The UNIT Timeline – Paradox or Wormhole?

Updated: Jan 8

It is common knowledge that the UNIT timeline is one big wibbly-wobbly timey wimey mess, paradox and wormhole. Various plot holes, contradictions, and inconsistencies throughout the 70s and 80s do provide a challenge for anyone to draw up a timeline in which the UNIT stories take place. At times it would seem almost impossible to do so, since there is no easy answer, and any answer drawn up is simply speculation.

However, there are various clues which do help form some sort of continuity, and in themselves are helpful to place the UNIT stories in some sort of timeline. That being said there are also a fair share of missing or elusive pieces of background information which counteract the helpful clues, and often or not, take you back to square one. Perhaps that the whole point of the UNIT timeline is that, nobody knows for certain exactly when it take places, maybe The Third and Fourth Doctors (Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker) don’t even know themselves. But this blog is going to have a stab at it, and answer the question once and for all, when does the UNIT timeline take place? First let’s take a look at what we know: consistencies or inconsistencies the same.

First, and foremost, it is firmly established that the UNIT stories shown in broadcast order occur chronologically. Throughout The Third Doctor’s tenure various characters refer to events that took place in the previous adventure. For example in The Ambassadors of Death (1970), The Third Doctor is still furious with The Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) for destroying the Silurian base in Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970), and when The Master is arrested at the end of The Daemons (1971) he is incarcerated during The Sea Devils (1972). During The Invasion (1968), Sergeant Benton (John Levene) is a corporal, but during the Third Doctor’s tenure is a Sergeant. The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) addresses ‘Sergeant Benton’ as Corporal during The Three Doctors (1972-73) because The Second Doctor has been plucked out of his own time stream and does not know (at this point) that Sergeant Benton has been promoted. Also during The Daemons Sergeant Benton (John Levene) links the Daemons to the Autons and the Cybermen, so the events of The Invasion (1968) have already happened. These simple clues, although somewhat obvious, provide a major breakthrough to draw up a possible UNIT timeline.

Secondly, the Doctor Who universe occurs in our universe – ‘somewhat’. The Doctor will often refer to adventures where he meet historical figures, Sir Walter Raleigh (The Mind of Evil) etc. But then again the show has always been a little vague about who the Prime Minister is during specific episodes. During The Green Death (1973), the Prime Minister is a man simply referred to as Sir Jeremy (Brychan Powell) – a nod towards Sir Jeremy Thorpe(?), and during Terror of the Zygons (1975), the Prime Minister is addressed as ‘she’ -possibly Margaret Thatcher(?). The revived series has done a similar thing where the ‘dead’ Prime Minister in Aliens of London (2005), Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton) and Brian Green (Nicholas Farrell), the Prime Minister during the 456 Crisis in Torchwood: Children of Earth, are all fictional.

Thirdly, there have been some plot holes which mess up the timeline. The events of The Web of Fear (1968) and The Invasion supposedlytake place in 1975 and 1979 respectively. The Brigadier appears both times, and is still heading UNIT. However during Mawdryn Undead (1983), it is revealed that The Brigadier retired in 1977 and is still teaching Maths in 1983, without any mention of him returning to UNIT for brief spells. This is perhaps the first major problem when it comes to placing the UNIT stories on a timeline. So do The Web of Fear and The Invasion really take place in 1975 and 1979? Or do they take place at some alternative date?

Fourthly, throughout The Third Doctor tenure it is suggested that the UNIT stories take place in the near future– but what does that mean? If The Daemons occurs after The Invasion, this must mean that The Daemons takes place sometime around or after 1979 (if the date for The Invasion is correct), at least 8 or more years in the future after the episode’s broadcast. First we must pose a question, would 8+ years be considered to be the near future from any particular date? Possibly. However, the concept of the ‘near future’ for most would probably mean 1 or 2 years, since it is quite impossible to imagine what the future would look like in a longer period of time. Almost a decade in the future is a little bit of stretch to be considered as the ‘near future’. For a student who is about to start their last year at Primary School, 8-10 years would span their (maximum 6 years at High School) and (maximum 4 years at University) for example, a big gap to call near future surely. Then again ….

Fifthly, the show has given us brief glimpses of the future to come but at a cost. During The Daemons (again), a TV Crew are clearly operating equipment from BBC3. From a viewers’ point-of-view in 1971, BBC3 did not exist, nor will it for 30 years! So does that mean The Daemons is actually set in or around 2003 – no! No it doesn’t. This little glimpse of the future is perhaps a stretch too far.

At the moment it would look like there is not much leeway in terms of drawing a UNIT Timeline, but there is a lot we can take from the five points above. The next step (the logical step) would be to analyse the personal lives and timelines of the Third Doctor’s companions – Liz Shaw (Caroline John), Jo Grant (Katy Manning), and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen). All three companion’s lives both prior and after meeting and travelling with The Doctor are equal, and could provide vital keys in placing the UNIT stories in a timeline. Let’s start with Liz Shaw …

Liz Shaw was introduced in Spearhead from Space (1970), personally recruited to join UNIT by The Brigadier whilst carrying out research at Cambridge University. Now according to PROSE: The Devil Goblins from Neptune, Liz was born in 1943 and AUDIO: The Blue Tooth suggests that Liz joined UNIT in her mid-twenties.

During Liz Shaw’s introduction the Brigadier makes it clear that Liz is ‘an expert in meteorites’ and has ‘degrees in medicine, physics and a dozen other subjects’. Liz Shaw previously stated, ‘I have an important research programme going ahead at Cambridge’. Now this important. This means that Liz has graduated from University, completed her post-graduate qualifications, and holds a PhD. Now a lot of this may seem irrelevant; but it gives us the basis of estimating Liz’s age at the moment of her introduction. Throughout the Doctor Who universe (books, comics, TV serials etc.) there is no mention of Liz being a child genius (skipping grades, studying at a school for gifted children etc). So it’s probably safe to presume that Liz started University at the age of 17/18 which means she would have completed her undergraduate degree at 21/22. So the next question is, when was Liz born?

So if PROSE: The Devil Goblins from Neptune is correct, and Liz was born in 1943, she would have started University around about 1960/61, and would have graduated in 1964/1965. Now as AUDIO: The Blue Tooth suggests Liz joined UNIT in her mid-twenties so 24-26 which would put her arrival at UNIT in around 1967/68. Now, this seems unlikely (unless of course the Doctor Who universe has a different meaning of what mid-twenties means), since Liz would have achieved her twelve degrees in less than 3 years after graduating. Now, maybe Liz did achieve her twelve degrees in roughly 3 years, if she studied full-time, never took a day off from studying, spend every hour of every day …. that would probably do a lot of damage to the mental health (again Liz was no child genius). But it could be possible. Liz also mentioned that she was leading a research programme at Cambridge – but leading who? Students? Graduates? Professors? Who? Would Liz really be put in charge of research programmes being so young, and so close to her graduation?

Let’s presume (to put another argument on the table) for a minute that Liz Shaw and Caroline John are supposed to be the same age. This would mean that both Caroline and Liz would be 29 at the time of the broadcast of Spearhead from Space in 1970 – Caroline John was born in September 1940 and Spearhead from Space was broadcast in January 1970. Presuming that Liz was born in 1940 (and not 1943), this time she would have begun University in 1957/1958 and graduated in 1961/1962. Now if she joined UNIT in her mid-twenties (we would still run into the same problems) – Liz would have achieved everything mentioned in Spearhead from Space in roughly 3 years. It’s probably safe to presume that Liz was a little bit older when she joined UNIT. So presuming that Liz and Caroline John are the same age (with a birth year of 1940), Liz joined UNIT at 29 years of age. Establishing Liz’s age at 29 would mean she spent 7 years (and not 3) achieving all of her degrees. Now whilst this is still a stretch, it makes more sense than 3, for reasons given previously. This means that Liz arrived at UNIT in roughly 1969, but when did she leave?

Liz’s departure off-screen in Terror of the Autons (1971) explains that Liz went back to Cambridge University – possibly to continue her research and The Doctor is visibly annoyed. Why? Maybe because Liz (a talented, smart, resourceful scientist) reminded The Doctor of himself (but younger). Liz’s departure is also later mentioned in four separate stories all in short story and prose formats (we’re not going to go there believe me), but let’s concentrated on PROSE: The Scales of Injustice. SPOILER WARNING: During the story a young teenager Marc Marshall is one of many victims of the Silurians, which greatly upsets Liz, but not so much The Doctor. Now seeing the death of a young teenager was an emotional affair for Liz Shaw, and her departure swiftly followed.

Now whilst there isn’t an overtly elaborate reasoning behind Liz leaving UNIT, perhaps at the heart of it, Liz probably didn’t want to let go of amazing opportunities at Cambridge University. If she was indeed put in charge of research experiments at the Cambridge University, then she would want to make sure that she would make the most of such opportunities, would she really stay away from Cambridge University for a long period of time? So how long did Liz spend at UNIT? To answer the question let’s continue with the second companion to the Third Doctor, Jo Grant.

Jo Grant was introduced in Terror of the Autons, a little while after the events of Inferno (1970). Now the timeline of Jo’s life is a little more complicated than Liz’s, and they all centre around her swansong The Green Death (1973).

During The Green Death Jo meets Professor Clifford Jones (Stewart Bevan), and the pair eventually plan to get married at the end of the serial. Now Jo and The Doctor never see each other again, after this, that is until the pair cross paths again in The Sarah Jane Adventures 2-parter Death of the Doctor (2010). The Doctor asks Jo, ‘Last time I saw you, Jo Grant, you were, what, 21, 22?’ So that forms the basis of determining what age Jo was when she left The Doctor.

Let’s presume, that just like Liz Shaw, Jo Grant and Katy Manning are the same age. The pair of them would have been born in 1946 – Katy Manning’s birth year, and if Jo left The Doctor at 21/22 years of age, she would have left The Doctor in 1967/1968. Death of the Doctor is set in 2010 which would mean that 42/43 years have passed since Jo and The Doctor last saw each other. Now while entirely possible, it’s not the best solution. If Jo left UNIT in 1968 this would means that her time with The Doctor possibly takes place before Liz’s time, which simply can’t be the case. Since the UNIT stories take place chronologically. So when was Jo born then?

According to PROSE: Carpenter/Butterfly/Baronet Jo’s birth year is 1951. So if Jo was 21 or 22 when she left UNIT her departure would roughly occur in 1972/1973 – a little while after Liz’s arrival and departure from UNIT. 1972 would seem like a good year to place things, but just to be sure …

According to AUDIO: The Other Woman places Jo’s birth year as 1961. So again, if Jo was 21 or 22 at the time of her departure, that would place things in 1981/1982. This can’t be the case either since by the early 1980s, the Brigadier had retired to become a Maths Teacher, and never returned to duty. So AUDIO: The Other Woman can’t be used as a reliable source of information. So it’s safe to presume that Jo was born in 1951.

To firmly establish Jo’s time at UNIT further we need to take a look at Jo’s school days, and the various remarks The Doctor makes about Jo failing various school subjects. When Jo first arrived at UNIT she remarks that she took General Science at A Level, but didn’t say anything about passing. During The Daemons The Doctor deduces that Jo failed Latin as well when she failed to see that Magister was the Latin word for Master. Now yes these pieces of information are probably just general observations, but do they provide an insight as to when Jo attended school. Latin itself was a core subject during the first half of the twentieth century in many public and probably private schools. So if Jo was born in 1951 then she would have started school in 1955/56. So this means that Jo would have been attending school in the dying days of Latin being taught in main stream education. So it is possible that Jo learned Latin just as the subject was being phased out from the curriculum.

Despite failing General Science and Latin (possibly), Jo display basic skills in understanding both Greek in The Time Monster (1972) and Welsh in The Green Death. Although having failed to notice that Magister is Latin for Master, she probably deduced that Thescales was Greek for Master through simple logic and deduction. Whilst her nack for pronouncing Llanfairfach is achievable for anyone. So on the whole her knowledge of the Greek and Welsh language don’t really provide any more clues in establishing events in Jo’s timeline. Let’s return to her marriage to Professor Clifford Jones.

So it’s safe to assume that Jo was of legal age to marry Professor Jones at the end of The Green Death. This may seem a little obvious to point out, but it’s valid all the same. So if The Eleventh Doctor was referring to The Green Death when he last saw Jo, she was in her early twenties when she got married. It is also safe to presume that Jo was not a teenager since it would be somewhat ‘scandalous’ for a Nobel prize winning, world renowned biologist to marry a teenager when he himself clearly has a Doctoral degree. So Jo marries Professor Jones at 21 or 22 and her birth year is 1951, this means that Jo left UNIT in 1972/73. So when did she join UNIT?

When Jo first arrives at UNIT, The Brigadier tells The Third Doctor, ‘What you need, Doctor, as Miss Shaw herself so often remarked, is someone to pass you your test tubes and to tell you how brilliant you are. Miss Grant will fulfil that function admirably’ to which The Third Doctor says ‘Well, what's the girl doing here anyway? UNIT's no place for trainees’, to which The Brigadier replies ‘No, I couldn't agree more, Doctor, but Miss Grant was very keen to join us and she happens to have relatives in high places.’ Now apart from the little bit of nepotism going on here, the important words are ‘girl’ and ‘trainees’. Trainees are usually quiet young people looking to start their careers, people exploring possible career paths etc., and Jo is remarkably young, and The Third Doctor does show some scepticism towards someone her age being at UNIT. So what does that tell us? Well first, Jo is a little bit younger compared to Liz, and second, Jo has probably just left school. Again throughout her time with The Doctor, her education and qualifications are often referred to, as though they have just recently happened. Jo gladly announces that she studied General Science as if she just sat the exam. If Jo was born in 1951, she would have left school at 17/18, which means her arrival takes place in roughly 1968/69. However if the timeline, and Liz’s arrival at UNIT are correct, Jo joined UNIT after Liz’s departure which can’t be before 1969ish for reasons given previously. So let’s push things forward a bit to 1970/1971 with Jo joining UNIT at 19/20. This seem like a much better estimate, Jo is no longer a teenager, but a young adult; too young in The Doctor’s eyes, but a perfect fit to pass The Doctor test tubes and tell him how brilliant he is.

So on the whole let’s estimate Jo’s arrival at UNIT as taking place in 1970/71, and her departure as 1972/1973 (exactly when we’ll get to later). So on the basis of this Liz’s time with UNIT probably spanned a period between 1969-1970, the exact length doesn’t really matter. For now let’s turn to the third and final companion, Sarah Jane Smith.

Sarah Jane Smith was introduced in The Time Warrior (1973-74) and departed in The Hand of Fear (1976). Now Sarah Jane was born in 1951 according to The Sarah Jane Adventures two-parter The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith (2008) where we see Sarah Jane at just a few months old. So it’s a matter of fact that Sarah Jane was indeed born in 1951. But this is where things gets interesting…..

During Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974), Sarah Jane says that she is 23 years old. So if she was born in 1951, 23 years of age would put the events of Invasion of the Dinosaurs taking place in 1974 or 75. But this is where things get even more interesting.

During Pyramids of Mars (1975), Sarah Jane claims that she is from 1980s, and tells The Fourth Doctor that they know Sutekh (Gabriel Woolf) didn’t destroy the Earth in 1911, because Sarah Jane comes from the 1980s, so theoretically she is living proof. However in what is one of the most famous scenes, Sarah Jane looks out at a barren torn landscape, and realises the importance of stopping the Osirian Sutekh from succeeding in destroying the Earth. The scene itself is one of the best in the show’s history, but it doesn’t add up. We know of course when Pyramids of Mars was first broadcast, viewers didn’t know when Sarah Jane was born, nor did they know when Invasion of the dinosaurs was set. Things don’t get any easier with Sarah Jane’s age – 23. Without the year in which stories takes place, it’s almost impossible to determine what year Sarah Jane was born in. If Sarah Jane comes from 1980s then her birth year (for viewers in 1975 at least) must be sometime in 1957ish. This would mean that Sarah Jane is 29 during Pyramids of Mars. Which is possible. Elisabeth Sladen herself was roughly 29 when Pyramids of Mars was put into production. However, Invasion of Dinosaurs was broadcast over January-February 1974 and Pyramids of Mars over October-November 1975, less than two years between the two serials. So if Sarah Jane is 23 during Invasion of Dinosaurs how can six years pass between then and Pyramids of Mars? Then again maybe six years do pass between the two serials, time seems to be irrelevant when travelling inside the space-time continuum. But things just don’t add up since the broadcast of The Temptation of Sarah Jane. So with much regret, the statement ‘I’m really from 1980’ must be discarded and ignored.

So Sarah Jane was born in 1951, and Invasion of the Dinosaurs is set in 1974, right? Well, possibly. If The Green Death occurred sometime in 1972/73 that leaves an awful big gap between then and Invasion of the Dinosaurs. But it’s not totally unlikely. According to PROSE: The Enfolded Time Operation Golden Age occurred in 1974 (so things are good there) but was funded by Tobias Vaughn according to PROSE: Original Sin, who appeared in The Invasion but nobody knows this. This is where things get very wibbly wobbly timey wimey, and here’s why.

If Invasion of the Dinosaurs is set in 1974, and The Invasion in 1979, why doesn’t the Brigadier remember Operation Golden Age. Now yes I can hear a lot of people saying ‘that’s because The Invasion was produced and broadcast before Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ or something like that. But a major plot hole appears if everything mentioned in this paragraph is the case. In 1974 Sergeant Benton is, well a Sergeant, but in 1979 he’s – a Corporal(?). So the character has been demoted, despite saying in The Three Doctors he’d been promoted after the events of The Invasion(?). What are we to believe here?

Right, moving on for now, what about Sarah Jane’s arrival at UNIT? When does this occur? First, there is no mention of Jo’s wedding, nor is she even mentioned by The Third Doctor, unlike Liz Shaw in Terror of the Autons. So what does that tell us? Well first of all The Doctor doesn’t like goodbyes, yeah go figure. Second, it possibly tells us that a period of time has passed between The Green Death and The Time Warrior, but how long? Invasion of the Dinosaurs takes place a few weeks after The Time Warrior, so both stories take place in the same year. 1974? Right?.

Now Sarah Jane is a special case when it comes to Doctor Who companions since she has appeared in both the classic and revived series. Her special reappearance in School Reunion (2006) makes it clear that she is still a journalist. School Reunion is set in 2007 which would put Sarah’s age at 56. So things would seem pretty consistent here when it comes to just how long it’s been since Sarah departed The Doctor at the of The Hand of Fear. So when does her departure take place?

Sarah Jane’s departure from The Fourth Doctor (albeit poorly written, and making Sarah Jane seem like an obnoxious, spoilt brat) doesn’t give any clues as to the date of such events. For now we have to do nothing but speculate. Now obliviously when Tom Baker was cast as the Fourth Doctor, the new production team got straight to work in having more adventure set in space and alien planets, instead of having every story, or every second story being set on Earth. The Third Doctor was granted free travel through time and space after defeating Omega (Stephen Thorne) at the of The Three Doctors. Now between then and the Third Doctor’s swansong only 5/10 of the remaining serials were not set during the UNIT timeline - (Carnival of Monsters, Frontier in Space, Planet of the Daleks, Death to the Daleks, and The Monster of Peladon). Between The Fourth Doctor’s debut story Robot (1974/75) and Sarah’s departure only 5/12 serials were entirely set during the UNIT timeline or on contemporary Earth – Robot, Terror of the Zygons (1975), The Android Invasion (1975), The Seeds of Doom (1976), and The Hand of Fear. So with fewer and fewer stories occurring regularly in the UNIT timeline it is entirely possible that a short period of time passes between Robot and The Hand of Fear, and therefore we can roughly estimate the year in which Sarah Jane said goodbye to The Doctor, and continued with her life on Earth.

Let’s go back to Operation Golden Age, bear with me with this – the whole Dinosaurs fiasco occurs not in 1974, but sometime in 1972ish. Again wibbly wobbly timey wimey. If Operation Golden Age occurred in 1974 this contradicts the events of Robot. According to Sarah’s pass to visit ThinkTank Robot takes place in c.April 1973. We’ve already established that the televised stories take place chronologically, so Invasion of the Dinosaurs cannot take place in 1974 and Robot in 1973.

What are the reasons for Operation Golden Age taking place in 1972? Well there are a few helpful clues, but these are very vague, and are again open to much speculation.

  1. One of the ‘chosen few’ who is selected by Sir Charles Grover (Noel Johnson) to colonise the ‘new earth’ is Mark (Terence Wilton), an Olympic Winning athlete who won medals at the last Olympic Games prior to Operation Golden Age. Now this must be a reference to the Munich/Sapporo Olympics Games in 1972 - the 1976 games would not take place until after the events of Robot, and the 1968 games would be too early to be realistic.

  2. Captain Yates (Richard Franklin) is revealed to be one of the ‘main’ but not important figures during Operation Golden Age. During Invasion of the Dinosaurs, it’s revealed that Captain Yates is a traitor, and has been involved with Operation Golden Age for some time. How did Captain Yates find out about Operation Golden Age, and how long has he been a part of it? Did he go looking for secret conspiracy groups during his free time? It’s unlikely that the Captain would be so clued up about Operation Golden Age’s plans if he’s has only been onboard for a matter of months – but then again, perhaps not. Since the appearance of Dinosaurs in 20th century London would undoubtedly attract unwanted attention, Captain Yates is a fitting choice to mislead UNIT during its investigation, and as such he would be an invaluable asset. So arguably Captain Yates loyalty to Operation Golden Age may indeed have only spanned a matter of months after the events of The Green Death.

  3. Whilst Sarah looks through various files in Charles Grover’s private office to see if a secret bunker (for the use of Government in the event of Nuclear War exists), she remarks that one was built twenty years ago. How does that help? Well Grover, previously mentioned that plans to build such a bunker occurred during the Cold War [so the 1950s?] – and twenty years in the future would takes us to the 1970s.

  4. The population of London in 1971 was 7,452,520 and The Brigadier mentions that 8,000,000 have been evacuated from London (this would include tourists, people on business, people who are homeless, students studying abroad in the UY etc). Now whilst roughly 500,000 are still unaccounted for, it still a good estimate, so we’ll just have to roll with it.

So with that being said when did Sarah Jane leave The Doctor?

We don’t know how much time passes between Invasion of the Dinosaurs and Planet of the Spiders and so on and so forth. But let’s start from the beginning. At the beginning of Planet of the Spiders, Captain Yates, know retired from UNIT and has sought help in the form of meditation and Buddhist philosophy to put the whole Dinosaurs escapade behind him. It seems unlikely that he would get over such a thing so quickly, so a short period of time must have passed, a few months and not weeks. So let’s put the year as 1973ish. Sarah comments that three weeks have passed after being return to Earth from Metebelis Three, so again every scene set on Earth during Planet of the Spiders is set within the same year. Robot is also set within the same year since it almost immediately follows the events from its predecessor. This would also confirm the 1973 setting for Robot. Terror of the Zygons and The Seeds of Dooms could also be set within 1973 since both stories realistically take place within different seasons of one year. Terror of the Zygons gives the impression that its late spring/early summer, whilst The Seeds of Doom is without a doubt set in Autumn [cold weather, leaves turning brown, trees barren etc.] – it also costs two pence [minimum] to operate a pay phone. The Hand of Fear meanwhile isn’t set during the Winter, so this means we’re into the new year, sometime in Spring 1974. Again nothing certain, but 1974 is a good year to end things with Sarah.

If Sarah Jane left The Doctor in 1974 and met him again in 2007, this means that 33 years have passed. If Sarah is roughly 55/56 during School Reunion, then she must have been roughly 22/23 when she left The Doctor which would be consistent with her birth year [1951], and the number of years that pass between The Hand of Fear and School Reunion, but again, this is just a guess. And as for her remark about being 23 years of age in Invasion of Dinosaurs……

So with all of the companions’ timelines analysed we now need to look at a few discrepancies to ‘fully’ establish when the UNIT Timeline occurs in Doctor Who universe.

  1. Although it is clearly stated that The Web of Fear and The Invasion take place in 1975 and 1979 respectively, we need to ignore these, as mistakes. It sounds bizarre, and seems unlikely that various characters could mistake the year they live in, but again, we need to ignore the 1975 and 1979 canon, and push the dates back to 1965 and 1969 respectively. Only then, will the timeline make some sort of sense, and clear up any and all plot holes. Pushing things back to 1965 and 1969, and also helps The Brigadier’s retirement year as 1977 as well.

  2. Tobias Vaughn, who funded Operation Golden Age’s experiment, is killed by a Cyberman during The Invasion. So if he dies in 1969, how come Operation Golden Age still has enough funds in 1972? Well apparently in PROSE: Original Sin, when Tobias was killed, his consciousness was saved, and uploaded to a robot duplicate of himself. The character would later play a major role in PROSE: The Scales of Injustice, although The Doctor remains blissfully unaware of his involvement. So this means, although his original body was dead, Tobias would still be ‘alive’ to fund Operation Golden Age’s experiments without any trouble.

  3. It would seem that the term ‘present day’ just doesn’t fit into the UNIT timeline. Again it is difficult to define what ‘present day’ means. Perhaps the term ‘present day’ corresponds to when episodes were in production - but again there will be some exceptions to this. Having episodes take place, before the broadcast date – e.g. Planet of the Spiders: setting: 1973, broadcast: 1974 evidently is not the ‘present day’. However the not-so-distant-past can work just the same, if not better. It is never stated when certain episodes take place, so there for, the UNIT time could easily take place in not-so-distant-past, as well as the near future, but which way one places things is speculation.

  4. Again, the UNIT timeline has always been very speculative about who the Prime Minister is when certain episodes take place. Characters such as Sir Jeremy in The Green Death and ‘she’ in Terror of the Zygons simply don’t fit in with Earth History. The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) mentions Margaret Thatcher in Tooth and Claw, but every Prime Minister of Britain after Aliens of London/World War Three (2005) have been purely fictional. In The End of Time (2009/10) Barack Obama is the President of the United States; whereas Arthur Coleman Winters (Colin Stinton) is fictional. So what are we to make of this?

  5. And of course … Sarah’s age in Invasion of Dinosaurs. We simply have to ignore this, only then, will things fall into place – sort of.

UNIT Timeline


  • The Web of Fear – not 1975, but rather 1965. There is no evidence to prove this, and the reference to the year being 1975 must be ignored.


  • The Invasion – 4 years after The Web of Fear that much we can guarantee, possibly occurring at the beginning of the year, and a short while before Spearhead from Space.

  • Spearhead from Space – set a few months after The Invasion, since Sergeant Benton refers to the Cybermen during The Daemons. The serial takes place roughly during springtime (February-April).

  • Doctor Who and the Silurians – not long after Spearhead from Space, so roughly late Spring to early Summer. Various establishing shots including cars and other vehicles would help determine the year (car plates etc.) but these are often obscured or OOF (out-of-focus).

  • The Ambassadors of Death – not long after Doctor Who and the Silurians, since The Doctor is still furious with The Brigadier after blowing up the Silurians. Must be set after Moon Landing of 1969, since Space Missions are heading to Mars and beyond. A big jump to land on the Moon, and then turn attention and effort to Mars, but for now 1969 is passable

  • Inferno – a deleted cut scene reveals that events take place over and on 23rd July – so late summer.


  • Terror of the Autons – Liz has left UNIT and returned to Cambridge after multiple unseen adventures – PROSE: The Scales of Injustice etc. Roughly set during late spring/early summer – the circus is not likely to travel when tourism is at its lowest peak.

  • The Mind of Evil – exterior scenes suggest that the weather is cold – so mid-autumn. A short while after Terror of the Autons.

  • The Claws of Axos – despite the Axons’ spaceship disturbing we’re the weather, exterior scenes suggest that the weather is cold, colder than The Mind of Evil, so were approaching winterish months. It’s late in 1970, and 1971 is just around the corner.


  • Colony in Space – not a UNIT story but Jo asks Mary Ashe (Helen Worth) ‘you left in 1971?’, so Jo must be referring to her own year since she sounds surprised that a space exhibition possibly left Earth in 1971. If Jo left Earth with The Doctor after 1971, then she would know about the space exhibition, and wouldn’t be so surprised as to the year in which the Colonists left Earth.

  • The Daemons – 30 April-1st May (Beltane etc.) – BBC3 inconsistency must be ignored.

  • Day of the Daleks – 11-14 September. The Master having been arrested at the end of The Daemons has not be ‘punished yet’, so a few months after The Daemons. Peace conference is possibly a continuation of the events seen in The Mind of Evil, but again nothing is certain.

  • The Sea Devils – The Master is seen watching an episode of The Clangers ‘The Rock Collector’ first shown in 1971. So unless The Master is picking up a signal from the future, which he can’t be since Trenchard (Clive Morton) knows what The Clangers is. So we must be in 1971 – late to mid-autumn.

  • The Time Monster – a little while after The Sea Devils but not much. The Master is a ‘well-respected’ scientist at the Newton Institute, which could argue against the 1971 setting. The Master however could have used hypnotism, his vast intelligence to his advantage to establish his new identity. The Master calling upon a vast, dangerous identity (Kronos) is similar to his calling upon Azal (Stephen Thorne) fiasco so The Master has experience. So late 1971 is a good setting.

  • The Three Doctors – late in 1971. No mention of the previous adventure, but UNIT HQ has moved once again. Things are pushed here, but for now, 1971 is the answer.


  • The Green Death – not 1973, but 1972. A desk calendar reveals a 29-day month [February] with the first and last day falling on a Tuesday. The only year where this is possible is February 1972.

  • The Time Warrior – a few months after The Green Death and Jo’s wedding to Professor Jones. The Doctor doesn’t refer to Jo at all – so has he gotten over her departure – possibly? No exterior scene are shown during the ‘present day’ scenes – so the time of year is speculation. Possibly late summer due to setting of Invasion of the Dinosaurs

  • Invasion of the Dinosaurs – 2 months after The Time Warrior so possibly mid to early autumn. Reference to the Summer Olympics [Munich] is made, and Captain Yates is a member of Operation Golden Age, for quite some time. Sarah says she’s 23 but she can’t be, rather she’s 21.


  • Planet of the Spiders – Jo sends back the Metebelis III crystal to The Doctor from the Amazon. This delivery service would take months to complete, so a short space of time has passed between The Green Death and now. It’s early in the year, Captain Yates has retired and looking to get over the fiasco with Operation Golden Age.

  • Robot – Sarah’s pass suggests April – outside scenes suggest good weather so mid spring. A few weeks after The Doctor returned Sarah from Metebelis III.

  • Terror of the Zygons – a little after Robot, events take place in the Highlands. Roughly mid to early summer [May/June] but nothing is certain.

  • The Android Invasion – a desk calendar reads Friday 6 July which means 1973 is a plausible year. The planet Oseidon and Earth are running perpendicular to one and other, so everything is fine here.

  • The Seeds of Doom – weather outside is cold, so it’s autumn/winter of the same year. The year is drawing to a close, but there are still a few weeks to go.


  • The Hand of Fear – set roughly at the beginning of the year, which marks the end of the UNIT era – even though UNIT do not appear in this one.

Now of course, this timeline is not the definite answer, and not everyone will agree with it. A lot of speculation and guess work has been used here, but there have been other helpful clues [desk calendars etc.) which help determine some sort of timespan. The answer as to when the UNIT timeline actually takes place will probably never be fully answered, and there will always be someone who will disagree. Sometimes you have to put realism aside to create a compelling product, and if you put nothing but logic into arranging the UNIT timeline, the answer may not be satisfactory. It does seem a little unrealistic that 3 separate adventures all take place within late 1971 – The Sea Devils, The Time Monster, and The Three Doctor, but that’s the fun of the UNIT timeline. Does it take place over 10 years? 5 years? 1 year? Who knows for certain. Not even The Doctor himself seems to know.

The UNIT timeline is one big wormhole and paradox, sometimes you have to put aside continuity mistakes, which does seem like a cheap way of wriggling oneself out of problems, but without doing so, no one would get anywhere. So for now the UNIT timeline takes place between 1965-1974, and if you agree or disagree just remember ‘timey wimey wibbly wobbly’.

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