Elisabeth Sladen died yesterday, at 63, apparently after a long battle with cancer. It seems at best a bit daft to weep over someone you’ve only ever known via a fictional character, and my thoughts are with her husband, daughter and friends – but I clearly wasn’t the only old Whovian last night watching Genesis of the Daleks with something in their eye.
Sarah Jane Smith was on telly the day I was born, wearing a woolly hat, orange wellies and a yellow pac-a-mac and getting tied up with string by Mr Potato Head. My Doctor was that blond chap with the celery, so the first time I saw her in action was in The Five Doctors, where she zoomed gleefully about in Bessie with Jon Pertwee and made you not mind at all that Mr ‘teeth and curls’ had declined the invite. Lately, I’ve adored her on The Sarah Jane Adventures, where an older single woman and her adopted son define ‘family’ and get to save the world by being clever and brave and relying on each other. It’s the show that comes closest to the Doctor Who I watched as a kid, all cliffhangers and Lord Reith – and despite being set in Ealing, since it’s filmed in my old home town I know that attic is actually just round the corner from my old school, and with a little helpful time-travel, I could’ve been Rani or Maria.
Here’s her crowning moment in the original series, I think: reminds you what a wonderful performer she was.
I’ll give your love to Harry, and the Brigadier… *sniffs*