Nicholas Courtney, one of Doctor Who's longest-serving and most popular stars, has died after a short illness. He was 81.
The news of his death was first reported on Doctor Who fan sites. Later, the actor's agent confirmed to the BBC that he'd been suffering from cancer.
Courtney's first appearance in Doctor Who was in 1965, in The Daleks' Master Plan by Terry Nation, in which he appeared as Space Security Agent Brett Vyon, alongside William Hartnell, as the First Doctor, and Jean Marsh (Upstairs, Downstairs), as Sara Kingdom.
However, it was in the role of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (or "the Brigadier", as he was more commonly referred to) that Courtney is best known for.
The Brigadier - one of the few constants in the the BBC's long-running science-fiction drama series - is a pivotal character in Doctor Who. Courtney has appeared as Lethbridge-Stewart alongside Hartnell's six immediate successors - Doctors two to seven - Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy - in the TV series itself, as well as with the eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, in an audio-only adventure.
In 1968, Courtney played Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in The Web of Fear, by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln. he returned in Derrick Sherwin's The Invasion later that year, promoted to Brigadier in charge of the British contingent of UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (later, Unified Intelligence Taskforce). He was to continue in this role on a regular basis throughout much of the seventies, then less frequently in the eighties and nineties.
Courtney last appeared in the TV series in 1989, shortly before the series was originally cancelled, in Battlefield, by Ben Aaronovitch, and then in 1993, in a one-off special story to celebrate Doctor Who's 30th anniversary, Dimensions in Time, by David Roden and John Nathan-Turner.
Since Doctor Who's return to TV screens in 2005, the Brigadier has been name-checked on a number of occasions, but had yet to make an appearance in the show. However, he did return to the role in the Doctor Who spin-off series that stars Elisabeth Sladen, The Sarah Jane Adventures, now as Sir Alistair.
Doctor Who fan favourite
Courtney has been a constant and well-loved member of the Doctor Who convention circuit for many years, and will be sadly missed. Chuck Foster of the Doctor Who News Page said earlier: "On a personal note, it was a shock to hear the news tonight about Nick; having got to know him personally from my DWAS [Doctor Who Appreciation Society] days, I have many fond memories of driving him to various promotions and being regaled by his stories down the local. Off-duty, he was as much the gentleman as he appeared in public, and will be sadly missed by family, friends and fandom alike."
Meanwhile, the actor, producer and Doctor Who writer, Mark Gatiss, told BBC News that Courtney was "a childhood hero and the sweetest of gentlemen"; while Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor, wrote on his official website of his former co-star, "He was a wonderful companion [with] a marvellous resonant voice which he used brilliantly when it was his turn to spin a yarn. We shall miss him terribly."
In 1997, the Doctor Who Appreciation Society appointed Courtney as their Honorary President, "a position he was proud to hold and worked proactively with for many years until his death".
The actor wrote two autobiographies, Five Rounds Rapid! (1998) and Still Getting Away With It (2005); a further memoir, A Soldier In Time, was released as an audio book by Big Finish Productions in 2002.
He is survived by his wife Karen, and his daughter and son, Philip and Bella.