Elisabeth Sladen - 1948-2011
Doctor Who fans across the world can't have missed the sad news of the passing of Elisabeth Sladen yesterday morning. The actress, best known for her generation-spanning role as Sarah Jane Smith in the long-running TV series and more recently in her own spin-off, had been fighting cancer 'for some time' and leaves behind a husband and daughter.
Our thoughts are with her friends and family and there is no doubt that she'll live on in many people's hearts, minds and memories.
On his website, Tom Baker wrote:
"Lis Sladen was very important to me, you know. When I joined the little world of Doctor Who, Lis was already a star. She had an enormous success with Jon Pertwee. She was good pals with the Brigadier, our beloved Nicholas Courtney; she knew all the regular directors. She was adored by Barry Letts, the producer who cast her in the role. She always said she was Barry's girl. It was for that reason she decided to leave the show. But it was not necessary at all. The fans adored her, Philip Hinchcliffe, our new and glamorous producer, adored her, so did David Maloney, her favourite director."
Many more tributes have come in via the BBC from those who worked with her...
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."
Current incarnation of Doctor Who, 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."
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."
Keith Jones, Director, BBC Cymru Wales, said: "The Sarah Jane Adventures has been one of the most successful children's programmes on television in recent years – and without Elisabeth Sladen it would not have happened. A brilliant presence on screen and on set, she brought the excitement and energy of the Doctor Who family of programmes, of which we are very proud at BBC Wales, to a whole new generation. She will be missed by all at BBC Wales who worked with her."
Roger Carey, who represented Lis for many years, said: "She was not just a client, but a dear friend. She was so positive about life and her natural energy was intoxicating. She couldn't believe her luck when her career was resurrected in her own series."