- UNIT -
An Extract From The EC Unauthorized Doctor Who Spin-Off Guide Appendix O' Defending the Earth
i) A Clue: No
It is December 2004 and it is decided by the powers that deal with this sort of thing that UNIT is simply too camp to cope with the issues of the 21st Century and so it will be shut down and its operations taken over by the Touchwood Institute (under their slightly less suggestive title of Internal Counter-Intelligence Service, or ICIS).
The day before the business restructure, both UNIT and Touchwood are summoned to Tower Bridge which is seemingly being attacked by an ancient race of incredibly sexually-perverse reptiles, the Bilurians. UNIT has fought them several times before, and Touchwood is fascinated by the idea of kinky sex with lizard people and to ensure they aren’t interrupted, Touchwood agent French beats the shit out of a BBC reporter, takes him back to their base at Touchwood Tower, ties him up, throws scalding coffee at him and beats him round the head with a copy of the Yellow Pages.
Under the command of Captain Andrea Winnington decides to slaughter the Bilurians when they refuse Touchwood’s come-ons and leave it to UNIT’s PR officer Emily Chaudhry to explain to the press why the hell the secret services were machine-gunning reptile people to death in public. Amazingly enough the press buy her explanation of subsidence, mime artists and over-enthusiastic emergency services.
The next day, Winnington escorts the retired Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (or simply the Brigadier to save on typing this fuck my fingers are bleeding argh) to the press conference about the end of UNIT – but on the way they are attacked by a helicopter being flown by a human and a Bilurian. The Brigadier has a handy rocket launcher and blows the bastards out of the sky, and the duo continue on their journey without further incident. But were the Bilurians after the Brigadier for what he did back in some early Pertwee episodes, or after Winnington for her machine gun frenzy the previous day?
The press conference begins, and the public is generally unaware of who he is and what UNIT does – as they are generally pig ignorant stoners too wasted to see the weird shit occurring around them all the time. "ESPECIALLY the Welsh!" rants the Brigadier, before challenging "the decadent media pigs" to "retcon THIS!"
He reveals that UNIT has protected the world from unnatural and extraterrestrial threats, and now, they’ve made contact with a species that seeks peaceful co-existence with them: the Bilurians, whose ambassador Orgathm suggests humanity celebrate this all-important first contact with a peaceful orgy of united humans.
Winnington, still furious at the fact even the Bilurians think Touchwood are oversexed wankers, pulls out a gun and tries to blow the lizard person away – but her poor eyesight means her shots go wild and instead she just tried to kill an ambassadors in public... live on BBC News 24... just as that poor journo emerges and spills the beans about what corrupt hedonists Touchwood REALLY are!
With their all-important leader Numbskull missing presumed dead, Touchwood have forgotten to get control over all the media, and now that they’ve revealed to slaughter diplomats under the flag of truce for not putting out, the Institute’s reputation is fucked! UNIT will remain in control of alien matters and Touchwood can just piss off.
Winnington is arrested and dragged off screaming that she did her duty for Queen and Country, and reveals that she’s spiked the punch so all the journalists will have total amnesia about this first contact! The Brigadier swears mightily and realizes they’re going to have to wait till the next financial year to do this all over again!
ii) Time Wounds All Heels
It’s now mid-to-late 2005 and UNIT sends its Commanding Officer – the newly-arrived Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood, a spiky-haired Scotsman in a pinstripe suit who says "Jings" a lot – with a special cargo of an alien spaceship in a convoy disguised as a nuclear weapons transporter. Unsurprisingly, nowadays you can’t even transport nuclear weaponry without someone trying to hijack it and it’s no surprise to discover Touchwood has nicked the "petrol tanker" as well as Brimmicombe-Wood!
The Brigadier is more concerned about a train crash at King’s Cross when a second train materialized on the tracks without warning and insists that Chaudhry and UNIT investigate. It comes as even less surprise that Touchwood are behind this chaos as well – their half-assed attempts to build a teleport from stolen blueprints reversing alien technology being risky enough WITHOUT the scientists repeatedly trying to roger each other with neutron rods.
Their next attempt causes ATMs across England to spew out cash, jet planes vanish from the skies, retirement homes to explode, time to go into free-fall and the bodies of the train crash victims to fuse with the ruins of the rains. UNIT gets yet another last-minute replacement as CO – Colonel Robert Dalton who, helpfully, doesn’t believe in aliens, time travel or "any of that X-Files crap" and suspiciously went to college with Winnington (who is EVIL!) and also immediately slashes UNIT’s budget for unspecified reasons.
Touchwood realize that their teleport is actually threatening to destroy the whole world and quickly get into an argument with one another which soon turns into a gunfight. Meanwhile, those jet planes reappear... and crash into Windsor Castle, killing two members of the royal family (well, the Corgies, anyway) and a nearby nuclear submarine is going into meltdown. Luckily, Dalton is a dab hand at dealing with overheating nuclear subs and bravely saves the day with some sticky-back plastic and a piece of string.
The Brigadier suggests they check out the T.O. Uchwood Amalgamated industrial complex and, blow me, discover a secret Touchwood base with a partially-constructed teleport malfunctioning. The one surviving operate mistakes the self-destruct device for a microwave and blows them all up while trying to warm a Pot Noodle. This destroys all evidence of Touchwood’s involvement so the series format can continue unchanged once more.
With UNIT being pretty much blamed for all that weird crap when they actually saved the whole country from destruction, it’s just another day in paradise to quote Phil Colins.
Tony Robinson’s "The Time Team" have unearthed evidence of human sacrifice in a Saxon burial ground and calls in UNIT to investigate... which also allows the show more than three days to finish their excavation for once. While Chaudhry is interested with flirting with a celebrity, Dalton is more concerned about the rumors of partially-eaten fishermen and that the dig may have awoken something ancient, paranormal and with a hankering for human flesh.
Unfortunately, the locals assume it’s all down to Johnny Foreigner and his army of illegal immigrants, which isn’t particularly helpful when dealing with invisible Albanian vampires from folklore breaking open people’s bones to suck out the marrow.
Luckily, there happens to be wise-cracking jailbait vampire slayer in the area who quickly dusts the vamp with no problem. Feeling rather surplus to requirements, Chaudhry and Dalton bugger off back to London and Tony Robinson has to work the three-day deadline after all.
Big Finish STILL charge people ten pounds to listen to this!
iv) The Very Incredibly Long, Long, Long, Long Night of Robert Dalton
The London branch of the Touchwood Institute decide they’ve pissed about for too long and it’s time to make England great again, whatever the cost, especially if the cost involves blowing nightclubs and then dressing up as police to machine-gun any and all survivors to death.
That works well to cause panic, confusion and racial hatred, so they follow up with planting a chip into the brain of a young woman and make her blow herself up on the Westminster tube station platform, shouting that she’s doing this for Muslims everywhere. Then they blow a hole in Holloway Prison and allow all the inmates (like, say, Andrea Winnington) to escape.
Prime Minister Blair can’t cope with all this... shock horror... and immediately closes all the airports, putting London under siege and puts Touchwood troops on the street to maintain order! Touchwood are delighted, which is why they blackmail Blair’s secretary into blowing her brains out during a press conference live on TV, and then sends a suicide bomber to knock the BBC off air. Touchwood troops then fan out and begin to quell unrest by firing on the civilian mobs, as well as the reporter unlucky enough to catch their actions on camera.
While Chaudhry discovers that Winnington happens to be the illegitimate daughter of the current government press secretary, John Kirby, Touchwood send Winnington to UNIT with a gun and tells Chaudhry to shoot her in cold blood. Chaudhry realizes that this is a ploy to destroy UNIT, so she compromises and just shoots the dangerous escaped convict through the foot.
With London now aflame with panics and race riots, Blair declares martial law and immediately Kirby pulls out a gun, laughs evilly that his evil plan is working perfectly evilly and Britain will be kept pure rather than signing any Euro Combine treaty with the dirty outsiders! Just then, Chaudhry and Dalton arrive to save the day and Blair vows to destroy Touchwood utterly!
Kirby switches to plan B – blowing himself up and taking 10 Downing Street with him. Luckily, Chaundhry and Blair survive, the Prime Minister bitching he will have to move to the OTHER 10 Downing Street in Cardiff for the foreseeable, but is confident there were won’t be any aliens, Touchwood or exploding Number 10s there...
v) The Testing
With Dalton dead and seemingly NOT part of a huge conspiracy, Chaudhry teams up with the Brigadier. A week has passed, and Brad and Angelina have knocked the riots and race wars off the headlines, and everyone acts like the previous episode just didn’t happen. Apart from Winnington who is still on the loose and Dalton who’s dead, obviously.
By now, everyone is more worried about the mysterious flu outbreak that turns people into flesh-eating zombies. Well, I know I’D be more worried about it, wouldn’t you? UNIT is assigned to investigate this before it reaches Dawn of the Dead level collapse of civilization as over 600,000 people in Britain alone now crave human brains and are now breaking out Albion Hospital and biting people!
Suspecting this could be some horrible venereal disease, the Brigadier contacts the best-qualified STD specialist on Earth: the Bilurians, who overcame such nasty little infections with antibiotics before the universe was half its present size!
Meanwhile, Winnington rejoins Touchwood and put a new phase of their operation Get Rid of UNIT Now Today!! (or GRUNT for short), after their successful conquest of the country failed for unspecified reasons – mainly because none of this series’ writers talk to each other. Doing what they do best, Touchwood machine-gun mobs of unarmed civilians but THIS time they cunning wear UNIT uniforms so their rival organization gets all the blame!
Unfortunately, their cunning plan kills every witness so no one can spread any lies about UNIT going psycho with Uzi submachine guns. Touchwood decide that all this subterfuge stuff is just getting old and send their troops straight to UNIT HQ with Ride of the Valkyries playing on a gramophone.
The Brigadier decides he’s had enough of this shit and orders UNIT troops to go "Keith Richards" on these Touchwood usurpers, but neither side manage to open fire before a horde of Resident Evil zombies attack Touchwood and tear their troops apart.
UNIT cheerfully escapes in their helicopters and army jeeps and while Touchwood’s forces are literally eaten alive, they storm Touchwood London’s ostentatious base – Canary Wharf Tower, which is now unguarded. There they find the alien spaceship nicked in episode two and also Brimmicombe-Wood alive and well inside one of them.
The Brigadier however knows that no British officer would dress in such a floridly homosexual manner and correctly guesses that "Brimmicombe-Wood" is in fact the Doctor under an assumed name. The Doctor admits that they caught him out, and actually he’s come back in time from 2007 to try and destroy Touchwood. True, this WILL change established history and destroy two thirds of the universe with the paradox, but the Doctor is in a real bitch of a mood.
In fact, the Doctor reveals he’s actually the New Commanding Officer of Touchwood London after Numbskull perished, and has been deliberately leading the Institute into ruin and ridicule. True, there ARE a lot of civilian casualties, but surely he’s saved the world enough times to get a LITTLE leeway?
Realizing he’s not on a winner argument here, the Doctor flees to the stolen alien ship and escapes. The Brigadier orders the Doctor be made public enemy number one – the next time anyone is discovered using the words "Doctor" "TARDIS" or "blue box", the SAS will immediately arrest them at gunpoint.
With Touchwood London destroyed and the Bilurian cure for the zombies 100% successful, life returns to normal as Winnington gets arrested again for terrorism, treason and pretty much everything else you can think of as she screams that SHE isn’t the mass-murdering, xenophobic traitor here... but actually, when pressed, she’s got nothing to back that up, to be honest.
Asian Babe Dr Sato is chosen to be UNIT’s new scientific advisor, and no one thinks SHE might be a Touchwood agent in disguise, and thus trust her to help them deal with a curious incident about a space pig flying a UFO through Big Ben and finally crashing in Cardiff.
It’s just another day at the office for UNIT...
Book(s)/Other Related – Thud and Blunder Daze: UNIT’s Classic CockUps
"Five Rounds Rapid" the UNIT Karma Sutra
A New Beginning, A New Regime, An Old Fanbase
Fluffs – Nicholas Courtney seemed unfit in this spin-off audio series.
Fashion Victims –
Those uniforms are as camp as ever.
Goofs – I still don’t understand how David Tennant is able to play a character he won’t be cast as for another year or so. I mean... HOW the HELL does that WORK? Is it a COINCIDENCE or something? Or is it all a wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey conspiracy on the part of some angry god?
Dialogue Disasters -
CHAUDHRY: What we’re seeing tonight is how well UNIT and the Internal Counter Intelligence Service work together, not how many squaddies Touchwood have sexually corrupted.
FRENCH: You’re dealing with Touchwood now, Chaudhry. We’re not as cuddly as the UN lot. We don’t even share a cigarette afterwards and will drive it into your bare foot for sadistic pleasure, hearing the hiss of burning skin, that oh so delicious stench of cooking human flesh mingling with filter tobacco... oh yes...
CHAUDHRY: Um, can we talk about something else now?
WINNINGTON: You were with UNIT at the beginning, weren’t you? It’s only fair you show up for the end. Besides, no one will listen without a decent guest star from the classic series.
MEENA: "Muslim extremists"? That’s it you two, keep it nice and vague! We wouldn’t want to be actually clear about what the hell is going on, would we? You really ARE just sad old men, aren’t you? Doesn't matter. Your time will be up soon.
TONY BLAIR: Meena, please stop shouting at the television. I know you don’t like Ant and Dec, but I can’t hear what’s going on...
DALTON: You don't want to mess with Touchwood. They’re a Gestapo charm school, run by the Keystone Cops.
WINNINGTON: Ahem! Touchwood are a highly professional agency! They orchestrated the fall of Great Britain in less than an hour and they’re going to take over and make things right. Assuming they don’t get hyped up and shoot each other dead. Again. OK, maybe NOT that professional.
KIRBY: London is under siege! Prime Minister, we need to go on the offensive at once!
TONY BLAIR: All right, you’re fat, old, bald racist whose body odor could strip wallpaper before you enter the room.
KIRBY: I meant about dealing with terrorists.
TONY BLAIR: Oh yes. Sorry. Embarrassed forehead, shy smile, wishing-I-could-look-like-less-of-a-tit-and-retract-that-insult hand gesture.
Dialogue Triumphs –
CHAUDHRY: And now, my rendition of that old jazz favourite "Whoops, There Goes Another Official Secrets Act!"
CHAUDHRY: Sorry if this takes you away from London, Dalton. Not everything happens inside the M25. Some of it even happens in Cardiff.
BRIGADIER: Yes, but it usually involves a man in a rubber costume and some whelks. The alien stuff is even kinkier.
WINNINGTON: We are about to do something extraordinary. Something that will define our times. It’s natural to have some doubts, but don’t let them get in the way! Show no respect for life or the law, and it’s a lot more fun this way!
BRIGADIER: This Welsh revival will get worse before it gets better, mark my words. There will be burping wheelie bins and farting aliens next! Still, isn’t 'camp' what UNIT is all about?
KIRBY: I need you to do something for your people. Will you do something for your people?
BONO: Yes. MAKE POVERTY HISTORY! CHEAPER DRUGS NOW!!
Viewer’s Quotes –
"Wow, when the Ninth Doctor told Rose hadn’t missed much not living through 2005, he really MEANT it, didn’t he?"
- Eve Markson (2009)
" Shock horror! Big Finish manages to pull a rabbit out of its hat and produce a thoroughly decent release! I was starting to think they didn't have it in them anymore. What a fantastic idea this is. Yes I am clinically insane and it is entirely possible to get carried away by these things. And why not??? We pay good money for these things to entertain us and Big Finish have the best medium to make us believe the drama is actually going on around us... shame they don't do it THIS effectively very often. Gosh, when did I start spouting rhetoric?"
- Jo Ford Prefecte (2005)
"Nicola Bryant directed these, you know. I think she should stick to directing, as it means she won’t be able to play Peri in any further Nev Fountain scripts."
- Ewen Campion-Clarke (2009)
"Out of five stories, I enjoyed the sum total of sod all."
- Doctor Who Magazine (2005)
"So we’re supposed to believe that there was a zombie outbreak, the destruction of 10 Downing Street and Bilurians in the press all a week before Alias of London and NO ONE NOTICED? Big Finish continuity? Epic fail. GET OFF MY ISLAND!!"
- Nigel Verkoff (2006)
Anyone could see there was a potential spin-off series in UNIT, but the trouble is no one could really agree on what form it should take. A rehashed Doomwatch? Prototype X-Files? Low-budget Omega Factor? A camper version of Dad’s Army? Should it focus merely on UNIT, or be the solo adventures of Mike Yates after Planet of the Spy-Spoofs? Where did the infamous Harry Sullivan fit in? And since the only person who could have made UNIT a hit was Douglas Camfield and HE was medically barred from making Doctor Who, the idea went nowhere.
Or did it?
In fact, few people are aware that in 1969, ITV – in the confused belief that Doctor Who would end with Patrick Troughton in The Wank Games – decided that UNIT should get their own show: The Men From UNIT! This gritty, adult conspiracy-driven tale featured a new UNIT brigade discovering that higher echelons of the UN were colluding with alien invaders while they face constant danger from within and without.
Upstairs Downstairs star Simon Williams was the dashing Captain Daniel Carstairs, commander of UNIT Company B, with Nyree Dawn Porter as his estranged wife Heather, future-Professional Martin Shaw as berserker Corporal Tony Jenkins and ex-Softly-Softly Norman Boweler as comic relief Sergeant Tom Grainger. The series was designed to "get right under the skin of the character, following their personal lives, trying to depict an accurate view of the pressures of life in a crack force" and hope none of audience complained about the complete lack of Dustbins or Cybermen or anything interesting.
The series consisted of 13 episodes, beginning with Don Haughty’s "Watch The Skies" where guest star Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart recruits Carstairs to UNIT with the aide of some incriminating photographs, and ending with "Bloodthirst" which featured genetically-modified werewolves on a killing spree in Yorkshire of all places. Cast and crew felt that they have done all they could with what was largely considered and experimental show, but ITV were confident that The Men From UNIT would be the next big thing.
Alas, the master tape fell down the back of some guy’s sofa and was not found for the next six years. When it WAS found, it was hastily bunged out at 9:30 pm on Wednesdays – but by that time, everyone was more interested in watching Tom Baker as Doctor Who two hours earlier on a completely different channel on Saturdays. The ratings were below average, as viewers assumed this would be a raunchy porn version of the UNIT family (and considering what filth the genuine article got up to, that’s a truly amazing idea) and were disappointed. Sarah Jane Smith didn’t even make a cameo. The Men From UNIT ensured a strong enough identity away from Doctor Who – but that identity was of a pretentious loser no one wanted to spend any time with.
One-time ex-Doctor Who Producer Derrick Sherwin thought otherwise though, and a mere sixteen years later – by which time Doctor Who had actually been cancelled – suggested a brand new UNIT spin off called "Nuclear Kiss My Arse!". With the main writer David Rodan (the same psychotic who penned "3-D Dimensions in Lime") who wanted a tough James-Bond style adventure with a dash of War of the Worlds and just a hint Harry Hill’s Fruit Corner.
The story was as brain-damaged as you’d expect, with UNIT and Brigadier making only a cameo as the Fourth Doctor and Ace were the main characters. After failing to pay their gambling debts at the Cuanto-Digame Galaxy Casino, evil CIA Time Lord Lambert Bonacrossi fires the pair of them out of a canon to Earth – specifically Geneva, where the Brigadier is in charge of a peace conference at a time of world crisis. The Doctor and Ace overshoot and end up in the Thames, and when the Brigadier finds out his wife Dorris and her brother Clive Fleming have been kidnapped by the Middle East Triumvirate by a strange bunch of men in a submarine, Admiral Ademak launches nuclear missiles at anything that moves! It turns out that the MET are actually a right-wing sect of the British Government lead by General Wexler and so the Brigadier saves the day by blowing up the submarine and the missiles and himself to the strains of The Last Post. The Doctor would then reveal he is Superman and whiz round the Earth so fast time would go backwards, bringing the Brigadier back to life and letting him join the Union of Historical Superheroes like Winston Churchill, Florence Nightingale and Dexy’s Midnight Runners.
However, "Nuclear Kiss My Arse!" was never made.
Thank fucking Christ for that.
Ultimately, Big Finish decided one long, lazy afternoon that they should finally make a UNIT spin off series... but as soon as they had finished the opening season, the BBC brought back Doctor Who on television and the idea of a second series was completely abandoned. Ironically, Touchwood not only made it onto a canonical TV series, it got its own spin off...
...which was so soul-meltingly awful, it’s better UNIT was left with what little respect it still had, really.