Apr. 15th, 2011

crazyjane: (eclipse)
Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures, died of cancer. She was only 63.

Sarah Jane Smith was the companion who spent the longest time with the Doctor. She started travelling with him during his third regeneration (Jon Pertwee), and stayed with him after he changed into Tom Baker. After she left, she appeared in a special episode, The Five Doctors.

In 2006 Doctor Who was rebooted in a major way - and much to everyone's delight, Sarah Jane was part of this new universe. She appeared in selected episodes alongside the ninth and tenth Doctors (Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant respectively).

Along the way The Sarah Jane Adventures was born, a children's show in which Sarah Jane struck out on her own against aliens who menaced the world. Along the way she acquired an adopted son and companions of her own. Tennant and the eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) appeared in two memorable episodes - 'The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith' and 'Death of the Doctor'.

A fifth season was planned.

I grew up watching Sarah Jane. Unlike most of the Doctor's female companions to this point, she was feisty. Although she often ended up the prisoner of the Bad Guys of the Week, it didn't stop her going off on her own to do a bit of investigating when the TARDIS landed on a strange planet where something definitely, wasn't right. She faced down the most frightening of the Doctor's enemies, including the Daleks and the Master - and even managed to pull the Doctor out of the odd nasty scrape.

For a young girl growing up in the throes of second wave feminism, she was a wonderful role model - determined to make her own way in the world, a career journalist, and just fearless enough to take huge risks to find out what was going on. I remember taking a picture of Sarah Jane Smith to the hairdresser, and demanding to have the same haircut. And we won't talk about the time I spent practising her accent ...

We introduced Lilygirl and Meglet to The Sarah Jane Adventures, and from there to Doctor Who. And yes, the big kids liked watching SJA as much as the little ones - it became a shared family pleasure. It was a wonderful thing for me, knowing that my girls loved the character as much as I always had.

I don't normally get upset when celebrities die. Usually, my reaction is much more muted - regret, perhaps, or a pang that quickly goes away.

I cried when I read Elisabeth Sladen had died. I'm still upset now, writing this.

She was a part of my childhood, my adulthood, and my children's childhood. There was no one like her - and yes, I know this is as much about the loss of a fictional character as the actress herself, but they're both gone.

Vale Elisabeth Sladen. As Nicholas Pegg wrote this morning, 'beautiful, talented, incomparable ... an idol, a heroine'.

August 2017

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