UNIT Universe Whoniverse Type Intelligence agency, military organisation Founded 1968 Location Worldwide Key people Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart
Captain Mike Yates
Corporal / Sergeant / WO1 John Benton
Dr. Elizabeth Shaw
Sarah Jane Smith
Lieutenant Harry Sullivan
Brigadier Winifred Bambera
Dr. Martha Jones
Colonel A. Mace
Captain Erisa Magambo
Purpose Defending Earth from extraterrestrial and paranormal threats Technologies Unreliable access to Gallifreyan technology, advanced translation software Powers*** Military authority in UN member countries Affiliations UN
UNIT (UNified Intelligence Taskforce, formerly United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) is a fictional military organisation from the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. Operating under the auspices of the UN, its purpose is to investigate and combat paranormal and extraterrestrial threats to the Earth. In the original Doctor Who series, several UNIT personnel (such as The Brigadier) played a major role in the programme.
Following the broadcast of the 2005 series, executive producer Russell T Davies claimed that the UN were no longer happy to be associated with the fictional organisation, and the UN's full name could now no longer be used. However, the "UNIT" and "UN" abbreviations could be used, as long as it was not explained what the letters stood for. In 2008, he announced that the organisation's name had been changed to the "Unified Intelligence Taskforce". This new name was first mentioned on-screen in The Sontaran Stratagem, in which it was indicated in a line of dialogue that the United Nations still supports UNIT with funding.
- 1 Fictional history
- 2 Organisation
- 3 Other appearances
- 4 UNIT dating
- 5 Critical reception
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The roots of UNIT in the Doctor Who universe lie in extraterrestrial incursions featured in the Second Doctor serial The Web of Fear (1968) and the Seventh Doctor serial Remembrance of the Daleks (1988).
Following these incidents, the newly-formed UNIT's baptism of fire was an invasion by the Cybermen, in The Invasion (1968). The contribution of scientific advice in battling extraterrestrial threats was recognised and both Dr Elizabeth Shaw and the exiled Third Doctor joined UNIT just in time to help defeat the Autons in Spearhead from Space.
UNIT continued to feature in Doctor Who for the next three years, but when the Third Doctor's exile was lifted, his association with UNIT became more sporadic, especially after his regeneration into his fourth incarnation. The last appearance of UNIT in the series for many years was in The Seeds of Doom (1976); however, the organisation continued to execute its mandate to investigate and combat alien activity. The final appearance of UNIT during the original run of Doctor Who was the Seventh Doctor serial, Battlefield.
UNIT was mentioned by both its acronym and full name in the 2005 series episodes Aliens of London and World War Three, where it sent a delegation to a gathering of experts at 10 Downing Street. UNIT appeared again the same year in The Christmas Invasion. In addition to Doctor Who, UNIT continues to be featured in the spin-off series Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
UNIT's status is supported by enabling legislation that allows it to assume emergency powers when necessary (The Green Death). Although it operates under the authority of the United Nations, its members are seconded from the host country's military and are still bound to obey that chain of command (Spearhead from Space). Ranks, within the UK section of UNIT at least, thus mirror those in the British Army – Lethbridge-Stewart is a Brigadier, a Major appears in The Christmas Invasion, and a Colonel and Captain (although Mike Yates, also ranking at Captain, had been a regular in the third doctors tenure in the 1970s) appear in The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky. UNIT personnel are seconded from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force, and are still bound by the UK chain of command, and the commander reports to the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Defence through Department C-19. However, if the commander feels it appropriate and necessary, the commander can request that Geneva overrules the national government. Lethbridge-Stewart, for example, reported to the Ministry of Defence and the Prime Minister, and Major Blake reported to the Prime Minister in The Christmas Invasion. Due to the international nature of the organisation, it is sometimes viewed with suspicion by local military and national security agencies, who feel that it might impinge on their sovereignty (The Ambassadors of Death). UNIT's existence is known to the public, but mainly as a security organisation with scientific expertise (The Three Doctors); its actual agenda is classified, some believing it to be some kind of covert counter-terrorist unit. UNIT has the authority to detain persons indefinitely without trial, appeal, outside contact or legal representation as experienced by Toshiko Sato before she was recruited to work for the British government by the Torchwood Institute.
UNIT's personnel have a wide range of weaponry to call on, some custom-made to combat specific threats. Among these are special ammunition described by the Brigadier as armour-piercing rounds with a solid-core and Teflon coating which "could go through a Dalek". Other munitions include explosive rounds for Yetis, other armour-piercing rounds for robots, and gold-tipped rounds for use against the Cybermen (as well as silver-bullets as suggested by the Doctor), and rad-steel coated bullets to neutralise Sontaran anti-bullet fields that target copper. In the 1970s produced serials, the British troops of UNIT are armed with standard British Army weapons such as the L1A1 Self Loading Rifle, Sterling submachine gun, Browning Hi-Power pistol and wear 58 pattern webbing. For Battlefield in the 80s, they have the Steyr AUG assault rifle while the Brigadier uses a Webley Revolver, and in the 2000s, they use special-forces weaponry such as Heckler & Koch G36C carbines, the M4 Carbine (with different scopes used such as ACOG and holographic weapon sights, as well as equipping CQB receivers for indoor use), SIG P226 pistols, and wear PLCE pouches on police tac-vests. They also wear riot-protection arm pads and gloves, and have side-handle batons and quick-cuffs for arrests.
In The Invasion, UNIT had a command centre established in the cargo hold of a Lockheed Hercules military transport aircraft. The Dæmons featured the UNIT Mobile HQ, a large bus-like vehicle that could be driven to the site of an incident. A mobile command centre is also shown in The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky, where it is depicted as a black articulated lorry with UNIT insignia.
Prominent members of the British contingent of UNIT included Liz Shaw, Sergeant Benton, Captain Mike Yates, Jo Grant and later, Harry Sullivan. Civilians who have worked with UNIT include the journalist Sarah Jane Smith. In The Claws of Axos (1971), an American agent named Bill Filer was sent from Washington to assist in the hunt for the Master.
In The Christmas Invasion, UNIT is shown to have translation software which can decipher alien languages with great accuracy. The software, or at least the results from the translation, can be loaded on a hand-held device. In The Sound of Drums, the flying aircraft carrier Valiant is introduced.
In The Poison Sky, UNIT is shown to be able to command and co-ordinate the world's combined nuclear arsenal for strategic strikes on orbiting alien craft. The Valiant is also shown to be equipped with a scaled down version of the Torchwood weapon that destroyed the Sycorax ship in The Christmas Invasion.
It is mentioned in the Sarah Jane Adventures story, Death of the Doctor, that UNIT has a Moonbase.
Across the eras, UNIT have been identified with different styles of uniform. For The Invasion, Bobi Bartlett designed two different styles of uniform. Privates and corporals wore tan shirts and trousers, while ranks of sergeant and above had a jacket and tie to go with them. There was also the assault team, who wore generic army fatigues and berets with UNIT insignia. For UNIT's next appearance, Spearhead from Space, Christine Rawlins had more of the suits produced which became uniform for all ranks, except for two officers seen in the opening who wear tan shirts and a tie with a UNIT logo printed on. That style of uniform stayed throughout Doctor Who and the Silurians, but Christine Rawlins had a new design produced for The Ambassadors of Death which featured only in this story: all ranks – except for the Brigadier, who retained his regular uniform – were given new zip-up jackets without lapels which were worn over a rolled-neck sweater to give them a futuristic look. For Inferno, UNIT infantry wore Paratrooper camouflage, but from Terror of the Autons up to Terror of the Zygons, Barry Letts decided to have UNIT wearing uniforms based on the contemporary army, which consisted of plain green fatigues made by Ken Trew, while the Brigadier, Benton and Yates also wore appropriate contemporary uniform. These were changed for Terror of the Zygons, as director Douglas Camfield reckoned the green uniforms "looked too soft." For this serial, they wore DPM camouflage. The Android Invasion saw them wearing barrack-dress sweaters.
UNIT then had a lengthy absence from the screen, but their small cameo appearance in The Five Doctors saw a few members wearing contemporary army uniforms with UNIT patches stitched to the sleeves. For their full return in Battlefield, their look was completely updated. Their appearance in this serial is close to the real-world United Nations Peacekeeping troop outfits. UNIT were represented by a nuclear missile convoy wearing sky-blue berets (beige had been the standard colour up until then) and DPM camouflage with a new insignia of a globe and a pair of wings stitched to the sleeves and beret. There is also a Czech engineer team wearing Czech camouflage with the same beret as the convoy.
After the series was cancelled and recommissioned, UNIT first had a minor appearance in the episode Aliens of London. In this episode, UNIT were represented by a small number of high-ranking officers, wearing decorated service-dress with UN patches on the sleeves. UNIT's first major appearance in the new series was in The Christmas Invasion. Here, a new insignia has been designed based on the Battlefield version, and the infantry wear black uniforms consisting of police clothing and equipment and red berets. Commanding officers wear No. 2 service dress. Other uniforms in post-2000s UNIT include a uniform for scientists, a lab-coat with the UNIT insignia on the chest, and decorated black coats worn by female Captains.
Call Sign Rank + Name Bluebottle Police and Law Enforcement  Eagle UNIT Helicopter Greyhound / Jupiter / Greyhound 1 / Greyhound 2 / Greyhound Leader Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart  Venus / Greyhound 2 / Greyhound 3 Captain Mike Yates  Greyhound 4 Josephine Grant / Warrant Officer John Benton  Greyhound 6 Doctor Martha Jones  Greyhound 15 Private Harris  Greyhound 16 Private Steve Gray  Greyhound 40 Private Ross Jenkins  Hawk Major UNIT Carrier Ship Valiant  Trap One Centre of operations  Trap Two Soldiers in the field  Trap Three Sergeant Benton  Windmill 123 UNIT Helicopter  Windmill 347 UNIT Helicopter 
Republican Security Forces
The 1970 serial Inferno saw the Doctor visit a parallel universe. In this reality, Great Britain has been a republic since at least the 1940s (though probably much earlier) when a fascist revolution overthrew the government and executed the Royal Family. On the international front, the Confederacy won the American Civil War, Stalin was a Menshevik, the Empire of Japan successfully built its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, there was no Second World War (Europe having been divided into peacefully co-existing British and Russian spheres of influence) and India apparently won independence without the partition of the country into separate Hindu and Muslim states. The parallel version of the British contingent of UNIT is an SS-like state paramilitary organisation known as the Republican Security Forces (RSF). Their uniforms consist of contemporary US Army olive green military fatigues and black garrison caps with white piping. They are armed with a mixture of Russian and German weapons, such as the SKS rifle and the Walther P1 pistol. Their rank system uses titles based to some extent on the SS: Sergeant Benton is Platoon Under Leader Benton, Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart is Brigade Leader Lethbridge Stewart, and Elizabeth Shaw, a soldier rather than a scientist in their dimension, has the rank of Section Leader (which is apparently a commissioned officer rank, while SS Section Leaders were equal to Lance Corporal). The organisation has full authority to interrogate, court-martial, and formally execute prisoners as they see fit. By the end of the story, most of the members of the RSF were killed when a volcanic cataclysm engulfed Great Britain and left much of their world devastated.
UNIT has also been featured in many Doctor Who spin-offs. Different spin-offs have made varying attempts to be consistent with other stories.
In 1984, a stage comedy titled Recall UNIT: The Great Tea-Bag Mystery was produced, written by Richard Franklin (Captain Yates) who reprised his character in the play. The cast also included John Levene as Benton, and the play was performed between 20 August and 24 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Due to other commitments, Nicholas Courtney was unable to appear as the Brigadier, but pre-recorded a telephone message from Lethbridge-Stewart which was written into the plot.
The novelisation of Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovitch mentioned that the troops that Gilmour commanded were from the "Intrusion Counter-Measures Group". UNIT Exposed, the 1991 Doctor Who Magazine Winter Special, suggested that the ICMG was a forerunner of UNIT. This was picked up on and expanded in the spin-off novel Who Killed Kennedy by David Bishop, which provides a fictional history of UNIT from an investigative journalist's perspective. The novel also reveals Lethbridge-Stewart's role in proposing the formation of UNIT after the Yeti incident.
Both Virgin Publishing's Missing Adventures and BBC Books' Past Doctor Adventures have set stories in the UNIT era and have revealed new information about UNIT's past, present and future. The New Adventures novel Just War by Lance Parkin mentions "LONGBOW", a world security organisation set up by the League of Nations that encountered the occasional extraterrestrial incident but was disbanded after it and the League failed to prevent World War II.
No Future by Paul Cornell featured an intelligence section of UNIT called Broadsword. Broadsword agents wore plain clothes and were "hand-picked to offer us lateral and non-military solutions, backed up by SAS training and sheer common sense". Since the novel was set in an alternate 1970s with subtle diĀfferences from the main continuity Whoniverse, it is not clear if Cornell intended Broadsword to exist in normal continuity.
The Dying Days, also by Parkin named the French division of UNIT as NUIT (Nations Unies Intelligence Taskforce), and the Eighth Doctor Adventure Emotional Chemistry by Simon A. Forward named the Russian division ОГРОН (OGRON) (Оперативная Группа Разведки Объединённых Наций, or, Operativnaya Gruppa Razvedki Obyedinyonnih Natsiy, which roughly translates as "United Nations Reconnaissance Operations Group"). The Southeast Asian contingent was identified in David A. McIntee's Bullet Time as UNIT-SEA.
The Devil Goblins from Neptune by Keith Topping and Martin Day introduced a division within the Central Intelligence Agency headed by a man known only as Control, which has featured as a rival to UNIT in several subsequent novels. Alien Bodies by Lawrence Miles introduced a more ruthless UN division called UNISYC (United Nations Intelligence Security Yard Corps), which by the 2040s has replaced UNIT. By the 26th century, UNIT has transformed into a secret society called the Unitatus, pledged to defend the Earth against alien threats, first seen in Parkin's Cold Fusion. The Unitatus lasts at least until the 30th century (So Vile a Sin by Ben Aaronovitch and Kate Orman).
David McIntee's aforementioned The Face of the Enemy had the British branch of UNIT facing a menace without the Doctor to help them, as he and Jo Grant were elsewhere (and elsewhen) experiencing the television serial The Curse of Peladon.
The Doctor Who Magazine comic strip also frequently featured UNIT, and in the 1980s introduced a new UNIT officer, Muriel Frost. One story, Final Genesis, was set in a parallel universe in which humanity has made peace with the Silurians, and UNIT has become the United Races Intelligence Command. The Eighth Doctor comic strip The Flood established that the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) viewed UNIT with some degree of contempt in the early 21st century, and deliberately did not inform them when it detected a Cyberman incursion due to this and other unspecified problems with the United Kingdom's relationship with the United Nations. The Tenth Doctor comic strip The Age of Ice is set in UNIT's Australian base, beneath Sydney Harbour. The Eleventh Doctor strip The Golden Ones introduces UNIT Japan.
UNIT has also appeared in cameo roles in unrelated comics. In at least one issue of Uncanny X-Men, where a character identified as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart was seen briefly from behind, addressing a Sergeant-Major Benton; 2000 AD's Caballistics, Inc. strip has Lethbridge-Stewart (referred to solely by rank) appearing in several adventures as a military liaison and referring to The Web Of Fear; and Hip Flask has a 22nd Century UNIT tied into the origins of the Elephantmen. Marvel Comics also has two major characters called Dr Alistaire Stuart (who has claimed to know "a chap from Gallifrey") and Brigadier Alysande Stuart, Scientific Advisor and commander respectively of Britain's Weird Happenings Organisation (W.H.O.) taskforce. W.H.O. has since been disbanded and Alysande killed, but Alistaire Stuart is still a recurring character in Marvel's United Kingdom.
An alternate universe version of UNIT and the Brigadier (played once again by Courtney) appeared in the Doctor Who Unbound audio play Sympathy For The Devil, produced by Big Finish Productions. In this story, UNIT was commanded by the abrasive Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood, played by David Tennant (later to be cast as the Tenth Doctor in the revived television programme). The story concerned a UNIT that never had the Third Doctor working for it, with many different outcomes; Terror of the Autons resulted in "the Plastic Purges", Mike Yates died on a time-travel mission to destroy the Silurians, and so on.
In December 2004 Big Finish released UNIT: Time Heals, the first of a new series of UNIT audio plays, featuring a retired General Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart as an advisor to a new generation of officers. A preview episode (given away free with Doctor Who Magazine #351), UNIT: The Coup, had Lethbridge-Stewart finally breaking decades of secrecy by informing a press conference of UNIT's true purpose as humanity's first line of defence against the unknown (although, as it turned out, the general public believed this to be a hoax). The series also introduced another rival division, this time within the British government, the Internal Counter-Intelligence Service, or ICIS. In September 2008, The Coup was re-released as a free download.
The protagonists for most of this series were Colonel Emily Chaudhry (a public-relations specialist played by Siri O'Neal), Lieutenant Will Hoffman (Robert Curbishley) and Colonel Robert Dalton (a veteran of the British Army temporarily assigned to UNIT, played by Nicholas Deal). Hoffman and Dalton were killed in the third instalment, UNIT: The Longest Night. The fourth and so far final play, UNIT: The Wasting, features this Universe’s version of Brimmicombe-Wood (again played by Tennant). The short story "The Terror of the Darkness" in the collection Short Trips: A Day in the Life revealed that Chaudhry and Hoffman had previously travelled with the Sixth Doctor. Their adventures then continued in "Incongruous Details" (Short Trips: The Centenarian) before ending in Short Trips: Defining Patterns.
In 1987, John Levene reprised his role as Benton for a made-for-video film entitled Wartime. Produced by Reeltime Pictures, this was the first independently made Doctor Who spin-off film and would be followed by many others over the next 20 years. In 1997, the film was revised with voice-over dialogue provided by Nicholas Courtney in character as Lethbridge-Stewart. The Brigadier would himself get a made-for-video film, Downtime, which also saw appearances from UNIT and a corrupt UNIT officer named Captain Cavendish.
BBV have made a trilogy of UNIT videos involving the Autons, although they feature none of the original members, with the main character being Lockwood (a codename for the otherwise nameless UNIT Operative 8954B) – an investigator with psychic powers. The trilogy introduced one of UNIT's facilities (the Warehouse) for containing the remains of alien technology; the Containment Team responsible for these facilities and preventing alien outbreaks at them; and the Internal Security Division.
For the new television series, BBC created a faux website for UNIT, complete with "easter eggs" that can be accessed by the reader with the passwords "bison" and "buffalo" (the latter mentioned on screen in World War Three). The 'public' part of the website advertises UNIT Conferences and publications relating to "extra-territorial threats", as well as press releases on the establishment of a central New York Liaison office; the press releases and publications also make reference to off-screen adventures, such as the Skaniska Incident and Jersey Tollgate Situation, with the most recent covering the events of The Christmas Invasion ("Alien Life Confirmed"). The Secure Login link, using the password "badwolf" (originally "bison") uncovers a 'private' section which provides UNIT point-of-view reports about various events in the 2005 series, as well as mention of missions such as The Fourth Reich and Guatemala "Big Locust" Problem. The website's canonical status, like that of the spin-off media, is debatable. Due to the objections by the United Nations as noted above, the letters "UN" are no longer expanded to "United Nations" on the website.
The original 1963–1989 series presented conflicting evidence about when the stories featuring UNIT were meant to take place, and there has been much confusion and continuing fan debate on this subject. Although there is strong evidence that at least some of the production team intended for the UNIT stories to take place in the "near future", this policy was not consistently applied and there is equally strong evidence to suggest the stories took place at the time of their broadcast. The 1983 story Mawdryn Undead explicitly states that the Brigadier retired from UNIT in 1976 and that Sergeant Benton left the army in 1979. Whether the stories take place contemporaneously with the broadcast dates or a few years in the future is therefore highly debatable – with the exception of Battlefield, which is explicitly set in an unspecified near future. A reference to this confusion appeared in the 2008 episode The Sontaran Stratagem, where the Doctor was unsure if his time on the UNIT staff took place during the 1970s or the 1980s. Similarly, an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures displayed a UNIT file on Sarah Jane Smith which says, "The service quickly expanded, making our presence felt in a golden period that spanned the sixties, the seventies, and, some would say, the eighties."
The concept of UNIT has been generally well-received by Doctor Who fans. In Andrew Cartmel's Through Time: An Unauthorised and Unofficial History of Doctor Who, the sharp contrast between the Doctor's eccentric personality and the seriousness and normality of UNIT is described by Cartmel as an "inspired stroke".
The organisation is often seen within the context of other international organisations which featured in science fiction of the post-war era. Among others, these included SMERSH and SPECTRE from the James Bond novels, and U.N.C.L.E. from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – like UNIT, intended as a fictional United Nations intelligence agency.
The original association with the UN has sometimes been criticised for supposedly reflecting left-wing sentiment within the BBC:For anyone unfamiliar with the show, let me spell that out for you. Doctor Who in the early 70s reached the height of absurdist fantasy. Not only was Planet Earth threatened by aliens whose tentacles were made out of Marigold rubber gloves, but its fate ultimately rested on the shoulders of an “intelligence taskforce” run by… the United Nations.
- ^ Doctor Who Magazine #360 (August 2005)
- ^ Davies, Russell T (April 2008). "Calling UNIT!". SFX: p. 47.
- ^ Dylan, Andrew. "An Army of Shadows". Doctor Who Magazine (Marvel Comics Ltd.) (Winter 1991 Special ("UNIT Exposed")): 4–5.
- ^ a b Doctor Who episode Battlefield
- ^ a b Doctor Who episode The Poison Sky
- ^ Doctor Who episode The Stolen Earth
- ^ a b c d e f g h i BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - UNIT call-signs
- ^ Doctor Who - The Green Death - Episode Five
- ^ Discontinuity Guide - Wartime
- ^ a b c d BBC - Doctor Who - The Sontaran Stratagem - Episode Guide
- ^ BBC - Doctor Who - Turn Left - Videos
- ^ Doctor Who Magazine Winter 1991 Special ("UNIT Exposed"), Marvel Comics Ltd., pp. 44–45.
- ^ "Hip Flask & Elephantmen , issues , Introduction". Hipflask.com. http://www.hipflask.com/issues/introduction/index.html. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
- ^ "UNIT: The Coup". Big Finish Productions. 2008. http://www.bigfinish.com/UNIT-The-Coup.
- ^ "Top Secret". Unit.org.uk. http://www.unit.org.uk/. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
- ^ "The Sontaran Stratagem: Fact File". Doctor Who. BBC. 26 April 2008. http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/s4/episodes/?episode=s4_04&action=factfile. Retrieved 28 April 2008.
- ^ a b Cartmel, Andrew (2005). Through Time: An Unauthorised and Unofficial History of Doctor Who. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 93–5. ISBN 0826417345, 9780826417343. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9yzLe5TiYJsC&pg=PA93&dq=united+nations+intelligence+taskforce+doctor+who#v=onepage&q=united%20nations%20intelligence%20taskforce%20doctor%20who&f=false. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
- ^ Thompson, Damian (24 February 2011). "Doctor Who, the Brigadier and the politics of the BBC". Telegraph Blogs. The Telegraph. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100077475/doctor-who-the-brigadier-and-the-politics-of-the-bbc/. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
- UNIT on TARDIS Index File, an external wiki
- "Official" UNIT website (BBC-sponsored) [Password="badwolf" Password="buffalo"]
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