The Brig

Nicholas Courtney died six years ago yesterday. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, it’s okay. It meant absolutely nothing to me at the time, and even if it had, I wouldn’t have noticed. I was too busy occupying a couch in the St. Bernard’s Regional Hospital MICU waiting room.


I wasn’t familiar with Mr. Courtney until Gina introduced me to Doctor Who. Since then, we’ve spent many afternoons and nights plowing through over fifty years of British science fiction, the brilliant and the terrible.

We didn’t cosplay when we first started doing conventions, but it looked like so much fun that we couldn’t resist for long. I went through a number of ideas before I settled on Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (who was played by Nicholas Courtney, of course). I didn’t really think I looked like him, but I don’t look like anyone from the show. I can, however, grow a helluva mustache, and I’ve always had a thing for military garb.

Better yet, he’s British, so I wouldn’t have to worry about any stolen valor bullshit when I put on his uniform. I stopped wearing my olive green jacket years ago because some dude at the Memphis Zoo had marched towards me and shouted, “Where did you serve?”

“Nowhere, man.” I said. I should have sung it. “Nowhere.” It was covered in patches from places I’d been. I pointed at one. “See,” I said, “It’s just a Ron Jon patch,” which was doubly idiotic because I don’t know how to surf.

I’ve been the Brig a few times now, and I have a wall full of photos of Gina and myself standing beside British actors old and young. Once, I didn’t have time to grow a mustache, so I sported this funny fake thing I glued on with spirit gum. It was a sonofabitch to keep on, and I vowed, “Never again.” From now on I’m sprouting my own, and if it’s a week old and mostly eyeliner pencil, so be it.

Convention goers tend to get pretty excited when they recognize me because people don’t often cosplay the Brig. From the reactions I’ve received, IĀ assume I do a decent job. I’ll neverĀ forget when Peter Capaldi saw me and shouted, “Brig!” with open arms. That’s endorsement enough.

Part of me wants to draw a connection between Mr. Courtney’s departure from this earth and my father’s a day later. I’m not sure things actually rhyme this way in real life. It wasn’t the same day, just close enough for curiosity, and it’s confirmation bias to draw such conclusions. There are only so many days in the year. After you’ve lived long enough, you’ll certainly pile enough events in one spot to look like a pattern.

Still, I think it might be ironic (I’ll have to run it by Alanis first) that someone I loved, love, passed one day, and the day before (unbeknownst to me) someone who I hadn’t been acquainted with yet had passed away and I’d end up dressing up like him in convention centers years later. When I put it like that, yeah, it’s a complete coincidence. It’s mildly interesting, but not a humdinger.

I’ve invested in a few new costume pieces, and I’ve planned to attend at least a couple more conventions this year. Six years ago today I watched my father stop living. If you haven’t been there, it’s something that sticks with you. I’m not sad today, though. I’m excited about putting on that uniform and walking into the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Gina and Willie will be with me, and so will Dad, in a way. He’s not here, because he can’t be, but he’s part of my programming.

Maybe a bit of Nicholas Courtney dwells there, too. Just a smidge. A suggestion. An idea. As long as someone is thinking of you, you aren’t gone. Pretty gone, maybe, but not completely.

Not by a long shot.