Accidentally smashing the front room television is one – my Dad was not best pleased; nearly getting hit by a car is another – my Mum chastised me for that one. I even remember my thrill as Sky broadcast the Transformers film at 6am one Christmas Day morning – neither parent displayed much pleasure at the early call.
But one of my most vivid thought-boxes is the cliff-hanger to episode one of Revelation of the Daleks and the deep sense of fright and shock as the memorial slab fell toward Colin Baker’s Doctor. It was a ruse of course, as was unveiled early in the next edition, yet a sense of fear was twigged inside me; a fear that only a four-year-old can experience when watching television.
I never looked back. It was fabulous stuff and like children everywhere, I liked being a little bit scared.
What does this have to do with Elisabeth Sladen? Not a whole lot, but in the years thereafter, old episodes of Doctor Who came to life via recently released VHS tapes and books and of those collections, Tom Baker’s period stood tall; however one could not watch the first half of Tom Baker’s tenure without being grabbed by the wonderful Elisabeth Sladen and her character, Sarah-Jane Smith.
Whereas the Doctor was the hero, the protector, the catalyst of events unfolding, Sarah-Jane was everyone else. The character without the special knowledge or special powers of any kind and that made Sarah-Jane Smith marvellous. Not content to scream on a weekly basis like many of the previous “girl companions”, Sarah-Jane Smith was smart and proactive. She made the viewer feel smart.
The chemistry between Baker, Sladen and from an earlier period Ian Marter showed on screen
Sarah-Jane Smith was the viewer’s character, looking to the Doctor, helping to put a halt to all sorts of enemies if she could. Now Elisabeth Sladen is dead – at the age of 63 to cancer – and suddenly the world feels a little less secure and a little less wonderful and for that reason, today is a sad day indeed.