The Doctor's Companions

The Brigadier Sergeant Benton Liz Shaw
The Invasion - The Android Invasion
Sergeant Benton
Sergeant Benton
(1968 - 1975)
John Levene

 Born in 1941 in Salisbury, as John Words, at the age of 21 he left home to work in a mens clothing store in London. During this time he signed on at an agency who supplied walk on actors. Using the acting name John Levene various television parts included Adam Adamant Lives, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, Z Cars and Doctor Who where he played the part of a Cyberman and a then again as a Yeti. He was then offered the part of Benton a small part in the 1968 story "Invasion". Despite not having any formal training it was because of the character's popularity that he was asked to recreate the role as a UNIT regular from the 1970 story "The Ambassadors of Death". On leaving Doctor Who he gave up acting as a career to set up his own company specialising in conference presentations. He has also worked as an entertainer on cruise liners and has now emigrated to the USA where he has returned to acting under the name John Anthony Blake. He however, returned to the role of Benton in the 1988 Reeltime Pictures video production Wartime.

 When Benton first appeared on Doctor Who, no one realised that he would be considered a companion but his role may have started small but it grew in popularity until he became one of the most popular characters on the program during that time.

The Invasion
The Invasion
 Benton was a very competent member of the British branch of the newly formed United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT) which is under the command of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. He was initially seen as a Corporal but he rose in the ranks as the show progressed, being promoted to Sergeant prior to the events of "The Ambassadors of Death" and remaining in that rank throughout the remainder of the Third Doctor's era. He was then promoted to Warrant Officer during the Fourth Doctor's story "Robot" and then again to Regimental Sergeant Major in "Terror of the Zygons", some sources suggesting that he was promoted further to Lieutenant later in his career.

 His capabilities impressed all, and he showed great stamina and was very practical when faced with the many varied problems. It was because of this that The Brigadier singled him out for special duties and this included the watching of a strange electronics firm which is where he had his first encounter with The Doctor who was then in his second incarnation, Benton bringing The Doctor and Jamie to The Brigadier after The Brigadier recognised them from Benton's surveillance photos ("The Invasion").

 Steadfast and doggedly loyal to both The Doctor and to The Brigadier he was ever dependable and could be counted on in moments of crisis. He was unflinchingly courageous and would always be right in the foreground fighting the variety of strange alien invaders, crazed scientists and natural menaces that UNIT was faced with. He was the impeccable right hand man to both of them and his ability to command and to gain loyalty in the troops was very evident and he would be the first to be called upon for help. Despite this, when the time came for The Brigadier to promote a sergeant to the rank of Captain, Benton recommended the more recent recruit of Sergeant Mike Yates for the job, as he felt that he was ill-suited for the more political aspects of such a career compared to Mike ("The Scales of Injustice").

He had an amiable good humour and cheerfulness both on and off duty and was portrayed as a nice and honest man, being as efficient with a gun or a kettle depending on the situation, to the extent that The Doctor once commented that Benton made one of the finest cups of coffee he'd encountered (The finest being apparently made by Mrs Samuel Pepys). Despite his working class background he was well liked by both his junior's and senior's and was also well thought of by Jo Grant and then Sarah Jane Smith. He was always concerned for the safety of anyone who was put in his care - to the point that he went to great effort to avoid killing villagers who were possessed by alien parasites even when they were trying to kill him and his men ("Last of the Gaderene") -, and he was especially devoted to Jo and would always try to protect her. Although he described himself as a straightforward man operating on the military principle of saluting what moved and whitewashing what didn’t ("The Devil Goblins From Neptune"), he made it clear more than once that he would obey a person before he obeyed rank if the two ever conflicted, such as when he encouraged The Doctor to escape captivity even after a general had accused The Doctor of being responsible for the current crisis ("Invasion of the Dinosaurs"), or siding with the Seventh Doctor despite the rest of UNIT no longer trusting him after they'd been affected by brainwashing VR equipment secretly supplied by The Doctor’s old enemy The Meddling Monk ("No Future").

The Dæmons
The Dæmons
 Although he dismissed himself as a simple soldier, Benton showed great courage even when dealing with such unusual situations as travelling along a time bridge to a mysterious island over thirty years in the past in order to rescue The Doctor and Liz Shaw ("The Eye of the Giant"). He also showed a surprising intelligence when he managed to follow an explanation about how the temporal teleportation device TOMTIT worked, clarifying to The Brigadier that it moved objects ‘between now and now’ by passing the object through 'temporal molecules', the same episode seeing Benton catching The Master off-guard even after The Master had almost perfectly copied The Brigadier’s voice to give him fake orders simply because The Master referred to him as ‘dear fellow’ over the phone, Benton recognising that the ever-professional Brigadier wouldn't do something like that ("The Time Monster"). Although he never underestimated the danger that The Master could pose to Earth, Benton was the man responsible for The Brigadier recruiting The Master’s assistance while UNIT faced an invasion from an alternate Earth while The Doctor was away, recognising that The Master’s advanced knowledge could be useful even if The Master himself couldn’t be trusted ("The Face of the Enemy").

The Three Doctors
The Three Doctors
 His outlook on life was very much down to Earth and even though he did not really fully understand The Doctor he was rarely phased by anything, his only obvious sign of discomfort in the series being when he was regressed to an infant and appeared stark naked before his colleagues after he was returned to the proper age ("The Three Doctors"). His casual approach to events was particularly apparent during his first experience with the TARDIS’s interior when UNIT HQ came under attack by Omega's Gell Guards. When The Doctor asked the clearly-amazed Benton if he was going to comment on the interior’s size in relation to the exterior, Benton simply commented that such a thing was obvious, adding that nothing to do with The Doctor surprised him any more. During the same crisis, he had little trouble accepting the idea of two Doctors being in the same place when even The Brigadier showed some discomfort at the idea, working with the Second Doctor to investigate Omega's gel-creature after the Third Doctor was abducted by it ("The Three Doctors").

The Android Invasion
The Android Invasion
 Benton's casual attitude towards The Doctor was seen once again when The Doctor regenerated ("Planet of the Spiders"), Benton quickly accepting The Brigadier's explanation for the new Doctor despite not having witnessed the transformation himself ("Robot"). Although the new Doctor was more distant than the old one, Benton continued to prove himself to be as dependable as ever, rescuing the Fourth Doctor and Sarah when they were captured by the Zygons ("Terror of the Zygons") and verifying The Doctor's identity when he was contacted to help find the recently-captured Brigadier while UNIT had been taken over by another organisation ("Heart of TARDIS").

 During a later encounter with The Brigadier, the Fifth Doctor learned that Benton had left UNIT to become a second hand car salesman ("Mawdryn Undead"). Despite his departure, The Doctors continued to remember Benton fondly, the Fifth Doctor once commenting that Benton was one of the few soldiers he had always managed to get along with ("Warmonger"), and the Ninth Doctor appreciating a brief meeting with Benton’s father - apparently his son's inspiration for joining the armed forces - when he and Rose Tyler encountered the senior Benton in the trenches during a visit to the First World War ("The Forgotten"). Benton apparently returned to UNIT some time prior to 2000, or at least retained contacts in that organisation, as he was able to answer Jo Grant’s inquiries about the activities of the ruthless Corporal Hynes ("Genocide"), the same novel revealing that he was now married with at least three children.

 It has often been said that the British Army is the best in the world because it has the best non-commissioned officers in the world. If this is the case then one of the best examples must be the type of man portrayed as Benton.

Memorable Moment
Invasion of the Dinosaurs
Invasion of the Dinosaurs
 Benton's most memorable moment was unquestionably his confrontation with renegade General Finch, a member - along with his UNIT colleague Captain Mike Yates - of 'Operation Golden Age', a plan to turn back time on Earth and erase most of civilisation to allow mankind to 'start over' at the cost of wiping most of Earth's population from existence. Although Finch attempted to frame The Doctor for the organisation's crimes, Benton not only allowed The Doctor to escape, but actually attacked Finch when Finch attempted to stop him sending reinforcements to help The Brigadier and The Doctor, apologising to Finch after Finch informed him that he would be court-martialled for his actions before punching the general in the nose ("Invasion of the Dinosaurs").

 Another memorable moment of Benton's time in Doctor Who was when he was seen in the parallel universe that The Doctor visited during the story "Inferno". Playing the part as Platoon Under Leader Benton his attitudes and character were the exact opposite to that of the Sergeant Benton we all new and liked. Here he was an unpleasant bully who obviously tormented his fellow troops. He eventually became infected by some of Stahlmans Gas which then changed him into a Primord. During this story we also see alternative versions of Liz Shaw and The Brigadier both of who were also much more aggressive and less likeable ("Inferno").

Television Stories
Format Story Doctor Fellow Companions Season Episodes
Television The Invasion The 2nd Doctor Jamie, Zoe & The Brigadier Season 6 6
Television The Ambassadors of Death The 3rd Doctor Liz Shaw & The Brigadier Season 7 2
Television Inferno The 3rd Doctor Liz Shaw & The Brigadier Season 7 7
Television Terror of the Autons The 3rd Doctor Jo Grant, The Brigadier & Captain Mike Yates Season 8 3
Television The Mind of Evil The 3rd Doctor Jo Grant, The Brigadier & Captain Mike Yates Season 8 5
Television The Claws of Axos The 3rd Doctor Jo Grant, The Brigadier & Captain Mike Yates Season 8 4
Television The Dæmons The 3rd Doctor Jo Grant, The Brigadier & Captain Mike Yates Season 8 5
Television Day of the Daleks The 3rd Doctor Jo Grant, The Brigadier & Captain Mike Yates Season 9 3
Television The Time Monster The 3rd Doctor Jo Grant, The Brigadier & Captain Mike Yates Season 9 5
Television The Three Doctors The 3rd Doctor Jo Grant & The Brigadier Season 10 4
Television The Green Death The 3rd Doctor Jo Grant, The Brigadier & Captain Mike Yates Season 10 3
Television Invasion of the Dinosaurs The 3rd Doctor Sarah Jane Smith, The Brigadier, & Captain Mike Yates Season 11 6
Television Planet of the Spiders The 3rd Doctor Sarah Jane Smith, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, & Captain Mike Yates Season 11 2
Television Robot The 4th Doctor Sarah Jane Smith, The Brigadier & Harry Sullivan Season 12 4
Television Terror of the Zygons The 4th Doctor Sarah Jane Smith, The Brigadier & Harry Sullivan Season 13 4
Television The Android Invasion The 4th Doctor Harry Sullivan Season 13 3
Total Stories:   16 Total Episodes:   66
Other Stories
Format Story Doctor Fellow Companions Season Source
Book Heart of TARDIS The 2nd Doctor & The 4th Doctor Jamie, Victoria, The Brigadier and 1st Romana Season 5 The Past Doctors Stories
Book The Eye of the Giant The 3rd Doctor Liz Shaw, The Brigadier and Captain Mike Yates Season 7 The Missing Adventures
Book The Devil Goblins From Neptune The 3rd Doctor Liz Shaw and The Brigadier Season 7 The Past Doctors Stories
Audio Degrees of Truth The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier Season 8 Short Trips (Audio)
Book UNIT Christmas Parties: Christmas Truce The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier, Jo Grant and Captain Mike Yates Season 8 The Big Finish Short Trips
Book The Face of the Enemy The 3rd Doctor Barbara Wright, Ian Chesterton, The Brigadier, Jo Grant and Captain Mike Yates Season 9 The Past Doctors Stories
Book Rags The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier, Jo Grant and Captain Mike Yates Season 9 The Past Doctors Stories
Book Verdigris The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier, Jo Grant and Captain Mike Yates Season 9 The Past Doctors Stories
Book Last of the Gaderene The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier, Jo Grant and Captain Mike Yates Season 10 The Past Doctors Stories
Book Dancing the Code The 3rd Doctor The Brigadier, Jo Grant and Captain Mike Yates Season 10 The Missing Adventures
Audio Council of War The 3rd Doctor   - The Big Finish Audio Stories
Book Blood Heat The 7th Doctor Ace, Bernice Summerfield, Liz Shaw, Jo Grant and The Brigadier - The New Adventures
Total Stories:   12
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Parts of this article were compiled with the assistance of David Spence who can be contacted by e-mail at
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