"Per Manum"
by Michelle Erica Green

Mulder Becomes A Sperm Donor

"Per Manum" Plot Summary:

A woman has an emergency c-section, giving birth to an alien baby she never sees because the doctors put her under. Weeks later her husband, Duffy Haskell, visits Doggett and Scully to claim that his wife was murdered just after giving birth to an alien. Kath Haskell was a multiple abductee who had many medical procedures performed during her encounters -- one gave her cancer, another cured her, one rendered her sterile, another implanted an alien embryo in her womb. Duffy Haskell claims he has ultrasound images to back up his claims. Scully scoffs at the story until Doggett says it sounds like her own story -- except for the pregnancy. Then she thanks him for his attention to the X-Files but tells him to leave her personal files alone.

In flashback, Scully tells Mulder that her doctor has told her she is sterile, but she isn't ready to accept that she will never have a child. Mulder says he investigated and discovered that her ova were taken and stored in a government lab, but when he had them tested, a doctor told him they weren't viable. He didn't want to tell her as soon as he found out because she was deathly ill.

Scully goes to Zeus Genetics in Germantown, Maryland, and walks in the back when she hears a hysterical woman asking if something is wrong with her baby. Hiding from the doctors, Scully locks herself in a lab filled with deformed fetuses and newborns preserved in jars. A doctor finds her and says she must wait out front. At home, Scully calls her own OB-GYN, Dr. Parenti, to ask him to compare her ultrasound pictures with Kath Haskell's. Parenti answers the call from the room with the deformed babies while unwrapping a dead alien newborn. In flashback, Scully recalls Parenti assuring her she can get pregnant if she can find a sperm donor. In the present he tells her that her fetus is fine, and she should tell her colleagues because she's going to start showing soon.

Doggett tells Scully she got a call from Dr. Parenti's office about an ultrasound she left there. He does not believe Parenti is her doctor; he thinks she has continued to investigate the Haskell case she told him to drop. The two meet with Skinner, who has copies of threatening letters Haskell sent Mulder. Haskell says it's because no one would believe him about his wife's abductions and alien baby, and warns that other women just like Kath are at risk as well. When he leaves, Haskell calls one of his wife's doctors to say that the FBI poked holes in his story, so maybe it's time to get rid of Hendershot -- the woman who was yelling when Scully visited Zeus Genetics the day before.

Scully remembers Mulder's fear that fathering her child might come between them, then her relief when he agreed to do it anyway. A knock on the door interrupts her memories. It's Mary Hendershot, who says her baby is in danger and so is Scully's. Doggett arrives at a downtown coffeeshop in the middle of the night to meet Scully and Skinner, who announces that Scully is taking a leave of absence. "So I'm the X-Files now, just me?" Doggett asks incredulously. Scully won't tell him where she's going, so her partner expresses his anger that they got him out of bed just to tell him in person. When Scully says she wants him to understand, Doggett asks whether she means the secrets or the lies. She leaves in a car with Mary Hendershot. Skinner tells Doggett he doesn't know who the woman is.

At an Army research hospital. Dr. Miryum greets Scully and Hendershot, listening incredulously as Scully explains that the baby Mary is carrying may not be her own and may not be human. Miryum says they'll induce labor immediately. Hendershot tells Scully that she couldn't have gotten pregnant by her boyfriend, the dates are wrong. Scully has an ultrasound and learns she is carrying a healthy 14-week fetus, but after having amniocentesis, she discovers that a videotape rather than live feed was playing on the monitor during the procedures. She rushes to get Mary, who is in labor.

A friend of Doggett's from the FBI comes in with prints indicating that David Haskell, who died in 1970, had identical prints to Duffy Haskell. The other agent believes Haskell may be from the CIA, which makes Doggett wonder what he was doing in his office. He asks whether there is documentation of a conspiracy to hide the truth. His friend assures him that there is no conspiracy, and he'll keep investigating Haskell. Doggett tells Skinner he thinks Haskell made up a story to get Scully to go exactly where she's gone, and asks Skinner to warn security of a hospital threat to pregnant women.

As she flees the hospital, Scully is stopped by Doggett's old friend and a team he claims are field medics. They help Scully and Hendershot elude security and government vehicles, but when Hendershot is about to give birth, they won't let Scully watch. When she protests, they give her an injection. Scully wakes in another hospital with Doggett in the room, assuring her that she and her fetus are both fine. Hendershot has had a healthy baby boy. Though Scully claims it was a setup -- that Hendershot's alien baby was switched with a human infant, and now they are being used to cover it up -- Doggett says all that matters is that she's OK. He asks why she didn't tell him. She says she was afraid her pregnancy could be used to take her off the X-Files and the search for Mulder. Doggett promises again to help.

In flashback, Scully remembers coming home to tell Mulder that in vitro fertilization didn't make her pregnant. He kisses her when she cries and says it was her last chance. Mulder says she should never give up on a miracle. They kiss again. In the present, a troubled Scully rests with her hand on her belly.


Fourteen weeks. That means that, in series time, Mulder has only been missing for eleven weeks at the outside. It's barely three months. Now we know why Scully isn't showing, and why she's not in any real rush to find Mulder -- I guess we can rationalize that she's still in shock, so bat-men and medusas in the subways seem just as important as finding the man she asked to father her child. I guess we can rationalize, but somehow it's still hard to digest, and because of that, it's hard to relate to the characters in show-time. It's been nine months for the rest of us, and it's hard to get away from the feeling that we should be seeing Scully's baby -- alien or human, Mulder's or Cancer Man's -- screaming lustily in its mother's arms.

Of course, that's not the biggest cheat. It's hard to say which is more annoying: finding out that Scully worked hard to have a baby with Mulder while we watched them solve cases last season, or finding out that whatever may or may not have happened after "all things," they apparently weren't lovers when they made the decision to have a child together. Or if they were, I don't want to know, because it's too depressing to think that they had a discussion this clinical as lovers about having a baby. As far as we can tell, they weren't planning to raise it together. There's no sense of excitement and awe at the idea of creating a life together, no discussion of the fact that this will bind them forever no matter what happens with their personal and professional relationship. The discussion lacks any indication that Scully is even comfortable around Mulder, apart from the relieved hug she gives him when he accedes to her request. I did get a laugh out of Mulder's joke about how he's already a pro at the donor procedure, but even that's a little distant, not a conspiratorial remark between people who are sharing the mysteries of sex and love, birth and life.

In the first three minutes of "Per Manum," we see with our own eyes that women give birth to alien babies and doctors kill them to cover it up. On this show, that is not a surprise; in fact it is the opposite. What is utterly astonishing and shocking is Dana Scully, M.D., agent, abductee, who was told she was sterile, who apparently struggled for many months to become pregnant, who believed her efforts had failed, who somehow conceived despite the odds not long after waking up near-naked in a room with Cancer Man, who was in the hospital a recently to have some tests. That Dana Scully never stopped to think that her incredible, miraculous, magnificent pregnancy might be somehow connected to the conspiracies that have defined her life for nearly a decade? Never checked into the childbearing histories of other abductees? Never saw a doctor besides her primary OB-GYN to learn how this miraculous pregnancy might have occurred, to inquire about possible anomalies given her medical history, to ask her oncologist about possible risks? Has that "Om" music wiped her brain clear of rational thought?

We're not supposed to care. We're supposed to be deeply moved that Scully asked Mulder to have a baby with her and he said yes. We're supposed to be deeply moved as well at Agent Dogged's loyalty, his attempts to protect her, the curiousity about her that leads him to intrude on her life with the same delicate concern that led Mulder to withhold medical information from her, the promise to stay by her side and help her find Mulder. Sniffle. Piffle. I realize it's a lot of years since Scully got her medical degree, but surely she has some friend somewhere who's an OB-GYN or has at least examined enough ultrasounds that she could get an opinion. For that matter, surely there's a birthing center in a low-rent neighborhood in Washington, D.C. where she could take Mary Hendershot without having to worry about aliens, conspiratorial doctors, or anything other than drug traffic on the street outside. (Is it just my perception or do aliens seem overwhelmingly to prefer Caucasian women as abductees and surrogate mothers?)

I don't understand how fake threatening letters were supposed to lend credibility to Haskell's story -- it just makes Scully look all the stupider for not doing the investigation Doggett provides, and for following his lead to an Army hospital that screams conspiracy. Her distrust of the dedicated Doggone makes him somewhat appealing, but it's all at her expense. I realize Doggett's inside-man conspirator had to blow Haskell's cover to find out where Scully took Hendershot, but why did Doggett let his friend rather than himself head to the top-secret location after Skinner tipped him off? An easy blood test at a neutral lab can tell whether Mary Hendershot's baby is really her own. Another amnio, probably too risky at present but a possibility later, can tell Scully whether the baby she is carrying is her own, whether Mulder is the father, and how much alien DNA might be triggering her morning sickness.

Zeus Genetics, named for the god who raped women in the form of bulls, swans, clouds, showers of gold...OK, Zeus' track record at getting women pregnant is impressive, but that's a horrifying name for a fertility clinic, even if it has nice paternal-sounding Dr. Parenti on call. And they keep deformed fetuses in jars in the office. Call me nuts, but I bet Scully isn't the first patient to stumble through that door. Scully takes Hendershot to Dr. Miryum, who takes her word for it that Hendershot is 40 weeks pregnant and says she'll induce labor immediately, without testing to make sure the baby is full term. I'd have walked out of there ASAP. Childbirth on The X-Files has invariably been portrayed as painful, bloody, grotesque, terrifying, dangerous, even unnatural. Certainly all of those adjectives can apply to portions of any given birthing experience, but it makes women look like hormone-driven idiots to show them aching to go through the awful stuff when we don't also get to see the excitement, the joy, the passion, even occasionally the transcendence.

The X-Files Reviews
Get Critical