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John Benton was a member of UNIT, serving before, during, and after the Third Doctor's exile on Earth. He was promoted from Corporal to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1, holding the post of Regimental Sergeant Major. One source says that he later achieved the rank of Lieutenant.
In 1944, while his father was on embarkation leave, the Benton family had a picnic in the woods outside Bolton. While the boys were playing, Chris fell from the high wall of a ruined tower to his death. John tried to save him, but failed and blamed himself ever after. Some time later, his father was killed in the Normandy landings by a grenade. (HOMEVID: Wartime)
Benton was a corporal when he met the Doctor for the first time, though he was doing surveillance work rather than serving in uniform. He helped the Second Doctor against the Cybermen and Tobias Vaughn. (TV: The Invasion)
At some time before the loss of Mars Probe 7, Benton had been promoted to Sergeant, (TV: The Ambassadors of Death) following Sergeant Robin Marshall’s death. (AUDIO: Shadow of the Past) This was the rank he held throughout the Third Doctor's exile and beyond. He quickly formed a close working relationship with the Doctor, Captain Mike Yates and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. (TV: Terror of the Autons)
Benton was a down-to-earth British infantryman and non-commissioned officer — reliable, uncomplicated and with a good dose of common sense. When the Doctor asked him if he was going to comment that his TARDIS was bigger on the inside than on the outside as everyone did, Benton's classic reply was, "Well, that's pretty obvious, isn't it?" (TV: The Three Doctors) Despite not understanding what the Doctor was doing or any of his explanations, Benton always took the Doctor at his word and trusted him implicitly. He was loyal, not just to the rank but also to the people he worked with and disobeyed orders when necessary to help them. (TV: Invasion of the Dinosaurs)
Little is known of his personal life at this time. It seems Benton was single. He was preparing for a dancing date with his sister when a crisis with Azal interrupted his plans. He flirted briefly with Jo Grant, (TV: The Dæmons) and Sarah Jane Smith, (TV: Robot) though as far as is known, this never progressed beyond good-natured banter. While undercover in Kettering, Benton met Margery Phipps around Christmas time the year Jo left UNIT and they began dating. They were still dating in spring when dinosaurs appeared in London. (AUDIO: Council of War)
Benton had some memorable experiences in UNIT. He fought Daleks and Ogrons from an alternate timeline. (TV: Day of the Daleks) The Master's TOMTIT machine regressed him to a baby. When restored to adult form, he appeared before his UNIT colleagues stark naked. (TV: The Time Monster) Benton also worked with the current Doctor and his previous incarnation whom the Time Lords had called in to help against Omega. Benton was delighted with the reunion. It was during these events that Benton travelled for the first and only trip in the TARDIS — namely, the short journey to Omega's HQ. (TV: The Three Doctors)
Shortly after the return of the Doctor to Earth and his regeneration into his fourth incarnation, Benton was promoted to Warrant Officer — a rank which entitled him to be addressed as "Mister". (TV: Robot) As a Regimental Sergeant Major, Benton helped against the Zygons. (TV: Terror of the Zygons) He was stationed at the Space Defence Station at Devesham during the Kraals' attempted invasion of Earth, where he was replaced by one of Styggron's android duplicates. (TV: The Android Invasion)
While transporting radioactive cargo by UNIT Land Rover through the woods outside Bolton with his driver, Private Willis of the Regular Army, Benton was haunted by the ghosts of his brother and father. He overcame his feelings of guilt (which were apparently the source of these hauntings) and returned to his post in time to prevent the cargo from being hijacked by a dangerous criminal. (HOMEVID: Wartime)
Life after UNIT
One alternative account stated that by 1986, Benton had returned to UNIT and become a commissioned officer with the rank of Lieutenant, subsequently leading a UNIT team to Antarctica to clear up the chaos left by the Cybermen's attempt to drain Earth of its energy in December of that year. (PROSE: The Power of the Daleks)
Behind the scenes
- Benton would have appeared in a cameo in the television story The Five Doctors, not recognising the Second Doctor and denying him admittance to UNIT's reunion. However John Levene declined to take up the role again on the grounds that Benton would have remembered that version of the Doctor and not made such a mistake. Instead, he was replaced by a nameless UNIT sergeant).
- During his on-screen appearances, Benton's first name, John, was never given. It was first revealed in the video Wartime, but it appeared in later, fully-licensed work, such as the novel Happy Endings.
- Benton was the first companion to be portrayed by a juvenile or infant actor. (TV: The Time Monster)