In ‘Death In Heaven’ we are given an example of how the 21st century population now react to the presence of Cybermen in their midst, they take photos of them. The Doctor also believes that rather than being terrified when the roof of St Paul’s cathedral opens up to reveal more Cybermen people will be excited.
‘Kill The Moon’ and ‘In The Forest Of The Night’ also has examples of the youth of the 21st century being indifferent or more interested in social media at best when confronted with the alien or strange.
Missy certainly isn’t surprised by this behaviour as her plan didn’t need to account for the panic of the public. She knew they’d accept their presence. This indicates that she is by now very familiar with how people in the 21st century react.
This radically changes how most adventures in the 21st century will play out. Aliens and monsters can walk around in broad day light and as long as they aren’t attacking anyone people will accept their presence.
People will likely rationalise their presence, believing it to be a gimmick, performance piece or marketing ploy. This can allow non-human aliens to operate much more openly, removing the usual obstacles that prevent them from carrying out that their plans.
This would normally make detecting their presence much harder for the PCs and organisations like UNIT. Luckily social media means that people are likely to upload photos and video clips of things they find noteworthy.
The challenge would be to shift through the vast amount of media being shared and identify the real alien presence amongst the actual fakes. Luckily the PCs will likely have experience with the genuine article (or records of them) to help with the identification process.
A campaign could be based around a team (either as part of UNIT or a separate organisation) searching the internet for actual alien contact. This could send them all over the country, trying to make sense of what the aliens are up to from a single, grainy photo or shaky 5 second video clip.
The willingness of the public to disregard the presence of aliens makes UNITs job of covering up incidents much easier. The downside is that anyone trying to convince the authorities or the public they’ve seen something from another world is going to face a lot more scepticism.
Presumably the police and other emergency services wouldn’t be contact either. Unless the aliens are causing public disorder or committing crimes patrolling police officers would likely walk right past them.
You could play this for laughs with a would-be alien invader finding that the public don’t take him seriously. Aliens could find it very difficult to maintain control if every time they appear the public react with amusement and want to take their photos with them.
A darker take would be aliens exploiting this compliancy. They let people believe they are harmless until they are in key strategic positions. Things can get even worse if they infect others, using their contact to spread quickly through a population.
‘In The Forest Of The Night’ the Doctor suggests that humanity has a gift for forgetting major incidents. While this is useful for maintaining the status quo so that the setting remains similar to our own reality it is a worrying aspect of the public mentality.
PCs might find getting witness accounts of traumatic events caused by aliens more difficult if they are all in denial that it ever happened. Those who do remember might be ostracised, classed as mentally ill or imprisoned.
A campaign could focus on PCs who do remember something terrible while the rest of the public has forgotten. Their shared experiences bring them together as they try to work out what really happened and prove that they didn’t imagine it all. A major plot milestone might be when UNIT or the Doctor confirm that they aren’t crazy.
These mental blind spots could explain why history doesn’t record alien invasions. If you establish that people will always forget, no matter how much evidence remains, you can have significant alien encounters during any historical period.
Eventually the publics attitude to the strange and their ability to repress memories would need to change. At some point in history they establish contact with other alien races and become part of the galactic community.
PCs might have to help humanity during these early stages of first contact. Aliens might find humanity quite rude if they either refuse to believe they are real or forget about them when they leave.
There could be an unnatural cause for this behaviour. It might be that the presence of the Silence has trained humanity to forget the sight of aliens. It could be some other agency that wants the public to forget.
One culprit might by Torchwood and its use of Retcon to make people forget. If they’d been using for a long time it might have entered the water supply or a branch of Torchwood could be putting it in medical supplies. Another agency (alien or otherwise) could use similar drugs to keep the population docile. The rejection of anything that disturbs their world view could be a side effect.
Whatever the source the PCs could investigate and develop a cure. Would there be hidden memories that come rushing back? How would the population react to this secret part of their lives returning?
Once cured the public could then accept and interact with aliens in a meaningful way.