Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
Doctor Who universe character
Brigadier (Doctor Who).jpg
Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart in
Invasion of the Dinosaurs[1]
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
Affiliated UNIT
Sarah Jane Smith
The Doctor (primarily Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh incarnations)
Species Human
Home planet Earth
Home era 20th and 21st centuries
First appearance The Web of Fear
Last appearance Enemy of the Bane
Portrayed by Nicholas Courtney

Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, generally referred to simply as the Brigadier, is a fictional character in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, played by Nicholas Courtney. He is one of the founders of UNIT (Unified Intelligence Taskforce), an international organisation that defends Earth from alien threats, and serves as commander of the British contingent.

Almost 20 years after his last appearance, the character returned in the spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures in late 2008.[2] Following Courtney's death in 2011, however, the Brigadier was retired through a line of dialogue Doctor Who episode "The Wedding of River Song"; the Doctor is informed by telephone that the Brigadier died peacefully in his sleep.


Character history

Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was born in Scotland, according to dialogue in Terror of the Zygons. He first encountered the Second Doctor in The Web of Fear (1968), when he appears as a colonel commanding a British Army detachment sent to investigate the Yeti in the London Underground. By his next appearance in The Invasion (1968), he had been promoted to Brigadier and was working with UNIT. When the Doctor was forcibly regenerated and exiled to Earth, Lethbridge-Stewart gave him a position as UNIT's scientific advisor. Other military members of UNIT included Captain Mike Yates, Sergeant Benton and Royal Navy Lieutenant Harry Sullivan.

The Brigadier always faced the unknown with unflappable British aplomb. He has shown himself to be a true warrior in combat, ruthless when he has to be, and heroic in the face of the often overwhelming odds that he and UNIT faced over the years. He eventually retired from the military to teach mathematics at an English public school in 1976, as seen in Mawdryn Undead (1983).

Most of the Third Doctor stories were set on Earth and feature UNIT and the Brigadier heavily. While not as ubiquitous in the following years, he appeared alongside every subsequent Doctor in the original television series run with the exception of the Sixth Doctor. Although Lethbridge-Stewart first met the Doctor in his second incarnation, he also met and worked with the First Doctor (played by another actor as the original actor William Hartnell had passed away) in the 20th anniversary special, The Five Doctors. The Brigadier and the Sixth Doctor, as well as later incarnations of the Doctor, have been paired in numerous spin-off productions (see Other appearances), although the canonicity of these is uncertain.

As one of the most popular recurring supporting characters in the television series, the Brigadier is often listed among the Doctor's companions.[3] He is listed as such by the BBC [4] and included in John Nathan-Turner's (a former producer of Doctor Who) book discussing all of the Doctor's companions.

Lethbridge-Stewart's last appearance in a Doctor Who television episode was in 1989, in the Seventh Doctor serial Battlefield. Called out of retirement to deal with an other-dimensional invasion of armoured knights led by Morgaine, he found himself once again at the Doctor's side. Lethbridge-Stewart served as his world's champion as he faced down and killed the demonic Destroyer of Worlds armed only with his service revolver and a load of silver-tipped bullets. (Battlefield was stated to be a few years into Ace's future but not a specific date. The Virgin New Adventures books place it in 1997.)

Little was shown of Lethbridge-Stewart's life outside UNIT in the television series. Planet of the Spiders referred to a relationship with a woman called Doris. By Battlefield, he was married to her (played by Angela Douglas). It was Courtney's own belief that the Brigadier had been in a previous marriage to a woman named Fiona, and that he and Doris were having an affair; his first marriage ended due to his work.[5]

Although Lethbridge-Stewart never appeared in the revived series, the character is still alive during the Tenth Doctor's tenure. In the spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures story "Revenge of the Slitheen", Sarah Jane Smith says to "give [her] love to the Brig". In the Tenth Doctor episode "The Poison Sky", the Doctor mentions that he could use "the Brigadier". He is then told that "Sir Alistair" is "stranded in Peru", indicating that the Brigadier has been knighted.

In 2008, Courtney again reprised the role in a The Sarah Jane Adventures story, "Enemy of the Bane", and confirmed his knighthood repeatedly: Major Kilburne and Sarah Jane each address him as "Sir Alistair" and he later introduces himself fully as "Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart" to Mrs. Wormwood. This episode refers back to the Peru mission as there is mention of him being de-briefed about it. Sarah Jane asks Lethbridge-Stewart to assist her in accessing UNIT's "Black Archive", a top secret alien artefact facility. Sarah Jane prefers to avoid seeking official clearance, so as to avoid awkward questions about Luke, her artificially-grown son. In his old age, the Brigadier has developed a dislike for the new way UNIT works and often refers to events that happened in "his day". He walks with a walking stick now, but is seen driving a Bentley to UNIT's "Black Archive". His wife, presumably Doris, is mentioned in this episode. The Brigadier assists Sarah Jane and Rani in escaping UNIT and later confronts a Bane disguised as a UNIT officer, shooting him dead with a gun hidden within his cane.

In The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith", Clyde Langer tells Peter Dalton that the Brigadier cannot make it to the wedding because he is back in Peru. It had been intended by the production team that Lethbridge-Stewart would indeed appear in the story and meet the Tenth Doctor, but Courtney was recovering from a stroke and unable to take part.[6] He is reported to be in Peru for a third time in "Death of the Doctor". Clyde describes him as being Sarah Jane's oldest friend; Sarah Jane met both the Doctor and Sir Alistair in the first episode of the Third Doctor serial, The Time Warrior. Sometime following the events of "Death of the Doctor", Sir Alistair himself becomes ill and is moved into a nursing home.[7]

In "The Wedding of River Song", the Eleventh Doctor rings Sir Alistair's nursing home to have him made ready for a trip; a nurse regretfully informs him that the Brigadier died peacefully 'a few months ago' and had spoken well of him often.[8] He is the second Whoniverse character to be so eulogised as a proxy for his deceased actor, after his former subordinate Dr. Harry Sullivan (the late Ian Marter) was remembered fondly by their UNIT colleague Sarah Jane Smith a year earlier in "Death of the Doctor".

Other appearances

The Brigadier and the Sixth Doctor were paired in the two-part charity special Dimensions in Time and the Big Finish audio play, The Spectre of Lanyon Moor. The Sixth Doctor also meets the Brigadier in the novel Business Unusual, also purporting to be the first meeting of the two characters, subsequently working together in The Shadow in the Glass to track down the newly-discovered Fourth Reich; in the short story "Brief Encounter: A Wee Deoch an..?", written by Sixth Doctor actor Colin Baker and published in Doctor Who Magazine Winter Special, 1991, they cross paths but neither realises it. The Brigadier has also appeared with the Eighth Doctor in the novel The Eight Doctors by Terrance Dicks (set after the events of the Tv Movie and during moments of The Doctors' past lives) in audio plays and the novels The Dying Days and The Shadows of Avalon. The Tenth Doctor met the Brigadier in the Doctor Who Magazine comic The Warkeeper's Crown.

The Brigadier and his family have made several appearances in the spin-off media. The spin-off UNIT videos Downtime and Dæmos Rising feature Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, the Brigadier's daughter from his marriage to his first wife, Fiona (first named in the Missing Adventure The Scales of Injustice by Gary Russell). Also appearing was Kate's young son, Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

The novels also gave Lethbridge-Stewart another offspring. While on duty in Sierra Leone as a young lieutenant, Lethbridge-Stewart met and was intimate with a local girl named Mariatu, the daughter of a village chief, and unknown to Lethbridge-Stewart, she had a son. This was first hinted at in Ben Aaronovitch's novelisation of his 1988 serial Remembrance of the Daleks, which featured quotes from a fictional history of UNIT (The Zen Military) written by a Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart (Mariatu's granddaughter) in 2006. In the 1992 New Adventures novel Transit (also by Aaronovitch, and set in the 22nd Century), the Seventh Doctor meets the adopted daughter of General Yembe Lethbridge-Stewart, one of Mariatu's descendants. This daughter, also named Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart, went on to become a recurring character in the New Adventures.

The novels have also fleshed out the Brigadier's ancestry, establishing that he comes from a long-standing military family. In the New Adventures novel The Dying Days by Lance Parkin, he talks about three ancestors who reached the rank of general. One, William Lethbridge-Stewart, was in the retinue of James VI of Scotland and I of England. The other two fought at Naseby and Waterloo. The Scales of Injustice names the latter as Major-General Fergus Lethbridge-Stewart. The Brigadier also says in The Dying Days that his father died in World War II, fighting alongside Field-Marshal Montgomery in Africa.

The Past Doctor Adventures novel The Wages of Sin by David A. McIntee established that the Brigadier had an ancestor named Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart who worked for the British Government in 1916. Deadly Reunion by Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts establishes that the Brigadier was a Second Lieutenant serving in Army Intelligence in 1944, although this makes the Brigadier older than other stories would suggest.

In the novels, Lethbridge-Stewart emerged from retirement again during the events of The Dying Days where he dealt with an invasion of Ice Warriors from Mars in 1997. At the end of that novel he was promoted to General. Lethbridge-Stewart was subsequently rejuvenated with alien technology in Happy Endings by Paul Cornell, taking place in 2010. The rejuvenated Lethbridge-Stewart, widowed as a result of an accident at sea but back with the military, next appeared in the BBC Books Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The Shadows of Avalon, also by Cornell, where he still held the rank of General but preferred to be called "the Brigadier". According to The King of Terror by Keith Topping, Lethbridge-Stewart eventually passes away in the early 2050s.

Courtney played the Brigadier in two BBC Radio 4 Doctor Who plays set during the Third Doctor's era, The Paradise of Death (1993) and The Ghosts of N-Space (1996), alongside Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. For Big Finish, he has played the part of Lethbridge-Stewart in several plays, with Minuet in Hell revealing that he played a role in the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and also that he does covert work for the UN as a plausibly deniable agent. He also played an alternate universe version of the Brigadier in the Doctor Who Unbound play Sympathy for the Devil, opposite David Warner as the Doctor and David Tennant (later cast as the Tenth Doctor) as Colonel Brimmecombe-Wood.

Courtney also voiced the Brigadier in the 2001 webcast Death Comes to Time.

In December 2004, Big Finish released the first of a series of UNIT-based audio plays, where General Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart acted as a consultant to a new generation of officers and by series' end became UNIT's new Scientific Advisor. If the events in this series are to be reconciled with the books, these plays would seem to take place between the events of The Dying Days and Happy Endings, as this version of Lethbridge-Stewart does not seem to be rejuvenated. Also, the public does not believe in existence of aliens, which would appear to place it before the events of "The Christmas Invasion".

In the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip story Warkeeper's Crown (DWM #378-380), Lethbridge-Stewart made a reappearance alongside the Tenth Doctor after being kidnapped by Warlords as a tactical commander. He was an old officer stationed at Sandhurst.

The continuities of the novels, audio plays, comics and other tie-in media may not match up, and their canonicity with regard to the television series and each other is debatable.

Other mentions

The Brigadier is mentioned by the Fourth Doctor in The Android Invasion and by the Fifth Doctor in Castrovalva and Time-Flight. A vision of him is seen along with the Doctor's companions aside from Leela on the scanner screen in Resurrection of the Daleks. He is also seen calling out to the Doctor just before his regeneration in Logopolis. In "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky", the Doctor wishes he had the Brigadier's help, but Colonel Mace informs him that the Brigadier is stranded in Peru.

In the new series episode The Wedding of River Song, following actor Nicholas Courtney's death, the Doctor learns that the Brigadier has passed away peacefully.

List of appearances


Season 5
Season 6
Season 7
Season 8
Season 9
Season 10
Season 11
Season 12
Season 13
Season 20
20th anniversary special
Season 26
30th anniversary special
The Sarah Jane Adventures


Audio dramas

BBC Radio
Big Finish Productions
BBCi webcast
Short Trips audios
  • Walls of Confinement


The Companions of Doctor Who
Virgin New Adventures
Virgin Missing Adventures
Virgin sidestep novel
Eighth Doctor Adventures
Past Doctor Adventures

Short stories


  • "The Arkwood Experiments" by John Canning (TV Comic 944-949)
  • "The Multi-Mobile!" by John Canning (TV Comic 950-954)
  • "Insect" by John Canning (TV Comic 955-959)
  • "The Metal Eaters" by John Canning (TV Comic 960-964)
  • "The Fishmen of Carpantha" by John Canning (TV Comic 965-969)
  • "Doctor Who and the Rocks from Venus" by John Canning (TV Comic 970-976)
  • "Assassin from Space" by Patrick Williams (TV Comic Holiday Special 1970)
  • "Undercover" by Patrick Williams (TV Comic Holiday Special 1970)
  • "Castaway" by John Canning (TV Comic Annual 1971)
  • "Levitation" by John Canning (TV Comic Annual 1971)
  • "Fogbound" by Frank Langford (Doctor Who Holiday Special 1973)
  • "Secret of the Tower" by Alex Badia (Doctor Who Holiday Special 1973)
  • "Doomcloud" (Doctor Who Holiday Special 1974)
  • "The Time Thief" by Steve Livesey (Doctor Who Annual 1974)
  • "Menace of the Molags" by Steve Livesey (Doctor Who Annual 1974)
  • "Dead on Arrival" by Edgar Hodges (Doctor Who Annual 1975)
  • "The Man in the Ion Mask" by Dan Abnett and Brian Williamson (Doctor Who Magazine Winter Special 1991)
  • "Change of Mind" by Kate Orman and Barrie Mitchell (Doctor Who Magazine 221–223)
  • "Target Practice" by Gareth Roberts and Adrian Salmon (Doctor Who Magazine 234)
  • "Final Genesis" by Warwick Gray and Colin Andrew (Doctor Who Magazine 203: cameo appearance in parallel universe)
  • "Mark of Mandragora" by Dan Abnett (Doctor Who Magazine 167-172: has a small role as most of the UNIT leader's role is carried out by Muriel Frost)
  • "The Warkeeper's Crown" by Alan Barnes (Doctor Who Magazine 378–380)
  • "The Forgotten" by Tony Lee (writer) and Pia Guerra (artist) (IDW Publishing Issue #2: has a small part in the Third Doctor's segment)

References outside of Doctor Who

The character also appears briefly in a cameo role at the end of writer Paul Cornell's novelisation of the 1997 ITV science-fiction serial The Uninvited. Although the character is not named in the book, the description is that of Lethbridge-Stewart and Cornell later admitted that this was indeed his intention.

Marvel Comics' Excalibur featured an organisation called W.H.O. (the Weird Happenings Organisation) run by a Brigadier Alysande Stuart. Her twin brother Alistaire was WHO's "scientific advisor" (the role the Doctor had in UNIT). A character named "Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart" had earlier appeared in three panels of Uncanny X-Men #218, supervising the arrest of the Juggernaut in Edinburgh, where he also calls out to a "Sergeant-Major Benton" at one point.

The Sherlock Holmes novel Waters of Death by Kel Richards features a naval commander called Ralph Lethbridge-Stewart, alongside Captain Harry Sullivan and Lieutenant Philip Benton. It is set in the same fictional location as the Doctor Who story Terror of the Zygons.

An unnamed army brigadier, who looks and acts very similar to Lethbridge-Stewart, appears in the comic strip Caballistics, Inc.. He first appeared in the story Going Underground, where he is in charge of the army's response following a demon invasion of the London Underground; a member of his SAS team refers to "bloody robot yetis" having been down there once. He shows up again in the story Ashes, in charge of the military response to a devastating attack on Glasgow. This character is one of several references to both the Doctor Who universe and other sci-fi/horror properties in Caballistics.

Although unnamed, two characters strongly resembling Lethbridge-Stewart and Sergeant Benton (who was specifically named) appear in the John M. Ford Star Trek novel How Much for Just the Planet? at a rather treacherous golf course on the planet Direidi.

Similarly to Alysande Stuart, the comic book Jack Staff includes Commander Liz Stewart of S.M.I.L.E. (Secret Military Intelligence Lethal Executive).

The Brigadier briefly appears in Kim Newman and Eugene Byrne's Back in the USSA, supporting Britain's involvement in an alternate Vietnam War. However, Doctor Who is referenced later in the story, meaning that in the universe of Back in the USSA, both the show and the character from it are 'real'.

The Brigadier was referenced in name in the ABC Family show The Middleman. In the episode "The Clotharian Contamination Protocol," Wendy and The Middleman go to check out a returned Voyager probe. However, a nearby NASA listening station team also arrives. Using their random IDs, and due to the quick thinking of the Middleman, they are intimidated into leaving. As they go, the Middleman calls out the other team's lead, "Mr... Lethbridge-Stewart, if that is your real name!"

See also


  1. ^ Invasion of the Dinosaurs, "Part Three". Writer Malcolm Hulke, Director Paddy Russell, Producer Barry Letts. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC1. 26 January 1974.
  2. ^ Swift, Simon (27 September 2008). "Russell T. Davies explains why the Doctor’s not in the house". The Times (London). Retrieved 29 October 2008. 
  3. ^ Haining, Peter (1983). Doctor Who: A Celebration - Two Decades Through Time And Space. Virgin Publishing Ltd. pp. 85. ISBN 0-86369-932-4. 
  4. ^ "Companions". Doctor Who: Classic Series Episode Guide. BBC. 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  5. ^ Briggs, Nick, "Marching in Time," Doctor Who Magazine. #228, 2 August 1995, Marvel Comics UK Ltd. p. 37 (interview with N. Courtney). See also the Spearhead From Space DVD commentary.
  6. ^ McManus, Michael (26 February 2011). "Nicholas Courtney: Actor known for his long-running role as the Brigadier in Doctor Who". The Independent. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  7. ^ "The Wedding of River Song"
  8. ^ Dowel;, Ben (10-01-2011). "Doctor Who tribute to Brigadier actor Nicholas Courtney". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 

External links

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