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Pairing: Fox Mulder/Dana Scully
Alternative name(s): MSR, the Mothership, Mulder/Scully, M/S, M/Sc
Gender category: Het
Fandom: The X-Files
Canonical?: yes
Prevalence: OTP, main pairing
Archives: see Archive section
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Mulder/Scully is the main pairing in X-Files fandom. It is a het pairing between FBI agent partners Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. The pairing is commonly denoted as MSR - Mulder Scully Relationship - in fanfiction headers. This is where the term shipper comes from, a shortening of "relationshippers". The anti-fraction are called NoRoMos.

From “You’re My 1 in 5 Billion”: 18 Times The X-Files’s Mulder/Scully Ruined Us for All Other TV Romances:

In fact, I would probably go so far as to say they’ve Mulder and Sculy ruined me for all other TV romances. After all, the iconic duo have been together in some form or another (even they probably couldn’t tell you when they made the subtle switch from partners to partners in every sense of the word) for more than 21 years at this point, and I’m still just as invested in the status of their relationship as I was when it began, if not more so. (The X-Files 3, where are you? I need a fix!)** What other television romance has played out as perfectly and been allowed to flourish as beautifully?

Even after almost 25 years, it's still the most popular het pairing in The X-Files.

Pairing Name

Since the ship was created years before name-combining/name-shmashing (for example Brangelina or Bennifer) became popular in the late 1990s/early 2000s, the ship is referred to as either MSR, Mulder/Scully or The Mothership. The term Sculder is not used by the fandom at all[1] or only ironically, at least by fans of the first and second wave. Third wave fans, that joined the after ca 2012 may use the term occasionally to refer to the pairing.

IMO when they [] referred to our ship as “Sculder” they lost all credibility as a legitimate polling entity #MSR #TopTVCouple #MulderAndScullyForever #TheXFiles

ClownCarPassenger7 @JanetAmorfati on Feb 19 2018

"If you call Mulder and Scully "Sculder", everbody in Fandom will know that you were born after the Millennium *lol* #babyphile #neophile."

The Term "Shipping"

X-Files, and its time place in history as one of the first big internet fandoms, is often regarded as the fandom that started formal shipping.

The term originated in the X-Files fandom, probably on, where viewers who wanted to see a romantic relationship between Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were dubbed "relationshippers," or "shippers."

One early use of the term was in April 1996; a fan describes her story as something "I think that everyone, both R'shipper's and Non R'shipper's alike, can enjoy this story. :D." [2]

Another fan in 1996 posted: "It comes to my attention that there is a great deal of misunderstanding as to what exactly it is that we "relationshippers" want in the show. To say that we want Mulder and Scully to simply fall into bed together like would happen on any other show on TV is unfair, and patently untrue...One of the reasons we 'shippers have kept to ourselves for so long is because every time we dare to bring our opinions forth, we get words that we never spoke shoved into our mouths and then we get flamed for them..." [3]

From a fan in 2006:

I think the X Files started it when the endless "will they wont they" storyline combined with the out of control myth-arc. As the myth-arc got more inaccessible, people turned away from it to the much simpler matter of the characters shagging each other senseless. More people got online during the mid-to-late 90's, it was easier for them to get into that....

Then there's gender: Blokes don't talk about their feelings so much as a rule. They were more likely to sit around discussing the workings of the Starship Enterprise than write about Spock/Kirk getting it on. The character of Scully drew a lot more women into the budding net fandom where they discovered that they, um, were not alone. They brought all these messy feelings with them. The "will they wont they" messed up myth-arc encouraged that at just the right moment and shipping - not quite as we know it today - was born. Women then found that this new medium gave them freedom to explore the sexual fantasies they'd always had but had never before been able to express. Through the guise of becoming your favourite ship you can try out all sorts of stuff that you might never dream of doing in real life. Men wanting to see lesbians at it has generally been regarded as fine but women wanting to see two men getting on it... woah! Incest?! Go for it. S&M? Rape? Torture? Men have so much fantasy fodder provided for them, we've had to make it all for ourselves... and how we have!! We've broadened the playground and we're obsessed by the wonderland we've created for ourselves. It's a fantastical pandora's box we've opened with our silly little shipping....

It makes perfect sense that teenagers are very into this. Men fantasize alone. Women are doing it all together, which is a touch weird and goodness knows what it'll do to society. I'm hoping it's a positive effect. So shippers are pushing the envelope of our human sexual fantasies, forcing them into respectability. Fandom has become less about the shows themselves and more about making friends and exploring relationships and sexuality. Whether you perceive that as good or bad really depends on what you wanted from your fandom in the first place. [4]

From a fan in 2008:

Ah, but don't you know, to us shippers the X-File was always secondary to the Mulder/Scully stuff. ;)

I'm being only partially facetious here. Really, a number of the individual episode's "A-plots" were pretty stupid at worst and a bit ... holey at best if you thought about them too hard. The mytharc was a complete and total mess by the series end. The reason I loved the show was the characters. As I used to say back then, "The X-Files" was really a character driven show in a plot driven show's clothing. [5]

From How Horny X-Files Lovers Created a New Type of Online Fandom:

I was a “shipper,” as in, relationshipper—a category of fan yearning to see Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully fall wildly in love. The term “shipper” is now a standard word across modern day fandoms, but the term really first caught on among X-Philes. And “X-Philes” was the name fans gave themselves, a play on the Greek word for love.

The Pairing in Non-Fannish Media

Mulder/Scully are often cited by mainstream media as comparison when ever a female and a male law enforcement officers are teamed up, especially of they have opposite characters/view and have sexual chemistry, for example Booth/Temperance Brennan and Castle/Beckett. The couple has also been called the "ultimate OTP".[6]

They're also often called a perfect example for The Greatest TV Couple of all time:

Seeing these characters grow as individuals and as a team through their shared experiences, many of which were extremely traumatic and life-threatening, solidified their bond and strengthened viewers’ desire to see them just get it on already.

To be clear, The X-Files was not a show about love and loss, though there was plenty of it during the original series’ nine season run (and continuing on the current reboot). It was meant to be about the untrustworthiness of the government, aliens, and finding the always elusive truth behind weird circumstances — a truth which we were promised from the beginning was definitely “out there.” That the relationship between its two main characters eventually overshadowed all of that and even continued making the show watchable long past its original sell-by date likely wasn’t intentional. But it happened, and frankly? We should all be glad it did.

‘The X-Files’ Mulder And Scully Are The Greatest TV Couple Of All Time by Jennifer Still Feb 14, 2018 at 4:12pm,'s Alyse Was noted in her article Why Mulder And Scully Are Sci-fi's Perfect Couple:

"I am not a romantic. That is one of the reasons I love horror and sci-fi. I will take monsters and gore over smooches and talk about "feelings" any time. As someone who watched The X-Files obsessively since the very first episode in 1993, I was surprised to discover that I had, sneakily, become a Mulder/Scully shipper. I didn't officially recognize this until Season 10 began, but deep down, I think it had been there the whole time.

The way in which The X-Files handles romance is the way I always want romance handled in genre television: as a secondary or even tertiary plot, behind the monsters, the investigation, the weirdness. The pair even call each other "Mulder" and "Scully," forgoing the traditional first names that most people use when they become intimate. That's because for them, it was and is always about the work."

Why Mulder And Scully Are Sci-fi's Perfect Couple by Alyse Was Feb 10, 2018

Joshua Rothman noted in his article for the New Yorker on January 23, 2016:

"Still, the show had two real strengths, and they grew with time. The first, of course, was the gentle, intellectual romance between Mulder and Scully."

The Nostalgic Science Fiction of “The X-Files”

The Rolling Stone ranked the pairing number one in their 50 Best TV Duos of All Time ranking in 2016:

1. Mulder and Scully, 'The X-Files'

Can professional ethics, intellectual antagonism, unyielding loyalty, platonic friendship, and raw sexual tension all get along? I want to believe. Put simply, Dana Scully and Fox "Spooky" Mulder were, and are, the most complex and compelling male-female partnership ever to be put on the small screen. Mulder's fanaticism and Scully's skepticism, her cool and his heat, David Duchovny's irresistible sex appeal and, uh, Gillian Anderson's irresistible sex appeal — X-Files creator Chris Carter could not have created a better pair of FBI agents to embody his series' pre-millennium paranoia, nor cast two better actors to play them. Friends, rivals, partners, lovers — they're every great TV duo all at once, which makes them the greatest of all.

50 Best TV Duos of All Time by By Sean T. Collins April 26, 2016 ranked them third and noted:


This is definitely the most frustrating couple on this list! In almost every episode of "The X-Files," the audience hopes that Mulder and Scully will accept that they have feelings for each other and be together. For nine seasons the hope for their relationship is built up and then the show ends. All the audience is left with is more hope and two movies for the couple to finally get together. While it’s one of the most annoying love stories, in the end it’s also one of the most satisfying.

10 of the best TV couples by

Even Stephen Colbert ships it.

@gillovny1013 on tumblr

Fan Reactions

i wonder if the xf writers ever realized that their refusal to make msr explicitly romantic or sexual was actually the thing that made the ship so widely popular and revolutionary.

like, because they wanted mulder and scully to be the core of the show but they didn’t want to make their relationship a relationship, they showed them doing other things to signify closeness — such as working as a team, respecting each other, choosing each other over everything, supporting each other unconditionally, and growing together. there was no unnecessary flirtatious comments, no unreasonable jealousy, no sexualization of scully. the dynamic they presented didn’t have the power imbalance that was associated with heterosexual relationships, and scully’s characterization lacked most of the key components that a female romantic lead would normally have. because they left out all of those things, they assumed that the fanbase wouldn’t see scully as his love interest, because she was presented in an entirely un-sexual way.

but their mistake was in their neglect of acknowledging the female audience: women who had always wanted a romantic relationship with teamwork and mutual respect and unconditional support and love. women who did not see themselves as sexualized or even conventionally attractive, and who saw scully, strong and career focused and not afraid of butting heads, as what they wanted to be. women who saw mulder and scully determinedly portrayed as equals who cared deeply about each other with no condescension or objectification, both of them portrayed as actual people, and went absolutely insane, because that was what they wanted more than anything and no love story before had ever felt so profound and real.

so as the writers (read: chris carter) were creating a dynamic without objectification and sexualization in an attempt to take the focus completely off of romance, the female fans were watching this dynamic and perceiving it as the absolute height of romance, because it lacked the male perspective that they saw everywhere else. the writers were saying this isn’t a romance, and the female viewers were saying then you have no idea what romance is.




Notable Fanfiction

To see all the MSR fanfiction listed on Fanlore see Category:X-Files MSR Fanfiction




Youtube currently finds 5000+ videos for the search term msr mulder scully as of April 16th 2018 [8]






Q: i'm on season 3 of the x-files and i'm realizing it isn't really a show about aliens.
A: You’re right. It’s a show about the existential question, “are we alone in the universe?”
One character looks for answers in the sky, the other in The Book and the lab.
It takes 7 years for him to look down and her to look up and realize the answer is each other.


Meta/Further Reading

See Also