Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Goodbye Elisabeth Sladen

Just heard the very sad news that Elisabeth Sladen has died.

I remembered her as Sarah Jane Smith alongside Doctor Who (played by both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker) in the mid 70's. Recently, of course, she was Sarah Jane Smith all over again, just in time for my own children to see what I'd been banging on about all those years.

The Actress Elisabeth Sladen - and as Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who

Incredibly she was as good this time round. Possibly even better. This was no lacklustre come-back like that of some celebrities desperately clinging to past successes. This was a thoughtful and inventive update of the original Sarah Jane Smith investigating how her past might have influenced who she had become.

On one level you could put it down to Russell T Davis affection for and brilliant reinvention of the original character that her returning cameo in Doctor Who worked so well. But you can't build a successful children's TV series around anyone less than a star and four series of The Sarah Jane Adventures showed just what a star she was.

Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith was a strong, independent woman from the off. Despite the press constantly banging on about the latest companion being 'different', 'stronger' and 'not just there to scream and be rescued' - she was a single woman and freelancing journalist, digging the 'superior' Doctor out of his own messes time after time. In 1976.

It was great to see her return and be so brilliant. Even stronger than before. A model for an older woman is still a rare thing. In 2011.

Quite often The Sarah Jane Adventures were more like the Doctor Who I remember as a kid, than the new Doctor Who series itself. Mixing adventure and children is always problematic - in case some Mary Whitehouse type accuses you of encouraging children to get involved in dangerous situations - so it falls to someone special to create the perfect safe character who can treat the children with respect and their ideas with credibility, while still being there to pick up the pieces if it all goes wrong. Elisabeth Sladen appeared to do this effortlessly.

It is such a shame that she is gone. A very talented actress, wife and mother who touched many lives.

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