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).