The most famous “Doctor Who” companion of them all, Sarah Jane Smith, is gone.
British actress Elisabeth Sladen has passed away after a battle with cancer. She was 63.
Sladen started out as a stage and TV actress and continued working in various productions aimed at children and family audiences right up until last year.
In 1973, Sladen came onboard “Doctor Who” as a new investigative journalist companion character named Sarah Jane Smith to replace the outgoing Jo Grant (Katy Manning).
She stayed on the show for nearly four years, through the last season with the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and much of the early run of the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker).
Many of the episodes with Sladen and Baker together are still considered amongst the best stories produced throughout the show’s history including “Genesis of the Daleks”, “Pyramids of Mars”, “Terror of the Zygons” and “The Brain of Morbius”.
Her departure from the role made front page news in the UK, a feat never achieved by a Doctor’s companion before. She returned briefly in the 80’s and 90’s for one off specials.
However she achieved fame again recently when she reprised the role in “School Reunion”, an episode of the rebooted Who’s second season in 2006 with the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant). Over the next few years she returned to ‘Who’ several more times including a brief cameo in Tennant’s farewell episode “The End of Time: Part Two”.
In 2007 her character was spun-off into its own children’s show “The Sarah Jane Adventures” which ran for four seasons on CBBC. In that last season she encountered not only the new Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) but the companion she originally replaced – Katy Manning’s Jo Grant character.
To this day she’s widely considered the most famous companion character of them all, certainly she’s appeared alongside more ‘Doctors’ than any other actress. To her many millions of fans of all ages, of which I’m proud to say I was one, our sincerest condolences.