Sunday, August 28, 2005


Nicholas Courtney holds a special place in 'Doctor Who' lore for having acted opposite the first seven incarnations of the Doctor.

With William Hartnell as the First Doctor, Courtney appeared as Bret Vyon in "The Daleks' Master Plan", but he portrayed Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart of UNIT with the other six Doctors.

(Technically, he was involved in adventures with all seven Doctors in his role as the Brigadier:

2nd DOCTOR: It's Old High Gallifreyan, the ancient language of the Time Lords. Not many people understand it these days...
1st, 2nd, 3rd DOCTORS: (Together) Fortunately, I do.
BRIGADIER: Yes, all very interesting, I'm sure, Doctors, but what does it say?
3rd DOCTOR: That this is the Tomb of Rassilon, where Rassilon lies in eternal sleep.
2nd DOCTOR: It also says that anyone who has got this far has passed many dangers and shown great courage and determination. (Points to the inscription) What does this bit mean?
3rd DOCTOR: To lose is to win and he who wins shall lose.
2nd DOCTOR: I know what it says - what does it mean?
1st DOCTOR: It also promises that whoever takes the ring from Rassilon's hand and puts it on shall get the reward he seeks.
SARAH-JANE: What reward?
1st DOCTOR: Immortality.
BRIGADIER: What, live forever, never die?
1st DOCTOR: That is what the word means, young man.
SARAH-JANE: But that's impossible.
3rd DOCTOR: Apparently not.
[Thanks to The Doctor Who Transcripts Project]

For "The Five Doctors", the First Doctor was portrayed by William Hurndall.)

Paul McGann only got one chance to play the eighth incarnation of the Time Lord in Toobworld, (He's made several appearances in the creative universes for Radio, Cyber, and Literature), and Nicholas Courtney did not appear in that FOX film. But I hold out hope that one day the Time War will be depicted in an epic mini-series starring McGann. So perhaps Lethbridge-Stewart might get the chance to meet that version of his old friend.

And aside from his appearances in various tie-in novels, Lethbridge-Stewart also appeared in the videos 'Downtime' and 'Daemos Rising', as well as in audio plays like 'Paradise Of Death' and 'The Ghosts Of N-Space'. Truly, this character merits inclusion in the Crossover Hall of Fame!.

Courtney didn't get the opportunity to act opposite Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, but there's probably little chance of that ever happening in the Future. Eccleston did only the one season, thirteen episodes in all, and then walked away with the regeneration. There's been no indication he might one day be inclined to return to the role for any multiple Doctors reunion storyline.

I've been wondering if RTD had known going into production that this would be the only year for Eccleston as the Doctor, might he have re-jiggered the "Aliens of London"/"World War Three" script to incorporate an appearance by the Brigadier? After all, UNIT officers are seen in a quick cameo during the first part of the episode, (purely in an advisory role by 2006, of course).

Anyway, Mr. Courtney is in his mid-70s now, so if it was to be done, it would be better if it was done quickly.

(Say! That's a good line! Hope nobody steals it! LOL)

So don't hold your breath waiting to see Christopher Eccleston on screen in a 'Doctor Who' adventure with Nicholas Courtney.. But if you wanted to see the ninth incarnation of the Doctor with Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart? Ah! Well then, I think the case could be made that they met in the episodes "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances".

Aside from Captain Jack Harkness, the major guest character was Nancy, a girl older than she appeared, who lived on the streets of London during the Blitz of 1941. In her care were other children, boys and girls, who were also living on the streets for one reason or another. Not all of them were orphans; some had been shipped out of the city to live with relatives in the country for their own safety. But they drifted back; some because of the treatment they received. (One boy apparently had been molested by an uncle.)

If we were to assume that Lethbridge-Stewart was a contemporary of the actor who portrayed him, then young Alastair would have been about twelve years of age in 1941.

However, there is some debate as to when the UNIT stories of 'Doctor Who' take place. There are those who argue that they occur maybe even a decade after the time they were broadcast.

So, we have some leeway with the age of Lethbridge-Stewart in 1941; he could even have been as young as six. It could be argued that any one of those boys seated around the dinner table with Nancy and the Doctor could have been Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart as a wee lad.

We know two of the likely lads were named Ernie and Jim, and Jim's father was off fighting in the War. (Lethbridge-Stewart came from a military family and it's possible that his father was already stationed over there.) And it could be argued that "Ernie" and "Jim" were nicknames, perhaps taken from popular sports figures or British stars of the day. After all, being known as Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart could not too appealing to a 12 year old kid!

But we'll keep this simple. We'll stick to the theory that Aladair Lethbridge-Stewart was one of the other boys. And that way, he did get to meet the Ninth Doctor without either of them being the wiser.

There has been a circular quality to the hero's journey taken by this Doctor, as far as people and locations seem to go. And none of it seems to have been dictated by the "Bad Wolf" puzzle.

Albion Hospital
The Gamestation/Satellite Five

Cardiff's Rift
Big Ben
Blon Slitheen
The Face Of Boe

And it's always been suggested, within and without of the series, that the TARDIS was sentient and that it knew where it was always going even if the arrival sites seemed at random.

So maybe the TARDIS itself recognized the presence of Lethbridge-Stewart as a young boy during WWII and made sure the Ninth Doctor got the chance to meet him during the wild-goose chase for the Tula ambulance.

Years later, when they officially met for the first time in the abandoned underground tunnels of the Tube, in "Web Of Fear", perhaps on some instinctual level they both recognized something familiar about the other.

Just sayin', is all.

By the way.....

Nicholas Courtney has worked with Michael McManus in writing a book about his life, and especially about his experiences in the Whoniverse. It's entitled "Getting Away From It All", and it will be published on October 20th.

"I think the time has now come for me to write a full and frank account of my life, not least with regard to my unbroken, forty-year association with Doctor Who," Courtney said in a press release. "Some people may be surprised by how candid and forthright I am going to be about certain people and events, but I think I owe it to myself and also to others to be reasonably bold as well as old!"

I know there was a 'Star Trek' novel about the full life of Vulcan Ambassador Sarek, father of Spock. Perhaps one day someone might be so inspired to write such a biography of Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart.

And maybe then we might see this idea of his "participation" in the adventures of the Ninth Doctor be validated!


"It's a wonder we win any wars,
With the crackpots we have in this country!"
General Sloat
'Green Acres'

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