Nicholas Courtney: A salute to the Brig

Nicholas Courtney at Seventh Heaven, Chiswick, 11 July 2010I woke up today to an email from a friend telling me that Nicholas Courtney, Doctor Who’s much-loved Brigadier, had died. I didn’t think this was even possible. I knew that Nick had been suffering with his health over the past couple of years, but the way he kept bouncing back – showing up at conventions with a twinkle in his eye – suggested that he’d probably be around forever.

The last time I saw Nick was at an event called Seventh Heaven, which was held in Chiswick last July. A few weeks earlier, he was billed for a different event, the UNIT-themed ReUNITed, but he had to cancel on the day as he wasn’t very well. Nick’s appearance at Seventh Heaven (so called because it celebrated the Seventh Doctor’s era) was completely unannounced – he turned up part-way through a Battlefield panel, dressed in a waistcoat and shirt that would do Keith Richards proud – and was welcomed with the kind of applause that commonly facilitates encores at rock gigs.

Everyone loved Nick. As well as giving us one of Doctor Who’s best-performed, most charming characters, he clearly enjoyed getting out there when he could to meet and entertain his admirers. He seemed to appreciate his place in Who history, and he knew how to work a crowd with a quip. There’s no doubt that his passing will leave a Brig-shaped hole in fandom. The only consolation, I guess, is that we don’t need a TARDIS to be able to nip back in time and see him do his stuff. Go on, pop Inferno in the DVD player and remember that, actually, Nick Courtney will be around forever.

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