Sad news. Elisabeth Sladen, who played companion Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who, has died of cancer at age 63, the BBC reports.
Sladen played intrepid reporter Sarah Jane Smith from 1973 to 1976, first traveling with the third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee, then tagging along with the fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker.
The character of Sarah Jane was so beloved she was given a spinoff show not once but twice: the first time in 1981 with K-9 and Company and the second in 2006-2010 with The Sarah Jane Adventures. (As Torchwood is like Doctor Who with adult content, The Sarah Jane Adventures is like Doctor Who for the pre-teen set.)
Here are just a few of the things we loved about Sarah Jane Smith and the wonderful Lis Sladen, who brought her to life.
Her time as a companion
In "Genesis of the Daleks," the Doctor and Sarah Jane, along with their friend Harry, were sent back in time to confront Davros, whose nacent experiments to mutate the race of Kaleds into Dalek killing machines was becoming a grim reality.
Sarah Jane urged the Doctor to kill the Daleks, all of them, in one shot: "We're talking about the Daleks, the most evil creatures ever invented. You must destroy them."
And then the Doctor asked, as emotional as the fourth Doctor ever got, "Do I have the right?" It's a question that's haunted the Doctor throughout all of his travels, even to the present day, and Sarah Jane was there to make him ask it.
Leaving the Doctor
After doing battle with Eldrad in "The Hand of Fear," Sarah Jane, in a fit of frustration, decides on the spur of the moment to leave the Doctor. ("I'm going to pack my goodies, and I'm going home!") In that moment, the Doctor receives a message from Gallifrey and learns he has to leave her behind. And suddenly she doesn't want to go. But she has no choice.
Clutching a stuffed owl, a flowerpot and a tennis racket while wearing a ridiculous romper, she's obviously trying hard to be optimistic. She walks away from the TARDIS, whistling a happy little tune. But then, she can't help but look up at the sky. A devastating moment.
(Start at 1:05.)
Leaving the Doctor ... for the second time
The 10th Doctor runs into Sarah Jane in "School Reunion," and instead of a happy little "gee-ain't-it-great-to-see-her-again" episode, what we got was a slap of raw emotion: Sarah Jane couldn't move on from her time with the Doctor, and she had always waited for him. We didn't expect that kind of honesty from a Doctor Who episode. It hurt so good.
At the end of the episode, the Doctor and Sarah Jane part for real this time, the 10th Doctor giving her something that Baker's Doctor never gave her: closure.
Her own adventures
In this episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, "Death of the Doctor," Sarah Jane meets another former companion from the Pertwee era, Jo Grant (played by Katy Manning), as well as the 11th Doctor (played by Matt Smith), who is enjoying some time alone during Rory and Amy's honeymoon.
The episode shows Matt Smith as his wacky best. But the moment worth the price of admission comes at the end (start at 8:47), when Sarah Jane talks to her young friends about the Doctor's other companions and what became of them.
It was important for Sarah Jane to have closure in "School Reunion." Here we get it with many more of the Doctor's 20th century Earth-based companions and what they've gone on to do with their lives.
"With friends like us," she said, "he's never going to die."
Cheers to you, Sarah Jane Smith, and rest in peace, Elisabeth Sladen.