I have just read the very sad news that Elisabeth Sladen, who was most famous with audiences for playing Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures, passed away yesterday morning, reports indicating that this was following a battle with cancer.
I don’t think that many would argue that Sarah Jane was easily one of the most popular companions to ever feature in Doctor Who. She started in the role in 1973 alongside Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor, and continued on after he left the role to star alongside Tom Baker’s regenerated Fourth Doctor. After leaving the role, she was to return for the pilot of spin-off series K9 and Company, a series that was not picked up. She again returned to the role in the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors, starring in this case as the Third Doctor’s companion.
The story of her popularity to Whovians does not end there though. With the reboot of the series in 2005, she appeared again alongside David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. This led to Sarah Jane’s own spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which to date has enjoyed four seasons. Subsequently, Tennant has guest starred on this series, Sarah Jane appeared in the season finale two parter for Doctor Who’s fourth season in the renewed series, and Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor has also guested in SJA. SJA also enjoyed guest appearances from recently passed Nicholas Courtney and the still with us Katy Manning.
Elisabeth Sladen therefore is perhaps just as significant to the Who universe as any actor that have bourne the title of the Doctor. It is ironic in my revisiting the old series, the I only have her final regular appearance episode left to view, that being “The Hand of Fear”. I shall watch it with a greater sense of sadness now.