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Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith

April 19th, 2011

For the second time in two months, tragedy struck square at the heart of Doctor Who fans old and new with today’s news that longtime companion Sarah Jane Smith, actress Elisabeth Sladen, has died.

It was just February that I found myself remarking how the late actor Nicholas Courtney, who played the Brigadier, was the heart and soul of Doctor Who. Sladen was arguably a very close second.

She first appeared as intrepid journalist Sarah Jane Smith in the 1973 serial The Time Warrior, alongside Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. And while she only remained a regular for a little more than three years, it’s obvious that I wasn’t the only one in love with her. She returned to the franchise again and again, first in the aborted spin-off K-9 and Company, then in the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors. Her first appearance in nu-Who was in the 2006 David Tennant episode School Reunion, which led to a spin-off series entitled The Sarah Jane Adventures. Unfortunately, it appears that the fifth season of SJA will never be completed.

As was the case for many fans of a certain age, Sarah Jane Smith was my favorite of Doctor Who‘s companions. Pretty and plucky, she persevered through being cold and wet; hypnotized left, right and center; shot at; savaged by bug-eyed monsters; and never knowing if she was coming or going, or being.

I only saw Sladen in person once, at a 20th anniversary convention in Chicago, and never actually had a chance to speak to her. I wish that I had taken the time to stand in the autograph line.

Till we meet again, Sarah.

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