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Doctor Who co-star Nicholas Courtney dies at 81

End of era as the Brigadier checks out

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Nicholas Courtney, who starred in Doctor Who as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart opposite no less than eight incarnations of the famous Doctor, has died aged 81.

The Egypt-born actor first appeared in the popular BBC sci-fi drama in the 1960s, but his Brig role wasn't his first casting in for Doctor Who.

In The Daleks' Master Plan he played space security agent Bret Vyon. But he later took on the role of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, whose character was quickly promoted to Brigadier status in The Invasion episode.

As noted by Doctorwhonews.net, Courtney was associated with his role in the show for over forty years.

On his much-loved alien-chasing character's relationship with the Doctor, Courtney told the Radio Times in 2008 that: "They had terrific rapport. They respected each other, despite disagreeing on solutions to problems. The Doctor is humane, interested in all forms of life, whereas the Brig had a job to do – making sure people didn't get killed. So of course he favoured the military solution. But the Brig was always on the side of the angels."

He told the magazine that he "didn't mind" missing out on more classical work and said Doctor Who director Douglas Camfield considered Courtney to be "made for this part," even though the highest rank the actor had served during his time doing National Service had been as a private.

"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 Unit's funds on.' Horrified!" he said.

Courtney's character returned to the British TV screen in the 1980s, when Peter Davison played the Doctor role.

"A lot of ex-Army men go into teaching. And the Brig was teaching mathematics, which the Doctor finds extraordinary. I had a line: 'I know how many beans make five'."

He said in 2008 that he would "love to do one story" with then director Russell T Davies.

As for where the Brig would have ended up, Courtney said:

"He's in limbo. Ha ha. Having written his memoirs – leaving out the classified information – he's probably tending his garden and waiting for the call to arms from the Doctor. Which may never come. I've an idea for a story where he's been given a peerage. Lord Lethbridge-Stewart. He makes a speech in the House of Lords that the government doesn't like very much, and there's an attempt on his life. I want a story where they kill me off."

Alas, it's not to be. Courtney's final appearance as the Brigadier was in the CBBC series The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2008. ®

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