Liz Tells Frank Stuff She Forgot About Mulder and Scully and “The X-Files”

Dear Frank,

As you know because we are friends, there was nothing more formative for me as a lass than The X-Files. It indulged and deepened my love of science fiction, taught me the difference between procedural and serialized storytelling, and (most importantly) created a teenage ideal for future relationships that still lingers, ever so slightly (I have a thing for trenchcoats).

But I had forgotten until recently, Frank, how COMPLETELY EFFED UP The X-Files was as a comprehensive narrative. Especially (SO VERY ESPECIALLY) when it came to the core relationship between Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

No one would deny that the partnership, friendship and eventual romance between Mulder and Scully was the closest thing The X-Files had to an emotional center, especially myself. But when you look at the sequence of events that occurred over the show’s later seasons, it made NO SENSE, on a storytelling level or a human level.

Here is why I mention it. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine IMed me with a simple question that she had a valid professional reason for needing an answer to: “When do Mulder and Scully first kiss?” (Frank, it should not surprise you that I was the person she thought to ask that question.) Because Aimee signed off before I could respond, I was forced to send her the following email:

Mulder and Scully kissing is a complicated question:

They NEARLY kiss in the movie (which takes place between seasons 5 and 6), but just as they’re about to Scully gets stung by a bee and she collapses and he has to rescue her from Antarctica so it doesn’t really count.

In season 6, episode 3 (“Triangle”), Mulder kisses a dream version of Scully in this 1930s fantasy he’s having.

In season 7, episode 4 (“Millenium”), they share a very short New Year’s Eve kiss, which might count as their first official kiss.

In the season 8 finale, they kiss over their baby. There might be some more kissing in season 8, but those were dark years and I don’t like to talk about them.

I forgot to mention in my email to Aimee that there’s also some kissing in the series finale, which is maybe the only two minutes of the six hour series finale worth ever watching again. But here is the important point: WHAT?!?!? What the fuck kind of romance/relationship building is this? Four kisses and a motherfucking BABY? And NOT IN THAT ORDER?

Because, Frank, that baby I mentioned? Here is the timeline of Scully’s pregnancy! (Based on this website, which I trust more than any Chris Carter-sanctioned resource.)

February 2000 (Ep. 8×13 — “Per Manum”): In flashbacks, Scully asks Mulder to be a sperm donor for her in vitro fertilization attempt, which doesn’t take, but then there’s forehead kissing and so maybe they had sex? Or maybe the in vitro actually did work? At this point we have no way of knowing for sure.

June 2000 (Ep. 7×22 — “Requiem”): Scully announces that she’s pregnant (having not had any acknowledged sexual activity since Season 4, fyi), having exhibited symptoms typical of being two or so months along. (So, let’s say she conceived in April.)

Summer 2000-Winter 2001 (The bulk of Season 8): Scully is pregnant, solving crimes with Doggett.

February 2001 (Ep. 8×13 — “Per Manum”): In the actual timeline, Scully I think is finally looking a little pregnant? Please note that she has been pregnant for about 10 to 11 months without showing.

February to May 2001 (Ep. 8×14 — “Deadalive”): After finding Mulder’s allegedly dead body, Scully and the gang bury it in February, but then figure out it’s just in stasis or something in May (there’s a “Three Months Later” time jump in this episode) and exhume it. After the time jump, btw, Scully actually looks full-on knocked up. Which I would hope, given that she has now been pregnant for 13 months. 13 MONTHS, FRANK.

Late May 2001 (Ep. 8×22 — “Existence”): Scully gives birth. Apparently, SCULLY IS A MANATEE.

January 2002 (Ep. 9×08 — “Trust No 1”): A third party says out loud that Mulder and Scully had sex one time. (ONE TIME?!?!?)

This show, Frank? WON EMMYS. Not a lot of Emmys. But a few Emmys. (And a lot of Golden Globes! Wow.)

This can all be nitpicked to death, I’m sure, but I feel comfortable saying that of all the favors my poor memory has done me, a fuzzy recollection of how my favorite TV romance of all time got thoroughly jacked up by poor storytelling is one of the best.

I put the blame for this fuckery, Frank, on this: Because the writers of The X-Files believed that to resolve Mulder and Scully’s will they/won’t they romance would, to quote the fanboys, “ruin the show,” they chose instead to create the most convoluted storyline possible to get around that. Instead of, you know, TELLING A GODDAMN STORY WELL.

It’s possible to create a compelling love story that doesn’t just spin its wheels for nine seasons. You resolve things, you add new complications, you resolve those things, you add new complications. It’s called most compelling dramas ever. Even soap operas have a grasp on this. But The X-Files never got it.

And so I keep my fingers crossed for Castle, Frank. I pray that they do not follow that example.


PS: Hey, want to know which episodes of “The X-Files” to skip or watch? A guide to all nine seasons can be found in “Liz Tells Frank: The Skip It/Watch It Guides,” now available on Amazon!

About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor, and has been talking about television on the Internet since the very beginnings of the Internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider, and her work has also been published by the New York Times, Vulture, Variety, the AV Club, the Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She is also a produced playwright, a host of podcasts, and a repository of "X-Files" trivia.

Posted on February 28, 2012, in Some Spoilers, TV and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. Amen! One of my biggest pet peeves is when a really great movie series feels that it has to either A) never let the romance resolve (like what happened in X-files), or B) kill the woman off.

    Cases in point for B): pretty much every Bond movie; the Bourne movies; Chronicles of Riddick; Batman; Aliens (where it’s the male love interest that gets killed off… and Newt. Poor Newt. Why?! WHY?!)

    At least some movies try to “get rid” of the love interest without KILLING her/him. Like (((Spoiler Alert)))) Mission Impossible (she’s not *really* dead!), or Die Hard (they’re divorced!), or Indiana Jones (where they don’t even bother to tell you what happened to the previous female love interest… except for the blonde Nazi. She deserved to die.).

    There are a few movies that don’t do this, and they work just fine. Like Rocky, Back to the Future, Romancing the Stone, Toy Story (although they better bring Bo Beep back in part 4), Star Wars (Epis. IV-VI; I pretend the other 3 don’t exist)… but these movies are few and far between.

    If more writer had the guts and the skills to do it, they’d be able to create much deeper stories and avoid the Bond-cliche. A male hero doesn’t HAVE to have a different chick in every movie in order to be sexy/heroic. In fact, it kinda makes him look shallow. (Even if they killed the girl off).

  2. Christinia Crippes

    The assessment is a pretty spectacular description of the non-explanation for the relationship of Mulder and Scully. But having recently finished a rewatching of the entire series (Thank you, Netflix Watch Instant!), I noted one oversight in your saga of the whole baby-making process.

    In “All Things” (Ep. 7×17) — this is the one where by chance Scully runs into the professor she had an affair with as he’s dying in a hospital — Scully appears to be getting dressed in the bathroom, while Mulder is lying at least partially undressed in his bed. As fits with your assessment, there is no actual addressing of this fact; just hints that possibly, maybe, they spent the night together and possibly, maybe they got naked around each other. This drove me crazy in rewatching it. After 7 years as partners, they may have spent the night together but they don’t really address it in future episodes or let you know that they may have started a relationship, until she announces she’s pregnant. In my careful research of Wikipedia, this “All Things” episode aired in April so maybe, possibly that’s the time of year it is and hence this could have been when she got knocked up, or again, it could have just implied a start of a relationship wherein there are plenty of opportunities for making the babies.

    Mayhaps I just fell for their plot trick and there’s a reason it was not included. But really the episode makes me a little crazy for a lot of reasons, even if it is enjoyable and it is Gillian Anderson’s script and direction. If I did miss something, please help me quell my insanity.

    • Hello, Christine, and yes, you are totally correct about “All Things.” Except for the bit where I was SO MAD about the fact that “All Things” TOTALLY PUSSIED OUT on taking a stance on their relationship (feelings it seems like you shared?) that I decided not to acknowledge it. You are right that for the April conception date to make sense, “All Things” is the likely Date of Fucking. But GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

  3. I think television show writers during the 90s still had the spectre of “Moonlighting” disease. The male and female main characters get together and the show ends. But, as Julia Louis-Dreyfus said on “Seinfeld” – “Jeez…give me something I can use!”

    • The quasi-hilarious thing is that “Moonlighting” had exactly the same problem as “X-Files,” but instead of the ridiculous song and dance that Chris Carter did, they just let the fruit rot on the vine until way past the point anyone cared. Which is better? That’s for the TV gods to decide.

      • “Moonlighting Disease” symptoms include the story devolving so badly the writers resort to a horrible musical episode. The writers probably didn’t want to be responsible for causing a wave of murder-suicides amongst X-Files fans.

  4. Fringe has been doing this pretty well. The romance gets teased, followed through upon in a realistic, adult manner, complicated, rinse, repeat.

  5. I have to introduce a completely different show, but one that I as a young sprout about your ages loved, and that was “Beauty and the Beast”. For the entire first season there was this clench-type hug Catherine and Vincent would do where she’d duck her head at the last moment as if to avoid a lip-lock. This would be whenever he walked her back to her place before disappearing back into the underworld.

    So at the end of the first season there was this pretty silly slow-motion almost-but-maybe-or-maybe-not-a-kiss that was so oddly shot that it was hard to tell if her lips met Vincent’s heavy make-up or not. The fans were not impressed.

    Whether or not the fans were actually heard, at the beginning of the second season Vincent walked Catherine home in the first episode, they do that hug thing again, she walks away…

    AND then she walked back and gave him a matter-of-fact peck on the almost-lips that left Vincent looking surprised. The fans cheered.

    And then later he had this messed up medical/mental problem which seemed to be cured with her spending the night with him but he doesn’t remember anything of it, she ended up pregnant, was kidnapped before Vincent could be told, barely had time to hold the baby before the bad guys shot her full of something to kill her, tells Vincent when he arrives they had a baby, and then dies.

    Rest of the show was Vincent hunting down his kid with the help of a different female lead. The fans were seriously not impressed.


    • Yeah, I’ll say that beats X-Files for convoluted and weird. Though in fairness, the B&B fans didn’t have to wait SEVEN YEARS for just one real kiss.

      • Well, what is really weird is that apparently the network was worried about showing any kissing at all because they were worried about it being interpreted as beastiality because of how Vincent looked. Now it was pretty clear early on that Vincent was not really a beast but human who looked different. So I guess if he was in a wheelchair she shouldn’t kiss him?

        SIgh. Given the current Paypal craziness, I guess things haven’t changed that much.

      • “Well, what is really weird is that apparently the network was worried about showing any kissing at all because they were worried about it being interpreted as beastiality because of how Vincent looked. Now it was pretty clear early on that Vincent was not really a beast but human who looked different.”


  6. I have an unhealthy obsession with the X-Files. I’m watching through it for the first time (since I was scared to death of it when I was a kid and it was actually on tv!) but one thing about Mulder and Scully’s relationship that has stuck in my mind and confused and disgusted me was the episode where Mulder explores his past lives, and it is revealed that Scully was his father in his past life. I thought maybe it was just supposed to be symbolic, like, Scully has qualities that were like Mulder’s past life father, but no, it would appear that Scully is straight up past life Mulder’s reincarnated dad. Maybe they put that in to dissuade people from reading into their relationship (this was back in season four)… but… it’s creepy, right? haha this is such a small detail and not entirely relevant to your post, but I thought I’d throw that out there 😛

  7. Man, I’m late to the party, and for full disclosure, I STILL haven’t seen Season 9 or the 2nd movie (Season 8 really took a lot out of me), but MAN. This post was great. The series has a tendency to be choppy and hard to follow and you nailed it here. I’ve felt that way about the series in a few spots – the black oil, the dude who later was in Buffy and kept showing up from time to time, Krycek. Or maybe it’s because I’ve watched the series so spread out over time. Either way – The X-Files is fun to love for what it does well, and fun to love for its messy disasters too.

    I’m going to watch Season 9 now. But maybe in the background, while I’m doing like 3 other things.

  8. The X-Files was the most important fandom for me as a teenager and that is still true for me today as an adult. The Mulder and Scully relationship blew my mind. It was so honest, deep, and meaningful without being the central focus of the show. They went from partners to friends to lovers over the course of 9(ish) years and there were more moments of “WTF, are they TOGETHER?” for me over those 9 years than I can count. It was truly a case of them against the world and they were there for each other through everything. The hugs, the hand-holding, the *legendary* looks between them, and the eventual kissing that would take place are just glimpses into the deep emotions these two characters held for each other and the Mulder/Scully relationship stands to be, hands down, the most amazing love story I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing unfold.

  9. I have a theory about this. Chris Carter stated at the 20th Anniversary Panel at ComicCon that Scully was his dream woman. I think he didn’t want to share her, so he insisted on keeping all of the Mulder/Scully romance off camera. And as for when they conceived, my best guess is probably around Je Souhite (when Mulder Makes a wish) or Hollywood A.D. If her letter is TrustNo1 is any indication, they were a couple for a few months.

  10. Okay I definitely think Scully and Mulder slept together in episode 17 season 7, “All Things”. It opens up with Scully getting dressed in front of a mirror with a leaky faucet, then walking past a bed with Mulder in it. It’s unclear whether this was a flashback or a sneak peak to the end of the episode. The end of the episode suggests that they literally sleep together, because Scully falls asleep on what I had assumed was Mulder’s couch. In episode 1 of season 8, there’s a part where Scully gets sick (from her pregnancy, obviously), and runs to the bathroom, where the camera pans to her leaky faucet, thus revealing that when she was getting ready that morning in “All Things”, it was at her place, and it was her bed she walked past with Mulder sleeping in it.

    Everything about this show drives me insane! Everything is so out of order or too complicated, all just to avoid the “complications” of a romance. Bah!

    • I see the parts your on about but in all things you can tell it’s mulders apartment because of the oak wooden blinds and the sink and mirror are completely different to the sink and mirror in scullys apartment which is white and has different taps. But I think it’s plane that they had spent the night together in all things the Bed was messy and it shows the empty side of the bed with mulders leg sticking out asleep and I guess the leaky tap was a way to link to 2 scenes but it’s not the same apartment.

  11. I just started watching the show and noticed the sluggish process of her pregnancy, however I can make the argument that Mulder and Scully were definitely hooking up in Season 7 there is an increased sense of intimacy between them. That being said I never understood how Scully didn’t realize sooner her eggs had been taken, her period would’ve stopped and believe me women notice that. I think it might just be a case that they didn’t have a lot of female writers and just didn’t realize these things.

  12. Fanfic and headcanon is how I resolve the MSR 😛

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