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‘Doctor Who’ thing of the day: Nicholas Courtney — aka Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart — has died

It’s a sad day in Doctor Who fandom: actor Nicholas Courtney, who played the beloved character Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, has died. UNIT commander Lethbridge-Stewart was one of the show’s most iconic characters, and Courtney was the longest-running actor in the show’s history. Courtney was 81.

Tributes are all over the geek week. TARDIS Newsroom’s is very nice. AOL News’s features a great collection of Lethbridge-Stewart clips. And Charlie Jane Anders at io9 sums up the Brigadier — and why we loved him — beautifully:

The Brigadier appeared regularly on the show from 1970 through 1975, and his presence was the single most defining factor of the show’s “U.N.I.T. era,” in which the Doctor was trapped on Earth and conveniently encountered a larger than usual contingent of deadly threats to 20th Century humanity. The Brigadier frequently seems out of his depth, but never lets that slow him down, whether he’s facing plastic dummies come to life, or unstoppable cyborg armies.

The Brigadier appeared regularly on the show from 1970 through 1975, and his presence was the single most defining factor of the show’s “U.N.I.T. era,” in which the Doctor was trapped on Earth and conveniently encountered a larger than usual contingent of deadly threats to 20th Century humanity. The Brigadier frequently seems out of his depth, but never lets that slow him down, whether he’s facing plastic dummies come to life, or unstoppable cyborg armies.

Courtney came aboard Doctor Who at a time when it was struggling, both creatively and in the ratings, and his canny portrayal of the Brigadier helped to make the “stranded on Earth” premise workable. He embodied Earth-bound authority, but also gave the Doctor a regular ally who wasn’t just the standard one-dimensional “leader out of his depth” character. The show would have had a much harder time making that new format work without an actor of Courtney’s quality in that key role.

From the Guardian’s TV & Radio Blog:

Sylvester McCoy, who played the Seventh Doctor, said Courtney was very proud of the fact that he was the only Doctor Who regular to appear alongside almost every incarnation of the Doctor.

“I remember when they first told me that they were going to bring him into one of my stories, I was delighted – I was a big fan of his, going back to the Troughton era,” McCoy told The Guardian. “I fact, I was over the moon – which, as the Doctor, was a very easy thing for me to do.

“What I liked about him was that he had such humour in his performance. He was playing the “military intelligence”, which is a contradiction in terms. But instead of laughing at the character, we came to respect him.That was because of the man himself. He was great company – gentle, caring, a lovely man.

“He’ll be much missed. Nicholas was a gentleman in the true meaning of that word.”

:-(

See also today’s female gazing at Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

(Thanks to Keith, Ken, and Hank for the links. If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)



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