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Spotnitz's Psychoanalysis of Doggett

Second Chances

(or, how I jumped ship in 3000 words or less)


I went back and forth and back and forth on whether or not to sign up for this ship. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ship – I have very few pet-ships I care for as dearly as this one. But the sheer venom with which this ship is contested in parts of the X Files fandom is rather daunting, at times. Which is, oddly enough, the reason I decided to actually sign up and write this. Because there is a shocking amount of animosity towards Doggett/Scully in the X Files fandom and damn it, I feel the need to defend my little ship.

In perfect seriousness, I am probably not going to change anyone’s mind with this little essay. If you’re staring at me in slack-jawed disbelief wondering “why in the hell would you ship Scully with anyone other than Mulder,” then you’re probably not going to be swayed by my explanation. But if you’re willing to give it a go – then read on. Doggett/Scully might not be the fandom’s OTP, but it’s a lovely little ship with some rather intriguing on-screen moments, and this is my explanation as to how one formerly die-hard Shipper became so enamored with the relationship that is Doggett and Scully.

Scully: John Doggett. Kersh’s task force leader. You might have just introduced yourself.
Doggett: Well, I was getting around to it.
[Scully stands up, throws her water in Doggett’s face, and turns to leave]
Scully: Nice to meet you, Agent Doggett.
-- 8x01, Within

So. Where to begin? Well, I suppose it’s important to begin with the back-story. In order to approach the relationship of Doggett and Scully on any level, be it romantically, as a friendship, or simply as a working partnership, you have to understand their baggage. And boy is there baggage, on both sides. These are people that are meeting well into their lives, both personal and professional – and they both have scars. It’s one of the things that makes them so compelling, both separately and together.

Dana Scully of course, we are all familiar with. One half of Mr. and Mrs. Spooky, the alien-hunters in the basement. Scientist. Skeptic. Hardened by years of things she cannot explain, subject to horrible things she cannot imagine. Survivor. Investigator. She has become so much like her partner, bureau pariah and brilliant crackpot Fox Mulder, that she has come to share his distrust, his paranoia, and his passion for the unexplainable and dangerous cases the government simply calls the “X Files.” But now, Fox Mulder is gone – taken from Scully in a flash of blinding light and the word “abduction,” subject of the very stories he chased for so long. He vanishes without a trace, leaving Scully alone, frightened, and pregnant [1].

Enter John Doggett.

Deputy Director Alvin Kersh’s “task force leader” (Within), John Doggett is everything that Fox Mulder is not – and everything Scully has learned not to trust. Straight-edged, hard-nosed, Doggett is an ex-NYPD officer who is assigned to find Fox Mulder as a new agent on the X Files. He finds Mulder to be at best an enigma, and at worst a psychopath who willingly abandoned his job and Scully in a last-ditch effort to validate his belief in little green men. And he isn’t afraid to get in Scully’s face. But Doggett isn’t without his own baggage – he, like Scully, is a person who has lost the people he’s loved. He had a normal life once – a wife and a child. A son who was taken from him by a serial killer, and a wife who was lost to him through his own inability to deal with their child’s death. Now, Doggett is left trying to grasp onto those ideas of normality he carries with him – that at the end of the day good will still triumph and things can still be solved through hard detective work, even as he is flung into the X Files and shown a world he once thought absolutely impossible, if not downright insane.

I got into Doggett/Scully on accident. I started watching The X Files in late season six, and shipped Mulder and Scully like a mad thing. Like most of the fandom (and indeed, Scully herself), when Doggett showed up on the scene I didn’t want to like him – he was an intruder, he was a replacement; he wasn’t Mulder. But as the episodes went on I found myself drawn to him – Doggett was trying his best. He had been sucked into a world that took everything he knew and turned it upside down. He had every reason to give up, declare both Scully and the X Files insane…and he didn’t. He kept going, kept working to help her, despite the setbacks and damage it was doing to him, and the constant push/pull of Scully against him as she struggled to not admit she needed him there. It was fascinating, and I got sucked in.

To me, the biggest draw of Doggett and Scully in general – be it as a couple or simply as partners and friends – is that their relationship is based in a hard-won respect. These are two people that did not want to be together. For Doggett, being partnered with Scully was a stumbling block, a stepping-stone in his fast track to the top of the FBI ladder. For Scully, Doggett was another outsider. Someone who didn’t understand her work, Mulder’s work – who wanted to discredit the X Files. From their first scene together, they butt heads. The very first time they meet, Scully throws water in Doggett’s face and walks out. It’s a push-pull from the very beginning. Scully doesn’t want Doggett there, and makes sure he knows it. Every inch of respect Doggett gets, he works for…and she fights him every step of the way. But get it he does, despite that. By the end of his second episode (8x02 “Within”) he is the one to find Scully, injured and exhausted, and hold her as she cries. It’s the beginning of what becomes a very slow progression into partnership and even friendship.

For Doggett, the attraction is nearly instantaneous. He is fascinated by Scully because she presents a challenge. A brilliant woman with a background in hard science who has somehow taken up the mantle of alien-hunter, having spent the last seven years partnered with the FBI’s resident lunatic. He becomes protective of Scully early on, risking his own life time and again even when she makes it very clear she would rather continue investigations without him. His quest to find Mulder becomes as personal as hers is – not because he cares about Mulder, or even knows him, but because it’s important to her. And when he finally does find Mulder – long dead and naked in the Montana woods – he is crushed, because he knows she will be broken-hearted. When Mulder is resurrected three months later, through a series of ridiculous events, Doggett fights every inch of the way to help save him…even though the look of heartbreak on his face is palpable when he sees Scully and Mulder, together again and very obviously a couple. But he still remains on, even as a third wheel – sacrificing his career and any hope of moving up the FBI’s hierarchy out of a devotion to Scully and the investigations she is so very much a part of. His affections for Scully put him in the line of fire again and again – at one point in the series, his desire to help Scully actually does cost him his life [2], and yet he continues on…because of her. Right up until the last moment of the series Doggett is willing to risk everything to help this woman - putting not only his career, but his life on the line to break Mulder out of a military prison so that he will not be taken from Scully – this time by execution – again[3].

Doggett: “Anything happens to [Scully’s son], I’m going to take you out personally. I don’t care who the hell you are.” -- 9x17, William

It’s easy enough to see that Doggett’s feelings for Scully are very much canon. The writers were not shy about setting up this aspect of Doggett’s character. Episodes like “Alone," where Doggett looks like he’s just lost his best friend when Scully hints her maternity leave might be permanent, and “Empedocles," where Doggett spends a good portion of the episode at Scully’s hospital door while she’s sick, prompting even Mulder’s alpha-male instincts to kick in, are evidence enough of this.

[Doggett is speaking with a suspect with supposed psychic/demonic abilities]
Kobold: I’ve been thinking a lot about you, Agent Doggett. About why someone so ill-suited would draw this duty. Clearly, you have feelings for her. […] But you can’t compete with the long-lost Agent Mulder. His easy good looks, his Oxford education. […] Mulder has what you can’t have. But you stumble forward, the flat-footed cop, thinking he could put handcuffs on a demon. You want her, but she feels sorry for you. They both do.
-- 9x03 Daemonicus

But what about Scully? Clearly, her feelings for Doggett are a little harder to quantify – especially given that, when she meets Doggett, she is searching rather desperately for her partner of seven years, and pregnant with what we later learn is his child. But even then, Doggett’s impact on Scully’s life is clear. Doggett saves Scully – not just literally, although as partners they are constantly rescuing each other and coming to the other’s aide. When Doggett appeared on the scene Scully was pretty well adrift – without Mulder, she had no one she could trust. Doggett provided the grounding for her when she came close to going too far, to be so much like Mulder as to lose sight of herself. He became evidence that not everyone was out to get her – a friend and confidant to keep her from sinking too deeply into the paranoia and “trust no one” mentality that threatened to overwhelm her. And as that happened, she became more and more attached to him – pretty much owing her sanity to him, as she admits herself:

Scully: Are you able to help him at all?
Mulder : You can’t help a man who can’t help himself.
Scully: He’s worth the effort, Mulder.
-- 8x17, Empedocles

Throughout the course of the two years Doggett and Scully have on-screen together, it is easy to see many points where the relationship could have progressed into something more – and, perhaps, should have. Doggett is everything Scully needs to regain sight of herself: a man who loves her for exactly who she is. He is someone who won’t drop everything – including her – the first time the lights in the sky beckon, but who also accepts that sometimes she will. [4] Doggett met her at what might have been the worst low of her life (certainly, her worst low in the course of the series), and began to love her despite that, even though she pushed him away and shunned him time and again. Doggett provided a confidant, a friend, a partner to watch her back – it would hardly have been a stretch to imagine their relationship progressing further, especially with the grim reality of Mulder’s death. It would not have been overnight, of course – but neither could Scully have lived with Mulder’s ghost forever. Later on, when fate and science fiction intervened to bring Mulder back, only to have him forced to live as a fugitive, it would have been easy to imagine that Doggett and Scully could have grown closer. Scully had the opportunity for the life she had always wanted. Her son, a miracle that shouldn’t have been able to happen, needed a stable life. Her career was slowly edging its way towards being something other than a dead end in a basement. It’s hard not to wish for something better for Scully – that she could have, in another timeline, found happiness with Doggett rather than been forced to give it all up for a life on the lam, hiding from aliens and government conspiracies and military men with a price on Mulder’s head.

So I suppose this all brings us back to our final question, right? Why Doggett and Scully? For me, Doggett/Scully is about second chances – about finding hope in a situation that seems to so thoroughly lack it. While The X Files has always been a show about anything-but-happy endings, the possibility of, if not bliss, at least functionality was there for Doggett and Scully. Their relationship had potential – potential to be the thing that saved them both, that dragged them out of the shadowy pit of conspiracies and aliens that the X files brought with them. It’s an opportunity for a touch of normalcy in a sea of science fiction and horror – not an epic romance, written in the stars, or a drive-off-into-the-sunset ending….but two very real people. Scarred and battered, marked by their personal struggles and losses, who could have found a little bit of peace in each other.

[Scully gives Doggett a key chain]
Scully: I’d like to give this to you, Agent Doggett.
Doggett: Thanks. …. Because?
Scully : Agent Mulder gave it to me a few years back. It symbolizes teamwork; partnership…it means no one gets there alone. And after this past year and…everything that we’ve been through, I just… I wouldn’t be here without you.
-- 8x19, Alone

So, fine. Okay. You're curious. Now what?

I suppose if you really want to get a handle on Doggett and Scully, the best thing to do would be to go out and watch seasons eight and nine. Oh come on. It's not that bad.[5] Or, season eight wasn't. I swear. Once you get past the retroactive storytelling and the assgenies... Alright. Fine. Be that way. We'll stick to fannish material.

One of the downsides of the X Files fandom is that it is, so to speak, a one-horse town. By the time Doggett showed up on the scene Mulder/Scully was fairly established as the One Ship to Rule Them All – resulting in no small amount of animosity and downright wankery. On top of that, I've been rather inactive in the X Files fandom as a whole for a couple years now...so admittedly, I am not the world's foremost expert on what's New and Happening among the Philes. *g* Be that as it may I tried to scrounge up what I could - and if anyone has anything to add, I would be incredibly grateful.


Fanfic by Anne Hedonia

Deliberation by Sofia Jirafe

A few more fic recs from the comments...

And of course, for a bit of self pimpage:

My Doggett/Scully music videos - Strong Enough, Getaway, and Days.


[1] At risk of going over my 5,000 word limit just explaining the mess that was the canon of the last three seasons of The X Files, a short explanation of the pregnancy for no other reason than because I can – Scully conceived through either a) Mulder having sex with her or b) Mulder having sex with a Dixie cup. Cue 14 month pregnancy (no, really!). Scully went all psuedo-Mary in a manger full of peeping-tom aliens and gave birth to a child who may have been of at least partial alien heritage, could do things no mere mortal could, was allergic to a certain strain of rocks, and was ultimately sent to live with a farm couple. So basically, Scully gave birth to Clark Kent. Yay!

[2] In the episode “The Gift,” Doggett is shot point-blank and killed by a sheriff who is trying to protect the town’s secret – a “soul eater” who can heal by taking a person’s ailment into his own body. Doggett is buried in a shallow grave and the soul eater digs him up, eating and regurgitating him and in the process taking his death, bringing Doggett back to life.

No, it doesn’t make sense. This is “The X Files.” Go with it.

[3] It should be noted here that Mulder is at this point a federal fugitive, convicted of the murder of a member of the military and sentenced to execution. Granted, the military man ended up being the alien equivalent of the Terminator and coming back to haunt them in badly-CGIed ways, but Doggett didn't know that.

[4] Thanks to wicked_dragon_x for making this incredibly insightful – and true! – observation about Doggett and Scully.

[5] In perfect seriousness, I should end this essay by saying that the last two seasons of The X Files really do get a bad wrap. The show's quality degenerated steadily from the movie onwards, but in all honesty it wasn't S8 or S9, but S7 that was probably the worst. If you sat through that, S8 is cake - for all its flaws, they really did try. S9 I have not seen all of, and am therefore not equipped to pass judgment. *g*

27 November 2004

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