Sunday, May 04, 2008

UNIT: A Brief History

From digital spy

Doctor Who devotees watching the current series may have noticed the Time Lord's familiarity with a military organisation called UNIT in the current Sontaran two-parter, in addition to their brief appearance three years ago when the Slitheen roamed Downing Street. Now presided over by the relatively impotent Colonel Mace and called the Unified Intelligence Taskforce, UNIT was once a regular part of the Doctor Who furniture for many years…Back in 1968, The Doctor first joined forces with Colonel Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart and his infantrymen in 'The Web of Fear' to combat a sinister threat in the London Underground. No, it wasn't Mackenzie Crook trying to run over commuters – it was the dreaded robotic Yeti from the Himalayas!Once this perilous threat had been repelled, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce was created to deal with extraterrestrials and Lethbridge-Stewart was promoted to Brigadier. They almost immediately encountered the Cybermen in 'The Invasion', in which the metallic monsters from Mondas lurked underground in the sewers before their attack.The Second Doctor's activities caused the Time Lords to banish him to Earth for several years after forcing him to regenerate. Consequently, UNIT became a regular presence in the show alongside the Third Doctor in the first half of the 1970s. Alongside the reliable (but occasionally trigger-happy) Brigadier, the likes of amiable Sergeant Benton and fragile Captain Mike Yates were part of an ensemble supporting cast that gave Doctor Who a nice, homely feel.
During The Doctor's exile, UNIT fended off threats like the plastic-loving Autons, glowing green maggots, onion bhaji lookalike Axons, the dreaded Daleks and, on many occasions, The Master. However, given The Doctor's dislike of violence, there were several notable conflicts between his yearnings for a peaceful resolution and UNIT's desire to blast the invaders out of the sky. This is epitomised by The Doctor's abject disgust when the Brigadier follows orders and blows up the underground base of the Silurians – a reptilian race with a rightful claim to roam the planet. The Time Lord had previously been on the verge of talking the Silurians into adopting peaceful methods of negotiations with the humans. Once The Doctor's Tardis started to work again, UNIT were gradually phased out. The Fourth Doctor did manage a handful of dealings with the organisation at the start of his tenure, joining forces to battle the Loch Ness Monster. He also picked up UNIT's medical officer Harry Sullivan as a companion along the way. The 1980s brought in the mullet but largely forgot about UNIT. The Brigadier, now retired and working as a schoolmaster, popped up in the Fifth Doctor story 'Mawdryn Undead'. Finally, in 1989, 'Battlefield' brought back UNIT and lured The Brigadier out of retirement to fight armed knights and the monstrous Destroyer. The Maggie Thatcher years had also taken their toll, as UNIT was now commanded by a female in the form of Brigadier Winifred Bambera.This was to prove their last appearance in the original run of the series - and only time will tell if the likes of Colonel Mace will be able to hack the pace. Could The Brigadier, or Sir Lethbridge-Stewart as he's now known, be tempted back for one more cry of "five rounds rapid"?

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