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Elisabeth Sladen – RIP April 19, 2011

Posted by ce9999 in Doctor Who.
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This is a sad day. Elisabeth Sladen has died.

It’s a total surprise (to me) that this happened.  She was only 63 years old, and had been battling cancer for a while, apparently.

I know I’ve been critical of Russell Davies in the past, but at a time like this, I am not surprised at all that he knows exactly what to say (audio clip and brief article). He was always good at the emotional stuff.

Longer article: Doctor Who actress Elisabeth Sladen dies

Would I have ever become a Doctor Who fan if the very first story I ever watched hadn’t had her as the companion? It was The Seeds of Doom, one of the earlier Tom Baker episodes, wherein some suspicious pods are found in Antarctica, and one of them somehow develops into a giant, killer plant monster. Classic stuff, including the squeaky styrofoam peanuts used as fake “snow” in the Antarctica scenes. I distinctly recall being impressed with how cute and interesting Sarah Jane was. She was certainly a factor in getting me to tune in to my next story. This was back in the days when the stories were appearing every weekend on Wisconsin Public Television. They would edit the four to six episodes of each story into one, luxurious, movie-length program, which was wonderful. The four-episode ones were of ideal length, typically running 90 minutes. The six-episode ones tended to get a bit long, typically around 2 hours and 15 minutes. With no commercials, of course. The best was when they would have Doctor Who marathons, airing several stories in one afternoon. These could stretch for eight hours or more (including pledge breaks). Those were the days. :)

Of course, I ended up seeing many more stories, with many more companions, but Sarah was, at some level, always my favorite. So much so that when my 10th grade English class was tasked with breaking into teams where each team would create a short film, I decided that I was going to do my own Doctor Who story, and of course, Sarah Jane Smith would be the companion. The whole endeavor ended up being a comedy of errors, with two or possibly three of my female classmates playing the role (ever try to schedule high school girls who aren’t really invested in something? It’s a challenge, LOL), but in the end, the effort was enough of a success that the teacher used it in succeeding years as an example. I suppose he might have been using it as an example of how several major things can go wrong without actually destroying the overall project…but still. ;)

Someone posted some still shots from the Planet of Evil story on Usenet, of Elisabeth and co-star Tom Baker. I’m going to repost a couple of them here, in commemoration. I’m pretty sure the second one is an outtake:

Click on the pics for full-size view. They’re wallpaper sized, 16:10 widescreen aspect ratio.