The X-Files

Season 4 Episode 14

Memento Mori

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Feb 09, 1997 on FOX
out of 10
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324 votes

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Episode Summary

Scully's recent failing health is revealed to be inoperable brain cancer which is common among abductees. She meets with other abductees with the same condition and forms a special bond with a dying woman, while Mulder tries to save her from a doctor who may be connected with the abductions.moreless

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  • Memento Mori

    Memento Mori was a superbly enertaining episode of The X-Files. I really enjoyed watching because there was a lot of character development for Scully, Mulder and Skinner. The story was well written and played out smoothly. It was interesting to see Scully face her fears with what was going on with her. I liked learning more about what was really happening and it was fun watching Mulder and his Mufon friends infilitrate the medical facility. The Cigarette Smoking Man and Skinner seem to be playing their own game of cat and mouse. I liked the ending. I certainly look forward to watching the next episode!!!!!!!moreless
  • Scully spends the whole episode moaning Fox should just put her down ! this episode and the last one she has just moaned and moaned boring !

    I have been re watching the x files in order and this is by far the worst episodes Scully spends the whole episode moaning Fox should just put her down ! this episode and the last one she has just moaned and moaned boring ! these monologs the scully dictates are awful please just croak and let me enough the x files in peace with out having to listen to a cancer monlogue a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a aq a a a aq a a a a a a amoreless
  • It is a long, long way from "I thought you were sent to spy on me" to "The truth will save both of us", but we finally got there.


    "Memento Mori" opens with a voice over narration, Agent Scully reading from her journal. Though the language is as formal as Scully's reports, the emotion in it seeps through to saturate the scene in despair and resignation. The camera takes us down a long tunnel of white light, reminiscent of near-death experiences, to focus finally on Dana Scully's X-ray, showing a deadly mass growing at the base of her brain. From this image of the death's-head, the episode unreels as a parallel story deriving from Scully's abduction: Scully fights the result of it and Mulder seeks the cause of it. As before, Scully rejects their stories, but is forced to rely on Penny, who is dying of brain cancer, as her guide through the ordeal of cancer therapy. Mulder, meanwhile, searches desperately for information about the other women of that luckless group, all of whom are dead; his investigation leads him to a fertility clinic and a confrontation with a hybridization experiment that now vitally involves Scully.

    "They're our mothers," Kurt the Clone tells Mulder. In such small and offhand sentences whole story arcs are born. In "Herrenvolk", X's last words to Scully herself were a warning to "protect the mother". Is Dana Scully indeed the genetic mother of a set of red-headed clones?

    The metaphor of cancer as an invading demon, with chemo/radiation therapy as a form of exorcism, struck a profound note. The mini-drama between Skinner and the Cigarette-Smoking Man alone deserves a paragraph, as Skinner contemplates a Faustian bargain. Scully's diary entries beautifully summed up her relationship with Mulder with her usual dispassionate and objective mien: like Marie Curie, Scully would take her own temperature and make her own diagnosis on her deathbed, a scientist to the end.

    I'm not sure where to begin in describing Gillian Anderson's benchmark performance. Likewise, Sheila Larken's brief scene as Mrs. Scully once again showcased her capacity to show tenderness, anger, and bitter grief mixed together. Mitch Pileggi's terse and troubled Skinner struck the perfect note of worry and resolve, and the final image of the episode, closing in on his profoundly disturbed expression, sounded the right grace note for the story. Gillian Barber's portrayal of the ill-fated Penny Northern was enough to bring tears to a statue.

    In "Memento Mori", Duchovny let us hear the tears stuck in Mulder's throat, the anger choking him, the fear nearly strangling him. Struck nearly dumb with grief and denial, he fights to maintain his usual sang-froid and utterly fails. From the sea-change that comes over Mulder's face when Scully tells him of her cancer, to the barely-repressed grimace when she calls him to bring her bag to the hospital, Duchovny gives us a Mulder stripped down to raw, bleeding nerve. In a storage room that might contain his own sister's eggs, he doesn't even look for a drawer with her name on it. In Skinner's office, he is willing to sell his soul cheap for Scully's life. Mulder is down to his last emotional nickel here, on the ragged edge of despair. The most sensitive moment in "Memento Mori", however, the one that demonstrated Fox Mulder's innate humanity, came as Scully walks away down the hospital corridor. He takes the vial of her eggs from his pocket-- and does nothing. The truth, and his quest, might be served by revealing to Scully at this supremely vulnerable moment that she has suffered a violation as intimate and visceral as rape. But the Fox Mulder who might have blurted out the painful truth in the first season now thinks twice. Finally, he understands that some things--such as compassion- -are more important than his version of the truth.

    "Memento Mori" gives Dana Scully a crusade of her own, and Mulder a partner unto death.

  • Scully faces her cancer

    Scully's cancer is something that's been hovering around for the past couple episodes, influencing her actions and her reactions towards Mulder. Finally, the show finds her acknowledging it and as a result, we find her illness becoming the next X-File, and that Mulder ends up learning that her illness is a result of her abduction. Scully's abduction was obviously a plot point born out of the fact that Gillian Anderson was pregnant, but for a plot that was created out of necessity, it's carried on remarkably well into other seasons. It's nice to see the show returning to this idea, and it has some very interesting points, although we still are given extremely weak explanations as to why things are the way they are.

    What worked for me was when Mulder and the Lone Gunmen went on their little adventure into the doctor's office. They find a large number of clones that are attempting to save the women who were abducted from people like the Cigarette Man, who are seemingly trying to use them in order to create a colony of aliens. Once again, this plot point has always been a bit murky to me, but I'm hoping that over time, it'll be explained a little better. It's disappointing when a show that usually did conspiracies so well in its first and second seasons has failed to capture that excitement in the last two seasons.

    But here, we really see the friendship between Mulder and Scully growing, and for the most part, we had some great touching moments bookended with great action scenes. Definitely one of the better episodes of this season.moreless
  • Scully's cancer Beware of spoilers!

    By far one of the best x-files episodes ever! Ok so scully finds out that she has incurable cancer and decides to look for the women from the Mufon group who are in the same boat as her. Scully finds out that all the women have died except for one. After she visits Penny in the hospital, Scully decides that she is going to get treatment at the hospital. Mulder is determined to find out what happened to scully but lets her know that he will always be there for her. While going through chemo, scully rights in her journal to mulder. Angst, Angst, Angst.......and finally we get to the end. Mulder goes to scully's room and when he sees that she isn't there he has the saddest look on his face. He runs down the hall and Byers tells him that she is in the room with Penny. Mulder busts into the room and is relieve when he sees scully. Penny (I hope that was her name)dies and Scully comes out of the room crying. Her and Mulder share a hug and a kiss on the forehead and the top of the head after she tells him that she's not going to be defeated by her illness and after he tells her that he read what she wrote to him. Like I said it was a great episode.moreless
Sean Allen

Sean Allen

Dr Kevin Scanlon

Guest Star

Julie Bond

Julie Bond


Guest Star

David Lovgren

David Lovgren

Kurt Crawford

Guest Star

Mitch Pileggi

Mitch Pileggi

Assistant Director Walter Skinner

Recurring Role

William B. Davis

William B. Davis

Cigarette Smoking Man

Recurring Role

Morris Panych

Morris Panych

Gray-Haired Man

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • Continuity: Just before Mulder goes into the lab with the Kurt Crawford clones, Byers sees the police getting out of their car at the front of the lab complex. Mulder spends several minutes in the lab with the clones; the scene then cuts to Byers at the front again and the police are just a few feet from their vehicle, although quite a few minutes have passed.

  • QUOTES (11)

    • Mulder: These women, these women are your birth mothers.
      Hybrid: Barren now, from the same procedure that caused their cancer. And now they're left to die, their conditions hastened by the men running this project.
      Mulder: You're trying to save them.
      Hybrid: They're our mothers.
      (Mulder leaves with vial)

    • Mulder: Byers told you about Dr. Scanlon?
      Scully: Yeah
      Mulder: He very well may have killed those women
      Scully: It will have to be proven, if we find him
      Mulder: When we find him, Scully something was done to you, something you're just beginning to remember, you can't quite figure out. But it can be explained and it will be explained, and no matter what you think as a scientist or a doctor there is a way and you will find it, To save yourself.
      Scully: Mulder I can't kid myself, people live with cancer they carry on, and so will I. You know I've got things to finish to prove to myself, my family, But for my own reasons.

    • Scully: (Writing in her journal) I have not written to you in the past twenty four hours because the treatment has weakened my body. Mulder it's difficult to explain to you the fear of facing an enemy which I can neither conquer nor escape. Penny Northern has taken a down turn. I now look at her with the respect that can only come from one that is about to walk the same dark path. Seeing her I can't help seeing myself in a month or a year. I pray that I have her courage to face this journey. Mulder I feel you close, though I know you are now pursuing your own path. For that I am grateful, more than I can ever express. I need to know you're out there if I am ever to see through this.

    • Scully: In med school I learned that cancer arrives in the body unannounced. A dark stranger that takes up residence. Turning its new home against itself, this is the evil of cancer, that it starts as an invader but soon becomes one with the invaded, Forcing you to destroy it, but only at the risk of destroying yourself. It is science's demon possession and my treatment, science's attempt at exorcism. Mulder I hope that in these terms you might know it and know me. And accept this stranger so many recognise but so many cannot completely cast out and if the darkness should have swallowed me as you read this. You must never think there was the possibility of some secret intervention, something you might have done and though we have travelled far together this last distance must necessarily be travelled alone.

    • Scully: I need you to bring the over night bag from the trunk of the car, and I need you to call my mother and ask her to bring up some things to the hospital
      Mulder: Is there anything I should know
      Scully: Mulder what ever you found or whatever you might find I think we both know that right now truth is in me. And I need to pursue it, as soon as possible.

    • Mulder: Scully.. I stole these from some guy with a broken leg down the hall (Hands her the flowers) Guess he won't be able to catch me.

    • Byers: Normal DNA is inactive in it's utical form. When it's unwound or branched like this one that's when it's active, when it can mutate.
      Langly: It's probably what made her sick.
      Mulder: Why store something like this and why keep it a secret?
      Byers: Scientists get funky about having their research poached.
      Langly: Someone might be trying to find a cause.
      Mulder: Or a cure.
      Frohike: Theoretically.
      Mulder: You guys ever been to the Lumbard Research Facility? (pause) Well pick out something black and sexy and prepare to do some funky poaching.

    • Scully: Mulder, I can't kid myself. People live with cancer. They carry on, and so will I. You know I've got things to finish, to prove to myself, to my family, but for other reasons.
      Mulder: Come on back. The truth will save you Scully. I think it'll save both of us.

    • CSM: It's funny. I always thought of you as Fox Mulder's patron. You'd think under your aegis that he wouldn't be consigned to a corner in the basement.
      Skinner: At least he doesn't take an elevator up to get to work.
      CSM: You think I'm the devil, Mr. Skinner?

    • Skinner: You can't ask the truth of a man who trades in lies.

    • Scully: For the first time I feel time like a heartbeat, the seconds pumping in my breast like a reckoning; the numinous mysteries that once seemed so distant and unreal threating clarity in the presence of a truth entertained not in youth, but only in its passage. I feel these words as if their meaning were weight being lifted from me. Knowing that you will read them and share my burden as I have come to trust no other. That you should know my heart, look into it, finding there the memory and experience that belong to you, that are you is a comfort to me now as I feel the tethers loose and the prospects darken for the continuance of a journey that began not so long ago and which began again with a faith shaken and strengthened by your convictions if not for which I might never have been so strong now as I cross to face you and look at you incomplete, hoping that you will forgive me for not making the rest of the journey with you.

  • NOTES (7)

    • This episode originally had a kiss on the lips between Mulder and Scully. In the original version, Mulder kisses her forehead, then her lips, then they hug and she walks away. The aired version just has the kiss on the head.

    • A scene with Gillian Anderson (Scully) and Pat Skipper (Scully's brother Bill Jr.) was cut due to time constraints. Bill Scully would make his second 'first appearance' in the season 4 finale 'Gethsemane'. This scene is significant for several reasons in that Bill Jr. voices his displeasure, or rather what he believes to be his parents displeasure, about Dana choosing to be an FBI Agent instead of a doctor and that now she has paid for that decision with her cancer. He also indirectly blames Dana for Melissa's death and, finally, he mentions their other brother Charles.

    • The date on the drawer holding Scully's ova is October 29, 1994 - a few days before she was returned to the hospital in the season 2 episode 'One Breath'.

    • The episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction for a Series.

    • According to media reports, Kurt Crawford is actually the name of Chris Carter's contact at the FBI whom he goes to to check facts for accuracy.

    • Mulder realises that the clones of the young boy he saw with his sister's clones in the season's premiere 'Herrenvolk', are younger versions of Kurt Crawford.

    • 'Memento Mori' is Latin for "A Reminder of Death".


    • Episode Title: Memento Mori
      Memento Mori is Latin and means "remember that you are mortal". In the days of the Roman Empire, a military leader achieving great victories would be given a parade through the city of Rome where he in the end was told Memento Mori, so that he wouldn't forget his place in the world.

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