It is with a degree of shock that I’m writing this, as when I first read that Elisabeth Sladen had died of cancer I thought I must have been reading it wrong. How could this possibly be the case when The Sarah Jane Adventures has just won an award for best Children’s drama at the Royal Television Society Awards.
But true it sadly is. One of Doctor Who’s best loved assistants (perhaps even the best loved), when Elisabeth Sladen reprised her role as Sarah Jane Smith in the rebooted Doctor Who it was almost as if she had just travelled forward in time in the TARDIS herself. She looked almost exactly how you remembered her looking back in the late Seventies and early Eighties, and certainly not like a woman in her Sixties!
Elisabeth first appeared as Sarah Jane in 1973, alongside Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, when previous assistant Jo Grant (Katy Manning) decided to leave the series. Sarah Jane Smith was an uncompromising journalist who gave the Doctor a good run for his money, putting him in his place on occasion.
Amazingly she was only on Doctor Who for three years, leaving in 1976 with Tom Baker now playing the timelord. This apparently made front page news, something which was usual reserved for the regenerating Doctor. I guess it feels like she was on the show for so much longer partly because they made a lot more episodes per season back then, but also because she was such a good assistant.
Whilst the Sarah Jane Adventures may be doing incredibly well now, it is not the first show devoted to Sarah Jane. That honour goes to the perhaps best forgotten K9 and Company made in 1981, which saw Sarah Jane, back on Earth after her travels with the Doctor, finding a package addressed to her containing the inimitable robot dog. Still, it’s good that this programme got made, as it gave a perfect excuse for them to allow K9 to return alongside Sarah Jane in more recent times.
One further surprise I got whilst reading up about Elisabeth Sladen’s other work outside of Doctor Who is that she also did a stint as a presenter on a kids TV show called Stepping Stones. This is a programme that I’ve been meaning to write about on this site for a while, but since I remembered very little about it except the title music I’ve never quite got around to it. Looks like perhaps I should now.
Rest in peace Ms. Sladen. Modern Kids TV has just lost one of its better TV shows, and at least two generations of Doctor Who fans will be in mourning.