Why that number in Doctor Strange 2 got cheers in the cinema

Doctor Strange
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

As with all Marvel movies, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness features a couple of Easter eggs that are likely to fly over the heads of those who haven't read the comic books. If you consider yourself the latter, it's not so difficult to work out why fellow cinemagoers are cheering over *those* cameos, but one number-based nod in the superhero sequel might left you puzzled.

If your theater experience was anything like ours, people may have chirped up when Rachel McAdams' Christine Palmer referenced "616". So, what’s the deal? What does the number mean? All will be explained in our guide to Doctor Strange 2's biggest deep cut: Earth-616.

Spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness follow. You have been warned!

What does Earth-616 in Doctor Strange 2 mean?

After Doctor Strange and America Chavez end up in the Illuminati’s universe, they are met by a familiar-looking scientist at the Baxter Foundation: Christine Palmer.

She explains that, to keep tabs on all the different universes, each one is allocated a number. The MCU’s Doctor Strange is from the "designated universe 616." Christine’s universe, for those keeping track, is 838.

616 carries a great deal of significance in Marvel. Earth-616 is the official name of Marvel’s mainline ‘canon’ universe in the comics, where the vast, vast majority of stories have taken place since Marvel's inception. It is also, according to Christine, now the name of the MCU’s universe in the movies.

It's unclear if the name will be carried forward but, given the importance of the number in Marvel's comics, it's likely that fans will adopt Earth-616's name to use interchangeably when referencing the MCU's Sacred Timeline/the 'main' universe from now on. So, if you see someone talking about '616', that's why.

Bizarrely enough, this isn’t the first time ‘Earth-616’ has been namechecked in the MCU. It was previously used by Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home. There, he said that Peter Parker’s universe was designated ‘616.’ In retrospect, knowing what we know about Mysterio, this was an absurdly lucky guess and nothing more than a coincidence.

If nothing else, this is a neat rewriting of canon and a fun wink to fans of the Marvel comics: Earth-616 is an Easter egg that many won’t pick up on but, for those who do, it’ll mean the world.

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Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.