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Nicholas Courtney by Tom Baker

Nick Courtney died yesterday after a very long and painful battle with cancer. I went to say goodbye to him on Friday at the wonderful hospice near Belsize Park in North London. The lady in charge said he was very stoical.  And indeed he was.  It was so distressing to see him so weak and yet so strong in resignation.  My jokes were received with a generous effort from Nick to smile. I was with Michael McManus who helped me through the ordeal of seeing a beloved old pal so reduced by illness.

Of all the characters in Doctor Who there is no doubt that he was the most loved by the fans for his wonderful portrayal of the rather pompous Brigadier.  “Five rounds rapid” was the line we all loved, always addressed to Sergeant Benton.  Nick’s close friends simply adored him.  There was a certain innocence in his personality that was utterly endearing.  He was very easy to tease, and I did my share, which made him shake his head in disbelief when he realised he had been had.

He was a wonderful companion and his friends would call each other or e-mail to relate the latest little stories of a night out with the Brig. He had a marvellous resonant voice which he used brilliantly when it was his turn to spin a yarn. And his background was fascinating too: born in Alexandria, Egypt, he was brought up speaking French and Arabic. Later he perfected English and after a few drinks he would speak in Latin tags to great comic effect.

We shall miss him terribly.

Tom Baker

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