The role of the companion is equally important to the role of The Doctor in Doctor Who. It can be argued that no other companion in the program’s 50-year history is more universally beloved than Sarah Jane Smith. Today we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the character and the accomplishments of her portrayer, the late Elisabeth Sladen.
Sarah Jane: 40th Anniversary
I love Alex Kingston’s portrayal of River Song just as I praise Catherine Tate for Donna Noble. Yet, neither have the emotional connection that came with Sarah Jane Smith. I share with you the following post dated April 19, 2013 remembering Elisabeth Sladen on her passing as it describes my own admiration for her and Sarah. I do this in acknowledgement of the 40th anniversary of Sarah Jane’s first appearance.
Remembering Elisabeth Sladen: Our Sarah Jane Smith
I still recall where I was just two years ago today at approximately 3:30pm CST. I was at work and enjoying a presentation being made to the Sales Team about social media. The meeting was drawing to a close and the others were beginning to shut down laptops, gather papers and getting up to leave. I, as I find myself doing quite often, checked the news reader I happened to use at the time. I can’t recall which one but I do recall what I read because it took my breath away.
Elisabeth Sladen’s Death
I think I was visibly shaken. No, I am sure of it. I was in shock and I cried that afternoon on the way home listening to Song of Freedom from the Doctor Who soundtrack. It was unbelievable. No..not Sarah Jane!
One might say that “oh, it’s just a TV show. This is JUST a character.” Well, it might be true for one to say that. It might be true to say that Sarah Jane was just a fictional character when, in reality, that IS the truth. But, for fans of Doctor Who, Sarah Jane Smith was and still is so very much more!
I still have not watched the final season of The Sarah Jane Adventures. I still find it difficult to watch episodes with her.
For a television show that has been on as long as Doctor Who, what makes Sarah Jane so special?
Our Sarah Jane Smith
I watched Doctor Who on PBS in the late 70s/early 80s and I remember Sarah Jane from her travels with the Fourth Doctor. My actual recollection of watching the stories then is quite vague but, nonetheless, I remember. Imagine my surprise to find out that Elisabeth Sladen would reprise the role of Sarah Jane Smith back in 2006 and meet the Tenth Doctor. Imagine the chills when you see her again for the first time.
But, wait. I’ve gotten ahead of myself. So, let’s go back again to the 70s.
Traveling with the Doctor
Sarah Jane Smith was introduced as a companion to the Third Doctor and was present during the regeneration from the Third to the Fourth. She went on to travel with the Fourth Doctor before he left her to return to Gallifrey. Elisabeth Sladen’s portrayal of Sarah Jane made her a fan favorite during the 70s and she remained so even after leaving. While everyone has their favorite companion just as they do their favorite Doctor most would say that Sarah Jane was THE companion. She was the companion you wanted to meet. She was the best-friend you wanted to have. She was….well…Sarah Jane.
Her departure from the show was her last as a regular companion it was not her last appearance. Sarah Jane returned in 1981 for the K-9 & Company special. She returned again in 1983 for the 20th anniversary. Elisabeth Sladen may have left Doctor Who but she did not leave Sarah Jane. And, because of this, I will always say that she is my personal favorite. As much as I love the portrayal of River Song by Alex Kingston…..she isn’t Sarah Jane.
The Sarah Jane Adventures
Magic happened. Pure television magic. That is all it could be to see Sarah reunited with David Tenant’s Tenth Doctor. Time went away and, once again, there they were…The Doctor and Sarah Jane. The return of K-9 just served as the proverbial icing on the cake. This episode connected the return of Doctor Who to the classic childhood episodes. Elisabeth’s return did this for me and tethered the two generations.
Magic continued when it was announced that the BBC had commissioned a new Doctor Who spin-off featuring Sarah Jane. The program was appropriately named The Sarah Jane Adventures running for four successful series (seasons) prior to her death. In addition, Sarah Jane returned for two episodes of Doctor Who in 2008 and appeared on January 01, 2010 in The End of Time Part II, the final episode of the Tenth Doctor. The Sarah Jane Adventures, however, saw appearances of both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors in various episodes.
After reading, please take a moment to leave a comment sharing your favorite Sarah Jane moment.
Impact of Death
This is a testament that Doctor Who is only a TV show. Wait….didn’t I say that Sarah was MORE than a character? Yes. I did. But, there is a reason I changed the title of this post from Remembering Sarah Jane to Remembering Elisabeth Sladen. As much as I enjoyed Sarah Jane, it was the woman who I never met that made her possible. It was Elisabeth who died. For all of us who are Whovians and who mourn the passing of this character that is NOTHING compared to those who lost her as a family member, a co-worker or as a friend. And, in the end, it is a lesson to us all that death is a part of life. It impacts us all.
So, I leave you with this. Time is precious regardless if it is with TV or if in real life.Enjoy the time with loved ones. And, to Elisabeth, I say “THANK YOU” for auditioning for a role that touched millions. Thank you for being our Sarah Jane Smith. May you rest in peace.
The following YouTube video is a titled Babelcolour Memorial: Tears for Sarah Jane.