UNIT has been a mainstay in the world of Doctor Who since the days of Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor – but after 50 years, it appears it’s finally getting its moment in the spotlight.


The reports that the BBC will launch a new spin-off focused on the organisation and starring Jemma Redgrave as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart is incredibly welcome – and long overdue. After all, while UNIT featured prominently in Classic Who, its impact on New Who has faded somewhat. But that could all be about to change.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, played by Nicholas Courtney, first appeared in 1968's Web of Fear which saw the Doctor encountering the Yeti and Great Intelligence. UNIT would go on to become a regular fixture in the classic series, especially for Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor who spent much of his run in exile in 1970s Earth and working alongside UNIT and Lethbridge-Stewart.

UNIT also featured prominently during the initial part of Tom Baker’s stint in the TARDIS and appeared in the 20th anniversary serial The Five Doctors. We last saw the Brigadier in one of the final episodes of the Classic Era, in 1989’s Battlefield, working with Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor. The Brigadier would grace our screens one final time in the first of the modern spin-offs, The Sarah Jane Adventures, in 2008.

The organisation has featured less prominently in modern Who, making brief appearances for the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, perhaps most notably in the 50th Anniversary special The Day of The Doctor in 2013, facing off with the Zygons and returning for several story arcs for Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor in seasons 8 and 9.

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The Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) in Doctor Who
Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier in Doctor Who. BBC

While Kate Lethbridge-Stewart has featured in the series since 2012’s The Power of Three and most recently appeared in the Thirteenth Doctor’s final episode, we have only scratched the surface of the character. A spin-off will provide an opportunity to dive deeper into her and her family legacy, and to develop the character beyond simply being the Brigadier’s daughter – something she’s long deserved.

Prior to the UNIT series, we will see Kate and the organisation in action in the 60th anniversary specials alongside David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor and in the first season with Ncuti Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor. It’s a huge moment for the show, which hasn’t had UNIT as a regular feature since the days of the Second and Third Doctors, and will give fans an opportunity to see how the organisation has evolved in the years since. How does it fit into a modern-day version of the Doctor Who universe? It’s an exciting prospect that has only been briefly touched upon in recent years.

The reported UNIT spin-off is currently being envisioned as a Torchwood style offshoot of the main show. A key part of Torchwood’s success was seeing characters and monsters from the main series cross over – and this could definitely happen again.

Freema Agyeman, companion to the Tenth Doctor, was working for UNIT in season 4 when she put in a call to the Doctor for some help to battle against the Sontarans. Might she figure somehow in the show if she still has ties to the organisation? Or could other past companions make a return in this way? With Torchwood off screen for years, there is scope for this to bridge the gap – and with rumours circulating of a return for Eve Myles’s Gwen Cooper, this might be the place for her to appear.

The cast of Torchwood. BBC

Matt Smith and David Tennant’s Doctors also both crossed over with The Sarah Jane Adventures, while Peter Capaldi made an appearance on Class, so there's plenty of room for Ncuti Gatwa to feature in some capacity in this show – and he should. The Sarah Jane Adventures would certainly still have had success without the Doctor's appearance, but there's no denying the thrill of seeing the Time Lord show up.

Ultimately, a UNIT-centred show has the potential to follow on from the successes of not just Torchwood but The Sarah Jane Adventures, too, showing how the Doctor’s friends and allies face terrifying threats when the Time Lord is just not around to save the day.

If UNIT only appears every few years in the main show, there is only so much room for development. The reported spin-off represents the perfect opportunity to make the Whoniverse feel larger and to honour the legacy of one of the most iconic elements of the classic series, fleshing it out further and facing foes both old and new.

Of course, Russell T Davies’s previous tenure produced two hugely successful spin offs in Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. There is no reason why a UNIT-centric show can’t continue this and exist with other shows at the same time, expanding the Who universe further and introducing us to new characters and monsters that fans will hide behind the sofa from for years to come.

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