Friday, 22 April 2011

My Sarah Jane...

Following the untimely passing of the wonderful Lis Sladen, just a few thoughts about her time as the quintessential Doctor Who companion, Sarah Jane Smith.....


I first discovered Sarah Jane in the pages of the 1973 Radio Times Special, devoted to the ( then ) 10-year history of Doctor Who. As well as presenting an unprecedented episode guide, interviews with Doctors, companions and Terry Nation, and a build-your-own-Dalek schematic, this special introduced the concept of "spoilers" to my 6-year old mind as it previewed the 1973-4 season 11 of Doctor Who. On a single page we were treated to episode titles, short descriptions of each story and a photo of new companion Sarah Jane being menaced by Lynx the Sontaran. I wouldn't have known it at the time, but big changes were coming for Doctor Who, the show that I'd recently discovered but was already obsessed with. The "Unit family" was breaking up, with Katy Manning's Jo Grant already gone, and the Doctor himself due for a change at the end of the season. The introduction of Sarah Jane was a pointer to the future. As a vaguely-feminist ( that soon got toned down! ), feisty-but-vulnerable "investigative journalist", Sarah Jane's character was a precursor to the more modern companions to come. She didn't really suit the over-protective, paternalistic Third Doctor, but her character bloomed with the introduction of the unpredictable, oddball Fourth.....

The Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane ( or just "Sarah" as he usually referred to her ) were best friends who roamed the universe of space and time, finding adventure and terror, wonder and excitement. Apart from the odd occasion ( like that ridiculous tumble down a not-that-steep-at-all slope in The Five Doctors ) Sarah Jane was not your typical screaming and ankle-twisting damsel-in-distress. Sarah was kind, thoughtful and fiercely loyal to the Doctor, but would still question him when the situation called for it, especially that time in the Kaled bunker.....

Elisabeth Sladen brought a warmth and humanity to the part of Sarah Jane that ensured she would be remembered as the most-loved Doctor Who companion. And, many years later, she returned to the character when Sarah Jane was revived for David Tennant's second series, and provided a nostalgic link from "old" Doctor Who to the 21st century version.


But, of course, it wasn't all about nostalgia, as Sarah Jane was promoted to her own spin-off series of The Sarah Jane Adventures, once again saving the world on a weekly basis. This series proved to be well-made and popular in its own right, and was a lovely late-career boost for Ms. Sladen. Her interpretation of an older Sarah Jane was a revelation, especially the scenes she shared with her new-found teenage "family". Elisabeth was brilliant at showing us a Sarah Jane who had become aloof and spiky after years of fighting monsters on her own, but found her heart thawing under the influence of her "son", Luke, and his gang of friends. Most importantly, Elisabeth Sladen gave us a Sarah Jane Smith for a new generation; a generation who need brave, honest, old-school heroes in this age of cynicism and anti-heroes.

Sadly, Elisabeth Sladen and Sarah Jane Smith left us this week, taking with her/them a part of the childhood of two generations. Fans like me can't, of course, feel a fraction of the pain and loss that Ms. Sladen's family and friends are feeling right now, and my heart goes out to them.

RIP Elisabeth Sladen, our Sarah Jane.....

5 comments:

M. D. Jackson said...

Excellent post, Cerebus.

joe bloke said...

well said, that man.

cerebus660 said...

Thanks, guys...

Mickey Glitter said...

Awesome. Touching. I have grieved for her family, too and I think the first bout of tears I shed for real were for husband and daughter because it hit so close to home and at just about the same time of year.

Lovely post, Cerebus.

cerebus660 said...

Sorry, Mickey - I've only just noticed your comment. I very rarely look back through old comments. Thanks for the kind words, as ever.

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