Tracing the lineage of the TV character trope we might today called the Scully takes us at least as far back Dr. Watson from the Sherlock Holmes stories and probably much farther if we cared to journey there. Of course, special agent Dana Scully of the FBI differs substantially from John Watson. Watson is not the sharpest knife in the drawer despite being. like Scully, a medical doctor. Watson is also less inclined to provide a logical explanation for Sherlock’s deductions because, well, Sherlock’s deductions usually are logical. What is especially interesting is that the Scully actually can be said to precede “The X-Files.”
Tony Vincenzo: Kolchak the Night Stalker
The reason that the Scully has become a TV trope in the first place is that she is there to provide a firm foundation of logical reality to the more bizarre and outlandish theories of special agent Fox Mulder. The Scully should ideally, under the best circumstances, act as the voice of reason to a partner’s seemingly crazy concepts. Not that reason will always prevail or even occasionally prevail. But you need that yin of realty to offset the yang of chasing crazy ideas. Tony Vincenzo is a sort of proto-Scully in that he appeared as the boss of Carl Kolchak a few decades before Mulder and Scully hit town. Also, Vincenzo does not necessarily provide logical alternatives to Kolchak’s stories of monsters. But as the editor of a newspaper he clearly is there to keep Kochak in line.
Kate Beckett: Castle
One of the most recent additions to the growing gallery of TV characters who fit the trope of the Scully is Kate Beckett on “Castle.” Castle may initially and briefly entertain the idea that vampires and ghosts and zombies are to blame for murders in New York City, but homicide detective Kate Beckett is there to stamp out those fires of creativity almost immediately.
Shawn Spencer: Psych
One of the few tweaks to the Scully to be found on TV can be found on “Psych.” You might think that the guy pretending to be the psychic detective is the Mulder while his associated Gus is the Scully. This is not the case. It is Gus who usually gives in to flights of imagination. Of course, Gus is more afraid of the supernatural and occult and unexplained than Fox Mulder, but they definitely share DNA. Meanwhile, Shawn, the guy who really solves the crimes at hand, is placed in the Scully. He is not really psychic and doesn’t believe in that or anything else that could explain the crimes. He is highly observant and just as much a slave to logical explanations agent Scully ever was. Maybe more so.
Detective Murdoch: Murdoch Mysteries
But don’t go thinking that “Psych” is the only murder mystery on TV that tweaks the Scully. “Murdoch Mysteries” is a Canadian cop show in which the titular character is not just committed to factual evidence as agent Scully or Shawn Spencer, but he is way ahead of his late Victorian-era time when it comes to being on the cutting edge of fingerprints, wiretapping and a host of other technological advancements in crimefighting that arrived with the 20th century. So if Murdoch is the Scully, then who is his Mulder? Constable Crabtree. A slightly younger member of the Toronto constabulary who possesses a much richer imagination for the unexplained than Murdoch while also managing to share his passion for the latest in police tools that are guaranteed to do away with much of the unexplained aspects involving in solving murder.