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. The 13th Doctor
    April 19th, 2011 at 11.30pm | #1

    I read this a few hours ago, and still… I cant believe it

  2. TSG
    April 19th, 2011 at 11.40pm | #2

    Not a day goes past without some celebrity or another passing away. Mostly you expect it, mostly they’ve reached a grand old age, growing old disgracefully. Elisabeth Sladen’s passing shocked me. I thought it was a twitter hoax gone badly wrong when I first saw it, but then as the tweets kept coming from more and more reputable sources…

    She was 63. That’s nothing nowadays, that’s not even the Biblical three score and ten. But she will remain forever young in the eyes of not just one generation of Who fans, but two. She embodied the dreams of children and adults alike, twice over.

    The beauty of the Sarah Jane Adventures was that it put a grown woman into the midst of teenagers and showed kids their value. It showed them what being a mum was, as well as being a son. That was the best thing about SJA; that was what made it unique. And Elisabeth Sladen was perfect in the role. She made me love Sarah Jane.

    My condolences go to her friends and family. I never knew but I can safely say that she was amazing. I can only imagine how much more they valued and will miss her.

    I apologise for the slightly rambling comment.

  3. mpirks
    April 19th, 2011 at 11.45pm | #3

    I hope there’s a small dedication to her on this week’s Doctor Who. She truly deserves it. I wonder if we will get to hear from her SJA co-stars (rani, luke and clyde?).

    I know its not priority but has the latest series recently been filmed? If so, I am going to find it very hard to watch it :(

  4. Marian Dalton
    April 19th, 2011 at 11.53pm | #4

    Sarah Jane was a part of my childhood. I grew up admiring Elisabeth Sladen for playing such a brave and determined woman. It’s fair to say she inspired a whole generation of girls to get their hair cut just like Sarah Jane’s, and certainly inspired me to go into journalism.

    When she came back in the new series, it was just perfect – the old love of childhood and the new love of my adult years coming together.

    My children love the Sarah Jane Adventures and, like me, were terribly upset to learn of Elisabeth’s passing.

    Farewell, Elisabeth.

  5. Ellen
    April 19th, 2011 at 11.58pm | #5

    I was crying on the first second I saw the title,
    Elizabeth, your death shocked me, I didn’t know that you had cancer, 63 that’s still quite young you will live forever in my heart and in others RIP
    Farewell :’(

  6. Ellen
    April 20th, 2011 at 12.00am | #6

    And I can’t believe four people like this!!! Thats horrid! :’(

  7. The 13th Doctor
    April 20th, 2011 at 12.04am | #7

    I really hope they dedicate this weeks Dr Who to her.. she certainly deserves it, it makes sense now that they were filming SJA Series 4 & 5 back to back, the amount of thoughts and prayers going out to her family, just shows how big a dent she left on the show, and above all as a human being, for me, and I dont know about anyone else, this has cast a huge shadow over the new series, which is really sad…

  8. JC
    April 20th, 2011 at 12.09am | #8

    @The 13th Doctor
    I was just thinking how much the countdown timer on here has had its suspense cut, how the excitement has gone because Sarah Jane is gone.

    I’m sure we’ll still all enjoy Doctor Who on Saturday and the start of the new series, but for me, it’ll be with Elisabeth Sladen very much in my thoughts

  9. The 13th Doctor
    April 20th, 2011 at 12.17am | #9

    Completely agree, just realised that someone said above that the last story in SJA was called ‘Goodbye Sarah-Jane Smith’ coincidence…. or fate….

  10. The 13th Doctor
    April 20th, 2011 at 12.26am | #10

    Ohh sorry one more thing, if they dedicate this weeks Dr Who to Elisabeth Sladen, I think its only right they do the same Nicholas Courtney…. after all he was the brigadier!

  11. Telly Addict
    April 20th, 2011 at 5.42am | #11

    I’m in shock that a woman you associate with a character of such life and vibrancy has passed away so young. My thoughts and prayers are with Lis’s family.

  12. Professor Zed
    April 20th, 2011 at 5.45am | #12

    I’ve had a crush on Elizabeth Sladen since I first saw her wander into the TARDIS in “The Time Warrior”. She only got more gorgeous with age and her talent grew and grew. Though “The Sarah Jane Adventures” is aimed at a more youthful audience, I’ve enjoyed it immensely, because of Elizabeth. Though she was the star, she had no problem stepping into the background to give the younger actors their time to shine. I know they’ve learned much from her. Heaven just got a whole lot more beautiful! Tears, Sarah-Jane? Yes… Tears.

  13. Taylor
    April 20th, 2011 at 6.22am | #13

    I never watched classic DW. I was a Trek fan in my youth. However, I still knew who Liz Sladen was such was her impact on the role. I loved SJA. RIP Liz. Thank you for bringing exitement and entertainment to children and adults the world over.

  14. Edward Harwood
    April 20th, 2011 at 7.37am | #14

    Very sad and shocked to read this

    My sympathies go to the family

    What a sad loss to the world

  15. Gill
    April 20th, 2011 at 8.08am | #15

    I grew up with Sarah Jane…I met Liz Sladen at a signing a few years ago, I was far more excited than the child I took along. She was a lovely lady. Such sad news.

  16. Rose Weasley
    April 20th, 2011 at 9.27am | #16

    I honestly feel like crying after reading this.
    RIP Elizabeth.

  17. Stephen
    April 20th, 2011 at 10.18am | #17

    Such a sad loss.
    My thoughts are with Elisabeth’s family and friends just now.

  18. lewis watson
    April 20th, 2011 at 11.22am | #18

    I am greatly saddened by this news because we have now lost a legend RIP Elizabeth Sladen A.K.A Sarah Jane Smith…

  19. Hayley
    April 20th, 2011 at 11.38am | #19

    RIP Elisabeth Sladen. couldnt believe it when i read the news yesterday… just realised that the final SJA story was called goodbye sarah jane smith…. Goodbye lis, you were a hero to many.

  20. vaguely
    April 20th, 2011 at 11.54am | #20
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