All the words you need to know to understand the ‘X-Files’ reboot

Mulder and Scully are back, and not just in our imaginations or secret fanfiction message boards. This week, Fox released two 30 second trailers for the X-Files reboot coming out in January and the Internet is overwhelmed with excitement over the return of everyone’s favorite alien-fighting duo and the surprisingly suave look of Skinner’s new beard. Whether you’re new to the series or a longtime Sculder fan, you will probably need some sort of guide to help you keep track of Chris Carter’s endless supply of “government conspiracy” lingo. Luckily, I have generously volunteered my services for this cause. See below.


1) Greys (n.): alien species with a human-like form and grey skin

In 1947, an unidentified flying object crash-landed in Roswell, New Mexico, lighting the match that would fuel alien rumors and government cover-up theories for decades to come. According to official documents, the device that soared through the sky was nothing more than a faulty weather balloon, but Mulder knows the truth: that what was found in that desert that day was, in fact, a mysterious spacecraft filled with “Reticulians” or “grey aliens” that arrived on Earth in hopes of colonizing the planet by 2012.

2) Dreamland (n.): Area 51 nickname

Paradise Ranch. Groom Lake. The-base-that-shall-not-be-named. You can choose to call Area 51, the famed secret warehouse that supposedly stores all things alien, whatever you want but Dreamland is Fox Mulder’s title of choice. In season 4, Carter helped pen the two-part episode “Dreamland” that focused on Mulder’s visit to Area 51 and the Freaky Friday moment that resulted from it.

3) Merchandise (n.): code name for alien paraphernalia

In the season 2 finale, “Anasazi,” Mulder finds himself in a boxcar in the middle of a desert surrounded by piles of alien-human hybrids. These creatures, which begin to reappear throughout the series, go by the code word “merchandise,” referring to their status as government test subjects.

4) X-File (n.): criminal case related to the paranormal

Apparently, there is no such thing as an “X-File” in real life. The term was another invention of Chris Carter’s mind, a way to bring together one tormented criminal profiler and a skeptical medical doctor. This came as a surprise to me for some reason. I think, deep down in my nerdy mind, I secretly hope that there really is a department out there dedicated to unexplained phenomena because that would not only mean that there is enough unexplained phenomena out there to warrant the existence of such a department, but also that my dreams of meeting an intelligent, crime-fighting agent like Mulder are not all lost.

5) Black oil (n.): alien virus that inhabits human bodies

Oil is a controversial subject in the human world and in the alien world, but for different reasons. In the show, black oil (AKA Purity) refers to a dark extraterrestrial substance brought over by the Colonists that is capable of taking over the brain and forcing people to do crazy things that they would’ve never dreamed of doing otherwise. Kind of like love or Mom guilt.

6) Colonists (n.): extraterrestrial species that hope to colonize Earth with the help of the government

According to the show’s mythology, Earth was once inhabited by a group of Greys who were forced to leave at the start of the first ice age. These creatures promised to return in the year 2012 to recapture the planet, hence their nickname “the Colonists” but their plans were foiled by The Syndicate, which we’ll get to next. I’m shocked there weren’t more people talking about this conspiracy when 2012 rolled around…

7) The Syndicate (n.): secretive group composed of government agents dedicated to covertly pursuing certain global causes

This is my politically correct way of saying “a bunch of old guys that abused their political power” because that’s really what they were. Sure, they may have saved the planet once or twice by outmaneuvering the alien colonists but when they weren’t negotiating with intergalactic forces, they were doing scientific tests on humans and making Mulder’s life miserable so I’m not a huge fan.

8) MUFON (n.): group of alien abductee survivors

In the episode Nisei, Scully shows up to investigate a case only to find a group of women claiming to have been abducted by aliens. These ladies claim to be part of a group called MUFON or “Mutual UFO Network” and are particularly effective at freaking Scully out.

9) MOTW (acronym): Monster of the Week

One thing that made The X-Files so interesting was its ability to balance its mythology episodes with its standalone monster episodes. While Mulder and Scully never actually said these words on the show (that would be far too self-aware), it’s been used profusely in the fandom community by X-Philes to refer to said episodes.

10) E.B.E. (n.): Extraterrestrial Biological Entity 

Because you can never have too many synonyms for “alien.”

Featured image via Fox. Info via,, and The Baltimore Sun.


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