Amongst all the Dalek excitement in the Doctor Who New Year’s special, it would be easy for fans to miss one crucial but heartbreaking plot point in the episode.
A key section of dialogue in Resolution appears to do away with a classic bit of Doctor Who lore, seemingly for good.
Confused? Well, we’re talking about the sad fate of UNIT (Unified Intelligence Taskforce), the military organisation introduced during Who’s classic series that now seems to have been closed down after decades of protecting Earth from extra-terrestrial threats.
Picking up a phone during the New Year special and dialling a number, Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor barks, “Get me Kate Stewart at UNIT” – only to find herself redirected to a special armed forces helpline, where an unhelpful staff member called Polly informs her that there’s no longer a UNIT for her to call.
“UNIT operations have been suspended pending a review of funding,” she tells the incredulous Doctor, leaving her and her friends to face the latest invasion of Earth alone.
Has UNIT’s long and storied history come to an end?
First introduced to Doctor Who in 1968, UNIT has been a key part of the series ever since, particularly during the era of Third Doctor Jon Pertwee when the Time Lord was forced to spend an extended sojourn on Earth.
In more recent years the Earth-protecting antics of UNIT have roped in David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor (most notably in The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky), Matt Smith’s Eleventh (perhaps most notably in 2013 anniversary special movie The Day of the Doctor, where UNIT played a central role), and most recently Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor for episodes like The Zygon Invasion.
Now though, after decades of staring down the toughest alien baddies, it seems that UNIT has faced an ignominious end, the victim of stringent budget cuts and a withdrawal of funds from “international partners” – possibly hinting that the UK’s exit from the European Union had a hand in its shuttering.
Yes, that’s right – Brexit may have killed UNIT. Considering Doctor Who basically predicted Leave’s win in the referendum six years before it happened, you might think the Doctor could have warned her old colleagues to keep an eye out.
It’s unclear whether UNIT is really gone for good or whether it could still turn up in a future series. Jemma Redgrave’s Kate Stewart, the daughter of Nicholas Courtney’s original UNIT bigwig Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, is presumably still out there somewhere, as is her possibly-Zygon sidekick Osgood (Ingrid Oliver).
But for now, it seems like the Doctor is on her own when facing major threats to Earth. Unless, of course, she was able to give Torchwood a call…
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 in 2020
This article was originally published on 1 January 2019