With news that 70’s companion Sarah-Jane Smith is to appear alongside the Tenth Doctor we thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at this iconic character and Elisabeth Sladen, the actress who brought her to life.
Fiction | Sarah-Jane Smith
When we first met her, Sarah-Jane Smith was a journalist for the Metropolitan, posing as her aunt Lavinia, a respected virologist, in order to investigate a research facility where UNIT have placed a number of scientists under protective custody.
Stowing away aboard The Tardis she became involved with the Third Doctor’s (Jon Pertwee) attempt to stop a Sontaran warrior from transporting the scientists back to Medieval England to repair his spaceship.
So began arguably the most successful Doctor/Companion relationships in the show’s history, lasting for 18 adventures between 1973 and 1976 and bridging the Doctor’s regeneration from Pertwee to Tom Baker. For many fans these were the golden years of the show.
Her travels with the Doctor saw Sarah-Jane encounter a number of alien menaces which, as befits a modern, feminist, 70’s girl, she attempted to confront head on and without the screaming of past female companions. More often than not, it was Sarah’s bravery and tendency to investigate on her own which placed her in danger.
This companion was no shrinking violet and it’s no surprise that Russell T Davies has cited the Fourth Doctor/Sarah-Jane relationship as one of the guiding influences behind the new series.
Sarah left series at the end of ‘The Hand of Fear’ when The Doctor received a summons to return to Gallifrey, his home planet. Unable to take her with him he returned Sarah to Earth in her own time.
The character was exceptionally popular and in 1981 teamed up with robotic dog K9 in the pilot for an intended spin-off series, K9 and Company.
Both would return two years later for the 20th anniversary reunion tale ‘The Five Doctors’ and for the 30th Anniversary and Children in Need adventure ‘Dimensions in Time’.
On radio Sladen appeared alongside Pertwee in two original Doctor Who serials ‘The Paradise of Death’ (1993) and ‘The Ghosts of N-Space’ (1996).
Fact | Elisabeth Sladen
Elisabeth Sladen was born in 1 February 1948 in Liverpool and attended drama school for two years before joining her local repertory company. Before being cast in Doctor Who she appeared in numerous shows including; ‘Coronation Street’, ‘Doomwatch’, ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’ and ‘Z Cars’.
After leaving the show she presented the children’s programme ‘Stepping Stones’ (1977-78) and made a number of TV appearances. Following the birth of her daughter she has concentrated on her family life but has made occasional television appearances, including in ‘The Bill’ (1989) and ‘Peak Practice’ (1996).
A regular at signings and conventions, Lis remains a firm favourite among fans of the series. In November 2003 she spoke to BBC News Online about her role and time on the show as well as talkng about a (then) hypothetical return to the series.
More information about Elisabeth can be found at the Elisabeth Sladen Information Network.