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Doctor Who Companion Profile: The Brigadier

Nicholas Courtney as Doctor Who Companion The Brigadier

The Brigadier

Portrayed by: Nicholas Courtney

Doctor(s): Primarily, the Third Doctor. He also has stories with the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Doctors

Tenure: Complicated. His main stretch is 13 stories from Spearhead in Space (Jan, 1970) to Robot (Jan, 1975), though he only travels in the TARDIS and gains true Companion status in The Three Doctors (Jan, 1973) and Mawdryn Undead (Feb, 1983).

Background: Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart is a Colonel when we first meet him in The Web of Fear. He works with UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, and commands the British contingent, monitoring and defending against extraterrestrial threats. He works well with the Doctor and, when he starts his run with the Third Doctor, he’s been promoted to Brigadier, a title he keeps for the rest of his life (mostly because that’s how fans know the character- he would likely have been promoted several levels above Brigadier). Eventually, after a particularly traumatic experience, he retires, becoming a teacher at a prep school, where he once again runs into the Doctor, and afterward, he goes back to work with UNIT.

Family: Little is known about the Brigadier’s family, but throughout the Third Doctor’s tenure, the UNIT regulars come to form a tight pseudo-family of their own, with the Brigadier as the stern pater familias. The Brig’s wife Doris is mentioned several times and we eventually meet her in Mawdryn Undead and in the modern series, his daughter Kate (by his first wife, Fiona) appears in “The Power of Three” and is slated to come back for the 50th Anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor”.

Personality: The Brigadier is the very personification of unflappability. Rational, focused, and driven, he accepts the outlandish realities of his post at UNIT quickly, adjusting to each situation as needed. The Brig is very much a soldier, coming into conflict with the Doctor often with his militaristic solutions to perceived threats. Despite this, he and the Doctor share a grudging respect that builds to a close friendship.

Special Skills: Strategic thinking, military training, unflappability (Seriously, the man cannot be flapped.)

Best Stories: The Daemons is a lot of fun and Inferno, a delightful alternate dimension story, features a clean-shaven Brig as an evil, fascist villain

Worst Stories: Both The Time Monster and Battlefield are pretty terrible, with the Brigadier’s presence their main saving grace.

Highlights of tenure: Systematically taking out demons summoned by the Master in The Daemons, facing down The Destroyer in Battlefield

Lowlights of tenure: Following orders to kill the defenseless Silurians in Doctor Who and the Silurians is pretty hard to defend.

Memorable quotes:

– [giving orders, re:demons] “Chap with wings, there. Five rounds rapid.”  The Daemons

– [re: the Doctor] “Splendid chaps. All of him.”  The Five Doctors

Brigadier: “Get off my world!”
The Destroyer: “Pitiful. Can this world do no better than you as their champion?”
Brigadier: “Probably. I just do the best I can.”   Battlefield

Other notes: The Brigadier is the only Companion whose off-screen death is mentioned in the series, when the Eleventh Doctor calls him up for one more adventure only to discover he’s died peacefully in his sleep. The actor had passed away not long before this.


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