TV Discussion

The X-Files – Season Eleven is all a Dream and Here’s Why!

The X-Files huh? That was a wild ride. All eleven seasons and two movies of it. But I have a question. Do you remember, back at the end of season ten, when everyone, including Mulder (David Duchovny), was dying, and Scully (Gillian Anderson) was standing on that bridge looking up at the UFO light shining down on her? We were all wondering ‘How the hell is Chris Carter going to write himself out of this corner?’. And then, by the time the trailer for season eleven dropped, most of us had figured out that most of ‘My Struggle II’ was going to have been a dream. And – surprise! – season eleven did indeed open with it all having been a dream. Well, a dream of sorts. In this particular case, apparently, a vision that Scully received whilst having a seizure.

Godammit Chris Carter! You retconned it! And you played the ‘it was all a dream’ card: the laziest retcon! Now, at this point, some of you will argue that it wasn’t actually a retcon, because it was planned that way all along. And you might be right – but not for the reason you think. Right near the beginning of ‘My Struggle II’, when the camera shows a close-up of Scully’s eye – hereafter referred to as ‘Scully eye-zoom’ – it signals the end of what is real in the show, and the beginning of what is her vision, or dream. At the end of the episode we get another Scully eye-zoom, and retrospectively we’re supposed to assume that this signals the end of her dream. But what if it doesn’t? What if her dream or vision just carries on without us having realised it? What if ‘My Struggle III’ isn’t a retcon because the entirety of season eleven is actually still part of Scully’s dream?

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Now I know that early on in season eleven there were suggestions that parts of it were a dream, or an alternate universe, or even a simulation. But as the season moved on, most of these theories were rationalised and discarded, and most fans went back to believing that it was all real. But what if that’s just what they want you to believe? I’ve done my research, I’ve dug through the files, and I’ve compiled an imaginary slideshow with which I hope to convince you that the truth is that season eleven of The X-Files is in fact all a dream. And following the best traditions of conspiracy theorists everywhere I am going to include only the evidence that backs up my crazy half-baked theory and ignore everything that might contradict it.

Let’s start with the biggie: This Man. This Man (also known as Dream Man) is an urban legend, but the important thing to know about him is that his face only appears in dreams. In The X-Files he first appears in ‘This’ (for ‘This Man’?) behind The Lone Gunmen in a photo on Mulder’s desk, and it is clearly important that the audience sees it because the camera lingers on this photo, showing it three times in the first six minutes of the episode. This Man then continues to appear in various places throughout the series: on a drum, on several pinboards, on a wall, in Jackson Van de Kamp’s journal, and on a billboard. He appears in almost every episode of the season. Now, it’s been suggested that he is merely an Easter egg – a bit of fun, or that he represents Jackson/William (Miles Robbins). But I believe that he is exactly what he seems to be: a sign that everything around him is a dream. The simplest explanation is often the correct one. Ozzie’s razor, right?

Then there are things that are a bit confused, or just plain wrong, things that have changed when they shouldn’t have. Scully’s badge number is different. Previously known to be JTT0331613, in ‘This’ she states that her badge number is XF071261 (Happy Birthday Glen Morgan!). People look different. The Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), who we saw badly disfigured in season ten’s ‘My Struggle I’, looks perfectly ok in season eleven’s ‘My Struggle III’, as does the likewise previously disfigured Jeffrey Spender (Chris Owens). In a flashback to season seven’s ‘En Ami’, CSM’s dialogue has changed from what we know it originally to be. ‘My Struggle III’ opens with the title sequence tagline morphing from ‘I want to believe’ into ‘I want to lie’, and whilst most fans will assume that this applies to the horrifying claim by CSM that he is William’s father, I believe that it actually refers to the continued lie of the reality of the events of season eleven.

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The timeline is somewhat confused. Things show up where they’re not supposed to. Dates are out of order. An X-File containing a photo of Reggie Something (Brian Huskey) appears in episode two, ‘This’, before Mulder and Scully actually meet Reggie in episode four, ‘The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat’. The blobfish from episode seven, ‘Rm9sbG93ZXJz’, appears on Mulder’s pinboard in episode four. According to Mulder’s parking ticket, ‘Rm9sbG93ZXJz’ takes place on June 13th 2018 (Happy Anniversary Glen & Kristen), but ‘My Struggle IV’, according to CCTV footage of Jackson, takes place on 15th March 2018. In ‘This’, Erika Price (Barbara Hershey) speaks to Mulder as though they have met numerous times, telling him that she was advised “they’d meet over and over” – but they’ve only met once at this point.

In a show where the production assistants can accurately set clocks to 10.13 (Chris Carter’s birthday) and paint 1121 (his wife’s birthday) on a beam in a building that Mulder and Scully run through (‘My Struggle IV’), I don’t believe that they would overlook something as significant as creating an accurate timeline, or as canon as a badge number. These things are deliberate.

There are things that just don’t sit right, that seem a little off, even for The X-Files. Scully’s brain flashing Morse code in ‘My Struggle III’. Like – really? Mulder seems incredibly tech savvy for someone who couldn’t work a cell phone app last season. Light switches don’t work (‘Familiar’), as they often don’t in dreams. In ‘My Struggle III’, Agents Miller (Robbie Amell) and Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) don’t call Scully by name, and don’t seem to recognise her. In ‘This’, when Skinner asks “What is this? How did we get here?”  – what if he means it literally? In fact there are several similar instances, where the Agents are asked’ “What world are you living in?” and told “The world is different”.

A world, apparently, filled with bizarre dream imagery – bizarre even by X-Files standards. A house that turns on its owner. Strange robots that hunt and menace Mulder and Scully. A boy who looks like a shark-monster. An old friend who is dead but not quite. Two people sewn together. A book that doesn’t burn. There’s also a lot of wish-fulfilment for Scully here: getting back together with Mulder; finding William; getting pregnant again. A pregnancy that Scully herself says is “more than impossible”. And what’s more than impossible? Imaginary.

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And let’s talk about Jackson, (who, for some reason, they still insist on calling William). He can see the future, he can bend minds, he can explode heads, he holds the future of the world in his genes, and he’s seemingly immortal. He’s several superheroes (or supervillains) rolled into one teenage boy. Isn’t Jackson just a little too powerful to be let loose in The X-Files universe? Isn’t he just a bit too good to be real?

And then there’s the snowglobe. The snowglobe that Scully takes from Jackson’s room, that has the words ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’ printed on the side. Now ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’ is a phrase spoken by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and the reason that Dorothy is not in Kansas is because she is dreaming that she is in Oz. So to say ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’ is to say ‘This isn’t real. I am dreaming this’. Scully’s brain is trying to tell her that she is dreaming. She even asks, in her dream about the snowglobe, “Is this a message for me?”.

We see quite a bit of sleeping in this season too. Mulder and Scully asleep on a couch. Mulder and Scully asleep in a bed. Scully experiencing sleep paralysis. But if all of this is a dream, then anything she dreams during these times is actually just a dream within a dream. Because if the entirety of season eleven is a dream it makes a nonsense of the explanation that what she is experiencing is a vision.

Now, whether or not you have bought into the evidence so far, I think we can all agree that, based on its use in ‘My Struggle II’, a big close-up of Scully’s eye – a Scully eye-zoom – for sure means that she is dreaming. Right? And we were promised – as we’ve been promised so many times before – that answers would be forthcoming in ‘My Struggle IV’.  Well, approximately 16 mins into ‘My Struggle IV’ we see Scully staring into a mirror, having flashes of visions. We see eye close-ups although these are from previous episodes. And then, 20 minutes and 23 seconds in we finally get it – a SCULLY EYE-ZOOM! There is no question about it: Scully is still dreaming.

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If Scully is dreaming the entirety of season eleven (as well as most of ‘My Struggle II’), then we must ask the question – where is she? Is she still back in 2016, on the floor of her office, where we were told she was found having a seizure? Was that part not real? Or was that bit real, and she’s actually in hospital, in a coma, having these dreams? At what point did the dream start? What if she’s actually still back in 1999, in that mushroom cave, slowly being digested? What if, guys?

Could Chris Carter really be bold enough to pull off the mother of all cheats – a double retcon? He’s retconned before, and research suggests that once you’ve got a taste for retconning you’ll do it again and again. But at this point, trying to prove that season eleven is a dream might be a fruitless quest, because, as things stand, with Gillian Anderson adamant that she will not return to the show, it looks unlikely that we’ll get a season twelve, or at least not one with Scully in it, to wrap things up. The truth, as it currently stands, might never be revealed, or if and when The X-Files does return, we might be in for a completely different kind of retcon.

If you’re reading this after season eleven of The X-Files has been released on DVD and Blu-Ray, then you’ve probably watched all of the extras and commentaries, and perhaps their content has convinced you to dismiss this evidence as merely a ridiculous conspiracy theory, or the ravings of someone who has spent too long in the company of Fox Mulder. But remember my friends, that’s just what they want you to believe! It’s up to you to find the truth.

Did we convince you that season eleven is all a dream? Or are we just a ticking time-bomb of insanity? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think!


  1. This is a great theory but I don’t think Chris Carter and co know how to plan something this elaborate. They were flying by the seat of their pants for 9 seasons so this seems a bit out of their wheelhouse.

    1. Omg yessss!!!! Since season 11 ended I was adamant that the last few scenes verify that its a dream, because Skinner being ran over, Monica being shot in the head, CSM, and for the love of God her monologue on how he was never really her baby AFTER all these years makes absolutely NO since. These are themes that can only happen in her nightmares.I am a lucid dreamer and many things she experiences is common for lucid dreamers. But I recently read the theory, that M&S are still stuck in the cave in Field Trip. Everything that happens in Field Trip is repeated numerous times throughout the rest of the series. All of your notes are exactly what I am studying. I swear, there should be a doctoral degree for X-Philes. There’s soooo many pieces of the puzzle

  2. interesting but it’s a pretty good dream with good loners ^^
    and if i was a dream, it’s a very very big jump the shark idea from CC, the XF Killer. And i dont think viewers (still out there) will accept this another “tabula rasa”

  3. This is a very interesting series of thoughts. I’ve thought of several additions to ponder and write, including other references to sleep, death, and altered states. So interesting. I don’t believe that S11 is *literally* Scully’s dream or was written as such in the ongoing narrative, but I love the surreal additions of S11 and what they might suggest about dual realities and perception, etc. It’s a story, so I don’t think it has to have only a veridical, straightforward explanation. I really like your ideas, although I would like to see some citations on the research that suggests a propensity to compulsively retcon!

  4. I completely disagree. Inconsistencies and continuity issues do not indicate any complex dream / alternate reality plot. They indicate lack of planning and simply not caring, not paying attention. The “This Man” or “Dream Man” was basically an inside joke, as explained by Chris Carter in an interview that came out shortly after the finale. On top of that, it is known that there was very little if any interaction between writers, and no real writers room. The writers of episode seven admitted not having watched previous episodes. There are way too many out of character moments as well, such as Scully denying the existence of evil in “Plus One”, despite her belief in evil being a big part of her character after Donnie Pfaster. There are so many things that are wrong, too many to list right now, both in seasons ten and eleven. As a huge fan of the original series and also someone who absolutely despises the revival and considers it an abomination, I’d feel better about it if it were a dream, but unfortunately I see zero evidence for it.

  5. Of all the synopses I’ve read of Season 11, yours is the only explanation that makes sense to my X-Files brain. I can’t wait to receive my pre-ordered Season 11 Blu-ray and re-watch with fresh eyes. Thank you!

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