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UNIT logo
UNIT logo
Universe Whoniverse
Type Intelligence agency, military organisation
Founded Uncertain, possibly 1960s or 1970s
Location Worldwide
Key people Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart
Captain Mike Yates
Corporal / Sergeant / WO1 John Benton
The Doctor
Dr. Elizabeth Shaw
Jo Grant
Sarah Jane Smith
Lieutenant Harry Sullivan
Brigadier Winifred Bambera
Dr. Martha Jones
Colonel A. Mace
General Sanchez
Captain Erisa Magambo
Colonel Oduya
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 United Nations
Torchwood Institute
The Doctor

UNIT (UNified Intelligence Taskforce, formerly United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) is a fictional military organisation from the British science fiction television series Doctor Who and Torchwood. Operating under the auspices of the United Nations, 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 explained that the real life United Nations were no longer happy to be associated with the fictional organisation, and the UN's full name could no longer be used. However, the "UNIT" and "UN" abbreviations can be used, as long as it is not explained what the letters stand for.[1] In 2008, he announced that the organisation's name has been changed to the "Unified Intelligence Taskforce".[2] This new name was first mentioned on-screen in "The Sontaran Stratagem".


Fictional History

UNIT insignia first used in Battlefield, also seen on the UNIT website.
UNIT variation insignia first used in Battlefield, also seen on the UNIT website.

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). [3]

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 referenced by 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 logo no longer in use, also seen on the UNIT website.

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 appear in The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky.) UNIT personnel are seconded from the British Army, Royal Navy 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 by Torchwood.


UNIT's personnel have a wide range of weaponry to call on, some custom-made to combat specific threats. Among these are armour-piercing munitions for use against robots and Daleks, explosive rounds for Yetis, gold-tipped rounds for use against the Cybermen (as well as silver-bullets as suggested by the Doctor),[4], and rad-steel coated bullets to neutralise Sontaran anti-bullet fields that target copper[5]. In the 1970s, the UK troops of UNIT are armed with standard British Army weapons like the L1A1 SLR, Sterling submachine gun and 58 pattern webbing, and in the 2000s with Heckler & Koch G36C rifles, the M4 Carbine and PLCE.

In The Invasion, UNIT had a command centre established in the cargo hold of a C-130 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 depictied 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".


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. For UNIT's next appearance, Spearhead from Space, Christine Rawlins had more of the latter produced which became uniform for all ranks, except for a female officer seen in the opening wearing a shirt and 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. In this serial, the infantry were given new jackets which were worn over a rolled-neck sweater to give them a futuristic look. For every story from Inferno up to Terror of the Zygons, Barry Letts decided to have UNIT wearing uniforms based on the contemporary army, made by Ken Trew. 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, as well as an updated UNIT patch for their sleeves. 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, as well as a new insignia of the globe and a pair of wings.

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 inspired by contemporary paramilitary forces, while commanding officers wear No. 2 service dress. This design has stuck for all their appearances since.

Call Signs

Call Sign Rank + Name
Eagle UNIT Helicopter[6]
Greyhound 1 Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart [6]
Greyhound 3 Captain Mike Yates [6]
Greyhound 4 Josephine Grant [7]/Warrant Officer John Benton [8]
Greyhound 6 Doctor Martha Jones [9]
Greyhound 15 Private Harris [10]
Greyhound 16 Private Steve Gray [9]
Greyhound 40 Private Ross Jenkins [9]
Hawk Major UNIT Carrier Ship Valiant [9]
Trap One Centre of operations [6]
Trap Two Soldiers in the field [6]
Windmill 123 UNIT Helicopter [6]
Windmill 347 UNIT Helicopter [6]

Republican Security Forces

RSF insignia used in Inferno.

The 1970 serial Inferno saw the Doctor visiting a parallel universe. In this universe, England is a republic under fascist dictatorship, and UNIT have a doppelgänger organisation known as the RSF (Republican Security Forces). Their uniforms resemble the ones UNIT wear in the same story, except rather than khaki berets they wear black forage-caps with white trim, deliberately referencing what the Nazis of World War II wore. Rather than L1A1 rifles, they are armed with Siminov SKS rifles. Their ranking system uses different titles too: Sergeant Benton becomes Platoon Under-Leader Benton, Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart becomes Brigade-Leader Lethbridge Stewart, and Elizabeth Shaw (a soldier rather than scientist in their dimension) has the rank of Section-Leader. The organisation has full authority to brutally interrogate, court-martial, and formally execute prisoners as they see fit. By the end of the story, all members are presumably killed as the entire planet is destroyed in a volcanic cataclysm (although David A. McIntee's novel The Face of the Enemy depicts otherwise).

Other appearances

UNIT has also been featured in many Doctor Who spin-offs. The canonical status of these with respect to each other and to the original series is unclear. Different spin-offs have made varying attempts to be consistent with other stories.

Stage play

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 August 20 and August 24 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Due to other commitments, Nicholas Courtney was unable to appear as the Brigadier, even though the script had been written for him, 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 differences 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).

Comic strips

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.

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. [1] 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.

Audio plays

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.[11]

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.

Direct-to-Video productions

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 a psychic operative named Lockwood. 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.

Other media

In Scream of the Shalka, Major Kennet hands the Doctor a folder with a UNIT crest on it.

For the new television series, BBC created a faux website for UNIT,[12] 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.

UNIT dating

Sarah Jane Smiths File from The Sarah Jane Adventures Episode The Lost Boy

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 '70s or '80s.[13] 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."

See also


External links

Simple English

Unit means part of something. It could mean a unit of measurement, or a unit in an army.

Units sometimes means the digit in a number on the right, which is also called the "ones".

Some other ideas come from this word:

  • Unity is what is found when parts are joined into one.
  • To unite is the act of joining parts together.

For example, a football team may be called "X United". This means that the town of X has come together to support the group.

In the BBC TV series Doctor Who, UNIT (UNified Intelligence Taskforce) is a military group on earth who battle invading aliens.

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