Thursday, 21 April 2011

Elisabeth Sladen, 1946-2011

We don't really 'do' obituaries, but I'm a Doctor Who fan (as you may have noticed) and this week's excitement about the new series was cut sadly short by the death of Elisabeth Sladen, the Doctor's companion Sarah Jane Smith.

I wasn't even born when she was first in Doctor Who, back in 1973. In fact, the first time I can remember seeing her in the show would be her appearance with David Tennant, which really was not so long ago. But it's a tragic loss to two separate generations of fans - those who loved her in the 70s, and those who only came to know her through the recent appearances and her spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

So this weekend's series opener will be tinged with sadness - and presumedly some kind of on-screen tribute to Lis Sladen - and because I have a slightly loose grip on reality, I keep thinking "poor K-9".

Reading around the web in the past few days, I've been touched - as I think Lis would be - by the tributes to her from colleagues and from people who never even met her. Tom Baker probably knew her better than most as Sarah Jane, and his comments - delivered in esoteric Baker style - give the briefest of glimpses into her inner modesty.

"She was adored by Barry Letts, the producer who cast her in the role. She always said she was Barry's girl. It was for that reason she decided to leave the show. But it was not necessary at all. The fans adored her."
- Tom Baker

And it's true - the past four years or so have proved that more, probably, than any time in Lis's earlier life. While she has been fighting the cancer that ultimately killed her, a nation of new people have fallen in love with her.

The Newsround website has one of the best tribute pages - it's simply filled with comment after comment from Lis's young fans aged, mostly, from about 7 to 14. Here are a couple of examples:

"I feel very sad and my mum started to cry as she watched Elisabeth when she was little in Doctor Who. We will both miss her."
David, 9, Essex

"When my friend told me, I didn't believe him. I refused to believe one of the greatest actresses had died. She will never be forgotten."
Noama, 11, Gloucestershire

"I can't believe she's gone, it just hasn't sunk in. I couldn't stop crying when I found out. The world has lost an amazing woman. In the words of The Doctor, 'Goodbye my Sarah Jane'."
Emily, 14, Plymouth

- Newsround

Elisabeth Sladen leaves behind husband Brian Miller, daughter Sadie, a generation of heartbroken fans, a 1,000-year-old man whose pseudonym Mr Smith will forever pay tribute to her, and one tin dog. Sad, K-9? "Affirmative."

CBBC's tribute to Elisabeth Sladen, entitled My Sarah Jane, is due to screen at 6:45pm on Saturday, April 23rd, and will be available on BBC iPlayer soon after.

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