Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart is a fictional character in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, played by Nicholas Courtney. He worked for UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce), an international organisation that defends the Earth from alien threats; he was one of UNIT's founders and head of British operations, and generally referred to simply as the Brigadier or "the Brig".
Lethbridge-Stewart first appeared in the Patrick Troughton Season 5 serial The Web of Fear (1968), where he was a Colonel in the Scots Guards. By his next appearance in the Season 6 serial The Invasion (1968), he had been promoted to Brigadier and was working with UNIT. When the Third Doctor was exiled to Earth, Lethbridge-Stewart gave him a position as UNIT's scientific advisor.
Initially, Lethbridge-Stewart appeared to be a stereotypical by-the-book martinet. Very often, the Doctor felt frustrated at working with him because the Brigadier's typical response to any threat was to shoot at it (a well-known phrase of his was, "Five rounds, rapid"). In turn, Lethbridge-Stewart was skeptical of the strange phenomena and super science the Doctor habitually encountered, and just as frustrated with the Doctor's eccentricities. However, over the years the two developed a close working and personal relationship as well as mutual respect for each other's abilities. Other military members of UNIT included Captain Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton.
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 a British public school in 1976, as seen in Mawdryn Undead (1983).
Most of the stories of the Jon Pertwee era of Doctor Who were set on Earth and heavily feature UNIT and the Brigadier. While not as ubiquitous in the following years, he appeared alongside every subsequent Doctor in the original television series run except the Sixth Doctor. They finally met in the 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.) The Brigadier has also appeared with the 1996 Doctor Who television movie's Eighth Doctor in the audio plays. Courtney's advanced age, coupled with Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston's declining to sign up for a second season of the new series makes it doubtful that he will continue the tradition with Eccleston on-screen.
Lethbridge-Stewart's last television appearance was in 1989, in the Sylvester McCoy Season 26 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. In what might have been his finest hour, 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.
As one of the most popular supporting characters in the television series, the Brigadier is often considered a companion of the Doctor and indeed is listed as one on the BBC website's list. Strictly speaking, however, he does not fulfil the traditional companion's role, subordinate to the Doctor's. Little was shown of Lethbridge-Stewart's life outside UNIT in the television series, although Planet of the Spiders revealed he was in a relationship with a woman called Doris. It was Courtney's own belief that the Brigadier was married, and that he and Doris were having an affair. Eventually, Lethbridge-Stewart left his first wife, as in Battlefield he was seen to be retired and married to Doris (played by Angela Douglas ).
The Brigadier and his family have made several appearances in the spin-off media. The spin-off UNIT videos Downtime and Daemos Rising feature Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, the Brigadier's daughter from his first marriage.
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.
In the novels, Lethbridge-Stewart emerged from retirement again during the events of the last New Adventure, The Dying Days by Lance Parkin, 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 but back with the military, next appeared in the BBC Books novel The Shadows of Avalon, also by Cornell, where he still held the rank of General but preferred to be called "the Brigadier".
Courtney played the Brigadier in two BBC Radio 4 Doctor Who plays, The Paradise of Death (1993) and The Ghosts of N-Space (1996), alongside Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, set during the Third Doctor's era. He also played an alternate universe version of the Brigadier in the Big Finish Doctor Who Unbound play Sympathy for the Devil, opposite David Warner as the Doctor.
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. As this version of Lethbridge-Stewart does not seem to be rejuvenated, these plays would seem to take place between the events of The Dying Days and Happy Endings. It should be noted, however, that the continuities of the audio plays and the novels may not match up, and their canonicity is debatable.
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