Tuesday, April 19, 2011

R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen

I was shocked, surprised and genuinely saddened to hear of the death of Doctor Who actress Elisabeth Sladen today.

Sladen was best known for her role of Sarah Jane Smith, the Doctor's all-time most popular companion. She joined the show in 1973 (near the end of Third Doctor Jon Pertwee's run), teaming up with Fourth Doctor Tom Baker for three seasons.

Sarah Jane was the most beloved of all the Doctor's dozens of companions. Even my mom would watch Doctor Who if it was a Sarah Jane episode!

She was an incredibly important part of the history of the show. Before Sarah Jane, the Doctor's female companions tended to be the "damsel in distress" type, providing him with someone to rescue. They also served as expository devices; someone to which the Doctor could explain things.

Sarah Jane broke that mold. She was independent, fearless and not afraid to stand up to the Doctor if need be.

After her initial departure, Sladen returned to the show many times throughout the years. She guest-starred on the new Doctor Who series in 2006, which led to a spin-off series called The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2007. Sladen looked remarkably unchanged as she played Sarah Jane once again, leading a team of teenagers who investigate monsters and alien invasions each week.

The Sarah Jane Adventures was a bit more kid-oriented than Doctor Who, but perfectly watchable by adults as well. It introduced her to a whole new generation of fans, who fell in love with her just as we all did in the 1970s. The series has been very popular in England, running for four seasons. Sadly, Sladen's death occurred during filming of the fifth season.

By all accounts Sladen was very much like her character in real life, and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who had anything negative to say about her. Everyone who's met her in person has gushed about how nice she was to her fans. 

Rarely have I been this saddened by the death of a celebrity. This news has punched me in the gut just as surely as if a member of my own family had died. I guess in a way, that's true— I've been watching Sarah Jane on TV since I was a teen.

Sladen was a much too young 63 at the time of her death. She is survived by her husband and daughter.


  1. Bob, very touching and so true. I was surprised how saddened I was as well.

  2. I highly recommend watching the "My Sarah Jane" tribute that aired in the UK yesterday (available online in the way things are available online); but I do advise you have a box of two of kleenex at the ready. Such sad news.

  3. Jon: Thanks, Jon. When I heard the news it felt like my aunt had died.

    Chandra: On your recommendation, I just watched "My Sarah Jane." Very nice tribute.

  4. The BBC are going to air the final six episodes of the unfinished fifth series sometime this year as a tribute to her. There was some talk of carrying on the show without her! but that is now not going to happen.
    Love the Blog btw.
    I read your Walking Dead posts after each episode as I've only just got the chance to watch it.


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