It’s hard to talk about Elisabeth Sladen: The Autobiography in a critical way, as the definitive Doctor Who companion, and by all accounts a lovely, thoughtful and affectionate woman who left an incredible impression on everyone she met, her death in April 2011 still feels achingly fresh – more so for the millions of young viewers of having to face that loss all over again as The Sarah Jane Adventures wrapped up its final season in October.
It’s Sladen’s role of Sarah-Jane Smith that’s no doubt her most famous (although she appeared in Coronation Street and Peak Practice amongst others), and whether the earnest and protective matriarch in TSJA from 2007 to 2011, or the firmly inquisitive, but no less delightful companion in Doctor Who from 1973-1976, that familiar voice is a constant. From her early career on the stage, her break into TV and radio, her marriage and motherhood, and her return to the Whoniverse courtesy of Russell T Davies in 2006’s emotional ‘School Reunion’, all is recounted with the same intimate, fireside warmth that took children on those incredible journeys alongside Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, and then with David Tennant, Matt Smith and a fine young supporting cast all of her own.
She’s critical in moderation, which is far more scathing than you expect from such a positive force, and loyal to her friends and family – the glimpses into the beautiful working relationship, and the mutual adoration shared by Sladen and Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor and Sarah-Jane Smith – that most iconic of sci-fi couplings – is worth the ticket alone.
“Don’t forget me,” she once asked of him as the TARDIS doors opened to her for the last time in ‘The Hand Of Fear’. He didn’t, and neither will we.