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Speaking in an interview on the 2012 DVD of the Doctor Who serial The Krotons (1968–69), Sherwin said that he wanted Doctor Who to be "down on Earth anyway, for credibility", and described UNIT as "the ideal vehicle" for this.In another 2014 interview in Doctor Who Magazine, Sherwin recalled that after submitting his scripts for The Invasion to Bryant, which included UNIT, Sherwin, who was also working freelance as a script editor, was told by Bryant to introduce his UNIT idea earlier, as it could "take some of the weight off [the] shoulders" of actor Patrick Troughton, who played the Doctor.From "The Power of Three" (2012), the first on screen appearance of UNIT in any Whoniverse media since the two-part Doctor Who special The End of Time in 2009–2010, UNIT has been shown to have been reorganised by Kate Stewart, the Brigadier's daughter.UNIT personnel are seconded from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force, and are still bound by the UK chain of command, and the commander reports to the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Defence through Department C-19.Originally referred to as the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, executive producer Russell T Davies claimed in 2005 that the UN were no longer happy to be associated with the fictional organisation and the UN's full name could now no longer be used.However, the "UNIT" and "UN" abbreviations could be used as long as it was not explained what the letters stood for.

He credited both scriptwriter and script editor Derrick Sherwin and producer Peter Bryant as having come up with the idea beforehand, claiming that they were testing the concept in The Invasion before it had become central to the show in the Doctor Who serial Spearhead from Space (1970).

UNIT's personnel have a wide range of weaponry to call on, some custom-made to combat specific threats.

Among these are special ammunition described by the Brigadier in Battlefield as armour-piercing rounds with a solid core and Teflon coating which "could go through a Dalek".

Speaking in an interview on the 2011 special edition DVD of Spearhead from Space, Sherwin claimed that he had created UNIT because he wanted to give some "considerable support" to the Doctor, "so that [Troughton] didn't have so many damn lines to learn each week".

Sherwin told Doctor Who Magazine in 2014 that while working as script editor on the Doctor Who serial The Web of Fear (1968), which also involved an army, he told scriptwriters Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln to include all of the characters that he had originally invented for The Invasion.

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The commission followed the then-recent broadcast of The Web of Fear.