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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Elisabeth Sladen - RIP

It's sad news that Elisabeth Sladen has died at the age of only 63 from cancer - best known as Sarah Jane Smith, companion to Doctor Who she is perhaps the show's most recognisable female character and in recent years had starred in the spin off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures. It was Sladen who turned the role of sidekick into star and she formed a great double act, first with third doctor, Jon Pertwee and then with the fourth, Tom Baker.

I didn't even now the actress had been ill and when I wrote the previous post, reviewing the new DVD of Planet of the Spiders, I was unaware the actress had died. I tend to shut myself out from the news when I'm working on a new novel and I'm unsure how well this was reported in the press.

The actress made her first (uncredited) screen appearance in the 1965 film musical Ferry Cross the Mersey, Sladen combined weekly repertory theatre work with occasional television and radio roles, including a six-episode stint as a barmaid in Coronation Street. Further television work followed, including parts in Z-Cars, Doomwatch and Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em.

In 1973, Doctor Who producer Barry Letts was searching for a new actress to play The Doctor's companion, to replace the departing Katy Manning. After a recommendation from Z-Cars producer Ron Craddock, Letts met with Sladen and eventually cast her as investigate journalist Sarah Jane Smith. She made her first appearance as the character later that year in four-part adventure 'The Time Warrior'.

She remained with the show for three years, becoming a favourite with fans of the show. However she was always a family person first and she went into semi retirement after the birth of her daughter in 1985. And of course in 2006 she made a spectacular return to her best known role alongside yet another Doctor, David Tennant. She would appear again in the two-part fourth series finale 'The Stolen Earth' and 'Journey's End' and also made a brief cameo in Tennant's Who swansong 'The End of Time'.

When the return of Sarah Jane proved popular with long-term fans and new viewers alike, Sladen was approached to star in a new spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures. Created by then Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies, the CBBC series first aired as a 60-minute special on New Year's Day 2007. Four full series followed and the show proved a hit with both audiences and critics, most recently winning the award for 'Children's Drama' at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards. Sladen appeared alongside the newest Doctor, Matt Smith, in the most recent series, and a fifth run was in the works at the time of her death. The actress had been battling cancer and is survived by her husband of 43 years, Brian Miller, and daughter Sadie.


John Sinclair said...

Terrible, terrible news. From all of us who worked with her - and she always remembered our names and said hello - sleep well, Sarah Jane. Sleep well, Liz Sladen. God Bless.

goth wraith said...

We'll miss,those that loved her,family and friends and fans alike,it's upsetting and tragic to lose a lovely lady like Elizabeth to that awful disease,suffer no more dear Sarah and sleep peacefully-you'll always be alive in our thoughts and hearts dear lady!