|Unified Intelligence Taskforce|
|Also known as:||
|Homeland / Bases:||See list|
|Appearances:||Full List of Appearances|
|Notable Members:||See list|
UNIT or Unified Intelligence Taskforce (formerly known as the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) was a military organisation which operates under the auspices of the United Nations. Its purpose was to investigate and combat paranormal and extraterrestrial threats to the Earth. UNIT was not the only alien defence organisation, but it was the one with which the Doctor has historically had the closest personal involvement.
There was an early 20th century counterpart, called LONGBOW. This world security organisation was set up by the UN precursor, the League of Nations. LONGBOW dealt with the occasional extraterrestrial incident, but was disbanded after it, and the League, failed to prevent World War II. (NA: Just War)
The roots of the organisation itself, however, lay in previous alien encounters. The Intrusion Countermeasures Group headed by Group Captain Ian Gilmore, which got involved in the Shoreditch Incident, served as a specialised military force with scientific assistance would seem almost a trial run for UNIT, though not an international organisation. Though Gilmore did have two scientific advisors (serving a function much like third incarnation of the Doctor and Dr. Elizabeth "Liz" Shaw would serve later), the seventh incarnation of the Doctor did most of the work, here, on the technical end. (DW: Remembrance of the Daleks)
A second significance was the takeover of London by the Great Intelligence, using robot Yetis and a deadly cobweb-like fungus. Assisted by the Doctor, another group of British infantrymen, led this time by Colonel Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart of the Scots Guards beat back the Yeti from the tunnels of the London Underground. (DW: The Web of Fear) UNIT themselves would later consider this to be the main origin of the organisation. (WEB: unit.org.uk)
The United Nations was by now ever more aware that the world faced threats from extraterrestrial sources and that with the space programme sending probes deeper and deeper into space, mankind had drawn attention to itself (DW: Spearhead from Space). Unable to get the British government to form a permanent special operations force for alien threats, Lethbridge-Stewart went over their heads to the UN Security Council, who proved more receptive. (MA: Who Killed Kennedy) The UN established UNIT with the mandate to investigate, monitor and combat such threats. At the suggestion of Gilmore from the ICMG (MA: The Scales of Injustice), Lethbridge-Stewart was promoted to the rank of Brigadier and put in charge of the British contingent, organisationally known as Department C19 within the British government (DW: Time-Flight).
One of UNIT's first missions was an intensive invesigation of International Electromatics; this turned violent, with UNIT agents being eliminated during invesigations and UNIT itself launching a helicopter raid to liberate prisoners at an Electromatics' facility. With the help, again, of the Doctor, UNIT discovered the company was a front for a Cybermen invasion and was able to defend against it. (DW: The Invasion).
Following this, Lethbridge-Stewart became convinced of the necessity of scientific advice in battling extraterrestrial threats, and recruited Liz Shaw from the University of Cambridge. Coincidentally, the Third Doctor, had been exiled to Earth by the Time Lords. The Doctor agreed to join UNIT as its Scientific Advisor just in time to help defeat the Autons (DW: Spearhead from Space).
Ater this the doctor continued to assist them for a while. He and Liz helped UNIT fight aliens such as The Silurians and the Primords. After this Liz Shaw left UNIT. (DW: Doctor Who and the Silurians/Inferno)
Liz Shaw was replaced by Jo Grant as the Doctor's scientific assistant. Though she only managed to get her A levels in Science. When he met her, UNIT made an enemy out of The Master. But UNIT did manage to lock the Master up after several attempts to destroy UNIT and earth. (DW: Terror of the Autons/The Dæmons)
When the Doctor's exile was lifted (DW: The Three Doctors), his association with UNIT became more sporadic, especially after his regeneration into his fourth incarnation. (DW: Planet of the Spiders, Robot)
Though the Doctor did return to Earth with Sarah Jane Smith, he would work less and less with the Brigadier and more with such other officers as Colonel Faraday (the Brigadier having gone to Geneva) (DW: The Android Invasion) and Major Beresford (DW: The Seeds of Doom). The Doctor, however, never officially left UNIT. (DW: The Sontaran Stratagem)
As a United Nations group, UNIT often saw use as security at peace conferences (DW: Day of the Daleks, The Mind of Evil) and the British contingent had foreign soldiers such as Sergeant Zbrigniev (DW: Battlefield).
UNIT would often face hostility in its operations, particularly when investigating research facilities and companies. A common tactic used against UNIT were appeals by administrators to any contacts they had in the Westminster government, which either forced Lethbridge-Stewart to back down or go over the government's heads to Geneva. (DW: The Invasion, The Green Death)
Lethbridge-Stewart retired in 1976 and went to teach mathematics at Brendon School. He was succeeded by Colonel Charles Crichton (DW: The Five Doctors). At some stage, Benton and medical officer Harry Sullivan also left (DW: Mawdryn Undead).
The Doctor re-united, in his seventh incarnation, against an invasion by Morgaine and her armoured knights. The British contingent was commanded by a new female Brigadier Winifred Bambera. Lethbridge-Stewart was called out of retirement to assist Bambera and the Doctor. (DW: Battlefield) This version of the Doctor would, again, assist the UNIT officer Muriel Frost in the late 1990s in their struggle against the Mandragora Helix. (DWM: The Mark of Mandragora, Evening's Empire)
At some point in the late 20th, early 21st century, a book on the history of UNIT was published (though it's not known how much if any information on the organization's activities is included). (SJA: Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?)
Simultaneously, in the name of "homeworld security", UNIT adopted a questionable attitude towards civil rights and liberties, which the Doctor found disquieting (DW: The Sontaran Stratagem). UNIT maintained a secret prison. Here a small number of detainees could be held without charges needing to be pressed or without the usual rights of prisoners. This suggested UNIT has a somewhat more malevolent side than other recorded encounters may suggest. Among those kept at one time as prisoner by UNIT was Toshiko Sato in 2005 or 2006; she was only released when Jack Harkness and Torchwood Three convinced her to work for them. (TW: Fragments)
At some stage prior to the 2009 Sontaran invasion, UNIT changed its name from United Nations Intelligence Taskforce to Unified Intelligence Taskforce. UNIT retained its traditional logos, however, even though they displayed the now-technically incorrect initialization "U.N.I.T." (DW: The Sontaran Stratagem)
At some point, the UK division of UNIT was facing being shut down and replaced with domestic group ICIS (Internal Counter-Intelligence Service). When it became clear ICIS were brutal and dangerous, Lethbridge-Stewart and Colonel Emily Chaudhry deliberately revealed UNIT's remit to the press (stating UNIT had faced over 200 invasions) and the existence of Silurian ambassadors; while this was viewed as a hoax, it forced the government to leave UNIT in charge of alien matters, leading to uneasy co-existence with ICIS. (BFU: The Coup)
Unknown to UNIT, their leader Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood was an ICIS plant who had been deliberately groomed to assume leadership of their rival. (BFU: The Wasting) ICIS' involvement in an attempted coup (BFU: The Longest Night) and murderous attempts at framing UNIT (BFU: The Wasting) led to their shutdown, however; in the process UNIT thwarted the coup and stopped a worldwide pandemic, unfortunately losing temporary commander Colonel Robert Dalton in the process. Colonel Chaudry was given command of the UK contingent. (source?)
Before 2005, UNIT had been involved in multiple situations without the Doctor, including the Fourth Reich, the Guatemala "big locust" Problem, Operation Plainsong, the Skaniska Incident and the Jersey Tollgate Situation. 2005 saw the organisation increase its New York presence centered around a New York Liason Office, allowing immediate UNIT briefing of the UN General Assembly. They also had been hosting annual conferences for several years. An officer named Major Jenny Maguire had had previous experience with the Doctor, who had annoyed her in unknown circumstances. (http://www.unit.org.uk and http://www.unit.org.uk/secure/, password "badwolf")
In 2005, UNIT sent a delegation to a gathering of experts to 10 Downing Street in response to a spaceship crashing in the River Thames. All of the experts were electrocuted by the family Slitheen. The identities of the advisors killed were not known, although one woman officer bore the name "Frost" on her jacket. (DW: Aliens of London) By this time, UNIT and the Torchwood Institute were aware of each other. UNIT asked for the assistance of Torchwood Three's Owen Harper during this incident (TW: Fragments). Toshiko Sato would fill in for him. (TW: Fragments)
In Christmas 2006, UNIT had a command center located in the Tower of London which was under the command of Major Richard Blake (DW: The Christmas Invasion). UNIT maintained some contact with Torchwood Three, even after the Battle of Canary Wharf. Torchwood Three's leader, Jack Harkness, would occasionally confer with the heads of UNIT and once asked for and received the help of Martha Jones, a medical doctor and former companion of the Doctor's, who he and the Doctor had suggested for a position with UNIT. (TW: Reset)
By 2007 UNIT operated a floating aircraft carrier airship, the Valiant, which was mainly designed by British Minister of Defense (actually the latest incarnation of the Master) Harold Saxon. (DW: The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords)
Prior to the 2008 Sontaran invasion, Martha Jones, an ex-companion of the Doctor was tasked with alerting him about it when the preparations for the invasion were discovered (DW: The Sontaran Strategem). Apparently, now-Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart still had some involvement with UNIT at this time, though he had gone to Peru for undisclosed reasons (DW: The Poison Sky).
Following the defeat of the Sontarans, UNIT began reverse-engineering some technology scavenged from the aliens, and launched Project Indigo to create a backpack-sized teleportation device. Jones was seconded as medical advisor for the project (which was top secret, although Harkness found out about it), and stationed at UNIT's base in New York City. UNIT also developed a contingency plan called the Osterhagen Project; in the event of global conquest that seemed unending, three out of five UN facilities would end humanity's suffering by destroying the planet with nuclear weaponry under Earth's crust. (DW: The Stolen Earth/Journey's End)
Following the relocation of the Earth and two-dozen other planets to the Medusa Cascade, UNIT went on high alert, and then to a war footing as the Dalek invasion began. Both the Valiant and the New York headquarters were overrun by Daleks and apparently destroyed, and the United Nations surrendered soon after. Martha Jones, however, escaped using the Project Indigo device, maintaining possession of an Osterhagen key in the process. (DW: The Stolen Earth) She used Project Indigo to reach the Osterhagen Station in Germany. The Chinese and Liberian stations had been already activated. She was teleported away by the Daleks themselves before the bombs could be triggered. The Doctor later asked her to have the Project dismantled (though whether she was successful in doing so is unknown). (DW: Journey's End)
During Easter 2009 UNIT was called out to a tunnel near Brixton after a bus carrying the Doctor and other passengers had gone through a wormhole. The Doctor managed to contact UNIT and he got through to the senior officer of site Captain Erisa Magambo and also spoke with their scientific adviser Professor Malcolm Taylor. The Doctor manged to get the bus back to its current location but the Swarm managed to get through to Earth. Magambo and UNIT fought the stingrays, which resulted in UNIT winning and she later thanked the Doctor. The Doctor also recommended to Magambo that there might be two more potential UNIT recruits from the bus, namely Barclay and Nathan. (DW: Planet of the Dead)
One division within the Central Intelligence Agency headed by a man known only as Control was a rival of sorts to UNIT. (PDA: The Devil Goblins from Neptune) A few years later, another American, Bill Filer, would however work on friendly terms with UNIT (DW: The Claws of Axos).
In Britain, UNIT would come into conflict with a domestic anti-alien agency named ICIS (Internal Counter-Intelligene Service), who possessed a dangerous nationalist agenda. While not running into conflict with them, they were viewed with contempt by both The Forge (who investigated alien incidents for the purposes of reverse-engineering xenotechnology) and MI6. Under Director Woodrow, MI6 became aware of an alien incursion in London, but deliberately did not mention it to UNIT and tried to handle the situation themselves; this inadvertently led to the agency being massacred by Cybermen and an unprepared Earth being assaulted. (DWM: The Flood)
UNIT would appear to share some of the same goals of the Torchwood Institute. The extent of their working relationship, if any, prior to the Battle of Canary Wharf remains unclear, although it's known that Jack Harkness was able to negotiate for the release of Toshiko Sato from a UNIT prison (TW: Fragments) and later send her to investigate an apparent alien presence near No. 10 Downing Street (DW: Aliens of London). There is little if any record of interaction between Torchwood and UNIT during the time the Doctor was most closely associated with UNIT.
The British branch of UNIT later operated out of an office building in London (DW: Spearhead from Space). It also maintained a mobile headquarters in the form of a large bus-like vehicle that could be driven to the site of an incident. (DW: The Dæmons) The HQ subsequently moved a number of times, finally settling in a building in the country that had been built over the ruins of a priory (DW: Pyramids of Mars).
From around 2008 on, UNIT possessed at least two flying carrier ships, the Valiant (DW: The Sound of Drums) and the Starling (DWM: The Age of Ice), which could be used as bases. The Valiant was destroyed in the 2009 Dalek invasion.
UNIT's status was supported by enabling legislation that allows it to assume emergency powers when necessary. Although it operated 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. Lethbridge-Stewart, for example, reported to the Ministry of Defence and the Prime Minister (DW: Terror of the Zygons). However, where such orders conflict, appeals could be made to Geneva.
Due to the international nature of the organisation, it was sometimes viewed with suspicion by local military and national security agencies, who felt that it might impinge on their sovereignty. UNIT's existence was known to the public, but mainly as a security organisation; its actual agenda was classified, some believing it to be some kind of covert counter-terrorist unit.
Despite the change of name to the Unified Intelligence Taskforce, the United Nations still retained a measure of command over UNIT, calling it to yellow alert prior to the 456 incident, for example (TW: Children of Earth: Day One).
Its personnel had a wide range of weaponry to call on, some custom-made to combat specific threats. Standard weaponry of today's UNIT is, G36c Assault Rifle, .45 USP Pistol sidearm, M4A1 Assault Rifle and AT4 Rocket launchers. As the Brigadier explained to the Doctor, these are armour-piercing munitions for use against robots, explosive rounds for Yetis, silver-tipped rounds and gold-tipped rounds for use against Cybermen (DW: Battlefield). UNIT had a laser rifle at its disposal to deal with a Krynoid, though the weapon did not manage to kill it (DW: The Seeds of Doom)
Early in its history, UNIT troops and officers wore one-piece beige coveralls with berets (DW: The Invasion through DW: 'Inferno). They reverted to uniforms not unlike that worn by the British Army, but with the addition of UNIT badges (DW: Terror of the Autons through The Seeds of Doom).
By 2006, UNIT troops had adopted a paramilitary all-black look, with crimson berets. (DW: The Christmas Invasion) High-ranking officers wore service dress (Either British Army No2 Dress or US Army Class A) (TW: Fragments, DW: The Sontaran Stratagem,The Stolen Earth). As an alternative, officers could wear a black version of service dress with the UNIT Beret (DW: Turn Left). (On a purely personal level, Jack Harkness of Torchwood Three found the red cap look very appealing and asked Martha Jones if she could get him one TW: Reset)
UNIT maintained a number of specialised departments. One, the Paranormal Division, in which Lieutenant Hamlet Macbeth investigated psychic powers and phenomena (NA: The Left-Handed Hummingbird). It also maintained the Warehouse, a place to store alien artefacts; security breaches at this and similar facilities are handled by the Containment Team. (BBV: Auton) Internal affairs are handled by the Internal Security Division. (BBV: Auton 2: Sentinel) A warehouse known as the Black Archive. (SJA: Enemy of the Bane)
UNIT used a variety of call signs and code words for their agents. The most common call sign was ‘Greyhound’. By convention the senior officer (usually Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) was Greyhound One (DW: Invasion of the Dinosaurs). Other Greyhounds included Martha Jones, (Greyhound Six, DW: The Sontaran Stratagem) and Ross Jenkins ('Greyhound Forty’, DW: The Sontaran Stratagem). The commander of operations was often called ‘Trap 1’, with both Lethbridge-Stewart (DW: Invasion of the Dinosaurs) and Colonel Mace (DW: The Sontaran Stratagem) using the call sign at times. An alternative term is ‘Watchtower’ (DW: Doctor Who and the Silurians).
More unusual were the call signs used during the first World Peace Conference which were based on planets of the Sol system, with the Brigadier as "Jupiter" and Mike Yates as "Venus" (DW: The Mind of Evil). Lieutenant Richards, commanding a missile convoy, was designated ‘Salamander Six-Zero’. Brigadier Bambera, in the same operation, was ‘Seabird’. (DW: Battlefield)
Helicopter call signs have included ‘Windmill 347’ (DW: The Mind of Evil), ‘Eagle’ (DW: The Green Death) and ‘Uniform November Nine-Zero’ (DW: Battlefield), whilst the Valiant was ‘Hawk Major’ (DW: The Poison Sky).
In 1984, a comedic stage play titled Recall UNIT: The Great Tea-Bag Mystery was produced, written by Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates) who also reprised his character in the play. The cast included Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier and John Levene as Sergeant Benton and was performed between 20th August and 24th August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
In December 2004 Big Finish released Time Heals, the first of a new series of UNIT audio plays, featuring a retired General Sir Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart as an advisor to a new generation of officers. A preview episode, 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.
Following the broadcast of the 2005 series, in his regular column in Doctor Who Magazine #360 (August 2005), executive producer Russell T Davies explained that the United Nations were no longer happy to be associated with the organisation, and its full name could not now be used. However, the "UNIT" and "UN" abbreviations can be used, as long as it is not explained what the letters stand for. It is unclear how this affects UNIT appearances in the various spin-off media. The modified "Unified Intelligence Taskforce" name was first uttered on screen in The Sontaran Strategem, although the same episode includes a line of dialogue indicating the United Nations still supports UNIT with funding; in addition, the acronym as shown on the organisation's insignia still nearly defines U.N.I.T. as separate words.
The UNIT vehicles and the mobile headquarters used in many of the adventures from (1969-1975) were BBC outside broadcasting vans used by the BBC production unit.
|UNIT Television Stories|
The Invasion • Spearhead from Space • Doctor Who and the Silurians • The Ambassadors of Death • Inferno • Terror of the Autons • The Mind of Evil • The Claws of Axos • The Dæmons • Day of the Daleks • The Time Monster • The Three Doctors • The Green Death • Invasion of the Dinosaurs • Planet of the Spiders • Robot • Terror of the Zygons • The Android Invasion • Battlefield • The Christmas Invasion • The Sontaran Stratagem \ The Poison Sky • Planet of the Dead
|• Complete list of appearances •|