"Home" Was The 'X-Files' Episode So Controversial, It Was Banned For Years After Airing Once
“Home” is a 1996 episode of The X-Files that finds agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully working outside of their typical case type when they're tasked with investigating the demise of an infant. Not only is it considered one of the scariest episodes of the entire series, but it’s also one of the most controversial episodes of '90s television. "Home" was banned by the Fox network after only one airing, and it didn’t air in syndication for years. Even when it did air again years later, it was accompanied by an ominous content warning.
This X-Files episode created an entire discourse about censorship in broadcasting and opened up the series to even further bombardments from Broadcast Standards and Practices. Even though it was taken off the air for years, the episode remains a fan favorite to this day.
The Episode Centered Around A Baby, A Live Burial, And A Sinister Family
"Home," the second episode of The X-Files's fourth season, is unlike any other episode of the series. It is not only more gruesome than the series ever was before, but its central premise is truly upsetting.
The episode begins with three deformed brothers from the mysterious Peacock family burying a newborn alive. Mulder and Scully arrive in town and ultimately discover the Peacocks are an inbred family whose sons are fathering children through their paraplegic mother.
The Episode Was So Frightening That It Was Banned From TV
"Home" was so upsetting to viewers and Fox executives alike that the episode was banned from airing on television for years. It was yanked from the air for the rerun of the fourth season and wasn't included in the syndication package.
The episode was finally introduced into syndication years later on FX, and by that time, its reputation as the scariest episode of The X-Files was solidified.
The Episode Was The First In The Series To Receive A Viewer Discretion Warning
When "Home" first aired in 1996, it received the show's first viewer discretion warning. While this sounds serious, these warnings do little besides inform viewers that they are about to see something that might disturb or offend them.
"Home" is only one of two X-Files episodes to receive a viewer discretion warning - the second was Season 8's "Via Negativa." "Home" was the only episode to receive a TV-MA rating, specifically for the unsettling nature of the opening scene.
Co-writer Glen Morgan claims he was initially upset with the viewer discretion warning, but he changed his mind after thinking about the credibility it provided. He told Cinefantastique:
I thought, "What for?" Then I went, "Yeah, absolutely, put it on there!" More people will watch it. Jim [Wong] and I were proud to have that. "Hey, mom! I got a parental advisory!"
One Of The Producers Later Claimed The Episode Went 'Too Far'
It wasn't just Fox executives and censors who believed "Home" went too far - many of those who worked on the show were upset with the episode's content. One producer felt that the show went "too far," and an unnamed crew member thought the episode was "awful, even for us."
Director Kim Manners said the episode's opening shot of a baby being buried was "the most awful shot" of his career. Manners also directed 51 other episodes of The X-Files.
Aside from its gruesome content, "Home" is also known for featuring the track "Wonderful, Wonderful," made popular by Johnny Mathis. However, Mathis didn't want anything to do with the episode, so the show hired a soundalike. Writer Glen Morgan explained:
The associate producer, Paul Rabwin, handled this and reported Mathis would not let us use his recording. However, Paul had found an outstanding "sound-a-like" recording by a singer named Kenny James. Many people believe it is Mathis. Since Mathis did not compose the song, he could not prevent us from using it. My mom was annoyed with us.
The Writers Didn’t Think They Were Pushing Any Boundaries
The writing team of Glen Morgan and James Wong were simply trying to write a scary standalone X-Files episode when they wrote "Home." Instead, they practically rewrote the rules of television.
While discussing the episode with The New York Times before the premiere of Fox's limited edition follow-up series in 2015, Wong explained that he and Morgan were merely following through on the show's dictate to be as creepy as possible. Wong explained:
We were trying to make a terrifying show. We didn’t think we were pushing the envelope of taste in the way people seem to ascribe to us - "Oh, there’s [inbreeding], there’s [taking out] a baby." We were obligated to do four episodes that season, and we thought this was the most down-the-middle, straightforward X-Files of all of them.
The Peacock Family Wasn't Originally Supposed To Look Disfigured
James Wong explained to Cinefantastique that the original idea for the episode was for the Peacock brothers to look normal so as to make the audience believe they were people that could be encountered in real life. Standards and Practices, however, believed that was a bit too intense, so the writers changed their appearances to be more distinctive.
This decree for a more "monstrous" family continued into post-production, where the sound engineers were told to make the baby in the cold open sound less human.
Initially, the baby's cries were realistic and extremely upsetting, so Standards and Practices asked for them to sound more mutated. Glen Morgan explained:
[The sound engineers] had this mutant baby that sounded like a squeaky toy. I said, "That’s horrible!" and she goes, "That’s the one I want." I said, "Okay.” But that first one was just so great.