Whoydensday: Vale Lis Sladen 1948-2011

Elisabeth Sladen

Elisabeth Sladen, our beloved Sarah Jane Smith, has died, aged 63. She died after a struggle with cancer that she chose not to make public.

Lis Sladen has touched many people through her portrayal of Sarah Jane, both in Doctor Who between 1973 and 1976, and in The Sarah Jane Adventures, between 2007 and 2010. I am one of them. I didn’t watch Doctor Who before the 2005 re-boot of the series, but when I went back and watched the older episodes, Sarah Jane quickly became my favourite companion, while The Sarah Jane Adventures was a breath of fresh air in the usually male-centric Whoniverse. Sarah Jane always will be a wonderful feminist role model, and Lis Sladen will always mean a lot to girls and women around the world for that reason.

I recall reading that, when Lis Sladen left Doctor Who for the first time — back in 1976 — she requested that her final episode be a happy one. She didn’t want her departure to be full of tears, and angst at her leaving, and I have to wonder (although of course I can’t know), if she was similarly motivated here. Regardless, it is certainly true, that for her fans, her final years were joyful ones, in which her achievements in The Sarah Jane Adventures were highlighted. While I’m greatly saddened by her death, and I can’t help but think that it came too soon, I have the feeling that she would want her fans to concentrate on the good things — the things that gave them joy.

So pour yourself a glass of wine tonight, put on your favourite Sarah Jane story, and if you believe in such things, imagine that Lis Sladen and Nick Courtney are having a drink too, somewhere “over there”. (And if you’re like me and you don’t believe in such things, imagine it anyway, because it’s a nice image).

Categories: arts & entertainment, fun & hobbies, gender & feminism

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12 replies

  1. I do believe in an ‘over there’, and it’s surely bringing me comfort. I could never remember the actual content of the Doctor Who episodes of my childhood, just remembered watching them while playing with my siblings. It wasn’t until the reboot that I watched them again and remembered everything. I remembered Sarah Jane. I never forgot her. Tom Baker was my first Doctor, and she was my first Companion. A lot of New Who fans are mad for Rose because she was their first Companion, but Sarah Jane was mine.
    I’m stunned and saddened and I’ll miss the opportunity to see her beautiful smile in new Who Canon. But I’ll celebrate all the hard work she put into a brilliant and unforgettable role.
    Above all, my heart is with her friends and family. I hope they keep themselves well in the following months and years. I will be thinking of them.

  2. I can’t remember ever being this gutted by a celebrity death before. Sarah Jane was my idol when I was a little girl.

  3. A lovely post on a very sad day. I was doing okay right up until you mentioned Nic Courtney!
    I grew up with a die-hard Doctor Who fan (my brother), and I really think that the show’s many inspiring female characters were a great influence on both of us when we were young.

  4. 😦

  5. A wonderful tribute from Tom Baker: http://www.tom-baker.co.uk/pages/content/index.asp?PageID=159

    Like everyone else, it seems, he had no idea that she was ill.

  6. And I agree with Twitter folks who are saying that this is the saddest goodbye tribute of all:
    (I had to stop looking at it because it was MAKING ME CRY. But it’s worth it.)

  7. http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/newsid_9460000/newsid_9463000/9463099.stm
    Look at what she meant to the kids. She was a hero to both boys and girls, but it must be so hard for a kid to lose a hero like Sarah Jane. This, the Dork Tower tribute and Tom Baker’s words had tears streaming down my face. The next day, and I’m still feeling it terribly. 😦

  8. @Napalmnacey — Those tributes from the kids were wonderful — I think we often underestimate what kids can handle, and it just strikes me that all the kids who are posting there are handling their grief so gracefully. It’s so wonderful that Lis Sladen touched so many generations of people like that.
    @Tigtog — I teared up a few times yesterday, but the Dork Tower panel was what actually made my cry. But in a good way.

  9. Do I have the same wish for Elizabeth Sladen and Sarah Jane that I do for Nicholas Courtney and the Brigadier? Do I want her funeral to be worked into the next season of Doctor Who (or a special, even), or do I want the show to have the illusion that Sarah Jane is still out there?

    I think I want the funeral. A sendoff, and a chance to see her gang one more time.

    And maybe that idea I had for the Brigadier to have been working on something so he helps save the world one more time? For them both, working on it together.

  10. @KB, I don’t think a final decision has been made yet. I’m sure that we’ll see them in some form sometime ⇐ [incredibly helpful 😦 ]

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