Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Elisabeth Sladen: Sarah Jane of 'Who' passes

Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith) with Tom Baker (The Doctor)
I have been down today after finding out about the death of Elisabeth Sladen, 63, who played Sarah Jane Smith, companion on "Doctor Who" during the Pertwee and Tom Baker years.

Her perky journalist character was a favorite because she was one of the first companions I knew because I picked up the series on PBS dung the Baker years. She also had one of the longest runs of any Who companion.

This happens to me occasionally. When someone who has been a seminal part of my younger life (as she was with the Who series) passes, I get a little depressed. (Another time I felt this way was with the death of legendary wrestling commentator Gordon Solie, as my brother and I watched Championship Wrestling from Florida religiously on the weekends.)

As cheesy as early "Doctor Who" was in special effects, the series lasted because of its intriguing characters and plots. And while there were hated or forgettable companions like the boy mathematician Adric, characters like Sladen's Sarah Jane enhanced the weekly adventures of the Doctor.

Sladen with David Tennant
Who fans were lucky enough to see Elisabeth on two spin-offs, the short-lived "K9 and Friends" and the continuing "Sarah Jane Adventures" (of which there is another season filmed and ready for broadcast.) She also appeared on Who specials and as guest spots on the Tennant and Smith series.

I'll always remember her younger years: bright-eyed, adventurous, longing for the approval of a man from space even though she had become his equal in many ways.

Elisabeth Sladen passed away from cancer April 18, 2011. She is survived by her husband, actor Brian Miller, and her daughter Sadie.

Sarah Jane, you will be missed.