Thursday, 24 February 2011

Nicholas Courtney: 16 Dec 1929 – 22 Feb 2011

I’ll never forget my father chuckling away the day Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge Stewart in Doctor Who raised his eyebrows and remarked ‘Not again!’ as Jon Pertwee metamorphosed into Tom Baker. It was that wonderful understatement that Courtney in his most famous role, was able to summon up, whether faced with Daleks, Cybermen, Giant Robots, Daemons, renegade Timelords, or just the fact he was convinced the Tardis’ dimensional quandary was all done with mirrors! I was quite small, but Dr Who was part of my week as much as any kid, until my mum stopped me watching it for a few episodes because 'Terror of the Autons' gave me nightmares!

In some ways The Brigadier was more important to me personally than the Doctor himself. Of course he had the same name as well! There weren't many 'Alastairs' at my school! Every adventure The Doctor had that involved The Brigadier made it seem more real. It was like having my father along on the adventure with me. You know those things that kids are witness to? Like UFOs or Monsters, or aliens or witches, and when you tell your parents you’ve seen them, they say: “Nice story. Now off to bed...” Well The Brigadier was like having a parent along that BELIEVED you! They SAW the baddies too and were prepared to fight them off as well!

Nicholas Courtney played this role to perfection. Dry, acerbic, humorous, prosaic and the perfect foil to Patrick Troughton, or Tom Baker, but most memorably for me Jon Pertwee. They were both part of what became ‘The Unit Family’, that also included the characters of Sergeant Benton, Captain Yates, Jo Grant and of course The Master (even though he was the baddie), played by the wonderful Roger Delgado.

We never got to see The Brigadier back in the new Doctor Who. He made an appearance in The Sarah Jane Adventures as the retired Sir Alistair Lethbridge Stewart, which was rather special, but the closest he ever got to the new series was a few brief mentions in the script.

Nicholas Courtney will be sorely missed by a host of fans, me included. My condolences to his family. I raise a glass to the memory of a man, by all accounts, of the kindest nature and warmth. And bizarrely someone I kind of thought would always be there...

A rather good tribute from The Guardian