1975 was a year of major change for UNIT. It not only featured the departure of the UNIT Doctor as UNIT scientific advisor and his temporary replacement by the Bohemian Doctor, but also saw the departure of key UNIT player Captain Yates due to the Golden Age Scandal as well as the beginnings of journalist Sarah-Jane Smith's noted association with both UNIT and the Doctor Agents. In addition, it saw the beginning of a gradual downsizing of UNIT's military role and escalation of administration - which would be particularly evident in the late 70s and the 80s.
In January 1975 a number of prominent British Scientists disappeared. In response to this, UNIT gathered as many other scientists as they could find into a protected compound and started investigating the disappearances. According to the family of one of the scientists who vanished and returned, they were given no explanation for the abduction. and their relative refused to talk about it.
No ransom notes were received, and upon their return, the missing scientists refused to talk about what had happened. All of them claimed that no-one would believe their story. Whilst the press were definitely informed about the abductions and UNIT's prevention plans, no story was published about this or the potential crisis this represented.
However, one young journalist, Sarah-Jane Smith sneaked into the compound by passing herself off as her aunt Lavinia, a respected virologist. This was the beginning of what became a continuing association between Miss Smith and UNIT.
Whilst no explanation of events was offered to the public, Miss Smith's first published short story, Irongron's Star, bears some resemblance to this event and centres around a trip backwards through time. Whilst such an explanation is possible, it is very improbable. Many of Ms Smith's stories are very similar to some of the UNIT-related events with which she has been involved. Whilst names have been changed, and UNIT is never mentioned, these stories expertly weave science fiction elements around the established facts. The other aspect of Miss Smith's story - an alien abduction - is much more likely as an explanation. This would explain UNIT's involvement and, possibly, the eventual return of the scientists.
Later in January 1974, UNIT were apparently behind the closure of a new tourist attraction called Space World on Hampstead Heath. The owners, a company called The Parakon Corporation, subsequently vanished - after a very short existence, which left very few records of their existence. Space World's "aliens" were exposed as hoaxes.
In March 1975, UNIT was directly involved in the biggest scandal of the Thorpe government, Operation Golden Age. The events that brought this to light began with an evacuation of London. This operation was co-ordinated and executed by UNIT, though it was ultimately under the control of the prominent MP Sir Charles Grover - the man at the centre of the scandal. The official explanation was that there were warnings about a hallucinogenic nerve gas attack. The implication was that this was the IRA or Victor Magister's group. Coverage in the underground press reported as fact that London was attacked by Dinosaurs. These stories drew on a number of eyewitness accounts claiming to have seen such creatures. However, a number of the witnesses quoted have been shown to be unreliable. Press reports labelled the dinosaur sightings as being connected the escape of a number of lizards from Regent's Park Zoo.
Charles Grover was in charge of the top secret Operation Golden Age, The operation involved recruiting 200 people, including such notable public figures as athlete John Crichton, novelist Nigel Castle and Lady Collingford. Placed in seven different replica spaceships, these people were hypnotised into believing that they were en route to a new planet unscarred by pollution. The exact details of how Grover intended to convince the colonists that they had arrived on such a planet is uncertain, but the evacuation of London must have been the first stage in his plan.
A highly edited, but even so comprehensive, account of the incident was printed in Metropolitan as an exclusive, written by Sarah-Jane Smith. The resultant scandal, and media questions into the whole affair, caused the Thorpe government more problems than anything else that happened during its term of office. Ultimately, the scandal caused the fragile arrangement that had prevailed since the previous election to collapse. There was a full-scale public enquiry into how Grover had been able to use large sums of public money to set up this scam and how it had been kept a secret, not just from the general public, but also from most of the government.
Remarkably, the evacuation of London was almost entirely forgotten within just a few months of the event, and the dinosaurs that so many reported seeing at the time were completely forgotten by almost everyone within the same timescale. Presumably those who saw dinosaurs decided that they were just hallucinating or were too embarrassed at seeing something as ludicrous as dinosaurs rampaging in London that they refused to admit they had seen them.
One of the consequences of the scandal was the resignation from UNIT of Captain Mike Yates, who may have been amongst Grover's co-conspirators.
In March 1975, UNIT was involved in an incident at a Tibetan monastery in Mummerset. Whilst the incident was not publicised at all, there are some details available to us. We know that UNIT were called in to the monastery by retired UNIT officer Mike Yates and that the UNIT Doctor was involved, this being his last recorded appearance. The documents we have seen suggest that a group of people within the monastery were engaging in subversive activities. Although details are sketchy, the incident appears to have been responsible for the death of the abbot of the monastery and there is a suggestion of extra-terrestrial involvement.
In July 1975, UNIT had to deal with yet another major government scandal. The whole thing revolved around the Thorpe government's most important science project. Think Tank had been established by the Wilson government in the mid 1960s as a centre of scientific research. It was partially funded by the government, and aimed to keep great minds within the UK.
When Heath's Tories assumed power in 1970, they were anxious to avoid the Bad Science scandals that played such a crucial role in the fall of the first Thorpe government. Their solution was to place the semi-regulated Think Tank at the centre of its science programme, a policy that continued through the subsequent Thorpe and Wilson governments. However, there was one problem that neither government saw coming. Think Tank had a substantial number of members who were also part of the Scientific Reform Society (SRS), a subversive secret society.
UNIT's involvement began when they began investigating a number of high-tech thefts. The thefts led them to the SRS just at the time that SRS members attempted to steal nuclear control codes from several world governments. This was, according to some reports, directly connected with what was described by eyewitnesses as a rampage by a giant robot.
The official report made no mention of such a robot, but instead blamed the destruction on freak weather conditions coinciding with a military exercise. There was no firm evidence of any giant robot still being around after the rampage, but this seems to have been the end of the SRS's attempt at world domination. The resultant scandal, although less severe than that following the Golden Age Scandal, caused the government a number of major problems.
One consequence of the scandal was the dismantling of what was left of Think Tank, even after a purge of SRS members. The funding that would have gone to Think Tank was transferred to a number of separate research centres, mostly Universities, and the incident almost certainly played a vital role in Wilson's decision to resign later that year. The incident may also have played a role in the victory of Shirley Williams over both Michael Foot and James Callaghan in the subsequent Labour leadership contest.
In September 1975, UNIT were involved in the clear-up operation following a severe crisis in the North Sea. Newspaper reports claimed that the deaths of large numbers of workers in North Sea rigs were due to an unusual virus spreading unusually fast in the confined space on rigs. There is, however, the possibility of a much more sinister explanation.
Following an unusual pattern of pressure variations in gas pipes, and the loss of contact with one of the affected rigs, staff at the Central South gas refinery cut off the gas supply to the southern regions of the country. Records show that they notified the European Energy Agency in Hague, and Megan Jones of the UK Energy Authority in London. UKEA records indicate that Jones flew straight to the refinery, with the intention of ordering that the supply be turned back on immediately. The continued interruption of supplies for several hours afterwards shows that she was not initially successful in this.
Records also show that Jones authorised helicopter flights over the twenty or so rigs connected to Central South, and that communications with these rigs was lost for those hours. What happened next is buried in the confused nature of a number of personal reports, each of which recounts events as recalled by different individuals. The overall picture is that the seaweed reported to be covering the rigs was identified as the cause of the problems. Two attempts appear to have been made to destroy the weed. The first, involving oxygen, was halted when the oxygen supplies were discovered to have been tampered with. The second, a sonic attack on the weed, appears to have been successful.
Some of the confused details in the reports include the kidnap of a girl who had no authorisation to be on the site, an appearance by the Elusive Doctor, and the weed being identical to an eighteenth century legend. Although some of these reports appear to make no scientific sense, there must have been something that prompted these events. Even though the idea of a sentient seaweed species attacking people is ludicrous, staff at the refinery clearly believed that that was what happened, even if they suggested alternative cover-up explanations for what happened.
Whilst UNIT's reactions on clear-up duty are not known, we can assume that they were able to discover the facts of the event. As we have no access to the clear-up reports, we are only able to speculate. Whether the seaweed was attacking of its own accord, a chemical attack was being planned, or somebody had somehow convinced the staff that they were under attack from seaweed, the incident was a very clear threat to the continued exploitation of North Sea gas reserves.
In December 1975, UNIT were involved in a series of investigations in the vicinity of Loch Ness. The investigation began with a series of incidents on Scottish oil rigs. Although it is interesting to note the parallel with the North Sea Crisis in September, there is no firm evidence for a link between the two. Documentation tells us that these incidents bore the signs of an attack by unknown forces. The exact nature of the attacker is impossible to ascertain from the documents we have available. The motives the attacker are also unknown, as the only groups with a reason to attack the UK were, as far as can be known, incapable of attacking north sea oil rigs in the manner described.
Immediately following the initial investigation into the oil rigs, UNIT started investigations in the small village of Tullock on the shores of Loch Ness. According to some sources in the British intelligence community, the investigation, although not at all concerned with the loch, managed to discover the truth behind the infamous Loch Ness Monster. Unfortunately, our sources declined to comment on what this truth was. The Loch Ness investigation followed on directly from the investigation into the oil rigs. Presumably UNIT found evidence that the oil rig attacks were being co-ordinated from Tullock. Whether the investigation is connected to the World Energy Conference
happening in London at the time and, perhaps more significantly, to the reported appearance in the Thames of a creature fitting some descriptions of the Loch Ness monster is a matter of speculation.
Perhaps the best theory that we can create as to the actual course of
events is that someone in Tullock created a submarine that, on surfacing, would look like Nessie to the average observer. Such a submarine could have been used to attack the oil rigs as a warning to the World Energy Conference and then piloted to attack the conference for some reason. Unfortunately, there is no evidence of a motive for such a course of action by anyone.