3 July 2016

Top 5 Times Scully's Science Saved The Day

I love Dana Scully of the X-files. I can't help being drawn to this character like a moth to a very bright light. She's awesome.

In short, this post is a loud and self-satisfying rant about the awesomeness and badassery of Dana Scully. More specifically, it's an essay about how Scully's skeptical and scientific viewpoint helps Mulder fight the supernatural.

In the future, I'm going to write a more in-depth analysis of the role that Scully's science plays on the X-files. For now, I'm going to settle on listing five episodes, in which lives were saved thanks to Scully and her science.

I always get so annoyed when people are saying, "Why can't Scully just believe in the paranormal? The evidence is right in front of her!"

To those people I say, "What evidence?"

You can loose your mind trying to count the times when Scully and Mulder fail to solve a case, and to present any substantial evidence to the FBI (something that Skinner loves, I'm sure). Either the invisible man gets away (Je Souhaite, 7x21), or Scully is too unconscious to see the flying saucer (Fight the Future). Bottom line, by the end of the episode, the agents usually fail to obtain any physical evidence of the paranormal phenomenon that allegedly took place, and end up having their own different interpretations of what has transpired.

We as the audience get to see the ghost and the alien, but that's our privilege as the audience. The agents don't have the same privilege of seeing through the fourth wall. Instead, they have to make do with what they have - unsubstantiated records, lack of physical evidence, testimonies from shady individuals and their own memories. And if you have been following the show closely, you know that memories are not a reliable source of information on the X-files (Demons 4x23).

Most of the times, however, it's the Cigarette Smoking Man and the rest of the diabolical Syndicate that keep leading the dynamic duo into blind alleys, creating false evidence and destroying the real ones.

This ambiguity and uncertainty is what makes the X-files so amazingly frustrating to watch.

The Erlenmeyer Flask - season 1 finale

Either way, the majority of Mulder's cases end up unsolved, unresolved, and create more questions than the agents had in the beginning of the investigation. Which begs the question: why does the FBI keep Mulder on the payroll in the first place? The obvious answer is: otherwise, there wouldn't be a show. But the in-universe answer is: Scully.

A lot of fans seem to forget that Scully is paired up with Mulder so that she can use her scientific method to debunk Mulder's work. Instead, she sees enough value in his ghostbusting that she decides to use her science to help him. So every time the supernatural bad guy gets away, it's up to Scully to write a report that has some scientific value in it so that the X-files won't get closed down, and Mulder can continue hunting his little green men. Even Mulder himself has admitted that if it weren't for Scully and her obsession with science, he wouldn't have the windowless basement office he loves so much (Fight the Future).

Another thing that is somehow easily forgotten is that Scully is first and foremost a scientist and a medical doctor. Which means that being skeptical, critical and questioning everything she sees and hears, is part of her job. If she were more like Mulder, and believed everything because someone said so... well, then she'd be a pretty lousy scientist. Einstein and Hippocrates would be very disappointed.

To believe everything their hear, and allow themselves to be mislead and deceived over and over again - that's what Mulder does best.

Look, Scully, aliens!

For instance, If you tell Mulder that Santa Claus is the one responsible for his sister's abduction he'll be heading to the North Pole faster than you can say "Humbug". And he will be breaking every rule in the FBI protocol in the process. Between the two partners, one of them has to be the level-headed by-the-book playing cop.

And while there are many times when Mulder's hunches and intuition help him save Scully from monsters and serial killers, there are just as many instances when Scully saves her partner's life and sometimes even solves the case by using the scientific method.

1. Deadalive (8x15)

When Mulder is brought back after his abduction in the previous season, he remains in coma. Turns out he's turning into a super soldier because of an alien virus that's gestating inside his body. When Krycek destroys the vaccine, all hope of restoring Mulder to his normal self seems lost. But all it takes is a short but intensive treatment with antiviral drugs administered by Scully, and Mulder is jumping out of oil rigs a few episodes later (Vienen 8x18), healthy as a horse, and paranoid as ever.

2. Agua Mala (6x13)

When the agents and residents of an apartment building in Florida are being terrorised by a sewage monster during a flooding, it's Scully who first figures out that the monster is vulnerable to fresh water. She helps kill the creature while delivering a baby at the same time.

3. Fire (1x12)

While Mulder is trying to convince his ex-girlfriend from Scotland Yard that the killer they're looking for can control fire, it is Scully who works out a criminal profile of the killer, and actually finds the guy. And I thought Mulder was supposed to be the brilliant profiler.

4. Död Kalm (2x19)

While on board of an American destroyer escort in the Norwegian sea, the agents start ageing at super speed. Are these the consequences of  the mythical Philadelphia experiment? No, just old pipes that poison the drinking water, causing cellular damage and increasing levels of sodium chloride in the body. Thanks to Scully's notes and observations, the rescue crew is able to save her and Mulder just before they're about to kick the bucket.

5. Colony/End Game (2x16, 17)

Mulder and his alien viruses! When Mulder sets out to the Beaufort sea to track down the alien bounty hunter that killed his sister's clones, he gets infected with a strand of an aggressive alien virus. Scully, who has been studying said virus finds Mulder just in time to administer the right treatment to save his paranormal ass.

Our lady of science

There are of course many more examples, I just listed the most memorable ones. The point is, Scully's reluctance to believe in the paranormal doesn't prevent her from doing her job as an FBI agent and a medical doctor. Because unlike Mulder, Scully isn't driven by the desire to prove the world that's she's right. Sure, most of their cases remain unsolved, but Scully's approach still helps save a lot of innocent lives. 

As some exceptionally insightful fan has already summarised the point I'm trying to make in a much shorter and more concise form:

Of course, it's Scully's scientific method combined with Mulder's excellent perception that helps save lives and sometimes even solve the case. It's the combination of the two very different approaches and the clash of the two opposing philosophies that make for such an amazing partnership and a winning story concept.  

So next time you're wondering why Scully just won't agree with Mulder and believe in the paranormal, ask yourself: would the X-files be half as interesting if she did?

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