Tuesday, 19 April 2011
Goodbye Sarah Jane
R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen
1 February 1948 – 19 April 2011
The lovely and talented Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who opposite Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker in the 1970’s and then again opposite David Tennant in 2006 before getting her own highly successful series The Sarah Jane Adventures, passed away today aged just 63. She’d apparently been fighting cancer for a while but had kept her illness a secret shared only with her family and a few close friends. She was due to make a fifth series of The Sarah Jane Adventures this year for CBBC.
Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to meet Elisabeth. Even so, the lady and I go way back.
You see, one of my earliest and most vivid of memories is being sat at home on a Saturday evening watching Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, together with the smart, beautiful and feisty Lis Sladen as Sarah Jane in a weird and scary adventure running around some creepy looking caves. Now I don’t remember the exact episode. I was only around four or five at the time. I just remember being glued to the TV, utterly mesmerised by what was going on.
And so I kept on watching.
Eventually Doctor Who left the air in 1989 after ratings and quality fell through the floor. But even after the latter shonky scripts and the even shonkier creative decisions, like many fans I kept the hope alive that one day the show would return and the quality would return, too.
And return it did in 2005 thanks to Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner at BBC Wales. And one of the best decisions Russell ever made was to bring back the beloved Sarah Jane Smith in the wonderful 2006 David Tennant episode ‘School Reunion’. It was like old times. Elisabeth had barely aged. She was still smart, still beautiful and still feisty. And still with that lovely smile of hers. She was still Sarah Jane Smith. And a whole new generation of fans soon fell for her just as we had done thirty years before. So much so that the BBC gave the lady her own series on CBBC – The Sarah Jane Adventures, which quickly became the channels biggest hit and stayed that way through four series with a fifth planned for this year.
Simply, Elisabeth Sladen made Sarah Jane Smith arguably the greatest and the best loved of all the Doctor’s many companions. Even people who don’t know much about Doctor Who will often still know who Sarah Jane Smith is. It was wonderful of Russell T Davies to have given Elisabeth the opportunity to reprise the role and to have (naturally) gone on to become beloved by a whole new generation of fans. I’m sure there will be children and parents and grandparents up and down the nation and all around the world who will be so incredibly sad to hear this awful news. Like I said, I never had the opportunity to meet her in person, but she is one of those figures who played such a big part in my childhood that I kinda feel like I’ve always known her. Those lucky enough to have met her over the years have said that she was a warm and thoughtful lady, a pleasure to know. I don’t doubt that for a second.
My thoughts and prayers go to Elisabeth’s family and friends at this sad time.
A fun little Sarah Jane tribute I found on YouTube