Nicholas Courtney dies at the age of 81

Nicholas CourtneyLegendary Doctor Who actor Nicholas Courtney has died at the age of 81. The actor played Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart in the original series and most recently reprised the role for the CBBC spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Nicholas CourtneyActor Nicholas Courtney has died at the age of 81; he will be best remembered for his role of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart in the original series of Doctor Who. The Brigadier was always a favourite with fans; heading up the British division of UNIT – a special organisation set up to tackle alien threats. The character was introduced in the 1968 story The Web of Fear, as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, alongside Patrick Troughton who was then in the title role. The role was originally offered to actor David Langton who later found fame in Upstairs, Downstairs. Courtney returned to Doctor Who later in 1968 in The Invasion with his character promoted to Brigadier and heading up UNIT.

Nicholas Courtney became a regular cast member in 1970 when Doctor Who underwent its biggest revamp, at that point in its history, as the series moved to colour and more earth-based stories. Jon Pertwee took on the role of the Doctor and the so-called “UNIT family” was created with Katy Manning as companion Jo Grant, John Levene as Sergeant Benton, Richard Franklin as Captain Yates and Roger Delgado as The Master.

Courtney remained a regular cast member in Doctor Who until the departure of Jon Pertwee in 1974; the actor made two appearances alongside Tom Baker but was absent from the series for the latter half of the 1970s. In the 1980s the actor returned to Doctor Who on several occasions reprising his role alongside Peter Davison and later Sylvester McCoy. The actor appeared in the 20th anniversary story The Five Doctors re-uniting him with Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton.

In terms of “cannon” the actors last appearance within Doctor Who itself was the 1989 story Battlefield which was originally intended to kill the character off but the producers had a change of heart. Courtney did appear in the 1993 Children In Need special Dimensions in Time which was a crossover story with BBC One soap EastEnders but the two-parter is not considered “cannon” by anyone. He also reprised his role for the 1995 straight-to-video Downtime which focused on Victoria Wakefield (Deborah Watling), former companion to the second Doctor.

When Doctor Who was revived in 2005 fans were hopeful that Nicholas Courtney would reprise his role. Sadly though within the revived series this did not happen although the character was referenced several times. The actor did reprise his role though for The Sarah Jane Adventures, in 2008 for the two-part season finale, reuniting him with former co-star Elisabeth Sladen.

However, the role of the Brigadier was not the actors first brush with Doctor Who. In 1965 he appeared in the lengthy story The Daleks Masterplan as Bret Vyon while William Hartnell was still in the title role.  Also starring within the story was actress Jean Marsh who was, at one point, married to Jon Pertwee. Marsh also starred opposite Courtney in his final Doctor Who story, Battlefield.

While Nicholas Courtney will be best remembered for Doctor Who he appeared in many other dramas such as The Avengers, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), The Champions, The Saint, All Creatures Great and Small, Yes Prime Minister, Casualty, Doctors and The Bill.