Through the Ages

Through the Ages

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Wilderness Years: 1989 – 2005

From the eras of the Seventh Doctor, and the years when the show was off-air:

Yes, I know that the Seventh Doctor’s era wasn’t technically part of the Wilderness Years (in fact, it was the era that introduced me to the show and is one of my favourites!). However, for the purposes of this blog, the UNIT uniforms from the McCoy era are better grouped together with the 90s than the previous eras I’ve posted about.


UNIT re-appeared for their final appearance in the classic series in the 1989 story “Battlefield”, which is set, according to the Doctor “a few years” in Ace’s future. More specifically, the novelisation written by Ben Aaronovitch (the same man who wrote the episode screenplay) places it in 1997.

The UNIT uniforms of the 1990s are completely updated in line with the then-modern British Army. UNIT troops now wear Combat Dress consisting of 1968-pattern DPM camouflage combat jacket and trousers over a khaki shirt and military pullover.

UNIT Soldier in Combats

'68-pattern combat jacket

Brigadier Bambera (left) and Sergeant Zbrigniev (right)

UNIT Private (left) and Sergeant Zbrigniev (right)

The colour of the UNIT beret has now changed to sky blue, which is the beret worn by real-life UN peacekeeping troops.

Blue United Nations beret

The UNIT logo also received an update and is now a yellow-coloured winged globe. When worn as a cap badge, the new UNIT logo is a cloth patch rather than a plastic/metal badge as the old ones were.

The new winged UNIT globe

The new UNIT logo as a cloth cap badge

The new UNIT logo on the door of a Land Rover

The old UNIT oval patch that used to be worn on uniform sleeves is now no longer present. Instead, the new winged UNIT globe is seen worn at the top of the left sleeve on combat jackets and pullovers (it should be noted, however, that this is not consistent, and is only seen on certain characters throughout the story).

Brigadier Bambera (right) has UNIT wings on her upper left arm of her combat jacket

This UNIT Private also wears UNIT wings on his pullover sleeve

These UNIT soldiers do not have UNIT wings on their sleeves

Brigadier Bambera (left) wears the UNIT patch on her sleeve; Sergeant Zbrigniev (right) does not

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (right) does not wear the UNIT wings patch on the sleeve of his combat jacket or his pullover

Some UNIT troops can be seen wearing Kevlar helmets rather than berets.

The UNIT troops lying on the grass are wearing Kevlar helmets

When he comes out of retirement, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart dons his Service Dress uniform. Since we last saw him in this uniform way back in “Robot”, he appears to have been awarded a few extra medals.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in his Service Dress uniform

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (left) and his wife, Doris (right)

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's medals are slightly different to the ones he wore during the 1970s

Something to note is that the Service Dress worn by the Brigadier in “Battlefield” no longer has the red lanyard on his right arm, or the oval UNIT insignia on the left sleeve. It could be suggested that this is because he has retired from UNIT so has no right to wear any of their insignia, but since he apparently retired from both UNIT and the army at the same time, it raises the question of why he would have gone to the trouble of removing the UNIT insignia before putting his uniform into storage. Perhaps the top secret (ahem) nature of the organisation required it. Alternatively, maybe these are no longer a part of the UNIT Service Dress uniform in the 1990s.

The Brigadier's Service Dress no longer has the red UNIT lanyard, or any form of UNIT patch

Barrack Dress is also seen to be worn in this serial. It consists of the same shirt and jumper worn with the Combat Dress, but without the jacket and with a pair of plain khaki trousers known as ‘lightweights’.

Army pullover
The modern version now features epaulettes

British Army 'lightweights'

Brigadier Bambera wears Barrack Dress in the final scene of the serial.

If you look closely... can see Brigadier Bambera sat in the backseat of Bessie...

...wearing her Barrack Dress uniform

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart wears his Barrack Dress throughout most of the story, after changing out of his Service Dress. Unlike Bambera, who wears her UNIT beret with her Barrack Dress, Lethbridge-Stewart wears his peaked Brigadier’s cap.

Brigadier-Lethbridge-Stewart in Barrack Dress

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart now wears his pistol on his right hip
Previously he had always worn it on his left

Flight Lieutenant Lavel (left) and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (right)

In Episode Four, Lethbridge-Stewart dons a DPM camouflage jacket over his Barrack Dress.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (right) wears a combat jacket over his Barrack Dress

Ace (left), the Doctor (centre), and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (right)

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart loads his pistol with silver bullets

Both Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Brigadier Bambera wear mini gorget patches on their shirt collars, as befits their rank (technically, Lethbridge-Stewart should have worn these with his Barrack Dress back in the 1970s too).

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart wear mini gorget patches on his shirt collar

Brigadier Bambera's gorget patches can also be seen beneath her combat jacket

Note that in one scene, the costume department attached Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart’s gorget patches to the wrong part of his collar, making them vertical instead of horizontal.

Incorrect placement of the Brigadier's gorget patches

With both Barrack Dress and Combat Dress, UNIT now appears to wear a scrim neck scarf underneath the shirt, in the style of a cravat.

Brigadier Bambera (left) and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (right)
This publicity photo shows the scrim scarf being worn like a cravat
Brigadier Bambera

Sergeant Zbrigniev

This serial also gives us a look at the UNIT ID cards of the 1990s.

Brigadier Bambera displays her UNIT ID card

UNIT is made up primarily of personnel from the British Army, but we have previously also seen an officer from the Royal Navy (Harry Sullivan). This serial introduces us to the character of Flight Lieutenant Lavel, a pilot from the Royal Air Force. Lavel wears a DPM camouflage jacket over a flight jumpsuit. The epaulettes of the jacket display her RAF officer’s rank insignia, and she wears a standard UNIT beret.

Flight Lieutenant Lavel wears a UNIT beret

Flight Lieutenant Lavel's (right) RAF rank insignia can be seen on her epaulettes

Flight Lieutenant Lavel draws her firearm

Flight Lieutenant Lavel wears a flight suit under her combat jacket

Battlefield” also introduces us to the character of Major Husak, who is an officer in the Czechoslovakian contingent of UNIT, specifically a part of their engineering group. Husak wears the Combat Dress of the Czechoslovak People’s Army, topped off with the standard blue UNIT beret. The star on his collar is the Czechoslovakian rank insignia of a Major.

Major Husak of the Czechoslovakian branch of UNIT

Husak’s Czechoslovakian troops are clad in the same camouflage.

Czechoslovakian UNIT troops

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (left) talks with soldiers from UNIT's Czechoslovakian contingent

Oddly, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist in 1993, when the country was split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Since “Battlefield” is set in 1997, this raises a few questions.

Spin Off Material

There will forever be an ongoing debate about the canonicity of the spin-off material, such as the audio adventures, the novels, and the comics, but it should be noted that the UNIT logo introduced in “Battlefield” continued to be used in these mediums.

Here it is in the comic story “The Mark of Mandragora”.

UNIT Headquarters

Captain Muriel Frost, wearing Barrack Dress and the 90s UNIT wings on her beret
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in his Service Dress is stood behind her

And in the comic “Evening’s Empire”.

The new UNIT winged globe still used as a capbadge

UNIT soldiers still wear the blue UN beret

UNIT wings are worn here on the upper sleeve

It is also used on the CD covers for the Big Finish UNIT audio dramas, suggesting that UNIT used this logo into the early years of the 21st Century (popular consensus, I believe, places these stories in early 2005).

1.1 UNIT "Time Heals"

1.2 UNIT "Snake Head"

1.3 UNIT "The Longest Night"

1.4 UNIT "The Wasting"

Another Audio Drama, “Animal” is based on one of the TV scripts for the potential Season 27 that was never produced due to the show being cancelled. However, it features the return of UNIT and Brigadier Bambera. The story is set in 2001 and artwork featured with the audio CD shows Bambera clad in DPM camouflage, suggesting that UNIT were still wearing British Army uniforms at least into the early years of the 21st Century.

The CD cover for "Animal"

Brigadier Bambera and the Doctor face off against the Numlock

Obviously, the images of Bambera are taken from “Battlefield”, but it is clearly intended that UNIT in this story are still wearing British Army uniform rather than the black SWAT gear they will soon be wearing in NuWho. As this is the case, the British Army in 2001 were wearing Combat Soldier 95, consisting of a DPM camouflage shirt and trousers over a khaki T-shirt, with additional layers of pullover and/or DPM smock depending on the situation/climate. So this is what UNIT could be implied to be wearing too.

Combat Soldier 95 shirt
Rank is now displayed on a slide on the shirt front rather than on epaulettes

Dimensions in Time

Very few people have ever tried to argue that “Dimensions in Time” is actually part of the official Doctor Who canon. However, since it was made by the BBC and features the official actors from the show, I have included it here for the sake of completism, since UNIT make a brief appearance.

This 30th anniversary charity special features the first on screen meeting of the Brigadier and the Sixth Doctor. The Brigadier wears his Service Dress uniform that appears unchanged since he wore it in “Battlefield”.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (right) finally meets the Sixth Doctor (left)

Captain Yates wears Barrack Dress, and his beret sports the winged UNIT logo from “Battlefield”. However, the beret itself is not the blue UN one, but rather a standard dark blue beret worn by most infantry regiments in the British Army.

Captain Yates drives Bessie

Captain Yates wears Barrack Dress

The navy blue beret of British Army infantry regiments

Something interesting to note is that we have actually seen this colour of UNIT beret in the canon of the official show; it can be seen on a coat stand in UNIT HQ in “The Five Doctors”.


Downtime” was a direct-to-video production made by an independent production company. However, with the introduction of Kate Stewart into the main Doctor Who show in recent years, it could be argued that this story has now been canonised, since this was where the character first appeared.

Having said that, because it was an independent production without access to the budgets the BBC had available to them, or indeed the costume department’s archive of clothing, the uniforms worn by UNIT could understandably fall outside the series canon due to a lack of continuity. But I shall look at them anyway.

The Service Dress uniform worn by the Brigadier is different to the one he wore throughout the Doctor Who series. It is still an officer’s pattern uniform, but there are two buttons on either cuff, which were not previously present. In fact, this was the style of uniform worn by Captain Yates. His medals also bear no resemblance to the ribbons he wore in the main series.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in a dream-like vision orchestrated by the Great Intelligence

However, since the scenes in which we see him wearing this uniform are a dream, engineered by the Great Intelligence, these anachronisms can easily be explained away.

We get to see a UNIT officer in the form of Captain Cavendish, who wears his Service Dress uniform. However, it displays none of the traits we have come to expect. There is no red lanyard, or a UNIT patch on his left sleeve. Nor does he even wear any UNIT insignia on his lapels or cap badge. He does wear insignia, but these are merely regimental insignia for a British Army regiment.

Captain Cavendish

Finally, we also get to see some standard UNIT troops wearing DPM camouflage fatigues. The cap badges worn by the UNIT troops are the old-style white globe from the 1970s, but they are worn on the sky blue UN berets that we saw in “Battlefield”. This suggests that UNIT adopted the blue berets before updating their logo, and since this story is set in 1995, and “Battlefield” is set in 1997, it is certainly feasible that the winged logo was introduced sometime between the two stories.

UNIT soldiers in blue UN berets with the old style UNIT globe

The UNIT jeep displays the old UNIT logo

The Intermediary Phase between the Old and the New

As previously noted, the Brigadier’s Service Dress uniform in “Battlefield” featured neither the red lanyard, nor the UNIT patch on the sleeve. And though unofficial productions, these are also absent in “Downtime” and “Dimensions in Time”. Nor are they worn by UNIT Captain Cavendish from “Downtime”. Thus, it could possibly be concluded that the UNIT Service Dress uniforms of the 1990s did not feature these affectations. However, without seeing a UNIT officer from an official BBC production, it is impossible to say for certain.

Having said that, it would seem illogical to abandon the red lanyard in favour of no lanyard, only for them to introduce the white lanyard in the mid-2000s. One must assume that the Service Dress of the 1990s is a logical progression between the 70s/80s, and the one seen in NuWho. It’s possible, of course, that the lanyard may have been looked at when the beige berets were replaced with the blue one, but it seems tenuous to suggest, especially when the lanyards survived the bigger change from the beige 1960s uniforms to the British Army fatigues in the 1970s. I would suggest that the red lanyard continued to be worn right up until the point UNIT ‘rebranded’ (as the UNified Intelligence Taskforce), at which point the white lanyard was introduced.

The UNIT logo, of course, was redesigned in the 1990s to add wings to the globe. This badge was worn on the berets, but also, as seen in “Battlefield”, on the left sleeve of the combats. This means that the UNIT oval patch is no longer being worn, in favour of the winged globe. This is similar to 21st Century UNIT, who wear the winged logo in multiple places on their uniforms. I would surmise that this trend would also have transferred to the 90s Service Dress, whereby instead of the oval patch, they now wear the winged globe (and for the sake of continuity, I’d place it on the left breast as in NuWho).

As a final note, when Doctor Who returned to our screens in 2005, the United Nations politely asked Russell T Davies to disassociate the fictional UNIT organisation from the real-world UN, forcing him to change the name from United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, to UNified Intelligence Taskforce. It is perhaps the reason why UNIT no longer wear the blue UN beret in the series, like they had the last time we saw them on screen in “Battlefield”.

But, what if this happened within the Doctor Who universe itself, as well? Maybe the Whoniverse’s UN decided it wanted to distance itself from its intelligence taskforce. Though it still supports and funds UNIT, perhaps it is no longer a wholly subsumed department of the UN; it could be more along the lines of a quango, whereby they are funded by the UN, but no longer run by them. This directive could have caused UNIT to change its name from United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, to the simplified UNified Intelligence Taskforce, and could also explain why the UN blue berets were replaced with red ones. This might also explain the drastic difference between the modern, paranoid UNIT (as glimpsed in Torchwood's "Fragments", for example), and the more homespun UNIT of the Third Doctor's era, or even "Battlefield". A change in management from the UN to a specific UNIT commander in Geneva could logically have brought this change about. In The Sarah Jane Adventures Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart even highlights how different UNIT has become.
This change would feasibly have occurred at some point in 2006, after the events of “Aliens of London” (when they still wore UN patches), but before “The Christmas Invasion”.


  1. By the way: the light blue berets are army air corps(UK) blue, not UN blue

  2. Hi the pattern of the DPM I think is more 85 than 68 as dark than the 68 but not as dark as 95 pattern this really good information I would love you to join my face-book group I didn't know this existed until someone from group shared it my group is

    1. Greetings. Apologies for the late reply!
      Yes, you are correct; it probably is 85 pattern. And far more likely to be the 85 than the 88, given the production team's penchant for using old stock rather than current stuff.
      I remember when I was in the Army Cadets as a teenager I was issued a set of brand new 94 pattern combats, whereas my fellow cadets were wearing faded, old-style 88 pattern ones. There was much jealousy!
      Thank you for the kind comment, I shall certainly come and join your group.
      Many thanks