Defenders of the Earth, and the Doctor’s one-time employer, UNIT have been a mainstay throughout the history of Doctor Who. Their devotion to protecting the planet is second to only the Doctor’s, and they have proven instrumental in repelling numerous alien invasions.
Here’s a brief guide to this important organisation, and their many encounters with the Doctor.
UNIT was created as a direct response to the Great Intelligence taking over London, in an attempt to drain the Doctor’s mind! While that scheme failed, it was clear that an organisation was needed to defend the world from alien incursions, and UNIT was born! Just as well - as the fledgling organisation had been established in time to reunite with the Doctor and repel a global invasion by the Cybermen.
Exiled on Earth
Spearhead from Space
What cemented UNIT in all our hearts, and the history of Doctor Who, was when the Doctor was exiled to Earth by the Time Lords. Stuck in the 1970s or 1980s - there’s some debate on the matter - the Doctor was employed by UNIT as their scientific advisor. Together, they defended the Earth against numerous alien invasions, including several attempts by the Master. By the time the Third Doctor regenerated, the UNIT family had lost some members, gained others and even had one of their own betray them!
New Doctor, same UNIT
Unlike his predecessor, the Fourth Doctor wasn’t keen to hang around on Earth with the Brigadier and UNIT. However, he wasn’t going to leave them in the middle of a mystery, even if he had just regenerated. With parts being stolen for a disintegration gun, the Doctor and UNIT teamed up to take down the villainous Think Tank! While they managed to defeat the Think Tank and their K1 Robot, this marked the last time that UNIT would feature regularly. The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith left, taking a bemused medical UNIT office, Harry Sullivan, with them.
THE. LOCH. NESS. MONSTER!
Terror of the Zygons
After only a few trips away, the Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan were summoned back to Earth by UNIT- after three oil rigs off the coast of Scotland had been destroyed. The travellers were reunited with the Brigadier and Benton, freshly promoted to a Regimental Sergeant Major. The destruction was due to the shapeshifting Zygons and their pet Skarasen, which was mistaken for the Loch Ness monster! After defeating the Zygons, Harry declined to continue his travels with the Doctor, opting instead to get home by a more reliable form of transport!
Pulling Double Duty
The Android Invasion
When the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith landed in the quiet village of Devesham, it seemed like UNIT were already on top of things. Sure, there were strange helmeted people shooting at them from their fingertips, but their old friends Sergeant Benton and Harry Sullivan were on the case. Except, of course, they weren’t - the whole village was a training ground for the Kraals' planned invasion of Earth, and all of the UNIT personnel were android doubles!
Plants vs Lasers
The Seeds of Doom
Despite being a UNIT adventure, this adventure featured none of the regular UNIT characters. The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith were sent to investigate an extraterrestrial pod that had been frozen in the Antarctic. What starts as a simple investigation quickly snowballs, as the pod is stolen from the base and taken to the home of Harrison Chase, who wants the plant for his collection. The Doctor and Sarah had to rely on UNIT’s help, dealing with a plant that had a plan all of its own…
The Brig and Second Doctor... scooped!
The Five Doctors
Despite featuring in The Five Doctors, UNIT was barely involved in the adventure. Their appearance was key to the involvement of the Second Doctor and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Visiting the Brigadier for a catch-up, the two of them were whisked away by a time scoop to the Death Zone on Gallifrey! Despite being cut off from UNIT backup, the pair would soon find they had plenty of allies in the Death Zone - namely the other incarnations of the Doctor.
A New Brigadier
It was all change when the Doctor next encountered UNIT. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart had retired, replaced by Brigadier Winifred Bambera. This new iteration of UNIT had built on the work of their predecessors, armed to deal with many of the monsters that the Doctor and UNIT had taken down over the years. All this prep wasn’t in vain, as UNIT’s updated armoury helped defeat the demonic Destroyer!
Not Their Finest Hour
Aliens of London
By the time 2006 rolled around, Bambera was nowhere to be seen. This was probably a smart move by her, as the handling of the Slitheen invasion was not one of UNIT’s best moments. After a spaceship crashed into the Thames (after smashing into Big Ben), UNIT convened in Downing Street to help handle the crisis. Except the whole thing was a trap! The Slitheen electrocuted them all, so they wouldn’t be able to fight back against them. With UNIT disabled, the fate of the world was left in the hands of the Doctor, Rose, and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North.
The Sontaran Stratagem
When 52 people died across the world at exactly the same moment, UNIT knew they needed help from their former scientific advisor! Called in by Martha Jones - former TARDIS occupant and now UNIT medic - the Doctor quickly uncovered a scheme by the Sontarans to alter the Earth’s atmosphere. Unlike previous UNIT operations, there was no Brigadier to be seen. Instead, the Doctor teamed up with Colonel Mace to end the Sontaran threat!
A Different Timeline
Alternate versions of UNIT had featured before, most notably when the Doctor met an evil iteration of the organisation in Inferno. However in Turn Left, it wasn’t the Doctor teaming up with UNIT, but Donna Noble. The reason? They were in an alternate timeline, where the Doctor was dead! Donna was thrown back to correct the timeline, but she wouldn’t have been able to do it without UNIT’s help.
All Hands on Deck
The Stolen Earth
In a story that brought together so many elements from Series 1 to 4, how could UNIT be left out? With the Earth under threat from the Daleks, UNIT was on the frontline. Sadly, their combined forces paled in comparison to the Daleks, and they were quickly overpowered. Yet, UNIT had one last trick up its sleeve. Martha Jones had fled with a key for the Osterhagen Project, a series of buried nuclear bombs to destroy the Earth. If Martha couldn’t reach the Doctor, she was permitted to use it! Luckily for everyone, the Doctor was already on the scene…
Trapped on a Different World
Planet of the Dead
After passing through a wormhole in a London bus with an aristocratic thief - as you do - the Doctor needed UNIT’s help to get back from the planet San Helios. San Helios was home to a swarm of flying stingray-like creatures that had eaten everything on the planet; and if they got through the wormhole, would devour all life on Earth! Teaming up with UNIT’s new scientific advisor Malcolm, the Doctor had to get everyone on the bus home, as well as close the wormhole behind them!
UNIT: The Next (Next) Generation
The Power of Three
When the Earth was overrun by small cubes that seemed to do absolutely nothing, the Doctor teamed up with UNIT to uncover the truth of this slow invasion. UNIT had been overhauled and was now run by Kate Stewart, the daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Kate came from the scientific division of UNIT - and it was science, not the military, that now ran UNIT. The Doctor and Kate managed to thwart the slow invasion, and a new era was born!
The Bells of Saint John
Sometimes, UNIT and the Doctor team up at the start of an adventure, working together to save the world. Other times, however, UNIT arrives after the Doctor has neutralised the threat. This was true when the Doctor dealt with Mrs Kizlet and her army of spoon heads. Rendered harmless by the Doctor, UNIT arrived to safely dismantle Kizlet’s organisation. Little did either of them know that an old foe was the true intelligence behind Kizlet’s scheme.
Brokering a Peace
The Day of the Doctor
The 50th anniversary special saw three incarnations of the Doctor - one of which was the recently revealed War Doctor - teaming up with UNIT to repel a Zygon invasion. The Doctors helped broker the perfect peace between the Humans and Zygons; a peace that could, in no way at all, be threatened later down the line. We promise…
This special episode was notable for many things, one of which was the introduction of Dr Petronella Osgood. Osgood was a key UNIT scientist, and Doctor mega-fan, who would go on to assist Kate Stewart with future operations.=
Death in Heaven
With Cybermen stomping out of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Missy - a new incarnation of the Master - on the loose, the Doctor needed all the help he could get. With Kate and Osgood making a totally badass entrance, the stage was set for a classic "the Doctor and UNIT versus the Master and alien allies" showdown. Sadly, Missy killed Osgood during the course of the adventure. Even though Osgood was dead, this wouldn’t be the last we’d see of her…
The Magician's Apprentice
Unable to reach the Doctor, UNIT called in Clara Oswald when several planes were frozen in the sky. The culprit? Missy, who couldn’t find the Doctor either. After a tense stand-off, UNIT, Clara and Missy managed to locate the Doctor, who had hidden out in the Middle Ages. Clara and Missy pursued the Doctor via a vortex manipulator, leaving the world safe from Missy once again!
Truth or Consequences
The Zygon Inversion
Okay, we might have been lying earlier. The perfect Zygon/Human peace was threatened, by a faction of Zygons calling themselves Truth or Consequences. Led by Bonnie, this splinter group wanted to free Zygons from being forced to look like humans. They came so close to succeeding, with the Doctor once again finding himself between UNIT and Zygon forces, poised to destroy each other. After a legendary speech, the Doctor managed to talk Bonnie down. From that point onward, Bonnie devoted herself to helping UNIT defend the world, taking the place (and form) of the fallen Osgood.
Infiltrated by the Harmony Shoal
The Return of Doctor Mysterio
Even though UNIT was called in to handle the fallout from an attempted invasion by the Harmony Shoal, they actually gave the aliens a chance to escape! Taking over the body of a UNIT trooper, their leader evaded capture and was able to flee undetected. We say undetected, the soldier had the tell-tale sign of being possessed by the Shoal, a massive scar across his face that wasn’t there before. We only hope somebody noticed it quickly…
Where next? Find out in Doctor Who: Flux. See where you can watch here