Elisabeth Sladen: 1948-2011
We're sorry to have to do this, but some terrible, terrible news: Elisabeth Sladen, of Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures, has died at the age of 63.
This is by some distance one of the hardest stories I've ever had to write for this site. And the reason is this: Elisabeth Sladen has died.
Sladen has been known to millions as Sarah Jane Smith in both Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures. It says so much for the appeal of both the character, and the tremendous actress behind her, that the character of Sarah Jane has been enthralling a fresh generation of fans these past few years, while continuing to appeal to those more familiar with the character. Russell T Davies knew what he was doing when he brought the character back when he revived Doctor Who.
But he knew what he was getting with Elisabeth Sladen, who must ultimately take credit for taking what could have been a simple companion role and turning it into one of the best loved in UK science fiction TV. A genuine one-off, her quality on screen was easily matched by her friendliness away from it. And when you step back and think about it, her achievements have been quite sensational. Where else in the world is a woman in her late 50s and then early 60s headlining a major television series?
Elisabeth Sladen had though, it turns out, been suffering from cancer, and according to the BBC, she had had it for some time. Predictably, she kept that away from the public eye, her absolute dignity shining through right to the end.
It feels unfair, horrible and tragic that she's been taken from us at the age of just 63. But my goodness, she leaves behind some very, very special memories.
Elisabeth Sladen, rest in peace. And thank you.