Though the list of male companions is considerably shorter, today was another tough decision. Or at least, it could’ve been. The criteria are the same as yesterday.
- Does the companion get to be more than a “damsel in distress” or simply someone for the Doctor to explain things to?
- Does the companion get to be clever and solve problems on their own?
- If the Doctor wasn’t in the show, would I still want to watch it?
You see, it would be very easy for me to tell you how brave and clever I think Ian is, or how Steven and Ben make me laugh. I could go on for ages and ages about just how much I completely adore Jamie and Harry, or how I really do enjoy snarky Turlough.*
But the truth is that only one of them that has had my heart since the very beginning. And that man is Brigadier (Sir) Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.
Now, I know many of you purists out there will be shouting at this point about how “The Brigadier wasn’t technically a companion” and all the rest of it.
Well, I say he was. Fight me.
I mean, what are the actual criteria needed to be classified as an “official” companion? To be around for more than one story? To travel in the TARDIS? The Brig ticks both those boxes. I mean, if Adam Mitchell can be counted as a companion, then the Brigadier certainly can. Honestly, I have trouble counting Katarina and Sara Kingdom as companions too. But then I suppose anyone who was in the “The Daleks’ Master Plan” deserves that sort of recognition.
Oh right, Nick Courtney was in that too. Not as the Brig, of course, but still. I quite liked Bret Vyon. You know, until he was killed by his sister, Sara Kingdom. She was played by Jean Marsh, who was forever pointing guns at Nick Courtney, it seemed (see: “Battlefield”).
Anyway, can we all agree–even if only for the time it takes you to read this post–that Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was indeed a companion? Yes? Okay. Good. Let’s begin.
As brave companions go, there have been many. It’s sort of a prerequisite for traveling with the Doctor, really. No matter how skeptical you are of all of this time travel and alien stuff, you still need to be able to do what needs to be done to save the say. This is sort of Alistair’s M.O. He’s a soldier. It’s what he does. Now, I know the strictly New Who crowd out there are now furiously typing in the comments section, “BUT THE DOCTOR HAS A RULE ABOUT SOLDIERS!”
Yeah, okay. Here’s the thing about that. Are we forgetting Rule 1? The Doctor lies. And that’s probably part of it. And he didn’t want to share Clara with anyone, which was also part of it. But here’s the other part. The Doctor met the Brigadier quite literally CENTURIES before the Time War. He wasn’t as battle-scarred yet. He still didn’t like solving problems with guns, which is what he and the Brig spent a good deal of the 1970s bickering about, but he didn’t “have a rule about soldiers,” exactly. Not yet.
And since we’re on the subject, the Doctor giving Danny grief over being a soldier-turned-maths-teacher was not a new thing. Because you know who else was a soldier-turned-maths-teacher?
Oh, and also this guy. It’s complicated. You sort of had to be there.
He’s a good man.
So, yes. He was a soldier. And a damn good one. He was always first in line to jump into the fray and never asked his troops to do anything he wasn’t prepared to do himself. But he also wasn’t an idiot. He was more concerned with doing the right thing than simply following the orders of his superiors.
He had no choice but to destroy the Silurian base at Wenley Moor. His hands were tied. Nevertheless, this did remain a point of contention between himself and the Doctor for some time after. But then in “The Green Death,” he did have the sense to send Yates into Global Chemicals to do some spying while he was busy following orders and blowing up the mine. Though the Doctor did say he wished the Brigadier was “a trifle more flexible” when it came to doing his duty.
In fact, the Brigadier was so dedicated to duty that it cost him a great deal in his personal life (see: The Scales of Injustice). Mind you, he was able to reunite with his daughter later (see: Downtime), which is lucky because now she has become modern day UNIT’s salvation (in my eyes anyway). Did anyone else just lose their mind when Kate did the “Five rounds rapid” thing this past series?!
I would also point out that he’s not a complete dick to his subordinates, which I think is important. It’s clear that there is also real friendship there, particularly with Sergeant Benton and Captain Yates (in addition to Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, etc.). If you read the novels, this is also true of Corporals Maisy Hawke and Carol Bell. UNIT is a very specialized group, so they need to be able to trust each other. But even when he’s shouting at them a bit, he’s still not really a jerk about it. He lets Benton get away with punching a General. And even goes out of his way to make sure Mike Yates can resign quietly despite the fact that he betrayed them all. What a guy.
The Classic Era BrOTP.
The Brigadier is also one of the very few companions to know nearly every incarnation of the Doctor. Granted, several of them did not meet on television, but whatever. He did appear (as the Brigadier–not counting Bret Vyon here) in televised stories alongside Troughton, Pertwee, Baker, Davison, and McCoy. That’s a pretty impressive list. In print and audio, he’s met nearly every Doctor. He’s always there when the Doctor needs him. And occasionally the Doctor manages to save him in return. They are the ultimate BrOTP, even though they bicker pretty much constantly.
He’s a badass.
How many characters have gotten to punch the Master in the face? The Brig has.
Or troll the Doctor (twice in just a few minutes, actually). The Brig has.
In a parallel universe, he’s even a villain.
And not just in the unfortunate way that he sort of became the obligatory comic relief for a time. The sarcasm, the wry smiles, the twinkly eyes. And one of the best “I’m so done” faces this universe or any other has ever seen. He also had some of the best throwaway lines ever.
Brig is Bae.**
It’s no secret that being gorgeous was sort of a prerequisite for being cast as a companion in the Classic era (not that it isn’t now, if we’re honest). We usually only associate this with the female companions, but I’d say it’s probably true of the men as well. I mean, you could do a lot worse than Ian or Stephen or Ben or Jamie or Benton or Yates or Harry or Turlough.***
But the Brigadier is in a class all by himself. He’s tall, handsome, charming, and makes the uniform look infinitely better by wearing it.
I mean honestly.
“Nick looked quite indecently handsome in that uniform. And he knew it.”
– Damaris Hayman (Miss Hawthorne), on the DVD commentary for ‘The Daemons’.
Clearly that knowledge had not escaped the Brigadier either. Look at his face. HE KNEW.
Everyone in the history of the show has left an impression in some way. Both on the audience and on the show itself, particularly with the Doctor. Companions will continue to come and go, just as they have done for the past five decades. But I’d wager that very few will leave the same lasting impression that the Brigadier has. Even though he didn’t make it back onto Doctor Who when the series returned****, his presence has been felt throughout from the reappearance of UNIT in the days of Christopher Eccleston, to being referenced by David Tennant in “The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky,” a scene where Matt Smith’s Doctor acknowledges Nicholas Courtney’s death in “The Wedding of River Song.” And now, of course, we have a Lethbridge-Stewart running UNIT again (and with another Osgood!), and Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor faced not only a portrait of Alistair, but also the Brigadier’s posthumously Cyber-converted self. Of course he still resisted Cyber control. Of course he did. Because he’s the Brigadier.
The character began “The Web of Fear” in 1968 and no one knew just how far he would go. Nearly fifty years later and we still are very much aware that he was here. That’s one hell of a legacy. And that is why Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethrbidge-Stewart is not only my favorite male companion, but very probably my favorite companion of all time.
Who is your favorite Classic era male companion? Let us know in the comments!
* Sorry, Adric.
** This is both the first and last time I will ever use this word.
*** Sorry again, Adric.
**** Yes, I know he was in The Sarah Jane Adventures and he was wonderful, but I still wish he could’ve been on the proper show again. I may never forgive RTD for that.
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