A Tribute: Elisabeth Sladen/Sarah Jane Smith

As many of you have heard, Elisabeth Sladen has passed away.

It was only a few days ago that I penned a tribute post to both Elisabeth Sladen and the iconic heroine she portrayed, Sarah Jane Smith.

And don’t think the eerie timing hasn’t been fucking with me.

First Perry Moore, then Dwayne McDuffie, now Elisabeth Sladen. I have no words.

It goes without saying but my thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Sladen’s family and loved ones.

Below is the tribute post I wrote this weekend.

And to Ms. Sladen, thank you…..for everything. And take a bow.

As promised, the return of the popular Ladies First series: where I indulge in my heroine addiction.

She’s perhaps the most popular traveling companion of the Doctor. She’s also considered by many to be the best.

Sarah Jane Smith first came on my radar in the Doctor Who ep, School Reunion. I was immediately taken with this extraordinary woman, perhaps it’s because we both share a background in journalism.

But upon further research, I was amazed at this extraordinary character and how much she grew and evolved.

Like many of the Doctor’s companions, this is a character who evolved from an idealistic feminist ingenue to a formidable force in her own right. While she may not be a Timelord, Sarah Jane is not to be under estimated. Armed with a sonic lipstick, a keen scientific mind, an inquisitive journalistic hunger for the truth that could give Lois Lane a run for her money, and extensive training and affiliation with UNIT, Sarah Jane has proven time and time again that she’s more than capable of saving the world (or even the universe) on her own.

And what’s more. She rarely has to utilize violence to achieve her goals. In fact, she tries to find a peaceful resolution to interstellar conflicts at all costs.

I’ve always stated that the Doctor is inspired by his companions because they represent the best of humanity: whether it’s the innocence and childlike nature of Rose Tyler, humanity’s unlimited potential and power as seen in Dr. Martha Jones, or the passion and moral compass of Donna Noble.

In fact I used to say that if you combine Rose and Martha and add just a little Donna in the mix, you would have Sarah Jane.

While I knew I was going to enjoy the Sarah Jane Adventures when I first saw the pilot, I had no idea the profound impact it would have on me.

While the series is a hit, personally I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves, especially in comparison to sister series Torchwood and the mothership of the Who franchise, Doctor Who. In terms of tone, the dark and grim Torchwood lies on one end, Doctor Who in the middle, and the light but keen Sarah Jane Adventures on the far end.

Said credit can be attributed to executive producer Russell T. Davies, who got his start with children’s programming, and knows and loves this medium. While the Sarah Jane Adventures may be a kid’s show. By no means is it child’s play. It tackles heavy issues such as absentee parents, racism, divorce and does so without talking down to children. It’s also one of the most progressive television shows on the air. The lead character is a fleshed-out extraordinary heroine with a diverse cast where the POCs actually outnumber the white cast members 4-2. And the POCs have prominent leading roles and did I mention the show is a hit!

But I would be remiss if I didn’t give props to the woman behind the icon, the beautiful and talented Elisabeth Sladen. A world class actress, I’m always amazed at how she carries the role with feminine grace. And while she’s been in the business for many years, Sladen is one of those gems who doesn’t get older but simply gets better. More than that, with all of the decades that have passed, despite the roles the character has become: reporter, member of UNIT, adventurer, adoptive mother (to boy genius and my future husband Luke Smith), Sladen still effectively showcases Sarah Jane Smith as this wide-eyed ingenue and I believe that’s what makes her very relatable to children.

One of the most profound quotes I ever heard actually came from the pilot episode of SJA: Invasion of the Bane.

Sarah Jane: I used to think when I was your age, “I’ll know what I want. I’d be sorted.” But you never really know what you want, you never feel grown up, not really, or sort it all out. So I thought, I can handle life on my own. But after today [re: teaming up with Luke and Maria Jackson to stop the Bane Invasion], I don’t want to.”

The less said about how much that quote hit home for me personally, the better.

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