Through the Ages

Through the Ages

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Commanding Officers

After completing my chronicle of the UNIT uniforms (to date), it got me thinking about the officers who have commanded the UK branch, so here is a list of all the Commanding Officers of the UK branch of UNIT that we have yet seen.


Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart
c.1968 – 1976

Lethbridge-Stewart was the first Commanding Officer of the UK Branch of UNIT having being appointed to this position when the organisation was founded.

We do not know what date UNIT was founded due to the UNIT Dating Controversy, but 1968 was the year “The Invasion” first aired, which was UNIT’s first onscreen appearance. Lethbridge-Stewart retired as CO in 1976, as stated in “Mawdryn Undead”. However, he continued to be called back into service by UNIT on a number of subsequent occasions.


Colonel Faraday
1976 – c.1980

Colonel Faraday appears in “The Android Invasion”. Though not explicitly stated in the show, I would argue that it was Faraday who took over command of UNIT when Lethbridge-Stewart retired (for my reasons why I believe Faraday to be UNIT's CO, see my entry on The Sporadic Years).

We do not know when Farady left UNIT, but according to the audio drama “The Oseiden Adventure”, he is still with the organisation in 1979. 


Colonel Charles Crichton
c.1980 – Late 1980s

All we know about Crichton is that he was Commanding Officer of the UK branch of UNIT in 1983.

In the show, Colonel Crichton is listed as being Lethbridge-Stewart’s replacement. However, this is a throwaway line in “The Five Doctors”, and it is not explicitly stated that Crichton is his immediate replacement. If he was indeed the immediate successor of Lethbridge-Stewart, then by the time of “The Five Doctors” he has been UNIT’s CO for seven years. According to the novelisation of Downtime, he was still UNIT’s CO in 1995, having been promoted to Brigadier. This means that he has been UNIT’s CO for almost 20 years, which is a ridiculous assertion. Military postings just don’t last that long (not to mention the fact that his appearance in the Downtime novelisation is contradicted by the UNIT Dominion audio dramas, and I always give precedence to the audios over the novels since they contain the real cast members. In addition to that, the Downtime novelisation has Bambera as a Captain, meaning that within two years she will be promoted to Brigadier to replace Crichton. A promotion from Captain to Brigadier, missing out the intervening ranks of Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel, in less than two years is preposterous! It was clearly written by someone who has no idea how the military really works (which is an accusation that can be levelled more and more at Doctor Who these days!!) and resultantly I don’t hold that novelisation in very high regard. Thankfully, neither Crichton nor Bambera were in the video version of Downtime, which is the version I count as the ‘real’ one).
It is far more reasonable to surmise that Crichton did not immediately replace Lethbridge-Stewart (I would argue that, based on “The Android Invasion”, Colonel Faraday did that). It is also possible that there was at least one more Commanding officer who came between Crichton and Lafayette, but if this is the case, we have, as yet, not seen him or her. Alternatively, Lafayette could have been Crichton’s immediate successor.  


Colonel Lafayette
Late 1980s
Colonel Lafayette appears in the “UNIT Dominion” audio dramas, in which he is stated to have been in charge of the UK contingent of UNIT for “three months”.
"UNIT Dominion" does not give a setting, but we can reasonably assume that it is in the late 1980s (for a start, Dr Klein, UNIT’s Scientific Adviser, records things onto cassette tapes rather than CDs). Additionally, the Doctor meets Dr Klein again in a later adventure (“Persuasion”), which is set in 1990, so we know that Dominion comes before then chronologically.
Note that the artwork in the CD gives Colonel Lafayette the gorget patches of a General. A Colonel’s gorget patches are plain red and do not have the gold oak leaves on them. 



Major Wyland-Jones
Late 1980s
Major Wyland-Jones replaces Colonel Lafayette when the latter is killed in “UNIT Dominion”.
As a Major, Wyland-Jones is the lowest ranked Commanding Officer we’ve yet seen. The story tells us that Geneva had been grooming to him to replace Lafayette for “weeks”, but that doesn’t explain why they would be preparing an officer of that grade, when all the previous Commanding Officers have been substantive Colonels or above. One wonders if he was promoted shortly after this adventure (to Lieutenant Colonel?). Perhaps UNIT cutbacks meant that they were trying to save money on higher salaries.
Note that in the CD artwork, Wyland-Jones is wearing neither a UNIT beret nor UNIT cap badge. Presumably he was given a red beret as that is the colour associated with UNIT thanks to the new series (despite it being inaccurate for the time period this story is set in), but surely they could have Photoshoped the UNIT globe on at the very least.  



Brigadier Winifred Bambera
c.1990s – early 2000s
We see Brigadier Bambera as Commanding Officer of UNIT UK in “Battlefield”, set in 1997. We are given no indication of how long she has been in charge. She is one of only two Brigadiers to command the UK branch, as all other COs hold the rank of Colonel. It is entirely reasonable to suggest that there was at least one other Commanding Officer of UNIT who served between Wyland-Jones and Bambera, whose post would cover the period of the early to mid-1990s.
We later meet Brigadier Bambera again in the audio adventure “Animal”, set in 2001, which means she retained her command into the early years of the 21st Century. Presumably she was succeeded by Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood, though it would be entirely possible for another CO to have been in post between them.

In the audio drama "UNIT Assembled", Lieutenant Sam Bishop mentions "General Bambera" as being in Peru, so she is still presumably a very senior officer with UNIT in the 2010s. 



Colonel Ross Brimmicombe-Wood
Early 2000s – Early 2005
Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood is the CO of UNIT UK in the first series of UNIT audio dramas (though it turns out he was a traitor and working for ICIS all along).
I would surmise that Brimmicombe-Wood became the CO in 2003 (in the winter of 2004/2005, Colonel Chaudhry mentions that Brimmicombe-Wood got to know her at the staff Christmas party, which presumably was the previous year’s). 



Colonel Robert Dalton

Colonel Dalton was brought in as Acting Commanding Officer when Brimmicombe-Wood was kidnapped. He only held the post for a month or so before being killed by a bomb blast in Downing Street. 



Colonel Emily Chaudhry        
2005 – c.2007  
Colonel Chaudhry was originally UNIT UK’s Press and PR Officer, but was promoted to the role of Commanding Officer after Brimmicombe-Wood’s treachery was exposed.
On a side note, I loved the UNIT audio dramas, but found it eminently unbelievable that UNIT has two substantive Colonels in the form of the Commanding Officer and the Press Officer. Chaudhry even mentions that UNIT’s budget has been slashed, so why are they funding two such high-ranking officers. They should have made her a Lieutenant Colonel or Major to make it a little more believable. In reality, regimental press officers in the British Army tend to be much lower ranked officers (like Lieutenants or Captains). However, given the nature of UNIT, one can see why a higher ranked officer might be necessary, though I still assert that a full Colonel is unlikely.  



Colonel Alan Mace
c.2007 – 2009

The first UNIT commander we see in the new series of Doctor Who is Colonel Alan Mace, who we meet in “The Sontaran Stratagem”; a story set in 2009. We are given no indication of how long he has been in charge of the UK contingent prior to this; however, he appears to be in charge of UNIT during the Racnoss incursion of Christmas 2007, as seen in “Turn Left”. It is entirely feasible that he took over from Colonel Chaudhry sometime between 2005 and 2007.

In the audio drama "UNIT Assembled", Lieutenant Sam Bishop says that "Mace" is in Japan. This implies that Mace is still with UNIT in the 2010s, although it doesn't state his rank at that point.  



Colonel Augustus Oduya
2009 – Early 2010s
Colonel Oduya appears in TorchwoodChildren of Earth”. Dialogue suggests that he succeeded Colonel Mace, who is said to have been posted to Vancouver. This story is dated to September 2009. We do not know how long he lasted in the role.
The next time we see UNIT on screen (In “The Power of Three”) we are told that Kate Stewart, the daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, is now in overall charge of the organisation. However, Kate is a scientist, in charge of UNIT’s scientific research; the military side of UNIT would still have a Commanding Officer (it is unlikely that any military organisation would suddenly relinquish their authority to a civilian). 



Colonel Shindi
The new series of UNIT audios, beginning with “UNIT Extinction” introduces us to the character of Colonel Shindi. These stories are set between “The Power of Three” and “The Day of the Doctor”, so we can tentatively date them to 2012 or 2013.
Note that the CD artwork for Colonel Shindi shows him with unkempt hair, a beard and moustache. Military regulations would never allow him to have either the length of hair that he has, or the beard (the moustache, however, is acceptable, making him the first CO with a moustache since Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Colonel Faraday). Obviously, one can’t expect an actor to change their appearance for an audio adventure, but surely Photoshop could have been used to make him look more realistically military.  



Colonel Ahmed

The character of Colonel Ahmed appears as the highest ranking UNIT officer aboard Boat One in “Death in Heaven”. However, he is killed by the Cybermen. 



Colonel Walsh

Colonel Walsh was in command of a contingent of UNIT troops in Turmezistan in “The Zygon Invasion”, however, we can safely assume that she is a British officer (or, at the very last, an officer in a Commonwealth army) because both she and Major Hitchins wear British rank insignia. 


And that brings us up-to-date. I really hope that we will soon see another Commanding Officer for the UK branch of UNIT, maybe even one who can become a recurring character alongside Kate Stewart; possibly even Colonel Walsh since she, as far as we know, survived the Zygon gambit. 



Dishonourable mentions:
Colonel Tia Karim

The Sarah Jane Adventures introduced us to the character of Colonel Karim, but I personally do not count her as one of UNIT’s COs (despite her being referred to as a Colonel), simply because I prefer to think of her more as the Officer Commanding UNIT’s Mount Snowden Base (plus her rank insignia displays the pips of a Lieutenant not a Colonel). Thankfully, it is not stated in the episode that she is UNIT’s Commanding Officer, so my theory doesn’t contradict on screen evidence. 


Personally, I think that these days whenever the Doctor Who writers need a military character in a position of authority they seem to just plump for a Colonel, regardless of how realistic this would actually be. It is perhaps my biggest criticism of NuWho that there doesn’t seem to be anyone who actually understands how a military organisation works (the same criticism can be levelled at Sherlock – there are so many mistakes it brings me right out of the narrative!).



Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Moffat Years: 2010 – 2017

From the eras of the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors:

The Power of Three

UNIT’s first appearance in the Moffat era is in “The Power of Three”, where they turn up unannounced at Amy and Rory’s house; a scene that introduces us to the character of Kate Stewart, the daughter of Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart.

The UNIT soldiers themselves look a little more ‘heavy duty’ than they did in the RTD era. They still wear black jumpsuits and tactical vests, but in addition to the armoured gauntlets they also wear armour on their legs and protection on their shoulders/upper arms.

The UNIT logo is still on the right breast of the vests, but it is no longer worn on the sleeves of the jumpsuits (or, if it is, it is no longer visible due to the shoulder pads). The UNIT ID cards, previously worn on the right breasts, are also now absent.

The red UNIT beret has been replaced by a black helmet and protective goggles. In this serial, they actually wear the goggles too (unlike their later appearances when they are just worn on the helmet).

The Bells of Saint John

UNIT soldiers made a very brief appearance at the end of “The Bells of Saint John”. Their appearance was consistent with their look in “The Power of Three”.

The Day of the Doctor

In the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Special, UNIT troops again appear in their ‘heavy duty’ SWAT gear, but the goggles are now pushed up on to their helmets rather than being worn over the eyes.

This would also mark the last appearance of the winged UNIT globe, worn on the left breast of the tactical vests.

At the end of this episode we get a glimpse of a new UNIT logo in the Black Archive. It consists of a globe with stylised wings that point upwards, rather than outwards.

Death in Heaven

For their appearance in this story UNIT are now emblazoned with the new logo seen briefly in the Black Archive in “The Day of the Doctor”. It appears to have completely replaced the winged globe used since “The Christmas Invasion”, and appears on uniforms and hardware.

UNIT troops again wear black jumpsuits, with tactical vests, armour and helmets, but the patch on their left breast is now the new logo.

For the first time in the Moffat era we get to see some UNIT officers in this episode, aboard Boat One (the UNIT aircraft), in the form of Colonel Ahmed, and two other officers (a male and a female). Similar to the uniform worn by Captain Magambo, the officers are clad in black Service Dress-style jacket and trousers over shirt and tie. Medal ribbons are worn, but there are no insignia on the lapels; nor is there a UNIT patch on the breast or any sign of the white lanyard. Rank is displayed on the epaulettes.

Something to note is that the buttons and rank insignia on these uniforms are silver, not gold. This suggests that the costume department used police uniforms rather than army uniforms when assembling the costumes.

The uniforms are worn with a leather belt and pistol holster.

This story also witnesses the return of the red beret, worn by one of the officers as they board the plane. However, it is too far away to see what cap badge they are wearing.

The Magician’s Apprentice

UNIT have a brief cameo in the Series 9 opener, focussing mostly on the scientists (such as Kate and Jac). However, a number of UNIT troops are briefly glimpsed in both the Tower of London and when Clara meets Missy. Their uniforms remain the same as those worn in “Death in Heaven”.

There are also UNIT Agents who appear to be close protection bodyguards. They are dressed in the style of the so-called ‘Men In Black’, with dark suits and dark glasses.

On a slightly unrelated note, this was the episode of Doctor Who that I appeared in playing a Dalek. My own Dalek, as it happens. To read about my experiences please check out my other blog:

That's me, in my Dalek (left) exterminating Missy

The Zygon Invasion” / “The Zygon Inversion

This two-part serial tweaked UNIT’s look slightly to keep up with the times and make it a little more modern. The tactical vests, which have been worn by soldiers since NuWho returned, have now been updated to a newer style.

The new UNIT logo is now worn on the right breast instead of the left.

They continue to wear the helmets, gauntlets and leg protection that they have worn throughout the Moffat era.

UNIT troops now no longer appear to wear the jumpsuits under their armour. Instead, they wear black trousers and a black roll-neck (similar to the roll-necks they used to wear under the jumpsuits).

When on Boat One, the UNIT soldiers substitute their helmets for the red UNIT beret. However, despite the updated UNIT logo being displayed prominently on clothing and hardware, the beret cap badge is still the old style of the winged globe.

Officers, such as Walsh and Hitchley, when taking part in military operations, now don the same tactical vests and combat armour that the UNIT ORs do. However, officers wear military-style jumpers over their roll-necks.

Behind the scenes photo showing UNIT officers wearing jumpers under their tactical vests

Colonel Walsh wears what appears to be a police jumper rather than a military jumper. It is V-necked and has a pocket patch on the left sleeve. It is also made from thinner wool than the military equivalent. Her rank is displayed on the epaulettes.

The character of Hitchley is only referred to in the episode as “Johnny” Hitchley, but we can see that he wears crowns on his epaulettes, which identify him as being an officer holding the rank of Major.

Under his tactical vest, Major Hitchley wears a standard black military V-neck pullover.

Colonel Walsh also wears her Service Dress in this story, which again is shown to be the black jacket over shirt and tie. Unlike previous female officers, Walsh wears trousers instead of a skirt (Note that Walsh’s uniform only has a three-button fastening up the front, unlike Captain Magambo who had four buttons).

The uniform buttons and rank insignia are once again gold, unlike the silver ones the officers wore in “Death in Heaven”. Also, the ‘grenade’ insignia on the lapels has returned. Oddly, Walsh wears these lapel badges despite being a full Colonel and entitled to scarlet gorget patches.

A bonze-looking badge displaying the UNIT logo is now pinned to the right breast of the uniform jacket.

The uniform is topped off by the red UNIT beret.

Another UNIT uniform is worn by the personnel at Colonel Walsh’s command post in Turmezistan. It consists of black trousers and a long-sleeved black shirt with the sleeves rolled up. The bronze UNIT badge is worn on the right breast.

It appears, from this blurry image of a background character, that the old UNIT logo of the winged globe is worn as a patch on the shirt’s left sleeve.

The Return of Doctor Mysterio

UNIT made a brief appearance in the 2016 Christmas special, where they were represented by a squad of American UNIT soldiers. The uniforms they wore were the same as those worn by the British contingent in their previous appearance in “The Zygon Invasion” and “The Zygon Inversion”. Clearly the slight modification to the UNIT uniforms that we saw in series 9 was a UNIT-wide change for all divisions around the globe, and not just limited to the UK branch.

And that bring us up-to-date with the uniforms worn by UNIT in stories thus far appearing in Doctor Who. We have one more series under Moffat's tenure, and if UNIT appear I will update this post accordingly. After that, we will be on to the Chibnell years...


The Pyramid at the End of the World

UNIT do not appear in this episode, but the United Nations does, and since UNIT is (or was) part of the UN, I thought I would include these UN troops as an addendum.

The first soldiers we see are in Bill’s flat in London, accompanying the United Nations Secretary General (and interesting change since previously in the show, it was said the UN was commanded by a “Commander General” See: “The Stolen Earth”). They are dressed in Combat Soldier 95 camouflage uniforms, which are actually now years out of date. This DMP pattern has since been superseded by a uniforms known as PCS-CU that was introduced in 2011! Having said that, the UNIT soldiers of the 1970s also wore combat uniforms that were out of date. In truth I suspect these older uniforms were easier to acquire by the production team.

The UN soldiers wear UN blue berets with the wreathed United Nations badge, as well as blue United Nations patches on the sleeves.


The officer in charge is simply credited as “the commander”, but since he wears a crown on his rank epaulette, he would actually be a Major. Two observations I’d make about him are that 1) the badge on his beret is metal, whereas British officers, including UN ones, wear cloth beret badges, and 2) his rank insignia is a cloth crown sewn onto his uniform, which is a practice that is decades out of date. Rank these days is printed onto slides.

Having said that, he may not be a Major after all. The size of the rank crown is actually too large to be that of a Major, and is actually the crown of a Warrant Officer Class 2 (a rank usually given the position of Sergeant Major). So if he is a Warrant Officer and not an commissioned officer, this would explain the metal cap badge too.

What it doesn’t explain is why his right ear is tucked under his beret!

When we arrive in Turmezistan (the fictional country that we last saw in “The Zygon Inversion”), we see further UN soldiers. They are dressed in UN blue helmets and body armour, as well as desert combat uniforms that, like the Combat 95 uniform, is also out of date. In 2017, they too should be in PCS-CU.

I feel I should also point out the character of Don Brabbit. He was not a member of the United Nations forces, and was actually the commander of the US troops. He was addressed numerous times as ‘Colonel’, yet the rank insignia on both his chest and beret clearly show that he is in fact a four star General! Which leads one to wonder whether it was the script writer or the costume department who was at fault.

It pains me to say it, but Doctor Who these days shows a complete disregard for showing the military accurately on screen. Whether it is down to sheer laziness, or lack of resources, or bad research, I’m not sure; but it just seems to be a case of stick any old uniform on a character and the audience will believe he’s in the army. Alas, the more mistakes I see, the more it draws me out of an otherwise fantastic programme. I don’t blame Moffat for this, but it is certainly under his tenure that this trend has reached its nadir.