CTP Episode of the Day - 11.14.06 - Per Manum

Today's Cherished Episode: Per Manum (8x08)
Original Air Date: February 18, 2001
Written By: Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz
Directed By: Kim Manners

When Scully digs deeper into reports of alien fertilization on humans, she questions her own pregnancy and its conception.

"Never give up on a miracle."

Some "Per Manum" Tidbits & Musings:

-- "Per Manum" is Latin for "by hand."

-- "Per Manum" was the eighth episode of Season 8 filmed and should have aired as the first episode after Christmas. But this episode and "The Gift," both featuring David Duchovny as Fox Mulder in flashbacks, were held back to be shown during February sweeps.

-- In an interview he did just after filming "Per Manum," Kim Manners indicated that Scully's pregnancy would be an ongoing arc throughout the season but that "we just finished up an episode about Scully's pregnancy, and it's a bit of a new conspiracy. Her pregnancy is going to be a conspiracy."

-- The confusing yet pivotal mythology episode "Per Manum" used flashbacks to establish the fact that at some unspecified time in the past, Scully was trying to conceive a child through in vitro fertilization. The reasoning for bringing up the in vitro angle at all, co-writer Frank Spotnitz explained, was twofold. "One reason was that Scully's barrenness was a thread of the X-Files mythology that had never been sewn up. Back in Season 4, we saw Mulder with the harvested ova that they had taken from Scully; but we'd never had an opportunity to address it until Season 8."

-- Of course, that wasn't entirely true. Mulder did disclose to Scully (in front of a judge, no less) that he found out that all her ova were extracted and that's why she couldn't bear children in Season 5's "Emily" (though he did neglect to mention at that time that he'd found her ova).

-- "The other reason," continued Spotnitz, "was that we had this bombshell with Scully's pregnancy, but we had no emotional context for it. So it felt good to show the audience the back story for Scully and Mulder, leading up to this news that she was indeed pregnant."

-- In the absence of pre-existing context for Scully's pregnancy, the writers relied on flashbacks tailored to fit Season 8's narrative. "Had I known there was going to be a Season 8, I would have preferred to salt in all of the clues about these flashback episodes last season," said Spotnitz of how he dealt retroactively with fitting in Mulder's illness and Scully's pregnancy. "But there really was no way to unravel those mysteries in my mind, and make use of David in the time that he was available to us, without having some flashback episodes."

-- But you know you're in trouble when the boys tried to make sure viewers could differentiate between flashback and present day by restyling Scully's hair (flat for flashback, poofy for present day).

-- So the flashbacks were used to create some emotional context. However, instead of taking the "emotional context" course that made the most sense for normal people (boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl have sex, boy and girl find out that girl wasn't so barren after all) and for which there was at least some previous hint of context (see "Amor Fati," "Millennium," and "all things,"), Carter and Spotnitz created the completely out-of-nowhere in vitro scenario.

-- "We'd always been very stingy with showing anything of the characters' private lives," said Spotnitz, noting that the show had a long-standing precedent that the characters' private lives were just that and were generally played out off-screen and away from the prying eyes of viewers. "Chris felt, and I thought he was right, that these [stories] were about paranormal phenomenon. It was very hard to make those personal on a week-to-week basis."

-- The exception to that strategy was, of course, the mythology episodes, when the characters' lives were intertwined with the paranormal phenomenon and the conspiracy that tried to keep it a secret or cover it up. So via flashback, Carter and Spotnitz used "Per Manum" to offer clues to Scully's mysterious pregnancy by dusting off her stolen ova, last seen four years previously.

-- While Carter and Spotnitz patted themselves on the back for revisiting that old chestnut, they obviously forgot a few of the details connected with those ova. In "Memento Mori," Mulder only took one vial of Scully's ova with him; so unless he put on something black and sexy and returned to the Lombard Research Facility to get more, one vial was all he had. In "Per Manum," Mulder told Scully that after finding her ova, he took them "directly to a specialist" to find out if they were viable, but he neglected to mention that they had been defrosting in his pocket for quite a while before that could have possibly taken place (unless he had some dry ice in his funky poaching outfit). Lastly, if the eggs were not viable, why did Mulder still have them after four years (to make the in vitro in "Per Manum" possible at all)? Was he keeping them in his freezer for old time's sake? That's somewhat creepier than Donnie Pfaster and his frozen fingers! < g >

-- Speaking of Mulder, he obviously missed his calling in life. He should have quit the FBI and gone into the file restoration business since he obviously did such a great job of restoring all the files that were lost in The Great X-Files Office Fire of May 1998. Doggett mentioned in the episode that not only did he read all about Scully's abduction experiences in the files, he also read the letters that Duffy Haskell sent to Mulder before Scully even joined the X-Files. That was some first-class work on Mulder's part.

-- A bit of continuity in that nothing good ever comes from something or someplace with "Zeus" in its title on The X-Files. Following up the lead from Duffy Haskell, Scully visited Zeus Genetics in Germantown, Maryland (Germantown was also the home of the alien clone breeding facility in "Colony/End Game"). Zeus Storage was the cloning facility that Mulder discovered in "The Erlenmeyer Flask." And the Zeus Faber was the submarine sent to recover a UFO in "Piper Maru."

-- In the original script, while at Zeus Genetics Scully was caught by Dr. Lev in the room that contained the glass containers filled with deformed fetuses. She ran away and was pursued by Dr. Lev, who threatened to call the police.

-- Regarding the room with the deformed fetuses, the original script noted that such a place existed at the Medical School at Tulane University.

-- In the original script, after Dr. Parenti told Scully everything was normal and she needed to think about telling the FBI about her pregnancy, Scully left his office but stopped at the reception desk because she forgot the copy of her ultrasound. When the receptionist went to retrieve it, Scully saw Dr. Parenti talking to Dr. Lev, the man Scully saw at the Genetics facility. Scully ran out before retrieving her ultrasound and before the doctor saw her.

-- The above scene was filmed and is included with the deleted scenes on the Season 8 DVDs. On his commentary, Frank Spotnitz noted that the main reason for deleting scenes from episodes is usually time. "Often you are looking for seconds to trim to get the show to fit into the hole the network has set aside." But time was not the reason this scene was deleted. "First, we realized the thing with the ultrasound was just too confusing," Spotnitz explained. "But secondly, and most importantly, we felt the scene planted the seeds of suspicion about Scully's doctor too early in the story. So we decided to withhold that information by deleting the scene."

-- "This was a paranoia episode," Spotnitz said. "And I loved doing paranoia episodes. There are so many ways to perceive connections between people that can create the paranoia for the characters." "But you have to make sure the audience is sharing the paranoia," added John Shiban, who also provided commentary on the deleted scenes. "In this case, the scene gave away too much information and we didn't need it to further the story because the next scene between Doggett and Scully filled in the gaps. A good script should be able to do that."

-- In "Per Manum" we learned that Doggett was getting into the spirit of the X-Files and had feathered his nest. He had the news clipping about the bat man on the wall behind his desk.

-- In the original script, the confrontation with Duffy Haskell about the letters he wrote to Mulder took place in Mulder's office not Skinner's, and Skinner was not involved in the scene.

-- I did like the way the flashbacks were woven into the story, but was disappointed that one flashback we didn't see was the scene where Scully asked Mulder for that special "favor." In retrospect, the fanfic authors probably did it better than Chris and Frank would have anyway.

-- Although it was never mentioned or shown on screen, the original "Per Manum" script indicated that the flashbacks took place "a year earlier." This timeline would seem rather impossible given the fact that Mulder and Scully spent a good deal of time on cases in California during Season 7, and that according to "Within," Mulder spent the last year going to doctors for treatment of his mysterious brain illness -- which he neglected to tell Scully about when she asked him to father her child.

-- When Scully accessed her laptop database for Dr. Parenti's phone number, the screen showed that his phone number was entered on June 18, 1999. Around that time, Mulder was a little tied up in a mental institution and Scully was wearing tight tank tops and wielding machetes in Africa.

-- But who said Scully didn't have any friends? If the "P" page (for Parenti) that she called up on her laptop was any indication, there was a lot about Scully we didn't know! (Though some of the names were entered after May 2000 when Mulder was abducted, so perhaps they were contacts rather than friends). These were the entries on that page, which were listed by First Name, Last Name, Organization, and File Date (in some of the file dates, the year entered was not visible on screen):

Cindi Peltier, Deluxe Printing, December 12
Susan Panitz, FBI, October 11
John Papapaulos, [None], July 3, 2000
Jeff Payne, [None], April 11, 1996
Dan & Lara Petrescu, [None], February 27
Pharmacy, Capital Pharmacy, November 21
Power Company, Utilities, March 2
Dr. Parenti, Physician, June 18, 1999
Tony Paquet, [None], August 21, 20__
David Peterson, FBI, January 19
Art Pickering, [None], October 13, 19__
Doug & Jane Poole, [None], July 8, 2000

-- The above list contains a 10/13 reference (Art Pickering) as well as an 11/21 reference (Pharmacy). 10/13 is Chris Carter's birthday and 11/21 is Dori Pierson's birthday (she is Chris Carter's wife).

-- In January 2001 Cindi Peltier was promoted to the Director of Promotions for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment International. Previously, she gained valuable experience at Fox working as a product manager for the Consumer Products' X-Files Expo, before moving over to FX as a promotions and marketing manager.

-- Dan Petrescu was a Romanian soccer player whom fans called "Spooky" or "Scary Dan" because of his resemblance to David Duchovny.

-- Art Pickering was an assistant to the writing staff on the show during season 8. He also had a bit part (one of the cops in a germ suit) in Season 6's "Drive."

-- David Peterson was the special effects shop foreman on Fight the Future.

-- Dr. Parenti's address was listed as 625 Oakhurst Ave., College Park, MD 20740; phone 240-555-0125, fax 240-555-0187. A doctor in College Park seemed a bit out of the way for someone living in D.C., but College Park is the home of the University of Maryland, where (according to her bio), Scully obtained her B.S. degree in Physics in 1986.

-- In the flashback after Scully said that she would understand if Mulder was trying to say no to her request, the conversation between them was slightly different in the original script: M: I want to do this, Scully. For so many reasons. But what I'm not sure of is what happens then. I mean, I know what happens, but what about between me and you ... what about work, the X-Files ... S: I don't know. I haven't thought about it really. I'm assuming I would take a leave of absence. M: As strange as it may sound, I just don't want this to come between us in any way.

-- But when Mulder said "yes," the range of expressions that cross Scully's face in a few seconds were amazing. Great work by Gillian Anderson.

-- "At that part I'm a pro." The return of the Mulderisms. And Mulder looked kind of proud that all his *practice* had finally paid off and he could do something nice for Scully.

-- Scully began the alarming trend of letting complete strangers (Mrs. Hendershot) into her apartment in this episode. Did Scully ask how Mrs. Hendershot knew her name? Where she lived? That she was pregnant (since that was such a big secret)? Why she came to Scully for help instead of going to the police? We didn't get to see that scene either.

-- I find it amusing that the original script indicated that Doggett was driving a 1995 Ford F150 pickup truck. What's manlier than that?

-- In the original script, when Scully tried to explain her actions to take a leave of absence to Doggett without actually revealing anything, Doggett suggested that maybe it was Mulder that Scully was protecting.

-- Blink and you'll miss him, but Mark Snow was one of the doctors at the Army hospital. He was the one that led Mrs. Hendershot off.

-- Regarding his cameo, Mark Snow said, "I played a doctor, and I didn't say anything, and I'm not on the screen too long, but it was a fun moment. Kim Manners, the director, called up and said, 'Look get your ass over here, I want to have you in this show!' And I said, 'Okay!' It was one of those night shoots, you get there at 8 and you leave at 5 in the morning."

-- The Second Associate at the Army Research Hospital was played by Alexandra Marguiles, who is the older sister of actress Julianna Marguiles.

-- When Mary Hendershot was being prepped for her baby's delivery and was telling Scully she was afraid of what was growing inside her, in the original script she offered the line, "I thought it was a miracle at first."

-- Dr. Miryum told Scully that her sonogram showed a normal fetus at 14 weeks, skewing the X-Files timeline even further. Even if "Per Manum" had been shown in its regularly scheduled order, 14 weeks would have been ludicrous at that point.

-- In the original script, Dr. Miryum told Scully that it was hard to say from the sonogram, but it looked like the fetus was a little girl.

-- In the original script, Doggett met Knowle Rohrer at the Pentagon and they went for a walk to continue their conversation.

-- Timeline: As the sonogram tape that Scully pulled from the VCR was dated 11-23-00, we know this episode took place after that date.

-- Oopsie! Rohrer told Scully that he was a friend of Doggett's, but as far as Scully knew, Doggett had no idea where she was going or why. In fact, he was so pissed off at being kept in the dark when he left the diner that it was highly unlikely he'd even care where Scully went.

-- In the episode, Doggett told Scully that the tape she saw was her baby taped onto an old cassette. But in the original script, Doggett told her there was no tape.

-- The final scene between Mulder and Scully was only slightly different in the original script than it appeared on screen. When Scully told Mulder that "it was too much to hope for," in the original script she added, "I'm sorry to have put you through this with me." Scully's line that this was her "last chance" was not in the original script. The script direction said "Mulder takes Scully in his arms, holds her. For a good long while." Awww.

-- A forehead kiss was scripted, but it always looked to me like Scully was going in for a kiss on the lips, but chickened out at the last moment and did some neck nuzzling instead. Kiss or no, the chemistry between these two could not be denied and "Per Manum" served to remind us once again what had been missing for most of Season 8.

-- The episode ended with Scully on the exam table holding her tummy, but there was one last scene in the original script, which showed the group of doctors from the teaser, as well as Dr. Parenti and Duffy Haskell, standing in the room with the deformed fetuses, looking at Mrs. Hendershot's alien baby, alive and kicking. I for one am glad they took the high road and didn't use this scene.

-- It was a nojo on the in vitro -- so what was the point of this episode exactly, other than to use David Duchovny in the number of episodes that his contract required? What did we learn? (We learned that Mulder is a damn good looking man. But we already knew that!) We learned that Scully heard her biological clock ticking very loudly and decided she wanted to have a baby. We learned that Mulder agreed to help her out with that endeavor despite the fact that he sort of had his own problems at the time. And we learned that their efforts to make a baby in a test tube were unsuccessful, and thus the scenario we just spent an hour exploring was eliminated as a possibility of how Scully became pregnant. So the carrot of Mulder as Daddy was dangled in a non-sexual non-threatening manner but snatched away, leaving viewers as confused as ever.

-- And it wasn't only the viewers who were confused. "I assumed I knew what put her in this predicament," said Gillian Anderson during the filming of "Per Manum." "But lately I've been proved wrong. I don't know what is going on. Which is nothing new."

-- Asked about the baby's father during a visit by critics to one of the show's sets, Anderson said, "Do I know who the father is? From day to day, I think I know, but things can change, and they have changed."

-- During one of the press junkets toward the beginning of Season 8, Chris Carter was asked if Scully's pregnancy meant that the notoriously stiff and guarded Scully had been having sex. "Yes, there's a potential she was having sex," Carter said sarcastically. "We're going to play with that storyline." But when asked if The X-Files would ever show such a relationship "in the flesh," Carter replied, "This is prime time. You can't consummate a relationship."

-- When asked point blank by journalists who was the baby's father, Carter replied, "I am." And without missing a beat, he added, "I'm the baby's father and its mother."

-- While working on the script for "Per Manum," Frank Spotnitz noted that one of the things he missed during Season 8 was the way Mulder's character was able to explain even the strangest scenarios -- so the writers were not able to fall back on that device as readily. "You realize how much having Mulder around helps tell these stories because he can come out with the big theory and take the big leap," Spotnitz said. "There's nobody to do that now so it has put us in more than one quandary on how to tell a story." [IMBO: That was an understatement.]

-- In my opinion, "Per Manum" underscored the fact that Carter and Spotnitz completely missed the boat by focusing on the "Who's Yer Daddy?" aspect of Scully's pregnancy instead of on the far more interesting question of how a barren woman became pregnant in the first place. That question offered many more possibilities and many more opportunities for speculation. The groundwork had been laid (no pun intended) that Mulder and Scully's relationship had progressed to the physical, so why not establish that Mulder was the father and then pursue the question of how Scully was able to become pregnant. Was it a gift from CSM -- a result of some manipulation to the chip in her neck during her little field trip with him in "En Ami"? Or was it a gift from the aliens -- a result of Scully's exposure to the spacecraft in Africa in "The Sixth Extinction" that seemed to have the power to restore life (a.k.a. fertility)? Or was it a gift from God -- a result of Scully's faith and Mulder's desire to believe in extreme possibilities -- the "miracle" that Mulder told Scully never to give up on at the end of this episode? To me, that would have been a far more interesting question to explore (not only the "how" but the "why"), and a question that in true X-Files fashion need never have been answered. Leave it to each viewer to draw their own conclusion.

-- In spite of the implications of this episode as well as the volumes left unsaid, Spotnitz still reassured viewers that after eight years, no one should underestimate the strength of the bond between Mulder and Scully. "I think they mean everything to each other," Spotnitz said at the time "Per Manum" was written. "They love each other, on a profound level such is rarely found in life. I think people sense that, and that's why they love these two characters and they love them together. They'd do anything for each other. They're soul mates."

-- Once & Future Retreads: Jay Acovone (Duffy Haskell) played the same role in "Essence" and was Detective Curtis in "Demons." Steven Anderson (Dr. James Parenti) played the same role in "Essence." Adam Baldwin made his first appearance as Knowle Rohrer; he played the same role in "Three Words," "Existence," "Nothing Important Happened Today II," and "The Truth." Victoria Gallegos (Receptionist) was Follmer's Assistant in "Nothing Important Happened Today II" and "Release." David Purdham (Dr. Lev) played the same role in "Essence."

(Thanks to chrisnu for today's pics.)

-- Many thanks to Haven member Follower for sharing interviews and articles that provided some of the background information on this episode.

Please share your first impressions, favorite (or cringe-worthy) moments, classic lines, favorite fanfic, nagging questions, repeated viewing observations, etc., as today we celebrate "Per Manum."