By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
Once again we wander through the past of Doctor Who and the people who have helped him on his adventures. This week it’s UNIT’s very own Mike Yates…
Part of the acclaimed UNIT family from the Jon Pertwee era, Mike Yates was the Brigadier’s chief officer charged with coordinating and overseeing the many military operations such as transporting a nuclear missile in the Mind of Evil or securing the village trapped by a heat barrier in the Daemons.
He was a likeable man who loved pulling rank on his friend, poor Sergeant Benton. In Day of the Daleks, he uses his rank to get Benton’s plate of food supplied by Jo but you know by the performance there is no malice in it. These people are friends with a life off screen and their small comments on football and pints opened the imagination of a life for these characters outside the military.
Mike also fancied Jo Grant but the romance went nowhere despite his best efforts. Like the Brigadier, he had no fear of the Master but knew not to underestimate him.
But with every family there is a bad egg and in Mike’s case it really wasn’t his fault. Going undercover in the Green Death, Mike was taken over by the computer known as BOSS to become one of its pawns. Although the Doctor saved him, it left an impression no one noticed. And it didn’t come to prevalence until Invasion of the Dinosaurs when London was evacuated as the great lizards began reappearing. It turned out a group wanted to return the Earth to its paradisical state before man polluted and devastated the forests and jungles with his technology. The Doctor and UNIT seemed to be thwarted at every turn as if the enemy knew their every move. The Doctor was a threat to their plan and someone had to kill him. In a character development that was unprecedented in the show, Mike Yates was revealed to be that traitor. He had fallen under their influence and believed the Earth needed to be put back the way it was. At the climax of the story he was discharged.
But he later contacted Sarah Jane Smith as he believed something alien was going on in a treatment centre he had entered into to sort his head out. He was now more the old Mike we knew, having time to meditate and realize the error of his ways. And to be fair, none of it was his fault and it can be argued the Doctor was remiss in not realizing the effect BOSS had on his friend’s mind leaving him open to influence.
Mike did turn up again in the Five Doctors as a phantom against the third Doctor. Since he appeared in full military uniform it was a dead giveaway this was an impostor.
Like many, he has had a new life in the novels, earning a trip in the Tardis in one of the Missing Adventures range. The era of the UNIT family was also encapsulated in the BBC books range.
But Mike’s finest hours have come alongside the fourth Doctor in Paul Magr’s adventure series on audio where Mike has become companion and confidant to the Time Lord he never met on screen which includes an appearance by the second Doctor as played by Patrick’s son, David, effectively recreating his father’s role right down to vocal inflection. It shows that even those who have been through a bad time can find redemption when the chips are down but Mike for me was a character badly let down by his friends in a time he needed them and should by all accounts be one of the Doctor’s greatest regrets.