This was... unexpected. Elisabeth Sladen, who played journalist Sarah Jane Smith alongside Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, and David Tennant on Doctor Who, and Matt Smith on her spinoff series The Sarah Jane Adventures, has died at 63. Apparently, she had been battling cancer and keeping it pretty quiet. Less than a month ago, another Doctor Who actor whom she had appeared on the series alongside, Nicholas Courtney, also died of cancer.
Sarah Jane seems to remain the most popular companion of the original run of the series. After Sladen left the show, she reprised the role in a TV pilot for a spinoff series, K-9 and Company, which didn't make it past the pilot. When her character was brought back to the revived series in the 2006 episode "School Reunion", she was enough of a hit to get another shot at a spinoff, The Sarah Jane Adventures, again with K-9.
I had no idea she was ill. She actually looked to be in amazing shape, and she has been starring in kind of an action role in her series for four seasons. I thought she still had a long life ahead of her.
Here are some quotes on Sladen as reported by the BBC.
Russell T Davies, the creator of The Sarah Jane Adventures, said: "I absolutely loved Lis. She was funny and cheeky and clever and just simply wonderful. The universe was lucky to have Sarah Jane Smith, the world was lucky to have Lis."
Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat said she had been a "ferociously talented actress".
I looked through my collection to pick an episode to watch before posting this. I was going to go with an early one, but I ended up watching "School Reunion", in which the Tenth Doctor unexpectedly bumps into her after not having seen her since his fourth incarnation. The episode marked a new beginning for the character. The right companion can successfully carry her own series. I guess someone suspected this about her character decades earlier when her first pilot was put together, but for whatever reason (well, to be honest... it wasn't very good), lightning didn't strike that time. Anyway... share your thoughts on Sladen or discuss your favorite episodes in the comments below.
Here are a few images of Sladen over the years.