THE BACKGROUND OF BENTON
Benton was originally just a regular soldier brought into the alien fighting force, UNIT, when it was first introduced to viewers in 'The Invasion'. Over time, he became one of the few full-time members under Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's command of UNIT. While with the organization, he continuously proved himself both a skillful soldier, as well as a devoted subordinate to the Doctor.
His thorough knowledge of weapons, his training in military techniques, and his sound sense of discipline not only saw him safely through UNIT's first battle with the Cybermen, in 'The Invasion', but through countless later battles.
BBC first introduced him as a Corporal; but because of his continuous good service, he quickly moved up to Sergeant, then Warrant Officer, and eventually to RSM. He was with UNIT right up until it disappeared into the background of the Doctor's past.
There was reference of UNIT later on in 'The Five Doctors', (for which John Levene turned down a cameo appearance, feeling the part did not properly reflect his charactor), and in the Seventh Doctor's adventure, 'Battlefield', where Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart appears. Because there was no mention of Benton, we must assume that he had moved on to greener pastures.
Dr. Who Episodes with Benton
The Invasion- aired November 11 to December 21, 1968
The Ambassadors of Death- aired March 21 to May 2, 1970
Inferno- aired May 9 to June 20, 1970
Terror of the Autons- aired January 2 to January 23, 1971
The Mind of Evil- aired January 30 to March 5, 1971
The Claws of Axos- aired March 13 to April 3, 1971
The Daemons- aired May 22 to June 19, 1971
Day of the Daleks- aired January 1, 1972 to January 22, 1972
The Time Monster- aired May 20, 1972 to June 24, 1972
The Three Doctors- aired December 30, 1972 to January 20, 1973
The Green Death- aired May 19, 1973 to June 23, 1973
Invasion of the Dinosaurs- aired January 12, 1974 to February 16, 1974
Planet of the Spiders- aired May 4, 1972 to June 8, 1972
Robot- aired December 28, 1974 to January 18, 1975
Terror of the Zygons- aired August 30, 1975 to September 20, 1975
The Android Invasion- aired November 22, 1975 to December 13, 1975 (This is the last official episode to feature John Levene as RSM Benton)
Benton first comes properly to notice in Inferno when we see how nasty and vicious he could have been as his fascist counterpart ill treats the Doctor. Ironically, there's a photograph of Platoon Under Leader Benton holding a rifle which looks decidedly sexy, weird or what? After this Benton's good guy status is established. He fights monsters and villains often getting injured in the process, like his head injury in The Mind of Evil. At the same time he's a big brother to Jo Grant, trying to protect her from seeing Pigbin Josh's dead body in The Claws of Axos, and comforting her when she thinks the Doctors are dead in The Three Doctors.
In stories like The Daemons and The Three Doctors it's shown that he could make a good travelling companion to the Doctor. He's brave, adaptable and practical minded, somewhat like Jamie McCrimmon in khaki. One or two things do jar though. In The Mind of Evil the Brigadier treats him somewhat unfairly after his fainting fit. While in The Claws of Axos he's easily fooled by the Master's army officer disguise. Are NCOs really as dim as that?
It takes until Wartime, over ten years after his last regular TV appearance for Benton to truly shine. He's given a family background, reasons for his military career and protective nature, even a first name. They get the date wrong though. I always reckoned Benton to be the same age as John Levene, so in 1944 he'd be too young for war games. Then again, a later date would be a less exciting date.
Then there's Benton's life in print. He's easily recognisable in books like The Devil Goblins From Neptune and The Scales of Injustice. Effort is made in the former to make him into a three dimensional character with some intelligence and even sexual memories, shock, horror! His most notable appearances, however, would have to be in Blood Heat and Genocide. In the first of these his personality is so warped as to be almost unrecognisable, but then, this is a warped world. In the second he's older and less adventurous, but it only takes mention of the Doctor to awaken something in him.
To conclude, Benton's as popular as he ever was in Who circles, so there must be something more to the character than comfortable familiarity. Perhaps it's humour, or maybe sex appeal. Certainly, the end scene of The Time Monster is one of the abiding memories of my pre-adolescence. Although, how much of this is down to sheer embarrassment on Benton's behalf, I shall probably never know.
© Copyright 2011 John Levene Sgt. At Arms
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