Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen

British actress Elisabeth Sladen, the real-world alter ego of plucky journalist Sarah Jane Smith, one of the best companions to renegade Time Lord known as The Doctor, has passed away at age 63 from cancer.

Sladen joined Doctor Who in the 1973 serial, "The Time Warrior," as the new companion of the Third Doctor, played by John Pertwee. She stayed in that role for three years, tagging along as the Third Doctor became the Fourth (Tom Baker). So beloved by fans - and producers - of Doctor Who, she returned to the franchise numerous times: first in the 1981 spin-off "pilot," K-9 & Company, and then in the same year's anniversary special, The Five Doctors. In 2006, she returned to the revived series in the acclaimed "School Reunion" episode, which led to the BBC green lighting her own show, The Sarah Jane Adventures. She was shooting the fifth season of that series when she passed away.

I'm pretty sure that the first full episode of Doctor Who I ever saw was "Robot," on PBS back when I was in art school, around 1983 or 84. Sladen co-starred with Tom Baker in that story, and I think I fell in love with her right then and there. Sarah Jane Smith is still my favorite Doctor Who "companion," and proved herself a formidable heroine in her own right. Smart, brave, cute-as-a-button and prickly as a cactus, Sarah Jane - and by extension, the actress who portrayed her so well - was my kind of woman.

Rest in Peace, Ms. Sladen... and so long, Sarah Jane - the finest companion a time traveler could ever hope for.


Britt Reid said...

Tom Baker was the Doctor most Americans first saw when the show was syndicated here in the late 1970s.

Elizabeth Sladen did a wonderful job as Sarah Jane opposite Baker, but I preferred her playing off Jon Pertwee (My favorite Doctor, BTW) and his Doctor's overbearing ego.

I was thrilled when she guested on the recent Who revival and then was given a highly-successful spin-off series (which SyFy has treated horribly. Maybe BBCAmerica could pick it up).

Elizabeth sure didn't look 63 (early 50s at best), and I had no idea she had cancer.
And, she was working on the fifth season of her show when she finally passed.
A brave woman.

Michael May said...

"Robot" and Sarah Jane were my firsts too. This is shocking and sad news.

El Vox said...

Sad news, I enjoyed Sarah Jane and Leela (the thin gal dressed in buckskins that starred with Tom Baker). The companions helped embellish the doctor, sort of his Dr. Watson. I agree she didn't look her age at all.