Of Skeptics and Believers

Is it possible to trace the evolution of Scully’s attitudes towards extreme possibilities and the unknown? Here is one interpretation below:

“There has got to be an explanation” – Scully (Pilot)

Scully’s journey from skeptic to believer took her on a much different path than that of her partner. Despite an apparently staunch Catholic upbringing, her interest in and later devotion to the pursuit of hard science and medicine led Scully to reject not only her religious background, but any notion of the supernatural and extraterrestrial. From the first day of her assignment to the X-Files project, therefore, Scully represented a counter to Mulder’s desire to believe, a desire instead to prove and explain.

“I’m afraid to believe.” – Scully (Beyond the Sea)

Over time, however, this exacting expectation came up against more and more events that defied simple explanation. Though it was some time before she was ever faced directly with something she could not deny, Scully often had to suspend her disbelief long enough to follow Mulder’s train of thought and, to her surprise, discover the more concrete clues she needed by doing so. One can see, therefore, that Scully was slowly beginning to realize the usefulness of Mulder’s methodology despite ridiculing of his conclusions.

“How is it you can go out on a limb whenever you see a light in the sky, but you’re unwilling to accept the possibility of a miracle?” – Scully to Mulder (Revelations)

Rather than the contact she had with the apparent aftermath of monsters and alien beings, however, it was the spiritual path that would eventually begin to change Scully’s attitudes. Her abduction and the events connected to it had already upset her ordered world leaving her seeking a firm grounding. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that a case with connections to her previously held beliefs would be especially significant to her. Thus, when a young boy displaying stigmata was in danger of kidnapping, Scully became protective of the boy and began to feel like she was “called” to do so. The role she played in the boy’s eventual rescue seemed to confirm this suspicion and can be seen as a starting point in her openness toward religion.

“I’ve come so far in my life on simple faith and now when I need it most I push it away.” – Scully (Redux II)

From this point on, Scully became more open-minded about religion—but not fully convinced about its place in her personal life. It was not long after, however, that Scully found herself at an extremely desperate place with the discovery that she had contracted a fatal cancer. She first refused attempts by a priest to counsel her, rejecting a need for God and the church in her life. Promised a cure through a supposed alien technology, however, Scully underwent it. Realizing that such an action took as much faith as the prayers of the priest, Scully finally reached a point where she turned to the priest for help. When she was suddenly cured, it was evidence of her refound faith that she did not question the source—as willing to believe in a miracle as much as attributing it to the alien device.

“Can you accept [your loss]?” “Maybe that’s what faith is.” – Priest and Scully (All Souls)

Not long after these events, however, Scully found her faith challenged in much the same way that it first began. Investigating the deaths of several disabled girls, Scully was once again overcome with the feeling that she had somehow been divinely called to protect them. This time, however, Scully’s actions actually led to the death of the last child. In the end, Scully could not reconcile her beliefs and subsequent actions with her rational mind and sense of duty.

“I came in search of something I did not believe existed.” – Scully (The Sixth Extinction)

These events seem to have left Scully a little groundless and unsure of where her new willingness to believe was taking her. It is hardly surprising, therefore, how the next challenges affected her—from the strange events surrounding her encounter with an African wiseman to the urgent warning she received from Navajo holy man Alfred Holsteen who had reportedly died the night prior. Both of these direct encounters with non-Christian mysticism seem to have affected Scully deeply.

“I go away for a few days and your whole life changes.” – Mulder to Scully (all things)

Later, when she encountered a new-age healer whose words added a hard challenge to Scully’s already weakened resolve in trusting science and rationality, Scully was led to a temple in which she had a mystical vision of her past and present. These events left her open to a larger spirituality outside her faith (as evidenced by the small Buddha hidden under her table) and with a willingness to believe beyond belief. At this point, therefore, it seems that Scully was already a believer in a very real sense. While she did not articulate the concepts and conclusions that Mulder does, she did seem much less critical or ready to dismiss his judgments.

“You know, Agent Scully, you’re starting to remind me a lot of Mulder yourself.” – Dogget (Without)

It was the traumatic event of Mulder’s disappearance which brought this new side of Scully to the surface. She knew that the only way to find him was through the X-Files. However, without Mulder there to express theories and ideas, Scully found herself now having to be the one to jump to strange conclusions and look for the unbelievable explanation. With a new and firmly skeptical partner like Doggett, the changes in Scully’s outlook seemed even stronger. Had she changed to the point of being a copy of Mulder?

“Maybe if I could see through Mulder’s eyes I could understand.” – Scully (Badlaa)

The answer to this question came with yet another case involving a threatened child when Scully was faced with a decision to shoot what looked like a boy but was actually a killer. Her inability to act beyond what her eyes saw awakened Scully to the fact that she could never replace the steely belief of Mulder’s approach to the X-Files. Not only did this strengthen her resolve to find Mulder, but from this point on we also see a much more balanced and self-assured Dana Scully, one who could be confident in her science but willing to look to beyond it as well.