Companions! Companions! Companions! There was never a shortage of sidekicks on cult British television program “Doctor Who.” Known as companions by fans, many actors and actresses rubbed elbows with the good Doctor, but probably the most memorable person that the Doctor shared adventures with through time and space was investigative reporter Sarah Jane Smith, who was played by popular children’s show actress Elisabeth Sladen.
Born Elisabeth Sladen in Liverpool, England on February 1, 1948. She attended drama school for two years before joining the local repertory theatre in her hometown of Liverpool. She met actor Brian Miller during her first production there and they were later married after meeting again in Manchester, three years later. Early in her career, she had parts on various television shows. However, from 1973 to 1976, she became the traveling companion of both the third and fourth doctors on the “Doctor Who” television series. She was praised for bringing humor and warmth to her performance.
Sladen would reprise her role as Sarah Jane Smith in four spin-offs which included “K-9 and Company: A Girl’s Best Friend,” “Doctor Who: The Five Doctors,” “Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time,” and in the Doctor Who radio serials “The Paradise of Death”, and “Doctor Who and the Ghosts of N-Space.” Unfortunately, “Doctor Who” went off the air in 1987.
In 2005, writer/producer Russell T. Davies brought “Doctor Who” back to the BBC with a new Doctor, a new companion, and a reinvigorated fan base. Once again, Sladen reprised her role as Sarah Jane as a guest star in the revived series. Fans of the program along with Davies demanded to see more of her character, and in 2007 Sladen was given yet another “Doctor Who” spin-off called “The Sarah Jane Adventures.”
Interviewed in front of a television audience a few years ago, Sladen had this to say about “Doctor Who.” “It’s about relationships,” she said. “It’s about a body of people banding together to overcome adversity.” Sladen succumbed to cancer on Tuesday. Her husband, actor Brian Miller, and their daughter, Sadie, survive Sladen.
Sources: IMDb, BBC, Associated Press