Rest easy, soldier: RIP Nicholas Courtney

Nicholas Courtney, known to generations of Dr. Who fans as “The Brigadier”, has passed away.  With him passes an era of Dr. Who that fans of the new Doctors will never know.  He was the Watson to the Doctor’s Holmes; a solid, stolid companion who stood on his own with no desire to chase after our favorite Time Lord or explore the universe.  As the head of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, he had a job to do, and did it with such dignity and precision that he earned the friendship and respect of the Doctor, the very antithesis of the military mindset.  The Brigadier’s whole character can be summed up from a scene in “The Daemons” where, confronted by a living stone gargoyle, merely turns to a nearby soldier and says “Right.  Chap with wings.  Five rounds rapid”.  He was that cool — Kirk at the helm of the Enterprise cool.

Nick Courtney is also legendary in having appeared with all of the original seven Doctors — playing opposite William Hartnell as Space Agent Bret Vyon, and the rest as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart — not one to let his scientific adviser  get the best of him no matter what threat the Earth was facing this time.  His final appearance on the show, playing against 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy, shows the loyalty of the character — he protests when receiving a call asking him to come out of retirement for the sake of his country.  Then they mention that the Doctor is involved…

I’m sorry; I am not doing this man justice by rattling off trivia known to the most fleeting of Dr. Who fans.  All I know Nicholas Courtney from is his work on Dr. Who, but he was just—so—damn—good!  Please — go watch his classic episodes (most of the Jon Pertwee run) and salute one of the greatest side characters science fiction has ever known.

4 Responses to “Rest easy, soldier: RIP Nicholas Courtney”

  1. RDaneelOlivaw

    Truly a loss in the Dr Who universe. Even though he and the Doctor didn’t get along well in the beginning, both being rather set in their ways and disdainful of the way the other worked, they did establish a close working relationship and friendship. And as X says, his character provided a key element of continuity for most of the first 26 seasons (I don’t believe he was paired at all with the 6th Doctor in the television series, but was tied to him in one or more of the BBC Past Doctor Adventures novels). Rest in peace, Sir Alistair!

  2. The Brig met the 6th Doctor in the charity special “Dimensions In Time”.

    It’s really silly, but does fit into the TV series continuity.

    • RDaneelOlivaw

      Thanks X; I never saw that one. Not that I really cared for the 6th Doctor, but always nice to find episodes I haven’t seen.

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