The X-Files Secretly Takes Place In An Alternate Universe

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

X-Files universe

For the most part, The X-Files presents itself as taking place in our own world. That’s a large part of the show’s appeal, of course: as Mulder and Scully discover one creepy government conspiracy after another, audiences are forced to consider what their own elected officials are deliberately hiding. However, Chris Carter once admitted that The X-Files was in its own universe, and it all goes back to his decision to change the name of a famous Air Force base.

Deep Throat

X-Files deep throat

Back in “Deep Throat,” the first episode of the show after the pilot, The X-Files presented an Air Force base that was supposedly experimenting on UFOs. Carter based this plot point on the reported claims that such experimentation was happening in the real world at the Nellis Air Force Base.

However, the show didn’t use this name, referring to this location instead as the Ellens Air Base.

Carter’s Ex-Girlfriend

When The X-Files creator first discussed his motivation for changing the name, he didn’t mention the desire to create a separate universe. Instead, in the audio commentary for “Deep Throat,” he mentioned how the name change was a way of honoring an old flame.

“I don’t know why I didn’t just go ahead and call it Nellis, but I had a high school and college girlfriend whose last name was Ellens and so this was sort of a nod to her,” he said.

A Whole New World


Later, having had a few more years to think about it, Carter had more to say about the matter in the special features of The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1.

There, he provided a simple explanation that might just change your entire perception of the series. Regarding the X-Files universe as a whole, Carter claimed, “We were sort of making our own world.”

An Alternate Universe

If we take this comment at face value, it means that The X-Files secretly takes place in an alternate universe.

It’s one that mostly appears to be the same as our own but with some special differences, including the Cigarette Smoking Man being the one who killed John F. Kennedy.

Carter’s revelation also quietly affects another major theory that The X-Files is connected to the universes of several other fan-favorite shows.

The Munchiverse And Beyond

Some of these are more obvious than others: for example, we know that X-Files takes place in the same universe as Law & Order because Detective Munch makes a cameo appearance. That also automatically connects The X-Files to the universe of other shows Munch has appeared in, including The Wire, 30 Rock, Arrested Development, and even American Dad (wait, Roger didn’t abduct Samantha, did he?).

If we count the different media that the fictional Morley cigarettes preferred by the Cigarette Smoking Man appear in, X-Files is connected to universes such as Frasier, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks, Breaking Bad, and so many more.

As you can tell, X-Files fans have their work cut out for them when it comes to mapping out how this universe is both similar to and different from our own. Carter’s reveal that he was interested in creating his own world points to the entire series as being an alternate history narrative in the vein of For All Mankind or The Man in the High Castle.

Now, if anyone needs us, we’re going to binge-watch the entire show (yes, again) to try to figure out where this show’s fictional reality breaks off from our own.