Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On the passing of royalty

She was the queen of the Companions.  She was a reporter that could have, on her worst day, gone toe-to-toe with Lois Lane.  Of all the passengers of the TARDIS who had come before, she was the first that you got the feeling that Something could be Going On between her and The Doctor.  We will not see her equal, and she is gone from us too soon. 907 years would have been too soon.

Elisabeth Sladen passed away today, reportedly of complications from cancer. Doctor Who website Gallifrey One confirmed the news with a report from Nicola Bryant, who played Peri Brown on the show. 
Sladen's early acting career started with an uncredited role in 1965, and included a brief run on British perennial Coronation Street and police procedural Z Cars.  It was her work on Z Cars that got her suggested to the production staff at Doctor Who when they were looking for a new actress to work against Jon Pertwee.  Her performance as intrepid reporter Sarah Jane Smith on the show was the one that would make her a household name.  When she left the series five years hence, her departure made the news, one of the first times events on the program were covered by the media.

She continued to appear in other shows and productions, but her career would always lead her back to Who in one fashion or another.  After a pilot for a series, teaming her up with "Tin dog" K-9. she returned for the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors and some years later for the Children in Need charity performance Dimensions in Time.  She appeared in a series of radio format plays from Big Finish, a fan-run company that produced authorized Doctor Who adventures for many years, including the period that the show was off-air.

When the series returned, hopes rose high that we'd see Ms. Sladen reprise her classic role; when she did in the adventure School Reunion, to say it was a success would be an understatement.  Almost immediately afterwards, a new spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, was launched.  Aimed at a younger audience than Who, it featured Sarah Jane protecting the Earth from alien threats with the assistance of some young people from her home at 13 Bannerman Road.  The series ran for four seasons, with a fifth already in production. There are reports that much of Sladen's footage is already shot, so we'll be blessed with a little more of her work.

She is survived by her husband Brian Miller, and their daughter Sadie, who appeared with Elisabeth in her Sarah Jane Smith plays for Big Finish.


  1. Very nice. Even in the silliest situations, facing down cheap, rubber suited 'monsters' Ms. Sladen was a total professional. She was the standard other Companions had to meet.

  2. I'll be settling down shortly to watch the BBC America season opener for DOCTOR WHO. Hopefully some sort of tribute on Ms. Sladen's behalf has been arranged.