The X-Files: Christmas Carol (Part 1/2)   Rewatch 
June 8, 2020 8:52 PM - Season 5, Episode 6 - Subscribe

While visiting her brother and sister-in-law's home in San Diego for Christmas, Scully receives a mysterious phone call that leads her to a three-year-old girl with a remarkable resemblance to her dead sister Melissa.
posted by orange swan (7 comments total)
Strong Scully episode (and a two parter!), but I can't speak to the more powerful elements of the plot (infertility secondary to cancer treatment, possible offspring with a genetic disease - confirmed as offspring, rejected for an adoption she was deeply conflicted about).

Creepy, too, especially from the pov of Scully's skeptic background. Mulder might have written it off that ghosts are a thing and that ghosts aren't scary, whereas to a skeptic it's scary because its unexplainable (since ghosts don't exist).

Bill is so tonedeath and insufferable.

Thought that was an interesting choice of actors for young Dana (braces!) and Melissa. Wasn't enamoured with Anderson's young-er Scully.
posted by porpoise at 8:02 PM on June 9, 2020

The "films" Dana gets in the mail. Not sure what they're really supposed to be, but those look like photocopies on acetate. Maybe they are?

RFLP - restriction fragment length polymorphism, the older way of doing genetic fingerprinting/ paternity testing. That's strange, she wants to "order a more comprehensive test, a RFLP." Maybe this was a quicky RFLP, since you can add more restriction analyses to get more "comprehensive" results but if Melissa's was already done, you gain zero new information since you can't compare them anymore*.

VNTR - variable nucleotide tandem repeat genetic fingerprinting (a differnt kind of PCR test) was (apparently) done on Melissa's, and Skinner's attempted, murderer. A genetic fingerprint was done on Melissa during her murder investigation, it would almost certainly be of the same type as that of the suspect/ physical evidence (to exclude contamination, etc.).

There is zero way the lane markers would match up precidely, and the "bands" as well. That's not a maternity determination, that's two clones! Or identical twins, maybe even just siblings if the resolution of the test is horrible enough.

But yeah, the films show something that could be a RFLP analysis, run on an ethidium bromide agarose gel.

They probably did just photocopy a (picture** of the) gel (run quickly/ high voltage - those bands are smiling) onto acetate and changed the metadata with photocopier photoshop. Looks like a lot of contrast/ brightness editing was done. But that's not how you compare two tests, generally one would score the bands and transform them into a string of numbers at different positions.

Another sample?!

Wow, that should get the ethics review board's hackles up quick. Not only that they kept Scully's DNA, that they decided to run a maternity test on her without her asking and just telling her with no counseling that yep, that's your kid, not your sister's.

I know, economy of time to show the plot, but the test center should have suggested that a sibling of Melissa should be tested... gah! makes no sense.

*sigh, unless they had a reasonable amount of Melissa's DNA in storage, too, to reanalyze

**EtBr is a DNA intercalator (gets stuck between the bases of double stranded DNA) and fluoresces orange under UV so you can see where the DNA fragments gets size selected to; old school you took a polaroid, digital cameras definitely enabled the progress of molecular biology - I remember drawing gels (or just scoring) in undergrad, the hideously expensive digital camera with a thermal printer was a gamechanger. In grad school and postdoc, to avoid USB drive viruses from shared equipment, I'd just use my subcompact point-and-shoot camera. A few years ago, my phone camera was just as good

posted by porpoise at 8:21 PM on June 9, 2020

I think the "young Dana" was Gillian Anderson's cousin, or a younger sister or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:22 AM on June 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Fourteen-year-old Dana was played by Gillian Anderson's then 14-year-old sister, Zoe Anderson. I checked to see if Zoe's done any other acting since, but it seems she hasn't. I did get a bit of a shock when her Google result listed her as dead of combined monoxide poisoning/falling and hitting her head in the shower in 2010, but it seems that Google has confused her with another Zoe Anderson, who was three years younger and the daughter of a "TED curator". Anyway, Zoe's performance gave us a different view of Scully: gawky and overeager.

I did a double take when I saw that young Bill Scully (who was, no surprise also a bully -- when you're born a bully it's for a long time) was played by a Ryan DeBoer, given that I have a cousin of that name.

According to the Wikia page for this episode:

There is no way that Scully could have filed an adoption petition AND completed an adoption services investigation in the two days between the murder (Dec 22) and her meeting with the adoption services worker (Dec 24). In California, where the episode takes place, an adoption investigation takes weeks, if not months, before it is completed, and it also requires a home study, which could not have been done as Scully was visiting her mother for Christmas.

I'm finding it difficult to watch Bill Scully onscreen. He is so much like my older brothers -- overbearing, controlling, arrogant, insensitive -- except that they're much worse. I always disliked him, but I don't remember having this sort of visceral reaction to his character before. But then even ten years ago, when I did a rewatch of the entire show, I hadn't yet realized just how abusive my brothers' behaviour was.

Just when and how did Scully find out she was infertile? I don't have any medical training, but it seems questionable that a fertility test would have been part of any of the medical testing she would undergo during her bout with cancer. Was she planning on conceiving and had herself checked out to see if her cancer had affected her fertility?

I found it interesting that this episode demonstrated that Scully can be just as single-minded about a case as Mulder.
posted by orange swan at 2:29 PM on June 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I do recall Mulder saying, at a hearing or in conference with Skinner, that Scully was rendered infertile after her abduction (and discovering so after a full medical workup makes sense - iirc, it was a fairly non-trivial surgical removal of something).

Scully tells her mother that cancer treatment left her infertile (?).

I recall with my dad, the oncologists gently joking about asking him if he was pregnant or had been planning on being pregnant, as part of the counseling prior to chemotherapy. I can imagine a pregnancy test, but not assessing fertility.

Perhaps there's an unreliable narrator effect going on?
posted by porpoise at 7:05 PM on June 11, 2020

No, Scully tells her mother that it was her abduction that left her infertile. Here's the line from the transcript on the Wikia page for this episode:

"Several months ago, I learned that as a result of my abduction, of what they did to me, that I can not conceive a child."

If she learned of her infertility as a result of a full medical work up after she returned, it seems odd it would have taken several years for her to learn of it, or alternatively, that it would have taken so long for them to do the work up. Scully was abducted in *season 2*.
posted by orange swan at 7:38 PM on June 11, 2020

Ah! That's certainly curious.

I could come up with some apologia (going to get tested - because that's what docs do - because preggers jealousy or some pablum), but that's definitely a continuity plothole.

I can't remember the exact episode where Mulder talks about it so not sure how long ago that revelation was.
posted by porpoise at 9:03 PM on June 11, 2020

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