Sometimes science fiction series dissolve into acronym soup. In Marvel comics, you've got SHIELD (introduced in the Iron Man movie too), HYDRA, and AIM (not the instant messenger client, which is probably ten times as evil as the mad scientist group). And then there are all the strange organizations which secretly run the world, like the Dharma Initiative in Lost, or the The Syndicate from the X-Files. How the hell are you supposed to keep it all straight, especially when most nations already have real-life spy groups with names almost as acronym-tastic as science fiction? We've put together a list of the greatest hits of (mostly) Earth-bound conspiracy spy groups from science fiction. So yeah, that means no frakkin Tal Shiar, OK?
What does it stand for? Originally, it stood for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division. In the 1990s, it was changed to Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage Logistics Directorate. Then, in the Iron Man movie, it was changed again to Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. No idea if this final change is cannon or not. Will the comic books start calling it by its new, DHS-inflected name?
Where can you find it? Marvel comic books.
Key members: Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan, Gabriel Jones, Tony Stark, Maria Hill, Clay Quartermain
Its mission, as far as we can tell: To protect the world from bad things like Godzilla, terrorists, aliens, giant robots, and communism. In the recent series Civil War, SHIELD had to uphold the Superhero Registration Act and force all heroes to register with the U.S. government. This resulted in a major pissing match between Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D., and ended in Captain America's death. S.H.I.E.L.D. is randomly associated with the U.N. or the U.S. (People from the U.S. have a hard time figuring out the difference between their country and the rest of the world.)
Any counter-organizations? HYDRA, which is spelled in all caps but is not an acronym. Warren Ellis made fun of S.H.I.E.L.D. with a group called H.A.T.E., which stands for Highest Anti Terrorism Effort.
What does it stand for? Section Disparu 6 (French for Disappeared Unit 6)
Where can you find it? Alias TV series
Key members: Sydney Bristow (though she's tricked into it), Jack Bristow, Arvin Sloane, Jean Briault, Edward Poole (played by Roger Moore!)
Its mission, as far as we can tell: Weird spy shit. Digging up semi-mystical objects, retrieving semi-mystical objects from the bad guys, working with the CIA sometimes, killing people who know about SD-6, propagating weird family psychodrama.
Any counter-organizations? K-Directorate (with the wondrous Gina Torres) and FTL.
What does it stand for?
Where can you find it?
Get Smart TV series
Key members: Agent 86 (Maxwell Smart), Agent 99, The Chief
Its mission, as far as we can tell: To work with the United States government to protect the nation from bad guys. Usually bad guys with bombs.
Any counter-organizations? KAOS, which is a Russian group nominally headquartered in Delaware for tax reasons.
What does it stand for? United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, now shortened to Unified Intelligence Taskforce
Where can you find it? Doctor Who, Torchwood
Key members: the Doctor (in the 1970s), Doctor's former companion Dr. Martha Jones, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw
Its mission, as far as we can tell: To protect the planet, and especially England, from alien invaders. They're barely secret at all, and work with the United Nations. Their first great battle was with the Cybermen.
Any counter-organizations? None.
The Dharma Initiative
What does it stand for?Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications
Where can you find it? Lost TV series
Key members: Founders Karen and Gerald deGroot, from spooky University of Michigan
Its mission, as far as we can tell: Funded by the mysterious Hanso Corporation, its mission was to be a scientific collective where people could study meteorology, psychology, parapsychology, zoology, electromagnetism, and what is hinted to be utopian socialism (the scariest discipline of all!).
Any counter-organizations? The Others, who gassed them and took over their research stations.
What does it stand for? Not an acronym, but perhaps a metanym. It's also known as the Elders, the Consortium and the Group.
Where can you find it? X-Files TV series
Key members: The Smoking Man, X, Alex Krycek, William Mulder (Fox's dad), Alvin Kurzweil (no relation to Ray)
Its mission, as far as we can tell: Like an old-fashioned Illuminati-style group, they secretly influence world affairs in government and business. Originally they banded together to fight a group of aliens who wanted to colonize Earth using the black cancer, or black oil. But somehow they are also involved in lots of other ooky-gooey projects to hybridize humans and aliens, as well as create creepy diseases.
Any counter-organizations? The colonizer aliens.
What does it stand for? Men In Black.
Where can you find it? The Men In Black movies.
Key members: Agent J, Agent K, Agent L
Its mission, as far as we can tell: To deal with alien life on Earth, which sometimes means protecting humans from aliens but mostly seems to mean protecting aliens from each other.
Any counter-organizations? Unknown