When I started this blog a few months ago it was with the aim of posting slightly caustic, hopefully informative and often silly posts about Doctor Who (plus science when my brain worked). I never thought I'd be writing a tribute to Elizabeth Sladen.
I missed Sarah Jane (first time around) by exactly one week. She left in Hand of Fear part 4, I was born the day of Deadly Assassin part one. Yet as I grew up and became a Who fan there was always talk of how wonderful a companion Sarah Jane had been. I can just about remember watching K9 and Company but I remember being more interested in K9 than any of the humans in the episode. It wasn't until the videos started to come out that I could really appreciate why everyone loved Sarah so. I enjoyed seeing her in The Five Doctors but Death to the Daleks was the first "true" Sarah story I saw. It might not be the best Doctor Who story ever but oh how I love it, mostly for Sarah Jane. I could genuinely believe in the character and had tremendous fun watching her struggle to come to terms with the world around her (I knew it was a relatively early story for her). The videos kept coming and it was one of the few simple "quality" rules about the story. If Sarah was in it then it was almost certainly going to be a fun story to watch. I'm amazingly keen on Invasion of the Dinosaurs (one of my many guilty pleasures) and it's another where it could pretty much only be a Sarah Jane story. Lots of other stories you could just about drop any companion in to and, with slight tweaking, it would still work. But this is a true Sarah story, it's her journalism talents that move things on and drive her to find the truth. No other companion could do what she did.
As every fan does, I reached a certain age and started going to events. Living where I did I had limited access at first but soon started going to events in London and I dread to think how many hours of my life I've spent waiting in line to get autographs. With very few exceptions, the lines for Liz Sladen were always the longest and often some of the slowest moving. She was always brilliant with the fans no matter what their age. Young children, grown up children.... all were treated with kindness and respect and were never hurried. She knew we were all fans, she knew we were there to see her and she didn't disappoint.
There's a reason that she got her own show (eventually). Doctor Who was back and was appealing to all the generations again and, yes, it was pretty obvious that any spin off shows would work. But only one companion from the whole run of Who could carry it off. Only one character actually had enough character to be the lead, only one character could so easily carry the multi-generation appeal over (sorry but as much as I like Louise Jameson or Katy Manning, I don't think the Jo Grant Adventures or the Leela Files would have in any way shape or form worked) and only one companion had the true long lasting appeal. After all, which other companion had already had a spin off TV drama, two sets of audio dramas and regular appearances in the books and comics?
Not a single person I was with this evening could believe the news. Twitter and Facebook have been flooded. And I'm sure that this is just one of thousands of similar pieces being written on blogs the world over by countless generations of fans because Sarah Jane was just "right". Elizabeth Sladen, you weren't just my Sarah Jane, you were our Sarah Jane. We will never forget.