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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Doctor Who's Elizabeth Sladen dies aged just 63

The Seventh Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith
in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip
'Train-Flight', published in Issue 159 - 161.
Elisabeth Sladen was paid the princely
sum of £40 per issue as an 'appearance fee'.
Story by Andrew Donkin and
Graham S. Brand, art by John Ridgway

It is with great sadness that downthetubes must report the death of Actress Elizabeth Sladen, best known to millions as Sarah Jane Smith from Doctor Who and, more recently, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

I had not spoken with Lis for years but dealt with her on many occasions while editor of Doctor Who Magazine, often to sort out agreed payments for the use of BBC photographs in the title, but she would occasionally call and ask advice on approaches she had had from fans asking her to events and so forth. I always found her kind and generous in spirit but, like her on screen character, very firm about what she would and would not do, and getting what she wanted - but always with great kindness.

An example of this was the permission she gave for me to use her likeness in one of the first Doctor Who comic strips I actually edited, Train-Flight.

She will be much missed and my heart goes out to her family and many, many friends. I know she will be much missed.

Here is the official BBC statement on her passing.

It is with much sadness that we can announce Elisabeth Sladen, the much-loved actress best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and CBBC's The Sarah Jane Adventures, passed away this morning. She was 63.

Lis first appeared as Sarah Jane in Doctor Who in 1973 alongside the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee and stayed for three and half seasons working alongside Jon and the Fourth Doctor Tom Baker. She returned to the role on numerous occasions over the years and, in 2007, was given her own spin-off series on CBBC - The Sarah Jane Adventures - where she would appear alongside new Doctors David Tennant and Matt Smith.

The Sarah Jane Adventures brought Lis a whole new generation of fans who grew up to love her alien-busting adventures. The series was hugely popular with fans young and old and won this year's RTS Award for best children's drama.

Controller of CBBC Damian Kavanagh said tonight: "I'm deeply saddened and shocked by the news of Lis' untimely death. Lis brought joy, excitement and a sense of wonder to her many fans in her role as Sarah Jane Smith. She was adored by our young audience and I know all of them will miss her as much as I will."

The creator of The Sarah Jane Adventures Russell T Davies 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."

Steven Moffat, Doctor Who's Lead Writer and Executive Producer said: "'Never meet your heroes' wise people say. They weren't thinking of Lis Sladen.

"Sarah Jane Smith was everybody's hero when I was younger, and as brave and funny and brilliant as people only ever are in stories. But many years later, when I met the real Sarah Jane - Lis Sladen herself - she was exactly as any child ever have wanted her to be. Kind and gentle and clever; and a ferociously talented actress, of course, but in that perfectly English unassuming way.

"There are a blessed few who can carry a whole television show on their talent and charisma - but I can't think of one other who's done it quite so politely. I once showed my son Joshua an old episode of Doctor Who, in which Lis appeared. "But that's Sarah Jane," he said, confused "In old Doctor Who. From years ago. How come she always look exactly the same?" It's not a comfort today, of course, but children will still be saying that fifty years from now."

Keith Jones, Director, BBC Cymru Wales, said: "The Sarah Jane Adventures has been one of the most successful children's programmes on television in recent years - and without Elisabeth Sladen it would not have happened. A brilliant presence on screen and on set, she brought the excitement and energy of the Doctor Who family of programmes, of which we are very proud at BBC Wales, to a whole new generation. She will be missed by all at BBC Wales who worked with her."

Roger Carey, who represented Lis for many years, said. "She was not just a client, but a dear friend. She was so positive about life and her natural energy was intoxicating. She couldn't believe her luck when her career was resurrected in her own series."

Lis had been suffering from cancer. She leaves behind a husband, actor Brian Miller, and her daughter, Sadie.

Web Links

The Official Doctor Who web site

The Official The Sarah Jane Adventures web site

Tom Baker pays tribute to Lis Sladen
"Sarah Jane dead? No, impossible! Impossible. Only last week I agreed to do six new audio adventures with her for Big Finish Productions.
"She can't be dead. But she is: she died yesterday morning. Cancer. I had no idea she was ill; she was so private, never wanted any fuss, and now, gone. A terrible blow to her friends and a shattering blow for all those fans of the programme whose lives were touched every Saturday evening by her lovely heroic character, Sarah-Jane Smith."

News Items

BBC Official Statement

• BBC News, 19th April 2011: Russell T. Davies pays tribute to Elisabeth Sladen
Includes audio

Digital Spy, 19th April 2011: Round Up of Celebrity Reaction

Selected Newspapers and Magazines

Entertainment Weekly: An appreciation of the Doctor Who Actress
"It is widely agreed that the best ever actor to play Watson to the Doctor’s Holmes was Elisabeth Sladen"

• Liverpool Daily Post: Tributes to Mersey Dr Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures actress Elizabeth Sladen

• Daily Mirror, 19th April 2011: Doctor Who actress Elisabeth Sladen dies aged 63

The Guardian, 19th April 2011: Elisabeth Sladen dies aged 63

• The Sun: Greatest Dr Who girl ever

Washington Post: Elisabeth Sladen, star of Doctor Who series and children’s show actress has died aged 63

Some Cancer Charities

Cancer Research UK

Cancer research UK is a cancer research organisation which is largely kept running through the volume of its volunteer supporters. The organisation seeks to run large charity campaigning events in order to give cancer and the need to cure it a high profile among the public.

Macmillan Cancer Support
Another large charity which provides nurses to those in pain from cancer and in need of looking after. The charity aims to make their life more comfortable and improve its quality, and supports over 1000 nurses.

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