Through the Ages

Through the Ages

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The RTD Years: 2005 – 2009

From the eras of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors:

Aliens of London

UNIT’s first appearance in the new series was a minor cameo as alien experts in “Aliens of London”. They were represented by a number of high ranking officers in American military uniforms (army and navy).

US UNIT officers arrive at Downing Street

US UNIT officers sit down for a briefing

US UNIT Colonel

The only UNIT insignia we see, however, is the UN peacekeeping patch worn on the upper left sleeve.

United Nations Patch

The UN patch can be seen on the Colonel's left sleeve (right)

This US General (left) also displays a UN patch on her sleeve

This episode also marks the last time on-screen that UNIT is referred to as the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce.

The Christmas Invasion

The first major appearance of UNIT in the new series came in “The Christmas Invasion”, where we saw their new headquarters, underneath the Tower of London.

The UNIT logo has now been updated; whilst still based on the winged globe from “Battlefield”, the new logo is now white, and the wings have been modified to look a little ‘cleaner’ and less feathery.

The new UNIT logo of the 2000s

UNIT logo on lift doors

UNIT logo displayed on glass panels

UNIT soldiers are now dressed in black jumpsuits and tactical vests, with the UNIT logo on either arm of the jumpsuits and on the left breast of the tactical vest.

Tactical Vest worn by UNIT troops

UNIT troops outside the Tower of London

UNIT Headquarters underneath the Tower of London

A UNIT (left) soldier guards the Prime Minister (centre)

UNIT troops on the roof

The berets have changed colour again and are now scarlet red, the same as those worn by the Royal Military Police. The beret also displays the winged UNIT logo.

Red beret worn by the Royal Military Police

UNIT officers continue to wear Service Dress. Three officers are present in this episode: Major Blake, and two background officers (one male; one female). Their uniforms are standard British Army Service Dress, with the exception of the UNIT wings on the left breast. Their peaked caps also display the logo, and the two male officers wear a white lanyard on their right arm. Oddly, the female Captain does not.

Major Blake in Service Dress, with his peaked cap

The new UNIT logo is worn on the left breast

Major Blake (left) and a UNIT Captain (centre rear)

A female UNIT Captain (left)

A slightly blurred image of the same Captain (foreground)

Behind the scenes shot of a UNIT Captain

White lanyard

One interesting thing to note is that Major Blake’s Service Dress is a slightly different cut to everyone else’s (the hip pockets are slanted and he doesn’t have the pleats on his pockets). This, in fact, is the style of Service Dress worn by the Army Air Corps, which might suggest that this is the regiment Blake came from before joining UNIT.

Major Blake (left) wears the Service Dress uniform of the Army Air Corps

Instead of the old-style UNIT globes, the insignia badges worn on officer’s lapels are now ‘exploding grenades’, similar to the lapel badges worn by the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers.

Collar insignia of the Royal Engineers

All UNIT personnel wear ID badges on their right pockets (in this serial, the officers wear their badges on their left pocket, but would change in-line with the soldiers for their next appearance).

Major Blake (left) wears his UNIT ID card on his left breast pocket

UNIT ID card

The Sound of Drums” / “Last of the Time Lords

UNIT next appeared in the Series 3 finale, but only really as background characters. The appearance of UNIT soldiers is unchanged since “The Christmas Invasion”, and we don’t see any UNIT officers.

UNIT soldier (right) aboard the HMS Valiant


Although mentioned earlier in the series (and represented in the form of Martha), UNIT soldiers make a brief appearance in the penultimate episode of series 2 of Torchwood. They seem to have a secret prison along the lines of Guantanamo Bay, where they hold people captured in possession of alien artefacts. The soldiers are only seen for a few split seconds, but their appearance remains unchanged from their previous appearances in Doctor Who.

UNIT soldier

UNIT soldier

The Sontaran Stratagem” / “The Poison Sky

UNIT return in force in this Series 4 two-parter. Again the ORs wear the black SWAT gear as seen in their previous appearances.

UNIT troops arrive in force at the ATMOS factory

Privates Harris (centre) and Grey (right)

Private Steve Grey

Private Harris

Private Grey looks worried

Private Grey on his back

UNIT troops open fire

Private Ross Jenkins wears a slight variation of this uniform when he accompanies the Doctor to the Rattigan Academy. His jumpsuit is fastened up using buttons rather than a zip, as the other UNIT troops are, which results in it appearing more open-necked as it doesn’t fasten up as high. He wears a T-shirt rather than a roll-neck underneath. Also, he doesn’t wear the armoured guantlets on his forearms.

Private Ross Jenkins

Private Jenkins (left) arrives at the Rattigan Academy with the Doctor (centre)

Private Jenkins wears a different jumpsuit to his colleagues

Private Jenkins (right) draws his firearm

The Doctor (left) and Private Jenkins (right)

Private Jenkins is killed by the Sontarans

The officers, in the form of Colonel Mace and Captain Price, wear Service Dress uniforms.

Colonel Mace (left) and Captain Price (right) in Service Dress

Colonel Mace (left) and Captain Price (right)

Colonel Mace

Captain Price

As befits his rank as a substantive Colonel, Mace wears scarlet gorget patches on his lapels.

Colonel Mace wears gorget patches commensurate to his rank

He also wears a pistol holster on his Sam Browne belt, and brown leather gloves.

Colonel Mace (centre) wears a pistol on his belt

Colonel Mace (left) and Doctor Martha Jones (centre)

Note that Captain Price isn’t wearing the white lanyard. Nor is she wearing a Sam Browne belt (or indeed, a belt of any kind).

Captain Price wears neither belt nor lanyard

The only other female officer we have seen in the RTD era at this point was the background Captain in the Tower of London in “The Christmas Invasion”, and she, like Price, wore neither the white lanyard nor the Sam Browne belt (yet the background male Captain in that story wore both).

One little niggle I have with this otherwise excellent story, is that we see Colonel Mace saluting the Doctor. Now, the first thing you learn about saluting in the Armed Forces is that you do not salute the person; you salute the Queen’s Commission. Civilians do not get salutes as they don’t hold a commission! Having said that, Mace salutes the Doctor as a mark of respect, so I can let that slide. What is unforgivable, however, is that Mace salutes when he is not wearing any regimental headwear. This is a massive breach of military regulations and as a senior British officer he should know better.

Colonel Mace salutes the Doctor

On the subject of headwear:
The hats worn by modern UNIT officers are standard British Army peaked caps, worn with both No1 and No 2 dress. UNIT wear the standard infantry pattern, consisting of a scarlet band under a midnight blue crown. The shiny peak of the cap varies depending on the wearers rank. Lieutenants and Captains wear a plain peak (as seen on Captain Price in this serial and the unnamed male background Captain in “The Christmas Invasion”); Majors and Lieutenant Colonels feature a gold band on their peaks (as seen on Major Blake in “The Christmas Invasion” and Major Kilburn in The Sarah Jane Adventures); Colonels and Brigadiers wear an oak leaf pattern on their caps; and all ranks of General have a double row of oak leaves.

Officer's No 1 Dress Cap
Captains, Lieutenants, and Second Lieutenants
Example used is for the Royal Artillery

Field Officer's No 1 Dress Cap
Majors, and Lieutenant Colonels
Example used is for the Royal Artillery

Staff Officer's No 1 Dress Cap
Brigadiers, and Colonels

Command Officer's No 1 Dress Caps
Field Marshals (left), Generals, Lieutenant Generals, and Major Generals (right)

This means that the hats worn by Colonel Mace in this story, and by Colonel Oduya in Torchwood, are actually displaying the wrong peak affectation; they are wearing hats for the ranks of a lower grade! And we know that UNIT adheres to this cap peak banding because the General seen in “The End of Time” has the correct oak leaves, and the lower ranks of Captain have plain peaks.

A closer look at the peaks of the caps worn by Colonel Mace (left) and Captain Price (right)

This is the hat that Colonel Mace should have worn:

The No 1 Dress peaked cap of substantive Colonels and Brigadiers

Turn Left

This story introduces us to a variant uniform available to officers. Captain Erisa Magambo wears a Service Dress-style uniform that appears black (but is actually midnight blue), worn over a white shirt and black tie.

Captain Magambo and the TARDIS

The uniform sourced by the costume department for this is actually not a military uniform, but one worn by female Police Officers. The giveaway is the seams running horizontally down the front; military uniform seams run from top to bottom, but the Police uniform seams stop at a yoke above the breasts. The lapels are also slightly wider (so much so that they hide the buttons on the epaulettes, whereas the military equivalent doesn't). However, the costume department appear to have replaced the silver Police buttons with gold military ones.

No 1 Dress uniform of a female Police Officer

The uniforms has all the affectations of the standard Service Dress, including the ‘grenades’ on the lapels, winged globe on the left breast, and rank insignia on the epaulettes. The white lanyard is absent. The uniform is topped off with the standard red beret.

Captain Magambo

Captain Magambo (left), Rose Tyler (centre), and Donna Noble (right)

It should be noted that Captain Magambo doesn’t wear a UNIT ID badge; the first officer to appear in the RTD era thus far, not to do so. However, she would not be the last.

Captain Magambo (left) doesn't wear a UNIT ID card

Standard UNIT troops are also present in this story.

UNIT troops flank Donna and Rose

A female UNIT soldier (left) and Rise Tyler (right)

The Stolen Earth” / “Journey’s End

In this story we get to see the American contingent of UNIT, based in New York. The soldiers wear the same red berets and black SWAT gear as their British counterparts.

US UNIT troops and civilian personnel

A UNIT soldier protects a civilian colleague

UNIT troops prepare for a Dalek attack

US UNIT soldiers wear the same patch as their UK counterparts

They are commanded by Lieutenant General Sanchez, who wears a then-standard US Army Service Dress uniform (known as Class A), with the UNIT logo on his right breast (as opposed to the left breast, where the British wear it). His UNIT ID card is also worn on his right breast.

US Army officer's Class A uniform

General Sanchez (left) and Dr Jones (right)

A UNIT soldier (left) and General Sanchez (right)

I am not as familiar with US uniform regulations as with British ones, but I believe the patch at the top of the left sleeve indicates the wearer's current division, and if they served in a previous division in wartime, they can wear the patch of that division on their right sleeve. With that in mind, the logo on General Sanchez’s upper right arm is the insignia for the 82nd Airborne Division, which presumably means that he served in this division of the US airborne infantry in a combat environment, obviously prior to his posting with UNIT.

Patch of the US 82nd Airborne Division

General Sanchez wears the patch on his upper right sleeve

Sanchez wears no division patch on his left sleeve, presumably because he is currently seconded to UNIT (but note that this was where the US officers in "Aliens of London" wore their UN patches). However, at the top of his left sleeve is a Rangers tab, meaning that he has graduated from the US Army Ranger School at some point in his career.

Ranger patch

The Rangers tab can be seen on General Sanchez's upper left sleeve

Another view of the patch on General Sanchez's sleeve

Sanchez also wears numerous US medals and awards on his left and right breasts. The blue metal rectangle with the picture of the rifle in at the top of his left breast (just peeking out from under his lapel) is the Combat Infantryman Badge, awarded to those who personally fought in active ground combat.

US Combat Infantryman's Badge

General Sanchez wears numerous decorations on his uniform

Sanchez wears a red aiguillette on his right shoulder, which to me was reminiscent of the red lanyard worn by British UNIT soldiers in the classic era.

Red US Army aiguillette

General Sanchez wears the red aiguillette on his right shoulder

We do not see Sanchez wearing any headwear, but it is logical to suppose that US officers could wear the standard red UNIT beret.

In this story we also get to see UNIT soldiers from China and Liberia, and they too wear the standard black coveralls and tactical vest. At least one of them is also wearing the red beret.

Soldier from the Chinese branch of UNIT

Soldier from the UNIT branch in Liberia

Enemy of the Bane

Brigadier (retired) Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart returns to our screens in this Series 2 episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures. It also marks the first on-screen appearance of UNIT in the spin-off show.

The UNIT troops we see on duty at the Black Archive are clad in the same black SWAT gear and red berets that they wear in the parent show itself.

UNIT troops at the Black Archive

Enemy of the Bane” also introduces us to the character of UNIT Major Kilburn. He is dressed in Service Dress uniform and peaked cap, with UNIT wings on his left breast and headwear.

Major Kilburn salutes

Major Kilburn

Major Kilburn levels his sidearm

Things to note are that he wears his UNIT ID card on his left breast and not his right, and also the fact that he isn’t wearing a white lanyard on his right sleeve.

Major Kilburn wears his ID on the left, and has no lanyard

Planet of the Dead

Captain Magambo became the first recurring UNIT character in NuWho when she, and UNIT, appeared in this 2009 special.

Magambo is again clad in black Service Dress with UNIT wings on the left breast, rank pips on the epaulettes, and ‘exploding grenade’ insignia on the lapels.

Captain Magambo

Captain Magambo speaks over her radio

Captain Magambo sees something in the sky

Captain Magambo (left), Professor Malcolm (right), the Doctor (extreme right), and a UNIT soldier (centre)

Although her look is reminiscent of her appearance in “Turn Left”, a closer examination shows that she has actually been given a new uniform by the costume department; the cut of the jacket is slightly different as the horizontal seams down the front run from top to bottom, unlike the ones on her previous uniform, meaning that for this appearance the costume department sourced a military-style rather than Police uniform. These minor differences can easily be put down to the fact that the previous Magambo we saw was actually from a parallel universe.

Her medals are also different (she now has more), but again, this isn’t a problem as she could either have been awarded more between the two stories, or again be explained away by the parallel universe theory.

Captain Magambo now has more medals

As with her previous appearance, Magambo wears no UNIT ID card or white lanyard. She does, however, wear a belt and pistol holster in this story.

Captain Magambo wears a belt and pistol holster

Captain Magambo draws her pistol

The actress (Noma Dumezweni) appears to have been a given a new beret by the costume department (either that or her head shrank), because the headwear she wears in this story is clearly too big for her. So much so that her ears are tucked underneath it!

Captain Magambo's beret is far too big for her

The UNIT troops themselves are clad in their usual black SWAT gear and red berets.

UNIT troops deploy

UNIT troops take aim

UNIT troops

UNIT troops fire at the flying alien stingrays

Something of interest is that this story gives us our first (and so far only) look at the rank insignia of modern UNIT ORs, as worn by Sergeant Ian Jenner.

Sergeant Ian Jenner

If you look closely at his epaulettes, you can see three silver stripes, which appear to be metal (and presumably corresponding to the three chevrons of a Sergeant. One supposes that a Corporal would have two stripes and a Lance Corporal one).

A little blurry, but it is possible to make out the rank bars on the Sergeant's epaulettes

A slightly better shot of the Sergeant's rank bars

It is just possible to make out the edges of the Sergeant's rank bars on this screencap too

Something else to note is that the UNIT wings are also worn on the lab coat of the civilian scientist Professor Malcolm Taylor. He also wears a UNIT ID card.

Professor Malcolm Taylor wears a UNIT lab coat

Professor Taylor (left) and Captain Magambo (right)

Professor Taylor is on the receiving end of a pistol

When outside, Taylor also wears a black bomber jacket over his lab coat, which also sports the UNIT wings.

Professor Taylor wears a UNIT jacket over his lab coat

Children of Earth

UNIT made their second appearance in Torchwood in the serial “Children of Earth”.

The UNIT soldiers we see are mostly background characters but can clearly be seen to wear the same black SWAT gear worn in Doctor Who.

Two UNIT officers appear in the story, in the form of Colonel Oduya and an unnamed Major, both of whom wear khaki Service Dress with the UNIT wings on their left breast. Colonel Oduya also wears the white lanyard on his right sleeve, but the unnamed Major does not. Both officers have the standard peaked cap.

Oduya, as a Colonel, wears scarlet gorget patches on his lapels. The Major wears the ‘exploding grenade’ insignia.

Colonel Oduya (right) wears the gorget patches of his rank

The UNIT Major (front right) wears 'exploding grenade' collar badges

Also, neither of the officers in this serial wear UNIT ID cards.

Colonel Oduya doesn't wear a UNIT ID card

One thing to note in Episode One is that Lois Habibah wonders what uniform Colonel Oduya is wearing as she says it is “not British”. This line was obviously added to highlight that a special organisation were involved and that the threat was clearly ‘alien’, but it stuck out for me because Oduya’s uniform is most certainly a British Service Dress uniform! The only visual identification that he is not standard British Army is the UNIT wings logo on his left breast, which to be fair are pretty unobtrusive and could easily be mistaken for the wings worn by Army pilots.

Like most UNIT officers, Colonel Oduya's uniform is unmistakeably British Army in origin

However, if Oduya had been wearing the black Service Dress favoured by Captain Magambo, then Habibah’s comments would have been justified.

The End of Time

In the Tenth Doctor’s final story, we see UNIT Headquarters in Geneva. However, all the UNIT personnel we see have been replaced by the Master as part of his latest plot, so they are all played by John Simm.

We see UNIT troops dressed in their black SWAT gear.

UNIT troops in Geneva are all replaced by the Master

We also see a UNIT General, who wears a Service Dress uniform with UNIT wings, a General’s peaked cap, also with UNIT wings, and General’s scarlet gorget patches with gold oak embroidery. Note that he wears neither the white lanyard nor a UNIT ID card.

The Master replaces a UNIT General

UNIT General in Geneva

Since the rank insignia on his epaulettes shows that he is a full General, this character is the highest ranking UNIT officer we have seen in the show. Shame we never got to see what he actually looked like!

The epaulettes display the rank of a British General

Death of the Doctor

Technically, this story is set during Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner, and indeed, it features the Eleventh Doctor. However, as it is from The Sarah Jane Adventures, and this show was run by Russell T Davies, I am grouping it into his era.

The UNIT troops appearing in this story remain unchanged, apart from the fact that they don’t appear to be wearing the UNIT ID cards anymore. This would be the final time we’d see this style of UNIT soldier.

UNIT soldier

UNIT troops arrive in Bannerman Road

UNIT troops flank 'Colonel' Karim

The character of Colonel Karim is another matter entirely! Where to begin?

Promo picture of 'Colonel' Karim

Karim wears a long black coat, with UNIT insignia on the sleeves and rank pips on the shoulders. The look is completed by the red UNIT beret and black leather gloves (she is the villain after all!).

Karim's hair-style is non-regulation

Her uniform and boots do not look like any form of real-life military uniform, and in fact look like she has just come from Primark! In the opening scenes her hair is tied up, but for the rest of the episodes she wears it down, in contravention of strict military regulations. But the worst offender, courtesy of the costume department, is her rank insignia. She is supposed to be a Colonel, yet on her epaulettes she only has two pips, which denotes the rank of a Lieutenant. Personally, I don’t think she should have been a Colonel anyway (UNIT has too many Colonels in the new series!). I would have made her a Captain, or Major. They could even have substituted one of her pips for a crown and made her a Lieutenant Colonel. But surely someone at some point should have noticed this glaring error of insignia.

Karim's epaulettes clearly display the rank pips of a Lieutenant and not the pips and crown of a Colonel

For me, the costuming of this character let down what was an otherwise fantastic episode, and she represents a nadir of RTD’s UNIT. Which is a shame, since it is their last appearance under his otherwise brilliant ministrations.

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