RIP Elisabeth Sladen – my memories of talking to a Doctor Who legend


Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah-Jane Smith

Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah-Jane Smith

“The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it’s a world, or a relationship… Everything has its time. And everything ends.”

LIKE every Doctor Who fan around the world, I am in shock today that Elisabeth Sladen has died.

Shocked with the sudden and unexpected nature of the news, and that the woman who faced everything the Universe had to throw at her should be struck down by cancer, but also because Elisabeth – or Sarah Jane Smith as millions knew and loved her – looked just the same now as when we first saw her travel with the Doctor in the 1970s.

Back then with Jon Pertwee and Liverpool’s own Tom Baker, she was the brave young girl and journalist. More recently with modern-day Doctors David Tennant and Matt Smith, she remained the same beautiful, clever Sarah Jane.

Watching her as an adult with my son, she made me feel that the world was a safer place, because Sarah Jane would always be there, ready to answer the call when the Doctor needed help.

I had the good fortune to interview Lis (as she insisted on being called) last year, when the latest series of the incredibly popular spin-off series the Sarah Jane Adventures was due to come out.

I was nervous about talking to a woman who was one of my childhood heroes, but she was just lovely, exactly how you would want her to be.

I enjoyed a fantastic and funny hour chatting with her about Doctor Who, as well as how lucky she felt to have grown up in Liverpool and her love for the city.

I’ve interview thousands of people but I will always remember our talk, especially her voice, instantly recognisable but lapsing back into Scouse as she told me about meeting Brian Epstein after bunking off school, or talking to the Liverpool FC players back in the 1970s.

She had just worked with Matt Smith and was raving about how lovely he was and that when she first saw him, she thought “so that’s what Jon, Tom and David look like now!”

As we ended the interview, I said to her she would have to come back to Liverpool, because the city would love to see her again.

“Oh I will,” she enthused. “I’ll come back and I’ll tell the Echo and we can go for a drink.”

Sadly she won’t return home now, although I will raise a glass in her name and I’m sure I won’t be the only person doing that.

And while I know she is gone, part of me still refuses to believe it.

Elisabeth Sladen, Sarah Jane, will always be out there somewhere to me, in the Tardis with the Doctor, keeping us safe like she always has.

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