What was it about Lis Sladen?
Her portrayal of "Sarah Jane Smith" was so utterly charming, witty, endearing and adorable and (that much maligned quality) spunky. It was obvious the actress was enjoying herself tremendously, not taking herself too seriously and loving the absurdity of it all. Yet she took the storytelling seriously. And she managed to ground this most unreal of shows in all too human realness. Real feelings, real loyalties, real humor. She made us all believe in what we were seeing and let us play and pretend, because she made us believe Sarah Jane was experiencing it and believing it. Even when the budget sometimes meant the sets rocked when you closed the door or the alien of the day looked cobbled together from last week's. We cared about what happened to Sarah Jane. She was our hero.
Elisabeth had talent.
And Lis never condescended about being on this "mere children's show". She committed whole heartedly to this made up universe with a magical Police Box and an epic friendship with an eternal Lord of Time. She was gracious and grateful that she somehow stumbled into this iconic role in a BBC institution. She was unfailingly kind and generous with fans over the years. I've never heard a bad thing said about this lady. And if she was ever frustrated that her career was limited by being so connected and identified with Doctor Who, she never let it show. She didn't gripe. She didn't roll her eyes at it. She happily fostered that connection with the show and with her fans, with grace and optimism, for 38 years. She seemed genuinely fond of this character she'd created. And rightly proud.
Elisabeth was a class act.
She also has set the standard for "companions" on Doctor Who. She's the yard stick that everyone else will always be measured by. She was just that perfect. Sarah Jane was the perfect best friend who always, always had your back and was more than ready to share the next adventure with you.
In interviews again and again, Lis stressed how Doctor Who was ultimately a story, or rather many stories, about friendships, about being brave, about being more than you thought you could ever be. About relationships. About curiosity. And striving to do the right thing. The Aliens were just a fun way to tell these stories.
That's a fine public legacy to have.
This stranger who has long admired Elisabeth has lost a little bit of her youth, her history with Elisabeth's passing. I can't imagine what her family and friends have lost. My utmost and sincere sympathies to her husband Brian, her daughter Sadie and the rest of Elisabeth's loved ones.
She will never be forgotten. And the stories she helped create will always be retold.