It is with great sadness that we report that actress Elisabeth Sladen has died at the age of 63. According to the BBC, she had had cancer for a while. She has been an icon and beloved companion Sarah Jane Smith since her first appearance on Doctor Who in the 1973 serial “The Time Warrior” alongside the third Doctor, portrayed by the late Jon Pertwee. Sladen continued with the fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker, until leaving the show in 1976 in “The Hand of Fear” Part Four. Over the years the actress returned to her most famous role in the pilot episode “K-9 and Company” and then for Doctor Who‘s 20th and 30th anniversary stories, “The Five Doctors” and the charity specials “Dimensions In Time”, respectively. After several audio adventures, the character and actress both returned to Doctor Who alongside David Tennant’s tenth Doctor in “School Reunion”. This lead to the commissioning of her own series, The Sarah Jane Adventures as well as several return appearances on the main series. Both Tennant and Matt Smith (as the eleventh Doctor) have appeared on Sarah Jane’s show as has the late Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, a friend of the Doctor’s alongside Sarah Jane in 1973. To date, four series of The Sarah Jane Adventures have aired, with a fifth partially filmed. To say this is a sad day for not only the family, colleagues and friends of Elisabeth Sladen, but also all of Doctor Who fandom, would be a huge understatement. Our thoughts go out to her family as well as all the fans who loved her, us included.
On a personal note, Sarah Jane Smith was the companion to the Doctor when I first started watching the show upon it’s debut on PBS in the US in 1977. She and Harry Sullivan (the late Ian Marter) left UNIT with the Doctor at the end of the fourth Doctor’s first story. Sarah Jane was ever so much the viewer, both in viewpoint and in the wonder she showed traveling with the Doctor. Elisabeth Sladen conveyed that very well and it was a very emotional moment for viewers and actors alike when she was unceremoniously forced out of the TARDIS by the Doctor. Seeing her return to Doctor Who was also a highly emotional moment and made for one of the best episodes since Who‘s return in 2005. I was very happy that Lis and Sarah Jane were spun off into their own series, especially since it has been a show that my son has loved and looked forward to watching. As I write this I am waiting for him to come home from school so that I can break the news to him. He is about the same age as I was when I first said goodbye to Sarah Jane Smith. At that time I thought it was forever, having been happily proven wrong. Sadly, this time it is for good. Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith and goodbye, Elisabeth Sladen. You both will be greatly missed.