Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) has Died

It is with great regret to report the news that Nicholas Courtney passed away on Tuesday evening, best loved by the nation for his potrayal of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

Nicholas Courtney (born William Nicholas Stone Courtney on 16th December 1929) played first Colonel and then Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, beginning in "The Web of Fear" and finally in "Battlefield". He reprised the role for the fan video "Downtime" (later adapted into one of the Virgin Missing Adventures), and for several audio dramas for the BBC and Big Finish Productions.

He was born in Cairo, Egypt, the son of a British diplomat and educated in France, Kenya and Egypt. He served his National Service in the British Army, leaving after 18 months as a private, not wanting to pursue a military career. He next joined the Webber Douglas drama school, and after two years began doing repertory theatre in Northampton, and from there moved to London.

His first appearance in Doctor Who was in the 1965 serial The Daleks' Master Plan, where he played Space Security Agent Bret Vyon opposite William Hartnell as the Doctor. The director Douglas Camfield liked Courtney's performance, and when Camfield was assigned the 1968 serial The Web of Fear, he cast Courtney as Captain Knight. However, David Langton, who was to play the character of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, gave up the role to work elsewhere, so Camfield recast Captain Knight and gave the Colonel's part to Courtney instead.

Lethbridge-Stewart reappeared later that year in The Invasion, promoted to Brigadier and in charge of the British contingent of UNIT, an organization that protected the Earth from alien invasion. It was in that recurring role that he became most famous, appearing semi-regularly from 1970 to 1975. Courtney made return appearances in the series in 1983 and his last Doctor Who television appearance was in 1989 (in the serial Battlefield).

Courtney has played Lethbridge-Stewart, either on television or in audio dramas, alongside every subsequent Doctor up to and including Paul McGann. He has acted with David Tennant in the Doctor Who Unbound audio play Sympathy for the Devil, Tennant was playing a different character at the time. Courtney has also appeared in some fan-made productions, providing the voice of the Brigadier for the 1995 updating of 1987's Wartime, and also appearing as a BBC official in the Reeltime Pictures spoof The Corridor Sketch. He also hosted -- partly in character as the Brigadier -- the More than Thirty Years in the TARDIS documentary.

Courtney continued to act extensively in theatre and television after he left Doctor Who, guest-starring in such popular television programmes as Minder, The Bill, Only Fools and Horses and Yes, Prime Minister. He also had a regular role in the comedy French Fields between 1989 and 1991.

He regularly made personal appearances at science fiction conventions and is also the honorary president of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society. His theatrical agent wasformer Doctor Who actress Wendy Padbury.

He was occasionally seen in other productions, such as the late 1980s comedy film Bullseye! in which he played a small role opposite Michael Caine and Roger Moore.

His autobiography, published in 1998, was titled Five Rounds Rapid!, (ISBN 1852277823), after a popular catchphrase of the Brigadier's; the volume was edited by John Nathan-Turner. A second, updated autobiography, entitled "Still Getting Away With It," was published in 2005, with co-author Michael McManus. He lives in London with his second wife, Karen.

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