Elisabeth Sladen passes away, aged 63

April 19th, 2011

It is with great sadness that we bring you the news that Elisabeth Sladen has passed away at the age of 63.

Elisabeth made her first appearance as Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who in 1973, and has been a prominent figure in the series since. Her starring role in her own spin off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, means that she will be remembered by a whole new generation of fans as well as those who followed her story throughout the Classic Series. She passed away this morning following a battle with cancer.

Within seconds of its announcement, the terrible news made headlines across the world. Here in the UK, it has been covered by the Guardian, the Mirror, The Sun, Digital Spy, Newsround and BBC News. Russell T Davies paid tribute to her on the news, noting: “All of us who work on Doctor Who and Sarah Jane are reeling at the moment.”

“I’m deeply saddened and shocked by the news of Lis’ untimely death,” said Damian Kavanagh, Controller of CBBC, in a statement. “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.”

Tributes have also been paid on Twitter. Mark Gatiss has labelled the late actress as “the best”, while Phil Ford has described her as a “fabulous person” who will be “badly missed by so, so many”. Stephen Fry, meanwhile, added: “Sarah Jane was part of my childhood”, and Murray Gold has praised her for “never seeming to age, tire or cloud”.

The creator of The Sarah Jane Adventures, Russell T Davies, added: “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.”

An array of series cast members have also responded publicly to the sad news. Nicola Bryant has told her followers that “it’s too much to take in”, while John Barrowman has said he is “proud to have worked with such an icon of the sci-fi world”, adding: “Your Dr Who family are very sad and will miss you and your beautiful smile”. Finn Jones has also described working with Elisabeth as “a pleasure and honor”, and Nicholas Pegg reaffirmed: “Desperately sad news about the beautiful, talented, incomparable Lis”.

“Sarah Jane was everybody’s hero when I was younger, and as brave and funny and brilliant as people only ever are in stories,” Steven Moffat has said. “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.”

Elsewhere, Clayton Hickman has commented: “Will miss Lis Sladen more than I can say”, and Tom Spilsbury has echoed: “I feel utterly drained. Farewell, Lis – I’m so sorry I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. We’ll do you proud in DWM, I promise”.

Matt Smith said: “What struck me about Lis was her grace. She welcomed me and delighted me with her tales and adventures on Doctor Who. Her grace and kindness will stay with me because she had such qualities in abundance and shared them freely. I will miss her, as will the world of Doctor Who and all the Doctors that had the good pleasure to work with Lis Sladen and travel the universe with Sarah Jane.”

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.”

“We are all so shocked and so very sad at the news of the death of Lis Sladen,” said Nick Briggs. “Only yesterday I was filming a DVD extra in which I was talking with such heartfelt passion about how she was so ‘luminous’ on screen and how brilliant she was as Sarah Jane Smith. And that is the truth. For so many of us, she was the ultimate Doctor Who companion. On paper, in the original Doctor Who TV series, there was, arguably, nothing startling or particularly compelling about the character; it was Lis who made her totally fascinating to watch. Lis created Sarah Jane.”

All of our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends at this difficult time.

72 comments on this article
  1. Tom
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.02pm | #1

    Oh no! Does this mean no more Sarah Jane Adventures!? I loved her in it :(

  2. George
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.04pm | #2


  3. George
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.05pm | #3

    no more sja then

  4. TWWL
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.07pm | #4

    Shocking news, and to lose her and The Brig so close together; awful.

  5. Jack
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.08pm | #5

    I just don’t believe it, this is too awful.

  6. Sam
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.10pm | #6

    Such devastating news. She was a fine actress and she looked so young for her age. One of the best Doctor Who companions of all time. RIP Elisabeth Sladen

  7. Alex
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.10pm | #7

    When Nick Courtney died, it was not a surprise, as the man was in his 80s. The news about Lis Sladen is so unexpected and shocking I’m in a state of shock, as she looked so well in last season’s SJA.

    I just thought of something — remember that they filmed the first half of Series 5 wrapped up with Series 4? I wonder if they knew something was happening.

    RIP Sarah Jane

  8. Tom
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.11pm | #8

    Ikr, not long after the brigaider! The Sarah Jane Adventures would never be the same again if they replaced her :( It was her birthday not long ago too.

  9. Jack
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.12pm | #9

    I think we should start a trending topic on Twitter in her honour.

  10. Tom
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.14pm | #10

    The horrible thing about it, is the fact it’s only a few days until Doctor Who is on again!

  11. JC
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.15pm | #11

    When I saw this, I literally said “Jesus Christ” outloud, this was really unexpected and is genuinely shocking. The Sarah Jane Adventures end right here.

    Although I still can’t believe this, R.I.P Elisabeth and thanks for all your work on Doctor Who and in the SJA spin off.

  12. Lynn Marston
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.17pm | #12


    I piece of my childhood is now gone. Oh, Sarah Jane……We won’t forget you.

  13. Steve
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.21pm | #13

    I am so sad to hear this dreadful news. ELizabeth Sladen was a light in Doctor Who. I first saw Sarah in the Terror Of The Zygons. I think if it had not been for the teaming of Tom and Elizabeth, I would not have enjoyed Doctor Who so much. This is heart breaking news. My best wishes to Elizabeth’s family.

  14. The 13th Doctor
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.23pm | #14

    Ohh Jesus Christ… that shocked me big time…

  15. Tom
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.26pm | #15

    I bet Thomas Knight and the cast of SJA are grieving, she was such a wonderful person to be on Doctor Who and Sarah Jane Adventures, my mouth just opened when my friend told me.

  16. Nance Hundley
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.31pm | #16

    I first saw her with the 10th Dr. It was so cool to see her and Rose fighting over the Dr. That is my best memory of her!!!!! RIP Sarah Jane!!!!!

  17. e.p
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.35pm | #17

    I’m shocked. Shocked. I just saw this on the BBC news website and rushed over here (to see if it was true? I don’t know…)
    I had no idea she was battling cancer. She was too young and this is so unexpected. She will be greatly missed by everyone who watched ClassicWho and everyone who watches it now. RIP.

    (There had better be a Sarah Jane tribute somewhere in DW or a spin-off later this year.)

  18. Ash
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.36pm | #18

    this is extremely sad news, as elizabeth gave us so many great memories in her time on Doctor Who and the Sarah Jane Adventures. RIP Elizabeth Sladen, You are so so loved, and will be so very sorely missed. X x X x X

  19. Robert
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.36pm | #19

    when I heard this news a second ago i was literally heart broken.

    First Nicolas Courtney and now Eliabzabeth Sladen.

    The Brig and Sarah Jane are now gone from my childhood.

    she was my favorite compaion in doctor who and her own show.

    I still can’t belive this has happened.

    Good bye Sarah Jane the universe will miss you!

  20. MWAnderson
    April 19th, 2011 at 9.39pm | #20

    I can’t believe Ms Sladen is gone. I really feel stunned and shocked by this sad news. My thoughts with her family, and wish them sincerest condolences at a very difficult time.

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