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John Benton was a member of UNIT, serving before, during, and after the Third Doctor's exile on Earth. He was promoted from Corporal to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1, holding the post of Regimental Sergeant Major. One source says that he later achieved the rank of Lieutenant.
In 1944, while his father was on embarkation leave, the Benton family had a picnic in the woods outside Bolton. While the boys were playing, Chris fell from the high wall of a ruined tower to his death. John tried to save him, but failed and blamed himself ever after. Some time later, his father was killed in the Normandy landings by a grenade. (HOMEVID: Wartime)
John had another brother who worked on the railways in the 1970s (AUDIO: Time Tunnel) and a younger sister. (TV: The Android Invasion) He also had an aunt, who was supposedly a medium and died in the late 1960s. (PROSE: The Eye of the Giant)
Benton was a corporal when he met the Doctor for the first time, though he was doing surveillance work rather than serving in uniform. He helped the Second Doctor defeat the Cybermen and Tobias Vaughn. (TV: The Invasion)
Discovering RAF Lieutenant Mike Yates in a derelict Portsoy house, Benton opened fire on the Armidians holding him hostage there as Yates broke free. The Armidian group vanished. With the Armidians still in the local area, the Brigadier ordered the Tharon stone the Armidians used to draw power from igneous rock to be destroyed. Benton led one of three groups to find the stone circles the Armidians had teleported to. Benton's group killed one of the Armidians that was trying to use the stone circles to wipe out humanity. According to this account, Yates was then promoted to captain when being recruited to UNIT by the Brigadier. (AUDIO: Vengeance of the Stones)
Benton was part of a team who investigated the Glasshouse. He had discovered that someone had kidnapped Barbara Redworth, a police officer who had seen Silurians, while murdering everyone else on the floor. He led UNIT troops in successfully fighting off a Silurian invasion fleet on the Kent coast. He detonated a bag full of flares at an invading Myrka, killing it. He turned down a promotion to Captain because he preferred being a soldier to an officer. The promotion instead went to Mike Yates, who in this account had already been working for UNIT as a sergeant. (PROSE: The Scales of Injustice)
While Benton tried keeping surveillance on Captain Chin Lee, Chin Lee used the Keller Machine to psychically incapacitate Benton, allowing Chin Lee to escape. He later helped Yates escort the Thunderbolt missile to be dumped at the bottom of the ocean. Benton was wounded when the convoy was attacked by escaped prisoners from Stangmoor Prison who stole the Thunderbolt. After recovering, he helped take Stangmoor Prison back from the Master and the prison's prisoners. Benton then became the prison's acting governor. (TV: The Mind of Evil)
When the Doctor was recovering from being frozen at the Devil's Hump, the Doctor's assistant Jo Grant asked Benton and Yates to come to Devil's End. They came in the Brigadier's helicopter as soon as it was light outside. Benton discovered Olive Hawthorne had been tied up and put in a chest in the village church. He freed Miss Hawthorne, and they hid in the cavern beneath the church. Benton was rendered unconscious by a forcefield in the cavern, and Miss Hawthorne carried him to The Cloven Hoof pub when the Dæmon Azal killed Garvin. Miss Hawthorne saved Benton from an attacking Morris dancer by hitting him over the head with her reticule. She and Benton helped stop the villagers from burning the Doctor when they tricked them into believing he was a mighty wizard. When the Doctor entered the church to save Jo, Benton and Yates were joined by UNIT reinforcements to get past Bok to save the Doctor and Jo, but to no effect. Benton fired a bazooka at Bok, but Bok's body immediately reformed. When Azal's powers turned against himself, rendering Bok immobile, the Master ran out of the church. UNIT arrested the Master, and Benton was ordered to take the Master with him. (TV: The Dæmons)
Benton also worked with the current Doctor and his previous incarnation whom the Time Lords had called in to help against Omega. Benton was delighted with the reunion. It was during these events that Benton travelled for the first and only time in the TARDIS — namely, the short journey from UNIT HQ to Omega's palace. (TV: The Three Doctors)
While undercover in Kettering, Benton met Margery Phipps around Christmas time the year Jo left UNIT and they began dating. They were still dating in spring when dinosaurs appeared in London. He was sent to Kettering in the place of Mike Yates when he was recovering. (AUDIO: Council of War)
Shortly after the return of the Doctor to Earth and his regeneration into his fourth incarnation, Benton was promoted to Warrant Officer — a rank which entitled him to be addressed as "Mister". (TV: Robot) As a Regimental Sergeant Major, Benton helped fight against the Zygons. (TV: Terror of the Zygons) He was stationed at the Space Defence Station at Devesham during the Kraals' attempted invasion of Earth, where he was replaced by one of Styggron's android duplicates. (TV: The Android Invasion)
Benton met the Ninth Doctor when he was put on a team with Harry Sullivan and sent to the West Country to investigate a missing member of UNIT and a subsequent series of "monster" sightings. Though this was after his promotion, the Doctor and the Brigadier still referred to Benton as "Sergeant", and his uniform also bore the rank of a sergeant. (COMIC: Official Secrets)
While transporting radioactive cargo by UNIT Land Rover through the woods outside Bolton with his driver, Private Willis of the Regular Army, Benton was haunted by the ghosts of his brother and father. He overcame his feelings of guilt (which were apparently the source of these hauntings) and returned to his post in time to prevent the cargo from being hijacked by a dangerous criminal. (HOMEVID: Wartime)
By 1979, Benton had left UNIT and had became a used car salesman. (TV: Mawdryn Undead) Benton attented the UNIT reunion of 1983, by which point he had returned to active service. (PROSE: Business Unusual)
One account stated that by 1986, Benton had returned to UNIT and become a commissioned officer with the rank of Lieutenant, subsequently leading a UNIT team to the Snowcap tracking base in Antarctica to clear up the chaos left by the Cybermen's attempt to drain Earth of its energy in December of that year. (PROSE: The Power of the Daleks)
In 2009 John Benton was invited to Sarah Jane Smith's aborted wedding with Peter Dalton, but couldn't make it because he was doing something secret in Malaysia. (PROSE: The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith)
Later in his life, Benton owned a pub in Scafell called the White Hart. He decided to pack up with his wife Margery Phipps and go on a cruise. When Kate Stewart and Petronella Osgood arrived at the pub he helped him. When Jastrok arrived at his pub Benton became injured. He tried to then slow the Silurian. Benton spent his time restoring Bessie. Despite leaving military service as a RSM, he was referred to as 'sergeant' by all, including other members of UNIT. (AUDIO: Call to Arms) Kate passed local control of UNIT in the UK to Mike, Benton and Jo due to their experience with Silurians and Sea Devils before, whilst she couldn't get back to base. After Jo went off in a huff he went to check on her. He helped Osgood in her work. He took the Air Creatures the Silurians were using back to the Hebrides before he went back to his wife for their cruise. (AUDIO: United)
Benton was a down-to-earth British infantryman and non-commissioned officer — reliable, uncomplicated and with a good dose of common sense. When the Third Doctor asked him if he was going to comment that his TARDIS was bigger on the inside than on the outside as everyone did, Benton's classic reply was, "Well, It's pretty obvious, isn't it?" (TV: The Three Doctors)
Despite not understanding what the Doctor was doing or any of his explanations, Benton always took the Doctor at his word and trusted him implicitly. He was loyal, not just to the rank, but also to the people he worked with, and was willing to disobey orders in order to help them. During one incident, he allowed himself to be rendered unconscious when the Doctor was framed so as allow him to escape, and later subdued Mike Yates and General Finch. (TV: Invasion of the Dinosaurs)
He was not a fan of Woody Allen's films, preferring the Carry On line when it came to comedy. He was familiar with Star Trek to the point of recalling the "episode where Spock had a beard" when the Third Doctor mentioned visiting a parallel universe. (PROSE: The Face of the Enemy)
Behind the scenes
- Benton would have appeared in a cameo in the television story The Five Doctors, not recognising the Second Doctor and denying him admittance to UNIT's reunion. However John Levene declined to take up the role again on the grounds that Benton would have remembered that version of the Doctor and not made such a mistake. Instead, he was replaced by a nameless UNIT sergeant.
- During his on-screen appearances, Benton's first name, John, was never given. It was first revealed in the video Wartime, and later appeared in fully-licensed stories such as the novel Happy Endings.
- Benton was the first companion to be portrayed by a juvenile or infant actor. (TV: The Time Monster)