The X-Files

Season 4 Episode 14

Memento Mori

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Feb 09, 1997 on FOX

Episode Fan Reviews (14)

out of 10
328 votes
  • 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!!!!!!!
  • 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 a
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • For the first time I feel time like a heartbeat...

    Scully finds out that she has an inoperable brain tumor as a result of her abduction and Mulder's desperate search for the cure brings him closer to the conspiracy.

    Memento Mori is an amazing episode, emotional and revealing at the same time. The writing is great especially in Scully's voice-overs and the directing is excellent. Moreover the performances throughout the episode are spot on especially by Gillian Anderson who deservedly won the EMMY. In this episode we also get the chance to learn a little more about the project and the experiments they've done to Scully during her abduction as well as the fate of the women from the MUFON group we met last year. Memento Mori is an episode full of memorable moments: when we find out that Kurt Crawford is a hybrid, the scenes between Scully and Penny Northern or Scully and her mother, The Lone Gunmen appearance and of course the hallway scene between Mulder and Scully near the end. Definitely one of the best episodes!
  • Cancer

    All of the women in MUFON (whom we met earlier in the show) are dying/dead from cancer after having their chips removed. Scully has had her chip removed. Scully has cancer. Can you see where this is going? We find out a little bit more of what happened to Scully when she was 'abducted' and we get a nice bit of chemistry between Mulder and Scully. It is really quite a sad episode considering Penny (?) dies and Scully has loads of treatment and writes long, emotional journal entries. ANd then of course there is THAT scene, the one which shippers love. The hug and forehead kiss just warm my shipper heart!
  • Perfect

    Best episode in the series so far and a perfect 10 in every way. The writing was top notch, particularly Scully's sensitive and delicate journal entries, which were a clever way to build dramatic tension without seeming overly expositive.

    Anderson deservedly won an Emmy for her acting in this episode, perfectly portraying Scully's terror, vulnerabilty and quiet resolve in a virtuoso performance. Duchovny is also quite good, although it is easy to overlook his performance given the focus on Anderson. By now, the chemistry between them is solid and the reason why this show remains so good after three and a half seasons.

    Loved the Lone Gunmen's first covert field op! The set used for the research facility was fabulous. My favorite single moment in this episode was when one of the hybrids explains to Mulder that they are trying to save the abducted women because "they are our mothers." Great stuff.
  • slow burner

    Memento Mori see’s 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. In my opinion this is an average episode which is overrated by other fans, I think there are plenty of other episodes that deserve more recognition. I know people will say that it is developing characters and that it’s “a very special episode”, but to me it was just a slow burner
  • I don't understand the hype.

    This was definitely a decent episode, I always enjoy when they delve into the mythos of the series. However, for whatever reason, I am not that intrigued by the whole Scully being abducted side story. I am sure that the ending of the mystery will be exciting, but I found this portion of the story ho-hum. The acting, as usual, was good and there was also a couple funny jokes thrown in during the episode. Overall, I found myself a tad disappointed by the episode after seeing how high it was listed on the top episodes of all times. Oh, well. 7.9
  • Scully's cancer, the emotional journey, and Action!Mulder

    A touching episode full of brilliant acting, directing, and writing by the X-Files team. The revelation from Leonard Betts that Scully has cancer is finally paid off here, in this moving episode where both she and Mulder deal with the news head-on. Both of our characters hide behind a wall, which operates on so many levels - to shield them against the daily atrocities they witness as federal agents, but also to hide their feelings from the outside world and especially from each other. Here, Scully's shield operates to keep everyone at a suitable distance - including her mother. She wants to maintain her independence, her stoic strength in the face of adversity. This is an intensely personal journey, and Scully is reluctant to allow others in at this time as she figures out how she will deal with this situation. Meanwhile, the direction of the episode reveals moments of weakness within her - the eagerness with which she reaches out for help from Dr. Scanlon, the way she clings to Penny's hand. She only allows herself to open up to Mulder, through a diary. The voice-overs we hear are beautiful and elegantly written, an expression of Scully's emotion for Mulder which she cannot vocalize.

    Mulder, on the other hand, is stubbornly in denial of Scully's illness. He needs her, as he is beginning to recognize, and to lose her is unthinkable. But Mulder cannot sit and wait for bad news - he has to go after the good news with all the fervor available to him, and in doing so he is able to forget the emotion roiling within him. As long as he is comfortably within his Action!Mulder mindframe, nothing can bother him too long. Of course, this is all disturbed when he returns to the hospital to keep Scully safe from Dr. Scanlon and finds her gone. When he finds her diary, he's forced to deal with the emotion of the situation. He tucks away the evidence of the conspiracy, the mechanics behind the cancer, and is faced with Scully in need.

    All this sets up the moment in the hallway, where the agents are forced to be honest with each other and in their honesty, their emotions are forced into clarity. The depth of this episode, the various layers of plot and psychoanalytic undertone were done masterfully. Great great episode.
  • The one with Scully's cancer.

    Yet one fantastic episode in a fantastic season.

    After finding out she had cancer in ‘Leonard Betts’ even thought she already knew it for a year deep down. Scully finds out in this episode that she has cancer for real and tries to look up the women she met last year but they have all passed away except one.

    The Scully scenes were very sad an emotional, especially the ones she wrote and when she talked to her mom who doesn’t have another daughter left.

    Mulder also meets a guy who wants to help. But he’s an alien and there are much more colonies of him and they have a lab in the hospital and try to help the women there because they are their mothers. Out of their DNA they were made and they have something that might be a cure and they give Scully’s to Mulder.

    There is also a doctor who works there but it’s his fault that all the women have died in 1 year.

    So anyway, Mulder is then chased by a man but he escaped. When he goes to Scully he doesn’t find her there and gets worried, he does read her diary. Scully was next to the only surviving woman but when Mulder arrives she dies. Scully tells him that she isn’t going to give up and that her journey hasn’t end yet. She is going to go on like other people who moved on with the stranger called cancer in her body.

    The episode was very emotional, especially Scully’s voice-overs. But she grew as a character and decided she doesn’t want to end that way.
    I also loved the part where Scully talked about the cancer as an alien to the body that might never leave, it’s a very touching moment for people who have cancer. Also Scully having back some dreams of her abduction return that good arc from getting forgotten.

    Skinner also cares about her and is willing to save her life by paying a price to the Chain-smoking man.
    ‘Memento Mori’ was an extremely well done and acted episode, with a very depressing and emotional dialog which turns it to be one of the best episode sof this fantastic season.
  • Pivotal in every way

    Scully has a brain tumor. That's the big news, hinted at in "Leonard Betts" (4x12), confirmed in this episode's teaser for those who wouldn't, couldn't believe it. Suffice it to say, it's shocking despite the early warning.

    "Memento Mori" is often referred to as "The One Where Scully Gets Cancer", but that would essentially do the episode injustice. It could've been a sentimental tearjerker soap opera like "The Field Where I Died" or a single-minded character piece like "Never Again", a straight forward drama without the signature X Files horror or conspiracy motifs. But like one of the true series' greats, "Paper Clip", "Memento" combines strong character work (per Scully's introspective, moving voice-overs, essentially letters to Mulder; her relationship with Mulder, her mother, the dying Penny Northern) and exciting, revealing Mytharc material.

    So here is where we finally learn the purpose of Scully's abduction. Her ova were harvested so that they could be used in the creation of human-alien hybrids - a notion that would pay off many times over in later shows like "Emily" (Season 5) or "Per Manum" (Season 8). Truly a pivotal point in the series' mythology.

    Having thus established that "Memento Mori" is a great hour of The X Files both for those who like it as a well-written drama show and for those who love it as a suspense-packed thriller. Ideally, this is the combination the show should always present. But for those still in doubt: Watch Gillian Anderson act her way to an Emmy here! See the writers reach such a creative highpoint that they were rewarded a Golden Globe for Best Television Series - Drama! All in this episode...

    Pretty much perfect.
  • Another part to the colonization mythlolgy but the main story is Scullys struggle with her cancer and how it has changed her and Mulder. Best Dramatic episode of season 4.

    Memento Mori begins an episode apart from Leonard Betts.Scully finds out her brain cancer is terminal and the chance of her being saved is very low.Mulder cant deal with this and so he seeks out to find a way of saving her.He finds a man who turns out to be part of the cloning experiment done by the conspiraters. They also want to save Scully as she is part of the experiment since they have her blood.Scully decides to stay at work and deal through this and Mulder is still hoping for a cure.Also Skinner makes a deal with the Cancer Man to save Scully in exchange for a favour.

    The episodes strong point is how the two main characters react to the situation.Scully afraid for her life still accepts her death and that this is for her alone to share.Mulder,upset with the thought of losing her, is desperate to find her cure.

    Except from the character development, this episodes plot isn't much to the colonization plot and can get a bit lost with later episodes.I still find this episode to be one of the better episodes and is a great add on to the season which was desperatly needed.
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