Attention! Today we fire a five rounds rapid salute in honour of the late, great Nicholas Courtney, who would have turned 88 today.
Although a British actor, Nicholas Courtney had a very multicultural upbringing. He was born in Cairo, Egypt on 16th December 1929 and subsequently also educated in France and Kenya. He first appeared on television in 1957’s Escape before making appearances in cult series like The Avengers (1962, 1967).
Of course, though, Courtney is most famous as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart from Doctor Who. Like many other actors, however, that was not his very first role in the series. He was originally considered for the role of Richard the Lionheart in The Crusade and was later cast as Space Security Agent Bret Vyon in The Daleks’ Master Plan opposite The First Doctor. Courtney impressed in the role and made his first appearance as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in The Web of Fear. This would be the beginning of a recurring role that would span the rest of the classic era. Lethbridge-Stewart, now the Brigadier, returned in The Invasion as the head of UNIT. Semi-regular appearances would follow in 101 episodes between 1970 and 1975. He also returned in 1983 for Mawdryn Undead and 20th-anniversary special The Five Doctors.
“Well, here we go again!”
Courtney’s final Doctor Who appearance came in Battlefield, though the legacy of his character lives on to this day. He would reprise his role for audio dramas, Dimensions in Time, and even The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Courtney sadly passed away on 22nd February 2011 at the age of 81 following a long illness. Mark Gatiss described him as “a childhood hero and the sweetest of gentlemen”, while Tom Baker said, “we shall miss him terribly”. Following Courtney’s death, Lethbridge-Stewart also passed away in The Wedding of River Song. However, he seemingly returned to life as a Cyberman Brigadier in Death in Heaven. His daughter, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, is also a prominent recurring character in the new series.