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Unified Intelligence Taskforce

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Unified Intelligence Taskforce
Also called:
UNIT
United Nations Intelligence Taskforce
Affiliation:
Bases: See list
Leader:
Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (British division pre-1976, retired 1976)
Winifred Bambera (British division 1990s)
Lieutenant-General Sanchez (2000s, deceased 2009)
The Master (Harold Saxon) (as Minister of Defence, later British Prime Minister, 2007-8), Colonel Mace (British division ca 2009), Kate Stewart (as Head of Scientific Research, 21st century)
Notable members: See list
Appearances: Full List of Appearances
You may wish to consult UNIT (disambiguation) for other, similarly-named pages.

The Unified Intelligence Taskforce — formerly known as the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, and more usually called UNIT — was a military organisation which operated under the auspices of the United Nations. Its remit 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 had the closest personal involvement.

History

Roots and predecessors

An early 20th century counterpart to UNIT was 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 the League and it failed to prevent World War II. (PROSE: Just War)

The roots of UNIT itself, however, lay in later 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 much as the third incarnation of the Doctor and Dr. Elizabeth "Liz" Shaw would later, the seventh incarnation of the Doctor did most of the work on the technical end. (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks)

A second incident was the takeover of London by the Great Intelligence, with robot Yetis and a deadly cobweb-like fungus. Assisted by the Second Doctor, another group of British infantrymen, led by Colonel Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart of the Scots Guards beat back the Yeti from the tunnels of the London Underground. (TV: The Web of Fear) UNIT themselves would later consider this to be the origin of the organisation. (WEB: unit.org.uk)

20th century

Early history

Formation

The United Nations were aware the world faced threats from extraterrestrial sources. Space programmes sent probes deeper and deeper into space; mankind was drawing attention to itself. (TV: 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. (PROSE: 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 (PROSE: The Scales of Injustice), Lethbridge-Stewart was promoted to the rank of Brigadier and put in charge of the British contingent. This contingent was organisationally known as Department C19 within the British government. (TV: Time-Flight)

The Lethbridge-Stewart years

One of UNIT's first missions was an intensive investigation of International Electromatics that turned violent. UNIT agents were killed and UNIT launched a helicopter raid to liberate prisoners at an Electromatics' facility. With the help, again, of the Second Doctor, UNIT discovered the company was a front for a Cybermen invasion and was able to defend against it. (TV: The Invasion)

Lethbridge-Stewart became convinced of the necessity of scientific advice in battling extraterrestrial threats. He recruited Liz Shaw from the University of Cambridge. Coincidentally, the Third Doctor had been exiled to Earth by the Time Lords. He agreed to join UNIT as its scientific advisor just in time to help defeat the Autons. (TV: Spearhead from Space) The Doctor continued to assist UNIT. Liz and he helped them fight such foes as The Silurians and the Primords. Liz Shaw left UNIT (TV: Doctor Who and the Silurians, Inferno) and was replaced by Jo Grant as the Doctor's assistant, though she only had managed to take science up to A level, of which she later said "I never said I passed". When he met her, UNIT made an enemy out of the Master. UNIT locked up the Master after several attempts to destroy Earth. (TV: Terror of the Autons, The Dæmons)

When the Doctor's exile was ended (TV: The Three Doctors), his association with UNIT became more sporadic, especially after his regeneration into his fourth incarnation. (TV: Planet of the Spiders, Robot)

MODUnitFiveDoc

Ministry of Defence, UNIT headquarters. (TV: The Five Doctors)

The Doctor did return to Earth with Sarah Jane Smith, but would work less with the Brigadier and more with such other officers as Colonel Faraday (the Brigadier having gone to Geneva) (TV: The Android Invasion) and Major Beresford. (TV: The Seeds of Doom) The Doctor, however, never officially left UNIT. (TV: The Sontaran Stratagem)

As a United Nations group, UNIT often served as security at peace conferences (TV: Day of the Daleks, The Mind of Evil) and the British contingent had foreign soldiers such as Sergeant Zbrigniev. (TV: Battlefield)

UNIT often faced hostility to its operations when investigating research facilities and companies. A common tactic against them was an appeal to any contacts in the Westminster government. These forced Lethbridge-Stewart either to back down or go over the government's heads to Geneva. (TV: The Invasion, The Green Death, The Claws of Axos)

After Lethbridge-Stewart

Lethbridge-Stewart retired in 1976 to teach mathematics at Brendon Public School. His successor was Colonel Charles Crichton. (TV: The Five Doctors) Benton and medical officer Harry Sullivan also left. (TV: Mawdryn Undead)

UNIT soldiers Downtime

UNIT soldiers fighting against Yeti on the grounds of New World University. (HOMEVID: Downtime)

The Doctor re-united with UNIT 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 them. (TV: Battlefield) This version of the Doctor would help UNIT officer Muriel Frost in the late 1990s in their struggle against the Mandragora Helix. (COMIC: The Mark of Mandragora, Evening's Empire)

At some point in the late 20th or early 21st century, a book on the history of UNIT was published. It is not known how much, if any information on the organisation's activities was included. (TV: Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?)

The 21st century

2000s

General trends

In the name of "homeworld security", UNIT adopted a controversial attitude towards civil rights and liberties which the Tenth Doctor found disquieting. (TV: The Sontaran Stratagem) UNIT maintained a secret prison. Detainees could be held without charges being pressed or without the usual rights of prisoners. This suggested UNIT had a more malevolent side than other recorded encounters may suggest. Among those kept at one time as a 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. (TV: Fragments)

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, UNIT maintained a small division based in the United States, led by Brigadier General Adrienne Kramer. (PROSE: Vampire Science)

At sometime prior to the 2009 Sontaran invasion, UNIT changed its name from United Nations Intelligence Taskforce to Unified Intelligence Taskforce. UNIT retained its traditional logos, even though they displayed the now-technically incorrect initialization "U.N.I.T." (TV: The Sontaran Stratagem)

Specific events

At some point, the UK division of UNIT faced 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 two hundred invasions) and the existence of Silurian ambassadors. This was viewed as a hoax, but it forced the government to leave UNIT in charge of alien matters, leading to uneasy co-existence with ICIS. (AUDIO: The Coup)

Unknown to UNIT, their leader, Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood, was an ICIS plant who had been groomed to assume leadership of their rival. (AUDIO: The Wasting) ICIS' involvement in an attempted coup (AUDIO: The Longest Night) and murderous attempts at framing UNIT led to their shutdown; 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. (AUDIO: The Wasting)

The position was later handed to Colonel Mace under unknown circumstances.

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 centred around a New York Liaison Office for immediate 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. (WEB: http://www.unit.org.uk)

In 2006, UNIT sent a delegation to a gathering of experts to 10 Downing Street in response to a spaceship crash in the River Thames. All of the experts were electrocuted by the Slitheen family. (TV: Aliens of London) By this time, UNIT and the Torchwood Institute were aware of each other. (TV: Fragments) UNIT asked for the assistance of Torchwood Three's Owen Harper while the crashed ship's apparent pilot, dubbed the Space Pig, was taken to Albion Hospital. Toshiko Sato would fill in for him. (TV: Aliens of London, Exit Wounds)

In 2006, a group of at least three Groske were stranded on Earth. UNIT found and recruited them. (TV: Death of the Doctor)

In Christmas 2006, UNIT had a command centre in the Tower of London under the command of Major Richard Blake (TV: The Christmas Invasion). UNIT maintained 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 Tenth Doctor's, whom he and the Doctor had suggested for a position with UNIT. (TV: Reset)

By 2008 UNIT operated an aircraft carrier airship, the Valiant, which was mainly designed by British Minister of Defence Harold Saxon, who was in fact the Master. (TV: The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords)

Sarah Jane Smith remained in friendly contact with UNIT, leading to its involvement in cleaning up a Slitheen plot. (TV: Revenge of the Slitheen) Her status as one of the Doctor's companions during his time as their Scientific Advisor seems to have given her some pull; Sarah Jane said mentioning her name would ensure good pay. (TV: The Man Who Never Was)

Prior to the 2009 Sontaran invasion, Martha Jones, an ex-companion of the Tenth Doctor was tasked with alerting him about it when the preparations for the invasion were discovered. (TV: The Sontaran Stratagem) Apparently, now-Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart still had some involvement with UNIT at this time, though he had gone to Peru for undisclosed reasons. (TV: The Poison Sky)

Following the defeat of the Sontarans, UNIT began reverse-engineering 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 (it 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, any three out of five UNIT facilities would end humanity's suffering by destroying the planet with nuclear weaponry under Earth's crust. (TV: The Stolen Earth/Journey's End)

Following the relocation of the Earth and 26 other planets to the Medusa Cascade, UNIT went on high alert, and then a war footing as the Dalek invasion began. Both the Valiant and the New York headquarters were overrun by Daleks and destroyed, and the United Nations surrendered soon after. Martha Jones escaped using the Project Indigo device, maintaining possession of an Osterhagen key in the process. (TV: The Stolen Earth) She reached the Osterhagen Station in Germany. The Chinese and Liberian stations had been already activated. She was teleported away by the Daleks before the bombs could be triggered. The Doctor later asked her to have the Project dismantled (though whether she was successful is unknown). (TV: Journey's End)

UNIT and Torchwood made a joint effort to investigate the voices coming from the Mariana Trench. UNIT supplied the submarine, the Octopus Rock, and the ship to transport it, the USS Calvin. (AUDIO: Submission)

During Easter 2009 UNIT was called out to a tunnel near Brixton after a bus carrying the Tenth Doctor and other passengers had gone through a wormhole. The Doctor contacted the senior officer on site, Captain Erisa Magambo and also spoke with their scientific adviser Professor Malcolm Taylor. He managed to get the bus back to its original location but the Swarm arrived on Earth. Magambo and UNIT fought the stingrays. The Doctor recommended to Magambo that there might be two more potential UNIT recruits from the bus, namely Barclay and Nathan. (TV: Planet of the Dead)

When the Master turned every human into a copy of him on Christmas Day 2009, UNIT came under his command. When the Tenth Doctor piloted the Hesperus to Joshua Naismith's mansion, the Master Race-controlled UNIT fired missiles at him. Wilfred Mott and Rossiter the Vinvocci destroyed them. When Rassilon and his Time Lord guard arrived at the mansion, his first act was to reverse the Master race back to their human forms. (TV: The End of Time)

2010s

On 4 May 2010, after the Eleventh Doctor had destroyed an awaking Cyberman army, he predicted that a lot of questions would be asked by UNIT. He advised Chisholm to simply mention his name. (GAME: Blood of the Cybermen)

Later that year, rogue Colonel Tia Karim leagued with Claw Shansheeth to gain the Doctor's TARDIS. They created a ruse that the Eleventh Doctor had died and prepared his funeral in UNIT Base 5 so they could drain the life force of Sarah Jane Smith and Josephine Jones through their memories of the Doctor. They attached them to the Memory Weave and began the process to conjure a TARDIS key. The machine was overloaded by the many memories of Jo and Sarah Jane and it self-destructed, killing the group. (TV: Death of the Doctor)

In 2011, after the Miracle Day phenomenon was negated, UNIT sealed off the Blessing. (TV: The Blood Line)

After Kate Stewart became head of scientific research, UNIT took in Shakri cubes and experimented on them; they subjected them to temperatures from -200 to 200 degrees Celsius, simulated a water depth of five miles, dropped one out of a helicopter at 10,000 feet and rolled UNIT's best tank on one. The cubes were left intact. A year later, when the cubes activated and behaved unusually, several dozen were contained and examined in the Tower of London. Stewart called in the Eleventh Doctor and Amy on the Doctor's psychic paper to look into this. (TV: The Power of Three)

Rivals

One division within the Central Intelligence Agency headed by a man known only as Control was a rival of sorts to UNIT. (PROSE: The Devil Goblins from Neptune) A few years later, another American, Bill Filer, worked on friendly terms with UNIT. (TV: The Claws of Axos)

In Britain, UNIT would come into conflict with a domestic anti-alien agency named ICIS (Internal Counter-Intelligence Service), who had a 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 led to the agency being massacred by Cybermen and an unprepared Earth being assaulted. (COMIC: The Flood)

An internal conspiracy within UNIT, the Cortez Project, attempted to massacre any alien, hostile or not, that arrived on Earth. Its existence was exposed in 1997, and UNIT began hunting down its cells. (PROSE: Bullet Time)

Beyond the 21st century

Following human expansion into the galaxy, UNIT evolved into the Foreign Hazard Duty. (COMIC: The Mark of Mandragora, The Echoes of Mogor)

By the 26th century, UNIT has become a secret society called the Unitatus. (PROSE: Cold Fusion) Unitatus survived at least until the 30th century (PROSE: So Vile a Sin)

Headquarters and command centres

UNIT had a command centre in the cargo hold of a C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft and could use the plane itself as a mobile base. (TV: The Invasion)

The British branch of UNIT later operated out of an office building in London (TV: 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. (TV: 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. (TV: Pyramids of Mars)

From late 2006, UNIT had a base in the Tower of London. (TV: The Christmas Invasion)

From around 2008 on, UNIT possessed at least two flying carrier ships, the Valiant (TV: The Sound of Drums) and the Starling (COMIC: The Age of Ice), which could be used as bases. The Valiant was destroyed in the 2009 Dalek invasion.

Branches outside of Great Britain

Organisation

UNIT's status was supported by enabling legislation that allowed it to assume emergency powers when necessary. Although it operated under the authority of the United Nations, its members were seconded from the host country's military and were still bound to obey that chain of command. Lethbridge-Stewart, for example, reported to the Ministry of Defence and the Prime Minister. (TV: Terror of the Zygons) However, when such orders conflicted, appeals could be made to Geneva.

Due to the international nature of the organisation, it was 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 believed it to be a kind of covert counter-terrorist unit.

Despite the change of name to the Unified Intelligence Taskforce, the United Nations commanded and funded UNIT. (TV: The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, TV: Children of Earth: Day One)

Equipment and uniforms

Equipment

Its personnel had a wide range of weaponry to call on, some custom-made to combat specific threats. Standard weaponry of UNIT ca. 2010 consisted of G36 and G36C assault rifles, M4A1 assault rifles, limited numbers of K23B-styled M4s seen in the episode, The Poison Sky. SIG-Sauer P226 pistols are seen as their main sidearm, as well as heavy weapons such as the FIM-92A Stinger and the AT4 rocket launcher. The standard issue firearm in the 1970s was the L1A1 SLR, a British version of the FN FAL, which was the current rifle used by the British Army. In the late 1990s, UNIT troops were armed with the Steyr AUG assault rifle.(TV: Battlefield) As the Brigadier explained to the Doctor, these were armour-piercing munitions for use against robots, explosive rounds for Yetis, silver-tipped rounds and gold-tipped rounds for use against Cybermen. (TV: Battlefield) UNIT had a laser rifle at its disposal to deal with a Krynoid, though the weapon did not manage to kill it. (TV: The Seeds of Doom)

UNIT had access to the USS Calvin (a ship) and Octopus Rock (an advanced deep-sea submarine). They also had experimental diving suits made of dwarf star alloy capable of surviving miles below the surface. (AUDIO: Submission)

Uniforms

20th century

Early in its history, UNIT troops and officers wore one-piece beige coveralls with a green/grey shirt and and silver/green tie with sand-coloured berets not unlike the British Special Air Service. (TV: The Invasion through TV: Doctor Who and the Silurians) Apart from Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who retained his regular uniform, the exceptions to this were new futuristic-looking uniforms, which consisted of a zip-up jacket without lapels worn over a rolled-neck sweater, (TV: The Ambassadors of Death) and combat gear, as worn by the troops stationed at the Inferno Project in Eastchester. (TV: Inferno)

They reverted to uniforms not unlike that worn by the British Army, but with the addition of UNIT badges. (TV: Terror of the Autons through The Seeds of Doom)

This may apply only to UNIT troops stationed in Great Britain, where the Third Doctor worked as scientific advisor.

In the 1990s they retained the standard military look, with the addition of a blue cap (with blue representing the United Nations). (TV: Battlefield)

21st century

By 2006, UNIT troops had adopted a paramilitary all-black look, with scarlet berets. (TV: The Christmas Invasion) Officers wore service dress (Such as British Army No2 Dress or US Army Class A). (TV: Fragments, TV: The Sontaran Stratagem,The Stolen Earth) As an alternative, officers could wear a black version of service dress with the UNIT Beret. (TV: Turn Left)

By the time of Kate Stewart's leadership, troops wore black body armour with black helmets and tinted goggles. (TV: The Power of Three)

Divisions

UNIT maintained a number of specialised departments. One, the Paranormal Division, in which Lieutenant Hamlet Macbeth investigated psychic powers and phenomena. (PROSE: The Left-Handed Hummingbird) UNIT Broadsword was UNIT's intelligence wing and Special Ops division. (PROSE: No Future) It also maintained the Warehouse, a place to store alien artefacts; security breaches at this and similar facilities were handled by the Containment Team. (HOMEVID: Auton) Internal affairs were handled by the Internal Security Division. (HOMEVID: Auton 2: Sentinel) UNIT also maintained a warehouse known as the Black Archive. (TV: Enemy of the Bane)

Call signs

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 (TV: Invasion of the Dinosaurs), or Greyhound Leader. Other Greyhounds included Mike Yates as Greyhound Two (TV: The Dæmons), Martha Jones as Greyhound Six, and Ross Jenkins as Greyhound Forty. (TV: The Sontaran Stratagem) The commander of operations was often called 'Trap 1', with both Lethbridge-Stewart (TV: Invasion of the Dinosaurs) and Colonel Mace (TV: The Sontaran Stratagem) using the call sign at times. An alternative term was 'Watchtower'. (TV: 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". (TV: The Mind of Evil) Lieutenant Richards, commanding a missile convoy, was designated 'Salamander Six-Zero'. Brigadier Bambera, in the same operation, was 'Seabird'. (TV: Battlefield)

Helicopter call signs included 'Windmill 347' (TV: The Mind of Evil), 'Eagle' (TV: The Green Death) and 'Uniform November Nine-Zero' (TV: Battlefield), whilst the Valiant was 'Hawk Major'. (TV: The Poison Sky)

Alternate timeline versions

List of UNIT personnel

Head of Scientific Research

Scientific advisors

Assistants

Medical officers

Others

See also

Behind the scenes

  • 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 20 August and 24 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
  • BBV Productions have made a trilogy of videos featuring the Autons and UNIT, although they feature none of the original members.
  • 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 could still be used, as long as it was not explained what the letters stood for. The modified "Unified Intelligence Taskforce" name was first uttered on-screen in The Sontaran Stratagem, 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 Broadcast vans used by the BBC production unit, with the BBC logos on the vehicles covered up.
  • According to the non-narrative source, REF: The Making of Doctor Who, UNIT was overseen by a Commander-in-Chief in Geneva in the early 1970s.

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