The actress who brought to life one of Doctor Who‘s most popular companions has passed away. Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith opposite the third and fourth Doctors before reprising her role in the new series, passed away at the age of 63.
Sladen’s return visit to the show proved so popular that the character was given her own spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures. It wasn’t the first time that a spin-off with Sarah Jane was proposed. The first was K-9 And Company in the early 80’s though only a pilot was made for that series.
“It is with much sadness that we can announce Elisabeth Sladen, the much-loved actress best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and CBBC’s The Sarah Jane Adventures, passed away this morning,” said a spokesperson for the BBC.
“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,” Steven Moffat, the series’s lead writer, said in a statement. “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.”
“I left Sarah Jane a great many years ago, but she never left me,” Sladen said in an interview when the series was launched.
Sladen’s was praised for playing the role with humor and warmth, but she never warmed to science fiction, telling a television audience a couple of years ago that she found the genre was too complex. In an admission sure to shock Doctor Who’s die-hard fans, she said she never even bothered to learn the meaning of the TARDIS, The Doctor’s iconic telephone box-shaped time machine.
“I only learned that after I left,” she said, explaining that the drama in science fiction didn’t come from the aliens or the gadgets. “It’s about relationships,” she said. “It’s about a body of people banding together to overcome adversity.”
The BBC said that Sladen was survived by her husband, actor Brian Miller, and a daughter, Sadie.
Below is Sarah Jane’s final scene on the classic show from “The Hand of Fear.”