Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Elisabeth Sladen (1948 - 2011)

I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn this evening from my good friend and fellow blogger, the Sci Fi Fanatic, that Elisabeth Sladen had passed away. 

Ms. Sladen is beloved by science fiction TV fans the globe around for her many memorable performances as the Doctor's companion, Sarah Jane Smith, on Doctor Who.  

I first discovered Dr. Who and Sarah Jane when the series aired on WWOR, channel 9 in New Jersey circa 1980.  The first serial I ever watched was "The Ark in Space," featuring Ms. Sladen and Tom Baker, and I was hooked for life.  Sarah remains my favorite of all the Doctor's myriad companions, and I suspect the same is true for quite a few American fans who grew up with the character.

Though petite in size, Sarah Jane was always strong, smart and funny.  She was curious, resourceful and adept at finding trouble.  As an investigative reporter she had a great nose for a story in the tradition of Lois Lane, and she was never anybody's damsel-in-distress.  In the 1970s Sarah and Sladen were both trail-blazers and role models.

No doubt there were companions who were more leggy, or companions who were perhaps more cerebral, but Ms. Sladen's Sarah Jane exuded an unyielding spirit, a strong sense of self, and great charisma. 

In short: the camera loved Elisabeth Sladen...and so did I.

News sources around the world are covering the untimely passing of this sci-fi legend, and the loss is all the more terrible because this remarkable actress was still young, and seemed so very vital.  On such a sad day, I share her family's grief, and again must pause to remember how lucky we truly all are to live in the age we do.  In a real sense, performers such as Sladen experience immortality because we have -- for all our lives -- their works recorded for us on DVD.    We can enjoy Ms. Sladen's performances over and over again, and reflect on the joy, happiness and laughs she gave us on Doctor Who for the last thirty years.

I think that this weekend it's time to see Sarah Jane and Elisabeth Sladen in action again, perhaps in "Genesis of the Daleks" or "Pyramids of Mars," or maybe even in "The Ark in Space."

We'll miss you, Sarah Jane.


  1. Boy didn't the camera love her John. I second your feelings behind this wonderful tribute.

    It was incredibly untimely. I had no idea. I was stunned. I'm in Florida. I pick up the paper and I was just bowled over.

    Needless to say I loved her as well. She was a spunky heroine and atypical and I loved that about her.

    I loved her so much that I was willing to purchase the Sarah Jane Adventures on the sheer knowledge that I would enjoy seeing her work when I finally got around to it one day.

    So sad. She will be so sincerely missed.

  2. Somehow, it doesn't seem altogether odd that when I found out this sad news on Tuesday, it was a rainy, stormy day.

    Elisabeth Sladen's passing is shocking and unexpected, just weeks before the DVD release of "Planet of the Spiders", where (ironically) Jon Pertwee's Doctor expires before Sarah Jane prior to his next regeneration. Hopefully, a future Tom Baker reissue will include an extended tribute to her.

    As to your prospective Doctor Who shows you'll watch in her memory, JKM, be sure to include "The Time Warrior", too; her debut as Sarah Jane Smith is pretty cool, in its own right!

  3. Brian1:09 AM

    I just watched "Pyramids of Mars" on Netflix yesterday after I heard the news. I have yet to watch the final three episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures, and now it will be somewhat hard to do so. But I shall.

    Thanks, Lis.

  4. I am a huge Doctor Who fan (have your book on the subject, John) and this was a blow to me. Ruined my productivity at work yesterday because Sarah Jane really was one of the best companions on the show. She was also marvelous on her spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which might have been for kids, but it was entertaining for adults as well.

    She will be missed.

  5. Anonymous8:11 AM

    Sarah Jane is wonderful memory and role-model from my childhood. A strong female character in scifi when such were few and far between. Now it is my son who loves her character in the Sarah Jane Adventures. What a wonderful tribute that the character she created is alive to another generation. I dearly hope that they do release the 3 episodes of the 5th series she was able to complete filming. RIP, Lis.


  6. Thank you all for contributing such lovely and heart-felt remembrances regarding Elisabeth Sladen, a beloved and talented performer.

    SFF: I couldn't believe the news when I read it on your blog last night. Just terrible, terrible news. It's a testament to her portrayal of Sarah that you purchased those DVDs, series unseen. You knew she could deliver what you were interested in, and based on your enjoyment of her work in the past. I should do likewise (didn't realize the show was already available on DVD!).

    Fang Shih-Yu: Yes indeed, I should add The Time Warrior to that last. I've always really liked the Sontarans as villains, and that serial is a lot of fun, as I recall.

    Brian: A splendid tribute, watching Pyramids of Mars, I'd say. Those last three Sarah Jane Adventures will be hard to watch, knowing they represent her final work. I'd very much like to check out the series in its entirety.

    Nate: I totally sympathize with your feelings, and indeed, I share them. Productivity goes out the window when something like this occurs, and your memory just keeps going to back to old images; of moments you enjoyed. I understand. Ms. Sladen shall be missed, indeed.

    Hi Meredith: Sarah Jane was a role model for all of us, one and all. She was kind, strong, dogged and tough. She truly is my favorite companion.

    Thank you all for sharing such beautiful thoughts about Elisabeth Sladen.


  7. HPrice8:20 PM

    Its such sad news isn't it? I don't think I've been as upset by the death of someone I didn't know since Douglas Adams passed on.

    Sarah Jane Smith was my favourite companion bar none. She was feisty, curious, funny, and just plain lovely.

    And I really think that Elisabeth Sladen was one of the most underrated and under used talents in British tv. I mean why noone picked her up for someone after she left Dr Who, the first time still baffles me.

    She's one of the few actresses that really hold ones attention even sometimes when the Doctor (who usually takes up all your attention when on screen) is present.

    She will be sorely missed by those of us who never knew her but always had a special place in our hearts. She will always be our Sarah Jane Smith. RIP ...

    Best wishes

    Harvey Price, Christchurch, NZ

    ps God and she was only 63 too ... so young.