In the Whoniverse (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sarah Jane), do the good people of Earth know about alien and paranormal activity? If so, what do they know, and how do they learn it?

Lots of stories seem to involve very obvious events that would certainly be noticed by the public (Kill the Moon, the Christmas Invasion, etc). Was information about these events repressed? OR are they known and accepted by the world at large? If so, why does everyone seem so surprised by the Doctor and his technology?

  • 2
    The spaceship crashing into Big Ben in series 1 (Slitheen episodes), and the other spaceship over London in The Christmas Invasion were widely known and repeatedly referred to including by people who weren't directly involved. But I'm still on series 4 now, so I don't know whether these events were later somehow 'retconned' out.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 18:24
  • 2
    @randal'thor The premier of series 5 makes mention of something that might or might not hint at such a 'retcon'.
    – BMWurm
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 18:28
  • Ohh, there are lots of references of people from Earth seeing alien invasions as "normal" at some point. Unfortunately, I'm at work and can't really write the long, complete answer this question deserves. I'll try later tonight.
    – tilley31
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 19:16
  • The most recent Cybermen invasion of Earth was only one season ago, so I'm pretty sure they haven't managed to retcon that one yet.
    – Ixrec
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 19:17
  • 6
    It was a recurring joke that Donna had somehow managed to avoid being aware of the repeated alien threats at all, which implies that they were otherwise common knowledge. Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 20:32

3 Answers 3


Yes, the general public do indeed know about at least the most visible of the alien-related events shown in the series.

From Series 3 episode 1, Smith and Jones:

MARTHA: What do you think happened?
DOCTOR: What do you think?
MARTHA: Extraterrestrial. It's got to be. I don't know, a few years ago that would have sounded man, but these days? That spaceship flying into Big Ben, Christmas, those Cybermen things. I had a cousin. Adeola. She worked at Canary Wharf. She never came home.

Note that at this point Martha wasn't a Companion yet and had had no direct involvement in any of these events; she was just an ordinary Londoner, and was aware of all this extraterrestrial activity.

From Series 3 episode 11, The Sound of Drums:

SAXON: Britain, Britain, Britain. What extraordinary times we've had. Just a few years ago, this world was so small. And then they came, out of the unknown, falling from the skies. [Clip from ALIENS OF LONDON.] You've seen it happen... Big Ben destroyed, a spaceship over London. [Clip from ARMY OF GHOSTS.] All those ghosts and metal men. [Clip from RUNAWAY BRIDE.] The Christmas star that came to kill. Time and time again the government told you nothing. Well not me. Not Harold Saxon. Because my purpose here today is to tell you this... citizens of Great Britain... I have been contacted. A message, for humanity, from beyond the stars.

This was in a message broadcast on television to the entire United Kingdom, and took place before "the year that never was", so all these events are clearly common knowledge.

From the 2007 Christmas special, Voyage of the Damned:

WILF: Where have you been living? London at Christmas? Not safe, is it?
WILF: Well, it's them, up above (points skywards). Look, Christmas before last we had that big bloody spaceship, everyone standing on a roof. (points at his small TV that is showing a clip). And then last year, that Christmas Star electrocuting all over the place, draining the Thames.

Again, at this point neither Wilf nor Donna was a Companion, and Donna hadn't even told Wilf about the Doctor (she only did so in series 4 episode 1, Partners in Crime). So again, all these events are common knowledge.

From Series 4 episode 1, Partners in Crime:

DONNA (excited babbling): Cos I thought, how do I find the Doctor? And then I just thought, look for trouble and then he'll turn up! So I looked everywhere, you name it: UFOs, sightings, crop circles, sea monsters. I looked, I found them all. Like that stuff about the bees disappearing, I thought, I bet he's connected. Cos the thing is, Doctor, I believe it all now. You opened my eyes. All those amazing things out there, I believe them all. Well, apart from that replica of the Titanic flying over Buckingham Palace on Christmas Day, I mean that's gotta be a hoax!

Again Donna wasn't quite a Companion yet at this stage, but she'd heard of the events of Voyage of the Damned - and disbelieved them, interestingly enough.

So it seems that in the Whoniverse, humanity started being aware of aliens in the year 2005, and after that extraterrestrial events came thick and fast.

When the Doctor and his Companions travel back in time, the alien-related events that take place back then are always somehow hushed up (e.g. in The Shakespeare Code or Vincent and the Doctor). The first highly visible and non-retconned alien activity was apparently the Slitheen spaceship crashing into Big Ben in Aliens of London. Like the Doctor said in that episode:

DOCTOR: So maybe this is it. First contact. The day mankind officially comes into contact with an alien race. I'm not interfering because you've got to handle this on your own. That's when the human race finally grows up. Just this morning you were all tiny and small and made of clay. Now you can expand.

Which means that Big Ben crash has been reshown over and over, annoying me every time because it just looks so goofy and ridiculous. In fact it was designed to be so even in-universe! There were no real aliens inside; it was just a publicity stunt by the Slitheen, who were in fact hiding within the British government, to get attention for their own purposes. But that's neither here nor there, I suppose.

  • And that's pretty much how I would've written it. Exact same references I had in mind. +1
    – tilley31
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 23:26
  • @tilley31 Thanks. This point is something I'd been thinking about for a long time while watching DW, and it's nice to gather all these references together. (Though much harder when Chakoteya is down :-/ )
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 23:27
  • I recall the ninth doctor very clearly telling Rose something along the lines of, "This is it, this is the time humans finally become aware that they are not alone in the universe." (paraphrased) Of course, whether or not that remained true due to timey wimey... well that's covered in this answer of course
    – user11521
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 3:23
  • @Michael Good quote; added.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 0:44

Yes, the public in the Whoniverse are very well aware of the existence of aliens.

That being said, one of the conceits of the new Doctor Who (2005) reboot seems to be that that they're only aware of a few well-publicised incidents, notably the Slytheen crashing into Big Ben, the invasion of Ghosts, the Slow Invasion, the removal of Royal Hope Hospital, the Xmas Star, etc.

By contrast, they seem largely unaware of the Daleks, despite multiple invasions.


In the original series, pains were taken to prevent the public being aware of aliens. if it was a UNIT story, UNIT would clean up the evidence and implement the Official Secrets Act. In other stories it was a case of "I have a fantastic story but no-one would ever believe me."

In the new series, with everyone having cameras on their mobile phones it's just unrealistic to have alien invasions with no information leaking out.

So, in the '60s, '70s and '80s the public was not aware of aliens. In the twenty first century, they are.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.