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The Millennium Effect

By Jamas Enright

‘They called it the Millennium Effect. But the millennium was only the beginning.’
- The Doctor, Unnatural History

‘I love you humans... You see patterns in things that aren't there.’
- The Doctor, Doctor Who - The TV Movie

Given a programme the main plot device of which is time travel, it is inevitable that something of the future of our world should become revealed in Doctor Who. And with the milestone of 2000, there is an increased interest in what the new millennium will bring. There are three Doctor Who stories that deal with the end of the year 1999, but some events of a few years beyond can also be determined.

December 1999 As 1999 draws to a close, concern over the Y2K problem increases, especially at the possibility of a panic nuclear attack from a Russia blinded by its computers going down. Silver Bullet announces that it has a computer component - the SB005 chip - which can solve the Y2K problem. The chip is added to every possible computer system. Too late, it is discovered that the SB005 chip will cause the very problem it is supposed to fix. (Millennium Shock)

30 December 1999 Ashley Chapel Logistics fires nearly all of its workers, leaving only a handful of employees. (Millennial Rites)

1200 GMT, 31 December 1999 The year 2000 starts, and the SB005 chip activates, sending New Zealand into a blackout, giving Aucklanders a chance to relive their experiences in March 1998. (Millennium Shock)

0000 GMT, 1 January 2000 In England, Ashley Chapel tries to rewrite the history of the Earth by use of quantum mnemonics, but this is affected by Dame Anne Travers, and the effects of the SB005 chip on Chapel's own systems. Instead, an alternative reality is brought into existence. (Millennial Rites)

0010 GMT, 1 January 2000 The alternative reality is reversed thanks the efforts of the Sixth Doctor, Melanie Bush and Dame Anne Travers, but Travers dies. There are several architectural changes to London, the pyramid on the Millennium Hall becoming a sphere, and the Canary Wharf Tower being replaced by the old Battersea Power Station. There are also several unexplained deaths. Ashley Chapel goes missing, taken by Saraquazel to explore the universe. (Millennial Rites) The Canary Wharf Tower changing shape is the tenth event on Ace's list - see below (Head Games)

0500 GMT, 1 January 2000 The effect of having a link to the Eye of Harmony opened on the planet Earth is felt. Several strange phenomena occur, such as rising tide levels and snow in Hawaii. The events are blamed on the so-called ‘Millennium Effect’. (Doctor Who - The TV Movie)

0800 GMT, 1 January 2000 The effects subside as the link to the Eye of Harmony is closed, thanks to the efforts of the Eighth Doctor and Dr Grace Holloway. At the Institute of Technological Advancement and Research in San Francisco, a new beryllium clock fails to live up to expectation as the most accurate atomic clock in the world. (Doctor Who - The TV Movie)

1200 GMT, 1 January 2000 The Voracian race attempts another take over of Earth -the first invasion occurred in 1998 (System Shock) - but is thwarted by the Fourth Doctor. The Prime Minister of Great Britain announces his resignation. (Millennium Shock)

2000 Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is promoted to General. (Head Games). The Hourly Telepress, a new news service commences (most likely delivered electronically if it is to live up to its ‘Hourly’ title). The Telepress features a comic strip called The Karkus. (The Mind Robber) The strip had already proved popular in a little-known fanzine dedicated to the Professor X show.

December 2000 More strange events affect San Francisco at Christmas, most likely involving an earlier Doctor than number eight. (Doctor Who - The TV Movie)

2001 There is an assassination attempt on the Queen of England by Dr Who and his companions Jason and Chris, to try and free England from the rule of the tyrannical monarch. The Doctor, Ace, Benny, Roz and Mel defeat them. Ace compiles a list of the top ten weirdest reported events of the century (to the end of November 2002), and in reverse chronological order, this event is fifth on the list. (Head Games)

December 2001 The Seventh Doctor, Ace and Bernice cause a lot of trouble on Earth. This was the third event on Ace's list. (Head Games)

February 2002 Lawrence Murdock tries to kill butterflies, but instead kills five people.* Due to Ace's interference in history, he only ends up killing three people. This was the second event on Ace's list. (Head Games)

November 2002 Strange events in San Francisco, including appearances by mythical animals and visiting space aliens, finally come to a head as a beast known as the Kraken nearly destroys the city. Fortunately, the Eighth Doctor manages to resolve the situation that he caused three years ago. This incident is possibly the first event on Ace's list. (Unnatural History, Head Games).

30 November 2002 Ace visits Westminster Central Library and by researching newspaper headlines, compiles a list of the top ten weirdest reported events of the century. She then sets out to visit each of these events in reverse chronological order. (Head Games)

* Lance Parkin's A History of the Universe is wrong in assigning 30 November 2002 as the day on which Murdock goes on his killing spree. 30 November is actually when Ace visits Westminster Central Library (Head Games p151). Murdock acts ‘one day in early 2002’ (p159), at which point Ace's library visit is ‘nine months hence’ (p163), making the approximate date of the killings February 2002.

The Millennium

‘You said yourself that the date and time were nothing more than theatrics.’
- David Harker, Millennial Rites.

‘Any excuse for a celebration, I suppose.’
- The Doctor, Millennial Rites.

As most pedants, and Time Lords (The Doctor on p46 of Millennial Rites), will continue to point out, the end of the millennium, and the twentieth century, is actually at the end of 31 December, 2000. It is not the end of 1999, as some people say (such as the Doctor of p126 and p307 of Millennial Rites).

However, the appeal of the number ‘2000’ is too much to ignore. But do expect people to reiterate the significance of 2001, especially when it gives them an excuse for another end of the century party! (As seen in the Star Trek: Voyager episode 11:59.)

Either way, the millennium is an entirely constructed idea, and means nothing to anyone other than humans. Indeed, the three Doctor Who stories set at the end of 1999 have nothing to do with anything in nature. Millennium Shock and Millennial Rites both utilise the computer problem with the year 2000, the Y2K bug, as their pivotal point. The Doctor Who movie could really take place anytime, and it's only for the sake of drama that the TV Movie's climax comes as 2000 hits San Francisco.

This item appeared in TSV 59 (January 2000).

Index nodes: Millennial Rites, Millennium Shock, TV Movie/"Doctor Who"