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Elisabeth Sladen Remembered - Her Life and Adventures as Sarah Jane Smith

Updated on November 14, 2012

Mourning a Cultural Icon...

Much loved actress Elisabeth Sladen has died at the age of 63. Best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who, Elisabeth managed to make this role into a career all by itself. Thirty years after her first Doctor Who appearance, she was given her own spin off series "The Sarah Jane Adventures", along with guest appearances as Sarah Jane in the recently re-vamped Doctor Who.

The following is a celebration of her life, career and the most loved Doctor Who companion of all time...

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Early Years

Elisabeth was born on 1st February 1948 in Liverpool, and from an early age showed an interest in performing. She took dance lessons from the age of five, and after leaving school spent two years at drama school. Following this, she worked for a time as an assistant stage manager at the Liverpool Playhouse, where she met her husband Brian Miller. The two married in 1968, and remained so until her death.

Elisabeth's first screen appearance was as an extra on "Ferry Across the Mersey" in 1965, after which she appeared in numerous television roles, most notably in "Coronation Street" and "Z-Cars". However, the role of her life was yet to come...

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Doctor Who

In 1973, Elisabeth Sladen joined the cast of the ever popular Dr Who, alongside Jon Pertwee. She continued with the series following his departure, this time with Tom Baker, who was arguably the most popular Doctor of the original series. During her three years as a regular cast member, Elisabeth's own poularity soared, and when she left in 1976, her departure made front page news (unheard of for a Doctor Who companion)!

Elisabeth revived this role several times, with guest appearances. First, in "The Five Doctors" (1983), the 20th aniversary special, and then alongside David Tennant after the series returned for the 21st century. In addition, Sarah Jane has also appeared in the Dr Who spin offs "K9 and Company" (1981) and more recently her own series "The Sarah Jane Adventures" (2007-2010).

Elisabeth Sladen's first appearance in Dr Who - The Time Warrior (1973)

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Quotes from Elisabeth Sladen

"When Sadie was about two, I went up to see lovely Paddy Stone, then casting director for Emmerdale, about becoming one of the regulars. I'd had to work extra hours on another TV job and I kept looking at the clock. I just thought 'My God, I'm not giving this 100 per cent. Someone else should have this job'. Paddy said to me after 'Why did you talk yourself out of that job?' But you've got to be available, otherwise casting people don't like it, quite rightly, and there's always 10 or 20 people waiting to replace you." (Internet Movie Database)

"I left Sarah Jane a great many years ago, but she never left me," (Washington Post)

"In Corrie, I played Anita Reynolds, Len Fairclough's new girlfriend, and I was in it for five or six episodes. But oh I loved Z Cars. If you see it a clip of it now it sill holds up incredibly well - really good actors, great directors, and flying by the seat of your pants. You kept on learning, and there were always places for you to learn, which there aren't so many of for young actors now." (Internet Movie Database)

"I sometimes think, 'If I knew what made Sarah Jane so popular, I'd bottle it,'" ( Wired News (blog) 2008)

"Sometimes good television doesn't depend on money, it depends on imagination and good people directing, casting and doing the job with talented people. Then you're forgiven a great deal, I think, if sometimes something doesn't look quite on the money." (Internet Movie Database)

Clip from K9 & Company (1981)

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Tributes to Elisabeth Sladen

David Tennant said: "I just can't believe that Lis is gone. She seemed invincible. The same woman who enchanted my childhood, enchanted my time on Doctor Who and enchanted generations who have watched her and fallen in love with her – just like I did. I feel very honoured to have shared a TARDIS with Sarah Jane Smith, and I feel very lucky to have shared some time with Lis Sladen. She was extraordinary."

Matt Smith said: "What struck me about Lis was her grace. She welcomed me, educated me, and delighted me with her tales and adventures on Doctor Who. And she also seemed to have a quality of youth that not many people retain as they go through life. Her grace and kindness will stay with me because she had such qualities in abundance and shared them freely. I will miss her, as will the world of Doctor Who and all the Doctors that had the good pleasure to work with Lis Sladen and travel the universe with Sarah Jane."

The creator of The Sarah Jane Adventures Russell T Davies 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."

Steven Moffat, Doctor Who's lead writer and executive producer said: "'Never meet your heroes' wise people say. They weren't thinking of Lis Sladen.

"Sarah Jane Smith was everybody's hero when I was younger, and as brave and funny and brilliant as people only ever are in stories. But many years later, when I met the real Sarah-Jane – Lis Sladen herself – she was exactly as any child ever have wanted her to be. Kind and gentle and clever; and a ferociously talented actress, of course, but in that perfectly English unassuming way.

“There are a blessed few who can carry a whole television show on their talent and charisma – but I can't think of one other who's done it quite so politely. I once showed my son Joshua an old episode of Doctor Who, in which Lis appeared. 'But that's Sarah Jane,' he said, confused, 'In old Doctor Who. From years ago. How come she always look exactly the same?' It's not a comfort today, of course, but children will still be saying that 50 years from now."

John Barrowman - who co-starred alongside Elisabeth when she returned to 'Doctor Who' in 2006 - explained he is "proud" to have worked alongside "such an icon".

Some of Elisabeth Sladen's most memorable performances from Amazon...

Elisabeth Sladen Interview

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Credits

The Sarah Jane Adventures (TV series)

Sarah Jane Smith

2010 SJA: Alien Files (TV series)

Sarah Jane Smith

2006-2010 Doctor Who (TV series)

Sarah Jane Smith (Several guest appearances as listed below)

- The End of Time: Part Two (2010) Sarah Jane Smith

- Journey's End (2008) Sarah Jane Smith

- The Stolen Earth (2008) Sarah Jane Smith

- Turn Left (2008) Sarah Jane Smith (uncredited)

- School Reunion (2006) Sarah Jane Smith

2009 The Sarah Jane Adventures Comic Relief Special (TV movie)

Sarah Jane Smith

1996 Faith in the Future (TV series)

Sophie

1996 Peak Practice (TV series)

Dr. Pat Hewland

1995 Downtime (video)

Sarah Jane Smith

1994 Men of the World (TV series)

Lorraine

1993 Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time (TV short)

Sarah Jane Smith

1989 The Bill (TV series)

Mrs. Preston

1986 Alice in Wonderland (TV movie)

Dormouse

1985 Dempsey and Makepeace (TV series)

Mrs. Barrett

1983 Doctor Who The Five Doctors (TV series)

Sarah Jane Smith

1973-1976 Doctor Who (TV series)

Sarah Jane Smith

1982 Gulliver in Lilliput (TV movie)

Lady Flimnap

1981 K-9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend (TV movie)

Sarah Jane Smith

1980 Play for Today (TV series)

Jo

1980 In Loving Memory (TV series)

Mary Bennett

1980 Betzi (TV movie)

Countess Bertrand

1980 Silver Dream Racer

Bank Secretary (as Elizabeth Sladen)

1979 Take My Wife... (TV series)

Josie Hall

1978 Send in the Girls (TV series)

Beverley

1973-1976 Doctor Who (TV series)

Sarah Jane Smith

1973 Special Branch (TV series)

Policewoman

1973 Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (TV series)

Judy

1972 Public Eye (TV series)

Policewoman

1971-1972 Z Cars (TV series)

Valerie Hollingsworth / Rose

1972 Doomwatch (TV series)

Sarah Collins

1970 Coronation Street (TV series)

Anita Reynolds

1968 ITV Playhouse (TV series)

Hotel maid

Leave your tributes and memories of Elisabeth Sladen below

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    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      a fantastic tribute to a wonderful actress!

    • profile image

      Daisydreamz 5 years ago

      The Sarah Jane Adventures is awesome! The last episode of the new series is on Monday on CBBC. So going to miss it! She was an amazing woman. Best wishes for her.

    • TriviaChamp profile image

      TriviaChamp 6 years ago

      Awesome! Blessed.