Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Requiescat in Pace

Actress Elisabeth Sladen has passed away unexpectedly from complications from cancer.

An actress of both stage and television and with a career that spanned decades she is best known in the geek community for her role as Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who.

She arrived on Doctor Who in Jon Pertwee's (the 3rd Doctor)final season on the show to be the new companion character -- a replacement for actress Katy Manning who had played the previous companion Jo Grant.

Sladen was convinced to stay on after Pertwee left to help smooth the road for the new Doctor actor Tom Baker. As it turned out Sladen and Baker got along well together and their onscreen chemistry won over fans for more than a generation.

Sladen left the series in 1976 feeling it was time to move on but she found herself returning again and again. She did a failed pilot for a spin-off series called K-9 and Company and returned to the role again for the 20th anniversary special "The Five Doctors". She also appeared in the 1993 Doctor Who charity special "Children in Need".

In audio she did Doctor Who radio dramas with Jon Pertwee -- "Paradise of Death" in 1993 and "The Ghosts of N Space" in 1996. British audio drama company Big Finish also hired her for two series of spin-off series titled simply Sarah Jane Smith.

When the new series of Doctor Who launched in 2005 it was not long before show runner Russell T. Davies sought out Sladen for an appearance. The episode "School Reunion" brought the character of Sarah Jane back in front of audiences and won her a whole new generation of fans. Sladen's brilliant handling of the character led to RTD deciding to go for a spin-off show featuring Sarah Jane. Unlike the failed K-9 and Company the new Sarah Jane Adventures proved to be a hit.

Aimed at kids, the show never talked down to them and Sladen and the rest of the cast proved adept at presenting oft-times thought provoking stories in a smart but gentle way. The series had run for three seasons and Sladen and the cast and crew were already filming a fourth season when she passed.

No one will EVER forget Lis Sladen either. She's left behind a legacy of a tough, strong, smart, savvy and compassionate character who will hopefully inspire more generations to come. Everyone needs a hero and there is no question that Sarah Jane Smith represented the best kind of hero.

Condolences go out to her family and friends.

I've thrown in some fan-created music videos here to try to put a happier and more upbeat spin on things because I think it's good to celebrate what has been along with mourning what is lost.

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