Wednesday, April 20, 2011

So Long, Sarah Jane

Caption: Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) tries to calm down the newly regenerated Doctor (Tom Baker) in the Doctor Who episode Robot

Image credit: Screenshots of Doctor Who episode "Robot" by Cujo359

I heard about this from a friend this evening:
Doctor Who star Elisabeth Sladen, who was also in spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, has died aged 63.

Sladen appeared as Doctor Who assistant Sarah Jane Smith in the BBC television sci-fi series between 1973 and 1976, opposite Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

The Liverpool-born actress appeared in four series from 2007 of The Sarah Jane Adventures on children's channel CBBC.

Sladen had been battling cancer for some time and leaves actor husband Brian Miller and daughter Sadie.

Doctor Who Actress Elisabeth Sladen Dies
Even in the late 1970s and early '80s, one of the few places women would be featured in the roles of strong, independent characters was in television science fiction. Sarah Jane Smith was such a character. She was a smart, centered professional who didn't take guff from either The Doctor or Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

Caption: Sarah Jane enjoys putting Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) off-balance.

In some ways, Sarah Jane was a prototype for many of the Doctor's later companions. Rather than always needing to be rescued by the Doctor or his male companions, she would sometimes be the one to rescue them. In a time when few TV writers seemed to know how to make strong female characters work, Elisabeth Sladen managed to take what they produced and carry it off. Her character was so popular that a recent reappearance on the new Doctor Who series was the basis for a spin-off series featuring Sarah Jane.

There are quite a few science fiction fans who will mourn her passing.

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