Tag Archives: brigadier lethbridge-stewart

In Defence of Dinosaurs [WHO-50—1974]

1974Really, are the dinosaurs that bad?

I love this story.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs joins The Time Warrior and Planet of the Spiders as the only really GOOD Third Doctor/Sarah Jane adventures, and serves very well to progress their relationship, which is still on shake ground at this point – Sarah was whisked back in time by accident in The Time Warrior and spent a large part of that story thinking the Doctor was the bad guy (fair cop) until he won her over with his suave charm and snippy sense of humour.

The Doctor returns her to London in this story, only for them to be alarmed at a mysteriously empty city. What would be so scary that it is worth evacuating London?

DINOSAURS, obviously!

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Scary Astronauts are Go! [WHO-50—1970]


Season 7 of Doctor Who is a fan favourite, probably because of its taking itself terribly seriously (unlike the more fun later seasons of the Pertwee era). This season does have some great elements to it, especially the snarky and intelligent companion Dr Liz Shaw, the early and rather more prickly version of the Brigadier, and Jon Pertwee playing the Doctor far more straight than at any other time in his run.

It’s also a season which has provided a great deal of inspiration to the 2005- version of the show, featuring the debut appearance of both the Autons and the Silurians, and a rare example of a parallel universe (a narrative ploy also used for great effect in New Who).

What I hadn’t quite twigged until the DVD release of The Ambassadors of Death, the third of four stories featuring the Third Doctor with his UNIT-and-Liz-Shaw ensemble, is that this season also used the masked figure of astronauts as creepy figures of horror, something which has been something of a feature of several Steven Moffat-written stories, and the River Song arc in particular.

(Hey, who turned out the lights?)
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On My iPod: UNIT & Robophobia

UNIT 1.1 Time Heals [Big Finish Productions]
UNIT 1.2 Snake Head [Big Finish Productions]
UNIT 1.3 The Longest Night [Big Finish Productions]
UNIT 1.4 The Wasting [Big Finish Productions]

A while back, when Nicholas Courtney died, I recommended UNIT: The Coup, a freebie Big Finish audioplay which showed a 21st Century version of UNIT, dealing with one of those loose threads the Doctor left behind him, the pesky Silurians and their need to make an actual peace with humanity.

As well as showcasing Sir Alastair himself, the play introduced Colonel Emily Chaudhry (Siri O’Neal), a media liason working with UNIT. It serves as an introduction to the whole UNIT miniseries (2004), revolving around Chaudhry as she deals with a missing CEO, his replacement Col. Robert Dalton (who is, pleasingly, a skeptic of the Scully variety), the soulless media as personified by reporter Francis Currie, and some serious threats to humanity. The first two are mostly standalone adventures, and very enjoyable largely for the chemistry between the two leads, and the weirdness of their investigations. The style of the dramas anticipate some of the themes and ideas that came up in Torchwood, and I got more of a sense of UNIT as a real, modern organisation with ties back to the Pertwee Years than I ever got from the sparce UNIT appearances in New Who.

The third and fourth stories, The Longest Night and The Wasting, are impressively bleak political dramas, with far more in common with Torchwood: Children of Earth than anything else in the Whoniverse. It’s brilliant stuff. Of special note is the appearance of David Tennant in The Wasting as the long-missing-in-action CEO of UNIT, along with his Scottish accent. It’s a feisty performance, packed with personality, and his scenes with Chaudry are electric. Siri O’Neal’s performance is also brilliant in this final appearance (sadly there was only one series of UNIT, sniff) and every time Tennant looks likely to steal the scene, she kicks him in the kneecap and takes it right back. There’s an amazing hero moment for her which made me very emotional. It also doesn’t hurt that Nicholas Courtney, who made a fairly tame appearance in Episode 1, returns in this final ep with some serious firepower and good old boy action.

These episodes are all available from Big Finish right now at the outrageously cheap price of $5 Australian per download & $8-9 each for the CD including shipping. Definitely worth checking out!

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“She Vanquished Me” – Doctor Who: Battlefield

I ordered the DVD of Doctor Who: Battlefield recently in a wave of nostalgia about the late Nicholas Courtney. His ‘I just do the best I can’ speech had been a big part of many reminiscence post about the Brigadier as an iconic character, and it was ages since I’d seen the story. It was one of my favourites when I was a teenager, and forms part of one of my favourite Doctor Who eras: the Seventh Doctor and Ace.

So the other night, when my honey was away for work and the kids were in bed and no one was being wrong on the internet, I settled down with some sewing to watch it. I was a bit worried that the suck fairy might have visited since I last inhaled this one, especially as I have heard so much fan dismissal of it as a story, but my worried were unfounded.

Battlefield is AWESOME.

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Remembering the Brigadier.

I heard today that Nicholas Courtney recently passed away peacefully. He was 81. My condolences to his family and friends – in the larger community of Doctor Who fandom, he was greatly loved and respected, which is really the best thing any of us can leave behind.

While he had a long and varied acting career, the role he will most be associated with is Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart in Doctor Who. Courtney first stepped into the part in 1968 in The Web of Fear, and most recently in 2008 reprised the character in “Enemy of the Bane,” in an episode of spin off show The Sarah Jane Adventures. That’s forty years!

The Web of Fear and its sequel, The Invasion, both worked as a kind of audition for the UNIT concept, which was to be a central hub of the show in the 1970’s. As first Colonel and later Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Nicholas Courtney was the chap who had to deal with Yeti invading the underground, and then Cybermen taking over London. The Doctor was more of an annoyance than anything to him, though he became an ally pretty quickly, and performed what could have been a fairly uninteresting guest role with great charisma and warmth.

Like most people, I fell in love with the Brig during the Jon Pertwee Years. When Doctor Who was relaunched in 1970, in colour and with a new style and format, Pertwee’s Doctor was matched not only with a girl assistant, but with a family. UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) was based on the idea that, if the Earth gets invaded by aliens quite as often as Doctor Who tends to suggest, surely there should be some kind of military force set up to combat said threats. This organisation, Lethbridge Stewart himself and Sgt Benton had all been introduced during the Troughton Years, but became the centrepiece of the new look version of the show.

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