"Sense and Antisense"


Written by Chip Johannessen

Directed by Thomas J. Wright

Edited by James Coblentz

Aired October 3, 1997

Summary: Frank Black is tasked with locating and identifying patient zero in a case involving a biomedical behavioral-control project and a conspiratorial cover-up.


  Season Two on DVD


  Full Transcript Available


Quotes:  "Control of third world populations designated secret national policy." —National Security Memo 200 (1971)


"U.S. Military released from liability for experiments on unwilling and unknowing human subjects." U.S. vs. Stanley, Supreme Court (1985)


"Human Genome Project accelerated for completion by the turn of the millennium." —U.S. Department of Energy (1990)


Synopsis:  An African-American man, Patient Zero, attempts to hail a taxi cab on a city street, but is passed by time and again. Only an African-American cabbie, Gerome Knox, bothers to stop. Without warning, Zero has a seizure in the back of the cab, foaming at the mouth and screaming about the "trucks" that are trying to kill him. Knox rushes his passenger to a nearby hospital, where doctors attribute his symptom to illicit drug usage. After receiving a shot, Zero's convulsions subside, but Zero again grows agitated when two mysterious men, Wright and Patterson, enter the hospital lobby. "They want to kill me," he tells Knox, terrified. Fearing for Zero's safety, Knox helps him escape.

Meanwhile, Wright and Patterson quarantine the entire area, as the missing Zero is infected with a highly contagious virus.

Giebelhouse contacts Frank and asks for his help in finding the missing Patient Zero. The men attend a medical briefing at the Center for Infectious Diseases. There, Dr. Pettey explains that Patient Zero is infected with a pathogen normally seen only in the Congo. Eventually, police locate Zero and Knox inside the offices of the Afro-Sentinel newspaper (where Zero was attempting to convince an editor to print his story by referencing racially driven medical tests in the past such as Tuskegee). Before he is taken into custody, Zero intentionally smears the back of Frank's shirt with blood.

Later, a lab test reveals that Zero's blood is not, in fact, contaminated with the rare virus... and even more mysteriously, the government-run Center for Infectious Diseases vanishes without a trace. Frank and Giebelhouse realize they were tricked into locating Zero for an unknown group, but many questions remain unanswered. Frank slowly realizes that the conspirators use transients to conduct their experiments and then involves the Millennium Group.

Within a homeless escarpment, an infected transient armed only with a small stick threatens two policeman. The officers open fire, killing the man. Frank and Watts investigate the incident, though their presence is an unwanted one. Secretly, Frank slips by patrol officers and manages to obtain a blood sample from the deceased. He also makes off with a stretcher tag marked with the letters "D.O.E.," which Frank believes is an abbreviation for the Department of Energy. Frank and Watts conclude that the government is developing a new breed of unconventional weapon that would incite erratic and violent behavior in its victims. The weapon is being developed within the Human Genome Project, an effort to produce a blueprint of the "functional and evolutionary history of the human species."

Watts compares the DNA makeup of Patient Zero with that of the homeless man killed by police. The gene sites of both men match identically, meaning their state of insanity was genetically induced. Frank and Watts speculate that a rogue facility outside of the Department of Energy may have discovered the secret to behavior control and now is conducting experiments on untraceable subjects under the guise of homeless assistance. Later, Gerome Knox's corpse is discovered at the morgue.

Watts, Frank and a group of officers storm a nondescript office building, that owns and operates soup trucks, in hopes of finding Patient Zero. Inside, they do indeed find Zero... in the form of Dr. William R. Kramer. Kramer feigns ignorance about his delusional episode, prompting Frank to wonder aloud if he experimented on himself, or was somehow accidentally infected. But he then notices a photograph of Kramer, in uniform, taken in Rowanda in 1994, where thousands of people were senselessly slaughtered.



- Dr. William R. Kramer, known as Zero

- The stern faced Peter Watts

- Dr. Kramer confronts the investigators

- Frank searches among the homeless

- Frank and Peter discuss the case


Media Review: "This enigmatic episode does a brilliant job of bait and switch, setting us up for one thing only to completely controvert it with the next. The result is a narrative that never quite stays the course, that keeps bumping into areas of intrigue and interest, staying just long enough, and then moving on before we get bored, or worse, begin questioning the motivating back story. Some could consider this convoluted, or purposefully oblique, and they would be partially correct. From the very beginning of season two, Wong and Morgan are intentionally messing with the mannerisms of their show experimenting with rhythms, ignoring the basic tenants of television. A show like 'Sense and Antisense' assumes a certain intelligence, an ability to buy into a concept steeped in genetics, camarillas and unexplained agents in sinister black cars. The acting here is especially good, with Clarence Williams III doing a magnificent job of selling his strange, split personality ideal." —Bill Gibron, DVD Talk


Trivia:  This episode differs remarkably from the first draft of writer Chip Johannessen's script. Many elements of the episode were lost in the revision process, partially due to the demands of the network censors. Johannessen once said, "['Sense and Antisense'] didn't quite come off the way I'd hoped. That was one of those tortured things. To my mind, the rewrites got colossally worse, and part of that had to do with the fact that the first draft concerned a much more sensitive area race and Broadcast Standards had certain concerns."


Guest star Clarence Williams III, who appears here as Dr. William R. Kramer, is perhaps best known for his role as Lincoln "Linc" Hayes on the classic crime drama The Mod Squad.  Williams was nominated for a 1998 NAACP Image Award for his performance in this episode.


The Human Genome Project, as seen in this episode, was a joint scientific endeavor to identify all of the 30,000 genes in human DNA. Additionally, the Project nobly endeavored to address some of the ethical and legal complications certain to emerge as a result of undertaking. The Human Genome Program regularly provided funding to approximately 200 principal investigators, while hundreds of other facilities contributed additional research. Initiated in 1990 by the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, the Project achieved its goal a full two years ahead of schedule in 2003.


Death Toll:  2


Title:  As Peter Watts explains, "In microbiology, antisense is one side of the double helix. It's half our DNA. The other side is called the sense." A DNA segment encoding a protein has a sense strand and a complimentary antisense strand.  Zero's paranoid rants concerning the sense and antisense that exists within each of us both reveals that the case may have something to do with the manipulation of human DNA and seems to reference the divided nature of every human being.


Soundtrack: "Gyp the Cat" by Bobby Darin


Awards:  Image Award - Clarence Williams III, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Nominee)



Lance Henriksen as Frank Black

Megan Gallagher as Catherine Black

Terry O'Quinn as Peter Watts

Stephen James Lang as Det. Geibelhouse


Guest Starring:
Ricky Harris as Gerome Knox
Allan Zinyk as Brian Roedecker

Clarence Williams III as Zero/Kramer
Badja Djola as Lacuna

Brian Jensen as Wright
Chris Nelson Norris as Patterson
Peter Bryant as Editor
Forbes Angus as Dr. Pettey
Michael Vairo as Officer Ginelli


Production Credits:

Production #5C03

Music by Mark Snow
Production Designer Mark Freeborn
Director of Photography Robert McLachlan
Associate Producer Jon-Michael Preece
Consulting Producer Chip Johannessen
Consulting Producers Darin Morgan
Co-Producer Robert Moresco
Co-Producer Paul Rabwin
Producer Thomas J. Wright
Co-Executive Producer Ken Horton
Co-Executive Producer John Peter Kousakis

Executive Producer Glen Morgan

Executive Producer James Wong

Executive Producer Chris Carter