The Whoniverse Expands as Russell T. Davies Confirms 'UNIT' Spinoff
Since his own Bad Wolf Productions announced Russell T. Davies would not only be returning as showrunner to the Doctor Who franchise but co-producing with the BBC, speculation has run wild about Davies' plans. As longtime Whovian fans know, Davies was ahead of his time when he took the reigns in rebooting the Whoniverse in 2004, producing not just the hit series but building spinoff series out of it, including Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. The former only lasted a couple of seasons, but the latter ran until star Elisabeth Sladen passed away, and the BBC was not interested in trying to keep up the idea once he left.
This was pre-streaming, mind you, and a good decade before production studios were looking to mine popular properties for as many shows as could be invented. With Davies' return to the series, he's now entering a landscape far more friendly to the idea of multiple series. While BBC's iPlayer is not nearly as thirsty as some in the U.S., the show's move to Disney+ not only gives Bad Wolf a platform that will heavily market the show but one that's constantly looking for new programming to add to the lineup. In short, spinoffs were not just on the table but practically guaranteed.
Davies admitted as much when the Disney+ deal was made public, but precisely what those spinoffs will be has been a mystery. However, Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker's final adventure in the BBC's centenary special highlighted a few ideas, including an Earth-bound UNIT adventure series in the same vein as Torchwood. Davies has confirmed that rumored series is in the works, with Jemma Redgrave reprising her role as Katherine Sally "Kate" Lethbridge-Stewart, the daughter of Classic Who Third Doctor BFF Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, played by the late Nicholas Courtney.
Kate Stewart has been an elliptical figure in the Doctor Who series. She was created in one of the show's Doctorless direct-to-home-video episodes during the wilderness years of 1989-1996 when no official BBC episodes were being made for TV. The episode "Downtime" featured Sladen and Courtney reprising their roles as Sarah Jane and the brigadier in an Earth-based UNIT adventure. Kate (played by Beverley Cressman) appeared as the Brig's estranged young adult daughter. Cressman reprised the role in a second home video, "Dæmos Rising," in 2004, and the character also made a few appearances in the Doctor Who comics and novels.
Doctor Who's second showrunner, Steve Moffat, revived the character for TV in the Season 7 rebooted series in the 2012 Eleventh Doctor story "The Power of Three," introducing Jemma Redgrave (niece of Call The Midwife's Vanessa Redgrave) in the role. Since then, Redgrave has played the character in eight more on-screen episodes over the decade, plus webisodes and multiple audio dramas, the most recent of which was Whittaker's final episode. She is next rumored to be in the 2023 Christmas special that will follow the 60th-anniversary trilogy, and fans suspect this will be the backdoor pilot to her series.
No other cast for the UNIT series has been confirmed as of yet, nor does the series have an official title. Davies is currently working on filming and editing Season 14, Ncuti Gatwa's first season as the Doctor. More details on the UNIT spinoffs, and perhaps other series, are expected to emerge soon.