Elisabeth Sladen – The One and Only

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Doctor Who TV contributor Ash Smith pays tribute to Elisabeth Sladen.

When a little girl by the name of Elisabeth Claira Heath Sladen was born on February 1st 1948, who would have thought that she would grow up and become one of the most well known and much loved actress’s to grace British television screens. Of course, to Whovians, Elisabeth was the wonderful Sarah Jane Smith. A name that will live forever throughout time and space, never to be forgotten.

She was first cast in Doctor Who as the investigative journalist in 1973, alongside the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and later, the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker). Elisabeth stayed as the Doctor’s companion for three and a half years, always receiving praise and high acclaim for the way she took to her role so well.

Elisabeth left the role initially in 1976. This was front page news at the time, where normally only a change of the lead role of the Doctor would only get this kind of media attention. This cemented just how good she was and how much she was loved by fans of the show.

Sarah Jane Smith didn’t return to our screens until 1983 when she accepted an invitation from producers to appear in the episode, The Five Doctors, for the 20th Anniversary special. Following that, Elisabeth also appeared in a Children in Need special and various Big Finish Audio productions.

After Doctor Who returned in 2005, Elisabeth reprised the role the following year in the episode, School Reunion, alongside David Tennant and the tin dog that is K-9.

In 2007, Elisabeth was given her own spin-off series on CBBC – The Sarah Jane Adventures, which proved to be a huge hit for the channel and its most popular show.  She also appeared again in Doctor Who the last two episodes of Series 4 Stolen Earth and Journey’s End.

Elisabeth made her final ever appearance in Doctor Who in, The End of Time, Part 2, when she waved a tearful goodbye to the Doctor, knowing that this would be the last time that she would see that incarnation of the Time Lord. Of course, she then met the newly regenerated Doctor, currently being played by Matt Smith, in the Sarah Jane Adventure, Death of the Doctor, also starring alongside another former companion, Katy Manning.

For me personally, Elisabeth Sladen was by far the best actress to play a companion in the Doctor Who Series. Witty, brave and always on par with the Doctor. She always tried to help in any way she could, without any fear of what might happen to her. Sarah Jane Smith was so inquisitive as to what was going on in the universe, you just couldn’t help but love her.

My best memory of Elisabeth as Sarah Jane Smith was in the last episode of her first stint of the show in The Hand of Fear. When the Fourth Doctor is called back to Gallifrey, he is unable to take humans back to the planet with him, so he said goodbye and dropped her back on earth. But it was only after the TARDIS was gone that Sarah Jane realised that the Doctor had left her in completely the wrong part of the UK. Picking up her belongings, she walked off into the distance, on to another fantastic adventure.

Elisabeth Sladen, born 1st February 1948 -- died 19th April 2011.

RIP Elisabeth. Always in our thoughts. Flying through the stars, throughout time and space, forever.