Today marks a sad day around the universe for Doctor Who fans. Long-time cast member Nicholas Courtney has passed away at the age of 81. Courtney portrayed the famous Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, otherwise referred to as the Brigadier, alongside eight of the eleven Doctors. His first role as Lethbridge-Stewart was in The Web of Fear opposite Patrick Troughton‘s Second Doctor, and his final role in the Doctor Who universe was along with Elisabeth Sladen in a 2008 episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures entitled Enemy of the Bane.
Aside from Doctor Who, Courtney has made his mark in other television series over the years, including Escape, The Avengers, All Creatures Great and Small, and Yes Prime Minister. Despite his acting in other shows, he is forever known as the Brigadier, an aspect of his career Courtney was openly proud of.
Courtney was born in Egypt, and eventually entered the Webber Douglas School of Singing And Dramatic Art in 1950. He eventually moved to London where he would receive his first role in television media acting as a Warrant Officer in Escape. His initial role in Doctor Who wasn’t actually The Brigadier — he was cast as Space Security Agent Bret Vyon in the William Hartnell First Doctor adventure, The Daleks’ Master Plan.
While his first portrayal of the Brigadier was next to Patrick Troughton, the character would long be associated with Jon Pertwee‘s Third Doctor era. The Doctor, having been exiled on Earth by the Time Lords, decides to work alongside the Brigadier in U.N.I.T., in an effort to defend the Earth against threats from enemies such as the Daleks, the Master, and giant maggots!
Courtney would continue to reprise his role as The Brigadier with Tom Baker in a few episodes, and later with Peter Davison in Mawdryn Undead. He would later work with Sylvester McCoy‘s Seventh Doctor in Battlefield, and eventually crossed paths with Colin Baker‘s Sixth Doctor in the fundraising TV special Dimensions in Time.
Nicholas Courtney’s contribution to the Doctor Who mythos was of major significance to the evolution of the series, and is looked upon fondly by fans around the world. While he did have the opportunity to work on The Sarah Jane Adventures, it’s a pity he never got to bring the Brig back with Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, or Matt Smith. He will be missed immensely, but never forgotten.
I’ve worked with eight Doctors, one way or another. The first time the Brig saw one change to another he was nonplussed, but after a while he got used to it. At least that’s how I played it. I developed the Brig’s incredulity. Like when he first goes inside the TARDIS and says, ‘So this is what you’ve been spending all U.N.I.T.’s funds on.’ Horrified!
- Nicholas Courtney
RIP Brigadier… Nicholas Courtney
December 16, 1929 – February 22, 2011