Aliens in Cardiff

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Joyce: Why Canada?
Head Alien: I figgered "Who'd f***ing notice?" Goddamn was I right.

Looking for a place to set the disaster of the week/alien invasion/supervillain's base/origin of the bad guys etc? Well, you can use the classics: New York, Tokyo, London or Paris for the first three and places like Russia, North Korea or the Middle East for the last. Of course, you may think that's too cliché. Another alternative is having the last three take place in a fictional town in the middle of nowhere and have the villains come from some equally-fictional Ruritania or Qurac.

Or you may Take a Third Option. Have the center of the plot be in an actual place, but some relatively harmless semi-known non-exotic location which makes you ask "Why THERE, of all places?". That is the basis of Aliens in Cardiff. Are aliens landing in UFOs? They'll land in Johannesburg, South Africa, or Roswell, New Mexico. Is there a neighborhood full of world-class martial artists with superhuman powers? It's in Luxembourg. Is there a magical gateway between worlds? It's in Cornwall. Is a Hellmouth opening? It's opening in Cleveland. One of them, anyway. Is there a mysterious gigantic cavern hidden just beneath the earth's surface, wherein aliens once upon a time created all life on earth? It's underneath Sugarloaf Mountain.

This is sometimes Played for Laughs, though in most cases it rather realistically points out events do happen in the world outside its largest cities. The trope namer is Doctor Who and subsequent spin-off Torchwood. This is due to to the fact that the revived Doctor Who was produced by BBC Wales. Though Cardiff very often found itself Doubling for London or New York, Space, the Scottish Highlands for that matter.

This trope has a complicated relationship with Creator Provincialism and Small Reference Pools. What seems obscure to the global West/North can be the center of the universe to locals; the aforementioned Johannesburg is the most populous city in South Africa with millions of residents. Or consider Jakarta, which outdoes NYC in every population metric and is capital of Indonesia, which has two thirds the population of the US, but you'd hardly hear of, never mind see playing a major role, in most non-Southeast Asian media. Even the trope namer, while only crossing 1 million pop if you stretch like Hell, is still the capital and biggest city to native Welshmen.

Not to be confused with Aliens of London (though this doesn't mean they are mutually exclusive). Contrast with Canada Does Not Exist, where it's forbidden to name the semi-known location.

Examples of Aliens in Cardiff include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Soul Eater, Death City, the home of The Grim Reaper and his school, is located in Nevada. It's a play on the grimly named desert, Death Valley, which spans parts of California and Nevada. This lead to anomalies like the world's most powerful Ninja setting up base in Nevada.
  • Vladivostok gets to feature not just in one, but in two completely unrelated shows with a supernatural touch. But while Darker than Black's representation is completely accurate, Blood+‍'‍s was almost unrecognizable.
  • Mizuho-sensei of Please Teacher! lands her spacecraft in Lake Kizaki, Nagano Prefecture, presumably for the Scenery Porn. The spinoff Please Twins! is set in the same area, and their spiritual successor Waiting in the Summer ends up there during that series' climax.
  • The Maguar and the aliens fighting them in Figure 17 are confined to rural Hokkaido.
  • In Code Geass, one would have expected the capital of Britannia to be somewhere on the North American eastern seaboard, perhaps in one of the original thirteen colonies or the other Britannian (British) New World settlements. Instead, it's located in the middle of OTL Arizona, either around where Yuma (as it was located on a map) or Phoenix (going by the surrounding mountains and southwestern desert landscape) would have been.
  • Makoto Shinkai has done this multiple times:
    • Voices of a Distant Star‍'‍s Earthbound scenes take place in Saitama City, capital of the prefecture of the same name. While to the immediate north of Tokyo, it is otherwise much less populous and famous than its southern neighbour, and the average foreigner is more likely to have heard of the namesake caped baldy than actually set foot there.
    • The Place Promised in Our Early Days has "the Union" build their mysterious tower in Hokkaido. The film starts in cold, desolate Aomori Prefecture on the northern tip of Honshu, and while a midway detour to Tokyo has vital plot significance, heads back up north for the climax.
    • While 5 Centimeters per Second starts in Tokyo and returns there for its third act, much of the first act concerns Takaki's cold, lonely journey up north to Iwafune in Tochigi Prefecture. The second act takes him even further away, to the remote southern island of Tanegashima.
    • Your Name: While Mitsuha's hometown of Itomori is technically fictional, it is based on the real Hida City in Gifu Prefecture, a part of central Japan largely unknown to the outside world before this, and it is there that a fragment of the comet Tiamat lands.
  • Kamichu! is set in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture. While no tiny town and genuinely having many religious sites in reality, it's still quite out of the way and a far cry from Kyoto, Ise or any of the other places most might think of as significant.

Comic Books

  • In Halo: Uprising, when a captured UNSC Soldier is tortured by the Covenant, he tells them the "Key of Osanalan" is in Cleveland. It was a ruse to keep them from glassing the city where his brother was living.
  • In Gold Digger, the Diggers family lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Consequently, all the supernatural and superscientific friends, enemies, and acquaintances they make during the course of their globe-trotting and multiverse-hopping adventures inevitably end up finding their way there.
  • The Jaime Reyes runs of Blue Beetle deviated from the standard "stick the hero in a counterpart of a real-world city" DC formula by having Jaime patrol... El Paso, Texas.
  • In the 4-issue Great Lakes Avengers series, Maelstrom manages to create his universe-ending device successfully, and has only the titular D-List team to face him. He notes that he succeeded in creating his doomsday device because he didn't go to a major city like Los Angeles, London, or New York, but instead went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin!
  • Alpha Flight is superheroes in Canada.
  • Pretty much the whole point of The 50 State Initiative. A super Hero team for every state, even Iowa. And of course, our friends The Great Lakes Avengers patrol Wisconsin as The Great Lakes Initiative.
  • In Alan Moore's first Swamp Thing story line the Justice League of America is caught completely off guard when the Floronic Man makes his move.

Green Arrow: Man, I don't believe this! We were watching out for New York, Metropolis, for Atlantis... But who was watching out for Lacroix, Louisiana?

  • Howard the Duck was based in Cleveland.
  • ROM Spaceknight: a major center of the Dire Wraith invasion is Clairton, West Virginia.
  • Eduardo Risso's (with scripts by Barreiro) "Parque Chas" turns this into a joke, setting a detectivesque comic writer in the very quiet, middle-class, small and residential neighbourhood of Parque Chas, in Buenos Aires, where a lot of crazy paranormal stuff is going on due to a dimensional gate. The craziest part is that there are indeed urban legends about Parque Chas, due to its weird circular streets.
  • An escape pod carrying the infant survivor of an otherwise extinct alien species crash lands in.... Smallville, Kansas. Of course.
  • Empowered has a ninja clan in New Jersey.
  • The Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run into all kinds of supernatural crap. It's easy to overlook when they're in New York, but it feels jarring when they're constantly running into aliens and eldritch abominations in Northampton, Massachusetts.
  • Post-Civil War Asgard floating over Broxton, Oklahoma, anyone?

Fan Works


Claire: "I asked myself, where would people never notice a town full of robots? *mocking gasp* Connecticut!"

On the Twenty-third day of the month of September, in an early year of a decade not too long before our own, the human race encountered a deadly threat to its very existence. And this terrifying enemy surfaced, as such enemies often do, in the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places...

  • Bloodshot: Rising Spirit Technologies is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and other rarely-seen places featured include Mombasa, Kenya, Budapest, Hungary, and East Sussex, England.


  • The first Martian ship to reach Earth in The War of the Worlds lands in Horsell Common in Woking, Surrey. Orson Welles' radio production, and many subsequent adaptations, move it to Grover's Mill, New Jersey.
  • The small town of Illium, NY, is where the world-destroying substance Ice-9 is developed in Kurt Vonnegut's classic Cat's Cradle.
  • In The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein, aliens invade Grinnell, Iowa (changed for very little good reason to Ambrose, Iowa, in The Movie).
  • Daniel Pinkwater likes setting the weirdness in his books in odd places like Hoboken (The Hoboken Chicken Emergency) or other obscure towns (Yobgorble: Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario). And that's when the weirdness isn't happening in Hogboro...
  • In Roger Zelazny's Doorways in The Sand, the rogue terrorist threatening the world (or at least threatening the world's good relations with its new alien friends) does indeed turn out to be Australian.
  • The Captain Underpants series takes place in Piqua, Ohio, a real city with a population of a little over 20,000.
  • Good Omens has Lower Tadfield, an unremarkable village somewhere in rural (probably) Oxfordshire, as the location of Anti Christ and start of the Apocalypse.
  • The short story "On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy" by Desmond Warzel is a literal case of Aliens in Cleveland; well, actually, aliens in the upscale suburbs of Gates Mills and Lyndhurst (apparently even extraterrestrials have standards).
  • The first scouting sortie of the alien collective in Alan Dean Foster's A Call to Arms encounters as its first human contact a musician in a fishing boat off the coast of Belize.
  • The events of Scott Westerfeld's Midnighters trilogy takes place in Bixby, population: 13,000. Though the location is important to the plot.
  • The Chrysalids portrays a surviving enclave of civilsation after an implied nuclear holocaust. Naturally it's in Newfoundland (althought New Zealand seems to be doing pretty well too.)
  • Twilight is set in Forks, Washington, a place the residents have barely heard of. Another vampire clan lives in Denali, Alaska. Considering they've been there for a while and how rural, scenic and insular these places are, this may also overlap with Lovecraft Country.
  • In the novels of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, the largest vampire population—and the headquarters of the eponymous secret society—is in Caldwell, NY. Yep.
  • The Mercy Thompson series of books, sure people know OF the Tri-Cities in Washington, but few can name all three, and remember this is three cities that take up the same amount of mileage as the ONE city that Washington is known for.
  • An entry for the Bulwer-Lytton worst-first-sentence contest discards the Big City and sets the putative action in a more unlikely venue:

"It had been three days since Torfongu had eaten Los Angeles, and now he sat staring down at Bakersfield...a tasty little morsel, indeed."

  • The Gerosha Chronicles makes heavy use of this for almost all its entries. The Tragedy of Lord Zeras happens somewhere outside Rome. First Meethlites and Rise of the Phaelites may happen on other worlds, but are immediately followed by stories like A So-Called Heretic, which happens in Lynn, MA. Experiments and Offspring shows Centipede Charlie being recruited in Joplin, MO. Emeraldon begins his superhero career in Evansville, IN. Ciem was born as Candi Flippo, in the town of Gerosha which was built on the remains of Boonville, IN. The Gray Champion's Modern Legends tales take place in Boston and Miami. Navyrope takes place in Oklahoma City. Pilltar, however, takes place in Ankeny, Iowa. Both Blood Over Water and Sorbet happen in Big Rapids, MI. Things finally culminate in Sodality, where everyone finds themselves eventually in Houston. Even in Centipede + 49, well-known towns that aren't DC or Boston are avoided. And New York is avoided like the plague. Only the non-canon Percolation takes place partially in New York - and only because it's a crossover with Marvel: Avengers Alliance.

Live-Action TV

  • The Trope Namer is the Whoniverse, which ever since the new series started made Cardiff, the capital city and most populous county of Wales and the headquarters of BBC Wales (the producers of the show), a Weirdness Magnet courtesy of a dimensional rift. This trope is repeatedly lampshaded by several characters in both Doctor Who and Torchwood by their dumbfounded reactions to the thought of supernatural stuff happening in Cardiff. While the Doctor only visits Cardiff on occasion (to "refuel" the TARDIS) the first two series of Torchwood are set there.
  • An episode of My Hero (TV) had Thermoman stop an abandoned Russian space station from crashing into the center of Grimsby.
  • Used in a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch about aliens who come to destroy "the very heart of civilization." Their target: New Pudsey.
    • That's just where they started. Their ultimate goal was Wimbledon.
  • Frequently used in The X-Files (e.g., a building full of identical clones in Allentown, Pennsylvania; a shapeshifter assassin in Syracuse, New York).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer makes occasional references to a second Hellmouth in Cleveland.
    • In fact, Cleveland is rather frequently a subject of this trope, hence its alternate title, Aliens in Cleveland. It's part of a long-Running Gag in popular culture that Cleveland is a depressing hellhole of decay, corruption, and a river of fire. The city's demonic influence permeates into its residents, who actually like it there.
      • It's got a really great orchestra through.
      • And it does Rock.
  • The Roswell episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had Nog fabricate a story about alien conquest of earth, randomly pointing to the initial landing site on a map (next to a 'blue blob'). The soldier who is listening to him leans in and exclaims, "Your people are going to invade... Cleveland???"
  • One of the 'unseen' scenes from Harry Hill's TV Burp parodies an occurrence of this in some drama or other; a long list of cities scrolls past, from "Lagos", "New York", "Tokyo", and then the map zooms in and the final location affected is revealed: "Norwich". Harry starts to go into a panic: "But where will we go to see puppet dramas without the Norwich Puppet Theatre? And where will we buy our many varieties of mustard when The Mustard Shop is destroyed? Oh no!" (Aside Glance) "I'm kidding. I love Norwich!"
    • It's Eleventh Hour. They were listing cities that would be destroyed by rising sea levels. The paradox was that they wanted to list a British city for impact but retain scientific accuracy, and that was the narmy result.
  • In the pilot of Star Trek: Enterprise, an interplanetary incident is set off when a Klingon crash-lands in... Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Since only very few parts of the world lie close to major urban centers, something falling from space crshing in the middle of nowhere actually makes a lot of sense.
  • Being Human (UK) has vampires planning a vast global empire from their headquarters in Bristol, England.
    • Lampshaded by George, who directly asks the question of 'Why Bristol?'
    • And later, in season 3:

Mitchell: It can't happen like this! Not here! Not in WALES!

  • Charlie Jade takes place in three alternate universe versions - one dystopian, one ecotopian and one normal - of Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Other than the occasional Hollywood haunting, all of the action in Supernatural takes place in small- to mid-size towns, mostly in flyover country. Big Bads have been vanquished in Jefferson City, MO; South Dakota/Wyoming; New Harmony, IN; and Ilchester, MD. Funny how all of the above (including Hollywood) seem to have the same general climate...
  • Heroes goes all over the place. The most prominent cities are major population centers (New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles), but plenty of other locations are visited. Claire Bennet (and one of Primatech's major facilities) is in Odessa, TX. The Volume Three finale is set in Hartdale, NY and Fort Lee, NJ. The plane carrying all the heroes at the start of Volume Four crashed in Oklahoma.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun is set in Rutherford, Ohio. The place is fictional, but it's obviously meant to be a typical Midwestern town.
  • 24:
    • The state of Ohio in general seems to be awfully prone to this. Midway through season 7 of 24, Colonel Dubaku targets a pesticide plant just outside Kidron, Ohio (pop. 30,000), for his next terrorist attack.
    • A season of 24 features a significant plotline involving terrorists in Palmdale, California, a mid-sized city several hours outside of the greater LA area. It's justified by the fact that the terrorists are hiding out and intend to target major cities when they're ready. It's also small enough to get nuked without completely changing the world in which 24 takes place.
  • True Blood, and The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries the show is based on, are set in Bon Temps, a fictional suburb of Shreveport, Louisiana. Most of the action is split between the two locations. The characters have also traveled to Dallas, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Nevada.
  • The flourishing gay community in the American Queer as Folk is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city otherwise almost never seen on American television—unlike the locale of its UK source material, Manchester, which surfaces regularly on British TV. Pittsburgh was picked as a blue collar steel town with similarities to Manchester's industrial roots—not that you see a lot of blue collar types in the American QAF.
    • And Pittsburgh is doubled by Toronto anyway—lampshaded when the main characters visit Toronto for a gay wedding.

Tabletop Games

  • Subverted-by-Real Life example: The designers of Shadowrun originally picked Seattle for their game's home base, because as large North American cities went, it was relatively obscure in pre-90s pop culture. Little did they suspect that movies, TV shows, grunge and Starbucks would conspire to elevate Seattle's cultural prominence in the years to follow.

Video Games

  • In Tomb Raider: Legend, we learn that King Arthur's tomb is under a tacky Camelot tourist trap... in Cornwall.

Lara: As in take the M5 to the A30 Cornwall?

    • Though, to be fair, Cornwall is pretty relevant in the context of Arturian legend.
  • A level of No One Lives Forever 2 has you fighting an army of ninjas... in Akron, Ohio.
    • There are a bunch of nukes under Akron. Not that many people know that...
  • Infocom's Leather Goddesses of Phobos has the player start in a bar in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
  • In Resistance: Fall of Man, there are aliens in Cardiff. Of course, they are all over Southern Britain.
  • In Half-Life, the invasion of earth by extradimensional aliens starts in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Somewhat justified as an old missile research facility from the cold war is currently occupied by the worlds leading team in interdimensional travel research.
    • And in Half-Life 2 the office of the entire planet's military administration is located in a small city at the Black Sea. Which coincidentally is exactly the same place where the few survivors of Black Mesa have created their secret rebel headquarter. Though it might have been the cities exceptionally high rebel activity that caused the administration to relocate there.
  • Any level in the Halo series that takes place on Earth is set in Africa, specifically New Mombasa and Voi. Also, one of Earth's space elevators is located in New Mombasa, making it less Cardiff and more Rotterdam (one of the largest ports in the world).
    • It's also the location where The Precursors build the portal to the Ark, and also located right next to the area where the first modern humans originated.
  • In Command & Conquer 3, upon landing on Earth the Scrin start off by attacking the cities in the Blue Zones. Although this more to keep the humans distracted while they go on harvesting tiberium.
  • When the Geth poked their heads out of the Perseus Veil for the first time in 300 years in Mass Effect, they went for an obscure human colony named Eden Prime. They had reasons (recently-discovered Lost Technology sample), but still.
  • Superhero League of Hoboken. Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Played for laughs in an Interactive Fiction game, where part of the backstory details Satan's arrival on Earth and his construction of a hellish citadel to house his legions and punish humanity for their sins... in New Jersey. Apparently it was a few years before people realized something was wrong.
  • Persona 4 has one of the co-creators of Japan in the game's fictional rural town.
  • In MDK, the population centres threatened with annihilation by the invading city minecrawlers were Laguna Beach, Lindfield, Livingston, Kirkaldy and Sparrow Pit. In MDK2 the city minecrawler in the opening mission was targeting Edmonton.
  • While most of the Yakuza games take place in big, famous Japanese cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and other prefectural capitals, 6: The Song of Life spends a large amount of time in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture. While not exactly tiny at over 140,000 residents in 2016, it's hardly well-known to the wider world.
  • Some levels in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance take place in Denver, Colorado. While hardly a nowhere as it's the capital of the state, it's also a place that rarely appears in popular culture.

Web Comics

  • In an It's Walky! storyline, Head Alien experiments with his new time freezing technology in a small town in Canada, leading to the exchange in the page quote. It's also an excuse for a Crossover with another webcomic, Avalon, set in small-town Canada, which was in the middle of a long hiatus.
  • In the flash series 21 (a parody of 24), plumber Al Johnstone has 21 minutes to save Norwich from a nuclear explosion.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja takes place in a heavily fictionalized version of Cumberland, Maryland. Nobody in the comic thinks anything of it.
  • Although being a very populous place, there are not many superhero stories taking place in Germany's Ruhr Area, a fact that was one of the motivations of Ruhr Area native Arne Schulenberg for creating Union of Heroes.
  • Spinnerette features superhero action in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Fairville, the town where The FAN takes place is actually the author's hometown, a real transilvanian city called Marosvasarhely.
  • The main setting of At Arms Length and seemingly main magical entrance portal to Earth is… Houston. Apparently monsters like to target Hermann Park.

Web Original

  • The PPC's main base in the real world (or "World One") is a city in New Caledonia, a French overseas territory. Nobody is quite sure why, though there are other doors to HQ scattered about Earth and the multiverse in general.
  • Brental Floss' Civilization song includes the line "learn to write before you can read and build the Taj Mahal right in Cleveland".

Western Animation

  • An episode of The Tick (animation) animated series featured a bunch of supervillains known as "The Swiss". Who were dressed in uniforms bearing the Swiss flag and wielded giant Swiss Army Knives. Led to an hilarious Cassandra Truth moment:

Die Fledermaus: Listen to me! The Swiss are invading The City!
American Maid: Switzerland is a neutral country, you goober.
Die Fledermaus: [showing his arm in a cast] YOU CALL THIS NEUTRAL?

  • Vlad from Danny Phantom lives in Madison, Wisconsin. He's a Green Bay Packers nut.
  • Partial example: While most of Transformers Animated takes place in Detroit, Megatron's disembodied head landed on the farm Isaac Sumdac grew up in near Paw Paw, a village with a population of about 3,300. It's also where the art director/lead character designer is from.
  • In Megas XLR every alien, monster, giant robot, or other assorted anime parodies all for varying reasons all attack Jersey City.
  • Lilo and Stitch has the epicenter of alien activity on Earth in Hawaii—it's not even on the biggest island, but Kauai. The fact that there weren't any major cities on the island was a plot point: Stitch can't swim so he wasn't able to immediately commence with the mass destruction he was built for.
    • Apparently the original idea was for Stitch to crash-land into a very rural area of Kansas. Possibly, they changed it to cover the aforementioned issue of why he couldn't just walk to another city.
  • Alien invasions were the order of the day in Terlawk, New Jersey on Earthworm Jim.
    • Hilariously justifed in one episode where it's revealed that one of the town's residents used to work for NASA, and spray painted "Hey aliens! I dare you to attack Terlawk!" on a satellite.
  • The Iron Giant landed in Maine.
  • In the Danger Mouse episode "Multiplication Fable" DM and Penfold investigate a spaceship crash landing in Birmingham, England.

Real Life

  • The events of Roswell, New Mexico come to mind. Aside from the odd military base, the closest notable landmark are the Carlsbad Caverns, and even that is a bit of a stretch.
    • Of course, Roswell is now a landmark, but that's because of the landing more than anything else.
    • Following WWII (and at the time of the Incident) Roswell was the home base for the 509th Bombardment Wing, the world's only nuclear strike force. Which almost certainly has nothing to do with the Incident, but it makes great conspiracy theory fuel.
    • It is also worth noting that Roswell is where Robert H. Goddard, a founding father of modern rocketry developed and tested rockets in the 1930s. A local high school is named in his honor.
    • Given that it was a facility for rocket testing, locating it as far away as possible from anything was most probably intentional.
    • That Roswell's planes are well positioned to visit China Lake—the largest bombing area on earth, which we even invite Russia over to use—the conspiracy theories have great legs; it's probable that non-US planes visit there and add more fuel to the fire.
  • Bonnybridge in Scotland has an average of three-hundred U.F.O. sightings per annum, earning it the nickname "U.F.O. Capital of the World" despite the fact it's a fairly obscure town (even in Scotland).
  • The Flatwoods monster/alien that was seen in Flatwoods, West Virginia, in 1952. The town has a population of 348.
  • The stereotypical monster/alien sighting is the redneck who lives out in the middle of nowhere.
  • A non-alien example, but when the Live 8 concert locations were announced back in 2005, with concerts in places like London, Paris and Berlin, Canada's concert venue was held in ... Barrie, a cottage town about 60 miles north of Toronto. This was much to the bemusement of many, particularly residents of Barrie.
  • The Tunguska event, largest asteroid/comet impact in recorded history, was in the middle of nowhere - fortunate, given had it hit a city it would have levelled it (and Tunguska is at the same latitude as Saint Petersburg, within one degree of latitude). Of course, conspiracy and fringe theories about the cause abound.
  • Without looking it up, can you name something about Hiroshima or Nagasaki other than the atomic bombings thereof?[2]