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One Breath

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The X-Files episode The-X-Files-2-32
One Breath
Series: The X-Files
Original Airdate: November 11, 1994
Production Number: 2x08
Date(s): Unknown
Written by: Glen Morgan & James Wong
Directed by: R.W. Goodwin
Episode chronology




Season 2 Bullet toggle plus

"One Breath" is the eighth episode of the second season of The X-Files.


Scully miraculously appears in a Washington DC hospital fighting for her life as Mulder tries to find the secrets to how she vanished and who is involved.


As the story begins, Margaret Scully is telling Fox Mulder a story about how Dana Scully showed the feeling of
One Breath Tombstone
Dana Scully's tombstone
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guilt after she killed a snake with her new BB gun that her brothers gave her for her birthday. As the snake dies, Scully shows remorse and picks up the snake repelling her fear of serpents. We then see Fox Mulder saying that they cant give up on her and that's it's too soon. Scully's mother says she know knows how her daughter felt that day in the woods. Then an object is placed on the table, the camera pans overhead and we see it. It is a tombstone, with Dana Scully's name on it.

Mulder returns to his apartment re-reading the file on Duane Barry and Scully's kidnapping on the table, and he is
One Breath Fox Stopped
Fox Mulder held back after rushing to see Dana Scully
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lying in the darkness, watching pornography with a look of despair written across his face. The phone rings and an unknown caller informs Mulder Scully is in Georgetown Hospital, Washington. Mulder speeds over to the hospital, barges down the hallways and despite a nurse trying to stop him, bursts through the ward doors, where we see Scully in a coma, in critical condition and on life support as Margaret is watching Dana. Mulder snaps demanding to know how she got into the hospital and who brought her there. He approaches a Dr. Daly, and he angrily asks to see the admission forms. Mulder is dragged out of the ward, screaming at Daly if he is involved with "them" and he swears he will find out what "they" did to Scully.

In a private room later, Mulder, Margaret and Dr. Daly are speaking about Scully's condition. Daly says she is listed in critical condition, with total unawareness of self and does not respond to
One Breath Melissa and Fox
Mulder depressed about Scully's condition
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external stimuli. Daly says that no-one at the hospital knows anything about Scully's arrival and because there is no recent medical history, Daly says he is totally lost at how to treat Scully. He can't determine why and how long she's been in this state. Mulder wants her tested for trace evidence but Daly says she's already been bathed and cleaned. Daly then mentions that Scully has very specific living terms in her will and is very clear on life support. Mulder says that Scully does not want to live in this condition and Mulder signed the will as her witness.

Back to Scully's bedside and we see a middle aged woman and she says to Mulder that she was told not to call him Fox by Scully. The woman claims that Scully's soul is present. Just then, Margaret arrives and they greet each other. The woman is Scully's older sister, Melissa Scully. Melissa says Dana is deciding whether to remain in this world, or move on.

Dana Scully's mind is in another dimension as she is trying to recover. In it she is alone in a small boat, tied to a pier by a rope. Mulder, Melissa Scully and an unknown woman are standing on the pier. Mulder says she isn't here and Melissa tells him to stop being angry as his negative energy is blocking her. Mulder says he needs to do more and leaves.

Back at his apartment, Mulder puts the traditional X shape on his window to try to call for X, but he never appeared. Back in the hospital, Melvin Frohike, dressed in a smart suit and with flowers, arrives. He and Mulder look at her chart and Frohike spots something odd. All 3 of The Lone Gunmen then discuss her chart and observe how the charts shows odd protein chains in the blood and the Lone Gunmen send her medical records to the so-called latest member of the group, "The Thinker". The Thinker reports that the protein chains are a by product of branched DNA, the apparent cutting edge of genetic engineering, supposedly 50 years down the line. The Lone Gunmen speculate it may be an identity tracker, or even the product of grafting human DNA to non-human DNA. Mulder asks if she'll live and the Lone Gunmen exchange worried glances and say that Scully's immune system has been decimated, and that even a healthy human may not be able to fight it. They tell him Mulder can do nothing.

Scully, still in her dream dimension, sees the woman that spoke to her in the hospital. She says her name is Nurse Owens and that she is going to look out for her and help her find
One Breath Boat and Owens
Nurse Owens calling upon Scully that her friends want her to return and not give in to death
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her way home. Owens tells her that she must leave only when it is time and she will be there for her. Mulder arrives and Owens leaves without saying a word. Another nurse arrives and says she must take some blood. She does so and Mulder looks behind, only to see a suspicious looking man staring. The nurse places the blood on her table. Suddenly, on the bed next to Scully, another patient flatlines and nurses and doctors rush to his aid quickly. Amidst the chaos, Mulder looks back at the table and notices the blood is gone. Mulder dashes out the door and chase the suspicious man, who manages to escape into an elevator at the last second. Mulder runs down the stairs, determined not to lose him. The chase continues into the car park, where X suddenly appears and grabs Mulder.
X ordering Fox Mulder to stop looking for the truth

Mulder tells him that a man took Scully's blood and X says to forget him. Mulder retorts that X ignored his calls for help yet now he expects him to do what he says. X says he comes to Mulder when he needs him and he is his tool, not the other way round. X says that Mulder is leading "them" right to the hospital and Mulder is not meant to know the truth. Mulder breaks loose and runs after the man once again. He closes in but the man opens fire and escapes the car park. Mulder flanks the man and demands that the man tell him who wants Scully's blood. The man doesn't say a word. The man then gets the drop on Mulder, but X intercepts him, breaks his arm and tells Mulder to stay there. He then asks Mulder does he want to see what it takes to find the truth and eliminates the man, execution style.

One Breath X
X executes the mysterious man
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Back once more to a private room with Mulder, Melissa, Dr. Daly and Margaret, Daly tells them that some people have lived for 9 years on mechanical ventilation. He tells them this is not likely to be the case with Scully however and she will not improve.Margaret says to Mulder that him and Scully had a relationship built on respect and that in the last year she has lost her husband, and "God knows" she doesn't want to lose her baby girl, but she has always respected her. She says its a moment for the family, but he is welcome to join them. He solemnly shakes his head, however. Once again we cut to the boat scene, where the rope holding the boat snaps and Scully drifts off into parts unknown.

In A.D. Skinners office, and we see a pack of Morley cigarettes on his desk. The Cigarette Smoking Man places
Scully One Breath
Mulder grieving over Scully's condition
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a file on the desk, saying it's all there. CSM tells Walter Skinner if he is having trouble sitting on Mulder, he can deal with it with no trouble. As CSM leaves, Mulder then enters via the side door and sees the burning stub. Skinner tells him to sit down and asks him about rumors that he was involved in an incident in the hospital. Mulder turns the tables on Skinner by denying all knowledge, and Skinner demands to know whats going on. Mulder tells him its simple - it is all CSM's doing. Skinner wants to know how Mulder knows this and Mulder asks who he is, and where he is. Skinner reminds him that they work for the Department of Justice and Mulder says that that is exactly what he wants. Skinner says Scully was a fine agent and more than that, he liked and respected her.

We cut to a ghostly, almost purgatory like place. Scully is lying on a wooden table, wearing a white dress. Her father, William Scully, emerges and speaks to 'Starbuck' about how people say to him life is short, kids grow up fast and it's over before they know it. He never listened however, until he realized he would never see her again; his little girl. As William Scully disappears, Nurse Owens arrives again, and says that despite death being close to her tonight, her time is not over.

Melissa and Mulder are speaking out in the hospital cafeteria about how Mulder could spend his life hunting down who did this to Scully and it still won't bring her back. She tells him that whoever did it has an equal horror coming to them. A woman then approaches and asks Mulder if he has change for the cigarette machine, to which he replies that he doesn't. As Melissa is about to ask Mulder about what he thinks about Dana, the woman states that there's a pack of cigarettes already in the machine but they are Morley and not her brand. Realizing what is going on, Mulder examines the packet and finds an address inside.

Fox Mulder threatening the Cigarette Smoking Man

Cigarette Smoking Man, who, while reaching for a cigarette back at his home, hears a noise. He reaches for his firearm but Mulder grabs him and hurls him back into his seat. Mulder asks CSM for an answer to Scully's abduction. CSM simply says he likes Mulder and he also likes Scully, and that is why she was returned to him and CSM is only involved because he believes what he is doing is right. CSM says he has more respect for Mulder than that, and if does kill him, he will never learn the truth. "And thats why I'll win." Mulder then slowly takes his finger off the trigger and leaves.

Back in his office, Mulder prints off a resignation letter for Walter Skinner and packing away his belongings. Skinner enters and has a brief conversation with Mulder about his early years in the FBI. Skinner then takes the resignation letter out of his pocket and tears it in half and says it is unacceptable and he won't accept resignation just for the sake of self-punishment and defeat. Mulder realizes it was Skinner that gave him Cigarette Smoking Man's location, and put himself at great risk.

Mulder, now walking down the steps, is approached by X. He gives him a plane ticket and says he doesn't know why Scully was taken, but he can give Mulder the man that took her. He tells Mulder that they believe he will be out of town, and that he has information in his apartment, and at 8.17pm, they will break in. X says Mulder will be waiting, armed and ready to defend himself with "terminal intensity". At his apartment, Mulder sits in the darkness, ready to deliver his vengeance. Melissa knocks on the door and tells Mulder that Scully is weakening and Mulder should see her. Reluctant at first, Mulder accepts her invitation. At Scully's bedside, Mulder arrives. He takes her hand and says he feels that Scully isn't ready to leave. He doesn't know that being there will help but that he is here anyway.

The next morning, Mulder arrives home and sees his apartment has been trashed. Realizing he missed his chance or realizing he is about to lose Scully, he sinks to his knees and weeps.

Scully, in her hospital gown, is lying in bed. The scene fades back to the hospital. A nurse passes the bed and calls for Dr. Daly as Scully has awoken.

Mulder, sitting on his sofa, with despair across his face, ignores the phone as it rings. He eventually picks it up as the voice machine kicks in. He broadly smiles. Out of intensive care, Scully lays in bed with her mother and sister by her side.After Mulder enters, Scully says she remembers nothing after Duane Barry kidnapped her.

Mulder tells Scully to get some rest, and she says that she had the strength of his beliefs. He gives her back her crucifix necklace that he found in "Ascension" and turns and leaves. A nurse comes in and Scully asks to see Nurse Owens as she wants to thank her for looking after her. The nurse tells Scully that she's worked there for ten years and there is no Nurse Owens at that hospital. Scully holds her crucifix as she lays back down staring at the ceiling.

Memorable quotesEdit

Byers: Good work sneakin' out these charts
Frohike: Tucked them in my pants.
Mulder: There's plenty of room down there.
Langly: You look down, Mulder? Tell you what, you're welcome to come over Saturday night. We're all hoppin' on the internet to nit-pick the scientific inaccuracies of Earth 2
Mulder: I'm doing my laundry.

Skinner: Tell me what happened at the hospital last night.
Mulder: Are you referring to the tooth found in the cafeteria jello?

William Scully: (to Scully) Hello Starbuck. It's Ahab. People would say to me, "Life is short. Kids, they grow up fast. Before you know it, it's over." I never listened. To me, life went at a proper pace of many rewards. Until the moment that I knew, I understood, I would never see you again, my little girl. Then my life felt as if it had been the length of one breath, one heartbeat. I never knew how much I loved my daughter until I could never tell her. In that moment I would have traded every medal, every commendation, every promotion, for one more second with you. We'll be together again, Starbuck. But not now. Soon.

Mulder: Sit down!
CSM: How'd you find me?
Mulder: Shut up! Tonight, I ask the questions! You're going to answer me, you son of a bitch!
CSM: Don't try and threaten me, Mulder. I've watched presidents die.
Mulder: Why her? Why her and not me? . . . Answer me!
CSM: I like you. I like her too. That's why she was returned to you.
Mulder: You should be the one to die.
CSM: Why? Look at me. No wife, no family, some power. I'm in the game because I believe what I'm doing is right.
Mulder: *Right?* Who are you to decide what's right?
CSM: Who are you? If people were to know the things I know, it would all fall apart. I told Skinner you shot the man in the hospital, but I didn't really believe it. And here you are with a gun to my head. I have more respect for you, Mulder. You're becoming a player. You can kill me now, but you'll never know the truth. (Mulder wants to shoot, but doesn't) . . . and that's why I'll win. Don't worry. This'll be our secret. We wouldn't want others to . . . start rumors.

Melissa: Only the light . . .
Mulder: Oh, enough with the harmonic convergence crap, ok. You're not saying anything to me.
Melissa: Why don't you just drop your cynicism and your paranoia and your defeat. You know, just because it's positive and good doesn't make it silly or trite! Why is it so much easier for you to run around trying to get even than just expressing to her how you feel? I expect more from you. Dana expects more. Even if it doesn't bring her back, at least she'll know. And so will you.

Mulder: I brought you a present. "Superstars of the Super Bowls".
Scully: I knew there was a reason to live.

Background InformationEdit

Introductory DetailsEdit

  • The title of this episode is from William Scully's speech to his daughter.
  • This episode represents the third part in a trilogy that also includes the Season 2 episodes "Duane Barry" and "Ascension". Although "Duane Barry" ends with a cliffhanger as well as the legend "TO BE CONTINUED", "Ascension" does not; this episode is therefore an indirect follow-on rather than a direct sequel.

From Script to ScreenEdit

  • The original intent for this episode was that it would be based entirely upon Raising the Dead, a non-fiction book that Glen Morgan had read. The book was written by surgeon Richard Selzer and detailed dreams he had apparently experienced while being comatose for twenty-three days in 1991. According to the book, Selzer had also been declared dead during his coma, a fate that Skinner includes as part of his recollections to Mulder in this episode, before the writer underwent a period of recovery over three weeks. Morgan was fascinated by the book and had been wanting to plan an episode around it, ever since the beginning of 1994. He originally thought it would be a great opportunity for Duchovny, but the comatose character was changed to Scully after the series' production staff were forced to deal with actress Gillian Anderson's pregnancy.
  • The writing duo of Morgan and Wong also intended to feature a side of the paranormal that they felt was very hopeful - the phenomena of angels, hope and peace - because the series, so far, had been, at least in Morgan's opinion, very dark and bleak. Morgan believed that the whole theme of the episode was summed up by Scully's sister, Melissa, when she says to Mulder, "Just because the belief is positive and good doesn't make it silly or trite."
  • This episode is the first in the series to feature the idea of Dana Scully having a sister and the first in which that specific sibling appears. This episode is also the second of only two that feature an appearance by the sisters' father, William, and the only time - apart from a possible background appearance, in a single scene of "Beyond the Sea" - that the sisters' brother, Charles, appears. Similarly, William Scully was never named before this episode but the naming of his eldest son - Bill, Jr. - in this episode marks the first time that his name can be inferred. This is all consistent with the comparatively heavy use and introductions of the Scully family by Morgan and Wong, having previously written "Beyond the Sea", which not only includes the aforementioned first appearance of William Scully and the possible presence of his rarely seen son, Charles, but also the introduction of William's wife and his children's mother, Margaret, who also reappears in this episode.
  • The role of Melissa Scully, Dana's sister, was written specifically for actress Melinda McGraw, who had previously worked on The Commish, a series created by Morgan and Wong.
  • The character of Nurse Owens was named after Morgan's grandmother.
  • The alias "The Thinker" was inspired by the Internet pseudonym "DuhThinker", used by Yung Jun Kim - a highly knowledgeable online fan of The X-Files.
  • This episode also marks a development of the character "X", after frustrations had arisen regarding Steven Williams, the actor portraying this character. Even though Glen Morgan had initially complained that the character was too similar to "Deep Throat", he believed that Steven Williams was a good actor and that this allowed the writers to include the scene where X performs an execution. Morgan also came to define the two characters by realizing that, whereas Deep Throat had been willing to lose his own life for revealing the secret, X was still scared and his character was figuratively somewhere between Mulder and Deep Throat.
  • Director Robert Goodwin initially instructed Morgan and Wong to minimize the scene in which the Cigarette Smoking Man is confronted by Mulder, due to Goodwin's assumption that actor William B. Davis would be able to do little more than appear, smoking a cigarette - the task that Davis had originally been hired to perform, for the pilot episode of The X-Files. Despite similar fears from other members of the production crew, Morgan argued that Davis, an acting teacher, was also a capable actor. Goodwin discussed the character of the Cigarette Smoking Man and his role in the episode with Davis, and the director was ultimately impressed by the actor's performance.

Other Episode NotesEdit

  • This episode was originally planned to be produced immediately after "Ascension" but was not ready to be filmed when time for its production initially came and "3" was therefore produced first, as an extra episode, resulting in Season 2 ultimately having twenty-five episodes, rather than the twenty-four that was the standard quantity for each season.
  • This was the first episode filmed after Gillian Anderson gave birth to her first child. The filming of her scenes from this episode began on 5 October 1994, ten days after the delivery of her daughter, Piper. "It was rough," she admitted. "I was on Tylenol and codeine." (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 3,  p. 27) Anderson spent much of her time on the set lying on tables or beds in a hospital gown. Occasionally, she fell asleep between takes while filming these scenes. According to James Wong, the biggest problem in the creation of the episode was in postproduction, when the production crew, who unfortunately could do nothing about the problem, realized that signs of Anderson's recent pregnancy were highly noticeable.
  • This episode was, according to Chris Carter in or before 1996, one of the most popular episodes of The X-Files. Although Carter thought that some people at Fox didn't like the episode, due to the fact that its paranormal content is minimal, the episode was received on the Internet as one of the series' best. Director Robert Goodwin noted that the episode was highly unusual for The X-Files because it was more about human emotions, drama and relationships than about the series' usual material. James Wong admired the episode, appreciating Duchovny's performance therein.
  • For his work on the episode, Director of Photography John S. Bartley, was nominated for an Emmy award in the category of Cinematography for a Series.
  • The Cigarette Smoking Man's address, 900 West Georgia, is the address of the Fairmont Hotel, Vancouver.


  • Although he is merely referenced in this episode, "The Thinker" later appears in the Season 2 finale, "Anasazi".
  • Similarly, even though this episode shows William Scully, Jr. in his boyhood only, an adult version of the character (played by Pat Skipper) would subsequently appear in the Season 4 finale, "Gethsemane", before returning in Season 5's "Redux II" as well as the two-parter "Christmas Carol" and "Emily". Child versions of both him as well as his sister, Dana, reappear in "Christmas Carol".


Main Cast

Guest Starring




Washington D.C.; snake; BB gun; amino acid; The Thinker; Northeast Georgetown Medical Center; branched DNA; genetic engineering; biological marker; respirator; hacker; .40 caliber; Sig-Sauer P228; blood; laundry; execution style; Starbuck; Ahab; 900 West Georgia Street; harmonic convergence; Vietnam; USMC; Superstars of the Super Bowl

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