the camp, and he blew his head off .”I lost my faith,” he says. “Not in my country, or in myself, but in everything. There was just no point to anything any more.” Then he was ambushed while on a patrol, and looked down from outside his body, feeling peaceful and afraid. He awoke in a Saigon hospital two weeks later. “I’m afraid to look any further beyond that experience,” he says.
In “Avatar” he expands on this, saying he saw an old woman in his dreams several times in Vietnam. He put it down to a drug-induced hallucination, but she was hard to ignore. In his near-death experience she seemed to be there with him carrying him away from the light, back to his body.
As a nice footnote, there is a PFC (Private – First Class) Walter F. Skinner on the Vietnam Memorial (the Wall). It’s on Panel 41E, Line 30, first name on the left. Moreover, PFC Skinner was a Marine.
Drug-taking: In Vietnem, as he tells Mulder in “Avatar,” he tried to numb the pain of the experience by taking drugs. “I was no choir boy,” he says. “I inhaled.”
Sleep Disorders: For the three months before “Avatar” (set in March 1996), Skinner was being treated at a sleep disorder clinic, suffering from a recurring dream of an old woman who speaks to him in words he can’t understand then straddles his chest, smothering him.
Hobbies: [“Golf, jogging,” says the computer game.] In S.R. 819, we see him boxing (at South Street Gym), and winning – at least until the virus that’s infected him starts affecting him. His trained calls him “Slugger.”
Health: In S.R 819 Skinner is infected with something that puts nanomachines in his blood – things that can be controlled literally by the push of a button. Krycek controls them. At the end of the episode, Krycek chooses to save Skinner’s life, but both he and Skinner know that the things are still in his blood, and can be re-activated any time. Thus, from this episode one (until we’re informed otherwise), Skinner’s blood is a time-bomb, and his illness could resurface any time… presumably.
About Mitch Pileggi:
When actor Mitch Pileggi auditioned for the role of FBI assistant director Walter S. Skinner, it was his third time trying out for the role of an X-Files FBI agent. And a marked departure from his best-known previous portrayal-the homicidal maniac Horace Pinker in Wes Craven’s Shocker.
With Skinner, Pileggi has created a character who is anything but a one-note bureaucrat. “Yes, he’s strong, stern, grumpy, and perpetually constipated,” admits Pileggi, “But that’s not all he is. I’ve always believed that Skinner supports the goals of Mulder and Scully,” he asserts, pointing to episodes like “One Breath” in which he refuses to accept Mulder’s resignation. “It’s their methods that he questions. When the two agents ignore his direction and write their own rules, he becomes frustrated by his compromised position.” After all, it is Skinner who personally reopens the X-Files in “Ascension”, defying the Cigarette Man in the process. And when Mulder reveals that he has authorized an illegal wiretap, Skinner kicks the Smoking Man out of his office.
In honing his portrayal of Skinner, Pileggi looked no further than his own father, another fair-minded curmudgeon also known to balance toughness with concern for his employees. “My mom cries when she sees Skinner. Like my dad, he is bald, wears glasses, and always sports a suit.”