I was a little too young to watch The X-Files when it first came out in 1993. But when I moved into my teens and my parents allowed me to stay up late to watch the paranormal spookfest everyone was talking about, I was deeply and irrevocably changed by Mulder and Scully’s relationship.
To this day, their relationship has served as a template for the kind of relationship I aspire for in my own life (minus the alien baby). The show was a slow burn, establishing their working friendship as the most important aspect and dodging any real romantic storylines. But, it became clear that they were partners in more than just the FBI basement. They were life partners in every sense of the word. Mulder and Scully became everything I ever hoped to have and here’s why.
Ying and Yang
(The light hair touch in ‘All Things’ gave us hints of romance).
I identified with Fox Mulder immediately. According to the Myers-Briggs personality test, we are the same type - an INFP. We believe in the truth and dedicate our lives to searching for it. I understood his quest to find his missing sister and his ideas that there are external forces beyond those that can be explained by science. With Mulder, there was always possibility, hope and a grey area between the facts. The truth is out there.
Although I have never been a pragmatist like Dana Scully, she was the most intelligent, strong, determined and badass woman I had seen on TV. I admired her grounded approach to research and openness to ideas that pushed her worldview. She was tough when she needed to be (running into a building, flashing her FBI badge and yelling for people to listen up and do what she says). She was fiercely independent and worked tirelessly to investigate Mulder’s paranormal claims.
When these two opposing perspectives and personalities were put together in the basement of the FBI to become what we now know as The X-Files, it was the ying and yang coming together in a complete, unifying force. As independent and lonely people, they found the supplemental piece in each other. In our divisive world today it’s hard to imagine two people with opposing views being able to work together so completely.
What should have been a combative relationship became one of wholeness where each gave to the other instead of taking away from it. Who would Mulder be without Scully? A man deluded by his idealism, while Scully struggled with her analytical mindset. They found comfort and intellectual equality in each other.
(The forehead kiss in “Memento Mori” when Scully has cancer. We wanted a real kiss but settled on this incredibly tender moment).
While Scully, the non-believer was a medical doctor and could perform autopsies (how many did she perform on that show? A billion?) and Mulder, the believer, came from an alternative psychological and behavioral background, they argued with passion but always with respect.
I had never seen a show until this point where the woman was so equally represented and a true expert in her field. There was never a question by Mulder as to Scully’s abilities and insight. In the heat of their many debates, each allowed the other to speak freely and most importantly, listened, even if they couldn’t reach a middle ground. Respect is the foundation of a healthy relationship and Mulder and Scully excelled in it.
No One Gets Left Behind
The show had lots of disappearances whether from alien abductions or government conspiracies and Mulder and Scully took turns mysteriously being thrown into alternate dimensions, getting kidnapped or vanishing out of thin air.
Neither one of them would ever purposelessly leave the other and if one disappeared they knew something must really be wrong. Mulder wasn’t even in the show anymore in the last seasons and Scully was determined to find him. They might not have ever said “til death do us part” but this was a true marriage and partnership.
(The “almost kiss” in the X-Files movie Fight the Future, but Scully was conveniently stung by a bee and went into anaphylactic shock).
As one of the most iconic relationships on TV or otherwise, Mulder and Scully had a completely platonic relationship until season 7 when they finally kissed (unless you count the Bermuda triangle episode where a modern day Mulder kissed a 1939 version Scully). Yet, we knew they were in love since the sexual tension was through the roof.
The show highlighted the importance of friendship, of how two people could establish a working relationship and grow to know each other until one day - it just happened. They fell in love. It was love all along.
Remember when Mulder had those excruciating headaches and the episode ended with Scully comforting him and holding his head? Or when the government conspiracy gave Scully cancer and Mulder couldn’t bear the thought of losing her? Or how about when they were about to kiss in the The X-Files movie: Fight the Future but Scully was conveniently stung by a bee just as their lips were about to lock? Is it hot in here or is it just all that paranormal activity?
Chemistry in Real Life
(Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny kiss onstage in 2015 when Gillian joined David to sing Neil Young’s Helpless).
Gillian Anderson has said of her relationship with David Duchovny that “there is something that will always remain between us, a kinetic energy that is tangible when you see us in a room together.” Their on-screen chemistry was undeniable. As Scully might argue - it’s science! "The thing that made it great is the thing you couldn't have planned on.
What you couldn't have known is that you were casting these two actors who had this incredible chemistry. David [Duchovny] and Gillian [Anderson] had that — still have that” says Frank Spotnitz, writer, producer and director of the series, according to IMDB.
Were you always shipping Mulder and Scully? What was your favorite romantic moment?