Belfast Telegraph

Elizabeth Sladen, just what the Doctor ordered

By Jane Graham

Elisabeth Sladen was no Elizabeth Taylor - she never made it to the big screen and only ever played one notable character in her life. But that might be why so many people, myself included, found themselves caught unawares by a wash of grief at the news of the Doctor Who actress' death this week from cancer.

We might not have been aware she was making a huge impression on us as we watched her character Sarah Jane Smith grow from a gangly but fiercely independent young girl to a loving, but still feisty, mum over the years, but it seems we never seriously imagined her no longer being there either - Sladen never got too big for us to identify with her, and think of her as a friend.

First introduced as a companion to Jon Pertwee's Doctor in 1973, Sarah Jane was so popular that, even after she officially left the series three years later she popped up repeatedly on TV specials, radio and one-off episodes before finally getting her own CBBC series in 2007.

With characteristic verve, David Tennant paid tribute to her on Wednesday, describing her as "the woman who enchanted my childhood, enchanted my time on Doctor Who and enchanted generations who have watched her and fallen in love with her, just like I did".

Reading the ardent outpourings of fans from ages six to 60 on websites across the world, I wished she'd known how many people quietly loved her. We really should tell such unsung gems how great they are before we lose them.

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