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Nicholas Courtney, 1929-2011

The older you get, it seems, the more often you must brace for news that beloved actors from your childhood have passed away.

I was too young — just — for Nicholas Courtney’s regular appearances in Doctor Who to be a regular part of my Saturday evening viewing. By the time I was old enough to be watching the series, UNIT had gone from being a regular part of the show’s format to part of an already long-running series’ history, only resurfacing in the 1980s once the series started tapping into its own backstory with regularity.

I was, of course, an avid consumer of everything to do with the series back then, so my first memories of the Brigadier came through Target novelisations of the old stories. Even then, whoever wrote the books based on those old TV scripts couldn’t help but portray the Brigadier with the sharpness and clarity that Courtney had brought to the role.

As old stories began to emerge on VHS, and as Courtney himself resurrected the role of the Brigadier, first in guest spots in the TV series and later on DVD, the presence of the man became burned indelibly on my impressions of what Doctor Who is.

I was never part of the convention circuit, or the circles of fans that have since gone on to write for and/or about the show for a living. I have many friends who were, though, and every single one of them is mourning a friend while we mourn an actor.

And that is only his Doctor Who life. His service to the actors’ union, Equity, was long and dedicated, and his theatre, television, film and radio work outside Doctor Who was often overlooked.

The Stage will be publishing a full obituary in due course, but in the meantime I can suggest no better than to watch a rather touching short video obituary prepared by Ed Stradling:

Farewell, Nicholas. As Mark Gatiss so effectively said (paraphrasing what became something of a catchphrase for The Brig), “Splendid chap. All of him.”

3 Comments

Indeed. A great man, a charming gent, a brilliant actor. He lives on and he will be missed. R.I.P.

Congratulations on a very apposite obituary! A rare commodity!
I, too, will miss his generous spirit - and determination to battle on. These will ever keep him alive for me.
Simon

This really is a shock. He is one of those people who you thought would go on forever. I am old enough to remember him from the UNIT days first time round, and have enjoyed his appearances on the many dvds, reminiscing about his years as the Brig. I never met him but I always felt like I had. I saw him in The Mousetrap a couple of years back and really wanted to go to the stage door, but I was afraid of looking like some sad geeky middle aged fan, so I didnt. Wish I had now, though. A real loss to the profession

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