I don’t known if I’ve ever been quite so stunned by the death of someone I’d never met as when I discovered that Lis Sladen had died.
I simply couldn’t believe it. Literally. Surely an error? Cancer? But she was in the Sarah Jane Adventures just six months ago, with a new series on the way?
And Lis looked so young. Quite extraordinarily so. How was this possible?
But it was. I haven’t seen anyone in fandom claim to have had knowledge of Sladen’s illness. In a lovely tribute on his website, Tom remarks that he didn’t even know she was ill – and they always seemed so fond of one another.
Of course I was saddened by Nick Courtney’s death – everyone in the Doctor Who world felt his loss keenly; such a lovely man and a good friend of the programme and its wider world.
Lis too, but Nick was in his eighties and it was generally known that his health was failing. He was an old man. Lis was, in this day and age, not old – nor did we anticipate her death.
There is, perhaps, something more to it. Her recent television appearances and new-found fame meant Lis Laden, more than anyone, had a foot in both camps – classic series and new. She was as familiar to a generation of parents in the modern day as much as their children.
Both will feel the loss in different ways; adults finding a small part of their youth is gone and youngsters recognising that one of their current television heroes is gone.
To play the same character for a decade is rare these days. Not even any of the Doctors have been playing their own roles for as long as Lis Sladen played Sarah Jane Smith – a strong character brought to life by Lis Sladen, to the extent that the character, and and actress, were regulars on the most popular TV channel in the UK for over 35 years.
Goodbye Sarah. Goodbye Lis.