Scully was a leading lady to fall for, a smart-girl icon who was (and would still be, alas) a rare television bird: professional, independent, unsentimental. She liked boys’ things: Her favorite movie was “The Exorcist,” her favorite book the phallic classic “Moby-Dick”; her nickname from her father was Starbuck; she wrote her thesis on Einstein’s twin paradox. She was the opposite of squeamish. In possibly the best “X-Files” episode of all time, the vampire farce “Bad Blood,” there is an ur-Scully scene: She is doing an autopsy after a long day of chasing the undead through a small Texas town. Annoyed, she sighingly hoists the departed’s heart, lung and intestines onto the scale, reading their weights into a tape recorder. Then she opens up the victim’s stomach and starts poking around with her scalpel to determine his last meal. “Pizza, topped with pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms.” Here she pauses, looks up briefly from the bloody innards. “Mushrooms. That sounds good.” She orders a pizza.
Today’s television is not without its Scullys — “Law & Order” ladies who crack skulls and chase bad guys in Jimmy Choos. But they all feel like tall, skinny, limp knockoffs of the original. Dana Scully was not standard television beautiful, but a diminutive pre-Raphaelite, pale of skin and red of hair, who could give equal amounts of soul to lines like “Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, just in contradiction to what we know of it” and “Well, seeing as how it’s Friday, I was thinking I could get some work done on that monograph I’m writing for the penology review: ‘Diminished Acetylcholine Production in Recidivist Offenders.’” A woman who, when asked by her pestering partner to examine a cadaver’s head just one more time for a set of horns, can snap on her gloves and mutter “Whatever” like she really means it.