Sarah Jane Smith will be no more.
Yes, I’m fully aware that she’s a fictional character, and, just as with the best characters in our books, she lives on through repeated viewings. What I’m talking about is something more significant: actress Elisabeth Sladen, the woman who became Sarah Jane, has passed away from cancer.
It’s a hard life lesson for my students; I’ve managed to
brainwash convince them to give the new Doctor(s) – Eccleston, Tennant and Smith – a try, and, for the most part, there is fervent devotion. There’s so much devotion that we actually have Doctor Who meetings at lunch (that’s me, bravely leading the latest batch of Sci-Fi geeks into their future). When I posted that the actress playing Sarah Jane had died – and therefore that she wouldn’t be portraying her in either The Sarah Jane Adventures or Doctor Who any longer … well, let’s just say that it didn’t go over well.
It’s difficult to explain to my students about how the passing of a childhood icon affects you … they feel sad, of course, because they’ve connected to the character. However, for the most part, they are still children (although they would fight that description tooth and nail), so they will go on to have other icons and idols. For me, however, this is one of “those” moments. The strong , funny and female character that I grew up admiring will be no more. I remember watching her battle Daleks, the Bane and the Slitheen, and watching her as the Doctor regenerated. Her interactions with the others showed her cleverness and ability to gently point out the obvious– who can forget that lovely scene with Mickey in the Tennant-era:
Sarah Jane Smith: The Doctor likes traveling with an entourage. Sometimes they’re human, sometimes they’re aliens and sometimes they’re tin dogs.
[pauses] Sarah Jane Smith: What about you? Where do you fit in the picture?
Mickey Smith: Me? I’m their man in Havana. I’m their technical support. I’m…
[realises] Mickey Smith: Oh my god. I’m the tin dog!
Thank you, Elisabeth Sladen. You were my first female role model in the Sci-Fi world who didn’t need short skirts and flirtation to be admired, and to show that brains and determination were just as valuable as a sonic screwdriver. You will be missed.
From YouTube, a fitting farewell: