Doctor Who, the television series
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Oxford University is the location of an important new research project. Professor Bernard Saunders has discovered the chronon, a discrete particle of time. With the help of his colleague, Doctor Charles Wells, he has isolated the chronon, and constructed a particle accelerator with the aim of breaking it down to release the unimaginable energy it contains. But the project is not going well - the expected results have failed to materialize, and UNIT have been called in to investigate a suspected case of sabotage.
But there's far more going on. Oxford has been plagued by a series of grisly deaths. The local police are baffled, and the pathologists can't even find the cause of death. The Doctor soon discovers that the deaths are caused by invisible phantoms, psychic apparitions that seem to be emanating from a massive localized distortion of the time vortex - a distortion linked to the effects of the particle accelerator.
Meanwhile, two mysterious men in black are roaming the city in an old-fashioned car, hunting an elusive fugitive. They are homing in on temporal disturbances, which just happen to correspond to the operations of the particle accelerator. When Wells learns of their presence, he takes fright and goes to ground.
The Doctor soon discovers that the particle accelerator incorporates technology that can't possibly have been developed on twentieth century Earth, and realizes that Charles Wells is not what he seems, and unbeknown to Saunders, is using the accelerator for entirely his own purposes, in a desperate attempt to avoid his pursuers. But in so doing, he has torn apart the fabric of the space-time continuum, and opened a gateway for a terrifying alien force to manifest itself on Earth.
Realizing that Wells is the key to solving the mystery, the Doctor needs to find him before it is too late...
The Michaelmas Phantoms is actually the first Bullseye story I wrote. I didn't realize it was going to be part of a series at the time, so subsequently the text required a few minor edits to incorporate it properly into the Bullseye continuity. The actual story remained unaltered however.
Probably the most "traditional" of the Bullseye stories so far, The Michaelmas Phantoms continues Bullseye's claim to be "Pertwee for the Nineties". We see as cientific research project going wrong on near-contemporary Earth. (Written in 1993, the story is set in 1997.) We also see the return of UNIT, albeit in the form of two undercover operatives. I devised the character of Major Sonia McIntyre to be a semi-regular UNIT officer, intending that she would reappear in future Bullseye stories. Now I'm not so sure - the idea of UNIT is old hat, and resurrecting it, in whatever new form, is just lazy.
The story's men in black are the same figures of urban myth associated with UFO sightings and the like, subsequently featured in The X Files and their own eponymous feature film. According to different theories, they are either representatives of some secret government agency or aliens themselves, trying to cover up the evidence of their visitations. Let's face it, there's no truth in any of this, just as there's no truth in the existence of UFOs or alien abductions. I was just fascinated by the idea. What particularly struck me about alleged MIB incidents were the reports that they often dressed and acted in an old-fashioned manner, like cheap gangsters from fifties movies. I've developed this for The Michaelmas Phantoms by explaining the MIBs as time travellers from the far future, whose historical research wasn't accurate enough to tie down dress styles and behaviour patterns by more than about fifty years or so. Their function is to track down rogue time travellers from their own period, whose actions in the past might be affecting the timeline, and most particularly to cover up the evidence of such interference, even to the extent of frightening witnesses into silence. They're afraid that the Time Lords will take action against them should it become obvious how much they've let unlicensed time travel get out of hand. Needless to say, once they discover the Doctor is a Time Lord, they become somewhat more desperate...
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