Doctor Who: UNIT’s suspension – a move too far?

In both the Classic Series and the New, UNIT has been a major part of Doctor Who. But has Chris Chibnall changed that for good?
(Image credit: Doctor Who/BBC.
Image obtained from: official Doctor Who website.)

One of the most controversial moments in New Year’s Day special Resolution was the suspension of UNIT. Was the removal of a major part of Doctor Who a step too far for Chris Chibnall?

Perhaps the most significant scene in Resolution was when the Doctor tried to call her friends at UNIT. Instead of reaching Kate Stewart and an organization that she’s fought alongside with for decades, she was instead forwarded to Polly at the “UK Security Helpline”.  This was when the Doctor (and the fans) were given a bit of a shock when Polly informed her:

UNIT operations have been suspended pending review.

That’s right. For the moment, at least, UNIT isn’t around to help the Doctor save the day. The reason? Well, officially, it’s because funding was withdrawn from international partners. The implied reason? Brexit. Brexit killed UNIT, or at the very least, put it into deep sleep. At least, according to Chris Chibnall.

A casualty of Brexit?

Now, there have been complaints with the past couple of series that maybe Doctor Who is becoming too political. I haven’t had a problem with that, for the most part. After all, Doctor Who has been a very political show in the past. (Seriously, just watch the stories by Malcolm Hulke). But also, most of the time, it hasn’t been that intrusive.

There have been exceptions, of course. Up until now, one of the most glaring examples was the screamingly obvious Donald Trump parody in Arachnids in the UK. Personally my least favorite episode of the last series, there was very little subtlety to Chris Chibnall’s politics in that one.

But Chibnall getting rid of UNIT is definitely worse. Not just for the fact that it was written out in the first place. If I’m honest, I wouldn’t have a problem with it if it had been handled right. But the biggest problem I have with it is the way it was written out.

UNIT has been a major part of Doctor Who for decades. Following the events of Resolution, is it really gone for good?
(Photo credit: Doctor Who/BBC.
Image obtained from: official Doctor Who website.)

A huge part of Doctor Who

UNIT has been a major part of Doctor Who for decades. Ever since Second Doctor story The Invasion, it really has been a key part of the show. Originally led by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in the Classic Series, his daughter Kate Stewart has been in charge of it in the New Series.

While it took a few years for the organization to come back properly in the show, it’s been a major part of several key stories for the past few years. After introducing Kate in The Power of Three, both her and UNIT were a major part of the fiftieth anniversary story The Day of the Doctor.

They were also a key part of the Twelfth Doctor’s era, too. Along with appearing in series eight finale Death in Heaven, they also made key appearances in both The Magician’s Apprentice and The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion in series nine.

So finding out that it has lost its funding as a clear nod to Brexit, especially during a scene that’s practically played for laughs, honestly just feels like a cheap move on Chibnall’s part. He might not have killed the organization entirely, but he’s certainly given an undignified exit for a major part of the show. Honestly, suspending UNIT wouldn’t have been so bad if Chibnall had told the story the way it should be told.

Telling the downfall of UNIT would have made a great episode itself, if handled right.
(Image credit: Doctor Who/BBC.
Image obtained from: official Doctor Who website.)

How it could have been handled better

I can see why Chibnall wanted to give UNIT a rest for a while. But honestly, it could have been handled much better.

Perhaps have the suspension acknowledged on-screen by Kate and Osgood, for example. Maybe even tell the story of the downfall of UNIT. Chibnall would have got his anti-Brexit message in and have told a good story while doing it, too.

Or even have no suspension at all. The Classic Series quietly let UNIT go during the Tom Baker era, after all. It was only properly brought back in Seventh Doctor story Battlefield. (Ironically, during the Classic Series’s final season.)

Instead, Chibnall’s handling of their suspension in Resolution felt…off. Honestly, the new UNIT team deserved better than that. And so did the audience.

I hope they bring UNIT back one day, I really do. In the meantime, I’m going to listen to the latest UNIT box set and enjoy a great series. Not to mention enjoy great storytelling that actually respects such a key part of Doctor Who history.

How did you feel about UNIT’s suspension in Resolution? Were you surprised about it? Angry, even? Or do you think now is the right time for UNIT to be given a rest? Let us know in the comments below.