Wednesday, April 20, 2011

'It was a joy to know her': Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies leads the tributes to Sarah Jane star Elisabeth Sladen

By Georgina Littlejohn

Cult TV star: Actress Elisabeth Sladen died on Tuesday morning following a battle with cancer

Tributes have been pouring in for Doctor Who actress Elisabeth Sladen who died yesterday following a battle with cancer aged 63.

Leading them was former Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies, who brought her back to Doctor Who, and said it was 'an honour to have worked with her'.

Speaking this morning, he said: 'It's devastating, it's no age at all is it? All of us who worked on Doctor Who and Sarah Jane are just reeling at the moment.

'It's so sad. It was a joy to know the woman and an honour to have worked with her, I loved her.'

Liverpool-born Sladen played the Doctor's assistant Sarah Jane Smith, first alongside Jon Pertwee in 1973, and stayed on with Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor, until 1976.

She returned as the character for a spin-off series K9 and Company in 1981 and Davies, 47, brought Sladen back into the Doctor Who fold in 2006 when she starred in an episode alongside the then Doctor, David Tennant.

Davies told BBC News: 'When I worked on Doctor Who I thought there was this big secret that was the talent of Lis Sladen and I wanted to put her back on screen because I knew in all my heart, and what every Doctor Who fan knew, there was this great great woman and a great actor that was sitting there not working.

'I loved her': Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies payed tribute to Sladen and said it was 'a joy' to know her

'She then turned out to be such good company and cheeky and so much fun and of course, utterly unchanged by time, she was such a beautiful woman.

'And we found ourselves with a new friend, that was the greatest treat about it. We brought her in for one episode, thinking, "that'll be good, that's a good story", and then as we shot that episode I remember thinking "I'm not letting her go".

'The universe was lucky to have Sarah Jane Smith; the world was lucky to have Lis.'

Tom Baker also paid tribute to Sladen and took to his blog on his official website to share his thoughts about the actress who starred alongside him.

Back to the Tardis: Davies revised Sladen's role as Sarah Jane for an episode in 2006 with David Tennant and her faithful robot companion K9

Current doctor: Sladen was joined by Matt Smith for The Sarah Jane Adventures

He wrote: '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.

'Lis Sladen was very important to me, you know. Lis laughed at my silly antics; yes, she did, she laughed me to success. We both came from Liverpool, that small detail helped. We both loved old movies.

Spin-off: Davies also created The Sarah Jane Adventures following the success of her returning to Doctor Who

'It is so consoling when one is sad and bereft to remember the good times, the laughter, the glamour. Those sweet memories of happy days with Lis Sladen, the lovely, witty, kind and so talented Lis Sladen. I am consoled by the memories. I was there, I knew her, she was good to me and I shall always be grateful, and I shall miss her.

Other tributes came from another Doctor Who writer, Mark Gatiss, who tweeted: 'A tear, Sarah Jane? Farewell to the wonderful, irreplaceable Lis Sladen. The best. x'

Doctor Who Magazine, that is believed to have broken the news of her death, wrote: 'With great sadness, DWM must report the loss of our beloved Sarah Jane, actress Elisabeth Sladen. The best of best friends. Too, too sad.'

Starting out: A young Sladen as Sarah Jane alongside Jon Pertwee as The Doctor in Doctor Who in the early Seventies

Lifelong Doctor Who fan Stephen Fry added: 'What terribly sad news about Elisabeth Sladen - her Sarah Jane was part of my childhood. Deepest sympathy to her family.'

And Jonathan Ross added: 'RIp Elisabeth Sladen aka Sarah Jane. Sad news.'

Last night, the BBC confirmed her death in a statement: '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.'

In a 2006 interview ahead of rejoining Doctor Who, she said: 'I think it has lovely layers and I'd defend the programme to anyone.

'I'm very emotionally part of that programme and I think a lot of the people who worked on it are. You used to love going to work every day.'

TV classic: She remained on the show when Tom Baker replaced Pertwee as the Doctor

Her return to the franchise was such a success, she then appeared in a spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures, which was broadcast on CBBC.

The show proved popular with young fans with the fourth series being screened last autumn.

The BBC had planned to produce a fifth series, but that now looks unlikely following her death.

Sladen is survived by her actor husband of 42 years, Brian Miller, and their actress daughter Sadie.

Long marriage: Sladen is survived by her husband of 42 years, actor Brian Miller


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