“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.”
This news came as a bit of shock to me, I wasn’t aware of any news or rumors of her ill health. I was in high school when I first saw imports of DOCTOR WHO here in the States, beginning with Tom Baker’s first episode, Robot.
Elisabeth Sladen made an immediate impression on me; making her character plucky, capable, and determined—as well as wholesomely pretty. She wasn’t my first fanboy crush, but she was likely my last.
Soon real world women would crowd out any pining for the fantasy ones I saw onscreen. Nevertheless, Sarah Jane Smith always remained my favorite DOCTOR WHO companion, and I guess I kept a soft spot in my heart for the talented actress who brought her to life.
I’ll miss them both.
Nicholas Courtney (William Nicholas Stone Courtney), best known to scif-fi fans as DOCTOR WHO’s Brigadier General Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, passed away Febuary 22nd. He was 81.
Nicholas Courtney appeared in many UK televsion programs and stage productions, including THE AVENGERS, THE SAINT, and THE CHAMPIONS.
However, DOCTOR WHO was the series that gave him the most exposure. He appeared in over 100 episodes as guest star and series regular. He appeared with all six original series Doctors, five of them as the same character.
He began as future Earth secret agent Bret Vyon, with first doctor William Hartnell. With second Doctor Patrick Troughton, he took over at the last moment the role of British Col. Lethbridge-Stewart for the 1968 serial The Web of Fear.
When next seen he had been assigned to UNIT (United Nations Intellegence Task Force), and promoted to Brigader General.
When it was decided to “ground” the third Doctor (John Pertwee), Nicholas Courtney’s Brigader was made the head of UNIT’s UK branch, and he offered the Time Lord the position of their ‘Scientific Advisor’. This gave the Doctor access to resources and a semi-offical standing that aided him in his adventures.
Originally seeming rather stiff and “by-the-book”, eventually the writers and Courtney invested “the Brig” with a quiet and dry sense of humor. He and the Doctor were often at loggerheads, Lethridge-Stewart taking an aggressive military approach to situations the Doctor preferred to deal with using science and reason. They traded barbs and sometimes disagreed bitterly, yet there remained a sense that they respected and liked each other, deep down.
It was the unflappable, matter-of-fact way of confronting the bizarre menaces he faced that made the Brig such an audience favorite. Encountering a stone medieval gargoyle come to life in 1971’s The Daemons, Nicholas Courtney made the somewhat ludicrous line“Jenkins; chap with the wings, there. Five rounds rapid” seem utterly reasonable and very much in character.
After Tom Baker became the fourth Doctor, Nicholas Courtney was no longer a regular, but would continue to guest star when the Doctor returned to contemporary Earth (although it was sometimes implied that the UNIT adventures took place around ten years in the future from the time they were made).
With fifth Doctor Peter Davison, Courtney played Lethbridge-Stewart in Mawdryn Undead and The Five Doctors. Though he did not appear with sixth Doctor Colin Baker on the actual series, they did work together as the characters in the charity 3-D special Dimensions In Time. (Not broadcast in the U.S.)
Nicholas Courtney appeared with seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy in 1989’s Battlefield, and would later reprise his role in various audio productions for the BBC and licensed Big Finish DOCTOR WHO audio dramas.
Courtney became a fan favorite, attending a number of conventions and charming audiences once again.
Though he did not appear on the revived DOCTOR WHO, the character was mentioned several times, and Courtney did guest star as Sir Alistair Lethbrige-Stewart with former companion Sarah Jane Smith (Liz Sladen) on the spin-0ff THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES in the 2008 two-parter Enemy of the Bane. Five Rounds Rapid became the title of his autobiography.
Having visited Nicholas Courtney just days before he died, Tom Baker wrote on his Website:
“Of all the characters in Doctor Who there is no doubt that he was the most loved by the fans for his wonderful portrayal of the rather pompous Brigadier. “Five rounds rapid” was the line we all loved, always addressed to Sergeant Benton.
Nick’s close friends simply adored him. There was a certain innocence in his personality that was utterly endearing. He was very easy to tease, and I did my share, which made him shake his head in disbelief when he realised he had been had.
He was a wonderful companion and his friends would call each other or e-mail to relate the latest little stories of a night out with the Brig. He had a marvellous resonant voice which he used brilliantly when it was his turn to spin a yarn. And his background was fascinating too: born in Alexandria, Egypt, he was brought up speaking French and Arabic. Later he perfected English and after a few drinks he would speak in Latin tags to great comic effect.
We shall miss him terribly.”
DOCTOR WHO spin-off THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES, though not currently being shown in the U.S., offered several more tidits about the Doctor’s future.
Sarah Jane Smith (Liz Sladen) was the companion to Doctors 4 & 5. The new season of her own show will feature a guest appearance from the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith). It’s in a two-part episode called Death of the Doctor, and also features former companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) who last appeared on DOCTOR WHO with John Pertwee in 1973.
In Death of the Doctor viewers will see, according to UK site DigitalSpy:
1. Doctors 1, 2, 3, 4, 10 and 11 all make an appearance.
2. There’s mentions of Axons, Azal and Aggedor.
3. “Smells like roast chicken!”
4. The Brigadier is still stranded in Peru, while Liz Shaw is on the Moon.
5. That’s Groske, not Graske.
6. The Doctor doesn’t have to be white. And he can regenerate more than 12 times – a lot more!
7. “You look like someone’s baked you!”
8. Jo Jones (née Grant) has 7 children and (almost) 13 grandchildren.
9. The Doctor might never look back, but Sarah Jane has discovered some interesting things using Google.
10. “Accelerate the weave!”
THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES airs on the BBC’s CBBC, their childrens’ channel. Though the first season of the fairly charming half-hour shows was broadcast in the US by the fromer Sci-Fi Channel, SARAH JANE is not currently being carried by any nationwide US station.