19 April 2011

Elisabeth Sladen Dies Aged 63

Some very sad news. One of the best loved actors on children’s TV, Elisabeth Sladen, has died at the age of 63 after a cancer related illness. She is fondly remembered by millions for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in the long running science fiction show, Doctor Who and for the same role in four series of the highly successful spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Russell T Davies, who created The Sarah Jane Adventures, has said: "I absolutely loved Lis. She was funny and cheeky and clever and just simply wonderful. The universe was lucky to have Sarah Jane Smith, the world was lucky to have Lis."

I couldn’t agree more.  The role of an assistant in Doctor Who, back in 1973 when Sladen first became Sarah Jane had traditionally involved little more than looking pretty, asking questions so the Doctor could explain the science in a way the audience could understand and screaming.

Although Sladen did all of the above with aplomb she brought something new to the role of the Doctor’s assistant.  She had an independent and inquiring mind, a tendency to not take the Doctor seriously and to gently rib him and a sense of adventure.  In other words something for an actor to get their teeth in, which is exactly what Sladen did. 

Some of my fondest TV memories from the seventies are of watching Sladen as Smith in a number of escapades.  She was put in to suspended animation, swapped for a robot version, threatened by Daleks, almost trampled by a giant robot and so much more as well. She was by far my favorite assistant in the old show and it was great to see her making a comeback in its newest incarnation.

She later gained success recreating the role in the Sarah Jane Adventures which has been a truly excellent slice of science fiction fun for the young teenage market.  It was also watched and thoroughly enjoyed by plenty of adults in to the bargain- including this one.

So, hats off to Lis Sladen.  A little video tribute at the top of this post, to Abba's Day Before You Came - a melancholy track which suits my mood at the moment very well.

Thank you, Lis Sladen, from both the child and the man in me.

Image Credit WIkimedia