Doctor Who Chronology: The Trouble with UNIT
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The UNIT era, as any Doctor Who timeline compiler can tell you, presents quite a difficulty. To be honest, it's a mess and a headache. The main problem with UNIT stories is that they contradict each other wildly. For example, in the proto-UNIT story "The Web of Fear", the action is said to take place over forty years after 1935; that's at least 1975, seven years in the future. In "Pyramids of Mars", Sarah Jane Smith plainly states that she hails from 1980, five years in the future. And in "Mawdryn Undead", the contemporary scenes are set in 1983, placing it firmly in the story's present. And calendars in various stories are generally no help at all, as they sometimes contradict themselves within the same story!
No matter what, compromises must be made and dates must be ignored.
My compromise is to compress the events of the UNIT years into a shorter period of time. The dating for these stories now runs as follows (many thanks to Donald Gillikin for suggesting a solution along these lines and many of these dates):
- "The Web of Fear" (broadcast year)
- "The Invasion" ("nearly four years" after "The Web of Fear")
- "Spearhead from Space" (according to "Planet of the Spiders", "some months" after "The Invasion")
- "Doctor Who and the Silurians" (not too long after "Spearhead from Space", given that the Doctor has only recently gotten the car promised him at the end of that adventure)
- "The Ambassadors of Death" (not too long after "Doctor Who and the Silurians", as the Doctor is still clearly annoyed with the Brigadier for his actions in that story)
- c. July 23: "Inferno" (date appears on calendar in parallel universe in deleted scene)
- "Terror of the Autons"
- Autumn: "The Mind of Evil" (autumn leaves seen outside UNIT HQ; "Inferno" is "some time ago")
- "The Claws of Axos"
- "Colony in Space"
- April 30/May 1: "The Dæmons" (starts on Beltane; May Day celebrated at end of story)
- Sept 12-14: "Day of the Daleks" (September dates given in dialogue)
- Sept: Jo and Doctor visit Peladon ("The Curse of Peladon")
- Sept: "The Sea Devils" (this must happen in September to fit between "Day of the Daleks" and "The Time Monster")
- Sept: "The Mutants" (this must also fit between "Day of the Daleks" and "The Time Monster")
- c. September 29: "The Time Monster" (Jo's "Happy Michelmas")
- "The Three Doctors"
- Doctor and Jo take TARDIS on test flight ("Carnival of Monsters")
- Jo and Doctor on further non-contemporary adventures ("Frontier in Space", "Planet of the Daleks")
- "The Green Death" (ignoring leap year calendar at Global Chemicals)
- "The Time Warrior"
- "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" ("a few weeks" following "The Time Warrior"; Sarah Jane gives her age as 23)
- Doctor and Sarah on non-contemporary adventures ("Death to the Daleks," "The Monster of Peladon")
- March: "Planet of the Spiders" (the bulk of the story takes place "3 weeks" before "Robot")
- c. April: 4 "Robot" (date seen on Sarah's UNIT pass)
- Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry on non-contemporary adventures ("The Ark in Space", "The Sontaran Experiment", "Genesis of the Daleks", "Revenge of the Cybermen")
- "Terror of the Zygons"
- Sarah and Doctor visit Zeta Minor ("Planet of Evil")
- "Pyramids of Mars" (visit to alternate Earth; unfortunately, repeated mentions of this being 1980 simply do not fit)
- June: "The Android Invasion" (ignore 1979 dating pattern on calendar, but keeping the June)
- Doctor and Sarah away in future ("The Brain of Morbius")
- Autumn: "The Seeds of Doom" (season mentioned)
- Sarah and Doctor away in 1492 ("The Masque of Mandragora")
- "The Hand of Fear"
- Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart retires ("Mawdryn Undead")
- June 7: "Mawdryn Undead"
- July 31: "Image of the Fendahl" (Lammas Eve; stories catch up to contemporary)
Obviously, this solution is not perfect. Many references (most notably Sarah Jane's "I'm from 1980") must be completely ignored, while others are wholly embraced. No matter what solution is used, someone will be dissatisfied. This is just the one that works for me.
And, fortunately, a few details from The Sarah Jane Adventures have helped me justify at least one of these dates to myself. In "The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith", we learn that Sarah Jane was born in 1951. In "Invasion of the Dinosaurs", she states that she is 23 years old, placing that story in either 1974 or, as I have above, 1975.
For more detail that you probably really want to know regarding the UNIT dating controvery, check out the Wikipedia article.
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