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Elisabeth Sladen: 1948-2011


Very much missing the woman argued often to be the Doctor's most popular assistant...

Elisabeth Sladen 1948-2011

Today it is with a heavy heart that all of us at Shadowlocked bid a fond farewell to one of science fiction’s finest, Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith in the long-running series Doctor Who. She passed away on April 19, 2011 of cancer. She was 63.

Elisabeth Sladen with K9, 1981Elisabeth was born in Liverpool, England on February 1, 1948, and took dance lessons at age five, dancing in one performance with the Royal Ballet. In school, she developed a love for acting, and after grammar school, attended two years of drama school. After that, she worked with the Liverpool Playhouse, where she met her future husband, fellow actor Brian Miller. The two were married in 1968, had one daughter, Sadie Miller, and were together until her untimely death yesterday.

While Elisabeth did some film work, she primarily worked in theater and television. It wasn’t until Katy Manning – Jo Grant on Doctor Who – was preparing to leave, that Z-Cars producer Ron Craddock gave a rousing recommendation to Who producer Barry Letts to hire Sladen. She would become Third Doctor Jon Pertwee’s companion in The Time Warrior, and then go on for several series with Tom Baker, finally leaving after The Hand of Fear.

During her time in the TARDIS, Sladen got to go up against Cybermen, meet Davros and see the beginnings of the Daleks. In 1981, she filmed a pilot for a spin-off series, K-9 And Company, whereupon Sarah Jane receives K-9 Mark III (voiced by John Leeson) as a Christmas present from The Doctor. The pilot failed being picked up for series, but Sladen did reprise the role for the 1983 20th Anniversary special The Five Doctors (also featuring K-9 in a brief cameo). Sladen had been critical in later years of the writing of Sarah Jane in classic Who, being a “cardboard cutout”, but spoke highly of how she had been conceived for her introduction into the new series.

Elisabeth Sladen with Jon PertweeAfter her daughter’s birth in 1985, she went into semi-retirement, doing the occasional television appearance and traveling to the United States for Doctor Who conventions. In 2006, she finally came back to Who in the Tennant episode School Reunion, where she and K-9 meet the Tenth Doctor while investigating strange goings on at a local school. This would lead to a successful spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, in which she investigated unexplained mysteries with the help of neighborhood children and her adopted son, Luke. She also went on to appear in the season 4 two-part finale and a final cameo in David Tennant’s last episode, The End of Time.

Elisabeth Sladen is survived by her husband and daughter, and will be dearly missed by many Doctor Who fans.

I just want to add that it was my great pleasure to interview Elisabeth Sladen a few years ago. She was the first 'real' interview of very many over the following 3-4 years, and I now know, looking back, even though I was quite petrified at the time, that the interview Gods were smiling on me in making Sladen my first effort in that line. Aside from being professional, she was gentle, warm and extraordinarily down-to-Earth - in contradiction to what one would expect both from a fan-favourite and a galactic traveller! We could have done with a lot more of Liz, but give thanks that we got any.

- Martin Anderson, editor-in-chief, Shadowlocked

VIDEO: Liz Sladen - "Don't forget me"

Liz Sladen says goodbye

See also:

Doctor Who complete reviews: School Reunion

Doctor Who companions: The Ultimate Tournament

Read more Doctor Who articles at Shadowlocked


If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.



#1 A sad loss Richard Cosgrove 2011-04-20 11:38
I too had the pleasure of meeting Lis Sladen at a Cult TV convention quite a few years ago now (along with nick Courtney, also sadly departed), and she was a joy to talk to.

Sarah Jane was the first companion that I was aware of, being of the Tom Baker generation, so meeting her was such a thrill, but it also makes this loss all the more poignant for me personally.

Richard Cosgrove
#2 Error in the article Marko 2011-05-10 12:52
"In 1996, she finally came back to Who in the Tennant episode School Reunion, where she and K-9 meet the Tenth Doctor while investigating strange goings on at a local school."

Actually that episode was airen in 2006. Since the new Doctor Who series started 2005. So how could it be 1996?

RIP Elisabeth Sladen. She was great actress.
#3 Thank you Marko... Luke Connolly 2011-05-10 12:59
...for pointing out this slight error. It was a great piece by Caleb - our writer - but we as editors should have picked up on thank you for pointing it out.

I hope this error did not take too much away from this otherwise touching obituary...
#4 Apologies Caleb Leland 2011-05-10 16:24
I did indeed mean to type 2006. I place no blame on my editors, but on myself. I hope you did enjoy the piece, even with mistakes made.
#5 RE: Elisabeth Sladen: 1948-2011 fraser 2013-06-22 18:57
its a shame that Elisabeth sladen died april 2011 aged 65 im really really reallllllllllll lllllllllllllll lllllllllllllll lly sad R.I.P Elisabeth clara-health Sladen xx

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