Sladen first appeared as Sarah Jane on Doctor Who in 1973, becoming an iconic companion under both Jon Pertwee‘s and Tom Baker‘s Doctors in the long-running sci-fi series. She left in 1976, making recurring appearances in Doctor Who-related projects over the years. However, to the delight of longtime fans, she reprised her role in the modern series in 2006 opposite David Tennant‘s Tenth Doctor. Her return proved so successful that she received her own spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, in 2007.
UPDATED: BBC’s official statement:
It is with much sadness that we can announce Elisabeth Sladen, the much-loved actress best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and CBBC’s The Sarah Jane Adventures, passed away this morning. She was 63.
Lis first appeared as Sarah Jane in Doctor Who in 1973 alongside the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee and stayed for three and half seasons working alongside Jon and the Fourth Doctor Tom Baker. She returned to the role on numerous occasions over the years and, in 2007, was given her own spin-off series on CBBC – The Sarah Jane Adventures – where she would appear alongside new Doctors David Tennant and Matt Smith.
The Sarah Jane Adventures brought Lis a whole new generation of fans who grew up to love her alien-busting adventures. The series was hugely popular with fans young and old and won this year’s RTS Award for best children’s drama.
Controller of CBBC Damian Kavanagh said tonight: “I’m deeply saddened and shocked by the news of Lis’ untimely death. 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.”
The creator of The Sarah Jane Adventures Russell T Davies said: “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.”
Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s Lead Writer and Executive Producer said: “’Never meet your heroes’ wise people say. They weren’t thinking of Lis Sladen.
“Sarah Jane Smith was everybody’s hero when I was younger, and as brave and funny and brilliant as people only ever are in stories. But 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.
“There are a blessed few who can carry a whole television show on their talent and charisma – but I can’t think of one other who’s done it quite so politely. I once showed my son Joshua an old episode of Doctor Who, in which Lis appeared. “But that’s Sarah Jane,” he said, confused “In old Doctor Who. From years ago. How come she always look exactly the same?” It’s not a comfort today, of course, but children will still be saying that fifty years from now.”
Keith Jones, Director, BBC Cymru Wales, said: “The Sarah Jane Adventures has been one of the most successful children’s programmes on television in recent years – and without Elisabeth Sladen it would not have happened. A brilliant presence on screen and on set, she brought the excitement and energy of the Doctor Who family of programmes, of which we are very proud at BBC Wales, to a whole new generation. She will be missed by all at BBC Wales who worked with her.”
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. She couldn’t believe her luck when her career was resurrected in her own series.”
Lis had been suffering from cancer. She leaves behind a husband, actor Brian Miller, and her daughter, Sadie