Big Finish Talks Back
The Nicholas Courtney Memoirs - A Soldier in Time

Big Finish Productions
RRP 12.99
ISBN 1 903654 98 X, BFPCDTB04
Available now

Five Rounds Rapid
, Nicholas Courtney's autobiography from a few years ago, was something of a missed opportunity in my opinion, since it focused on his role as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in Doctor Who at the expense of the coverage of the rest of his eventful life. A Soldier in Time redresses the balance to a considerable degree. The emphasis is still squarely on his Who career, but that is understandable and appropriate, since the Brigadier remains his most famous role.

The second of the three CDs in this package is dominated by Courtney's years as a Who regular, while the first disc concentrates on his early life. The third disc comprises a balanced view of the actor's career and private life from the 1980s onwards. Whereas Five Rounds Rapid continually made spurious cross-references to Doctor Who, which quickly became annoying, these memoirs take a more subtle approach in their attempt to maintain the interest of Who fans with short attention spans. Nick's recollections on the first CD flash back and forth between the decades on a limited number of occasions, each of these linked by a particular train of thought.

Although this work is not in the same league as Who on Earth is Tom Baker?, several of Courtney's revelations will still raise some eyebrows. These include bitter memories of being bullied at school, an unplanned pregnancy, and the confession of an extra-marital affair. From the world of Doctor Who, we hear about Hartnell's alleged racism and learn that, during the early part of the Third Doctor's era, Courtney and Jon Pertwee did not exactly get on like a house on fire. Anecdotes more familiar from the convention circuit are also included - for example, who hasn't heard the "eye patch" story before now?

A Soldier in Time brings the listener bang up to date with references to the actor's recent work for Big Finish. However, these are mentioned only fleetingly, so I suspect that Courtney only refers to them as a courtesy to his audio publisher. One fact that hasn't been updated, however, is his assertion that the shelved Frankie Howerd comedy series in which he appeared, Then Churchill Said to Me, has never been broadcast on terrestrial TV - in fact, the BBC transmitted it in 2000.

Reading these memoirs, Courtney sounds as amiable a personality as ever, combining wry observations with one or two painful memories. With a total running time in excess of three hours, there's plenty of listening pleasure to be had before the Brig finishes.

Richard McGinlay