Elisabeth Sladen, best known for her portrayal as journalist and companion Sarah Jane Smith on the hit TV show Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures, died Tuesday the 19th at the age of 63 from cancer.
Elisabeth Sladen first appeared on the show in The Time Warrior in 1973 along side Jon Pertwee who played the Third Doctor. When Pertwee left the show in 1974 Sladen stayed on as a companion with the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker). The two became a popular pair of Doctor and companion. So famous was this partnership that even after she left the show in 1976 (after the story The Hand of Fear) she was still remembered by fans and is thought of (to this day) as one of the best (if not the best) companion that the Doctor has ever had.
After a failed television pilot, K9 and Company, Sarah Jane would show up only one more time in classic Doctor Who, the twentieth anniversary special The Five Doctors in 1983. Between then and 2006 she would appear in audio dramas and a few unofficial Doctor Who outings. But in 2006 she would appear next to David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor in the series two story, School Reunion.
Sarah Jane was then given her own show, The Sarah Jane Adventures, where she continued to fight alien threats with her bio-engineered son and his friends. She appeared again in Doctor Who in the series four finale and in The End of Time, which was David Tennants last story as the Doctor. Sladen then carried on in her own show, having one story (The Death of the Doctor in 2010) with the new Doctor, Matt Smith.
She was part way through filming series five of the SJA when she passed. What they will do with the show I do not know. They may choose to continue it in some way or they may just take what they have of series five and use it in some way. I hope, and think it will be, the latter. The production crew of Doctor Who dedicated the first episode of the new series/season, which premiered on Saturday, to Sladen. She should be properly honored as she was such an important symbol of classic Who, more so than even Courtney was, heck maybe even more than some of the lesser known Doctors were/are.
How they will deal with her passing in terms of the show, like I mentioned in my last article about Nicholas Courtney, I myself wouldn’t mind the Doctor attending the funeral of Sarah Jane, along with the Brigadier, maybe at the end of the new series/season.
I’ve heard that Elisabeth Sladen was a very private person and, from what I gather, very few knew about her battle with cancer. It surely comes as a great shock to me and many others that she passed when she did. Nicholas Courtney’s death a little under two months ago was sad, yes, but not totally unexpected as he was in his 80s and had been ill for some time. Now we have lost someone who was still young in spirit, a fine actress, and from what I can gather, was very generous and a joy to work with according to her fellow actors. She will be missed by me and many others.
R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen, 1948-2011