Watching a Doctor Who DVD the other day, the flatmate – who isn’t really a fan – joined and was caught up in a documentary on the late Ian Marter and his writing of the Target novels. In it Elisabeth Sladen was visibly moved by remembering him and Chris was touched by her affection and obvious sense of loss. “Oh bless her,” he said. “She’s so lovely.” And I couldn’t help but agree.
Tuesday night he looked up from Facebook on his iPad. “Sarah something on Doctor Who has died?” he said. “What’s that about?”
I checked my own Facebook and twitter and just froze. “Oh Christ,” I said. “It’s Lis Sladen.”
He sat bolt upright, like a rabbit caught in headlights, and put his hand to his mouth. “No!”
We barely spoke for the next half hour. Such was the shock at hearing of Elisabeth’s death. It was, frankly unthinkable.
I am still stunned by the news even after all this time. And so it seems are much of the country, young and old. Her portrayal of Sarah Jane was a tour de force: it was warm, genuine, heartfelt; a mix of believable terror, bravery and humour.
And from what I saw of her in documentaries and commentaries, Elisabeth also shared those qualities. A view borne out by what I’ve heard from friends who met and worked with her.
Elisabeth Sladen was a true one-off who illuminated so many lives either through her performances or in person, and she will be missed by so many. My thoughts go out to her family and friends and colleagues. And to those children now struggling to understand that the star of their favourite show is no more. Even I, as immune to death as I seem to have become, can’t wrap my head around it.
Still so young, and with so much left to give. Rest in peace Elisabeth, and thank you so much.