The Smoking Man oversaw Scully's initial briefing on her assignment to the X-Files to debunk the work of FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder, as well as her debriefing. The Smoking Man also stole the evidence obtained by Mulder and Scully during the show's pilot episode, and moved it to a secret, underground storage room at the Pentagon. Although uttering only four audible words in the entire 1st season of the show, CSM eventually developed into the series' primary antagonist. The character is most commonly referred to by this description because he is almost always seen chain-smoking Morley cigarettes, and also because like other villains on the show, he has no known real name.
CSM had a strained relationship with the rest of the Syndicate throughout the show, and there is evidence to suggest that he was never actually a full member of the Group. It is likely that he was employed by the Syndicate to act as both a liaison to the American government in such instances as were necessary, and as leader of the Men in Black, due to his formidable expertise as an assassin. If he was a full member, he was their most visible one, since the other members only rarely appeared in public.
Most of the other members, excepting perhaps Conrad Strughold, didn't seem predisposed to trust CSM, especially the Well-Manicured Man, who more than once expressed contempt for what he perceived as the CSM's degree of barbarity and incompetence. He was able to last both inside the Syndicate and outside it for as long as he did primarily due to: a) the fact that he always ensured that he had too much valuable information to be expendable, b) his experience as an assassin, and c) his connections with elements of the extraterrestrial presence and others. Eventually, however, this internal struggle comes to a head later on in the show, when power struggles and what were perceived as frequent failures resulted in the Elder ordering the assassination of the CSM, an attempt which failed. CSM is also different from the other members in that most of the other members seemed to have some sort of functioning family relationships, whereas CSM usually did not. Other Elders were also often shown living on large estates and enjoying high class entertainment, whereas CSM was often shown living in a sparsely furnished, dimly-lit, small apartment, and drinking beer while watching old black and white war movies.
In season two, he has his Man in Black underling, Alex Krycek, spy on Mulder, and authorizes Scully's abduction. With help from Skinner, who had recently stood up to CSM for the first time, Mulder tracks him down to his apartment (presumably in the DC area). There, Mulder confronts CSM, whose first real dialogue has become one of the most famous moments in X-Files history. This scene does much to establish the nature of their relationship. In the Season Two finale "Anasazi", CSM pays his old colleague William Mulder a visit, revealing their relationship for the first time. Not long after, CSM orders Krycek to execute William, presumably because he felt the disillusioned William had grown to be too great a liability to the security of "The Project."
Season Three put the Syndicate onscreen for the first time. Almost immediately, it becomes apparent that the individual members do not exactly trust one another. It is shown that CSM is not the all-powerful leader of the Syndicate; in fact, many other members look down on him. In the finale, "Talitha Cumi", a rebel alien named Jeremiah Smith, is taken prisoner by CSM. Pending execution, the two have a dialogue that echoes The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor. During their conversations, Smith repeatedly unnerves CSM by morphing into people whose deaths CSM had ordered in the past. CSM learns that he is dying of lung cancer and quickly gives Smith his freedom in exchange for a cure (some aliens have remarkable healing abilities). Also during this episode, the question of whether CSM is actually Fox's and/or Samantha's biological father is first presented when he is shown to have had a past relationship with Mulder's mother.
In Season Four, the episode, "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", presents a possible history to CSM. The Lone Gunmen, during some of their own investigations, discover some information concerning CSM, which they recount to Mulder and Scully. According to the episode, CSM was born on or around August 20, 1940, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He grew up an orphan (his father, a Soviet Spy, was executed for treason in Louisiana electric chair when he was a boy). In 1962 he was stationed, along with Bill Mulder, at the US Army Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In the episode, he is portrayed as a deadly assassin with a long history in black operations and American intelligence. He was involved in training Cuban nationals in the Bay of Pigs, aided Dominican locals in the assassination of Rafael Trujillo. The young Special Forces officer is called into a room and older men in suits ask him about these accomplishments. He calmly denies everything. He is offered a further role in black ops, one that will involve his leaving the Army and every formal written record of his life being destroyed. He is soon involved in the plot that assassinated both John F. Kennedy (firing 2 shots from a Dallas storm drain) and Martin Luther King, whom he, as said at meeting with J. Edgar Hoover, greatly respected, (in what the production staff admitted was a joke) fixed the Super Bowl to ensure that the Buffalo Bills would never win a championship, drugged the Soviet Union's goalie in the Miracle on Ice, and thinks nothing of insulting J. Edgar Hoover to his face or putting Saddam Hussein on hold. He is also shown as a failed writer whose sci-fi stories based on the Syndicate's truth are rejected for being too unrealistic. After making a sale, he plans to retire from the conspiracy, but discovered that his work has been published as text filler in a pornographic magazine, and the ending has been altered. In a scene parodying that year's Oscar winner Forest Gump, after a tramp sits down next to him eating a box of choclates from out of a bin CSM says "Life is like a box of chocolates. It's a cheap thoughtless perfunctory gift that no one ever asks for." He then forestalls his retirement leaving the magazine at the bus stop, which the tramp then picks up and begins to read.
During this episode, the Smoking Man meets with Lee Harvey Oswald to discuss his part in the assassination of J.F.K.. During this conversation, Lee refers to the Smoking Man as Mr. Hunt. This may be linking the character of Smoking Man to a real life Smoking Man, E. Howard Hunt, who was heavily involved in the Watergate scandal among other operations.
During the first mytharc fifth season episodes, the Elder has decided that CSM is no longer useful, and orders MIB operative Quiet Willy to eliminate him. While in his apartment, CSM was ruminating over a photograph of Mulder and Samantha when an assassin firing through the window shot him in the chest. During this episode he also helps Mulder find a cure for Scully's cancer (which she learned about in season 4), and presents him with a Samantha clone, whom he purports is Mulder's sister. Despite this, Mulder refuses to work for him. CSM later appears hiding in a remote area of Quebec. Missing his talents, the Syndicate welcomes him back at the end of the season.
In the sixth season's full disclosure two-parter ("Two Fathers"/"One Son"), it is learned he once answered to the name C. G. B. Spender though it is never disclosed whether this was his actual birth name or a former alias. It is revealed that he was formerly married to Cassandra Spender, with whom he had a son, Jeffrey. Diana Fowley is revealed to be a subordinate of his; together, they escape the annihilation of the Syndicate. In the episode, his confidence in Jeffrey, whom CSM hoped would become greater than Mulder, wanes, and he confronts his son and apparently kills him. The episodes also presented further evidence suggesting CSM is Mulder's father. Eventually, Fowley also splits from CSM, siding with Mulder and Scully.
With the Syndicate dismantled, CSM still managed to keep the conspiracy going, and was presumably now free to operate as he wished. His cancer resurfaced about a year later and he became wheelchair-bound. He also acquired a trachea hole, though this in no way lessened his chain-smoking. At the end of the 7th season, after carrying out an operation at the behest of CSM, Krycek turns on him and throws him down a flight of stairs.
For about two years, CSM was presumed dead. During this time, Mulder was abducted, found and then disappeared on his own, Scully eventually left the X-Files division and had a child, William, and a new conspiracy, the New Syndicate, surfaced. In the episode "William", it is learned that CSM's attempted murder of Jeffrey Spender failed. Jeffrey was then subjected to experiments at the orders of CSM, which left Jeffrey horribly scarred. Also, it is conclusively revealed in this episode that he is Fox's biological father. In the two part Series Finale, Mulder and Scully travel through remote New Mexico, and reach a pueblo where a "wise man" reputedly lives. It is in fact CSM. He is shown to be in the same condition as when he disappeared, but has degenerated further and is now quite unkempt. He has a shock of long white hair, and is living a primitive life in hiding from the New Syndicate. He reveals to Mulder and Scully all he has left to tell (including the fact that the aliens are scheduled to invade in 2012) and shortly after is finally killed, shot by a black helicopter rocket.
In the context of the X-Files, just as the Syndicate were an archetypal representation of the shadow government depicted in numerous conspiracy theories, so the CSM was also a very pure manifestation of the American public's (and possibly the world's) archetypal perception of the American intelligence community.
William B. Davis was a correspondent, as the Smoking Man, for the syndicated video clip series Real TV. These mostly humorous appearances are almost certainly non-canon.
In a short comic version of the ABC cartoon The Mighty Ducks, seen in an issue of Disney Adventures magazine, two agents named "Sculder" and "Mully" were sent to investigate a UFO sighting, accompanied by someone known as "Lollipop-Licking Man."
In the episode Visitors From Down the Street of the science fictions series Crusade, the main characters discover an alien world which has discovered Earth culture and emulated it. At the end of the episode, an operative of the alien government, which has been covering up the source of their culture, proceeds to light a cigarette.
In the Kevin Smith Film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back during the story that Jay tells to Silent Bob about super monkeys taking over the world, there is a part where he speaks of the government breeding them. During that part, there is a scene of the Orangutan that accompanies them sitting on a round table surrounded by men in dark suits. The man who shakes the apes hand appears to be around the same age as CSM. After shaking the apes hand, he lights a cigarette.
The following is a list of X-Files episodes in which the CSM appears.
He also appeared in the The X-Files: The Game which is a FMV game. If the main character fails to escape from Gordon's Hauling house, a cut-scene will show him lighting a cigarette after the house explodes. It is not known why he is there. Though this is his only appearance in the game, William B. Davis is listed in the opening credits.
He also appeared in the Filter music video of the song "One
"Do it... Make history..." ("Musings of a Cigarette Smoking man")
"Don't try and threaten me, Mulder. I've watched presidents die." ("One Breath")
"Nothing disappears without a trace." ("Paper Clip")