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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 531 > MILITARY MANOEUVRES

MILITARY MANOEUVRES

On many levels UNIT was an incongruous addition to Doctor Who, but stories featuring the Brigadier and his successors have proved very useful…
UNIT personnel from the last five decades: Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) in Terror of the Autons (1971), Private Ross Jenkins (Christian Cooke) in The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky (2008) and Brigadier Winifred Bambera (Angela Bruce) in Battlefield (1989).
John Breslin as Captain Munro with Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier in a rehearsal shot from Episode 2 of Spearhead from Space (1970).

What is a military organisation like UNIT doing in Doctor Who? Isn’t it kind of the opposite of the whole premise? The Doctor is an iconoclast, not part of the establishment. He is a man of peace who believes that violence never ends violence. And he’s a traveller, a wanderer in time and space. So what is he doing stuck in the Home Counties of England in only one time?

Ever since I was a kid, reading the Target novelisations of Jon Pertwee’s stories, this has puzzled me. It’s as if, for a couple of years in the early 1970s, Doctor Who became a different series altogether. A more formulaic one and a more generic one. The ‘scientist working alongside the military’ set-up is very derivative of alien-invasion films such as the 1967 Hammer production of Quatermass and the Pit, as well as bearing a marked similarity to the format of the contemporaneous ITC Entertainment series UFO.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: • An exclusive interview with Bradley Walsh • Previews of the next four episodes: Rosa, Arachnids in the UK, The Tsuranga Conundrum and Demons of the Punjab • A tribute to Michael Pickwoad, Doctor Who's production designer from 2010 to 2017 • A look back at the origins of UNIT, which made its debut in Doctor Who 50 years ago • DWM investigates the role a military organisation like UNIT plays in Doctor Who • An interview with John Levene, who played UNIT's Sergeant Benton • Members of Series 11's Script and Story Department describe their roles • The Thirteenth Doctor makes her DWM comic strip debut in part one of Warmonger • A tribute to Jacqueline Pearce, who was Chessene in 1985's The Two Doctors and more recently played Cardinal Ollistra in Big Finish's War Doctor audio adventures • The Time Team listens to some Who-related chart hits • Tips from Thirteenth Doctor cosplayers • Our verdict on the first two episodes of Series 11: The Woman Who Fell to Earth and The Ghost Monument • Previews, audio and book reviews, news, The Blogs of Doom, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!